Monday 13 August 2018

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Blog Tour: Show Stealer by Hayley Barker - The Importance of Literature to Me

I'm excited to have Hayley Barker stopping by the blog today for my stop on the blog tour for her novel Show Stealer, the sequel to her debut novel, Show Stopper. Hayley is here to talk about how important books have been to her throughout her life.

Hayley BarkerThe Importance of Literature to Me

If I had to list all of the most important influences in my life, all of the experiences, places and people who have shaped me and turned me into the person I am today, literature would be right up there in the top three, maybe even at the very top.

My parents love to tell the anecdote of how, as a little girl, I’d spend hours perched on the potty reading. I was the kid who pretty much ignored all the expensive gifts she’d been given on her birthday, preferring instead to sit amongst the wrapping paper devouring her new book. Weekly library visits were the highlights of my week and I never really watched much TV--not when I could curl up and get lost inside a story.

When I finished school then, going to university to study English Literature seemed like the obvious choice. I was lucky enough to be amongst the last few of that golden generation who didn’t have to worry about tuition fees so I didn’t really think much about what I would do with my degree when I’d finished it--it was enough that I loved the subject and all I wanted to do was spend the next three years immersing myself in books. I went to the University of Birmingham and, oh my, I had the time of my life. Partly because of the amazing friends I made. Partly, I admit, because of the student bar and the nightlife scene and the sudden freedom at my fingertips but, on equal footing at least with these wonderful rites of passage, was the subject. The professors were so learned, the courses so varied, the book choices so diverse and wonderful. My house-mates were accountants and lawyers. They spent hours in lectures while I stayed at home reading books and then swanned off to seminars to discuss them with people who loved them as much as I did. It was heaven – or as close as I’d ever been to it, anyway.

Show Stealer by Hayley BarkerThree years later, degree course completed, I wondered what on earth to do next. All I really knew was that I wanted to carry on talking about books and I wanted people to love them as much as I did, so teaching seemed like the natural and inevitable progression for me.

I taught for nearly eighteen years and I really, truly loved it. Not the marking, and report writing; not the meetings and politics and the targets that have become the bane of every teachers’ life; not the unmanageable workload that has led to so many wonderful practitioners stepping regretfully away from the chalk face--I didn’t love those bits at all and I certainly don’t miss them now. I did love the lessons though--the moments when the classroom door closed and it was just me and a group of kids talking about literature and language and books; the times when somebody would look up at me and there’d be a light in their eyes just like I knew there was in mine and I knew they were like me – I knew they had caught the reading bug.

For a long time, it was always the reading that came first. I didn’t really take writing seriously at all until my oldest son was born. I don’t know what exactly it was that made me decide that I needed to write and write and write until I got published and then keep on writing forever. I think it must have been that motherhood and age and maturity gave me a confidence and a self-belief that I hadn’t had when I was younger. If other people could do it, why couldn’t I? After all, I’d spent a life time preparing for it.

I’d never have been a writer without those library visits, or the university seminars, or the years in the classroom or, of course, the books. The hundreds and hundreds of varied and diverse books which gave me empathy, and understanding and expression and vocabulary. The books I fell in love with. The books which took me on wonderful journeys and bestowed upon me the most wonderful gift of all –the gift of literature.

Thank you, Hayley, for such a great guest post! Do visit Hayley's website, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and check out Show Stealer, which was published on 2nd August.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour! Next stop is at The Bibliophile Chronicles tomorrow!

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