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AUTHOR JOURNEY by Elizabeth Mary Cummings
How did she get to this point? What experiences led her to authorship? What discoveries did she make that inspired her journey? Follow Elizabeth’s story in this in-depth reflection on how becoming an author, teacher, psychologist and presenter all culminated to achieve her clear path of success.
My author journey may appear indirect at first glance but when I reflect on it I see how all the different parts of my life have come together now to bring me to this writing place of my life in a clear pathway.
Firstly and most importantly I was always a book worm. I was always a child who enjoyed a story either being read to or simply reading to myself and retelling stories to my younger siblings. In particular, my sister and I had a special bond where we both shared the great love of storytelling. We would spend hours in the car on the way to our family holidays and pass the time telling each other stories we had made up. It is generally accepted in the writing community that to be a writer you have to love words and you have to read; I can certainly say that is my experience too.
At school, English was the subject I felt very comfortable with and always enjoyed my classes. Some of my favourite teachers were in the English department and I always found their passion for stories and literacy such an inspiration. In my penultimate year of school I won a prize for an essay I wrote for a competition.
Going on to university to study Psychology and Business Studies brought me closer to the research and interpersonal relationship aspect of writing. I found theory and analysis of human behaviour interesting and very much relished my time at The University of Edinburgh studying this. On graduating I did a post graduate in Primary School teaching and discovered my passion for teaching and working with young people. My classroom always had a big focus on literacy and I often used books and stories as a way in to new topics. The library corner in my classroom was always a busy area with lots of creative use of space. I remember making a cave for the children when we studied ‘Stig of the Dump’ and remember how much the children loved reading in that den! Every day I would always have mat time when I would read stories to my students. In the nicer weather I loved taking the kids outside to read on the benches under the trees that were in the playground. Developing the children’s literacy was vital. Whether I was teaching a privileged private school or in schools with great social and economic deprivation I worked with the children on a daily basis with the literacy skills both reading to them and helping them. If literacy is not established in primary school, children are at a huge disadvantage going into the secondary education. I cannot stress its importance enough.
I taught for many years both full time before I had children and then part time once my children were a little older. I taught in lots of different schools as a relief teacher as well as short term contracts as a learning support teacher when I worked with some of the first wave of Iraqi refugees in New Zealand. It was also during this time that I completed my Masters degree in Education focusing on Art Education and Cultural Identity as well as a component in teaching Drama in the primary school.
So, in this way, both my passion for working with children helping them develop skills for life and looking at this with in a cultural context as a researcher honed my skills that I’ve found so useful later on as a writer.
I always had loads of ideas for stories and wrote poems but I never did anything with them. When I came to Australian 11 years ago I ran a language business for the first five years and then went on as a business development manager for the National Language Company with whom I was contracted. Obviously this meant both teaching and working with young people as well as training teachers from many different cultural backgrounds and training them to work with children in small classroom situations. We would often used drama and reading as well as storytelling to help the children learn a new language.
About four years ago I sold my language business to focus full-time on my writing as I came towards the culmination of the book project I was working on to do with mental health issues. Since then I have not looked back. One thing led to another and I found myself writing about real life situations in the narrative I wrote . This narrative therapy approach to discussing mental health issues and family matters with children is something that I think is a very strong tool for helping to heal and develop positive communication strategies, especially when talking about difficult subject matter with young people. In the light of recent developments and reduction of the stigma around mental health I think my writing life has come together at the right time. I am finding that I am using my background in psychology more and also reaching back into my teaching days for inspiration.
I am now engaged with some professionals with a university in Europe and have begun teaching some creative writing classes there. The university and I hope to continue this through both online and face-to-face seminars in the future. It is very exciting to be involved and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.
#mentalhealth #education #authorarticle
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