The odds.....
Contributor
Written by
Precious Williams
December 2010
Contributor
Written by
Precious Williams
December 2010
I was just thinking about how the things and situations and people we quickly write off as being dysfunctional can actually be nurturing in their very own way. One of the recent reviews of my memoir said something like "Against all the odds she went on to become a writer". But I think it is because of "all the odds" that I achieved my ambition of becoming a writer. I was raised by an elderly, very, very eccentric white woman who called me 'coloured' and seems to have wanted to foster me mainly because I reminded her of Topsy in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. The situation looked - and was - odd (huge understatement). But this same woman also spent her state pension buying me endless books and writing paper and pens and paints even when it meant she couldn't afford to pay the electric bill. (Which meant that her own grown-up children often had to help her out with the household bills). She introduced me to the works of Chaucer and Dickens when I was little more than five years old. As a young kid I was forever making excuses as to why I couldn't go into school that day (my attendance levels were almost laughable some years). I just wanted to stay home and write short stories and poems and read books. A functional parent would have made their child attend school regularly. Instead my foster mother indulged my ridiculous excuses for not going into school that day and often let me sit at home writing, daydreaming, reading my poems out loud to her. She acted as though every verse I wrote was on a par with Shakespeare. My foster mother would tell everyone who'd listen that I was going to be a published writer one day, stating this as if it were a fact. I'm sure many of our neighbours on our council estate laughed behind her back and thought that both my foster mother and I were utterly out of touch with reality. Truth be told, I think she prided herself on being out of touch with reality. When I was about ten I was still writing my mini-novels in exercise-books in felt-tip pen but I felt a bit frustrated that my foster mother was the only person who read my words. "How much longer till I'll be a published author?" I asked her. "Well you'll need a typewriter first," she said. She got me a typewriter for my twelfth or thirteenth birthday. I spent hours and hours typing up my latest work-in-progress and sent it into a major publishing house who were sweet enough to send me an encouraging, hand-written rejection note. Twenty or so years later, when my agent submitted my memoir-in-progress, that very same publishing house made an offer to buy my memoir Precious, A True Story (although in the end I signed with Bloomsbury)! My foster mum died in 2009, in her mid-90s. Just a few days before she passed I'd told her I was about to have my first book published. She said: "I'm not at all surprised, darling. It will be the first of many."

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