Writers give hope to future author

A year 6 boy dreams of becoming an author but SATs week threatens to squash him with rigid theory testing and endless pressure. Across social media, authors rally round to offer encouragement and advice. Authors prove themselves to be very awesome folk!

On Friday morning I sent this message out to Twitter and Facebook friends:

‘Friend’s yr6 pupil in bits over SATs bc he wants to be an author. Any authors out there with message of hope? I’ll collate & send. Pls share’

Well what a response! Authors really don’t like the SATs! And they really do like being kind and supportive and encouraging and creative. The messages I’ve received for him have been so fab that I want to share them with everyone. For anyone going through SATs or feeling squashed by our current education system, or needing a bit of a boost. 

I’ve put together a storify of the responses from Twitter. There is such a lot of love and hope here. 

Writers give hope to future authors – storify

The Facebook replies are at the end of this post and are equally full of joy and hope. I will be printing everything off and passing it on to the future author on Monday. A huge thank you to everyone who took time to show him that he can be whatever he wants to be. Want to add your message of support? Add it in the comments and I’ll pass them on.

Here are just a few of the books by the fab authors who responded. Imagine the confidence boost he will get from seeing all these examples of achievement by authors who don’t give a damn about the SATs. 

And here are the very delicious messages of support from Facebook. 

Keris Stainton– Oh gosh. Well, I’ve had nine books published and I got 40% on the online test (and guessed probably half of the answers). You really don’t need to know the technical terms to be an author. Imagination is so much more important.

Anne Booth – Tell him no agent or publisher has ever asked for my exam results in anything – the only thing they care about are the stories I write – and that will be the same for him. Tell him to keep reading good stories and learning his craft of writing, and to keep listening to other people’s stories, and to pay attention to and value his own life, his experiences, his sensations, his feelings and thoughts, and file everything away – even his fear of SATs – because the great thing is that a writer can transform every experience, good or bad. Tell him to get a notebook and pen and write in the notebook every day (or often anyway – he is not to get stressed about it!)- and tell him Good Luck!
Chloe Hope – I’m a playwright (and author of one book!) and I got 3/10 qs correct… And they were guesses! As Keris said, you don’t need to know the names technical terms to use them. My advice would be to spend as much time playing 🎉🎈 as possible to get creativity and imagination flowing. Far more important than tests 😜

Keren David – SATs and exams in general have nothing to do with being a writer. I failed my A levels but have had a career as a journalist and author. Government ministers know NOTHING about writing.

Liz Dexter – I’m a writer and editor and I have scored poorly on those SATS tests. As an ex-librarian I’ll say this: in real life, you don’t need to know everything off by heart, you need to know where the rules are kept and how to look them up. You don’t need to know the posh words for thins, you need to keep using words. Keep writing and if you have trouble with the grammar stuff in your career, your editor will make the mistakes go away without you needing to stress over them. Keep reading, keep writing.

Polly Faber – SATs have as little relation with being an author as dehydrated kale does to a packet of crisps. Personally I found the physical act of writing hard as a child. It was proper labour forming letters and words with a pencil and I was the last allowed to go ‘joined up’ or use a pen. But I was always telling stories- or perhaps more accurately playing stories- great complicated adventures out in the playground with my mates. That’s authoring too. So blow your nose and a raspberry at those stupid exams kiddo and get back out there. And imagine stuff. That’s all you need.

Susie Day – I think everyone’s said it all brilliantly already, but just to add to the chorus: I got 40% in an online version of the English SATS, all by guessing – and my tenth book comes out this year. I did English at Oxford too! And I didn’t need to know what a modal whateveritis is there either, because they were interested in the kind of big wide ideas that can’t easily be marked as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Life is not about ticks and crosses and percentages – not in Year 6, not ever. I’m so sorry that some adults who ought to know better have let him down by making him sit through horrible tests that mean nothing. And I hope he has an awesome summer doing much more important things like making stuff up and mucking about, which is what I spend my grown-up time doing. (Incidentally, Pea’s Book of Big Dreams has literally this situation in it: Pea does appallingly on an English test, assumes she can’t be a writer and is distraught, at the end the teacher reveals that the test was designed to be impossible – might not be to his taste of course!)

Julia Williams – Tell him most of the writers I know can’t do those questions, including me. They have nothing to do with writing. He should continue to read and read, and use his imagination, and make up stories anyway he can. That’s what we all do 🙂

Shelley Harris – Tell him from me: I’m a novelist AND former English teacher. I got that way by loving books and loving writing – nobody’s ever taught me what a subordinating conjunction is (and I’ve never taught anyone what it is, either!). X

Jo Fox – I was the above teacher’s student and can confirm that I was never taught what a subordinating conjunction is…thankfully. I also have a degree in English. I still couldn’t tell you what one is…

Jo Bloom – I share Shelley Harris editor at WN. I got 3/10. I found the test ridiculously hard. The tests bear ABSOLUTELY NO RELATION to creativity. Tell him to get writing stories and keep writing. He mustn’t give up now, just as he’s about to begin. I failed an A level, then dropped out of uni, then, years later, went back to college in the evenings and have an MA distinction in politics. The point is – the road isn’t always straight but in the main, tenacity and stamina will count for a lot more than any tests and exams.

Virginia Moffatt – Writing is about playing with language not memorising obscure grammar rules. A test at 11 is no measure of his ability to write. The best way to respond to it is to write to his heart’s content this weekend.

Caryl Hart – I have no idea what a subordinate conjunctive is, or if it even exists. We learn grammar intuitively by reading and writing and listening. You don’t need to know what things are called. Nor do you need to know about writing technique. The best writing comes from the heart. It does not follow set patterns or formulae. Being an author is about getting hold of your feelings and putting them down in writing. It is not about naming parts of sentences or knowing what a gerund is (I have no idea what a gerund is). I’m not saying grammar is irrelevant, it’s important to write grammatically, but if you read plenty, you will learn grammar without even trying. So. Don’t stress about SATS. I have a degree and no one has ever asked to see my certificate! Your writing will speak for itself. The best way to become an author is to BE an author. So yeah.

Can you end an essay with “So yeah”? Well I just did and I’ve got loads of books published. So. Yeah. YEAH!!

Jo Baker – Hello; I’m a novelist, and I have a PhD in English Literature and I don’t know the stuff they are testing for in SATs. And you know what? It has not caused me any probelms whatsoever. If he just keeps reading books he loves that’ll see him through. wishing him good luck with his writing!

Hurrah for the power of social media to spread positivity and hope. A huge thank you to everyone involved. You’re all heroes!

*Update one year later* The young man in question is now at secondary school – very happily still reading and still writing. Aced it! 


5 thoughts on “Writers give hope to future author

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  1. I’ve always loved words and writing …but only my choice of subject. I’m widely read, but not the books that schools suggested or that most people read – my taste has been plays and poetry and non-fiction travelogues by Gerald Durrell and science and 19th century copies of Punch Magazine… I was hopeless at junior school ‘compositions’ and often cheated when topics were not to my taste. And I failed ‘O’ level English. I did go on to be a biologist and science teacher., but also kept writing what interested me – and later studied for a Diploma in Professional Children’s Writing.

    I’ve now moved from England to living in Australia and have had 6 books published worldwide by some of the planet’s largest publishers including HarperCollins and Allen and Unwin. My latest book is a picture book in rhyme, ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’ – it was Shortlisted by Speech Pathology Australia for their 2015 Book of the Year. Award. You don’t need to do well in school tests to write books people enjoy, but I do still go to writing workshops, do courses, attend conferences and seek advice from others …and read and read…,

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