Childlessness, Conflict, Peer pressure, The Tudors

It’s The Question Every Woman Asks Herself…

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Evan-Amos
…when she can’t get pregnant. Why her and not me?

There are expectant mothers everywhere you look. Believe me, I know. My first baby didn’t arrive until I’d been married for nearly ten years. It’s a painful subject, and one that splits opinion straight down the middle. Clare Rayner the agony aunt said most of her mail began with either the words; “I’m desperate for a baby”, or “I’m in trouble, and I don’t want to be.”

These two problems have been around for as long as there have been people to suffer from them. There was proof of this in Dr Suzannah Lipscomb’s recent TV documentary about the affair and later marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

As a young girl, Anne Boleyn was lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. Claude married into the French royal family at the age of fourteen. Her next years were spent in an endless round of pregnancy and childbirth, and she died at the age of twenty-four. 

In contrast, Anne Boleyn turned out to be anything but a baby-machine. Miscarriages and still-births couldn’t satisfy King Henry VIII’s desire for a son. The unhappy couple must have asked themselves over and over again why a frail, joyless girl like Claude could have created a family so easily. Despite all their glamorous advantages in life, Henry and Anne never managed to produce the male heir England wanted. Anne was only survived by one child–a little girl, who eventually became Queen Elizabeth I. Henry never had a legitimate son until he married Jane Seymour. 

Those are the facts, but while watching the TV documentary I was struck by an idea for the perfect plot-twist for a novel. Who says television isn’t educational? When a man marries his mistress he creates a vacancy. When a high-flying woman marries the top man, she stirs up a conflict. With everyone asking when they’re going to start a family, the pressure can only increase…

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Conflict, Dystopia, fiction, S.F.Said

Reading and Writing About The Big Ideas…
Exciting Story by Tihamer Margitay

Memorable fiction contains great conflict. Real life is always so much better when the only dangers you face can be safely shut away between the covers of a book. For a lot of people, that’s not an option. When I was growing up, reading was my escape route. It kept me out of trouble (if I was quiet, there was a slim chance I’d be forgotten about) and it let me experience the whole world while staying safely hidden in a shed or greenhouse.

Isolationism, whether it’s a child in a corner or putting metaphorical wagons in a circle, is dangerous. This week, results from the European elections have shaken up a lot of old, established ideas. This might be a temporary kick against authority, or it might be the first signs of something more. Any individual, or any party who dehumanises “others”of a different nationality, colour, religion or culture is reaching out to dystopia. When politicians from the left, right and centre seem dead-set on sending us all to hell in a handcart, it’s up to writers to fight back. We might all look and sound differently from each other, but deep down, people are people the world over. We all have the same basic needs – food, water, shelter, dignity, and love. The global population keeps growing, but Planet Earth can’t. We’ve got to learn to get along together somehow. Writing books for children communicates big ideas like this to small people.

S.F. Said is a British author whose fiction for children highlights divisions in order to bridge them. His colourful ancestry and background helps him bring new perspectives on the puzzles everyone faces, whether they’re growing up, or grown. Where do we come from? What are we here for? How can we fit in, and who are we. really?  He says that as readers, we’re all citizens of the mind. This is why encouraging children to read as soon as they’re big enough to pick up a book is vital. Reading is, or should be, an inclusive universe, not an exclusive one.

You can listen to a talk S F Said gave as part of BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought here