Eva Shilton (b.1907): Researching Writing Lives

Though selecting an author initially seemed an arduous task, I soon felt a strong affinity with working class authors from around the West Midlands, where I live. When I saw that Eva Shilton had lived and died in my hometown of Coventry, my fascination with her life steadily grew. In describing places that I had grown up around, such as the War Memorial Park and Coombe Abbey, I was almost glimpsing into Coventry’s past.

I found many archived photographs online of Coventry at the time Eva would have been growing up, and these helped me to build a picture of Eva’s life. The particular focus of her memoir was on her childhood and family,and so it was through this scope that I attempted to illuminate Eva’s life.

As an author on the Writing Lives website, my independent reading and motivation to write freely has increased phenomenally. I had only started to blog in my second year of study, and even then it was apparent that I was using skills I had not had chance to utilise in other university modules. Therefore, it was an easy decision to continue blogging in my final year of university, and Writing Lives enabled me to sharpen and hone my research, writing style, and sources of wider reading: as Carl Sagan wrote, “you have to know the past to understand the present”.

Social Media platforms, particularly Twitter, also played a huge role in motivating my independent writing. The support I received from not only other students, but also historical and social account users, through retweets and likes, was of paramount importance to me. I found that some of my blog posts proved more popular than others, and this social feedback allowed me to look back on my previous work with a view to enhancing my next post.

Writing Lives has pushed me further than I could have hoped for, and has not only given me the drive to continue blogging in my spare time, but has also given me invaluable confidence in my own writing. Until now, I had been apprehensive about sharing my work publicly, though the response I was given from teaching staff, classmates, and social media users has changed this entirely. I am now confident and fluent in an informal ‘blog’ style of writing, which has been massively refreshing in comparison to strictly formal modes of writing throughout my time at university. The experience of researching a single person throughout the year, especially someone who I could relate to, was and will remain one of the most highly rewarding experiences of my academic journey.

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