As my contribution to the Writing Lives project comes to an end, I have reflected on my experience and all that I have gained from taking part in this research. From creating an author blog, I have gained an interest in the genre of autobiography and the ways in which it can be used to document important and telling moments in a person’s life. Looking into my author’s writing opened up a new perspective on the working- class struggle and how pivotal life events can be documented for future generations to read. This is specific to Leslie John Robinson’s memoir as he dedicates his work to his family. As my author was a man from my local area, I have also learned a lot about my own surroundings and it has been interesting to note how the town has developed both domestically and industrially.
I have found using different ways of researching the most enjoyable part of the project. When looking into the work life of my author, I came across an online forum in which local Wirral residents post historical images and information about the area. After advertising for any extra information about my author, I received some images of my author’s past workplace from the private collection of a Wirral resident. This was extremely rewarding and not only added a personal touch to my author blog, but enabled me to look into what my local area had once looked like. Through writing my author blog, I feel I have contributed to public history by exposing the working- class struggle from an authentic perspective. Researching autobiography provides a personal insight that other historical works do not offer by discussing specific experiences that enlighten the idea of a class hierarchy.
By researching I have learned that by taking part in a collaborative project such as Writing Lives, you can often unpick the thoughts and experiences of your own author by reading other research blogs. Myself, Maria Jordan, Amber Heyes and Ffion Jones created a group using Canvas in which we posted our blogs before publishing in order to receive feedback. I found that by reading and commenting on their authors, I learned a lot more about my own author from new perspectives. I also learned about services such as Ancestry.com that can provide vital information such as the authors date or place of birth, something that is not always mentioned in the memoir. I learned a lot about my writing style and how to make short, concise arguments when interacting with secondary material in order to keep the reader on board. With no previous blogging experience, I have gained research specific writing skills that are engaging and precise which really sparked my interest. I found it was refreshing to look into autobiographical work and even found that I related to my author more than just geographically. The comedy used in Leslie’s memoir was something I enjoyed to share in my blog posts as I noted that this was something that captured my attention when reading the memoir. Writing Lives has equipped me with the skills to keep points precise whilst engaging the reader and most importantly, having fun with writing.
Before I began the Writing Lives module, I had not been a frequent user of social media. However, my Writing Lives Twitter page was one of the most enjoyable aspects to the project. Having a platform to share the blog posts and receive constructive feedback from peers was incredibly helpful when improving my writing. Writing Lives on Twitter also gave myself and my peers the opportunity to engage with new people, whilst inspiring others with our own work. Using Twitter also helped to galvanize my writing as other students gave tips and motivation to improve each other’s work. This was another likeable aspect of the module. To conclude, I have thoroughly enjoyed researching the life of Leslie John Robinson and engaging with the autobiographical genre. Understanding the motivation for his work stimulated my progress and enabled me to uncover aspects of his life that were affected by the class struggle. Although the memoir was not particularly cryptic, it was interesting to understand the message behind his story in relation to his political surroundings both as an adult and a child. From participating in this module, I can take away a new interest in memoir writing and researching but also invaluable writing skills that differ from anything I have engaged with before. I can also appreciate the value of peer and self- assessment and how social media, when used correctly, is a great creative platform for those with similar interests.
- ‘Leslie John Robinson’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:671.
- Robinson, Leslie John. ‘One Step at a Time’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection. 2:671.