Researching into Mary Norreen Hart’s life and memoir has been one of the best journeys. Not only have I learnt a lot about the author, but I have also become more aware of the difference between 20th and 21st culture. In particular, I have learnt about the mining community in Wales and as a result, feel closer to my roots and ancestors. I have learnt more about the memoir as a form, and how this can be used to share life experiences. I feel more of a connection to the individual through researching and delving into her writing, as well as feeling a strong connection to her childhood home in Aberfan.
The module itself has taught me to take pride in my own writing. But I also feel as though I have contributed to public history. I feel like most authors discuss life in 19th and 20th century England. But Mary Hart, on the other hand, delves into her childhood in Aberfan, Wales. It was important for me to pick an author who grew up in Wales as I wanted to shed light on the differences between England and Wales. Mary’s memoir does this well. I also believe my blogs do this successfully, and I hope people have learnt more about Welsh culture and traditions in the process. I know I have.
What have I learnt?
If I were to list everything I have learnt on the module, this blog would take years to read. But there are some things that I think are particularly valuable to share. The biggest thing is that I have learnt to be more critical of my work. As Mary’s memoir is rich in content, I had to learn how to pick the most relevant and most effective details. The collaborative part has been rewarding, as I’ve been able to share my writing with others and draw comparisons and similarities between works.
I already had some blogging experience, but the module has taught me the difference between blogging as a form of work and essays. I have been able to be more creative with my writing and use Mary’s memoir alongside this. The feedback I get from collaborations makes the research rewarding. With this, it has taught me to be more confident in my work and blogging voice.
Social Media & Collaborations
Using social media has been one of my favourite aspects of the module. I already use Twitter, though the module has taught me how to use it more effectively and to engage with others. It has been fascinating to see snippets of other writing lives blogs from Twitter and what people have shared. I’ve also had the pleasure of connecting with some authors who have written books, which I have used in my blogs. As well as this, I have been in contact with historians and presenters. It’s given me a platform to share my writing and to be more engaged with students.
It’s particularly necessary to mention the bloggers I have collaborated with. Shauna Hughes and Zoe Wylie have been extremely helpful in giving me guidance and feedback on all of my posts. As a team, we really helped each other, and they gave me the confidence I needed to push myself out of my writing comfort zone. I feel as though they have been a big part of this journey, and for that, I thank them. Amber Heyes has also been a remarkable help of Twitter. We found many similarities between our authors and it was really great to see. It enables us to communicate on social media and share each other’s posts. I thank her, too.
Gone, but not forgotten.
Although I managed to track many of Mary’s family records on Ancestry.com, I am yet to learn whether Mary is still alive. It has been a roller-coaster trying to access this information and to no avail. Death records reach 2007 on Ancestry.com, and as she publishes her memoir in 2011, there is a chance she may still be with us. This would mean that she would be 91. I will not lose hope however and will continue to try and track Mary down even after the module has ended. I hope one day she will come across these memoirs. In this case, I’d like to thank Mary for sharing her life with us, I hope I have done her memoir justice.
I will take away a great many things from Writing Lives. It has given valuable experience in terms of research and collaboration. I believe this module as a whole will benefit me if I were to pursue a career in Journalism. Twitter has been a great help in pushing my work out into the world, and I’ll hopefully continue to use the account in the future. It has enabled me to be engaged with historians and has given me some thought about pursuing a career in the field. For that, I thank everyone who has contributed to the project.
HART, Mary Norreen, ‘A Welsh Childhood: Memories of Aberfan 1928-1945 through the eyes of Mary Norreen Hart (nee Jones).’ (privately printed, 2011), pp.63. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel University Library. Special Collections, Vol.4.