Winifred Till: Researching Writing Lives

win age 20

 

Researching my author’s life and writing has taught me how valuable working class writing/memoirs are in understanding and learning about social history. Autobiographies give us a wealth of experience that is hard to find in any other format, or in any other outlets. When I was researching for examples of working class writing I only ever came across articles or books containing scholars explaining and analysing working class writing, rather than anything that actually makes working class writing available to the reader.

One of the things I found most surprising when researching my author’s life and writing throughout the Writing Lives module is her experience of childhood. I was surprised to learn many working class children such as Winifred had very pleasant and happy childhoods during the late-Victorian period. Winifred even goes as far as to describe her father’s childhood as a happy and healthy one too, which subverted my expectations of Victorian childhood as Winifred’s late-Victorian experience of childhood was nothing like the dreary and saddening childhoods of fictitious characters such as Oliver Twist’s .When I was researching other working class children’s experiences of childhood, focusing on the same time frame as that of Winifred’s, I looked at other author blogs to compare childhood experiences. On the whole I was quite shocked at my findings. Despite there being some sad tales in many, many others had fond memories of their childhood and remembered being part of a loving and hardworking family. I found this information very surprising and yet a happy realisation, as it highlighted to me why working class memoirs are such a vital component in learning about our history. Previously working class lives were mostly portrayed by people who were not actually from the working classes. The working class memoires that the Writing Lives module gave me access to reveals so much factual and first-hand information about what working class life and culture was like all over the country throughout the decades.

Throughout the Wring Lives module I feel I have contributed blog posts that not only make available insights into working class writing concerning life and culture, but valuable research in to working class lives. By making working class memoirs such as Winifred’s available to the public through my writing allows the general public access to writings that were previously only available to very few. I also feel I have contributed to the vast library of research and writing concerning public history. I have contributed to it in a very valuable way as my writing is focusing on an actual piece of working class life writing documenting a life and experiences from over 100 years ago. Working class life writing is an area of public history which I feel needs far more attention and research being attributed to in than there has previously been.

The Writing Lives module has taught me how difficult researching working class history can be, for example many ancestry websites that can offer valuable information concerning your author’s life are very expensive and therefore hard to gain access to. I have found when reading other author blogs on working class writing how limited some of the information author’s provide in their writing can be, especially in terms of loss and the war. When I was researching war experience and memory for one of my blog posts I found very little information available on my author’s life throughout the two World Wars she lived through, as she ended her narrative of her life after childhood, just before the First World War began. The only way I managed to find any information on my author’s experience of war was by contacting her son, who was very obliging but unfortunately didn’t know too much information concerning his mother’s experience of the war other than she had mentioned in her memoire. Derek (Winifred’s son) provided me with information he remembered of his mother and what she had told him concerning her life throughout the wars. Unfortunately Derek’s knowledge of his mother’s life during the war was limited, as it was a time they rarely spoke of. I found this to be a common theme in many working class writings which, unless they were for political or protesting purposes, tended to focus on the happier times in their lives.

I have learnt how vital it is reading and including other author blogs in my research and writing of my blog posts, as not only does it advertise other author blogs on the Writing Lives site, it also gives me a broader understanding of working class writing and experiences. I have also learnt how important proof reading is when blogging as on occasion after writing a post I have not realised some mistakes I have made, by getting someone to proof read my posts allows for me to be sure I am publishing grammatically sound posts. I have also learnt how important collaboration is in promoting my and other author blogs on social media, as it gives your blog post’s more publicity as more people are likely to see and therefore share and read my posts.

My previous experience of blogging on other modules had taught me a lot about the fundamentals about blogging, however my experience of blogging on The Writing Lives module really made me consider my blogging voice. As The Writing Live’s blog posts could be used by the general public for a variety of different reasons I found I had to use a clear, coherent and informal tone whilst retaining a professional voice. This is a factor of blogging on the module I struggled with at first, but by collaborating with my Facebook group and through peer reviewing each other’s blog posts I learnt how to adjust my tone to an appropriate and informative one necessary for the author blogs.

On the whole I found social media to be a very useful tool not only for gaining feedback on my blog posts but for publicising and sharing my author blogs. I learnt in order for my posts to be shared and retweeted by more people I should include relevant and current hashtags, as every time I did this my posts received more attention on social media. I also found that by retweeting my peers posts regularly normally meant that they would return the favour and retweet a tweet of mine advertising the link to my blog posts.

One thing I will take away from the Writing Lives project will be the ability to combine informative, analytical and knowledgeable writings (through reading other author blogs and scholarly sources) on working class writings in a short and concise format. At first I found the word limitations when blogging difficult to stick to as there as so many components, as I have listed above, to make an all-round good blog post. Despite this however I have progressed in this skill throughout the module and it is a skill I believe in my future career I will find extremely valuable. I will also take away from the project a keen interest and respect for working class writings as the module has illuminated to me how valuable working class memoire and life writings are in learning about our social and public history. It allows for a voice that we don’t usually have access to to be heard.

Image provided by Derek Till, Winifred’s son.

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