Working with the extract
This piece also lends itself well to class discussion about the the importance of planning to ensure a satisfying structure. Although it is autobiographical, the writing tells a story. There is good use of carefully chosen detail to paint the pictures and tell the story for the reader.
Jan Mark writes about a childhood memory from the perspective of a child with a child's view of things. The extract starts with a general point about not liking high walls and moves on to a specific wall and incident.
The wall is described in detail from the child's point of view. The selection of detail in the story of the visit tells the reader about Jan Mark as a child and the differences between her and her friend. It enables the reader to imagine the visit and the astonishing sights it revealed and how the visit changed the writer's view of the wall. The last three paragraphs shift the perspective from Jan Mark as a child to the present day and the grown-up writer that she has become. For a writer, memories of people, places and events often provide the raw material for fictional stories. Jan Mark's view of the wall has also changed again - as a grown-up she misses the wall and remembers its beauty. Older or more able children may want to discuss the possible symbolism of the wall.
Suggestions for writing
Choose a place from your memories that used to intrigue, frighten or attract you until you found out more about it. Describe your thoughts and feelings about it before you knewvisitedexperienced it and afterwards.
Try to compare and contrast your views.
Write a description of a special place that holds happy memories and associations for you that no longer exists, either because you have moved, or grown out of it, or because it is no longer there.
About the author
Jan Mark says: "I have an office in the house, but I usually write in the kitchen because the light is good there. I do a first draft with a pen on an A4 notepad, then type the next drafts. I research on the hoof, finding out what I don't know as I write. At the moment, I'm producing a book every six months. I'm lucky - I can write about anything I like, something different every time.
Stratford Boys (Hodder) is about the workmen in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
They are usually portrayed as half-wits on stage and of course they are not, so I have set out to rehabilitate them. I'm working on a two-part science fiction story for Macmillan but we still haven't decided on the title."
Jan Mark's first novel, Thunder and Lightnings (Puffin) is still in print.
Her other books are published by Hodder, Random House and Walker Books.