How Sheffield author Angela created 'robot girl' trilogy to teach children kindness and tolerance
Angela Anwyl understands better than most the benefits of being able to spin a good yarn.
“I love telling stories,” confirms the retired headteacher.
“It’s something that’s always come in useful. Certainly as a teacher, and of course when my own children were little it was a blessing on long car journeys. In recent years my story-telling started up again with my five grandchildren, who began asking for the same favourite stories re-telling so often that I began to write them down, even illustrating them.
“It never occurred to me to do anything else with them until a friend came to visit, saw the little books I’d created, and suggested I think about getting them published.”
Angela packaged up one of her favourite stories and sent to a self-publishing house, that came straight back and told her they loved the tale.
“The first book I had published with Author House was called ‘Rachel Barrowovski’,” says Angela, aged 73, of Totley.
“It was inspired by my eldest granddaughter, who came home from school one day telling me about this girl in her class who seemed to be good at everything she did. I made up a that the reason this girl was so good at everything was because she was a robot,” she laughs.
“The tale of Rachel Barrowovski was born from there.”
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After initially imagining she would only submit the one story, Angela found that, within days, a sequel was already occurring to her.
“I’d got the writing bug! The first book was published in January this year, followed by the second in March, and finally the third and final book in the Rachel Barrowovski trilogy was published in May.”
Angela has already sold hundreds of copies of the books, which are suitable for children aged 6-12, and she now hopes to give them a wider audience.
“I'm doing very well with them in schools, doing workshops and book signings. Of course these days it feels like everybody and their grandmother writes stories, but I must admit I really do think these books have a good message for children. They teach tolerance and acceptance. There’s a line in the last book that I really like, and that I use a lot in school workshops, which says: ‘kindness is like measles – very contagious.’ I know it sounds a little corny but it's a message children seem to latch on to.
“I also think it’s important to teach children – in an age of tests and SATs – that writing can be fun.”
And Angela reveals her final editors are always her grandchildren.
“Being a teacher has helped a lot, as I know children inside out, but my grandchildren are my ultimate inspiration and the first ones I read anything to.
“There's nothing better than hearing them gasp in surprise or delight.”