Years ago, I was walking up the street to school with one of my kids when we found a note that the milkman had chucked away. This was in the days when milkmen left more, much more, than milk. It said 'One loaf. PS, make it two'. I took it along to show my co-tutor at the basic education class I was running. His eyes lit up. 'I've seen that kind of thing before. They've written that because they can't spell loaves but they want to order some more bread, ' he said. 'They've written it to make them feel good.' That was a revelatory moment for me: writing can make you feel better, can make you feel more like the person you want to be.
Over the last 20-odd years I've worked as a writer in all kinds of settings with all kinds of people: schoolchildren, adults with mental health problems, kids who've been excluded from school, old people in a circle in a home, railway workers, police officers, football fans and prostitutes. The prostitutes all wanted to write and make art about their lives. At the start of our first session we sat on chairs and settees in a dingy upstairs room in Doncaster. There was a silence, as they say in novels. Somebody coughed. A young woman fingered the fresh tattoo on her arm. I tried to break the ice. 'I'm scared stiff!' I said. Maybe it was the wrong thing to say in such a setting, but it made them laugh. I said, 'Tell me what you've been up to lately, ' and one of the women said, 'If somebody drags me in the pub today, I'll shoot myself.' We all laughed some more, and we were away. The women wrote poems and little stories about their lives and their hopes and their fears and about the way the moon looked after them and about the warning notes about bad punters they scribbled on the wall near where they all worked. 'If someone drags me/in the pub today/I'll shoot myself' stayed as it was, a little haiku on its own in the middle of the page of the book we made.
Enjoy this book and use it to enable writing to happen, to create journals and letters and messages and poems and stories and jokes where there were none before. Write creative notes to the milkman. Let's make the milkman smile. One story, please. PS, make it two.