As I sort through and organise my files here on WordPress which now amount to over 12,000 since 2013, I am discovering gems, such as guest interviews that I would love to share with you again..
This week I am sharing the interview with author and proofreader Wendy Janes from 2015 as part of the ‘A Funny Thing Happened to Me‘ series.. and in this case it involves a volcano…
About Wendy Janes
Wendy Janes lives in London with her husband and youngest son. She is the author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and the short story collection, What Tim Knows, and other stories. She has also contributed short stories to a number of anthologies, including the fundraising anthology, A Kind of Mad Courage.
Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.
As well as writing contemporary fiction, she loves to read it too, and spreads
the word about good books online and in the real world.
Wendy is also a freelance proofreader, and a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.
Welcome Wendy and delighted to finally have the opportunity to interview you. What made you want to become a teacher and was the reality of working in the school system as you expected or did you find that it was as challenging as many press reports indicate?
I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. I had an idealistic view of teaching, genuinely believing that I could inspire a love of learning in my pupils through my own enthusiasm for my subjects (drama and English). Alas, in mid-1980s South London the reality wasn’t so rosy-tinted. At the tender age of 22 my classroom discipline was woefully inadequate and I failed to engage my students. The challenge was too much for me, so I did everyone a big favour and left the profession. Years later I returned to the classroom as a teaching assistant, which was a far happier experience for me and my students.
You are a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. I was not aware that the number of people in the UK who have autism spectrum disorders was as high as reported. Almost 700,000 people which is around 1 in 100. This must require a great deal of focus on the services available particularly in the education system. What is your role as a caseworker?
My role is to empower parents. I help them try to ensure that their children – wherever they are on the autism spectrum – achieve their full educational potential through receiving the appropriate support in an appropriate setting.
I’m part of a small team of trained volunteers who provide advice to parents via phone and email. We need to listen carefully to what parents want and help them use the special educational needs law, regulations and government guidance to achieve it. We encourage cooperation between parents, schools and local authorities, and always focus on the child’s needs. Sometimes we can do this in a twenty-minute phone call, other times it’ll take weeks of calls and emails to reach a resolution.
I love this work and feel privileged to be able to help some wonderful families and their wonderful children.
Copy editing and proofreading are very different. I would assume however that when you receive manuscripts from authors that inevitably there is some cross over. Can you summarise the differences and clarify at what point a writer should work with you as a proofreader?
Yes, in theory copy editing and proofreading are different, but in reality there is a rather large grey area where they overlap. I could fill pages with lists and explanations of the differences, but I’d really like people to read on, so I’ll just say that a proofreader should be the last professional to read every single word of an author’s book before publishing. We’re meant to be there to pick up those final typos – inconsistent hyphenation and spelling, missing full stops and quote marks, transposed letters etc.
Authors should have had their book looked at by a developmental editor and a copy editor prior to sending it for proofreading, and should only work with a proofreader when they feel their book is ready for publication. This isn’t because we want to do a minimal amount of work, it’s because if we are dealing with things like inconsistencies in the plot it is unlikely that we will also be able to pick up all the spelling and grammatical errors as well.
As a reviewer you mention that you post your comments about the books you enjoy. I assume that there are times when you might not enjoy a book enough to do so. What is your advice to those of us who read a book but feel that it would benefit from additional work? Do we contact the author direct or post a poor review in public?
I don’t feel comfortable giving advice to other reviewers, but I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I choose not to post poor/negative reviews. The internet is already overcrowded, and I prefer to concentrate on taking up my tiny corner of it by writing reviews in order to spread the word about great books. I have contacted authors directly where I feel I can provide encouragement, not criticism.
Can you tell us more about your novel What Jennifer Knows?
My lead character, Jennifer Jacobs, is the recipient of some potentially disastrous information about a couple of friends. She can’t decide whether to share that information with them or not. While she prevaricates, things become a lot more complex.
Jennifer is a dance therapist. She lives in a delightful village in the English countryside with her eccentric husband, Gerald. She values family and friendships, and all these relationships are put to the test in the pages of my story.
She’s a good person who finds herself in a difficult position. My hope is that readers will relate to Jennifer’s dilemma.
We have now arrived at the central theme of the interview which is ‘A funny thing happened to me on the way to…’ and I will hand over to Wendy to tell her own story.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the top of the volcano
In the summer of 1980 – between finishing school and starting teacher training – I went on a two-week holiday with a friend to southern Italy.
After a week of lazing by the hotel pool by day and dancing and drinking in clubs by night, we thought we ought to try a bit of sightseeing and soak up a drop of culture. We explored local markets, tiny picturesque villages, and orchards ripe with citrus fruits and olives. The island of Capri was stunning, magical. Next on the itinerary was a visit to the haunting ruins of Pompeii followed by a trip to the summit of Vesuvius.
Dressed in shorts, t-shirts and strappy sandals, a hike up the mountainside was not an option. A tubby gentleman bustled over and in beautifully accented English explained that for a bargain price he would drive us in his cab and save our precious sandals from ruin. Eagerly we handed over a few thousand lira and followed him round a corner.
There, lurking under the shade of a stray lemon tree was the most battered car I’ve ever seen outside of a stock car race: dented, rusty doors and roof, a windscreen covered in crazed cracks. My instinct was to walk away, but my friend was already clambering into the back seat. It wouldn’t do to abandon her, so I dumbly followed. I winced as my thighs came into contact with the baking hot plastic seats and my nose was assaulted by the stench of stale tobacco. On the upside, the windows were wound down, or more likely I suspect they weren’t there in the first place.
After a few attempts at slamming the door shut – it wouldn’t latch properly – the taxi driver rummaged around in his trouser pockets. I imagined he was going to produce a tool to mend the door, but instead he pulled out a handful of grubby string. With a shrug and a smile in our direction he somehow secured the door closed by winding the string around the door handle, through the open window then across to a hook screwed into the back seat. With a satisfied sigh he sat his bulk in the driver’s seat and repeated a less complicated procedure on his door, this time from the inside with a length of string from his shirt pocket.
Even if I’d known the Italian for ‘Please let me out of your taxi,’ my English reserve wouldn’t have let me use it.
After a few attempts at starting the engine we bumped and rattled up the mountain road that rapidly got thinner and thinner, as did the air. I shuddered as our wheels skidded, and I shivered as the temperature plummeted. Goose bumps covered my sunburned skin. Each time our driver swung the car around hairpin bends our shrieks of alarm only caused him to chuckle and gun for the next corner. I don’t know how we failed to avoid hurtling over the precipitous drops beside the road or why I had to keep gazing at them in horror and fascination.
Eventually, near the summit, we were released into a swirling chilly mist. We must have walked the remaining distance to the top and somehow reached the bottom again, but my memories of that are as misty as the weather shrouding Vesuvius. Crystal clear, over thirty years later, are the terror, the biting cold and the grubby string.
Wonderful if horrifying story and I wonder how many terrified tourists have shared that mind blowing ride over the years and I bet that the old boy regaled the locals with tales of his passengers in the bar at night!
Books by Wendy Janes
One of the reviews for What Jennifer Knows on Goodreads
Janice Spina rated it Five Stars
What Jennifer Knows is a lovely story about friendship, trust and keeping secrets. Who wouldn’t want a friend like Jennifer who is kind, caring and dependable. Jennifer Jacobs works part-time as a dance therapist helping special needs children. Her life is not perfect with a self-absorbed artist husband, a selfish daughter, and a secret in her past that haunts her.
When Jennifer meets a new friend, Freya, her life changes and she becomes embroiled in deception after she realizes her new friend and an old friend share the same man. The characters were real and believable as were the circumstances that can happen in life.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read that kept me turning pages as Jennifer tries to deal with her dilemmas and come out hopefully unscathed. Wendy Janes is a talented and creative author that I will be watching closely for more entertaining reads
My thanks to Wendy for sharing her story with us and I am sure she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.