"When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end. When we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out." - Vickie Karp
Monday, 2 May 2011
a letter from Adrian Mitchell
Celia Mitchell, who runs Ripping Yarns bookshop, is the wife of poet Adrian Mitchell. We're currently going through his archive and unearthed this letter he'd sent in 1998 to a young girl who had written to him saying she was terrified of war, famine and unfair political policies. We thought it was very beautiful and wanted to share it.
Thank you so much for writing and sending me your letter. It was a bit like reading a letter from myself fifty years ago (I'm now a cheerful old grandfather of 65, still campaigning for peace, in fact my wife and I are going to a meeting about Iraq tonight at the House of Commons.) Yes.
You've got a great imagination, which is a burden and a blessing... Some people might say - turn your back on all the suffering in the world, for war and starvation and torture and oppression to go on. I think that's wrong...
...But you must be strong. It's not good thinking about the dark side of the planet obsessively or all the time. Your imagination should also delight in the beauty and warmth of the people and creatures around you, the joy and often absurdity of life.... It is important not just to have feelings about the horrors of today, but also to think and study hard to discover - what can be done to change all this? What can I do to change it?
I don't mean that you alone can abolish all the evil in the world magically. But maybe through your songs, or poems, you could change the lives of thousands of people you've never met. Or maybe you'll be a doctor and add to the healing part of the world's population, rather than the destructive side...
...I was a child in World War Two. I was really too young to be afraid then, even when the bombs were falling, for I didn't believe that it would ever happen to me. But many times since I have been afraid, for myself and my family, for my country and for the whole world.
But fear isn't the answer. Courage and hard work is the nearest I can find to one... I share your fear sometimes that the whole world seems to be in flames. Well, we better learn to be good firefighters and save all the people we can.
Jen Campbell is the author of the best-selling 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' series, and her new book 'The Bookshop Book' is out now. She's also an award-winning poet and short story writer. Her poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' is published by The Rialto, and she lives in London, where she works at an antiquarian bookshop. She is currently writing her first novel and she runs a Booktube channel over at youtube.com/jenvcampbell
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From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole). The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.