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Introducing Anna Williams, Author of 'Little Nipper'

What inspired you to start writing?

I have always been the creative and crafty type, but never actually set out to write a book or story, it just happened through a series of unfortunate events and happy accidents! I’ve spent a large portion of my working life in primary schools in various roles but always surrounded by small, curious, innocent minds & have read countless books and stories to many children, including my own, and in turn helped them write their own when in class. It was during my time at one particular local primary school when English and writing really started to click. I was supporting in an upper Key stage 2 class as we embarked on a new way of approaching writing. We broke the English language down into small manageable chunks and focused on the P.A.T, Purpose - to inform, entertain, advise etc, Audience - young, old, professional etc & Type of text - formal, informal, biographical, instructional etc to help form the scaffolding of our writing. We then gave our pupils a reason to write as we’d identified many reluctant writers who would say “what's the point, no one’s going to read it!” so, every day we would spend a set time completing the 100-word challenge, where pupils are provided with a picture or some text to prompt ideas with the aim being they write 100 words connected to the prompt. Suddenly, with a reason to write, an audience and some scaffolding the words started to flow. In lesson time we would collaboratively edit, revise and improve our foundations and make sure any writing was not a list of events but a descriptive feast of language, “show me, not tell me “ became my motto. So many young writers fall into the trap of setting the scene by telling us the exact time, day or month etc but we decided it was much more interesting to make our readers detectives and encourage them to think in order to feel involved. Eg. I could say it was 8am on Tuesday morning in October and it was cold but if we rearrange that to suggest these familiar events the text suddenly becomes much more engaging. Eg: The dawn chorus had crowed, breakfast was on the table, just another day, same as yesterday, except there was a nip in the air… The garden was starting to rest, and the trees were turning, ready to shed their summer shade. These subtle changes still set the scene but in a much more interesting way. I use these techniques in my writing and I’m not ashamed to say I learned and honed them along with a mixed year 5-6 class in Lincolnshire with an inspirational teacher called James. Working there was my happy accident! Now I had the tools to write but not the inspiration outside of the classroom until my series of unfortunate events took place. I was diagnosed with a Benign Meningioma in 2011 at the time of having my daughter , lucky me, a baby and a brain tumour!!... Following an early C section & craniotomy just 6 days later I started my road to recovery. Unfortunately due to the location of the tumour it was not possible to remove it all, so “Stereo-tactic Radio Surgery” followed to stem the growth of the remaining tumour. My wonderful neurosurgeon sold it to me as “precision bombing” as opposed to “cluster bombing” in that the precision radiation does less harm to the surrounding tissue than if I were to have standard radiation therapy. It's been a bumpy ride, not without its challenges, not just for me but also my family and friends and medical team too, without whom I couldn't have travelled as far as I have. Literally, as when you have a condition such as mine with complicated surgery and side effects, it often means the patient has to stop driving. Being a determined soul, this is the thing I have found most difficult to accept and deal with. Fortunately for me I was eventually allowed to drive again up until 2022 that is, when out of the blue I suffered a tonic clonic seizure, later identified as stress related. Once again I found myself with too much time on my hands, my mind in overdrive overthinking everything and spiralling into depression. This is when I started using the Louth Nipper bus. It stops on the hour at the end of my road & gets me into town and back, saving me a 30 minute walk each way, especially good on wet & windy days & days when you just can’t be bothered to do anything let alone walk! It was whilst riding the Louth Nipper bus I started listening and observing other users and what was going on around the town as I travelled around. The Louth Nipper had given me the inspiration I didn’t know I needed. I would tell my family about my day and who I'd seen on the bus and suddenly characters started to emerge. The Louth Nipper bus took on a life of its own as we lovingly referred to it as “the nipper”. It was only when I sat one day at home, alone with my thoughts, angry at the world and my lack of place in it when it dawned on me that just because you have been labelled it doesn't mean you have to sit within the boundaries of the sticker. I may carry the labels of having a brain tumour and associated epilepsy, be medically unfit to drive at present and medically suspended from work but I was still me and still had lots to offer, it was at that moment something clicked, and I decided to write Little Nipper, the little bus with the big heart. I wanted to let others, especially the school children I missed dreadfully, know that it doesn’t matter if you carry a label, how big or small you are or what other people think, it's the everyday decisions you make, what we choose to do as individuals and our mindset that makes a difference. The Louth Nipper bus had never let me down, no one on there had judged me, had a preconceived idea of how I should be & more than anything it had given me some independence and freedom. Now, with a reason to write and the tools I acquired all those years ago in that small village school, I thought what have I got to lose?…if nothing else I might be able to read my stories to the children within our family and possibly those at school. Never did I imagine the rest of the world would meet Little Nipper too!

How did you develop your characters?

I’ve been really lucky in that most of my characters are inspired by real people and things, so I just took their best bits and emphasised them. I didn’t want the little things to be overlooked as my stories are about everyone having a place in the community and their contribution being valued no matter how big or small. I have tried to focus on the traits that make people unique and the things they do that might just make someone's day better, even if they don’t know it. A chirpy voice, a shy smile, the unconscious spoken hello’s, goodbyes & Thank you’s. A celebration of the many unsung everyday heroes such as the litter pickers, care workers and caring drivers all working hard for the good of others because they care about the kind of person they are and care about the people and places around them. Physically, I always thought the Louth Nipper Bus had facial features of its own, headlights lending themselves to be eyes and the number plate a mouth, so it wasn’t hard to characterise Little Nippers appearance. I never intentionally thought about gender for Little Nipper, he just evolved into a HE… no particular reason why. I have always felt the Louth Nipper Service is invaluable to the local residents. It’s regular, on time, reliable, always has a warm welcome and is prepared to assist and aid anyone regardless of ability and needs, characteristics that I believe everyone should show. However, as with any individual, regardless of the outer appearance and persona displayed, I am aware that more often than not, what we see of someone is not always what they are feeling or a true reflection of what's going on inside. Through Little Nipper, I wanted to show that we all have insecurities, worries or lack confidence and that it is possible to overcome whatever barriers life has put in the way if we have the right support around us. I wanted to let my readers know it's ok to ask for help, it's ok to be worried, it's ok to be different and encourage them to know that as long as you have done your best and you are comfortable with your choices then you are enough.

Is writing your full-time career and if not, would you like it to be?

Writing is definitely not my full-time career, it's something that started off as a kind of self-therapy and its spiralled from there. I feel a bit of an imposter as I don’t have an English degree or any significant qualifications in English and some might say my stories aren’t that good, but for me it's been about the journey I’ve travelled, the journey I’m travelling now, and the journey yet to come for now I have found my voice and If I can do it, so can you!... Dig deep for we all have a story to tell and like me you just never know where it might take you. As for it becoming my full-time job, probably not as I only work 3 days a week anyway and that's quite nice!

What was your favourite book as a child?

As a child of the 70’s I grew up with a collection of “Ladybird” books and Chicken Licken was by far my favourite along with the Elves and the Shoemaker and The Enormous Turnip. As I ventured toward my teenage years, I remember the first full paperback book I read which actually moved me to tears, was Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian. I can remember reading it before Sunday lunch in our dining room with tears in my eyes when William is found under the stairs holding his deceased baby sister in a vest and pants that were sewn together, soiled, dirty and afraid.

What was your dream job when you were younger?

I loved the idea of being a teacher as I had many wonderful teachers in primary school from Mrs Wood who mesmerised me with her piano skills, Mrs Walker who taught me to sew, Mrs Kirbishly who smelt wonderful, Mr Oram & Mr Almond who were gentle giants to Miss Thompson who scared me to death but grew fantastic busy Lizzy plants we could buy for a just a few pence! I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself as I got older as I’d become what today is known as a young carer for my mum who had multiple sclerosis. My time around school was spent caring for her and helping my dad keep a roof over our head, helping keep our house a home not a hospital. I didn’t have the time or thirst for A levels and university as our family was way more important, so I did the next best thing and qualified as a nursery nurse which led me to becoming a teaching assistant and eventually undertaking my HLTA ( Higher Level Teaching Assistant) qualification, something I am proud to have achieved as I got this after my tumour diagnosis with the support of a very special village school and its headteacher.

What is the best part of your day?

I love sitting with a coffee first thing in the morning looking out onto our garden to observe the subtle changes the seasons bring. I like to notice if our pair of Robins are out and about, if the squirrels are running along the fence and digging in my pots and I like looking at the changing shapes of the trees against the sky. I remind myself how lucky I am in so many ways. Some might call it “ practising gratitude” but for me it's important to keep a perspective on my life and remind myself that no matter what, the sun will always come up & go down and the tide will always turn regardless of all the other things that get in the way. I’m not a morning person so I am usually left in peace for the first 10 minutes of the day until I've got some coffee in me and that is the best part of my day!

If you could only have one season, what would it be and why?

Tough question but probably Autumn. I love to see the changes in the trees and leaves and am always filled with awe at the natural canvas nature paints and creates, from fallen conkers, acorns and leaves to whipped up winds and storms that remind you it's good to be alive.

Where is your favourite place to visit and why?

I’ve been all over the country and seen a little bit of the wider world and encountered some wonderful places, but I think my favourite place to visit is probably on my doorstep and it's a fantastic place called Hubbard’s Hills. I love this place. It's somewhere I have grown up with and where numerous memories, past & present have been made. From summers playing in the river on the stepping stones & visiting the little white wooden cafe for ice cream and fishing nets to springtime feeding the ducks & ducklings. Walking the top path picking up acorns and conkers in the autumn & sledging the snow-covered hills in the winter. It is a place of natural beauty, free of modern distractions. A place that grows with you but never changes, a place that gives more than it will ever take.

What do you hope your readers take away from the book?

Firstly I hope my book makes my readers smile and after that I hope they feel inspired and empowered to believe in themselves and know that no matter what barriers they may face, no matter how insignificant their small acts may be, they matter to someone. I want to show the reader that it takes many unique individuals to build a community.

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