As an infant, I loved words and had my own names for things. I lived in books as a child, while growing up on the West Coast of NZ’s South Island, and my nick-name at school for a time was ‘the walking dictionary’ – a moniker which puzzled me then. My parents were not well off, I was the eldest of four, and the commercial subjects they wanted me to take at secondary school were ones that would enable me to get a job.
So at 17 I took a job in a bank, and then another one in an insurance company. By the time I had mastered each job, I was thoroughly bored, even though during those four years I had lived in Hokitika, Blenheim and Nelson.
When I was 21 my eyes were opened to other possibilities and so I began a commercial teachers’ training course in Christchurch. The course tutors encouraged us to attempt university study as well. I took the plunge and took both Accounting 1 and English 1. Much to my astonishment I passed both subjects, gaining good marks, and having loved the study of English, I then went on to complete a BA in English literature.
None of this would have happened without the awakening to faith I experienced at the age of 15. During a visit to NZ Billy Graham challenged young people to commit to live a life of adventure with God. That resonated with me. I’d been sent to Sunday School so I had some background to draw on.
My first real tentative steps in faith were encouraged by involvement in Crusaders at school (now Inter School Christian Fellowship), by teaching Sunday School myself, and by going to two camps in the mountains while I was at school. There I saw attractive women leaders who were role models of faith, adventure and fun.
During the following years I stepped out further in faith as a leader at many young people’s camps, and in leading cell groups at university. Student conferences and meetings helped me hone my theology and gave me a practical foundation for my faith.
For two years I worked full-time for Scripture Union in the South Island, visiting schools and running camps, and networked with many wonderful people, (some of whom became my flat-mates, and another later became my husband) and had many adventurous experiences in the outdoors.
I also taught in secondary schools in Christchurch, which developed my own English skills. After marriage, and with three children, I accompanied my husband to Auckland while he underwent training for the Anglican ministry. I also completed a theological degree while we both cared for our children.
In parish ministry one of the roles I picked up was the editing of a monthly parish magazine. Instead of returning to teaching I helped to edit a national quarterly Christian magazine. The skills I learned on the job were also used later when I took a position with the NZ Church Missionary Society.
After we retired to our house in the mountains I completed a couple of proof-reading projects for those with English as a second language who are doing PhD theses. I have supported my husband (also an English literature graduate) in the writing of his book, and I became the ‘bookkeeper’ as we toured around the country while he was speaking and promoting his book.
Our house has books, magazines and the like in every available space. And despite our remote location, the world of words is available to us through the internet. Children’s books too are an added delight, as one of my favourite activities is reading to a grandchild – and all seven of them love books.
I still love words. I love the way in which apt phrases and expressions can convey great depths of meaning. (And I deplore the lazy, shoddy and inaccurate use of language, which means I am in danger of becoming a crusty pedant.) I love sharing good books with others, and some recent travel has opened up new realms in the world of books to savour.
The young writers’ programme that encourages others to write, share their thoughts and feelings, and develop skills of communication, is an admirable undertaking. I’m delighted to see the numbers of young people ‘giving it a go’, but also I enjoy being a senior writer facing the on-going challenges of communication in a world saturated with words and images.