When I was about 15, our local paper ran a special schools edition. They approached English teachers around the city, asking them to contribute pieces written by local students, and my teacher picked an essay I’d written. The essay was about the pros and cons of staying at a school that teaches 11-18 year-olds for the final two years of high school compared to moving to a dedicated “sixth-form college” that only teaches 16-18 year-olds; this had been a hot topic at home, because I was at an 11-18 within walking distance and wanted to stay there, with all my friends and with teachers I knew, whereas my Dad taught at the sixth-form college across town and wanted me to transfer there, which would have meant him driving me there and back every day.
At first I thought that my article would be one of several that came from our school, and wouldn’t attract too much attention from the people who bullied me for being a swot and a teacher’s pet. BUT the editors of the paper chose to use MY PHOTO as the illustration of how a photograph is taken, developed, cropped, processed and published, and there were multiple versions of it (at various stages of processing) all over the front of the special schools edition.
I had to listen to the sneering jibes about that hideous photo for weeks!
A squirrel chewed through some wiring in the roof of the old wing of my school one night a few months later and two classrooms burned to the ground, taking all my English coursework with them. I’d written some stuff I was really proud of (e.g. a reworking of Macbeth in the style of Raymond Chandler) and wanted to get back after everything had been sent off for grading by external examiners and then returned to the school, but it was all lost for good (this was before we had our first computer, and all my work had been painstakingly written out in long-hand).
My Mum had the genius idea of calling the local paper asking them to send back the one surviving piece of coursework – the copy of the essay they’d published in their schools edition.
They re-published the essay AND the photo, with a short article attached that basically suggested that heroic Yorkshire Evening Press journalists had risked life and limb to rescue my essay from the still-burning building.
My friends from high school still remind me about this incident; they thought it was hilarious, obviously, even though I got yet more grief from the resident eejits about it.
Anyway, this was my one and only experience of being in the paper.
Today, a guest post I wrote about a new paper on chromosome damage in cancer was posted on GrrlScientist’s Guardian blog.
It’s not quite the Guardian proper (the paper I grew up reading – along with the Yorkshire Evening Press, of course), but hey, if it erases some of those bad memories, I’ll take it!