What is it to study literature and be a writer at the same time?

by Kate W

Kate is a British teacher and author. She attended an all-girls grammar school & graduated with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Kent. She went on to receive a Post Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Education.

For 8 years, Kate worked in Hong Kong as a NET (native English teacher), aiding Secondary Schools in establishing an English rich environment, promoting the love of reading & writing through language arts, as well as speech festivals and debate training. She is currently a freelance writer and private tutor.

Some of her published work includes: Grade 1-Grade 3 Grammar textbooks for those learning English as a second language, a poetry collection and her fantasy novel series.

In her spare time, you will catch her writing prose, promoting books on social media and reading, sometimes 7 books a month. Her love of literature knows no bounds! She currently acts as a rep for book companies such as Canterbury Classics & Bookdepository.

Kate’s expertise include: English literature, creative writing, grammar, poetry, reading, storytelling.

To engage Kate as your personal tutor, email or call +44 207 3856795.

When we study books at school and are asked to read texts, it’s very likely we won’t enjoy all of them- that’s normal! Our teachers can be very passionate and knowledgeable about an author or text they love, and want to share all the tips and insights with you. Especially how to get you to pass your exams. It takes time as a reader to really get a feel for what genre, length, and writing style that suits you. If reading becomes enjoyment, to fully immerse yourself into another world- then it will never be a chore.  Then, you will devour books hungrily. 

It takes time and practice, but with the right mindset, it is totally achievable!

I’m sure many of you have felt that literature (namely classics) and poetry requires a lot of analysing. Too much, in fact. Have you heard the debate over the ‘blue curtains’? This is a line of a text in a novel that really shows us what it is to study literature, versus writing it.

As a literature student, no doubt you will be expected to analyse sentence form, the purpose of the words- why did the writer say blue? It could be to show his/her melancholy, or bleak emotions over an event. This is what blue symbolises.

However, as a writer you may realise that there may be no real reason for you to mention the colour blue at all! Writing is an artform where you experiment with language, form, rhyme. It is an expression of creativity. So, though it may be useful to understand an author’s true intentions behind their piece, sometimes- there doesn’t have to be a defining reason. It becomes something merely to tick the right boxes, that will get you through an exam and get you the grades.

The trick here, is to go through the motions, appreciate the importance and need to study literature, to learn about history, an important event, certain experiences, but also be open minded as to the oftentimes unreliability of a narrator.

If you study in a very exam orientated society, it means studying literature becomes a formula, a procedure where you have to pin-point the marked points. Having taught for at least 8yrs in different local secondary schools in HK, I saw how it became a subject labelled ‘language arts and movie/book appreciation’, before literature slowly became a subject to be marked, and taught separately. For texts chosen without a movie, some students lost the interest and willpower for a second language, and slowly started to dislike the topic.

For many of us, this is a real shame. Reading solely to get marks doesn’t give room for creativity or thinking outside the box, though it is important to encourage creative thinking.

Literature as a subject however will always need to be marked, from primary to higher level- but how can you mark something that doesn’t have a definitive answer? Something that is open to interpretation?  

This is a very interesting topic to discuss, how we can truly separate ‘studying for fun’, and ‘teaching it academically’, and how to really cultivate that love of reading and writing, starting from pre-school and building up. Society plays a huge role in this. I have been overjoyed to see so many free little libraries scattered around the country! Fostering reading and writing is paramount.

Step 01Contact Details

Step 02 What do you need?

Step 03How old?

Step 04Something more?