Previous writing: « Contribution: A love letter to Europe
Index ID: FWFWH — Publication date: November 2019
Index ID: FWFWH — Publication date: November 2019
Previous writing: « Contribution: A love letter to Europe
Index ID: FWLBT — Publication date: September 7th, 2017
HENRY FRASER IS one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met.
Prior to the accident that transformed his life, Henry was intelligent, gifted and handsome, which most of us would agree is quite enough to be going on with. Circumstances had not yet arranged themselves to reveal what an exceptional person Henry truly was. Then he went on holiday with his friends, dived into the ocean and everything changed in a second.
I first came across Henry’s story by chance. I’d only visited the Saracens rugby club website to check the details of a fixture mentioned in a whodunit I was writing. Henry’s story caught my eye and, in the grand tradition of all novelists doing research, I promptly abandoned what I was supposed to be doing and read something far more interesting.
A few weeks later, my friend and agent, Neil Blair, began telling me the story of a young man whom he had just taken on as a client. The story sounded very familiar. ‘Neil, this isn’t Henry Fraser, is it?’
And so, with a shared agent as my excuse, I got in touch with Henry. We chatted online for a while and finally met at his first art exhibition, which documented his mouth-painting journey from first drawings to beautiful, fully realised paitings. He made a speech that night that will, I’m sure, have staye with everyone who heard it. His honesty, his modesty, the unflinching way he described both his accident and the way he had adapted to and was making the most of a life he had not expected, were astonishing.
I follow Henry on Twitter and regularly chat with him by Direct Message. Most people respond to him the way I didh: admiration tinged with awe. Occasionally, though, I watch him dealing with another kind of attention. One woman told him he was being punished for stupidity in diving into the ocean from the beach. A man jeered at him for conning everyone; how could he use Twitter if he were really paralysed?
You can almost smell the fear in these unsolicited comments. Accepting the reality of Henry’s story means thinking about challenges and privations that some find too terryfying to contemplate. Apportioning blame is a way of trying to deflect the simple truth that annybody’s existence may undergo a sudden, irreversible, unavoidable change.
We humans are more fragile than we like to think. Fate forced Henry Fraser down a terrifyin path for which no preparation was possible. He had to find his own way back to a life worth living and in doing so he revealed himself to be a person of extraordinary perseverance, strength and wisdom. He pushes himself both physicaly and mentally, exceeding expectations in every direction, raising money for cuases he cares about, his art becoming more accomplished with every drawing and painting he produces.
Above all, Henry is living proof that acceptance and aspiration are not mutually exclusive. How many of us can truly say that we accept the present facts of our life, while living it to its fullest extent? It is understandable to rage against present limitations, but sometimes we make them our excuse not to act, not to do all that we can: for ourselves, for others, for the world.
Henry remains intelligent, gifted and handsome, but he is now something more, something rarer: someone truly inspirational. He is remarkable, not for what happened to him, but for what he makes happen. This book is merely his latest achievement, and nobody who knows him doubts that there is much more to come. I’m truly proud to count him one of my friends.
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Index ID: FWLA14 — Publication date: November 2015
EIGHT million children around the world languish ininstitutions and so-called orphanages, though the vastmajority are not in fact orphans but have at least oneliving parent. Why orphanages are full of non-orphansis a question that Lumos continues to ask, and keyanswers – poverty, confict, disability and lack of access toservices that help keep children in families – come backtime and again. There is compelling scientifc evidenceto show that institutional care – separating children fromloving engagement by parents and families – harms achild’s physical, intellectual and emotional development.Research also makes clear that those raised in institutionalcare sufer poor life and health prospects. Societies andcommunities also sufer the social and economic fall-outof an out-dated ‘care’ system that harms the very childrenit is supposed to protect.
The evidence-based argument has been widely acceptedin the European region, where Lumos has worked overthe last decade to tackle a legacy of State-providedinstitutions, in a culture where separating children fromparents became the standard response to families incrisis. We talk of a ‘tipping point’ in Europe becausemost countries have some form of commitment todeinstitutionalisation (DI).
At Lumos, we now believe the evidence is so clear thatwe can take our DI mission onto the global stage – tochallenge the decades-old notion that orphanages are‘good’ or at least ‘necessary’ for children in adversity.They are not and we now know enough about the harmto see that there is a better way. This will be a challengefor many generous people who have supported, or evenworked in, orphanages, and believe they are safe, wellequipped havens for children in a threatening world. Weare confdent in arguing that the solution is not prettymurals, comfer beds, or teddy bears. The solution is noinstitutions or orphanages.
In 2014 Lumos established a platform – with the people,skills, expertise and passion – to enable us to startto make that argument around the world in pursuitof our ambitious but achievable goal of ending theinstitutionalisation of children worldwide by 2050.
It was at such an infuential Lumos policy event in 2014 –In Our Lifetime, focusing on the role of global aid fundingto bring closer the end of institutions and orphanages –that I met Dumitriţa from Moldova, who had lived in aninstitution for fve years. She is one of the 14,280 childrenwho have been reunited with her family thanks to thework of Lumos.
Listening to her speak about her experiences wasprofoundly moving. It was also a powerful message topolicy makers who heard her that change is not onlypossible, it is imperative. Her personal story encapsulatesthe aspirations of the millions of children we work tohelp; giving them a voice is a fundamental part of ourmission. Our aim is that, in their lifetimes, all children willenjoy a family life, which they need and deserve. 2014was the year in which I became Life President of Lumos,a commitment I was proud to make and in taking up thisnew role I handed over the baton of responsibility forchairing the Board of Trustees of Lumos to Neil Blair. I didso with confdence in the Trustees, in our indefatigableCEO Georgette Mulheir, and in the talented staf at Lumos,and in the knowledge that Lumos enjoys the invaluable,continuing support of many partners and generous donors.
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Index ID: FWBBL — Publication date: April 23rd, 2015
As someone who respects comprehensive research, I am in awe of the level of detail and amount of time Philip Errington has dedicated to this slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling bibliography. Even in my most deluded moments, I could ever have anticipated that an idea that occurred to me on a train to Manchester could have spawned this amount of verbiage and prose in every language under the sun. I am humbled and deeply flattered.
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Index ID: FWLA13 — Publication date: November 2014
2013 was a year of significant achievement by Lumos on multiple levels, reflecting the scope and expertise ofour team of dedicated professionals.
We reached the encouraging point where the child population of institutions in Eastern European nations inwhich we work has reduced by nearly 40% over the last five years; the figure in Moldova is a remarkable 62%.This means institutions are closing and many thousands of children are returning to their families, homes andcommunities.
Our teams, harnessing professional expertise, intervened to help save the lives of scores of children who were atrisk of death from malnutrition in institutions. Supported by Lumos, young people with intellectual disabilitiespresented their demands for change in their lives at international conferences. In Moldova, 40% of schoolsnow have staff dedicated to the special educational needs of children who might previously have been ininstitutions – thanks to Lumos’ influence. These are but a few of 2013’s achievements, as we have demonstratedrobust, workable models that have been replicated in a number of countries.
Deinstitutionalisation (DI) – the technical name for a life-enhancing process that transforms children’s lives – isnot just about closing buildings. It is about the reform of entire care systems, to ensure they are able to meetthe needs of ALL children, and which ensure the families crucially can stay together. This needs funding andpolitical will which is why our work at the international level is so crucial to realising our vision of a world freefrom harmful institutions for children
In 2013 we saw the results of four years of collaborative diplomacy and advocacy to ensure that EuropeanUnion funding for Member States must be used to build family and community-based care. We have alreadyinfluenced the use of more than €350 million and there is huge potential to influence the use of humanitarianaid to end institutionalisation worldwide.
This year also saw significant growth for Lumos as an organisation. We have hard-working teams in Bulgaria,Moldova and Czech Republic and we look forward to a time when we can build on our initial work in Ukraine.At the same time, we are preparing to take our mission onto the global stage. Our operations in the UK havebeen enhanced to provide support for our international teams.
We have always aimed to be a reliable ‘critical friend’ to nations seeking to close institutions – an authoritative,expert guide through a complex process. Our 2013 achievements show just how expert and influential Lumoshas become. There is still much to be done to transform the lives of eight million children in institutionsworldwide – including raising awareness and challenging the misconception around the world thatorphanages are ‘necessary’ and ‘good’ for children in adversity, which they are not.
The evidence from 2013 fills me with confidence that Lumos – with the invaluable, continuing support of ourpartners and donors – will meet those challenges admirably.
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Index ID: FWLA12 — Publication date: November 2013
2012 was a landmark year for Lumos. Our international team of dedicated professionals significantly scaled up its delivery of programmes that change the lives of Europe’s most vulnerable children. This Review provides a snapshot of some of Lumos’ extraordinary achievements.
I was profoundly moved by the individual stories of children reunited with their families; of parents who felt they had no option but to place their children in institutions, but were provided with the support they needed so their children could come home.
And this year too, Lumos saved the lives of many more children in institutions who were dying as a result of neglect or a lack of access to proper medical care.
During 2012, Lumos’ work to demonstrate best practices in changing systems of health, education and social services has become a model for others. Governments and organisations from many countries have asked Lumos to assist them in closing their institutions and setting up community services. Impressed by our success in Moldova, the Ukrainian national and regional level government, as well as NGOs, have begun to use Lumos’ approach to develop national and regional action plans for change.
But the work of one NGO can never be enough to help all children in institutions. This is why we work to influence decision makers at the highest level. This year we have been successful in assisting the European Commission and European Parliament to make major changes in the way EU funding can be spent. Over the next few years, this will shift resources from institutions to the development of community-based services, marking the beginning of the end of institutions for children in Europe.
None of this could be achieved without the generous support of partners and donors. For this I thank you and I hope you will continue to work with us to bring an end to the institutionalisation of children.
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Index ID: FWDM — Publication date: October 15th, 2009
This is an extraordinary little book, based on a simple but wonderful idea: What would you say to yourself if you came face-to-face with the sixteen-year-old you?
One of the many things that delighted and touched me as I read the letters that follow is the commonality of our human experience. Nearly everyone who wrote, whether their letter is jolly or poignant, seems to have looked back on their younger selves with compassion, remembering how vulnerable and dangerous an age sixteen is, for all the fun and freedom it is supposed to entail.
The overwhelming message of this body of letters seems to be: Be yourself. Be easier on yourself. Become yourself, as fully as possible.
Attempting to isolate those life lessons I could pass back to the girl I used to be was a truly illuminating exercise. It made me look at my seventeen-year-old daughter and remember, in a more powerful way than ever before, just how raw and vivid life is for her, in a way that it has been only intermittently for me as an adult. I would not go back to sixteen for anything you could give me, and yet I still recognize that she has something I have lost along the way—something I had to lose, to stay sane.
You might have picked up this book out of interest in some of the fascinating people who have contributed. I don’t think you will be disappointed. The great thing about these letters is that they are extraordinarily revealing, whether short, long, full of practical advice or metaphyisical musings.
Whatever your motives in buying this book, thank you. One dollar a copy will benefit Doctors Without Borders.
Finally, let me urge you to use the blank pages at the end of the book to write your own letter to yourself, aged sixteen. I think you’ll find it just as thought-provoking and worthwile as we all did.
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Index ID: FWHAH — Publication date: November 4th, 2008
Over and over again they asked me the same question, with tiny variations. “What is it that makes Harry Potter so popular?” “What’s the magic formula?” “What advice would you give anyone wanting to write a children’s bestseller?”
And I always gave them non-answers. “It’s not me you should ask.” “This has taken me by surprise as much as anyone.” “It’s hard for the author to be objective…”
As Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. The trouble is, nobody knows what they are.” Harry just happened. The idea slid into my mind on a train journey from Manchester to London, and I wrote it the way I thought I would like to read it. I then had the immense good fortune to find an agent who liked it. After a lot of rejections, Chris found a publisher prepared to take a chance on an overlong novel (45,000 words was consdiered about the right length for a nine-years-old then; Philosopher’s Stone was 95,000), set in a boarding school (a horribly unfashionable subject), by a completely unknown author.
When I started writing the Potter series I was aiming to please nobody but myself, and the more I was asked, the more I was sure that I ought not to try and analyse the reasons for its gathering popularity. I knew that if I tried to find this formula everyone was talking about, I would become self-conscious, start “doing” J.K. Rowling rather than being her. I was concerned for the safety of the fragile glass bubble within which I wrote, and which was still bobbing along intact on the swirling tide of madness that was gathering around Harry Potter, the still centre of the storm.
For similarly self-protective reasons, I kept myself as ignorant as possible about the degree of a fan activity that was taking place both on the Internet and off it. Occasionally friends or journalists would impart some starling piece of information about what was going on out there; it tended to harden my resolve not to know. If that sounds bizarre or, worse, ungrateful, then I can only say that a day in my shoes would have convinced you otherwise. The letter I received daily made it perfectly clear how invested in the characters’ futures my readers had beome. “Please don’t kill Fred or George, I LOVE THEM!” “If Hermione becomes Harry’s girlfriend that will show that you can be smart and still team up with the hero!!! This would be a really good message!!!!” “Why didn’t you let Harry go and live with Sirius and be happy?” “I read somewhere that you are going to make Draco and Harry become friends and fight evil together, I think this would be a good thing and show that Draco is not all bad.” “Ms. Rowling, your books are a safe place in a dangerous world. May I urge you to resist commercial pressure: let your characters keep their innocence.” “DON’T KILL HAGRID. DON’T KILL HAGRID. DON’T KILL HAGRID” (repeated hundreds of times over ten sides of A4 paper).
Not until some time in 2002 did I finally crack and do the thing that people assumed I did daily. I googled Harry Potter.
I knew, of course, that there were fan sites out there. My postbag was full of mentions of them, my readers assuming that I was au fait with what was happening online. My PA, Fiddy, had had contact with a few of the webmasters. But I was still utterly unprepared for what I found during that first, mammoth trawling session.
The fan sites were so professional looking; easily up to the standard of any of my publishers’ sites. And they had tens of thousdans of visitors. They had forums, message boards, editorials, rolling news, fan art, fan fiction, quotes of the da from my books… and the shipping wars… my God, the shipping wars…
I had already heard of the Leaky Cauldron; it was one of the biggest and most popular Harry Potter sites on the Net, and I had been told about a couple of great things they had done (freeing the already-free Dobby got my attention). But I had never seen it for myself, never realised exactly what went on there. I sat and read editoriales, predictions, theories that ranged from strange to wild to perfectly accurate. I was, frankly, stunned… and I remain stunned.
Reading the book you now have in your hands has been an astonishing experience from me. It is as though I have, at last, achieved the ambition I held for years: to go along to a bookshop at midnight on Harry Potter publication night, in disguise, and simply watch and listen.
At long last I understand what was going on while I was holed up writing, trying to filter my exposure to Potter hysteria. A great chunk of my own life has been explained to me; Melissa has filled in an enormous number of blanks, taken me to places I wish I could have visited with her (like the House of Pancakes, to meet the United States’s most promiment anti-Harry Potter campaigner); explained jokes that fans assumed I understood; introduced me to people they thought I knew; filled me in on arguments I had inadvertenlty started. She has reminded me of incidents I had half forgotten in the furore surrounding every publication from 2000 onwards – the stolen truck full of copies of Order of the Phoenix, that irksome “Green Falme Torch,” and the endless War on Spoilers…
The online Harry Potter fandom has become a global phenomenon with its own language and culture, its own wards and festivals, its own celebrities, of which Melissa is certainly one. She was a fan who ended up with her own fan club, one of the online fandom’s most tireless champions and representatives, endeavouring, always, to be fair and honest and impartial.
So this book is a history of a community, written by an insider, and I have found it inspiring, moving, humbling, amusing, and, on ocassion, downright alarming. It can be read as a warts-and-all exposé of a fan mentality or as a story of the world’s biggest book group or as the personal journey of a group of people who would never otherwise have met. The tale of the online fandom is every bit as extraordinary as Harry’s own, and it has left me with a feeling of awe and gratitude. At last, I know what was really happening out there – and it is wonderful.
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Index ID: FWBBA — Publication date: November 16th, 2007
When I conceived the idea of writing The Tales of Beedle the Bard in full, I was intrigued to discover how wizarding fairy-tales would differ from those told to muggle children. In the latter, witches and wizards are relegated to walk-on, if pivotal, roles; within The Tales of Beedle the Bard, they themselves are the heroes and heroines.
You might think that magic would solve any fairy-tale dilemma, but it transpires that there is always somebody who can cast a more powerful curse, or a creature who will not yield to one’s best enchantments. Then, the intractable and eternal human predicaments of love, death and the pursuit of happiness are not necessarily resolved any more easily by the possessors of wands.
So these wizarding fairy-tales have much in common with their muggle counterparts: they exist to express human hopes and fears, and to teach a lesson or two. There are, however, a few important differences: witches tend to save themselves, rather than waiting around for a man to do it, and young wizards are warned, not against the dangers and temptations of the outside world, but of their own magical powers.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is really a distillation of the themes found in the Harry Potter books, and writing it has been the most wonderful way to say goodbye to a world I loved and lived in for seventeen years.
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Index ID: FWEDIN — Publication date: August, 2007
All writers dread the question “where do you get your ideas from?”.
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