This Week’s Bit of String: A particularly arduous apple pie
Who doesn’t like apple pie? My Year 10 student who was supposed to bake one for Hospitality and Catering, that’s who–or so he claimed. Much of the time, practical work is a fight with him, sometimes even more so than written work. Last week, we made pastry without too much bother, but he refused to make the filling and construct the pie the next day.
I tried impressing him by peeling one of the Bramleys in a mindblowingly long snake–must have been nearly two feet of apple peel. I pointed out that everyone else is doing the work, and he must do it too. I threatened him with workbook pages, and with his keyworker in all her high-heeled, jewelry-spangled, Welsh-accented glory.
He in turn employed the persuasive techniques of emotive language, hyperbole, and sheer high-decibel whining. “I never get to do what I want! You can make me do this but I won’t enjoy it! You’re forcing me to do this, and now I guess I just won’t eat anything tonight.”
“What are you talking about? You’ll still get your dinner.”
“Apple pie is so disgusting, I’ll lose my appetite forever!”
He realised I wouldn’t give in, so he helped chop the apples and then poured the sugar on and stirred. Then… “Miss, do you think I could taste one of those?”
Of course. He popped a bit of sugared, spiced apple in his mouth. The tension retreated from between his brows, and the corners of his mouth rose slightly. “Mmm!”
Every time, every bloody time. We fight, he finally does the thing, and then finds he likes the thing.
I have to do a lot of convincing while at work. It often feels futile, fighting apathy with logic. “Yes, I know you’re tired. But we’re all tired and we’re all still here and the trick is not to expect that you won’t be tired, but to know how to keep going anyway.”
“It’s effort though.”
Secondary school students are taught persuasive techniques and even examined on them at the end of GCSEs. Some of them can rattle off HADAFOREST quite well (if you know, you know) but the linguistic devices don’t necessarily serve them as methods for getting out of work.
I worry that one day my strength for the constant battling will dry up. One can hardly have an inexhaustible store of enthusiasm in the face of supreme reluctance–not that all my students are reluctant, nor that any one student is reluctant about everything. There are so many factors.
But it can be draining, and then to come home and try to do writing work… Sometimes my mind starts sounding like one of the kids: “A synopsis, seriously? Ugh, that’s effort. I can’t be bothered.”
I do bother, of course. I love my book and I’ve worked so hard on it, I’m ready to start querying agents and I don’t want to back down now. I have synopses (longer version and shorter version depending on submission guidelines) which I don’t hate, in fact I even kinda like them (let’s not get carried away lest I overthink and question the whole thing). The Gospel of Eve is brilliant and funny and heartbreaking, and the pitch for my cover letters is fricking awesome.
Winning Hearts and Minds
Retelling the creation story from Eve’s point of view. I tell people what I’ve written and they say the pitch writes itself. There are plenty who want to hear fresh angles and to consider unheard motives. Retold myths is practically a whole genre now, with Jessie Burton’s Medusa on the Carnegie Award shortlist, and Madeline Miller’s Circe a massive hit from a few years ago. Natalie Haynes is an expert in this field, while Margaret Atwood and AS Byatt tried it out too.
Comparative titles for my cover letter: boom! Done.
It’s been handy to have widely-known source material to cite, but I can’t assume everyone knows about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, or about Cain and Abel. All those things will be revealed in the flow of the plot, but my main focus is relationships, and reimagining the first ones.
What would it be like the first time a baby was born, the first time people argued, the first glimpse at disability, the first non-heterosexual union?
That’s a lot of weight pressing down on one human. I’ve gone for a spirited, perhaps anachronistic tone though, with pithy observations and selection of detail that shows the light side of life as well. Eve has to persuade people all her long life, and humour is a great device. This is the story of her persuading her family to keep loving each other no matter what, and given that one of her first persuasive acts was inviting Adam to join her eating forbidden fruit, people aren’t always inclined to listen!
First woman, wife, mother, and sinner–supposedly. However, given that even a stroppy adolescent can’t resist tasting a bit of apple he claimed to despise… Mightn’t any one of us humans have stepped out of line if we were given the first opportunity to do so?
What persuasive devices do you use, on yourself or on others?