Writing a Memoir
A journey of struggle, conflict and growing up. My Early Years in Notting Hill is the memoir of Tony Rawlings. Living in Notting Hill, Tony witnessed all manner of life and the daily toil of working class people. Now, years later and having been diagnosed with Dementia, the importance of writing a memoir was a calling he couldn’t ignore…
Congratulations on publishing your memoir My Early Years in Notting Hill. Why was it important for you to write about these years in your life?
I wrote my book to display how my family and I lived in poverty and to communicate my thoughts on the government and Royal Family not facing up to the reality, the reality that myself and my family lived.
The book follows the day to day life of your youth, from formidable moments at school to a heart-warming account of the fun you had hop-picking one summer. This must have been quite an emotional and cathartic experience. Can you tell us more?
As a child, every year, my brother, sister and I were taken down to Kent to do some hop-picking. We would spend six weeks doing this and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We met lots of other Londoners who went hop-picking and who lived in poverty like we did. They were kind and could relate to our poor situation.
I went to school at the age of Five at Colville Road. The teachers labelled me as stupid on the grounds that my writing, spelling, maths and general education was low. At eleven years old my mum was given a letter that stated that I shouldn’t bother with taking the eleven plus exam, and I never did.
When I was fifty-four I was told I have dyslexia and that my teachers back then would not have understood what this was. I have grown up with the view of He Who Expects Nothing Shall Never Be Disappointed.
What has been the hardest part of writing and producing your book?
The hardest part has been the actual writing because of my dyslexia – something that for years I never realized I had. I had a job with getting the correct spelling, which Hannah at TJ INK helped me with and who I thanked for doing it.
Why did you decide to print ten copies and not make it a commercial venture?
The reason I had ten books printed is because I had only written about twenty six thousand words and did not think a publisher would want them for sale because of the length.
How did being diagnosed with Dementia affect the writing of the book?
I was diagnosed with Dementia in February 2015. It was depressing knowing that I have a mental illness that is an incurable complaint.
How long did it take to write the book?
I started to write my book in 2010 and finished it in 2015.
The photos that run throughout the memoir give it a great sense of familiarity. Was it always your aim to include them and were they difficult to source?
The photos that are displayed are ones that I put on my SD card years ago. I always kept photos of my Mum and Dad because they were great parents to me.
What main thing did you want to communicate in My Early Years in Notting Hill?
My aim for the book was to let people know about the harsh reality of the poverty I and other working-class people endured. For example, we had two rooms on a top floor over a shop with a toilet two floors down and no kitchen or bathroom. The Kensington council came to look at our two rooms in the 1950s and told us they were fine, knowing that there were two parents and three children living there.
What tips would you give other people thinking of writing a memoir?
If people want to write a book about their life please write reality and not things that please other people, because that wouldn’t be the truth.
If you’re thinking of writing a memoir, why not get in touch and see how we can make it a reality?