Tag Archives: writing

The Usurper

Volume 2 of the adult fantasy series Azhad:Elgir is now available on Amazon Kindle!

Like volume 1 The Vispadjinn, I have  co-authored this with Mick Sherwood under the nom de plume of Sherwood H Smith.  This time I’ve had more input at an earlier stage. This volume is much more centred on political intrigue and machination rather than a quest type journey. But don’t worry there’s still plenty of action. You’ll also recognise several characters from the first volume but, of course, many new ones make an appearance.

If you’re interested in finding out more, why not take a look at our website vispadjinn.com.  You’ll find character lists, information about the process of collaborative writing and a synopsis for both books.

Please be aware that this is an adult fantasy series with adult themes.


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Why is this year so busy?

I’m not complaining but this is my busiest year ever for pupils. Are all you other tutors out there experiencing the same thing, I wonder? I’ve even had to turn work down and have a waiting list. There doesn’t appear to be a pattern as I still have quite a wide variety of ages, subjects and levels. This variety is what makes tutoring so enjoyable for me. I am constantly preparing different work, not having to rehash the same old stuff time after time.

Also this year I’m pleased to say that there has been more variety in the schools’ choice of literary texts. Although we can’t seem to get away from Of Mice and Men, there have been some new names – Blood Brothers, Silas Marner, and The Crucible. With Shakespeare too, there’s been Much Ado about Nothing and The Merchant of Venice as well as the usual Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. 

Of course, I’ve also had to find time to co-author volume 2 of our fantasy series which I am now revising and last but not least be a councillor for Loddon ward. Some of this will ease in May as I have decided not to re-stand for Council in May when my term of 4 years finishes. This will allow me to concentrate on teaching and writing.

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Audere est facere

Apart from helping one to translate Tottenham’s motto what use is a knowledge of  Latin nowadays?

I think it’s a matter for regret that so many schools no longer offer Latin as an option. Just from the point of view of widening one’s vocabulary a grasp of Latin is really advantageous. I often do work with pupils on derivations and prefixes/suffixes (usually derived from Latin)  to help with their vocabulary.

Another way in which Latin (and to a lesser extent French or other modern languages) can help with English is through an understanding of parts of speech. These days many pupils do not learn about parts of speech in English – maybe the basics of noun, verb and adjective, but not much more than this. When you learn Latin you have to understand terms such as Passive Voice, 1st person plural, sequence of tenses etc. Writing fluently and effectively in English is not just a question of imagination and inspiration. You have to understand sentence structure and be able to logically connect and sequence paragraphs. In fact, one of the disadvantages of the modern approach to teaching languages such as French is that grammar can only too easily be sidelined or completely disregarded. Obviously the emphasis on communication and situation French (e.g. at the baker’s) is a good thing. Yes, today’s pupils probably have much better spoken French but grammar should not be forgotten. I have had pupils in their GCSE year who have asked me the difference between ‘le’ and ‘la’!  Pupils who want to take their language learning to a higher level – A level and beyond – often struggle. Many universities have to put on special introductory courses to bring students upto the required level.

Latin is an extremely logical language; it follows patterns and rules with few exceptions. It appeals to those who enjoy puzzles and maths as well as those with an interest and flair for language. So even if your son or daughter is attracted more to  science/maths, don’t rule out Latin as an option for GCSE. It is highly rated by universities and, indeed, used in the past to be obligatory for studying certain subjects.

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The most important subject?

Most students (and their parents) understand that passing GCSE English is absolutely vital for most further education and many careers. Indeed proficient reading and writing skills are important not only for English Language and English Literature but also for other subjects such as History, Geography to name just two.

However those A level students following more science based courses may be surprised to discover that literacy skills are vital for them too. I often get mature students who having completed a science based degree are faced with having to produce a piece of written work as part of a professional qualification. A good example would be a Civil Engineer who came to me needing help with essay writing skills. He needed to produce essays as part of the process of joining the Institute representing his profession. He knew how to design and build a motorway but explaining the process in a structured essay he found virtually impossible at first.  Even careers that may seem very ‘hands-on’ such as nursing and counselling still require a large element of written work as part of qualification.

Communication skills whether oral or written are essential in the modern world. Whether you’re writing just a short text or memo or producing a lengthy proposal or presentation the ability to successfully transmit information to your chosen audience is crucial.

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