Shropshire Star

Top Shrewsbury author Pauline lived life to the full

She was a generous and inspirational woman, who also happened to be one of Britain's most successful children's writers, writes Shropshire Star reporter Dominic Robertson.

Pauline Fisk

The family of Pauline Fisk have paid tribute to a woman who was hugely talented in her work and fiercely proud of her Shropshire roots.

Mrs Fisk, 66, of Shrewsbury and formerly Worthen, wrote 11 novels and won the Smarties Grand Prix award in 1990 for her bestselling children's novel Midnight Blue.

A tribute from Mrs Fisk's family said : "Her generosity with her time, skills and experience was reflected in her work visiting schools and helping children to have the courage to develop and fulfil their potential.

"This desire to inspire others was expanded through her valued contributions to BBC Radio Shropshire's Pause for Thought."

Mrs Fisk, whose funeral was held yesterday, was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in December 2014. She had a strong Christian faith, which helped her face her demise with courage and candidness. Her family today said she died peacefully, surrounded by music and those she loved. She is survived by her husband David, five children, Idris, Grace, Beulah, Nancy and Nathaniel as well as three grandchildren.

The author, who died on January 25, saw her novels published by Faber & Faber, Bloomsbury, Random House, Walker Books and Lion, with her most recent non-fiction title published by Merlin Unwin.

She was a contributor to an assortment of anthologies of poetry and short stories published by Hodder Headline and Bloodaxe Books and Midnight Blue also earned her the runner up prize in the Whitbread Children's Book Award.

In the mid 1990s she also collaborated with science fiction and fantasy illustrator, Rodney Matthews, to bring his creation Lavender Castle to television, writing scripts for the animated series which was produced by Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds fame.

However, she was, first and foremost, a children's novelist whose stories championed what was described as "the quiet struggle faced by many children behind closed doors".

Mrs Fisk wrote with a distinctive lyrical style and an intuitive grasp of children's imaginations and sensibilities, as she described in a recent interview.

She said: "My whole life has been spent trying to bring together 'real life' and the world of fantasy, in particular by finding new and interesting ways of expressing a sense of the magical in my writing. Ever since I was five years old, hunting down fairies in the back alley behind my parents' house, a sense of more to life than meets the eye has been part of who I am. When I was a child, life was one big fairy tale. That was how I felt. But how to get into that fairy tale? How to make that fairy tale my life, and make it real and be a part of it?

"Every writer's like a sleeping knight beneath a hill, brought to life when he or she has a story to tell, rising in the dark to gallop forth with a laugh, or tears or a chill breeze to broadcast to the waiting world. When I'm writing, I feel alive. When I'm not, I feel asleep. It's as powerful as that."

Much of Mrs Fisk's writing style reflected the adversity and sense of isolation that faced her mother, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Guernsey, as she adapted to a new life in wartime London.

The anxieties and challenges faced by her mother profoundly influenced family life and in efforts to survive an environment of pressured conformity, Mrs Fisk had an ability to see the extraordinary behind and within the ordinary.

Her love of detail led her to carry out in-depth research for each book. With many of her novels based in her home county of Shropshire, she became increasingly influenced by its history and folklore.

Mrs Fisk also took inspiration from issues of everyday life. In 2008, having witnessed the transformative powers of the gap year on her son, Idris, she decided to follow his footsteps to research the experience for herself as the basis for her last novel, In The Trees.

Trekking in the far-flung corners of the Chicquibul Forest in Belize, Mrs Fisk, then aged 60, repeatedly surprised all with her enthusiasm, stamina and determination.

Her Belizean experience had a profound effect and she formed a lasting relationship with the country, championing the cause of rainforest conservation in Belize on returning to the UK.

News of her efforts and her book even reached the Belizean High Commission and she was thrilled to find herself discussing the potential for her book's role in the English curriculum for schools in Belize, attending a formal dinner with the country's president.

However, it was Shropshire that Mrs Fisk loved best and her last book was based in her home town of Shrewsbury. Her 'My Tonight From Shrewsbury' blog saw her delve into the stories behind the many and varied closed doors of the town.

She interviewed musicians, artists, trades people and an 'urban explorer' as well as taking time to explore castle vaults, quirky teashops and the depths of Shrewsbury Prison herself.

With a large local and international following the blog was published as a book, Behind Closed Doors, providing a fitting legacy to her love of the town she called home.

In addition to her writing, Mrs Fisk will also be remembered for her involvement in arts and education.

As Chancellor of Shropshire's Children's University she was proud to have been present at the inaugural graduation of its first students.

She also enjoyed involvement in local groups such as Shropshire Yarns tapestry group and Shrewsbury Flash Fiction, and actively supported local causes such as 'the Big Busk' in memory of murdered busker Ben Bebbington.

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