Our Teachers’ Hidden Talents! – 1st Edition

Interview between Eva-Sofia Meindl (Communications Prefect on Student Leadership Team) and Hannah Phillips (Teacher of Physics AND award winning writer). Mrs Phillips has been at StGIS since 2017, and comes with her husband, Jake Lynn (our Interdisciplinary Unit Coordinator) and their daughter Elsie. Earlier this year she was awarded with Kindle Storyteller Award 2018 for her book ‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus‘.

Interviewer: Science and the arts are usually seen as opposites. Do you agree? 
Ms Phillips: They’re not opposites! You couldn’t make new scientific discoveries without being creative, so no, I think they are interlinked. 

Interviewer: Is that why the two seem to harmonise in your life?  
Ms Phillips: Yes – I think they do in everyone’s. Anybody who is artistic is also scientific and methodical in the way they go about improving their own work. If you aren’t analysing and evaluating what you’re doing, which are the key ideas behind science, then how do you progress as an artist? I don’t think you can. It bothers me when people categorise themselves as either ‘scientific’ or ‘arty’ – you can be both.  

Interviewer: Is the process of writing similar to how you would approach a problem in physics?  
Ms Phillips: When I write, I plan before I start and then spend a long-time editing, or ‘evaluating’ it, when I’m finished. Both involve a lot research, so there are a lot of parallels you can draw between them. 

Interviewer: You received the Kindle Storyteller award, how does it feel now that more people seem to be aware of your writing? 
Ms Phillips: People aren’t really more aware so it’s fine. *laughter* The award is fantastic but fortunately, my books are still very unknown. I think when you do win something, you are judged much more harshly. 

Interviewer: What was the process of receiving the award like?   
Ms Phillips: It was a bit scary – I didn’t really know what was going to happen. The other competitors and I had to be interviewed by the press and we then we had our photos taken. I didn’t really think I was going to win because the others were full-time, professional writers and I’m a physics teacher. Winning was a bit of a surprise. 

Interviewer: When do you find the time to write? 
Ms Phillips: Every morning, from 5:30 to 6:30. I don’t really do ‘free time’ so writing is my main hobby. 

Interviewer: You wouldn’t make it your full-time job? 
Ms Phillips: Not at the minute. I did my degree in physics and music because it gave me balance. Having more than one aspect in your life means that you can always switch off from something that might be frustrating at one point. Having the ability to move between writing and school helps to keep me sane – I use that term loosely.   *laughter*

Interviewer: Has teaching and the variety of people it exposes you to influenced your writing? 
Ms Phillips: I see a story in everyone. If I were to see a random person with a dog, I would wonder where the dog came from and whether it’s always belonged to them since it doesn’t seem to like them very much and so on. 

Interviewer: What are you currently working on? 
Ms Phillips: Like I said, the stories come to me endlessly so I thought I would work on a young adult novel but I don’t like sticking to genres. That’s probably why I’m not massively successful writer. Most authors, especially those who self-publish, only write thrillers or only young adult, for example. That’s how they build a fan base, whereas I just like to write stories. If I have an idea, I’m not bothered about what genre it fits into or whether its marketable. I had an idea for a young adult novel but I also feel that Medusa was treated unfairly in Greek mythology. I think she deserves  a retelling. 

Interviewer: Are those the two things you’re focusing on at the moment?  
Ms Phillips: No, there are lots of things I’m working on. I have the second book in a series coming out in December and the third book of that series now needs to go into editing. Medusa is planned – mostly in my head – even though I’m only about 20 000 words into the first draft, but I also have another idea I want to do. I pretend that I will definitely commit to one project but secretly, I work on whatever I feel like. 

We wish Mrs Phillips all the best for her future of inspiring young scientists, and inspiring young readers!