Bold Girl Penny Rome has recently published a memoir, Thinking About Being Good, in which she delves into her upbringing as a boarder in the 1960s. We were delighted to catch up with Penny on her journey to becoming an author, and to ask her about what advice she would offer to our current students.
Tell us about your time at Burgess Hill Girls.
I had a great time at the school, which used to be known as Burgess Hill PNEU (Parents’ National Educational Union). My mother had been at the school, which is how I ended up there, and I believe it was a school specifically for children whose parents lived abroad. I started as a boarder at the age of eight in the Oakdene boarding house, which is now the Prep School building! I left at 17 after A levels. In my day, the boarding houses were Oakdene, Avondale, Silverdale East and Silverdale West, and there were many more boarders than day girls. I discuss more about this in my book. In my senior year there were only six girls in the class, so we had to double up on prefect duties! I remember playing lots of sports, including lacrosse, tennis, rounders and going swimming in the public pool in town. I had a very happy time.
What is Thinking About Being Good about?
It is about my childhood, growing up on a tea plantation in India, attending boarding school from the age of five, moving to the UK, and then on to 1970s London and all things work, marriage, children and divorce – trying to understand why I am the way I am!
What inspired you to write the memoir?
The inspiration to write my memoir started because I wanted to find out about my mother, as I knew barely anything about her. When you are a child it doesn’t occur to you to ask questions – well, it didn’t occur to me! – so that’s how it came about. Throughout many years I kept a diary, which became incredibly helpful when writing a memoir.
What did you do before becoming an author?
My working life has been varied. I started off as a secretary, and by 1986 I had become a Director of Administration and Personnel in Europe’s largest financial and corporate communications advertising agency. Since then, I have also trained as a reflexologist, set up and run a soup business called Sussex Soup, set up an Art and Craft Fair, and continued secretarial work for a Sussex-based buildings surveyor.
What message would you like to give to our current pupils?
It has taken me five years to get to where I am with my self-published book, and the journey has not been easy. I wrote to many publishers, but many were not prepared to support an unknown author. I was also scammed by a fake publishing company who took £4,500 from me! Luckily, I eventually got the money back, but it was still a really difficult time. I think my message to your current pupils would be to persevere, especially if you believe in what you are doing. I always believed my book had merit and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I also think it is so important to find your purpose and to be of service to others.
Penny has worked incredibly hard to pursue whatever she sets her mind to, and her book is a great example of this. The memoir is available to purchase on Amazon here.