Thursday 9 December 2010

It's Just that I'm Meant to be Working

The postman delivered a parcel today. It wasn’t for me or anyone in my house.  It wasn’t for my neighbour or perhaps somebody further up the street. It was for somebody in the next village. ‘Thanks, love,’ he said.  ‘I knew you’d be in.’

My postman is great.  Always smiling, always pleasant.  But he’s just another one.  Another one who knows I work from home.  There’s my retired neighbour, he likes to pop by for a chat now and again, see if we’d be interested in the Race Night down at the village hall, seeing as we did so well last time. Did we? Then there’s the man who sells Twinings Tea from the back of his matt black, two-door van and clearly has a lot of customers in my village.  He knows I’ll hold on to Mr and Mrs Chinacup’s next six month’s stock until they get home but, No, thanks for asking, I really don’t think I’ll sign up to having my tea leaves delivered.  I have a penchant for Yorkshire Tea, you see, and besides, I haven’t got a tea strainer.  The milk man asks if Jim at number 22 is OK because he hasn’t put in his usual order and Denis, well he had a heart attack ten years ago and has been walking an impressive eight miles per day ever since.  He likes to share his memories of the walk with me.  And why not? It’s truly very touching that he likes to share this and he’s a lovely old man who tells a great story. 

It’s just that I’m meant to be working.

Would these people call me in the office to have such conversations?  Would they drag me from my desk to sign for an order for someone else’s book club books?   Would they phone me, expecting me to call an abrupt halt to my meeting so that we could discuss their travel arrangements?

Ignore them, my friends say.  But it isn’t that easy.  They ring the door bell twice, three times perhaps, concerned I haven’t heard them.  And on the occasions when I have remained strong, I haven’t been able to resist a furtive glance from behind the curtains of my study window either to be spotted or to be racked with such enormous guilt at the sight of their disappearing shoulders, that ten minutes later, I don my coat and apologise for missing them. 

With limited success I have kept on my reading glasses, no mean feat when negotiating stairs at a sprint,  picked up a pen en route and feigned a stressed expression on opening the door.  Oh look at you in a hurry, they say, what are you doing? Writing (trying)!  Oh that’s interesting they say...

I was talking about this phenomenon with some fellow home-workers recently and was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only one who found the stream of interruptions a little challenging.  One such person put a note on the door explaining that he was working and would only be available out of office hours.  The next caller did indeed notice that this person was working from home and so knew he’d catch him in.  Another, driven to more drastic measures, got into the habit of driving his car off the drive and further up the road to give the impression he was out at work.  He stopped this when an acquaintance had a word in his ear, wondering if everything was alright at home, because he was spending a lot of time at Mrs Homealot’s place.  We did think this smacked of desperation, however.  Driving the few hundred metres to a secret rendez-vous would rather suggest that somebody wanted to be caught.

So, it would appear that I am powerless to quell the constant interruptions and so I will continue sitting at the pc in my study and cursing every time the door bell goes. 

The thing is, my study is also quite a solitary place and I am aware that the one thing worse than being interrupted would be if nobody called at all.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Thank you Joanne Harris

Sometimes, my day job drives me mad.  I make appointments to speak with people about their business - they’re not there.  I email them to fix another date - they don’t reply.  I make notes, constantly make notes on who I’ve called, plan to call, have almost given up on calling,  always trying to get through the admin to the point of being able to speak with the client in person.   This part is something of which I never tire and, frankly, spending so many hours alone in my study, is something I need to stave off the lunacy like a writer needs tea and biscuits. 

I admit to having a less than perfect attitude to this work. I graft, I do the job properly but I also moan about the unreliability of the human condition.  A lot.

Last week I heard Chocolat’s Joanne Harris speak.  She told of how she’d stayed in teaching for ten years after publication of her first novel, recognising that all the research she ever needed for her writing was there, inside those walls of Leeds Grammar School with all its communities - teachers as well as pupils.    I went to hear Joanne Harris speak, rather than think about my own writing.  However I couldn’t help a broad grin spread across my face.  There it was – my positive attitude, right there in front of me, in the form of this little, slightly off-the-wall writer with a tremendous underlying wit and ability to tell an amusing story about something which when you really analyse it, could be quite banal.  When she spoke of the pupils at school, the writing fodder she had at her fingertips, she was also talking about me and the massive community I have on my excel spreadsheet, 91 personalities so far, when I can catch them. 

There’s the shy builder, the punctilious car valeter, the estate agent who talks about being interested in people.  And there’s the dog lover who cleans poodles in her front room and explains what makes them sit best for the shampoo, in a desperately calm, horse-whisperer kind of way.  Then there are the suspicious ones – just what am I trying to sell, they wonder, not entirely cognisant of the fact that they have already paid for their page and that what I’m trying to sell is actually them so it would be easier all round if they weren’t quite so reticent. 

So I left Joanne’s talk with a signed copy of Blue Eyed Boy (I’ve sped through the first half, it’s a page-turner alright, in a chillingly disturbing kind of way) and a positive attitude.  Tomorrow wasn’t a day of phone calls to people who wouldn’t turn up for my call but the start of a new character.  Who, what or where this character would be I wouldn’t know until later, maybe ten years later.  Or perhaps never.  But it was the potential for future scribbling that changed my mind about the work I do for my bread and butter.

And what of people who don’t keep their appointments? I’m sure, with a little tweaking, there’s a role out there for them.  Maybe that’s where Joanne Harris got her Blue Eyed Boy?

Friday 5 November 2010

The Phone Rang

A strange thing happened today.  The phone, my second line connected via the computer and allowing free, if hard to hear and hard to be heard phone calls, kept ringing.  

That’s only strange if you know that I just use this line for dialling out.  No one knows the number, not even me.  So when it rang  for the fourth time in the same amount of hours, I suspected the line was malfunctioning somewhat.  No big deal but I did feel the need to share this with my fourth caller of the day once he’d asked for a fourth different name for somebody who certainly wasn’t me.

“What do you do then?” the comfy, slightly effeminate voice asked from the other end of the line.

“Copywriting,” I answered.

“Oh wow,” he broke in quickly before I could attempt to return the question.  “You must be very clever.”

“Exceedingly!  You wouldn’t believe how clever I have to be to do this job,” I said, feeling the need to cover the 300 words I was struggling to cut by a hundred on a local roofing company.  “How about you?”


So I have to ask, don’t I?  Why, when I’m not remotely impressed by fame, fortune or indeed anything to do with celebrity, am I reduced to a giggling wreck when I ask,  “Oh gosh [tee hee], do I know you?”

“Yes,” he answers.

Yes!  But he’s not allowed to tell me who he is.  Awwww.  So I draw upon all my feminine guise, explain how hard it is to be alone here every day at my desk, tapping out highly charged, fiendishly intelligent copy, and how I really won’t tell anyone, honest.  And he capitulates. 

“Andrew Bernard,” he says.  He was hoping to speak to his agent.  “Are you on the internet?”  I found it quite endearing when he proceeded to give me the full link to his website without realising that I could simply google him and his would be the top result. 

So, Mr Andrew Bernard, it seems you’ve been in everything.  You will recognise him.  Check out his website  You can even listen to him speak, the voice which spoke to me, in my home, on the line that sits clothed in dusty cobwebs, not un-reminiscent of the phone to the Carlsberg Complaints Line.  That’s the voice which made me laugh out loud before I got back to my roofer and the one hundred words I began shifting with renewed vigour. 

Thank you, Andrew for making me giggle, and all the very best for whatever project you were hoping to discuss when you accidentally called little old me.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Perfect Day

There are still places under the parasol.  I take my large cappuccino and place myself facing the street.  As I start to write the short story I’ve been desperate to write all week, I hear David Grey’s, Sail Away with Me sung by the mesmerising voice of a twenty-something year old, with his hint of a beard, jeans slung low from his hips (but no sign of any pants, thank you) and guitar strap relaxed around his neck as though it’s part of him.  The case is open on the ground.  People are filling the base with coins and notes.  He’s good.  He smiles at every passer-by as they drop in their gratitude and respect but he doesn’t miss a beat.

He sings another busking favourite of mine, Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen style.  I smile at the scene in which I find myself. It doesn’t get much better than this.

There’s a different voice now.  I stop writing and look up.  It’s deeper with an African tinge – Bob Marley with slightly more attitude.  The hair suits the voice: slightly dishevelled Rastafarian, chin length curls, greying in a ten pence piece size spot on the crown of his head. 

I notice that my young busking friend has taken a step back, is leaning against the wall with one knee pulled high. He’s strumming an accompaniment quietly; the other man is singing.  Because the other man can sing.  It’s the slightly predicatable, No Woman, No Cry but it’s got passion and a rawness which mean I keep listening.

It’s a warm September day and this man is wearing a brown Paddington bear type coat.  I gasp: it’s Rudi.  Everyone knows Rudi.  He’s to be found every Saturday, and other days as well, wandering through Harrogate.  Generally he carries a megaphone to convey abstract messages of learning and joy.  ‘We all have the power to be nice,’ he shouts.  He was perched on the top of traffic lights when I heard that one.  ‘Your daughters are beautiful,’ he proclaimed another time, much to one of said children’s delight, after her dad had simply passed the time with Rudi.

But I didn’t know he could sing.

No Woman, No Cry finished.  Rudi’s whole face smiled in response to the applause.  He turned and shook the guitarist’s hand who motioned Rudi to the coins in the case.  He should take some, after all people had specifically left money while the duet took place.  It was only right that Rudi should earn something for his trouble. 

But Rudi didn’t touch the money.  There was more gesturing.  But he simply dipped his head, shook the guitarist’s hand again, beamed as he turned and went on his way.  The guitarist watched him leave, nodded sagely, then turned back to his music. 

Judging by the fact that Rudi has been wearing the same black cotton trousers and that brown duffle coat, whatever the weather, for the entire eleven years I’ve lived here – and sometime prior to that too, no doubt, I do not think Rudi has much spare cash.  Couldn’t he have just taken enough for a sandwich?

Rudi just wanted to sing.  And that was enough.  And so he did.  He’s a singer, an entertainer, certainly but entrepreneur, he is not.  In that moment, however, hearing him chuckling into the distance,  I thought that Rudi probably understood the world better than the rest of us and was certainly happier than many. 

Most days I don’t feel confident calling myself a writer.  I say that ‘I write’, when people ask, but the official title of ‘writer’ seems too much like ‘author’ and I’d feel a sham without my name to accompany it, on the front of that book.  But today, watching this exchange, two strangers simply enjoying their mutual love of music and song, enjoying the simple pleasures of life without having to communicate a single word about it, I felt so happy to be someone who loves to write.   

I have the picture of the guitarist and Rudi firmly in my mind now.  And I have a scene, perhaps, or at least two characters who will appear in a book somewhere.  They will jam. They will understand each other, they will know what’s important and then they will go on their way.  I don’t know where I’m going to put them yet but whether it’s next week or when my children have left home, there’s a story about them sharing something, I know it.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Ellie Williamson

A few months ago I discovered and got into email correspondence with the site owner, Ellie Williamson. She seemed great, we'd chat about how ridiculous it was, us both being up at 2am in the morning working on our various bits of fiction, seemingly not realising that we weren't actually writing at all but chatting. 

I was going to be the site's profiled writer in July.  I submitted the required pieces of writing - an About You, a Blog Entry and a Short Piece of Fiction but then everything went quiet.  A few days of no response and I had a terrible sense of foreboding.  I knew I'd only 'met' Ellie on-line but she just didn't seem the type of person to suddenly, and without explanation, close all communication.  I kept checking back to the site which was like the Marie Celeste.  I even had the fleeting notion that the site was a scam to fleece my £10 annual membership from me but I had to have a stern word with myself for doubting my instincts; I knew that  Ellie Williamson and her site were completely kosher.

When I got back from holiday, I clicked on the link to and everything had changed.  A new homepage had been uploaded which explained that Ellie had died after a three year battle with breast cancer.  Her friend and colleague, Lorraine Cornish, who runs Words Undone and also helps out with Active Writers, had decided to take over the site in her memory.

I wouldn't claim to know Ellie or insult those close to her by pretending to feel a grief like theirs but I enjoyed my few months of correspondence with her and do feel real sadness that another person in their mid-forties should lose their life too soon.

So, I'd like to help Lorraine promote in Ellie's memory.  If you're a writer, please have a look at the site. It's primarily a showcase for writing with constant opportunities to enter competitions and air your missives.  If you're a reader, please pop over there and let us budding wannabes know your thoughts.

My July profile has been resurrected for September so you'll see me over there.  I had to steady my hand when I submitted the featured short story as it's something I wrote ten years ago, annoyed by the rise in cosmetic surgery, even back then.  I rediscovered the story (it isn't as heavy as it sounds) and decided to give it a whirl.  However it's the first time I've ever submitted anything which hasn't been read and critiqued by an army of helpful others.  I'd be keen to know your thoughts - honest!

Thanks for listening and here's to making the best of every moment while we're still lucky enough to be here.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

So I went to...

... the Brits Unpublished 2010.  Did I mention it...??

My friend, Fiona or Fin, and I had standard tickets; complimentary standard tickets, but standard nonetheless.  The difference was that we didn’t get the dinner and the champers.  We did get access to the VIP lounge, however, and to watch the glitz and glamour of the awards ceremony with the other standard guests seated at the balcony.

I thought the awards ceremony would be interesting, motivating and possibly emotional.  But it was the VIP lounge which really took my fancy.  There, I’d engage the perfect agent in conversation and we’d both quickly realise (with great excitement on both parts) that my novel was exactly the story for which he or she was currently searching and actually, if I didn’t mind walking this way, said agent already had a publisher in mind and why didn’t we go over and have a chat now?

Failing that, the opportunity to hand over my first page, neatly stapled to my business card, to an agent accepting submissions would have made me very happy too.

Posh frocks on, we emerged from the Jubilee line to the surprisingly impressive O2 Arena. I don’t know what I’d expected; something  less, well, permanent I suppose.  We entered to find an array of bars.  Food.  We hadn’t eaten, only landing in London from Leeds an hour or so earlier.  The bar menu was limited, we were running out of time, we settled for a drink.

The VIP Lounge was to be open between 6.30 and 7.45pm.  We rushed upstairs, fifteen minutes after opening, we'd been chatting.  It was quite sparse save for a few Romans wandering around, keen to draw our attention to the work of some published authors.

Perhaps the VIPs were a little late.

We ordered our drinks and turned to find a few of the Romans leading the few remaining people out of the lounge. I recognised one.  It was Geraldine Cooke whom I’d had the pleasure of meeting at the York Writers’ Festival.  She’s brilliantly terrifying and absolutely charming wrapped into one.  She told me I wrote like Maggie O’Farrell (whose writing I adore) but not as well –yet, she kindly added.

I was impressed she’d come. She’s one of the more mature agents on the circuit and I could have forgiven her if ‘awards fatigue’ had well and truly set in by now.  It was a shame I didn’t get chance to speak to her.

I didn’t recognise anybody else, that doesn’t mean they weren’t there but they certainly weren’t there where I wanted them to be – in the VIP lounge talking to me.  We left early and took our seats at the balcony.

We munched on our first and then second emergency bag of crisps and our eyes passed idly over the starters and champagne being served in the great hall below to the six finalists in each category, their partners, judges published authors, poets, agents and publishers.

When I heard I’d reached the top 30 of novel entrants and received two complimentary tickets as a result, I was ecstatic.  I knew I hadn’t got into the final and this was the next best thing.  Two people surprised me however; my mum and my published friend and chief mentor, Jane Rusbridge.  They both asked if I was disappointed to come so close and yet so far.  I’d never considered disappointment in that context.

But in that instant, when I looked over the balcony at the frenzy and anticipation in which I could almost rub my hands, I understood the question.

I felt a  longing – just a little bit more of something and it might have been me down there – first waiting to find out if I was a category winner, then daring to think I may have won the grand prize of £10,000 and even more importantly, a publishing deal.

The show was 45 minutes late starting but the poetry from around the arena which launched proceedings was an exceptional beginning. We settled into our seats, this was going to be good.  There were highlights, Philip Sheppard on the cello was breathtakingly impressive.  I didn’t know it was possible to get such a sound from one instrument and some instant recording equipment.   And then there was Adam Bojelian, the ten year old, with severe physical disabilities who uses a computer programme to enable him to communicate through recognition of his blinking eye. The pc helped him to ‘read out’ his amusing,  'A Silly Poem’ which was poignantly entertaining and a timely reminder to us all that there is no room for people who give up in the publishing world.  The category winners were humbly overcome. Terry Bamber and Richard Burton of the film-making and publishing world respectively, were so down to earth and enthusiastic, it made me want to excuse myself and go and compose a submission  to them right there and then.

There were some glitches, the odd aspect which wasn’t my thing, but it was a first, the organisers had been enormously ambitious and they’d pulled it off.  To criticise would seem a little churlish.

I was not prepared at all for the coup of the night which was the final.  Catherine Cooper, author of children’s literature, had won the outright prize of £10,000.  With this she’d also secured herself a publishing deal, we heard.  I can only imagine how that would feel.  Charlie Jordan, co-presenter with Tre Azam could hardly contain her excitement when she presented Catherine with The Golden Acorn, a copy of her book which had been published in secret.

But then, from behind the screens appeared more books.  Catherine started autographing copies for the lucky people on stage who’d presented awards.   She’d have some more to sign, we heard, no less than 300 copies of her book had been published and the organisers wondered if she’d sign one for each of the party-goers tonight.  She agreed.  My only observation here was that the books were free.  I would have paid £5 if I’d been asked and Catherine would have made her first earnings from her sales.  She didn’t seem to mind, however.

It was an amazing sight – this ex-school teacher of 20 years standing on stage with the aid of two walking sticks, learning that not one but all of her publishing dreams were being granted.  If was a one off feat. Never again could the books be printed as a surprise, next year it will be expected.

Our signed books in hand, Fin and I stood at the exit. The night was young.  We were wondering what to do and were, admittedly, disappointed that the VIP lounge had now actually closed along with my hopes of schmoozing with agents and publishers.

Terry Bamber emerged from the arena or should I say, sprinted out of the arena.  He had a train to catch.

“Funny speech,” I called after him.  It was.  We started talking about the night, laughing about some of the hitches, praising the event overall.  Fin took it upon herself to mention that people describe my writing as scenic and filmic.  He suggested I email him a copy.

“I can do better than that,” I assured him.  I would give him my first page with my business card stapled to it.

And thus one of my nine envelopes had left my hands.

We skipped off to the tube. That great wheel of the submissions journey which takes me to some dark and yet some wonderful places, continues to turn.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Take Fifty Two

Last week I had to put together a two minute video clip for the Brits Unpublished on the background to my novel, what it’s all about and who I am.  Hmmm.

I know exactly where the idea for my novel came from.  It was the picture in the newspapers of the driver who fell asleep at the steering wheel and caused the Selby railcrash. 

I know exactly what gave the idea substance, another dimension. It was the mother of one of the men who died during the London underground bombings.  She spoke of her forgiveness for the perpetrators.  I found it immensely powerful and thought provoking.

I can catalogue the books I read about coma victims and remember every conversation I had with people who cared for loved ones when they were in a coma.  I recall all my discussions with paramedics and lawyers as well as every detail of my visit to the local law courts. The research process was fascinating and invigorating and I felt very honoured to be able to do it.

I can talk for hours about the story which resulted and could probably prĂ©cis my life if anybody felt inclined to listen.  What I couldn’t do was condense it all into two minutes.  In the space of half an hour I was down to five and a half.

Three days later I had cut it down to three.

By day five I was wondering if they’d really notice that the link was ten seconds longer than two minutes.  

Day six, I checked out the other video offerings; they were all two minutes or under and very professional.
I tried speaking more quickly.  I tried pausing for less time.  

By day seven we were back up to two minutes forty five seconds.

So I cut the part about me.  It’s obvious I’m from the North when you hear me speak – a perfect example of ‘showing’ not ‘telling’.  I cut the description of the story line down to one sentence – they’ll just have to buy the book.  And I cut the piece about the mother of the deceased and that’s just a shame.

One minute fifty four seconds.  I punched the air then played it back.  Apart from the moment when I turned the camera back around to face me in order to switch off recording and it captured the tea-stained coasters, over-filled in-tray, broken pens and post-it notes curling at the edges - it was OK, acceptable, at least.

“Mummy,” my daughter gasped when she saw it.  “You look so ugly in it.  Can you record it again?”

Children!  Don't you just love 'em?  You might need to avert your eyes, clearly, but if you're brave you can see it here:
And I won a competition this week. It's not quite the Bridport but hey! it made my day, anyway.

Have a great week.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Lost a Shilling and found a Sixpence

I was wandering around the World Wide Web, wondering how you spelt ‘six pence’ when it was concerning old British money.  For some reason, I thought I’d seen it written as ‘sixpence’ or maybe it was only ever written as ‘6p’.  And isn’t there a ‘d’ in there somewhere too?  Whatever the right way, (I’ve found all three on the net so I’m none the wiser) some of the definitions for the expression, ‘Lost a shilling and found a sixpence,’ were quite amusing. 

I stumbled upon a debate started in October 2006, which extended into the new year, where an Italian speaker wanted to know what the expression meant.  The respondents got themselves in a bit of a pickle because they were all too young to know whether a sixpence was worth more or less than a shilling.  I am too, I hasten to add, but I went to the type of school where they thought it important to teach you these things – although not that well, clearly, or I would know whether it was ‘sixpence’, ‘six pence’ , ‘6p’ or something with a ‘d’ in it. 

People offered various theories on the thread but interestingly none of them had the categorical answer to the conundrum: lose a shilling, find a sixpence – how happy would you be?

I can answer that.

At the beginning of June I found out that I hadn’t got through to the final of the Brits Unpublished.  I wrote about it in my last post, I hope I wasn’t too grumpy about it.  I’d lost my shilling that day, and my right to the dream that the competition would catapult me into the higher echelons of potential publishing deals.

A couple of weeks later, my attention was drawn to an email offering a bright, shiny sixpence. 
“I’m sorry,” the email said, “that you were not one of the finalists, however you did come very close.”  In fact, Glass Houses had survived into the top 30 of novel entries. 

I picked up my sixpence and held it tightly.  It sparkled.   The time lapse between dropping my shilling and finding my sixpence made it shine all the more brightly.

My prize? Two complimentary tickets to the Awards Ceremony at the O2 Arena in London.  I’m taking my lovely friend, Fiona, one of the many people who is massively supportive of my writing endeavours and the only person not in the business who has read the whole book. 

Others have asked to read it, pleaded in fact, but, well, somebody has to buy it when it’s published, don’t they?

I hope you find your shilling AND a sixpence this week.  And if you know how to spell ‘sixpence’, please do let me know.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Spin Cycle

Trying to get a book published, I have decided, is like sitting inside a washing machine.  You entrust your pride and joy to the machine and sit tight, the water trickles in, the cavity fills up. 

Then the drum starts to turn and you go with it.  Why not? It’s all you really know what to do – submit, wait, submit, wait.  The repetition is quite soothing, gratifying, submissionville becomes a land you start to know. 
But after a while, the constant slap of your cheek against the window starts to gall.  The drum keeps on turning.  A button inflicts pain from the right, a zip scratches on the left.   You wonder whether you should stop the cycle mid-way through, open the door and climb out.  The world outside of the washing machine looks calmer, less harsh, more certain.

But just when you think nothing ever changes, a black sock in the white washing takes you by surprise. You take a look.  ‘We like it, we want to see your whole manuscript,’ the black sock says.  You sprint to the post box, put the bubbles on ice.  You take a step back, retreat to the gentle cycle for a few weeks, even peep a toe out into that other world you know you should frequent; that of the clean and tidy house. 

Unfortunately when that rejection comes, it slaps you from the side, throws you particularly violently onto the sides of the drum and forces you into a tumble.  You pick yourself up, of course, but wonder if you’ll be loading the machine for ever, never making a dent on the laundry.

Let me tell you about my washing machine week.  I wasn’t successful in getting through to the final of the Brits Unpublished.  I didn’t expect to be but while the shortlist wasn’t available, I could still hope.  I got through to the third round, I should be pleased with that – but still a towel creeps up behind me and wraps it around my neck so that we travel the next cycle uncomfortably together. 

I waited all Sunday to hear that I hadn’t been successful in the Novel Beginnings competition at the Write Helper and then an hour later, an email popped in to tell me that a certain publishers didn’t want Glass Houses.  They liked the idea, they said, but didn’t like my style, my use of short sentences.  I had to smile, oh how one of my English teachers toiled to force me into a grudging respect for punchy sentences. I guess it’s true across the board – you can only please 50% of the people, 50% of the time.   There I was, being buffered from both sides again, the slaps were particularly hard as the submission had been away for such a long time that I thought the editorial team could, perhaps, be seriously considering it.

Then I get the loveliest note from my mum.  She has put a link to my blog with her email signature and received some wonderful feedback for me. 

And those fantastic people at Creative Edge seemed to like my blog, so much so that it’s won their weekly competition and will be featured on their website from 25 June.  This little blog! Who’d have thought? 

So I’ve decided, once again, to open the door and pop back in.  I expect another spin in the washing machine, several in fact, but the hope that I might reach the fabric conditioner at the end of the cycle one day, keeps me turning it back on.  

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Ever wish you could rewind?

I had a funny day yesterday – funny as in ‘fun’ and funny as in excruciatingly embarrassing.  Let me set the scene. 

Children dispatched to friends, water bottle in holder, sat nav installed, engine on and I smile to myself.  It’s 7am and I’m on the road for my 11am meeting in Leamington Spa, 138 miles south of here and, according to Sat Nav and AA route planner, a two hour, thirty minute journey. 

I am not going to be late. 

In my bag I have a list of emails needing a response and my hard backed notebook, which is always to hand,  just in case I should have one hour 35 minutes to spare in which to write while I wait for a meeting for which I’m ridiculously early.  (For the pedants amongst you, I know we should be talking one hour 30 minutes but who doesn’t play beat the Sat Nav and who doesn’t come out on top by a good five minutes?)

I am not very good at ‘on time’.  I can do late (oh yes) and I can do early if it’s as important as this meeting is.  I’m the person who gets to the airport four hours prior to check-in and has to wait with the cleaners for it to open – ‘Why?’ my ever patient husband asks when he spends the rest of his life trying to pretend he doesn’t mind that yet again, he’s missing half an hour of his evening waiting for me.  ‘Because you just never know,’ I answer, visions of the motorway tarmac melting and curling below our wheels as a blatant attempt to sabotage our trip.  Mind you, we did once miss our flight by a whole day when I realised that the ten year passports we had for our six and five year old children were actually five year passports, like all children’s (does everyone except me know this?) and when I cried in the passport office the clerk simply handed me a tissue with a, ‘ hey up, another weeper, wipe your tears up after you go would you love,’ and the instruction to come back in the morning.

Some people will know that I do like to extend a journey by an average of 50% by travelling in completely the wrong direction whilst engrossed in Chris Evans on the radio or someone of that ilk.    I have a turbulent relationship with Sat Nav, granted it would help if I could totally trust it rather than mouthing, ‘oh don’t be so ridiculous’ when it demands I take a right turn. My most famous example of Sat Nav rage was when it took me to an isolated part of the A1, just South of Scotch Corner, equidistant between junctions and told me I’d reached my destination of a race course in Thirsk (in reality twenty miles away) for a race starting in twenty minutes.  ‘Oh no it isn’t my destination,’ I cried, not quite so politely, only narrowly missing throwing the Sat Nav out of the window as I remembered it didn’t actually belong to me. 

So yesterday, I had a thorough print out of directions and a stern resolve to listen to the Irish lilt which gave the Sat Nav commands.  Leaving at 7, I knew I would miss the traffic around Leeds and sail down the motorway, looking forward to my first team meeting in three years, happy to have ventured out of my little office for once.

It’s raining. Proper rain.  The rain that forces you to drive at 50 rather then 70mph down the motorway.  Quick calculation and I reassure myself that even if this continues for the whole trip, I will still arrive with over an hour to spare.  I turn up the radio.

'Severe queues on the M1,' Sally Traffic says, 'between junctions 27 and 28.'  Typical! I think, but oh well, it’s only a couple of junctions and I’ve got at least an hour in the bag.  Oh dear.  The rest of the journey I will let you imagine, but suffice it to say, I arrived half an hour late for the meeting after a couple of frantic messages to Dave who was, as ever, very cool about it but told a colleague that I’d arrive completely flustered and guilt-ridden. 

What he hadn’t reckoned with, was the next bit.

I fly through the door of the health club, past the lady at reception who, with one look at me, clearly needing no introduction, announces that ‘they’re waiting for you’ and its right, first left.  Right first left.  Two bags on one shoulder, wet (frizzy) hair, I  breeze through the first double doors, clock the notice above the meeting room: yep, Leamington Spa it’s called, (clever) and force open the very narrow, left of two doors armed with my apologies for stalling the meeting.  Except I don’t force open the left of the doors because it won’t open, or rather, it won’t open any further than the head’s width I’ve already managed - just enough for me to say, ‘Oh, what’s happened? Why can’t I get in?’ (Or words to that effect, I can’t actually remember in my acute mortification exactly what came out.) 

The door is open enough for me to see Dave, standing there, mid presentation and the other eight people, only two of whom I’ve met before, all in a kind of freeze frame, like those sets you get at the theatre where everyone’s mid pose while the attention is all on one person: me.  I try to force open this exceedingly narrow door, thinking (I can only suppose) that as I’m quite small, I might be able to push myself through the six inch gap.  However, with my diminished height, does not come the force of ten men and consequently the door was not, I repeat, not, going to open any further.  Dave, bless him, after what was probably a few seconds but clearly ten minutes of my life, rushes to the adjacent, normal adult size door and opens it for me.  He bustles me into the room to a round of applause from the awaiting team members, bemused and amused by my attempts to enter the room through what I can only imagine is a fire escape for visiting pets (very strong, visiting pets).

Fiercely sympathising with my chagrin, Carol hands me a strong coffee.  I force myself to focus on the rest of Dave’s presentation, the meeting starts to take on a more normal course.  Mobile switched to mute, I start to take notes.  The meeting’s really informative, I understand my role, am impressed with my new colleagues, the doorway incident has been filed to that part of my brain for later retrieval over a glass of wine.

Somebody’s phone is going off.  Tut tut, I think.  I have varying deafness in both ears.  One of the problems it brings it that I can’t place sound very well.  Tut tut, I think again, why don’t they turn it off?  Apart from the fact I can’t tell whether the sound is close to me, the ring tone is also entirely different to mine.  Still it rings.  The thought did cross my mind that my children may have changed my ring tone without my knowledge, as has been done in the past, much to their great hilarity, but my phone is on mute, isn’t it? 

Well, the phone was indeed on mute but somehow, because the powers that be had picked me out for their day’s entertainment, the timer I never knew existed, had switched itself on, counted down and was now alerting me to the fact that allotted time had been spent.  I still don’t know how that could work if the ringer has been switched to off.   But what does it matter?  All I know is, in the middle of Tom’s presentation, and to everyone’s great relief, I was forced to retrieve my phone, fumble about with a few buttons and somehow silence it - with a silent prayer that I’d done enough to stop it happening again.


Well, that was my funny day.  You may, like me, be concerned to know that I haven’t actually signed the contract for this work yet...  

Thursday 27 May 2010

I don't know why...

... people get upset about being 40.  It seems like one long excuse to party to me.  I first started celebrating fortieth birthdays about three years ago, mine came in the middle, my husband’s followed last week.  Our next party is in June. It’s like Four Weddings and a Funeral all over again.  I’m sad to say that I  have been to funerals too, three of people who didn’t make 45.  I think the least I can do is be grateful for being one of those who didn’t get to see the alternative to being 40.      

And nobody could claim it comes as a surprise.  There’s no cackling imp on your shoulder one morning, hissing the words to Happy Birthday before announcing that, although you thought you were 20 with no dependents, no money and no cares, the harsh reality is that you’re double that. 

I didn’t feel any different when I tipped over into the forties, save for feeling a little more special for a few days because all my lovely friends and family had made such a special effort for me, but my hair didn’t suddenly sport a grey hue, nor did, alas, my spots disappear back to my teenager years where they really should have stayed in the first place.  My dodgy hip didn’t sort itself out as a good will gesture but nor did it get worse over night.  The things I ‘hadn’t done’ at 40 I also hadn’t done at 39 and the things I have on my to-do list (ahem, getting published is up there in lights), well I’m a whole lot closer to them happening in my forties than I was two years ago.

So you see, I think it’s all a big con, an inspirational ploy by the greeting cards industry.  I propose a counter move.  I shall set up my own niche market, the Fearful Forty-Ones.  Surely 41 has the potential to be much more depressing?  When do you ever hear anybody ask more than a day in advance, ‘What are you doing for your 41st?’  or, ‘Are you planning a surprise party for [insert beloved’s name]’s 41st?  Let me know if there’s anything I can do.’  Do you ever see anybody collecting photos in a clandestine manner for an embarrassing 41st slide show?  Or having them enlarged to A2 and giggling with excitement at the result with the printer? 

No.  And this needs to be rectified.  My best selling card will be, ‘no surprises, no big presents, no bubbly...’ and as the chintzy music plays on opening, the words, ‘but we still love you all the same,’ will spring out.  Corny? Oh yes.  But if you can’t be slushy on somebody’s 41st, when can you be?

Happy Day to all of you!  (That's my second niche greetings card market idea)


PS I had one of my 'nice' rejections last week and I'm through to the third round of the Brits Unpublished.  It's good being 41, five months and two weeks old.  

Thursday 29 April 2010


I’m sorry, I’ve been a little absent of late.  I’ve been busy talking to myself.

I haven’t read out loud so much since Magdalene Lower Secondary School when I went kicking and screaming to my role as Lady Rowena in the play which for the life of me I cannot remember the title. I do remember my long, blue cotton dress, however, with its flouncy Edwardian sleeves and a crocheted head band calming my frizzy tresses. And I also recall talking a lot of rhubarb in hushed whispers as my fellow ‘ladies’ and I held court at the edge of the stage.

Destined for stardom I was not.

Yet there is something quite invigorating about speaking out loud.  My characters have taken on a new life again. I haven’t read my whole book in great chunks like this for months, so obsessed have I been with le mot juste, eradicating my abundance of semi-colons (where, pray, did they come from?), checking my indents and crucially extending the white space from two lines to three. 

But these past few weeks I’ve been re-acquainted with my old friends who make up the small society of Glass Houses.  I’ve been worrying about Main Character, Tori, again, crying for her predicament (yes, real tears) and have been reminded that if I wasn’t married to my wonderful man (who lets me write while he does proper work, you’ve got to love him, haven’t you?), Doug would be the one for me.

Submitting is a lonely business, tiresome, I find - all that waiting to hear something, anything.  I swear I’ve developed a nervous twitch in my forefinger, clicking on the mouse every two minutes to speed up Send/Receive in the hope that this time my in-box will display the wonderful words, ‘Yes!  Send the rest of your story now, goddamnit!’

But reading Glass Houses has been great therapy.  It’s reminded me that these characters have a story to tell and that they’d really like somebody to listen.  For their benefit, because I love them all, their foibles notwithstanding, I will keep plugging away.

Happy reading (out loud) everyone!

Thursday 15 April 2010

Fairy Dust in the Air

Fairy Dust in the Air

Picture the scene: my lovely writer friend, Jared, who has written a fantastic thriller, writes to say that he is a hair’s (he hasn’t got much to spare) breath away from hooking himself an agent.  I read the agent’s letter and a transcript of the phone call.  Trust me, it sounds like she will be paying HIM. 

Jared’s niece died last week, unexpectedly, aged only 29.  Jared has been holding the family together ever since. Yesterday he told me he was thankful the funeral was now over and everybody could think about moving forward again. 

I think his niece is smiling and sprinkling well-earned fairy dust over him.

Then I click on my emails to see that the Brit Writers’ Awards Unpublished 2010 people have very kindly written to me to say that I am through to the second round of the competition.  Unbelievably, Glass Houses gets to fight another day.  I have no idea how many other entries are still jostling for position with Glass Houses. I’d rather not know for now (which is good as it’s impossible to find out, believe me, I’ve tried). I am simply happy to be in this state of shock, happy shock, wondering if deep down, I still believe in fairies.

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Dragon’s Den for Wannabe Authors

Last week I practically read my whole book out loud. Yep, (almost) all of the 95,000 words. It was illuminating. People always say you should read your work out loud and boy, does it show up those howlers. It felt a bit weird at first, sitting in my little study, in the empty house, feigning a cockney accent and moving quickly back to one from Northumberland. But after a while I was gesticulating with the best of them, get me a stage and I’d have cheerfully paced every inch of it, throwing my hands into the air in an alternating show of dismay and elation.

My reason for this? I needed to find the best 300-500 words to read out at the York Writers’ Festival during the weekend of 9 April. It took me to chapter twenty one to find a section which I felt had all the requirements: energy, dialogue and a hook to pull the audience into wanting more. A few more runs through on my stage and I was happy. I cut and pasted the extract, reworked my single paragraph synopsis, composed my two sentences to set the scene and emailed them all post-haste to the festival organisers.

Nervous? Terrified! If I get chosen to participate I will be given one of about fifteen, five minute slots on the first evening of the festival, to pitch my book to an audience of a few hundred fellow wannabe authors (happily drinking) interspersed with those magical beings: agents. They say it’s just a bit of fun. But who doesn’t harbour the smatterings of a dream that an agent pricks up his/ her ears and secretly scribbles down the name, away from other eyes because they don’t want you, this sure thing, to be stolen from them?

But human beings are funny creatures. I had mixed feelings about entering. I batted around the question for a few days. After all, this has the potential to give my book that bump up the ladder of writing that it sorely needs. Read badly, choose badly, and I could do myself more harm than good.

But as soon as I found out that I might not be chosen to read, I wanted to be on that stage more than anything. Isn’t the best way to find out whether you really want something, to take it away? It is in my case, if I don’t get chosen, I’ll always wonder. If I do get chosen and make an idiot of myself on stage, I’ll simply have to use a pseudonym, have a face transplant and emigrate to America.

Monday 22 March 2010

Excessive Attention to Document Posting

It appears I am not alone in my neuroses which is very reassuring. Thanks for your many and varied examples of obsessive attention to detail which have come through in comments, email and even phone messages – clearly there is a need to share. Any more? Feel free to divulge here. Sympathy and support await all responses...

When I was writing my earlier post, I was comforted with the memory of my friend, Helen, also falling afoul of Excessive Attention to Document Posting. This time it involved her secondary school preference form for her eldest born.

After handing the envelope to the post master for placement in the grey, sorting bag, she quickly asked to have it back to check that she had included the form itself. She had. Excellent.

When she re-folded the seal however, she was concerned that it might not be quite as secure as the original fastening. But not wishing to bother the postmaster when there was a queue forming behind her, she smiled meekly and left.

Outside the post office she turned on her heel and re-entered, joining the back of the queue. Her long-suffering children, incidentally, stood quietly with her, a little perplexed. Eventually, she reached the counter again and explained her predicament to the post master who replied with a smile that it wouldn’t be the first time in his thirty year history that somebody had asked him to empty the sorting bag.

It was near collection time. The bag was full but no matter. The postmaster would have to look through himself, however, on his side of the counter, to respect other people’s privacy. Contents upended, he apologised to the new queue forming behind Helen while he rifled through the letters and parcels spilled on the floor to retrieve her package. It wasn’t a particularly easy job, with many of the other parents’ secondary school submission forms making up the bulk of the post bag, as they were in their identical pre-printed envelopes. Helen could only point helpfully through the glass.

She apologised a lot. The postmaster apologised a lot. People tutted. And coughed. Between them, my friend and the postmaster located her envelope. The seal, incidentally, was stuck like super-glue.

Could he, Helen wondered before finally leaving the counter, just to be triply sure, possibly place a piece of sellotape over the seal?

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Queen’s Head on an Angle

I sent two submissions to agents today. Off I toddled to the post office, two squidgy A4 envelopes in hand. The first was weighed, stamped and placed inside the large, grey posting bag without incident.

I placed the second envelope on the scales. The package was identical, costing 90 pence, but with the addition of an SAE or rather, an AE; it needed the stamp.

I leaned over to retrieve the Addressed Envelope and affix said stamp but before I could whisper, ‘No, let me goddamnit,’ the post office manager behind the counter had taken the envelope from my fingertips. Without a word, in front of my rapidly widening eyes, she helpfully stuck on the stamp, with ultra efficiency, in the right hand corner. The Queen’s head, however, was tilted slightly to the right.

Oh dear.

Humming an indiscernible tune, the lady roughly folded the now SAE in half and with the sides not quite meeting, and thus rendering it slightly too wide, wrestled the SAE into the main envelope. There it lay, slightly dishevelled in front of my otherwise pristine submission.

It’s a small thing, but I always put the SAE to the back. I prefer the expectant agent’s first point of reference with me not to be the SAE for notification of unsuccessful applications.

By the time the lady came to seal the envelope I could only stand and pray. Please God, I asked, let the seal be flat. I watched with horror as two creases appeared. I smiled to the lady, she was only trying to help, of course, and at least the envelope was secure.

Maybe it’s the Virgo in me, being forty, a middle child thing. Or maybe it’s OCD. But I’d have put the Queen’s head on straight. I’d have folded the SAE perfectly in half and laid it behind my submission, managing to slide it in without so much as a flutter of the piece of paper above. I’d have adjusted the envelope flap to ensure all sides touched equally, before pressing the seal shut.

It’s packaging, I told myself, once the envelope had been tossed into the grey sack, alongside my first submission. I fumbled in my purse for change. I agreed that it was indeed getting a bit warmer and with the evenings getting lighter, everyone seemed a bit happier. Even though a dark cloud was firmly ensconced around me.

An envelope does not make or break your career, now does it?

But I couldn’t reconcile the fact that on the presentation front, the submission was no longer perfect. And with the content ever far from any state of perfection, I was rather relying on it to be so.

But I like to think the glass is always half full. I like to think that soon I'll be laughing at the irony that the first time (to my knowledge) I send a submission with sub-standard presentation, it gets picked up.

I think you have to think like this, when you're trying to get published...

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Life as a Pac-Man Evader

I have decided that my life bears a striking resemblance to a Pac-Man game. There I am attempting to advance, trying to forge a way through to a finished short story, a satisfying piece of editing, a start on my new book and a submission... but these odd shaped, seemingly inconsequential lumps of frustrating to-do-ness keep hurling themselves at me.

It isn't the mundane, every day tasks which have to be done to somewhat justify my existence in this family as the other potential bread winner who doesn't earn any bread. But it's those annoying little extras. Weren't they red or blue blobs called 'ghosts' which came hurtling towards you to prevent you from gobbling up any more dots? Well, my ghosts come in the form of: taking the car in, taking the car in again because they couldn't get all the parts, mums asked to help at school, mums going to extra little assemblies at school, (I know, I know, they are lovely really, just limiting them to once per term would make them even more special), moppping up the flooded kitchen where the tap left on was exacerbated by a pan covering the plug hole, extra cleaning of the fridge because the forgotten from last month cream leaked, 'cleaning' up the computer because it's running slowly, kicking the computer because it's...I could go on.

Still, when the writing forges out in front, it does make it all the sweeter.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

A ‘Great Rejection’, is that an oxymoron?

Picture the scene: I log on, the emails flood in. I can buy oil cheaper if I wait five weeks until everyone in the village also needs some. The organic company invite me to view the suggested contents of this week’s vegetable boxes (but pray, they’re the same as last week’s aren’t they? And weren’t they the same as the week before?) Fly (dodgy) Cheap would like me to book our family holiday flights with them. There are no guarantees they’ll fly on the given date of course, or even that the airline will stay in business long enough to bring us home, but nonetheless they’d like me to take a look at their website.

School have sent through some forms for consent to take photos of my babies, for confirmation of their non-allergy to life, for permission to watch a PG rated DVD in school time (ask me if they have my permission to watch a DVD at all in school time and they might get a different answer). They’d also like to know if I can bring in some of those delicious home-made (by the Farm Shop) scones for the fundraising and social cake bake event.

Next, I need to read my meter or I will be thrown off the discounted rate for on-line electricity. Somebody on Facebook is recommending I befriend a friend of theirs and I’ve got the date wrong for the karate grading, it’s actually on Mother’s Day (bang goes that cup of tea in bed, pah!)

But then, as my eyes scan, I flit back to see a name for which I’ve searched, oh, at least every five minutes. It’s Lucy Luck in the sender column. I remember that name anywhere, and you can see why I felt compelled to submit to an agent with a name like that. And yet I don’t open it. Instead I find myself searching for a different un-read email which is bound to warrant my urgent attention. I scribble down names of the people I must reply to in my to-do list and then I make myself a cup of tea. I guess while you don’t know, you can still hope.

However procrastination devices exhausted, I eventually click and there I see the words in lights, right in the middle of the email, ‘...but I’m afraid that I have decided against taking things further,’ she says.

Oh dear.

Then I read on. Lucy has ‘spent some time considering [Glass Houses].’ I start to open the one, half-closed eye again. It’s ‘a difficult decision,’ she says, but she isn’t ‘passionate enough about the book to feel confident in representing it.’ My heart lurches a little again at this point, what’s to say every agent isn’t going to feel this way? But then I read that there’s, ‘much to recommend’ in my writing and I’m back on the edge of my seat.

In that brief moment before printing out the letter and filing it neatly under ‘binned’, I believe that a ‘Great Rejection' is not an oxymoron for it’s a description making perfect sense. There are nice ways and not so nice ways to have your career stalled once again before it’s even in first gear and this was definitely the former. A rejection which leaves me positive and desperate to get straight back onto the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to seek out where to send my next submission, has to be a Great Rejection.

So onto other situations in life where we find ourselves rejected and yet we still feel great. Are there any? It doesn’t feel nice in relationships and there’s nothing to commend being rejected in the work place. It never felt good at school and even in my forties I still don’t like the idea of everybody being invited out except me. The bank manager does it, even the cash point turns its back sometimes and there’s nothing to be savoured about running out of money. No, I think that a Great Rejection is a non-sensical oxymoron in every other walk of life to that of getting your book published.

But maybe I've missed something? Feel free to correct me if you can ...

Monday 15 February 2010

The Mind of a Child

Today I hot footed it into Harrogate with the rest of the family and my eleven year old daughter’s best friend, to watch my first born perform her Michael Jackson number in the dance school’s bi-annual show. Of course I thought she was brilliant. (It’s my baby up there, she could pick her nose and I’d still get tears in my eyes.) But oh yes, the whole show was incredible. Even my husband managed to stay awake for all but the tiniest section of marauding ducks in the Peter and the Wolf ballet.

But what really struck me was not the massive amount of talent amongst the whole cast, not the amount of organisation that goes into ensuring 200 four to 18 year olds arrive on stage on time (with only one casualty, an over-awed sobbing swan who was whisked off stage before the tears had barely plopped onto the lily pad) but the amount of time my daughter was prepared to relinquish to appear in one dance, performed twice over a period of six hours and never again. She likes to dance, she had the chance to be in the show, so she did it. No questions asked about the time commitment, the cost benefit of the time spent practising versus time lost on her roller blades.

Oh to have the Mind of a Child.

For me, as an adult, this show, this dancing lark would become a mathematical equation. It’s the Theory of a Time Line: y=mx+ c where y=worth all the bother, m=hours on stage, x =months (six) of show practice before and c, the enjoyment factor. However life-changing the moment on stage (just another day in the office for my daughter, I have to say), however fulfilling the time spent with friends, I have to admit I’d have backed out months ago. I’d do that big picture thing, my life up there, a long red line with a marker slightly right of centre, saying that I didn’t have the time to commit to it properly.

But then I’d have missed out, wouldn’t I?

I think I’d cope better with this submission thing if I had the Mind of a Child. I submitted my book to agents last March. I cringe now. It wasn’t ready. I’ve cut 30,000 words since then and added another 25,000 back in. But I wanted to get it published. It wasn’t an arrogance or a need even for a ‘tick in the box’ , it was impatience. It was that little voice telling me that the clock’s ticking and I want to be writing another book but I can’t do that until this one’s published (or rather I should say, I can’t justify doing that until this one’s published). If I could merely accept the process like a child; write the letters, accept the weeks of waiting, barely give the process a thought in between (and that means putting a stop to twice-five minutely flicks over to email to see if an agent happens to have got back to me in the last thirty seconds), the outcome wouldn’t be any different but the journey would be a whole lot sweeter.

Mind you, my daughter does have her own driver, bag packer and sustenance provider. Maybe that would help...

Thursday 11 February 2010

When I had my head stuck in the oven earlier (it's ok, we don't have gas here), my mind started wandering to one of my favourite places, the - Things I'll Do/ Buy If I Get Published -list. I try to keep it realistic (three hour lunch with friends seems reasonable, doesn't it?) and allow myself the luxury of pretending that any advance wouldn't really go on the mortgage. So, today, to the lunch, the boots and the electric grand piano (ahhhh, I have seen the one, the lady in the music shop knows the deal, trust me, she's as keen for me to get my book published as I am...) I added a, wait for it: whole house clean.

I know, I know it's so boring and yet...just imagine, in addition to the twenty minutes of sparkliness I'd get to enjoy before my lovely, busy, tidiness-not-at-the-top-of-their-priority-list family descended, I'd get days, nay, goddamnit a week of blissful luxury beforehand knowing that a team of fairy godmothers were going to fly in and SORT IT OUT. Meanwhile, as they scrubbed and guffawed in astonishment that 'people could really live like that', please take a moment to picture me, lunching with friends, arranging delivery of the piano... OHMIWORD right, that's it, off to edit...

Happy scribbling fellow writers. Have a great day people with proper jobs ;-)

Bytheway what's on your 'When I (insert topic), I Will...' list?

Monday 1 February 2010

Me! A blogger?

Blogging. Chain letters, right? That’s where I was at and yet a tidgy part of me understood the need to chronicle... I wrote diaries, hundreds of them, yes, really, my entire life described from age 13 to 23. Stand the books up and they’d have stretched the length of my beloved yellow bedroom.
Then one day I had a Forest Gump moment – I didn’t want to write a diary any more. And so I stopped. Just like that. But once a diary writer, always a diary writer and although age has made me more self conscious, more scared of inducing the nodding dog in front of the pc screen , I couldn’t help but remember the therapy involved, the satisfaction of knowing that when those words are committed to paper you get to relive the highs again. And of the inevitable lows? Well, they never seem so bad in black and white, do they?
So when my daughter had a stroke when she was just a baby, what did I do? Write it down. Just like when my boyfriend and first love (god I adored him) died falling from Ben Nevis, I got it all down on paper. It might sound macabre to some, but to diary writers, blog writers, I think you know where I’m coming from.

So here I am, aged 41 and a quarter and I’m back. I’ve written a novel, my second actually (the first is woeful but yes, a learning curve she says with a smile full of attempts at a positive attitude) and suddenly, I’m not enjoying it so much anymore. I loved every part of the story-getting: the research, the writing (the chucking it down on paper, ah yes, that bit is particularly good fun), the re-writing, the cutting, the editing, the proofing ...And then stop! Then comes the synopsis, the research into the minefield that is the world of agents and publishers, the covering letter, the biography, the, should I have my own website? (But who wants a website about an unpublished novel I hear you (and me) cry!), the how many hours should I spend on authonomy (the wannabe author’s website) before I notice that 3am bedtimes are not good for anyone?

And all of a sudden it’s a bit serious. I’d like this bit to be over. I’d like to get published so I can justify writing another novel, so I no longer have to call on the better nature of my long-suffering husband and instead be a proper writer with a proper job. It’s safe to say that I’m not so keen on this stage of my journey. So what do I do when things get a bit tough? I write it down. So here you have it. My journey through Agenthood and Submissionville and whether I’ll get through it without throwing my books out of the window (ask my mother).
I hope it won’t read too introspective and will try to recognise nauseating in-jokes. I hope it will provide company to those in the same place as me and amusement to those lucky souls who aren’t. Any anecdotes, titbits of information or assistance, most gratefully received. Happy reading! Jackie.

Glass Houses is a full length novel about one woman, a stupid mistake and its massive repercussions – not your light and fluffy read, perhaps, but I’d like to think it was strangely uplifting. The first half of Glass Houses is posted on My email address is there if you’d like to read the rest...