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...