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  I wasn’t successful in getting through to the final of the Brits Unpublished.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.  


  1. What a great, inspiring story Jackie. Well done on your success - no matter how small you think it is, it's always the unexpected that makes your day. And this is no small feat, crikey, you can add this on your bio with real pride.

    Nothing much to add re my own humiliations, all of which I've been happily collecting since birth. Mind you, one event does stand out from the rest, when I was going out with a gentlemen way back and we were in a bustling pub having a drink. He was in a foul mood and kept asking me to stop talking, which of course, being my normal bubbly self, I wouldn't; without further ado, he proceeded to gently tumble his full pint of beer over my head. I feel it still: the whole pub went into meltdown, you could hear a pin drop.

    I do identify with your washing machine analogy (do you, like me, wonder where on earth all the missing socks go??)Funny enough, it's always when the washing machine breaks down that I lose the plot and all the other messes rise to the surface.

    Well done again and may all your cycles be happy ones!

  2. Ahhh Lynda, that's brilliant! But how awful! If you had a pint over your head for talking then I can't imagine how many times people have wanted to do that to me :-)
    And yes, agree with everything you say, down to the last missing sock. And why do all the black socks look ALMOST, and yet not exactly, the same?


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