It’s like having green eyes.
Being a writer is simply part of who I am. Like so many other writers, I discovered my love of writing when I was very young. I wrote poetry and short stories, and some longer stories, as a child and teenager. It’s how I made sense of the world. It’s how I fantasised and put the world to rights. I got revenge in my stories and learned to dream.
I entered the occasional competition, and was so delighted when my teacher in primary school bound one of my stories into a ‘proper book’ and read it to the class at the end of the school day. My first audience! I could not have been happier.
Or part of me is missing.
There have been many years when I have hardly written at all. But even then, I wasn’t writing. I was aware of the lack. I knew it wasn’t happening. And it was like a part of me – an essential part – was missing.
I stopped writing fiction in my late teens (I wrote a feminist polemic in my early twenties and lots of maudlin poetry) and didn’t start again until I was twenty nine, just after my youngest daughter was born. I wrote my first novel during maternity leave, after doing The Artist’s Way with a group of friends.
The long apprenticeship
Approaching thirty, desperately aware of my neglected dreams of being a writer, fearful that if I left it any longer I would never see it happen, somehow I managed to get up and write between 5-6am each morning and Unearthed was, well, unearthed. At the time I honestly believed that novel would be published (it wasn’t). And it was years before I heard writing described as the Long Apprenticeship.
Several years later, after rising from despondency and a bruised ego, I started a new novel. It stuttered its way into being (over about five years) and, cautiously, I dared to dream that Swimming in the Shadows would be my debut.
I found my feet writing that novel – I got comfortable sharing my work and receiving constructive criticism. I sought mentorship. I got acquainted with The Elements of Style. But, like Unearthed, Swimming in the Shadows got left on the shelf.
I took comfort from a couple of positive rejections I received from literary agents (“I was impressed with this submission, get in touch again with your next novel”) and I learned several valuable lessons: not having a plan results in years of redrafting; like every other writer I must consider genre; when a novice writer’s novel falls between stools no one ends up reading it.
Is publication really so important?
My indignant artist did a little foot stamping at this point. I want to be published! I’ve worked hard – reward me with recognition! I think I’ve tried on plenty of occasions to care less about being published. But, however I dress it up, the fact remains that I really do want to see my stories in print.
Indulging the part of myself needing reassurance that I wasn’t completely wasting my life, I signed up for a short story writing workshop with Joanna Barnden and went on to have four short stories published in national fiction magazines in 2014.
Ready to begin again, in April 2015, with a reasonable plan in hand, a genre in mind, I began to write Petals and Stones. Third draft in hand, I began to look for an agent just before Christmas 2016 and I’m delighted to now be represented by Ella Kahn, at Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency. I’m currently working on a re-draft of Petals & Stones with the hope of finding a publisher in the near future.