I’m super late to the party, but me and Mr HB have finally started watching West Wing on All4. So, of course President Bartlett has filled the role of ‘favourite fictional character,’ previously held by Atticus Finch.
One of his signature phrases is ‘what’s next?’ It’s meant to show his enthusiasm, his thirst for everything he can fix.
I can do that, too. With this pamphlet coming out, I’ve already got my eye on the next thing. What would be a good next step for me? How can I build on this success?
But I don’t think this is the time for that. This is not the time for ‘what’s next?’ This is a time to acknowledge my achievement, and the recognition of the quality of my work. I need to hold onto this feeling, however fleeting it may be.
Mr HB and I went for a walk the other day, and for once he wanted to talk about my writing (this never happens). It turns out he wanted to check whether I still wanted to be a writer. ‘It doesn’t seem to make you happy. At all,’ he said.
I was a bit shocked! But then I remembered. His perception is based on me whining: another rejection, another novel that will have to go in a drawer because it doesn’t quite work, another opportunity that went to someone else, another year with not much or no money.
So I reminded him that I don’t do this for money (just as well!). And I told him that, contrary to appearances, I love to write. It keeps me sane. That feeling, when I get into flow and an hour goes by …
I was planning my next novel the other day (as you do). As many of you know, there are apparently two types of novel-writers, the pantsers and the planners.
I’m a planner.
I use the excellent ‘Save the Cat’ for story structure, mostly so I can use phrases like ‘break into Act 3.’ Ripping up little bits of paper for the required fifteen sections, I filled in what I could, hoping the blank sections would somehow become magically completed as I worked.
Number 12 is a story beat called ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ By my calculations it occurs in Chapter 36 of 40.
When I looked over what I’d written, it said ‘main character realises she needs to be a fucking mum and get on with it,’ I realised this was exactly. It.
It’s now written on slip number 2: ‘Thematic Premise Stated.’
This is one of those weeks where 140 words won’t be enough.
I launched my first anthology this week: edited and printed in East Lothian, part of my residency of Lanterne Rouge, cycling cafe of the year UK(!) in Gifford, East Lothian.
The book has twenty poems, some from East Lothian, some from further afield. All proceeds from sales go to St Columba’s Hospice.
It was printed with excellence (a five star service) by East Lothian Council’s print unit. Wendy Neill is amazing!
We hosted a daytime and an evening event on launch day. Both were packed.
Many, many people told me how well I had done.
I am not used to hearing that.
There are copies of the book available at the cafe. I am working on getting them online so people further afield can purchase one. Watch this space!
Next week is Book Week Scotland!
It’s a great chance to get out and about in the writing/reading community. Get inspired, make connections, give yourself an enthusiasm boost as the nights start to draw in.
This year, on Tuesday (21/11/19) I’m at one of my closest libraries: the John Gray Centre in Haddington. Fitting, as our topic is ‘Local Blethers‘! Myself, Rebecca McKinney, and Charlie Laidlaw will be talking inspiration, setting and how our localities feed into our writing. We’ll be blethering from 6pm-7:30pm and the event is free.
On Thursday I’m taking up my new position as co-host of Listen, Softly: Edinburgh. This isn’t just a one-off Book Week visit, I’m joining Claire and Dom to help with programming, sound, and the usual ‘any-other-duties-as-required!’ I’m excited and honoured to be involved in this popular addition to Edinburgh’s spoken word scene.
As a woman with mental health issues, and the parent of an enby kid, I’m often aware of other people’s male-cis-het-ableist privilege.
Today, however, I have the most privilege I’ve ever felt in my life.
- I am in an air bnb (financially secure enough for this, and multiple trips to Tesco for cashews and vegan chocolate)
- for two nights (not in a nine-five with four weeks of holiday a year)
- my children being looked after by their dad (co-parenting: surely the ultimate privilege?)
- writing (able to pursue this un-lucrative work for many years now)
- listening to music and podcasts (having decided I can afford Spotify: currently on free trial)
- and reading (only one was free from the library).
This is heaven.
This. An accident of birth, and race, cisgendered heterosexual marriage, and secure family that led me to this point.
So, the submissions period for the anthology has come and gone. I only got two poems a day too late!
I’m delighted – I received over 70 poems for consideration. I have been in touch with everyone who submitted, so if you’ve not heard from me, please let me know.
It has been a real joy to read all your submissions. From funny poems to heart-breaking ones, poems that were super inventive with the theme, to poems that seem to have forgotten there was a theme in the first place! Thank you all for trusting me with your work.
Please remember if your poem wasn’t selected, it doesn’t mean anything in terms of its quality. Some amazing poems didn’t make it into the book – there just wasn’t enough space for all of them.
Whatever the outcome, you are a poet – keep writing!
There is no news about my second novel.
Here is the news about my second novel.
I was very fortunate to meet a lovely agent who read the whole thing, and she really liked it. This was beyond exciting! She had loads of great feedback too, including ‘what’ it is (a comedy) and what the main themes are (parenting insecurity, female rivalry, the pressure felt by, and put on, children).
I re-wrote the draft with all her comments and observations. This is draft 15, but it’s very similar to drafts 7 and 8, (except draft 7 was in the present tense, of course).
Then I did that thing I always do when I’m nearing the end of a redraft. I slow right down because I’m afraid to finish. But I did finish. It’s 10k words longer and it’s back on submission. Wish me luck!
I’ve managed to snag myself a slot at the new(est?) spoken word night in Edinburgh, on Thursday (21st March 2019), at the fabulous Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge.
Also on the bill are Leyla Josephine, Dean Rhetoric and Chris McQueer. So to say I’m in good company is a bit of an understatement!
I hadn’t been to a live poetry event until maybe three, four years ago… they are now one of my favourite things. I’d love to know which nights you go to, how you feel about live poetry. Let me know in the comments.
Anyway, for Listen, Softly, we’ve all been asked to recommend a book as part of the evening, there’s a raffle, there’s open mic slots available, I’m reading, did I mention that Golden Hare Books is the most gorgeous bookshop? Maybe see you there, too!
I had a normal-sized life, albeit with a tendency to uncomfortable swellings, until recently. In the months after my memoir was published, though, it became tiny.
There’s only five-foot-one of me, so I’ve never taken up much space. Tiny is my natural state, and as I was past middle age with no notable features, I was perfectly placed to reduce this life to near-invisibility. In producing a book, I had written it large – or in 12-point Times New Roman at least – and ventured way beyond my comfort zone. It was exhilarating and I loved it, but playing it tiny felt much more me.
But life won’t be played like that, and comfort zones won’t contain it. The tiny life whispers increasingly, incessantly, that it too, deserves to be written. So here I am, at the keyboard, ready to begin again.