To Paula, With Thanks

PaulaBack in November 2016 I was working for a friend of a friend, typing up audio files, and she asked if I would help one of her dream writers with a final edit of their autobiography. My first response was to say no: I didn’t feel qualified to edit someone else’s work, especially when I pay someone to do a final edit on my own novels. In fact, I recommended that the author speak to my editor, and assumed that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t.

The author, Paula, wanted me to look at her book regardless, and our mutual friend agreed. I gave a low quote, reflective of my lack of experience, and took it on. To this day it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I got to read an inspirational autobiography – My Life in Colour: From Brighton to Bali and Back [Free on Kindle I see] – and meet the extraordinary individual who wrote and lived it. I also got to feel that I had contributed to the final shaping of a wonderful book, as well as helping to put together the manuscript ready for self-publishing: that at least I have plenty of experience at.

Fast forward a few months, and I got to finally meet Paula at her book launch in Waterstones in Brighton. It was a lovely event and Paula was even more amazing in person. Larger than life and even more colourful than her book.

Paula taught me to have more belief in my own writing. When I first had contact with her, she said of her book, “I am at that nervous stage and would like to hide it and me from the world.” Despite self-publishing all my novels, I’ve never really escaped from that feeling. I apologise for my writing, because I feel it hasn’t been validated by the awarding of a publishing contract. And with my children’s books, I always felt I couldn’t promote them because they weren’t illustrated.

Paula inspired me to get Moon Pony illustrated: in fact she gave me the means to do so, through the work I did for her and other subsequent editing work. Without her support and financial help it wouldn’t have happened. But it did, and I am so proud of the result.

Tomorrow I stand up in front of three different primary school classes to talk about my writing, read from Moon Pony, and hand out some signed copies. I have actually sold copies of my children’s book to children. It feels epic.

I write about Paula in the past tense because tragically she died last autumn, following a car accident on what turned out to be my birthday. I have never mourned someone so much who I had only met once, but it was like a firework burning bright and leaving a pitch darkness behind.

When I was asked to do the author talks, my first response was no. I don’t do people, especially children, and I hate talking in public. Never mind the thought of reading something I have written out loud for people to judge. Terrifying. It’s why I don’t belong to a writers’ group. But then I remembered Paula, and I said yes. Because she was brave and, despite her fears, she launched her book into the world with gusto and self-belief.

Books are meant to be read, heard, shared, loved (and hated) and they can’t do that lurking at the end of a URL.

So, wish me luck. And Paula, thank you. You are missed.

Blog Block: Breaking the Silence

4eb37dd13f42674acbd12e3530d6f979-the-face-beautifulCan you hear them? All the blog posts I have written in my head over the past few months. Mostly at 2am, when my terrible sleep pattern has me wide awake, brain working, body dead. Unfortunately, by the time I’m up at 5.30am, the body is awake and the mind is numb.

They’ve been great posts though, I wish you could have read them. About my new obsession with the soundtrack from the Hamilton Musical and, as an offshoot, my undying respect and love for Lin-Manuel Miranda (look them both up: awesome!)

Posts about parenting anxious children, and wondering how much to interfere. Following a lot of Go Zen posts on Facebook (very useful: look them up!) and realising that the issue is very much more mine than theirs.

The parallels between running and writing: that was one post (in my head) I was particularly proud of. Sure to go viral (a girl can dream.)

Knitting. Christmas. Being self-employed. Writing competitions. Rejections.

Problem is, I know I’ve written about all the topics before, and I know how much it annoys me when the kids tell me a tale I’ve heard a million times. But maybe that’s life. It is circular after all. The same issues and achievements rock around for all of us, again and again. But sometimes reading the right advice or anecdote at the right time is the key to survival. Meaning there’s a point to the same posts rewritten ad finitum.

Anyway, I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but one thing listening to Hamilton daily does for you is give you a sense of your own lack of purpose and motivation. So I am trying for a little more motivation. My husband bought me a t-shirt with one of the key lines from the musical: ‘Young, Scrappy and Hungry’. I’m only one of those things, and only in the sense of hungry for chocolate, but perhaps it isn’t too late for me.

I read this morning about how to make children resilient to failure, to life: about the fact that much of it is how we interpret the things around us, drawing either the positives or the negatives from a given situation. I’m very much a glass-is-practically-empty-and-it-is-all-my-fault kinda gal. Lately it’s been all about having no income. (I got refused for a credit card for the first time in my life. That sucked.)

But I realised, in the car driving home from my coffee in Waitrose this morning, where I had sat doing counted cross-stitch for a gift for my daughter, that I’m the luckiest person on earth. I get to do all the creative things I wanted to do when I was stuck twelve hours a day in a job I hated. So I’d better make the most of it and stop stressing about getting a minimum-wage job and how unfair it is when I have a bunch of qualifications. It’s my life, I need to live it and quit whingeing.

I’ll leave you with some words from Hamilton, that I’m going to try and live by. And if I find myself on the sofa watching Murdoch Mysteries re-runs, I’m going to forgive myself and move on. Because, you know, life.

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Mini Adventure

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Today I am on a mini adventure.

I have left the family in the capable hands of my husband and travelled to Brighton. The lovely Paula Harward has invited me to the launch of her memoir, My Life in Colour, which I was lucky enough to help edit.

So exciting.

I have to admit, though, that the most exciting/scary part is being away from home alone for the first time in eight years.

It’s fascinating how nervous I was about travelling down by train. Nine years ago I was wandering around Kuala Lumpur on my own (having tagged along on hubbie’s business trip) and yet I left John Lewis in a frazzle last week because two strangers were having a row.

When did I grow so timid?

Actually, travelling has never been without stress, mostly in the planning. I hate to be late, and it terrifies me that I’ll miss my train or get on the wrong one (and I’ve done both).

It is weird being away from home too. I feel sort of guilty and disconnected. I had to go buy headphones and a book, having forgotten both, and picked up a Holly Webb that I haven’t read. (It matches the B&B bedding, so lovely!) In it, a girl talks of being connected to her absent mother by a golden thread. Being away feels like that. Except it’s a white smartphone rather than a golden thread.

IMG_7145These days we’re never far from home. My daughter just texted me a love heart she drew and I could video call if I wanted. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. As a parent it’s comforting – I don’t know how my parents coped when I travelled around New Zealand, with only the occasional text message or sporadic email from a grotty internet cafe to let them know where I was and if I was okay.

IMG_7146At the same time there is a sense of never being free, of never getting lost (I used Google Maps to find the B&B), of always being tethered. Of being reachable, connected. Being able to receive messages from my son that are full of poop emojis!

IMG_7084I took the dog on a different walk last week, and it was exciting to meander without timetable or anyone knowing where I was. It shows you don’t actually have to travel to feel free, or always feel free when you travel.

(As an aside, I was actually glad of my phone. Last time I did that walk I got hopelessly lost, had no internet on my phone, called husband for help which he was unable to provide, and ended up walking through an off-road Landrover course and across two sheep fields, eventually having to heave our 28kg dog over a 5ft barbed wire fence. Got lost again this time and Google Maps rescued me in five mins! Haha)

Whether I’m free or not, connected or not, scared or content, it’s definitely an experience. I can hear seagulls outside my window and the sea is a five minute walk from here. In a couple of hours I get to meet the two people who set me on my path as an editor and see a paper copy of the first book I edited that wasn’t mine.

I’d call that an adventure.

 

Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!

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Image from Pixabay

Goodness me, apparently WriterMummy is five years old today. How time flies when you’re a manic Mum, eh?

These anniversaries keep popping up on me – notes on Facebook about releasing Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, or it reaching some milestone during a free giveaway, or sending off Dragon Wraiths to a competition, full of naive hope.

In some ways it’s nice, because I feel like I’ve been writing long enough to have learnt and grown. But in other ways it makes me feel a bit of a failure, because I haven’t achieved more in that time. I haven’t found an agent, or won a writing competition, or even got much higher than 500 followers for my blog.

I get frustrated at myself because I know I could/should have tried harder. My blog is the first thing to wane when I’m busy, and I don’t visit and read and comment on enough other blogs to increase my followers. At the same time, at least I don’t feel as if I’m disappointing thousands of fans when I don’t write anything for a month!

The same goes for book promotion. I should have done more on Kindle, promoted the books more. Worked harder to get reviews. Sent more manuscripts to more agents. Engaged with people on Goodreads, sought out guest blogs and newspaper articles. I watch how one of the authors whose book I edited is promoting her memoir and she deserves all her amazing success.Blogging5yr

I’ve never got behind just one book and really sold it. But if I had, I would probably have driven myself bananas, and possibly have given up in disgust after the first dozen rejections. I would also have certainly written a lot fewer books. I’m much happier since I stopped checking for book sales every day. Now a royalty cheque is a pleasant surprise and a guilt-free cup of coffee.

And I have to celebrate the successes too. I’ve written over 700 blog posts, had nearly 40,000 views and 22,000 visitors. I’ve published 8 children’s books, three women’s fiction novels and one young adult book (which was also long-listed for an award). I’m having one of my books illustrated by a very talented illustrator and am super excited about it.

The most amazing thing is I’m still going. Five years is longer than any job I’ve ever had, and I don’t feel like quitting yet. So you’re stuck with me for a bit longer.

Here’s to the next five years, the next milestone, the next novel to be finished (Hope Glimmers, with any luck, a sequel to Moon Pony), the next happy post from Facebook to mark the passing of time.

Have some virtual cake on me.

Technophobe

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‘Kenny’

Since my last post I’ve turned 40, finished knitting and sewing up the darn koala for my son, my husband has got to the quarter finals of the World Conker Championships, and I’ve been given a cello and a brand new gorgeous phone for my birthday.

And I’ve managed to accidentally delete everything on my new phone including the back up.

Drama.

I cried. I cried big fat wrenching rib-aching tears.

Then I plugged the phone in and it found a back up from a day ago, meaning I’ve only lost a bit of stuff, mostly photos.

The relief!

But how I hate technology. Particularly the complicated intricacies that are now involved with using an Apple device.

I mean, iMessage, what’s that all about? My husband went to Germany and wasn’t getting my text messages because it turns out I wasn’t sending text messages using a phone signal, I was sending internet messages and he didn’t have internet. That’s safe, right? Because there’s lots of 3G signal on top of a mountain. Or in our village for that matter? Hmmm. And yes, you can disable it, but you probably need a degree in computing.

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King Conker

Worse than that, my son managed to send a message saying ‘dead babby god nit’ to the man I bought a desk off, despite there being no sim card in the old phone. (It is meant to say dear daddy, good night.)

And yes, it’s very clever that you can erase an iPhone from a distance and reset it, for example when your son has disabled it by putting the wrong passcode in lots of times. But that’s not so helpful when you have so many devices linked to iTunes that actually you erase all the data on your new phone, having backed up the near-empty phone first thus wiping off the proper backup.

Did I mention drama? Poor exhausted Daddy had to be fetched because Mummy was scaring the children…

And don’t get me started on the Cloud. It was a lovely idea, with so many devices lurking around, to be able to share stuff. Until we connected an iPad to the TV and there was a picture of the gorgeous bruise on my thigh. Hmmmm. Or when my husband took a picture while out with the kids and it appeared on my phone straight away.

Now, that’s got no potential for chaos has it? Ha. Although it would make a great story line. Like the baby-monitor reveal-method on steroids.

So my son’s phone is still disabled, because I’m too scared to risk wiping the wrong one again. I’ve lost a bunch of photos, but mostly just of Kenny the Koala (and thankfully I’d stuck one on FB), and I feel about ten years older. But I still have my Jurassic World game, and that’s the main thing right?

I’ve had enough of technology for today, I’m off to knit a hat.

June Journals #25 ~ The Day After

EUI don’t really want to talk any more about the EU Referendum, but I’m going to anyway, because I can’t think of anything else.

I feel like I’ve been going through the grief cycle: shock, anger, helplessness, bargaining and acceptance.

I read an article in the Guardian online that helped a tiny bit. It compared the result to a workers’ revolt, following years of austerity and being marginalised and disenfranchised by an uncaring government (I’m paraphrasing).

I can buy that.

I don’t personally think leaving the EU is the right response, but I can understand that those with nothing to lose will fear the consequences less. And I’m enough of a leftie liberal to quite like the idea of shaking up a settled and self-satisfied elite.

I can also understand why people voted who hadn’t voted for twenty years. Because this time their vote mattered. With our system of voting in a new government, it’s hard to make a difference (or can seem that way). But a yes/no vote? Every vote counted.

Anyway. It’s done.

The hardest part is taking the world’s criticism. We’ve always been quick to criticise others. Laughing at Trump supporters and being angry at those who support gun rights.

Now it’s our turn to be the cause of shock and ridicule. And the world hasn’t held its punches.

As someone who connects to people all over the world, through my blog and other social media, I’m seeing some awful things being said.

We deserve all of it.

volkswagen-158463_1280All of us. Not just those who voted to leave, but those who voted in a Tory government, those who didn’t fight harder for an opposition to be proud of, those who thought only of their own and didn’t worry about anyone else. Those who let the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

We got our just desserts.

The world feels broken and I’m not seeing anyone I trust to fix it. Not here, not across the pond, not in Europe. Not in this generation. Maybe in the next. Millennials, sorry we fucked it up for you, please help us fix it.

I’ve studied history. I know where this goes next. And if we wait long enough, live long enough, survive long enough, perhaps we’ll reach a new swinging sixties of love and peace.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take thirty years. I can’t wait that long.

 

More That Unites

LeaveSo we voted to leave the EU.

To say I’m gutted is an understatement. I don’t like change, and this is one terrifying change.

But what terrifies me the most is the reaction of the Stay crowd. The same people preaching peace and love on my FB feed for months are full of bile and anger at the people who voted leave. Apparently half the country are bigoted, racist twunts (love that word).

I don’t buy it.

I agree that anyone who is racist probably voted leave, but not everyone who voted leave is racist. I know a couple of them, they’re nice people.

The problem is the hype. The Remain team had two camps they could support – the Tory ‘it’s all about economics’ one and the Labour/Green ‘it’s about workers’ rights and the environment’ camp.

Brexit only had one visible camp: the right-wing, ‘immigration is to blame for everything so let us close the doors’ camp.

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But they’re not the only people who voted leave. They can’t be. I can’t accept that half this country are that awful.

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We gave him a mandate

The scary part, as someone who studied history at university, is the parallel with the 1930s. The division, the blame, the strong leaders who spiel vitriolic nonsense and are given a mandate to rule.

We’ve given Nigel Farage a mandate. Just let that sink in.

That’s why I’m feeling sick today. Regardless of why people voted, we gave the right-wing a mandate, we gave their views permission and authority.

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More that unites us

We need to take it back.

The 15 million people who voted ‘stay’ need to rise above. We need to build bridges and find a way forward.

We preached ‘in it together’ and ‘more that unites us’ about Europe.

We need to find it in us to have the same thoughts at home. We need to be more Jo Cox and less Nigel Farage.

However hard it is, however much it hurts, we must.

I suggested this on my FB feed: it didn’t go down well. Perhaps I’m a peace-maker too far.

It’s an interesting time. A scary one. Perhaps an inevitable one. But how we negotiate the choppy waters ahead is down to all of us.

There has never been a more important time to find out what unites us rather than concentrate on what divides.

That will decide our future, more than any Article 50 decision ever will.