The Hardest Part About Becoming An Author Is Patience

My children's book

My children’s book

I chose the title for this blog post carefully. Author not writer. Becoming not being. I already consider myself a writer. What I want to be, though, is a published author. Not self-published, great as that is. I want to be able to answer the question ‘can I find your books in the library?’ with a resounding YES.

Maybe that’s silly. It should probably be enough that I’ve self published four novels, they’ve each sold a few copies (some over a hundred, which some say is the benchmark for a new author). They’ve all had good (and bad) reviews.

But it isn’t enough. I want validation. I want an agent to say, ‘you’re just what I’m looking for.’ I want to have a poster in the library and give talks to schools about my journey as a writer. I want my family to be proud. I want my daughter to know I did something other than raise babies for a decade. Not because raising babies isn’t a worthwhile job, but because I want her to know there’s a choice.

I want to write the books my daughter wants to read but can’t find in the library. I want to write books for my son that aren’t about animals and fairies, because – quite frankly – there’s a massive hole in our library where books for early-reader boys should be.

I want all that, and I want it NOW.

I tell my children that you get nothing without practice and patience. When my son is frustrated at learning to read or my daughter can’t draw as well as the YouTube video she’s watching, my response is always “you just need to practice.”

But we’re all hypocrites right? I’ve written one children’s book and I’m already looking for agents accepting submissions. Even though I know it isn’t going to pass muster.

Actually, it’s the second children’s book I’ve written. The other one has been (almost) wiped from my memory after I (arrogantly? Naively?) sent an early draft to an editor and was hurt and surprised when she told me (nicely) that it was awful.

Children’s books are hard to write. I knew that before I began the writing course I’m doing. I know it even more now. (Plus it’s really hard to find beta readers – any ideas?)

I also recognise that, more than any other genre, it’s all about the market. It’s a business. Books have to sell. Which is possibly why there is a gap in the boys’ market, although I’d say that was a catch 22. You can’t buy what isn’t available.

So I’m writing this as a public declaration of my intention to be patient. I will write at least a dozen children’s books before I approach an agent. I will practice my craft, I will continue to read a book a day. And I will try not to be hurt when my target audience (my daughter) thinks Mummy’s book is rubbish and she could write it better.

After all, practice makes perfect, right? Or at least better…

P.S. If you’re in the UK, Happy Mothering Sunday and I hope, like me, you’re in bed with your ipad writing blogs because Daddy has told the children Mother’s Day doesn’t start until 8am

A Mothering Sunday

Homemade climbing complex

Homemade climbing complex

This Mothering Sunday I have mothered. The day started with cuddles at 5.30/6.30am (the clocks went forward), followed by gifts, breakfast and a lie-in. Lovely. When I got up, I discovered the children had watched a movie and were starting on their second, breakfast half-eaten and the house a state.

I started my usual morning routine of making beds, carrying laundry downstairs, putting the washing machine on, emptying and re-filling the dishwasher, letting the dog out, clearing the breakfast things away and making a second cup of tea. Then I helped the children plant seeds and baked pain au chocolat for everyone. Eventually the kids went out to play, and I realised that – with the clocks changing – it was too late to go out for lunch.

I had only one request for Mother’s Day – that we could go out for a roast lunch so I could eat a meal I hadn’t had to cook. When it was decided that we weren’t going to go I was pretty cross and stomped round the kitchen preparing a roast lunch, to make up for the one I missed.

I even made a kebab on request for my daughter (that she didn’t eat) and carrots for my son (which he didn’t eat.) By the end of lunch my mood hadn’t really improved. In an effort to buy some time to read my book, I opened and raked over the sandpit, before clearing away the dishes.

Homemade is best

Homemade is best

Somewhere admidst it all, I realised I was enjoying providing for my family, making yummy meals and watching the kids cause carnage in the garden. I gave in to domesticity and made an apple crumble for after dinner (hubbie’s favourite, because he needs cheering up.) I did all the ironing. Finally I snuck upstairs to read my book for an hour, until a screaming child took me back downstairs.

While I was preparing lunch I felt irritated that I was having to cook, rather than being taken out, and I wished for a family who pampered me on Mother’s Day, who bought chocolates and flowers and booked a table for lunch. But then I realised this is our first day at home for weeks, because of all the birthday parties, and it was lovely. Hubbie pottered round the garden, building a makeshift climbing frame for the kids and sorting out the accumulated junk. The kids ran and dug in the sand and played with water. Unwatched and unfettered (mostly) as I want them to be.

And do you know what? I’ve enjoyed my domestic day much more than I would have enjoyed a day alone to read (too guilty! Besides I can do that tomorrow) or a day out (too stressful, noisy, busy, expensive.) Homemade apple crumble was just as nice as chocolates and the last flowers my daughter bought me ‘just because’ are still (dead) in the vase.

Mothers of small children don’t really get a day off. But I got a day to do my thing, up to a point (cooking curry for dinner while watching Homes Under the Hammer without being pestered by children IS a day off!)

So, thank you family. Today I have felt useful and nurturing, like a mother. I feel loved.

‘Unable to stop Mothering’ Sunday: 2013 365 Challenge #70

Happy Mothering Sunday

Happy Mothering Sunday

It’s Mother’s Day here in the UK today. It’s always an odd day for me. We’re a loving family (most of the time!) and supportive of each other as often as we have the energy, so a special day of appreciation isn’t really required. That said, the idea of Mummy having a day off is always bandied about, as if it’s a possibility with two small children and when said ‘Mummy’ is a woman who doesn’t know how to be taken care of.

The day began with two small children standing outside my door with flowers waiting to be told they could come in. So cute. Although I think my little man was hoping to share in my chocolate egg treat. He didn’t want to leave the egg behind to go downstairs while I had a lie-in and later, when he came up to find I’d eaten it already, he was bereft.

It’s lovely to have a lie in, although I get them quite often these days as hubbie lets me go back to bed to finish my post.  There are some advantages to us both being unemployed! Today, though, I had a cream egg and a gossip magazine 🙂

My gorgeous Mother's Day cards

My gorgeous Mother’s Day cards

Then I was up, stacking the dishwasher and making pancakes as per my usual Sunday ritual, because I don’t know how to be anyone else and these things always need doing.

We went to the Farm, because it was too darn freezing to do anything else, and had great fun on the didibikes with Mummy and Daddy showing the kids how it’s done. At Grandma and Grandpa’s I got to take care of my Mummy, making tea and lunch while the grandparents played with the kids and watched the rugby. Home to feed the kids and cook a roast dinner for the grown-ups and that was Mothering Sunday for me.

I like to think that my failure to be ‘taken care of” or ‘pampered’ on Mothering Sunday is because I take ‘Mothering’ in its literal sense and I mother everyone else! I can only really relax when I’m by myself. Kids are back at nursery today so maybe I’ll squeeze some reading in between the novel revision and post writing. In the meantime I need to get on with my post and find some new way to torment Claire! 🙂

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“Plague Cottages? Chatsworth House Sculpture Gardens? Seriously Claire, what part of High Adrenalin Activity or Celebrating the Outdoor Lifestyle did you not understand? People don’t want to read about the rich and the dead and it hardly fits with either the YHA or the Coca Cola brand. Are you deliberately trying to flunk the brief?”

Claire held the phone away from her ear as Carl’s voice whined out like a washing machine on spin-cycle.

“Oh you’d love that, wouldn’t you? You know I’m fulfilling your ridiculous brief to the letter. My followers are increasing steadily, I’m writing about every hostel I stay in and the places of interest in the locality. I can’t jump off a cliff every day, even if that would make your year. Particularly if they forgot to tie the rope.”

Claire inhaled and tried to regain control of the conversation. She looked around the layby she’d pulled into when the phone rang and wondered if there was any chance of finding caffeine in walking distance. Who knew how long her boss would rant at her on the phone and she’d left Eyam hostel without breakfast to escape the overpowering women who had turned up in her room after dinner.

She sighed audibly; a mother tolerating a difficult child. “Look Carl. You tell me exactly what I’m not doing and I’ll do it. I’ve never missed a brief or target and I don’t intend to give you the satisfaction of suggesting I’m doing so now.”

She scanned the horizon again, hoping to see a trucker’s café or something. Anything. I miss my hands-free. Who drives a car without it these days? She vowed to get a cradle for the iPhone at the next opportunity.

“Well I don’t know,” Carl blustered, “you’re the Ideas lady. Go read some other blogs with thousands of followers. Find out what they’re doing that you’re not. Inject some bloody humour into your posts for Christ’s sake. Julia says it’s like reading the Daily Mail.

Julia. I might have known Carl hadn’t actually read the blog himself. What is it with her? Did I offend her once, in this life or the last?

“If Julia is such an expert maybe she can devise some new activities. Better still, why doesn’t she come and finish off the brief, let me get back to what I do best.” As she said the words Claire felt a prickle run across her scalp like an Indian Head Massage.

I’m not sure I want to go back.

She shook off the traitorous thought and concentrated on keeping warm as the temperature plummeted in the stationary car. She didn’t dare leave the engine running in case it overheated without the fan and she couldn’t put the fan on because she’d never hear Carl over the noise. Not that that would be a bad thing.

“I’ve told you before, I need Julia here. But yes I’ll ask her to locate some activities for you, seeing as you seem to have forgotten how to carry out basic research.”

Bollocks. That was stupid. Now Julia has a free rein to make my life hellish. Idiot Claire, next time keep your mouth shut and your temper under control.

“Lovely. I look forward to embracing Julia’s input. Perhaps she could spare a day out of the office to join me in one or two of the activities?” Claire smiled, hoping her saccharin-sweet expression would wing its way to Manchester to make Carl itch.

“Good. I’ll tell her to get onto it straight away.” The phone went dead.

Bugger. How to shoot yourself in the foot with a twelve-bore.

Claire rammed the car into gear and turned the key hard enough to break it. As the engine fired into life she imagined Carl’s body prone on the road in front of her and wheel span as she shot out of the layby in search of vengeance. Or at least coffee.

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