September 2009

Hello everybody!  Happy New Year!  Yes, I still mark the year in school terms.   After a hectic beginning, the new school year has settled into routine and the wheels are turning again.  Actually, I love September and the feeling of a fresh start as people go back to school. The shops are full of new pens and nice notebooks and I fill my basket with them!  But I’ll  have to put off writing the new tales that are clamouring in my head until I‘ve completed Pilgrim. The first draft is finished – hurray! Now the real work starts in the editing and re-drafting. At least I have a better idea of what the story’s about now.

How it all began

Someone asked me recently to write about ‘how I got published’, persuading me that prospective writers might be interested in the process. Well, it’s different for everyone, but one thing we clearly have in common:  we were all born mad and different. We pursue our passion against all odds and opposition, face rejection, disappointment and heartache, just to hear the magic words ‘That story’s wonderful!’.

Have I put anyone off yet? There’s more.  You cannot make a living from writing. Most writers earn less than the minimum wage. Most work part-time at something else to fund their passion. Of course there are the golden few, who, in the publishing lottery, hold a winning ticket, and are the ones who are written about in the press.  They really are thefew!

So, you put up with the negative criticism and you don’t make any money.  But, but, but….there’s absolutely nothing I would  rather do than write stories. They are important and precious, a sort of  glue that binds us together.  Whenever we meet up and chat, whoever we are, everyday, all day, we tell stories – ’Guess what happened….I’m not talking to my mum….Did you go out with him?  What was it like?…I want to go to India…My cat’s eaten next door’s goldfish…The dog’s looking guilty about something too…’ Quite often we talk about stories we’ve seen on TV:  Coronation Street, East Enders, Hannah Montana, X Files, Stargate, soaps, series, films, any of the great treasure chest of stories that are there for the taking 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round.  Stories help you make sense of your life, where you stand, what you value, how you behave and why.  More than that they help us understand other people, so that when you hear someone say ’I hate her, why does she behave like that?’  you might dig a little deeper and find out the true story beneath the surface.

Writing was my favourite pastime when I was young and stayed with me through the years, though ‘creative writing’ or ‘fiction’ had no part in my lessons at school.  The nearest I got to it was to submit a creative piece as part of my A level in English Literature, which was not to be shown to the teacher, but went straight to the examiner in a plain brown envelope!

At uni, doing an English degree, again there was no place for my own creative work, but I submitted a few poems to various magazines and competitions and got nowhere, until one of my poems was returned with a big tick!  A small sign of appreciation but enough to spur me on.

It was twenty-three years later, after a career in full time teaching, marriage and three children, that I began to take my writing more seriously.  I joined a writers’ group with the sole aim of getting something published.  We had to write a 2000 word short story every week for ten weeks. Believe me, that’s a terrifying challenge for a ‘newbie‘.  I sat in front of that blank page, sweating myself into a migraine to think of what to write.  Because I was born stubborn though, I did write something, about 1200 words, and though it had lots of flaws, my tutor said some kind things about it and, again, it was enough to keep me going.

After a house move half way across the country, I joined another writers’ group run by several experienced and published writers, who helped me to craft my work to sell.  Finally three of my stories were published in various magazines and I was encouraged to write my first novel, Dark Thread, a time slip adventure for children, based in Cromford, a village near where I live in Derbyshire.  The publishers turned this down four times before it was finally accepted. Stubborn old me just kept making a few changes and sending it back and Dark Thread was published in 1998, seven years after my first stumbling efforts.  That was how it all began and I‘m still here!  Hooray!

‘The Mark of Edain’ is now available as an audio book, on 4 CDs, produced by Oakhill Publishing and read beautifully by Ruth Sillers.  More info from:www.oakhillpublishing.com.

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