Invitations and Publications

As I thought, full time teaching leaves no time for writing! I am loving my job though; the school is lovely. There’s no creative energy left at the end of the day but I am still getting lots of ideas which I try to catch. I intend to go part-time for various reasons from February onwards, if everything works out.

I was invited to the People’s Friend 150th anniversary party last Weds, which was lovely! Met some other writers and some of the editorial team. Very glad I went.

I’m currently editing the proof copy of my short story collection which was delivered a week ago. There are heaps more things to edit now I’ve seen it in the flesh… I’m hoping to get it finished within a couple of months, and get it out there to sell! Be lovely if it got picked up by a publisher. And if it doesn’t, well it’s a great way to ‘finish’ a few years’ work, take a breath and begin some new things. It’ll contain a number of my published stories, some entirely new ones and a couple of pieces of flash that I particularly like. I’m collecting some Sci-Fi stories and memoirs for other collections.

I said, three years ago, that I’d focus on entering competitions, writing as much as I could and aiming towards a collection of work being published. Self-publishing wasn’t the route I wanted to go, but having had it edited and then worked on formatting it for KDP myself, I’m actually really loving the process of complete control of it and being able to do exactly what I want with it. More than anything, it’s really fun!  I want now to include some photographs and drawings which fit with some of the stories.

I miss writing, but I was needing a change of scenery. The winter loomed and I began to feel a little down. I’ve not felt a moment’s depression since I went back to work. Teaching is a wonderful challenge on a daily basis and I’m lucky to have ended up where I am. I’ll work part time eventually; we’ve got a house move on the horizon; life will get mad busy as we transit from a smallish cottage to somewhere bigger an completely new with land; things will settle and I’ll finally have a wee office, where I can grab those ideas and work with them. I work incredibly well when time is squished anyway, and the balance of getting out and working will, hopefully, give me even more ideas.

Getting older is great in so many ways. Never have I had so much confidence and self esteem, belief in myself and my abilities. I see the world differently, can write better, can express myself much more clearly and can self-edit to a better degree. I feel like a better person, a better mother, friend and wife. I’m not afraid of anything anymore except the cancer coming back and dying young. Anything up to 96 I consider young. So it’s been good, for me, being in my 40s. The thing now is though, my body’s beginning to get creaky. Already. I’m only 46. 2019 for me is going to be about a focus on health, eating right, the right supplements, keeping an eye on myself. Having had two life-threatening things in the last six years, I really don’t need any more.

Next time I write in this blog, my book will be u for sale, polished and ready to face the world!

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That smiley-published feeling

Aaaaahhhhhh… there it is. An inner smile that I’m in print and on a website… It’s been a while since I had any news. I’m back teaching full time – so not part of the plan but I fell in love with it again after going back to supply teaching and I’ve found myself in a lovely rural school with great kids and lovely colleagues doing a term’s English cover. Happy!

I sold a couple of stories to The lovely People’s Friend again which is a great, and I’m on the Reflex Fiction site this week, with a little piece of flash. Still waiting on one or two other things but I’m not sending stuff out because a) teaching takes  a lot of time and energy and b) I’m saving everything for my self-publishing adventure, due to start soonish. If stuff happens to do well but it’s already published, I’d have to withdraw it. Kind of a win if I lose, win if I win thing.

Teaching takes a lot of creative energy. For three weeks I’ve written not a thing – not one thing! That feels strange. I feel out of practice. I miss it however I tend to fall down big dark mental holes in Winter and as my house can be very dark it’s not a good season for me to be at home. The work came along at the best time for me and every morning I look forward to going in. I have, however, had the pleasure of teaching creative writing to four of my classes. And some of them have even enjoyed it.

Bye for now…

On Impulsiveness

Being impulsive is GREAT if you’re a writer. Have an idea? Get it down! Got a story in your head? Write a first draft at furious speed at random times of day or night! Yes, it’s great. Handy. Except when it comes to waiting for results to come in (currently waiting on 21 results – competitions and submissions) and then I am checking every ten minutes and annoying myself by not being able to not check…

And also now – I’ve spent the morning formatting my book, or beginning to. The last step eluded me but I was chuffed as the whole thing looked impossible at first, but the KDP publishing info was spot on and talked me through it. I was nothing short of amazed when I followed the steps and then cool stuff happened to my manuscript, (I’ve got those dropped capitals on the first paragraphs of stories, and everything!) especially as my laptop is a pensioner. The problem now is, do I wait for all the results to come in, in case some have won or been accepted for publication, or do I just publish everything including the things I’m waiting to hear about (which are some of my best)? Because I want to do it NOW.  I want to send my collection out there NOW. I can order a proof copy today if I like, but that would mean withdrawing all the stuff that’s out there that I’ve entered as things have to be mostly previously unpublished, and that counts by me as well.

Dilemmas…

I’ll have to wait. I know this, or I’ll have to take out what I think are some of my best stories that I’m cautiously hopeful will do well.

I was waiting for a publisher to have a look but they’ve had it since August so I’ve run out of hope that they’re going to take it on. Which is fine. I can deal with that and the control freak in me will be delighted that I have full control of MY book. It’s been edited by someone other than me, so hopefully it’ll be okay. Hopefully it’ll be MORE than okay.

Anyway I’ve been staring at my computer screen for hours so it’s time for a lunch break and a rest. And a pat on the back for not being scared of technology and thinking instead, ‘I can do this’ when looking at what initially looked like horrendously complicated formatty stuff.

Yes. Today’s word.

Teaching!

I was told once, ‘get a job you love and write as a hobby’ – setting out to be a writer straight off rarely works. Great advice that led me to teaching. I’ve been tutoring from home most recently but earlier this year went on the supply list for the local council. I was fortunate this term to pick up a part time short term cover post in my subject, English. The first few days were a steep learning curve – I’ve been out of the classroom for a while – but I’ve absolutely loved being back. The English department staff couldn’t have been friendlier and the students are largely a nice bunch, with some bits of attitude here and there. Kids have got a lot lippier since I was last at the chalkface. It’s been great to teach writing again – I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to teach creative writing to most of the classes. There are some very talented young writers out there and I’d forgotten how much I love inspiring young minds to make stuff up.

My holiday let goes a bit quiet in the winter so income is needed, and I just feel very lucky that the job I do is one I enjoy. It’s tiring, but it’s also energising.

Today was the first acceptance – well, a longlist which means publication on site and in print next year – for AGES. Happy me to get that email this morning. I have had 14 rejections in a row.

I did hear back from one of the publishers I sent my short story collection off to, but they offered me one of those ‘you pay a bit’ contracts in which the bit is four figures. Erm, no thanks. Still holding out hope for another publisher who are looking at it, and if they say no I might just self publish, but get it copy edited and read by as many people as I can first.

My words feel all a bit jumbled today – the holiday let suddenly got busy this week so I’m currently spinning a few plates. I’ll sign off for now and try to write something a little more intelligent-sounding next time….

On Following Dreams and Submitting Work

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was six years old. Possibly before – but I remember reading Secret Seven aged six and wishing I could make stories like that. The first book I wanted to write (aged seven) had the terrible title ‘But I Only Want a Pony’. I’ve moved on from that, thankfully, and my titles have got a bit better.

At the age of nine in 1981 I was at a Montessori school in Nairobi, Kenya, easily the single best year of my childhood. I don’t remember doing a lot of ‘work’ – or, work as I knew it from my school in Yorkshire – but the ethos of Montessori schools is to facilitate learning, find out what the child wants to learn, rather than TEACH. During my year I learned a lot about life and I wrote a book. It was called ‘Going to China by Boat’. It was a fully illustrated 39 page thing that I loved more than anything. I’ve still got it, and whenever I feel doubts (thankfully not often) I dig it out and remind myself that I’m following a path I started walking many, many years ago. In my story we sailed from Mombasa to China. We had stacks of magazines at our disposal and the pictures I didn’t draw were cut out of  old National Geographics. I remember writing it clear as day.

As I grew up I realised that knowing what you want to do with your life is a blessing – many people don’t. It’s also a curse, because until you do it you’re not quite alive.

The dream of being a writer has never ever left me and has meant a constant stream of ideas flowing through my head, all day and night long. If I don’t write for a period of time I get bunged up. I’ve no idea WHY I want to be a writer, I just do. I feel like it’s why I’m here. When I sit writing, I feel absolutely content. Each story is like a puzzle and I have to work it out. I seldom know where a story is going until it ends – or if I do this changes along the way. I don’t feel any great desire to be rich and famous but I would like to earn enough so that I can do it full time.

I was given some great advice by writers I’ve met:

1) Geoffrey Malone, children’s writer: Get a job you enjoy and write as a hobby – if you’re lucky the writing will one day take over. I became a teacher – my second passion – but the trouble with that is it needs a lot of creative and physical energy and there wasn’t much left at the end of the day to actually write. At the moment I’m incredibly lucky – we had the good fortune of working abroad and being able to stash cash before we came home and this we’ve invested in a business, a holiday let, which, though hard work, is perfect for dreaming up stories. At the moment my days are balanced equally between the two and I am so incredibly grateful to be able to do this.

2) Finish stuff before you start editing. No matter how godawful your writing appears to be (and it probably isn’t), Get To The End, and then rewrite it as many times as you like. I’ve been told/read this numerous times and it’s the most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever had. NaNoWriMo is the best way to learn this.

3) Find your original voice. Simon Gandolfi, novelist and ghost/travel writer, once told me (during a drunken night at a bike stopover in Buenos Aires when our paths crossed) that there are no original plots. None. I argued the point, still not sure. However he said the thing is to find your voice, your way of telling the story. Don’t be like ANYONE else!

4) Find your own way of writing. Some people are plotters, some are not. Some are planners, some are not. Some are day writers, some are night owls. Etc.

5) Never, ever give up. Get a thick skin, take criticism, don’t be precious about your work, believe in it but be willing to work with editors, get a good group of supportive readers. Keep on following that dream. I’m probably (if I’m lucky, going on past experience) about halfway through my life. I’ve been published in around 14 anthologies and five large circulation magazines. I’ve been part of a Scottish book trust project that had a circulation of 150,000.  All of this, a few years ago, would have seemed impossible. But a few years ago I found the courage and confidence to start sending stuff off. I’ve learned heaps on the way, met some great people, and know that this is still just the beginning.

6) Never stop trying to improve. Editing is it….

Following your dream isn’t easy. But if it’s a true dream it won’t leave you alone, even if you try to run away!

On submitting – this is my very own advice:

1) I’m able to pick my own hours at work – very lucky. However, I’m still the one who does most of the housework, cooking, cleaning, washing etc etc. I’ve had to learn to be able to work surrounded by chaos. If I began tidying, I’d never get a thing written so I do the minimum and simply pretend the rest isn’t there. As long as there’s a bit of time left to cook a meal and shove some washing in the machine, the rest can wait until I’ve no inspiration (fortunately not often). I feel incredibly fortunate that I really don’t give a stuff what state my house is in and if friends come over they know what to expect.

2) I try to have several things out on submission at once. Even if I think there’s only a slim chance of something being accepted, if they’re out there I feel more like a real writer and the hope keeps me going. At the moment there are 13 short stories out there (to as many free subs as poss)  and I’m waiting to hear from two publishers about possible short story collection publication plus a novel is out to a different publisher – not massively hopeful about this one however.

3) Mostly, rejection doesn’t bother me (it used to, a little, but my dad used to have this mantra, A Myatt Never Gives Up. It stuck.) If it does, I give it a day, pick myself up and start all over again.

4) I submit each story five times, six if I’m really in love with it. Often things rejected by a few places get picked up on the fourth or fifth outing to the world. If it’s still not accepted or longlisted somewhere at the very least, I do tend to retire it and put it away and chalk it up to learning. Sometimes I rewrite it and try again. Sometimes this works. Sometimes I’m dead lucky and a story finds a home right away.

5) I read lots of books. This year I’m trying for a book a week. I am just about on schedule. The only time I read is on holiday or in bed, or on the sofa with the kids after school. I also follow lots of writers on Twitter – their advice is always helpful. And it helps knowing other writers, people who don’t think you’ve gone seriously hatstand for wanting to sit all alone and make things up and live inside your head!

6) I once read that the first million words are, for a writer, an apprenticeship. I worked out one day I was roughly halfway through this, maybe more. So, keep on writing, just keep writing…

7) Prioritise: I often eat cold onion bhajias or something else bonkers that I’ve grabbed from the fridge for breakfast so my writing time is maxed out. Anything I can skip on during the day means more writing time. I don’t iron. I dust when the dust is 3D. Sinks get cleaned when I notice they’re grotty. I don’t watch much TV and if I do it tends to be a movie.

And on that note, I’ve got a holiday let to go and clean. Hope to be back on my comp writing my latest story in a couple of hours, for a couple of hours before school pick up.

Inspirational quote of the day (I’ve a book of them in my bog):

 

I do not think there is any quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes everything, even nature.

John D Rockefeller

Rejection Summer

And it was. One after the other! But I’m an expert at getting back up again and being thick skinned. I learnt fast – let rejection bounce off you or don’t be a writer. We all know that one…

I tweet every now and then and one of my most-retweeted tweets was the one about sending each story out five times before putting it in the File of Doom. Generally most stories find a home before five outings but occasionally it does take that long. It’s a case of right words, right judges, right time instead of one of those elements missing. I was told by a few writers that Twitter was essential in terms of self-marketing, being noticed and networking. Frankly I didn’t think I had time but out of all the social media blah it’s the one that seems quickest to be part of and most useful in terms of content.

There were a couple of successes (see Read Me Here) but lots of Thanks but No Thankses.

One of my thanks but nos was from Cornerstones, who looked at my short story collection. It’s now off elsewhere on its journey to find a home but if it doesn’t get picked up I’ll self-publish. It was looked at during my Cornerstones mentorship so I’m happy it’s as good as it can be.

The summer was busy, sunny and full of friends and laughter and wine and music and kids’ stuff. I didn’t get much writing done – but lots of ideas got captured as they passed by and I pulled them into my notepad. I’m working on them now. New Writing Project is into the 20K word area, so getting on well and I’m getting to know my two main characters well… at the moment they’re at Glastonbury in 1994, narrowly missing each other…

My aim this Autumn is to prioritise writing more. I get involved in all sorts of community things which is great and fulfilling and generally fun, but also time consuming. Every now and then I say yes too much, realise I’m over-committed and spend a few weeks stepping backwards. One of those times coming up now. Life is short and I have a lot of words to write.

 

 

13,000

13,000 words into my new project and I’m starting to get to know my characters better. I heard David Mitchell speak once at a meet the author type event and he said one of the ways he gets to know his characters before he even writes a word is to write them letters, and get them to write to him. I chat to mine in my head, and sort of see the world through their eyes whilst I’m writing them, but it takes me a good chunk of writing them in before they properly take shape. Once they do, the story kind of takes off itself and I struggle to keep up, my typos getting more and more frequent. (I type with four fingers and the P on my keyboard doesn’t work very well. So it’s not great typing. I always promised myself I’d learn properly but never have – I’m fast, but sketchy as hell. And my four fingers get sore – a sort of keyboard hammering injury.) Once I’ve done that, I go back and read the beginning again once I know them better, and often things have changed, so big chunks get rewritten. But not until it’s all finished! It’s the bit of advice I read most often. FINISH IT FIRST. And I think it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

Nice comments on the latest shortlist, which made me smile 🙂

https://www.grindstoneliterary.com/blog/flash-fiction-500-winners