As this is my first blog on here and my first ever publication day is only eleven days away, I thought it fairly fitting to fill you in with how I got here…
‘One day I’ll write a book,’ I would say, gazing dreamily into some far away land of plentiful pens and pretty notebooks, gentle breezes and sun-dappled flowery meadows…
‘Mam, will you play with me?’ ‘Is tea ready?’ Boomf! Back at the kitchen table staring at the pile of books to be marked for school the following morning and a cup of curdling cold coffee staring sorrowfully at me. Reality. That lovely dream slowly creeping back into the deep recesses of my mind to collect more cobwebs.
That’s how it is. It’s life. It’s working and raising a family. And if you’re reading this blog (thank you very much, by the way) and are nodding and sighing and saying, ‘Yes! That’s what it’s like. I want to write a book. I have a book in me, I know I do,’ then heed my advice. Get your bottom on a chair and write. No more ‘one days’. Just do it. And commit to it because believe me, you are going to need platinum-plated commitment.
I started with short stories, entering them into competitions. To my sheer disbelief, I was placed or shortlisted in several. It was the rocket fuel that I so desperately needed. It gave me that precious flickering of self-belief. I was writing my own words then taking a coal-pit deep breath and clicking send. Even had I not been placed in these various competitions, they were getting me to write and more importantly, they were forcing me to allow someone else to read my work. That, for me, was the biggest hurdle to leap. But it’s one that you have to, if you want to be an author; it’s not necessary if writing is simply your quaint little hobby (as has been uttered on several occasions by various family members).
I knew I wanted to write for children. I devoured books as a child, disappearing into those magical worlds through wardrobes and up trees. I wanted to be back there. I wanted magic and excitement, believing and holding my breath in anticipation.
I doodled and doddled with some stories but they didn’t feel quite right. I was waiting for that something. That idea that would grab me from my day-dreamy doddling and scream, ‘This is it. This is the story I have to write.’ Dramatics aside, that’s exactly how it happened. I was driving to work and the name Grace-Ella just pirouetted gracefully through my mind. I executed a perfect emergency stop, swung my car into a layby and started to frantically write notes.
So the story began. My alarm was regimentally set for 4.30am, and fuelled by far too much coffee, I tapped away for two hours before having to face real life. It took a year before I finally typed ‘The End’. But I had done it. I had written a book.
That’s why I said you need commitment. I was committed to writing my story mainly because I was enjoying every early morning second. I loved my story. I loved my characters. Having it published didn’t enter my mind at this stage. I wasn’t thinking about which age group my story was targeted at or word counts or whether it could sell. I was simply writing the story that was bubbling away in my brain.
It was after finishing the story that I started to think about being published. I read the ‘Children’s Writers & Artists Yearbook’ from cover to cover. I made lists of publishers and agents and read about the almost zero percent chance of being published. But to be honest, I wasn’t too disheartened. I had written a book. That’s what I had set out to do and that is what I had achieved.
Quite by chance, I came across a new Wales-based publishers called Firefly Press. I looked them up and instantly I felt a little shift. A slight fluttering in my stomach. I loved what they were setting out to achieve. A series of stories for 7-9 year olds, based in Wales. Now I’m a great believer in love at first sight. It happens to me all the time with chocolate bars; I suppose yes, it did happen with my husband (I know – spewy) and it also happened with Firefly Press (I know – creep).
So taking that ridiculously deep breath and closing my eyes, I sent my book into the cyber world to land with a tinkle at the Firefly Press office. And then I waited. And I waited a bit more. And a little bit more … until the email finally came for a full-manuscript request … then an offer to meet up! Start of hyperventilation.
And so it began. Editing. Tweaking. Waiting. Nail-biting. Sighing dramatically. Crying hysterically. Flinging myself onto the sofa Austen style … until THE email came. An offer of publication. I had gone beyond my dream. I was floating on pink fluffy clouds. I was doing the conga around the house with my sons. I terrified my husband with my screams as I was pregnant at the time.
The baby wasn’t coming, but my first book was. My first written baby had been snapped up and was going to become a real book that real children could read and would sit on real shop shelves.
This book, ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’, will be publishing on the 15th of this month. In two weeks’ time. And it’s surreal and terrifying and exciting and demands frequent visits to the toilet due to the excitement. It’s happening. It really and truly is and now I’m crying as I write this (I know – soppy).
So, if you’re still with me (thank you) I suppose I’ll sum up my advice if you’re just getting started.
- Commitment – you have to get your bottom on a chair and write.
- Enjoyment – you have to love what you’re writing otherwise you will smash up your laptop/tear-up your notebook and just dissolve into a heap on the floor.
- Self-belief – you have to take that scary plunge and let others read your work.
- Perseverance – believe me, getting published is a very slow process.
- Strong pelvic floor muscles – the excitement level of getting a publishing deal really is rather forceful.
If you’ve already got to number 5 – HOORAY! You’ve done it. Now go back to Number 1 and start all over again. If you’ve got to number 4 and have received a rejection – HOORAY! You’ve written a book. Now go back to Number 1 and start all over again. Keep going. Don’t give up. I have learnt that tomorrow can be snatched away in the blink of an eye, so don’t put it off any longer. Write that story; the one you know feels right for you … Are you still here? Go, go grab your pen and notebook … but if you fancy a little break in your writing and perhaps a refreshing strollette to a bookshop on September the 15th, you may come across ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’, and well, um … perhaps you’d like to buy it … only if you want to mind (I know – shameless).
Now, I’m off to the loo.
Happy writing xx