A very happy new year to you all!
(Well, it’s still January. Just.)
I hope 2019 has started off well for you. This year I didn’t make any resolutions. I usually do, but this year I actively chose not to. They never work – well, they don’t for me, anyway. By the end of January, the diet de jour – started so enthusiastically and oh-so-religiously – has usually ground to a sticky (and sweet!) halt. The ambitious new gym routine has often seamlessly morphed into a series of chiropractic appointments after one too many badly-executed burpees. And I am left feeling broke, dispirited, a failure. Who needs that? But there’s another reason for not making any resolutions. All those promises of a ‘new year, new you’. Well, this year, I decided I didn’t actually want to be a ‘new me’. I am quite happy being the current me, with all my flaws and failures and inconsistencies. There was a moment, two hours into the new year, when hubbie and returned from an evening with good friends. 19 year son was just back from clubbing and 16 year old daughter was hosting a gathering – or was it a motive? – for a maximum of seven friends – although I must have been seeing double after all the booze. 😉 We all shared a cuppa and I realised that I am utterly blessed and exactly where I want to be.
(I did have a little thought, though, that maybe if I didn’t make any resolutions, reverse psychology would kick in and I would effortlessly lose a stone and become lithe and supple. To date, I must report, it hasn’t happened.)
Anyway, all this doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals and aims for 2019 and this particularly applies to my writing. I am determined to give 100% to any opportunities that come my way this year and to keep the dream alive. One opportunity that I have been really really happy to embrace is to join with four of my writing buddies, Jane Cable, Kitty Wilson, Susanna Bavin and Cass Crafton to form Sister Scribes. We have positioned ourselves as women writers about women writing. We will be appearing on the Frost Website every week and we’ve just got our own twitter handle. Please do come and take a look.
I remember my lovely Mum crying when she dropped me off at university for the first time. At the time, I wondered why. Even from the depths of my teenage self-absorption, I was aware I hadn’t been the easiest of daughters and that I’d elevated stroppiness and moodiness into an art form. Surely, she’d be thrilled to see the back of me! And yet, here was my usually calm and controlled mother sobbing like a baby as she said goodbye.
Well, last weekend, it was my turn, and now I know exactly how my mum was feeling. Taking my gorgeous son – who has had his teenage moments too – to university, was such a potent cocktail of conflicting emotions that, nearly a week later, I’m still reeling.
I know this is not about me. This is my son’s time, his story, his adventure. And I know, it’s far from a unique story – up and down the country, nearly half a million mums and dads and carers are saying their goodbyes in exactly the same way. But, in a way, it is about the parents too. We try to bring them up to help them fly when the time is right, but the act of letting go is so HARD.
It’s a bittersweet pride and excitement and a kind of slipping-through-my-fingers grief. Slight bafflement that the boy I thought I knew is now an adult, popping off to enrol, stopping in to greet people from his hall he’d already met though social media. When did he become so independent, so confident … a man? And, of course, there is a whole dollop of nostalgia too – remembering the fear, the excitement, the occasional loneliness and the time I thought it would be a good idea to heat up a tin of baked beans by putting the whole unopened thing into a pan of boiling water …
The whole social media is a double-edged sword – or is that just me. It’s lovely to have short, frequent interactions and better, surely, than the once weekly phone call from the public phone box in the drafty college corridor. But it also means you’re aware of their habits in a way I’m sure isn’t good for either of us. So, he’s not been on WhatsApp since 3.33am last night. Is he sleeping off a brilliant night out or huddled under the covers after a dark night of the soul? Should I call? Send someone to check on him? Pop round? I know, I know. Helicopter parent or what?! (Luckily my husband is on hand to talk some sense into me!)
So, it’s been an interesting week. Full of highs and lows. Writing on the back burner.
Normal service will resume shortly.
Have a blast, my lovely boy.
We’re so proud of you.
I loved writing stories as a child – dreadful Famous Five fan-fiction – but I wanted be a farmer’s wife when I grew up. (The type that fed baby lambs in the kitchen while churning butter, obvs.) I stopped writing as a teen but, over the years, I talked about writing a book. Get around to it one day… when work calmed down, when I had a baby (surely I could write a book and do a PhD while it napped!) when the kids were at school, when I retired, when, when, when…
Then work went quiet and one of my friends called me out. Instead of moaning about my bank balance, now was the time to hit the keyboard. I had no excuse…
And so, I started writing. I wrote the book in fits and starts depending on my workload – because, of course, work picked up big time – never really believing I would finish it. I made every mistake known to mankind, trying to get it right before it was written (painstakingly polishing passages that didn’t even make the final cut) and then sending it out to agents as soon as I’d finished the first draft. I don’t think it really had a plot. Let alone a narrative arc!
I was lucky enough to get some very generous and positive rejections from agents and so I set about working out what the book was really about and redrafting it. Meanwhile I had joined the Twitter community and started to find out that fellow writers really are the most generous and lovely bunch. A bunch of us formed the Literary Lovelies – LLs – an online message group that encourages, supports and mops up the tears when things don’t go to plan. Even though I’m always warning my teens to be wary of people they meet online, the LLs have turned out to be wonderful friends in real life too!
Anyway, a couple of drafts later, I started submitting my manuscript again and, this time, I was lucky enough to have a little flurry of interest from agents. I chose to sign with Felicity Trew from the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Felicity is advocate, enabler, co-conspirator and therapist all in one and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.