Tag Archives: publication

Preparing for Publication Day

As I write, it’s ten days out from the publication of my debut novel, The Eye of the North.

Ten.

Days.

This is a time I’ve been imagining since I was a little girl who loved to read and dream and think. It’s a time I’ve been hoping to experience ever since, aged twenty, I began to write my first book, about a girl called Maria and a boy called Barry who stumble through a crack in an old tree and end up in a bespelled Fairyland under the rule of a sleeping queen. (It wasn’t very good.) It’s a time I’ve seriously wondered about since 2012, when I started this blog, and made the decision to focus on writing a book, and began to look at ways to actually get published for real.

And now, it’s finally here.

I thought it would be one long buzz of excitement, but truthfully – well. Truthfully, it’s a bit scary.

Author Copy from MN

My first author copy of The Eye of the North, sent by Melanie Nolan, my wonderful editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. (Photo: SJ O’Hart; cover artist credit: Jeff Nentrup)

The moment things first began to get real was when I received a finished copy of my book in the post, in an envelope bearing the logo of Penguin Random House, sent from New York City.

Sent to me.

Little old me? Eeek.

It arrived. It sat in my kitchen for a few minutes. And then I opened it and held it, and began to quiver a bit. This is really happening, I thought. This book, this idea you hugged to yourself for fifteen years and then worked so hard to bring out of your brain, is actually sitting here in your hands, wrapped up between boards.

It’s hard to describe how I felt at that moment. You’d think it would be uncomplicated joy – and, certainly, joy is part of it – but the joy is mixed up with fear (will people hate it?) and doubt (why did I ever think anyone would read a book by me, anyway?) and an overwhelming sense of weight, perhaps responsibility, that now this book will be in the world, readable by anyone, and maybe – most terrifyingly of all – someone, somewhere, will love it the same way I love the books which formed me.

 

TEoTN and Alan Garner

The Eye of the North meets some of its older cousins. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

I think, if someone were to (metaphorically) cut me open, I would bleed words. Books are such a part of me that I practically rustle when I walk. The books I love are carried within me all the time; I think about them on a daily basis, bringing to mind favourite scenes, quotes, characters and even artwork to comfort and sustain me. I never thought about it from the other side until I considered the idea of becoming an author myself – I saw books, and their creators, as things and beings separate from the run of the mill ordinariness of everyday life, forgetting that they were simply people, too, who loved to dream and find words and put them down on paper, just like me. Now that I have written a book, and some very fine people indeed have seen fit to publish it, I wonder: what might it be like to enter the heart and mind of a reader, to be taken with them wherever they go, to be remembered ten, twenty, or more years from now, the cover art from my book thought of with fondness, a turn of phrase first encountered in my writing recalled with warm satisfaction?

And I think: what a privilege.

And what a frightening thing.

Books really do shape minds. They really do affect a person’s way of thinking, feeling, and seeing the world. Books foster empathy and compassion; they heighten a person’s sense of connection with the world around them and the people in it. Books make you part of someone else. They make you imagine how it would be to live as someone else, someone whose life is vastly different to your own. They draw you in and make you feel and make you hope. Is it any wonder they’re so loved? And now my story, and my characters, have become part of that giant, neverending waterfall of words and images – a tiny part, of course, a mere droplet in the flood – but perhaps someone will find a reflection of themselves in my odd little Emmeline or my gutsy, loving Thing, or my brave, loyal Igimaq and my book will become a little building block in the makeup of their mind. How amazing is that?

So, it’s not necessarily seeing my words in print which has so astounded me, though it is astounding. It’s the sense that I might touch someone (and just one person would be enough) with something I’ve written, and make them laugh, or think, or look afresh at something they thought was familiar. What a wonder that is.

It’s a tough old world out there, these days. Things are grim, and dark, and frightening. But books help. I hope you’ll take comfort in a book – it needn’t necessarily be mine, though of course I’d love if it were – and remember that no matter how terrible things might seem, someone somewhere took the time to think up a story, write it down, and share it in the hope of making things better.

Stories make things better. Stories make us who we are, both on a cultural and a personal level. Never give up on stories, and you’ll be doing the best you can to leave the world better than you found it. Tell them, write them, share them, love them, pass them on. Let them live. Live them.

Author Copies of TEoTN

Me, in my kitchen, opening a box of author copies of The Eye of the North. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

Thank you to everyone who has been here with me since August 2012. Almost exactly five years to the day after I started this blog, I am going to be a published author – and I hope that fact gives someone hope, encouragement, and strength to find their own dream and make it real. It can be done.

So, go do it.

*Sigh*. It’s Complicated.

You may remember this post, when I told y’all that my book, The Eye of the North, was all set for publication next February 14.

Yeah.

Well.

Y’see.

Publishing’s a complicated business. There are lots of layers to it, rather like a cake (though publishing’s probably a bit harder to eat, not that I’ve tried). Many people are making decisions, and there are hundreds of variables to take into account (some of them to do with things like ‘marketing’ and ‘sales’, which bring me out in a rash) and dates for publication get shoved around all the time.

And for that reason, the clever folk at Knopf (who know about things like markets, and sales, and all that stuff) have decided to push back the release of The Eye of the North a little, until August 22, 2017. So, it won’t be in your sweaty little mitts next spring, after all. More like next ‘fall’, to use the lovely American term. Which suits, in a way, because the book is a bit wintry, a bit of an ‘end of year’ story, and one that lends itself well to longer, darker evenings tucked in beside the fire.

That doesn’t mean I’m not sad that it’s delayed. And it doesn’t mean I’m not a little embarrassed to have to write this post. But these things do happen, and they happen to better and more established writers than me.

Anyway, it gives me more time to get everyone’s appetites whetted, and to drum up some excitement, and to come up with clever ways to keep everyone interested in my little story. This will include (all in good time) a cover reveal, and maybe a little competition or two to keep things peppy. We’ll see how it goes.

My apologies if (you’re my mother and) you were looking forward to the book being released in February – I hope the delay will make you keener, rather than the opposite. Any further updates I have will be posted here on the blog, and I want to thank everyone who was so congratulatory and kind when I announced the previous publication date. I don’t always have time these days to respond to messages – but I read them all and I’m very grateful for every one. Thank you!

borealis

A suitably borealis-y night sky to get you all in the mood… Image: unsplash.com Photographer: Priscilla Westra

 

Fancy a Date?

Guys, guys, guys. How have you all been?

Life is insane for me at the moment. I miss this blog so much – believe me, I do – but I just never get time to sit into my comfy old blogging seat (grey with dust at this stage) and update you all on what’s happening in my life.

Well, to be fair, not a lot is actually happening, on a day-to-day basis, besides keeping myself and a baby alive, (mostly) clean, and fairly well fed, but that in itself is an achievement.

It’s not what you lot signed up for, though, is it? No. No, it is not. You signed up for hot-off-the-presses insights into the publishing industry, sizzling updates from the coalface of writing, incisive commentary on the cutthroat world of children’s literature. Right? And, finally, I have something sort of like that to share, so I’m here to tell you about it for as long as baby’s nap lasts. In other words, not long.

Onwards!

So. First things first. My little book – you may remember it, it’s called The Eye of the North – now has its own Goodreads page. How exciting! It also has its own page on Amazon.com, which is thrilling also. If you’d like to, you know, go and pre-order it or mark it as ‘to read’, I’d be… well. I’d be tongue-tied with gratitude, frankly. There’s a wonderful blurb all about it on both those fine websites, which should whet the most arid of appetites, and I’m being compared to the great Karen Foxlee, which is just… mind-boggling, and it all feels so insanely real now.

happy sun

Squee! Photo Credit: MsSaraKelly via Compfight cc

I can also reveal the date my book will (hopefully) be published – February 14th, 2017. Yes, that’s right. Valentine’s Day. All those years I sat fruitlessly by the front door of my parents’ house waiting for cards from admirers to drop through can suck it, frankly. Next Valentine’s Day, my book is going to be published.

In America and Canada. In hardcover! By Knopf/Random House Children’s Books.

(As you might have guessed from the italics, I’m rather excited).

No Valentine’s card (well, all right, excepting one from my husband and/or baby) can compare with that.

I will hopefully have a cover to share with you all very soon, and when I get the go-ahead from on high I’ll splash it all over the place… I mean, tastefully and unobtrusively draw attention to it. And after that, all I have to do is wait for the big day!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off. I have excited bouncing to do and a baby’s lunch to make. Ta-ta for now, but I hope there’ll be loads more exciting news very soon!

 

 

I’m Ba-aaack!

Image: spinoff.comicbookresources.com

Image: spinoff.comicbookresources.com

Did you miss me?

Probably not, I’m wagering. I should think you’d probably have missed me a lot more if I’d done a better job of going away to begin with. I didn’t blog very much, true, but I wasn’t as absent from Twitter as I’d planned (darn you, smartphone!); and I did a lot of dropping in on Facebook, too. As well as all that, my brain was always ‘on’. It’s something which I’m really going to have to work on, you know, this tendency I have to never stop thinking. It’s almost like my mind goes even more doolally over writing-related stuff when I know I’m not supposed to be thinking about it.

So, long story short: I’m only back from two weeks ‘off’, and I feel as tired as ever. Wahey!

However, one of the reasons I’m tired is that, during the last couple of weeks, several cool things happened. I can’t go into detail about them all yet, but – all in good time, my dears. All in good time.

The first cool thing is: I read a whack-ton of books, some of which I’ve been asked to review for a brilliant kidlit-related publication which will be out later in the year. The books included Witch Light (originally published as Corrag, and read just for pleasure) by Susan Fletcher, which was a beautifully written story of one young woman’s struggle to escape her impending execution and her recounting of the massacre at Glencoe in 17th-century Scotland, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Shockingly, I’d never managed to get around to reading the latter until now, despite it languishing on my TBR-list for years. I also devoured The Wolf in Winter, the new John Connolly novel (again, this was just for me!) and it was as fascinating as any of his previous Charlie Parker books. I love and adore children’s and YA books, of course, but it is nice to step into the realm of adult literature every once in a while (if only to reaffirm your conviction that kidlit is way better).

Speaking of which, did you read this article by Ruth Graham, published in Slate on June 5th, about how adults who read YA literature should be ashamed of themselves? Yeah. Well, you can all probably guess how I feel about that particular viewpoint. Let’s just say it did my heart good to watch the backlash to this article’s publication on Twitter. Author after author after reader after reader took to the airwaves (do people still say ‘airwaves’? Anyway) to promote and share the love for the YA/kidlit books that they adore, and that was wonderful to witness. In the last week alone, I’ve read a YA book about a fourteen-year-old girl tormented with guilt and self-hatred after the death of her younger brother, for which she blames herself. The story takes us through her psychiatric treatment and the depth of anguish she must face in order to deal with her pain. I’ve read books aimed at young readers which deal with death, genocide, totalitarian regimes, slavery, abuse, imprisonment, injustice and every kind of loss imaginable – in other words, nothing less than what you’d find in a literary novel – and Ruth Graham appears to take issue with YA literature because of its tendency to offer ‘neat’ and satisfying endings. To that I say ‘tosh’. Most of the YA books I’ve read show the characters coming through a crucible of some sort, learning to live with it, and then moving on somehow changed, somehow unimaginably different. Not neat. Not trite. Real.

Also, if ‘growing up’ means putting aside the magic of beautiful literature and living on an unceasing diet of Pynchon and Updike and Franzen and Banville and Roth (even though I quite like Roth), then count me out. Give me fairy tale and dreamscape and adventure and the thrill of discovery any day.

'I suspect that, for his escape, he took advantage of the migration of wild birds.' (The Little Prince, Chapter Nine). Text and illustration: Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Image sourced: mtlsd.org

‘I suspect that, for his escape, he took advantage of the migration of wild birds.’ (The Little Prince, Chapter Nine). Text and illustration: Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Image sourced: mtlsd.org

The second cool thing to happen while I was away was this: I had a story published (it’s called ‘The Monument‘, and there’s a teeny sliver of ‘bad’ language used in it, so be aware of that if you’re planning to read it). I also had another story (‘Hollow’) accepted for publication by a very cool ‘zine called ESC, and a piece I wrote about the Date with an Agent event went live on http://www.writing.ie. So, all that was plenty awesome.

The third cool thing was this: a friend asked me to join him in helping out with editorial duties on a literary journal which investigates the interplay between literature and science. So far my role has included such duties as brainstorming themes, thinking up submission guidelines and trying to write a cool, snappy bio, which I’ve managed with varying degrees of success. I’m sure there’ll be more to say about this in the future, but for now here’s a link to the journal’s website where you can find out more about it.

In non-writing related news: I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past and loved it; my husband had a birthday, which was great; we got to spend some time with family, which was very great, and there was actually some sunshine to enjoy, which was fantastic.

How about all y’all? How have things been over the past couple of weeks? I can’t wait to hear all your news.

Grab one o' these, pull up a chair, and let's have a chat. Image: theguardian.com

Grab one o’ these, pull up a chair, and let’s have a chat.
Image: theguardian.com

 

 

First, Find a Hat…

Submitting a novel takes a certain amount of focus and effort. It takes time, and brain-space, and most, if not all, of your guts. It doesn’t, in short, leave you a lot of time to do other things, like enter competitions or submit stories to literary magazines, which is a shame; those things are important.

It’s hard to even write a short story, though, when you feel like this:

The lemon, that is. Not the hand. Image: catalysttrainingsystems.ca

The lemon, that is. Not the hand.
Image: catalysttrainingsystems.ca

Sometimes, however, you’ve just got to tell that Muse who’s boss, and get her to start pulling her weight. If you were to wait until you felt in the fullness of your mental and physical health and/or everything in your life was shiny before you put pen to paper, you’d never write anything.

So, in that undaunted spirit, this week I’m beginning the process of submitting work to magazines and competitions afresh. I’ve just stuck my head above the parapet to check out the landscape, and realised I’ve missed a load of deadlines, which is a shame.

But, as is always the case, where one deadline passes another five sprout up to take its place, so there’s never a need for sorrow.

I have compiled a short list of competitions and/or submission opportunities (not exhaustive, just so you know: other opportunities are available!), mainly to help myself to stay focused but also to aid anyone else who might find themselves in the mood to throw their hat into the ring.

Artist: Bill Watterson Comic: Calvin and Hobbes Image sourced: helenlevel3writing.wordpress.com

Artist: Bill Watterson
Comic: Calvin and Hobbes
Image sourced: helenlevel3writing.wordpress.com

Competitions

Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition

The Skinny: Stories can be up to 2,200 words, and so long as they’ve never been published before (and they’re written in English), they can be on any subject. Entry costs £10 (sterling) and should be accompanied by a cover sheet, downloadable from the Mslexia website. First prize is £2,000 plus publication in a forthcoming issue of Mslexia.

The Complicated Bits: You have to be a woman to enter, and the closing date is next Monday, March 17th. So, get your skates on!

The Molly Keane Creative Writing Award

The Skinny: Entry is free, and there’s no restriction on the style or length of the short story submitted. You need to download an entry form from the Waterford County Council website and submit it with your story to the Waterford County Arts Office. Peachy.

The Complicated Bits: Entry closes this Friday, March 15th. Sorry about the late notice.

The Moth International Short Story Prize 2014

The Skinny: Stories can be up to 6,000 words, and must be original and not published elsewhere. A €9 entry fee allows you to enter one story, and you may enter as many stories as you like. The closing date isn’t until June 30th, which is good. You can find the rules here, and a link to online entry here. Go on, go on, go on.

The Complicated Bits: There aren’t any, really. Get on it.

The Bridport Prize

The Skinny: Bridport offers a smorgasbord of options. There’s a flash fiction competition (stories up to 250 words); a short story competition (stories up to 5000 words) and a poetry competition (poems up to 42 lines.) A variety of entry fees apply, and you should probably check out the rules, over here. Bridport offers great prizes, and wonderful exposure should you win, or be shortlisted.

The Complicated Bits: Winning is difficult, as the world and his mother tends to enter this competition. It’s reputable, popular and well worth entering, but there’ll be stiff competition. Just so you know.

MMU Novella Award

The Skinny: Have you written, or are you writing, a novella of between 20,000 and 40,000 words? Then, this is the competition for you. The prize is £1,000 plus publication, and the closing date is May 23rd, and the entry fee is £15. So long as you’re over 16 and writing in English, you’re good to go.

The Complicated Bits: Ain’t none. Well, assuming you have a novella in the works, that is. I don’t, so for me it would be nigh-on impossible. For you, though, it may be just the ticket.

Criminal Lines

The Skinny: If you’re a writer of crime, suspense or thriller novels, then listen up. A.M. Heath, an excellent agency, is looking for an unagented, unpublished crime author for their Criminal Lines prize. Amazingly, the novel you enter doesn’t even have to be finished – but you need to have a clear plan in place for the story. The prize is £1,000, but – better than that – you get to chat to some of A.M. Heath’s super-agents about your work. So, it’s well worth giving this a go if you’re the next Henning Mankell. Details are available over here.

The Complicated Bits: There aren’t any, so long as you have a twisty, nefarious brain which cooks up deliciously dark stories. I don’t. So, um. Good luck, though!

Image: avajae.blogspot.com

Image: avajae.blogspot.com

Submissions

There are literally millions of places to submit your work. Millions. I’m throwing out a few that are on the top of my head, for various reasons, but the following list is by no means complete.

ESCzine

A fabulous wee e-zine which is well worth checking out. They’re looking for submissions for their fifth issue, closing date April 30th.

Number Eleven Magazine

Possibly the most beautiful literary magazine in the ‘verse. Send them in your stuff, and maybe you’ll see it lovingly and gorgeously reproduced.

Story Shack Magazine

The best thing about this magazine is the fact that not only will you see your story in print if it’s accepted, but you’ll also be paired with an illustrator who’ll bring your vision to life.

The View From Here

Edgy and interesting, ‘The View From Here’ is a great place to stop off if you’ve some free time and fancy a read, and also if you have a slightly strange short story looking for publication. Give them a go.

Metazen

Pretty. Great stories. Wonderful ethos. Check them out!

wordlegs

wordlegs’ remit is wide – they accept poetry, short stories and flash fiction. And they’re lovely people.

The Bohemyth

You can’t go wrong with The Bohemyth. Always worth a read, and wonderfully produced. As far as I know, their submissions window is always open.

***

Wherever you choose to send your work, good luck. I hope to see you on a winners’ podium, or in print, in the near future. With any luck, I’ll be there with you. Always remember you have nothing to lose by submitting work to competitions (well, besides a small sum of money, sometimes!); every competition will make you a better writer. And – needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway – never give up.

 

 

Beep Bip, Bip Bip Beep…

Image: qualityinformationpublishers.com

Image: qualityinformationpublishers.com

Good morning, listeners! In today’s show, we’ll have old favourites like the Flash! Friday flash fiction contest, and a slight frisson of the loopiness that usually marks our Friday, but there’s also a teeny bit of news.

Are you ready?

(Audience gasping with anticipation)

Are you sure?

(Audience laughter)

Well, all right then! Here we go. Hold onto your neighbour, everybody, because…

*drumroll*

Yesterday, I managed to finish draft 1 of ‘Emmeline and the Ice-God’!

(Applause)

Yes, yes, thank you. Thank you so much!

(Sustained applause, cheering, stamping of feet, &c.)

Image: intermezzo.typepad.com

Image: intermezzo.typepad.com

Yeah, yeah, all right. So I’ll quit it with the playacting now. But – in all genuine seriousness – I am very, very glad to be the proud owner of a completed manuscript of the story of Emmeline this fine morning. It’s slightly awkward that I managed to finish it on the same day as I blogged about how it seemed to be going on… and on… and on, but I just got overtaken by a spirit of urgency yesterday, and I worked right through, all day long. I wrote over 6,000 words, and I brought that story to heel.

This means my brain’s slightly fried today, of course. I’m quite sure nobody will even notice, though.

I’m almost afraid to share the final wordcount, lest I cause some of you to have nervous and/or bilious attacks, but I guess I’ll take that chance. It came in, all told, at 93,500-something words – which, before you start pointing it out – I know is far too long. My brain’s been abuzz with ideas for pruning the beast ever since I placed the final full stop, and I’m pretty sure there’s an entire chapter near the beginning that can be entirely cut out. I’m pretty sure I can bring it down to around 80,000, or as close as possible to that figure. Like every first draft, there’s plenty of excess to trim.

Even though writing ‘Emmeline’ was no picnic, particularly in the last few weeks, I am so glad I did it. I’m glad I got a burst of inspiration that day in late October, and that a little girl with a know-it-all nose and a shock of curly hair decided to stroll into my head and demand that her story be told. I’m glad I got to accompany her on the adventure of a lifetime, and that I got to meet her friend Thing, who – if I’m being honest – I want to adopt as my very own. I’m sure if I’d gone with the idea I was supposed to use for my NaNoWriMo project, that it would have worked, too – but it probably wouldn’t have been as much of an exhilarating joyride.

I’m also very glad that I can say the following sentence: ‘In the last year – since January 2013, when I put aside ‘Tider’ Mark I forever – I have written three books.’ Three.

There’s a lifetime’s dream fulfilled, right there. Even if no other eye roams across a word I put on paper, I know that I have written, and that’s good enough for me. That’s not to say I won’t fight tooth and nail to have ‘Emmeline’ published, by hook or by crook, but that’s a fight for another day. My first job is to make the story as good as it can possibly be, and I’ll worry about the rest of it later.

And now – on to our other Friday feature. I’ve been getting into the habit of posting my entry for the Flash! Friday contest here on my own blog, for a few reasons: one, because I’d like to get some feedback on my flash fiction, and two, because it forces me to get my act together and produce a piece of writing. So, today’s no exception.

This week’s prompt image was as follows:

Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain, Duisburg, Germany. Image: worldlandscapearchitect.com

Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain, Duisburg, Germany.
Image: worldlandscapearchitect.com

We had to include a tiger, or a turtle – not just the word, this week, but the actual thing itself.

So. I made this.

The Tiger’s Mark

‘You’ll know ‘im by the tiger on ‘is jacket,’ Jez had said. ‘Idiot’s never without it.’ So I’d followed the flash of gold all the way up to the Whirligig, the tiger’s jewelled eyes starin’ me down with every step.

‘We’ll see who’s smilin’ in a minute, mate,’ I winked at it.

He jogged up to the viewing platform, me a shadow in his wake. The tiger seemed to nod, almost knowingly, as he went; I checked my blade, sweatin’ hard.

‘Get the job done, fool,’ I muttered.

I glanced at the CCTV camera; nearin’ the blackspot now. I picked up the pace.

Suddenly, he turned, flingin’ the jacket off. He was covered in long, thin scars, shinin’ silver. His mouth gaped wide, and I smelled it – hot, meaty breath. I heard the low rumble. I saw the yellow eyes like trapped suns, and the gold-black fur.

I never had a chance.

Screw you, Jez, I thought, as he pounced.

 

Another Publication!

My week is getting off to a good start already. My story ‘One’ was published this morning on Daily Science Fiction, and I have to say it’s a handsome thing. It’s great to see a story in its finished state, formatted and laid out to a publisher’s specification; it almost makes the content of the story seem better, too. It’s a long way from the day I first started tapping it out on my battered old laptop, months and months ago.

If you’d like to read the story, you can go here. Thrillingly, this time around, there’s an option for you to rate the story from 1 to 7, depending on how terrible you think it is. Currently, I’m holding steady at 5.4 average, so have fun skewing those stats!

I imagine the city Unubert lives in to look a little like this... Image: blog.zeemp.com

I imagine the city Unubert lives in to look a little like this…
Image: blog.zeemp.com

Today is a Bank Holiday in my fair isle. Most people, I would wager, are still abed. This is a shame, because they’re missing a beautiful morning. We had awful weather yesterday – not as bad as parts of the UK, which suffered the fury of ‘St Jude’, the winter storm they decided to nickname after the saint of lost causes – but today, the sky is blue again.

I hope good weekends were had by all? I met up with some of my old university friends on Saturday, which was wonderful. It was so much fun to slip straight back into our early twenties, as happens when we’re all together, and forget for a while that we’re not that young any more and our lives have all changed beyond recognition. It did me good to remember what it felt like to have nothing more than getting to your next lecture to worry about, and I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in quite a while.

So, all in all, it was the perfect cure for a fraught week.

I’m feeling a lot better now, too. You might remember me saying I felt unwell a few days back, and that I wasn’t able to focus on the computer screen, and all that. Well, thankfully it turned out to be nothing serious – the optician diagnosed me with eyestrain. Part of the reason I know the day is bright and blue outside is because I’m making a point of looking out the window every few minutes, just for a few seconds at a time, in order to flex my lenses. That wasn’t the term the optician used, but I just like to imagine it that way.

LIFT and stretch and LIFT and stretch and LIFT... Image: generalcomics.com

LIFT and stretch and LIFT and stretch and LIFT…
Image: generalcomics.com

So, today will be spent ‘dividing my time’ (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase…) between my NaNoWriMo prep (my brain has been invaded by an entirely new idea, which is clamouring to be written), my efforts to write a story for the Walking on Thin Ice Short Story Contest, and spending a bit of time with that man who lives in my house, whathisname… oh yeah, my husband. So, you know. It’s going to be a busy one.

Happy Monday! Remember to keep those eyeballs supple and those typin’ fingers flying…

The Plunge? Taken!

We find ourselves on the rocks of Thursday once again. I trust you’re all well? Good, good.

So, this week, I finally got around to doing that thing I’ve been promising to do for, oh, the last six months, or so. I’m sure most of you had given up all hope that I’d ever make good on my word, and had probably come to the bitter realisation that sometimes, you just can’t believe a thing you read on the internet…

I never should have trusted her! Sniff! Image: nature.com

I never should have trusted her! Sniff!
Image: nature.com

Yeah, or not.

In any case, it might be of interest to you to know that this is the week in which I finally did it. After many months of waffling about it, I’ve at long last begun to make contact with agents. Literary agents. Actual literary agents. With connections in the publishing industry, and everything. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

You know, sometimes, how you can pay visits to really tall buildings – in places like America, I mean, because of course Ireland doesn’t have any *really* tall buildings, on account of how we’re all short and oppressed – and they have glass floors that you can walk on and look down hundreds of feet to the ground below?

Like this? *covers eyes* Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

Like this? *covers eyes*
Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

When I tell you that I had to have a cup of strong coffee before I could even do a Google Image search for that picture, I’m not joking. I hate heights so much that even looking at that photograph is giving me vertigo. Standing on a kitchen chair is as high as I ever want to be off the ground – and even at that, sometimes, I get an attack of the wobbles.

And, my dears, that feeling of vertigo, and the sensation of ‘ooh, I think I might be out of my depth here,’ is now a permanent fixture in my life.

Pressing ‘send’ on an email which contains the first five pages, or the first three thousand words, or the first ten thousand words, or whatever the case may be, of a book over which you’ve (almost literally) sweated blood, is no easy thing to do. The email doesn’t just contain words, of course – it holds your hopes, and fears, and plans, and ambition. It contains everything in you which is good and admirable, and everything which is desperate and terrified, too. Every submission made is an hour, or two hours, or a day of preparation – writing a synopsis, crafting a cover letter, reading and re-reading and re-reading your opening chapters just in case there’s an error you’ve missed the last five thousand times you read it; it’s the hours spent researching the agency to which you’re submitting and making sure they have an interest in what you’re writing, as best you can; it’s the hours of self-talk, trying to convince yourself that this isn’t completely crazy and that you can actually go through with it.

So, you see. Not just a case of ‘whack it all together and let it go wherever it needs to.’

I’m trying not to look back over the emails I’ve already sent, because they’re sure to make me cringe. I’m trying to be positive, and hope that something in what I’ve sent will spark interest, somewhere; I’m aware, though, that what I’m doing is akin to trying to light a match somewhere on the deepest ocean floor. There are a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing – most of them with more to offer than I have – and it can be hard to keep dredging inside yourself, expecting there to be endless supplies of optimism and hope just waiting to be tapped; that, however, is what I have to do. Every time I sit to write a synopsis (because I do a new one each time I submit to an agent, in the interests of keeping the whole thing ‘fresh’ and relevant to each particular recipient), it gets harder to shake the feeling of boredom surrounding my novel – it all seems so old, and worn, and overdone. I’m telling myself that’s because I’ve read it so many times, and I’m clinging to the hope that this is the truth.

And, of course, I’ve only just begun the whole process. I still have the weeks and months of waiting for a reply to come yet. At least the waiting process will give me some time to build myself back up again, just in time to cope with the lovely, kind, well-meaning emails which will read something like: ‘Thank you for your submission – we can see you’ve worked very hard on it, but unfortunately, it’s not for us…’

And, the best bit of all? I’m not even halfway through my list of agencies, so this will be going on for some time yet. Someone pour me a whiskey…

'Tomorrow... Is... Another day!' Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay? Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com

‘Tomorrow… Is… Another day!’ Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay?
Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com

 

Unworthy

Today’s post is not just an excuse to use an image like this:

They weren't worthy! Neither am I! Image: teamliquid.net

They weren’t worthy! Neither am I!
Image: teamliquid.net

However, while it may not have been the main reason, I have to admit the thought of using this image was part of my decision-making process. I love ‘Wayne’s World’, the ‘We’re Not Worthy!’ sketch has always made me laugh, and – I promise – there’s a connection ‘twixt image and blog post. Today I wanted to write a bit about something which has been weighing on me lately, and it’s connected with a feeling of unworthiness, or a nagging sense of I’m not good enough and I should just give up now before I make an idiot of myself and everyone is probably secretly laughing at me.

It’s an extremely damaging thing, this feeling. Not only for my efforts to create a career, but also for my own mental health. As well as all that, it’s completely ridiculous, but I find it difficult to remember that at times.

Ever since I started to write, and made it public (i.e. by submitting work wherever I could submit it, starting this blog and telling people about what I was up to, and trying not to cringe while I described myself as ‘a writer’), I’ve received nothing but solid support. Everyone – including friends of friends, people who only know me through my parents or my husband or, amazingly, people who don’t know me in real life at all and who I’ve only met through the medium of the internet – has lifted me up on a swell of encouragement and has been delighted to hear about my efforts; several people have even told me how impressed they are by my decision to follow a dream and do my best to live the life I’ve always wanted. Sometimes, I wonder if this is part and parcel of being a writer in Ireland, where I still think creativity is seen as a good and noble thing and not completely off-the-wall – but then, I’ve received support from all over the world, so perhaps that’s beside the point. Whatever the reason, I am grateful beyond measure for every smidgen of encouragement, and I hope this feeling I’m trying to describe, this feeling of ‘unworthiness’, won’t be understood as ungrateful rejection of all the generous and loving support I’ve been lucky enough to receive. That’s not what I mean, at all. These unworthy feelings are something I’m imposing on myself; it’s not out of character for me, but I really wish I could stop doing it.

It all began to manifest like this: on one of the recent occasions where I had something accepted for publication, I remember greeting the news not with unalloyed joy and a sense of accomplishment, but with a tinge of discomfort and upset. I’ve been trying to work out why ever since, and I’ve concluded that it was because despite working hard over the story, I felt wasn’t good enough, and I hadn’t been expecting it to be accepted, and when it was – well. My brain sort of flipped.

I couldn’t bring myself to think that ‘maybe the story was a little bit better than you’d thought it was’ or ‘perhaps you’re being a little hard on yourself’; I started to think damaging and destructive things like ‘they must have been short on entries’ or ‘they needed to fill a space in the publication.’ Now, I’m pretty sure those things aren’t true. I’m pretty sure the publishers had no shortage of stories to choose from. They chose mine, but I couldn’t allow myself to be pleased. I started doing that thing I do – you know the one, where I have a reaction which I know is irrational and silly, but I can’t help myself – and it felt really unpleasant. I felt like I was unworthy of the honour of having my story accepted, like the publishers were doing me a favour instead of saying ‘This story is good enough to form part of our publication’; it made me feel very odd. I didn’t like it. At the same time, I didn’t really know what to do in order to tackle it.

Writing is not an easy thing – I’m not even talking about the act of pulling words out of your brain and slapping them down on a page, though that is difficult too, of course. What I mean is, it’s not an easy thing to spend so much time by yourself, and to have little but your own thoughts for company; even if, like me, you’re a person who enjoys being alone and who thrives in the world of the mind, it can be a challenge. I’m beginning to wonder if too much time spent thinking can lead to the struts which keep your mind steady buckling a little under the strain, which can affect the way you see the world and yourself, and your place in it. It’s hard, too, to pressure yourself just enough to meet all your obligations and deadlines without exerting too much force, and ending up pressuring yourself into oblivion. When you only have yourself to regulate the pressure, it’s clear that sometimes things can go wrong.

So, I’m taking that on board today, and I’m going to think about ways in which I can create a new balance in my life without sacrificing too much of my writing time. I may take a few days’ leave from the blog – a little holiday, perhaps – and I may print out, in big letters, a sign which says the words YOU ARE ENOUGH! and place it over my desk. I am enough – I do enough – I will be enough.

I hope nobody can relate to this post, and that you’re all too clever to allow yourselves to fall into a trap like this one. I hope that your writing lives (and your non-writing lives, come to that!) are flourishing, that you’re taking it easy, and not piling pressure on your own heads. Thank you for all your support – I hope I’ll be able to continue counting on it! – and I hope Tuesday turns out to be a jewel of a day for all of you.

And remember – you are enough!