Monday, May 23, 2011

Good news

No, not mine. Not yet, anyway.

There seems to have been a flurry of good news in recent weeks on Twitter and in other writerly places I frequent on the internet. Writers landing an agent, writers getting book deals. It makes me happy, because it gives me hope. There are many good writers out there fighting for so few opportunities, but to see people I know online or in real life actually achieving that success now is highly motivating.

In the meantime I've just about finished this round of submissions for novel one. I'll probably send off one more this week, then I shall take another breather and try to decide whether it is almost time to bypass agents with this novel and starting approaching a few of the indie publishers who take direct submissions. I've always known that it is likely to be a small press book, but ideally I would love to have an agent to present it properly for me. An agent who can also tell me what, if anything, needs to changed or improved before it goes out to publishers and who could deal with the complications of publishing for me, leaving my precious hours free to write.

I learned a lot writing novel one. There's an article by the ever brilliant Emma Darwin on the website of the Romantic Novelists' Association, which I think explains the problems with which I struggled far more articulately than I ever could.

Maybe I tried to be a little too ambitious for the first book I ever completed. It was, after all, originally conceived as a potential project for an MA which I will not now be able to study. But I've always thrived on a challenge and I don't give up easily.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A confidence boost

This week I spent a day working with student health professionals at a London university, talking to them about what it is like to parent a severely disabled child. It's something I've done for a number of years now and every time I come away feeling enthusiastic about the potential those first year students have to become caring and understanding practitioners in the future.

But these days out don't just benefit the students. They remind me that I was once a professional myself, that I did training of student accountants, that I actually had a workplace other than my own home. They remind me also of why I was glad to give up commuting into London each day, even though on this occasion my fellow speaker and I were able to travel at the very end of rush hour and missed the worst of the crowds. This year, for the first time ever, we avoided changing trains at a busy interchange and instead rode on a couple of stops to a smaller station, with the aim of getting a bus to our final location rather than walking. I'd researched bus routes in advance and it all went like clockwork.

The journey reminded me that when we lived in inner London I frequently used buses. I still do out here in the suburbs, but I'd taken to only using the underground when I travelled into town, walking whatever distance was necessary at the end, because the number of bus routes was confusing and I wasn't sure where to get off. Now that I can only walk relatively short distances before I need to rest, a trip into London was becoming an increasingly daunting prospect and sometimes I found my anxiety led to excuses not to go.

I was so out of touch with bus routes that I'd never really considered the power of the internet. Using Google maps and the Transport for London website it really is possible to plan any bus journey with a degree of confidence. I think I'll be making more use of the buses next time I venture up to town and I hope it will give me the confidence to spread my wings a little further again. I'm not just the mother of a disabled child, I'm a writer and I want to be able to develop that side of my life even more over the next few years, without being limited by my own physical weakness.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dropping a ball

Do you ever find you are juggling so many balls that you spend most of your time worrying about which one you are going to drop first?

Well that has been me since Christmas. I've been juggling health issues, first my own and now Son 2's. Small amounts of work, which is currently mostly unpaid but very relevant to other areas of writing I want to develop. Non-fiction writing, just a few small speculative pieces but one of which has been accepted for publication. Further research for novel two, as my ideas take me in new directions. And most importantly trying to accept the need to catch up on sleep in the day sometimes, because I am often up with Son 2 for hours in the night and my body is complaining. I don't like life eating into my writing hours like that, but sometimes it's necessary.

Novel one had been put on the back burner for a short while, but I've finally started to submit again. Unfortunately I accidentally lost the long list of targeted agents I'd prepared last year, and although I can remember some of them, I'm having to research others again. That's not entirely bad as things do change, agents come and go or close their lists. I'm finding new books to which I can compare my writing in my submission letter. I'm feeling positive, but I know I must push on with novel two as a matter of urgency. A two week half term is nearly upon us...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hardest Hit

Yesterday thousands of disabled people, their familes and carers marched to Westminster to protest about the proposed changes to disability and sickness benefits, which are likely to plunge many into poverty and a housebound existence. There was a distict lack of media interest in this already vulnerable and disenfranchised group, but you can read a Guardian report here and a BBC report here.

Today it is reported that research by Carers UK indicates that carers save the country £119bn a year, often at a huge cost to their own health and financial security.

It made me wonder what would happen if all we carers suddenly decided to show the same lack of respect for the sick and disabled as the government clearly does. I had hoped that David Cameron might show just a little compassion and empathy in this area after his own experience of parenting a profoundly disabled child. I was clearly wrong.

Monday, May 02, 2011


Sometimes something unexpected happens to change the course of the life you had imagined, but you don't understand why. Over the years you slowly rebuild, discovering some pieces of the jigsaw along the way, but there is always one missing and you still don't fully understand. The ensuing self-doubt permeates everything you do, if you let it.

Then, thirty years later, the country is focused on something else and suddenly there is the missing piece. It had been in front of you all the time. You finally understand that the original event was never just about you and you wish you'd realised sooner. You wish you'd reacted differently back then.

But you've also long known that it was probably for the best.

(Yes, I am being deliberately cryptic and today the world is preoccupied with something different, but I'd already drafted this post...)