This time last year I had given up on ever writing for a living. Almost six years had passed since I completed my first novel and three years since I graduated from Staffs Uni with a first in English and creative writing. I had spent a good many months of those bright, hopeful years trying to find an agent and get work published. I had some small successes – no less pleasing for their humbleness, I hasten to add – but as a viable career option, my writing was going nowhere. I continued to edit and enjoyed that, but knowing that the books I worked on were going into print and mine weren’t was a little depressing. And, I think, if many editors were completely honest, editing stories, despite being a worthy and necessary pursuit, is a small substitute for writing your own. As time went by I continued to tinker about on my laptop penning the odd tale, but it became more about my own enjoyment than the notion that it might be for anyone else’s. Resigned to my desk job, I started 2012 with other objectives on the horizon.
In March I ran the Stafford half-marathon. When I say ran, what I really mean is hobbled and almost collapsed at mile twelve. We had fundraising to do for my niece, Katie, who has cerebral palsy, to raise £60,000 for an operation in America that would help her to walk and my three brothers and I all agreed to run. It was a family show of solidarity and love for Katie and there was no way I was going to miss it. Most people who know me, however, will freely admit that they thought I wouldn’t even complete half of it. I’m overweight, middle aged, the furthest I had ever run before was three miles and that was two years previously. Since then I had done very little regular exercise. I had three months’ warning and not enough training sessions. But one thing that anyone who truly knows me will tell you – for me, there’s no greater drive to succeed than everyone telling me I will fail. I did it in just under two and a half hours, the maximum time they keep the course open for. To this day, I honestly can’t remember anything about the final mile apart from the finish line that kept moving further and further away. My reward was best McDonald’s milkshake ever and not being able to walk after I’d done.
The rest of the summer we packed bags in supermarkets, did bake sales and car boots, braving the regular weekend rain and called-off events, and eventually, by August, Katie was on her way.
Earlier in the year, I’d had an email asking if I’d like to contribute to the debut publication of a creative writing magazine called Indent. I sent a story in called ‘What Billy Saw’ and was thrilled to see it finally appear in print in July. I hadn’t expected the email and I certainly hadn’t expected them to print the story. I don’t really know why, I think I had just spent so long in a literary limbo that all ambition in that field had left me. But it is tiny events that can sometimes change the path of your life, and looking back, this may have been one of them.
Newly charged and ready to dust off my laptop again, August saw me at a barbecue at the house of one of my uni lecturers. The conversation turned to PhD study and teaching and why I was doing neither of these things considering my BA grades. I had always wanted to continue into post grad education, but money had always been an issue. As the drink flowed money suddenly seemed less and less important and I left the gathering drunkenly tripping over my maxi-dress and promising to apply. Which I did, and now I am a very happy (but poor) post grad student, able to pass on my knowledge to undergraduates and with the best creative writing teachers and fellow students I could wish for.
Remember that first novel I wrote all those years ago? Weeks after the fateful barbecue I landed a deal to publish it. Another moment of random chance from a conversation with Storm Constantine of Immanion Press. I had done a lot of editing work for Storm over the years and we were talking about her new foray into YA fiction. Storm knew I also wrote my own fiction but her area had always been adult fiction and mine YA and children so, although she had read some of my work and liked it, she was never able to offer me a contract before. But a mutual friend had told her how much she had enjoyed reading my novel, Runners, and Storm wanted to know would I like to publish on her new imprint? We expect Runners to be ready for an April release.
Did someone say random chance? Because it didn’t stop there. My husband happened to pass me a newspaper one Sunday morning because there was an article I might be interested in. Usually, I put the paper down, go and do something else, and then promptly forget about the article until it goes into the recycling. But just this once, I picked it up and read about another writer from Stoke who lived literally a mile away from me. How had I not known about this lady? I tracked her down on facebook and decided to get in touch – writing is a lonely business, as anyone who does it will tell you, and the more friends you can share it with, who really get it, the better. It is true to say that I have made, and continue to make, the most incredible friendships through writing; friendships that I sincerely hope will stand the test of time. And this one turned out to be no exception. We met and hit it off straight away and I’m so proud to be able to witness her current success. It is true to say that her perseverance in the face of many years of rejection has inspired me to keep going now, whatever happens.
2013 will be all about kindle too. Sky Song, the first book of The Sky Song trilogy (which was planned for December 2012 release, but I’m terribly disorganised) is due for release January 2013, hopefully followed by the second two: The Young Moon and Not of Our Sky in February and April.
It’s been a gloriously busy year. And I can only hope 2013 is as random as 2012 was.