Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The best email. In the world. Ever.

I'd like to thank you, once again, for taking the time to submit your story, BLACK EYED BOY, to Crooked Cat. I found your full submission to be enjoyable, obviously of a very high standard and unique and, to that end, would be delighted to work with you to publish it through the Crooked Cat imprint. With this in mind, I have pleasure in offering you a contract for publication.

So, what does this mean? Absolutely everything.

I started writing my own stories and poems at a very young age, both at home, for my own amusement, and at school. I would be frequently reprimanded for the state of my handwriting, though it was only so scruffy because I would write three or four times more than my classmates. I had too many ideas and I rushed to get all of the information from my head on to the paper, in the allotted time. I knew, from the age of 9, that I wanted to be an author, and I was fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive teacher. Should you ever read this, Mrs Calvert of Greenhill Primary School, I thank you. Thank you for displaying my poems up on the wall, and for all of those most coveted gold and silver stars.

I was also a voracious reader, which always intensified during the six weeks of the summer holidays. Every week, I would wander up to the library and borrow as many books as I was allowed. I would read them all to return and replace them with another round. I just loved books, generally, and would read anything and everything. I was much the same at secondary school, I even looked forward to doing my English homework, especially if it was creative writing. I think it is time for another teacher mention, Mrs North of Meadowhead School; thank you for always pushing me further and, also, for predicting, in my record of achievement, that I would be published one day.

Adolescence and the following years were intensely difficult times for me, for too many reasons, and some too private to go into here. Too many years were consumed by grief, heartbreak and distress. Sometimes, despite being happier and considerably more settled now, the pain infiltrates my writing, it finds a way to manifest itself, wrapping around my words and my written work often feels darker for it. Handy for horror, perhaps, not so fabulous when you’re trying to write a cheerful love story. But that’s just the way it is.

After turning 30, I worried that I had let too many things slide by, and that I had been drifting, quite aimlessly, for a long time. I embarked upon a short Open University course, Start Writing Fiction, and I have never looked back. I can highly recommend this course to anyone at all interested in writing fiction, it was fun, interesting and, most importantly, gave me some confidence that I had been sorely lacking. I was motivated, I was ready, it was time to write and send my words out there.

The very first story I submitted was short-listed in a competition and I couldn’t believe it. There was no stopping me then, I sent off bits of flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and I was lucky enough to start having some successes, winning a total of four writing competitions and my work began to be published in books. BOOKS. ACTUAL REAL BOOKS, on Amazon and everything. Each time this happened, it felt incredible, but I still had an itch to scratch. I wanted a book with just one name on the front: mine.

I stopped submitting short works and I thought about all the books I had enjoyed reading over the years, what did I want to write about? An idea struck me as I was washing the pots (which is almost always the case, curiously). It quickly became a scribbled list of chapters as I invented the characters. Or did they invent themselves? They became so real, dictating how the story would go. After months of forcing myself to sit at that laptop and type, of constant thinking and analysing, and quite writing my heart out, I, finally, had what I had always wanted, a completed novel.

A novel I felt brave enough to submit to publisher, Crooked Cat, in April of this year. And, a dream came true, they liked it. I signed the contract at the end of September, and my first novel, Black Eyed Boy, is due to be released early to mid-2015. I worry that I will wake up soon, I fluctuate between shock and intense giddiness most of the time.

Life has been upside down and bloody hard sometimes, which perhaps makes this experience all the richer. A wish I had, as a little girl, is happening before my very eyes, and it means the whole wide world.