International Women’s Day

I wouldn’t say I was born to write.  If I hadn’t become disabled I’d still be teaching in an FE college.  It’s ironic that I worked whilst raising my children yet I ended up unable to work when my children were independent.

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Hard at work thinking about Henry Whittle’s Revenge

As a working mum I felt I had to do it all: contribute financially, maintain a career, cook amazing nutritional meals, clean my house till it gleamed, launder, raise happy, well-balanced children and drop it till it’s hot in the bedroom. I spent ten years close to exhaustion. I think that’s why my condition went undetected for so long; I thought every working mother felt this crap.

I think about how hard the suffragettes worked for equality, their risks, their compromise, even their blood and somehow that’s been misinterpreted. Women can’t do it all; nobody can.

As a woman I want opportunity, choice and equality for my daughters. On the same hand I want my sons to be able to take parental leave without feeling their jobs or promotions are threatened.

I won’t claim to have raised my girls and boys the same; in fact I didn’t raise my two girls the same. I took into account my children’s strengths and weaknesses. Their opportunities though were equal; they all did martial arts, swimming lessons, played with each others toys, learnt to cook, put a wash on, cut the grass and paint.

meI was born in 1967, to Irish parents.  I felt being pretty, well-mannered, happy and singing were my parent’s expectations of me. So I worried I was fat but covered it with a smile whilst singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

I married a man of Irish descent and continued on my path of being the woman who did it all as and that’s what he expected.

Yet stay at home mums criticised me for abandoning my children and colleagues resented the time I took off for my children.  My mother in law decided I didn’t fulfill either role particularly well.

I raised my kids to be independent, to enjoy life as individuals, to be content with their own company and not be ruled by money but by dreams.

They still have childhood wounds and insecurities. My marriage, though happy, had glitches. As parents we’ve done a better job than our parents but we’ve made mistakes. My children have seen how I’ve deferred to my husband throughout our relationship and it’s led to the girls being assertive and the boys being respectful of women’s opinions.

I don’t differentiate between my children emotionally; boys are as susceptible as girls to doubt,  identity anxiety and mental turbulence especially now they’re expected to be shredded.  My husband had a hang up about boys crying but I wanted my sons to let it out, express themselves, be open with their feelings.

But today I’m focusing on women.

There are so many amazingly strong and focused women who have paved the way for the rights women have today.  In a way it’s a lot for women to live up to.  I’d probably be a disappointment.  Even though I was emotionally strong and juggling the world I was letting the side down. What was I to do? Be someone I’m not? I was raised to please, to put others before myself, to be subservient. I didn’t know how to challenge my husband.  How to negotiate sharing the load. I didn’t have that skill set when our marriage fell into a traditional pattern. Of course this all turned on its head when I became ill.

I went through a few bleak years; multiple surgeries, chronic pain, immobility.  What floored me was losing my identity. I couldn’t teach or keep house. I spent weeks at a time in bed, high on drugs, low on energy. Who even was I? Other than a burden.

henry front coverIt was the impetus of three women together that changed, not just the course of my life, but who I now am; Grace (Gertrude), Alison; the writer; that’s me (T) and Caitlan (Kitty).  My daughters said write a YA novel; mum you can do it.  In among the regular round ups of how the novel was progressing we came up with a title The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. Which is the first in a trilogy; Henry Whittle’s Revenge and RIP Henry Whittle. The bantar was never ending because we’d turned it into a Netflix series and regularly changed the cast.  We created a soundtrack.  We looked and found an agent. We got our heads around rejection from publishers. The girls supported me when I decided to withdraw from my agent and take ownership back of my work.  Part of me hoped to secure another agent but my attempts were halfhearted. Proceeding down the traditional route without the woman who’d taken a chance on me and supported my development as a writer was too sad.

gertrudetkittyI was very poorly in the Autumn and after a week in hospital in November I panicked that I’d get too ill to fulfill my writer’s dream and so calling on my daughters to scramble a cover together I plunged into self publishing.  I didn’t research it; I have to conserve my energy for writing and I’d no spare cash for professional editing. I didn’t know the rules of social media or the protocol of book reviews so I bowled in with…look at my book!  When you have a degenerative disease and spinal cord damage your health is unpredictable from hour to hour. Pretty much you’re in the shit. I’ve thesaurused; SHIT is THE word!

IMG_0359I’m Twittering; trying to genuinely connect with readers, particularly young adults, through posts that reflect me.  My book shamefully has appeared in every post.  In my defense, other than my children and marriage, my relationship with writing is my greatest comfort. Today Gerty advised me to stop the hard plug; she’s right of course. It’s because Random Attachment  defies my disability;  it’s concrete evidence of my empowerment. I am a woman of substance, yet a free spirit. I’m soaring so high even though my body is sluggish.  So I know I’ve been OTT, pushy, presumptuous.  Yes I’ve much to learn and I will learn. Yesterday I conquered widgets on WordPress.

I’m three months into my self publishing career; I’ve sold books; I’m an author.  I have reinvented myself. Historically I haven’t exhibited feminist behaviour and I’m not writing groundbreaking literary masterpieces, more Mills & Boon with edge.  Yet finally I’m a woman my family are proud of; a risk taker, a chancer, a dreamer.

I live with uncertainty but I know one thing for sure…I will write till I die.

 

 

 

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Jafaris myelopathy & me

It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life.  Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s

 

Disappointment

Enjoying a book is subjective. I know this from the many rejection letters I received from agents when I first started out.  Then when I had an agent, rejections from editors saying ‘I liked it but I didn’t love it’.

I am prepared that for every five-star review my novel receives, there might be twenty one-star reviews.  I can’t be more accurate because so far Random Attachment has only 3 reviews. In a way this feels worse, it’s like you’ve gone to the school disco and no one wants to dance with you. I feel rather rejected. It’s early days I tell myself.  Life is so busy that readers most likely won’t review my book which is disappointing when you are literally a struggling writer.

In between tweeting about my amazing, spectacular, potentially YA version of #FiftyShades meets #Psycho (I have to be this confident because doubt won’t sell copies) I’m reading.

Lisa Jewell – Then She Was Gone: Slow start but boy does it get a grip of you and twist you around.

C.L. Taylor – The Treatment. The well plotted adult thriller writer diversified into Young Adult. I’m such a big fan that perhaps my expectations were too high.  It simply did not take off.  The YA voice was lacking, the characters flat, the story predictable.  I think the biggest challenge of writing YA is that I’m a middle-aged woman who needs an authentic teenage voice. This is one of the reasons I’m going it alone.  With my first (unpublished) novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle my agent felt the YA voice was too street and too sophisticated.  I don’t think she gave credit to the savvy young adults out there ruling the world. I also feel she found the slang and swear words unpalatable, as do I, but the protagonist’s voice is central to the success of the novel. I don’t say f**k but Mia does. And she wants to make love with Flynn, on a bed, against a wall, once, maybe more; she views intimacy as a natural response to finding someone attractive. Promiscuity is possibly an outdated verb. It’s these key issues that I compromised on first time around with my agent. My daughters advised against diluting the vocab and the darkness and they were right.  I’m not saying CL Taylor’s characters should be swearing and jumping each others bones but they should be 3D. I hate blandness; I want to love, hate, fear characters. I remember when I picked up 13 Reasons Why long before the hype and I couldn’t put it down; I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, not just for Hannah and Clay but her family, Jessica, Justin – that is a book that doesn’t come around often.

I’m new to writing, I’ve been working at it for about five years on and off; barely any time at all.  If I could write one totally, mind-blowing novel like 13 Reasons Why that would mean the world. Perhaps I’m incapable…I don’t know.

I am confident in my writing though; I don’t shake at the knees that my friends are reading stuff and nonsense.  I’m widely read in the YA/NA market and if I can make sales I think Random Attachment can hold its own out there.

I recently read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and other than a cool name and a great book cover I didn’t rate it. Random Attachment is all about the characters. Could the premise be better constructed? Yes, with the help of a professional editor or maybe by me in ten years when I know what I’m doing.  I’m winging it at the moment.  I guess I expect more of traditionally published novels because of the expertise and resources they have to bring a book together. I didn’t connect with Mara. The story seemed all over the place.

I daren’t think about the criticism coming my way.  Or perhaps readers are so pee’d off they won’t review it. I hope that’s not the case.

Right now I’m focusing on social media, getting my name out there, trying to sell my book.  The paperback is as low in price as I’m allowed, I’m only making 25p on each sale and 20% of that is going to charity @myelopathy.org and @YMCAWestLondon.  So reviews are key and for anyone that has purchased the paperback, passing it on would be great. If you liked it then please Instagram it, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.  I’m relying on reviews and word of mouth. To date I’ve sold 43 copies, not exactly mind blowing so all support appreciated. I’m not too proud to accept help, go for it!