Eccentric, Writerly Type Terrifies Village

It’s official, I’m eccentric. And not just in your classic, bats-in-the-belfry grandma kind of way but hobo eccentric. The dusty, unkempt ‘who let her out of her cage?’ type that walks round the village in shoes a size too large and crumpled clothes once a month and about whom nobody knows anything.

Image
Visitors to my garden this week

Okay, so you knew I was a bit bats already. But I didn’t, so bear with me here.

Today I ventured out of my one-mile to civilisation house, on foot, and found myself being followed around by an anxious shopkeeper after I picked up a teddy bear and went toddling towards the door with it in search of gift wrap.

‘Can I help you with anything?’

‘Help me?’ I’m thinking, as I watch her almost tumble over a stack of boxes in her haste to catch me up. There is no one in this tiny shop but me. If I needed help, I’d have said, casually and at normal volume, (given she was only two metres away), ‘can you help me?’ And it’s funny that she didn’t think I needed any help as I was browsing around for at least five minutes beforehand, until I picked up this…

Oh, wait a minute…

I look like a shoplifter. Me, who, after heading out to attend a writer workshop in Glasgow found myself stuck without any train fare home because the ATM machine said I couldn’t have any more of my overdraft today thank you. Who, while walking around Central Station wondering what on earth to do besides cry, picked up a ten pound note that a teenage girl skipping along in front of me had dropped, tapped her on the shoulder and handed it back. True. Story.

I went into my local post office-come-gift-shop to buy two birthday cards and presents, and ended up never being left alone for a second until I had paid for the goods. But here’s the stinger – I’m pretty sure this shop owner recognised me. I was in there a fortnight ago, posting ‘The New Mrs D’ manuscript off to my editor.  I was in there last month, posting ten parcels of goods I had sold on eBay, holding every tut-tutty person behind me in the queue up. She raised her eyebrows at me and my held-together-with-masking-tape offerings – more than once – and then we laughed as she explained I’d have to walk all the way back home with the heaviest parcel because the edges were coming apart, right where I’d etched on the shiny tape in black marker pen, ‘PLEASE HANDLE WITH CAR’. Well, she laughed. I sort of ‘sighed a smile’ before waving my sorry to her and back to the queue of tutters. I later discovered, after staring at a weird ‘3’ for ages on the palm of my hand wondering if I’d been marked by some sort of secret society, that this act would have revealed the missing ‘E’ to the somewhat disgruntled post office crowd, further placing me in their approach with caution category.

I live in quite a small, rural village and have been going into this post-office-come-gift-shop, granted with monthly intervals, for around SIX YEARS. She knows me alright. And she thinks I’m a scruffy, ne’er-do-well.

So it has dawned on me that I am, in fact, your quintessential eccentric. I do venture out walking the dogs in fields around the house, but when it comes to tottering about in my village, where everybody knows everybody, I admit I’m a rare sight. My brother, who also lives here, once gave me a lift and within ten minutes someone had called his partner to ask her if she knew he was driving around with a mystery blonde in his car. I did enjoy being considered someone’s mystery blonde for a while though…

So I’m signing out now as this post is already too long, you’re tired and anyway, I’m weird, remember?

If you enjoy reading me, even thought I am a bit dusty and strange, I have a book out soon. It’s called ‘The New Mrs D’ and you can click here to join my mailing list . Then you will be enlisted in my secret society and branded with backward E’s.

Oh and you’ll get an email telling you when my book is out so that you can buy it and help me buy shoes that fit.

Thank you for reading 🙂

You can now and PRE-ORDER THE NEW NEW MRS D HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Exciting Project For New Women Writers

Image

I’m delighted to share some information about the exciting new WoMentoring Project, a scheme which seeks to help new women writers in their quest for publication. Their new website has been launched today! Good luck to all involved.

Below is some more information for any women writers, or interested mentors who may wish to get on board to use or support the project.

About?

The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project.

Why do we need it?

Like many great (and not so great) ideas, The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given.

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications

In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible. So instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time.

Why our mentors are getting involved

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project. – Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give. – Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work. – Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too. – Amylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out.  The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it. – Francesca Main, Editorial Director, Picador

I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard. – Jo Unwin of The Jo Unwin Literary Agency

Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

I’m interested in being mentored because although I think you have to make mistakes to learn, having someone who’s been there help you work out the ones with no value can be really useful. Most of all I’d like to have someone to push and challenge me on what makes me and my writing tick. 

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner. – Clare Archibald

I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process. – Suzy Norman

Find out more:

Twitter: @WoMentoringP on twitter and to find the latest buzz, follow and use hashtag #WoMentoring

The New Mrs D – A Publication Update from a Terrified Author

Image I have been asked by many for an update on my road to publication, so today I am making an announcement: The road has been temporarily blocked. And yes, I am now terrified. I do want to do what I promised I would for other new writers and that is share my journey. I’ve had to be quiet about it for a while, but can now give you all full access.

Since finishing the first draft of my first comedy novel, The New Mrs D, in November 2012, I’ve had a roller coaster of a time. After sharing her with a few friends, then getting her proof-read and copy edited and subsequently undertaking so many rewrites I lost count, she was ready to go out to agents. Two small, little known agencies even approached me and asked for her but I declined. I wanted to try the big players first.

My submission of a synopsis and three opening chapters to agents yielded some very encouraging results. Of the thirteen I submitted to I had four tell me they liked it very much but didn’t think they could find a market for it. One called it ‘laugh out loud funny’ and another said, ‘this is seriously funny stuff’. One of the four – a very large and prominent UK agency – told me they’d love to see anything else I write in future. Two agencies went as far as to request the full manuscript and one – Hannah Ferguson of the Marsh Agency – signed me up. In all, the time taken from submission to signing with an agent was around six weeks.

Mr and I jumped up and down. We opened our favourite bottle of whisky and stood in the garden looking at our beloved rented house, talking about how in a couple of years we might finally be able to buy it. Surely the level of positive responses and the speed in which I got an agent meant I’d written something really special? Then, my agent submitted to ten major UK publishing houses… and all of them passed. Actually, I have ended up with thirteen rejections in all, if I count some small presses that didn’t reply.

I’m not going to do any naming here, I feel very grateful and privileged to have received feedback for my work from some top editing professionals, most of whom made very kind comments as well as offering some useful, constructive criticisms. I rewrote again on the back of the common theme elements that came out of the exercise. Still, The New Mrs D remains on the shelf as far as the world of publishing is concerned.

I wanted to write something less mainstream; a non-romantic comedy. A novel about a less than perfect, forty something woman who isn’t seeking a man to complete her story. One who will not necessarily stay single for the rest of her life, but who has bravely broken away from the social norm of standing by her man – yes, five days after the wedding – and running off to find herself. She has flaws, she makes bad decisions and – shock horror – she admits that actually she isn’t happy with her husband committing what she considers to be virtual adultery.  Oh and she says ‘fuck’ from time to time.

I’ve taken a very serious, quite modern issue and written a riotous comedy around it and I grant you, this is unusual. If you search the internet for humorous fiction novels by and for women that are not romantic comedies you will draw a near blank as I have. Go on, try it. Not that I don’t love romantic comedies. They are huge business and I enjoy them as much as the rest of the romcom buying public. But I didn’t want to write one. I wanted an older protagonist, who has begun to grow out of her need to chase love and adoration in order to feel complete. I wanted to challenge media objectification of women and speak out about the saturation in our magazines, movies, adverts and the Internet, of women in varying stages of undress. And I wanted to do it in a humorous, easy read which might reach and empower women. Editors have described it as containing ‘close to the bone, crude humour’. Guilty as charged.

My protagonist married a man with a porn addiction and in order to research this, as well as drawing on my own feelings on the subject, I read books and trawled countless internet forums. On the forums in particular, I saw heartbroken women being told the real and only problem is their own self confidence. They are told to ‘put up’ with their partner’s porn use as it is ‘just something men do’. And ‘while you’re at it go lose some weight to feel better about yourself’.

Of course, it must be said that some women don’t mind and are accepting of and even joining in with their partner’s porn use. I want to stress that my book is not attacking the porn issue or discussing its rights or wrongs, it is about the women that aren’t comfortable with their partners using it and are not speaking out. Women in these situations are often not even telling their closest friends because they are embarrassed to admit it makes them feel bad. To quote an article by Joy Go Mah in Huffpost Lifestyle:

‘The vast majority of films produced tell the stories of men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, or mothers, or in other periphery roles.’

By the same token, the vast amount of comedy fiction I have read has been about women who are already in or yearning to be cast into these roles. I remember how much, even as a younger woman, I enjoyed Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita and First Wives Club – all empowering stories about older women temporarily shunning men and marriage to find themselves. I think these books and films did okay. 🙂

So now – *drum roll* – I am, on the advice and with the support of my agent, going to self publish The New Mrs D.  My story needs to be out there, I am committed to it and I want to bring it to you. And yes, I am very, very afraid. Self publishing can be like throwing a fish into the ocean. But some very kind authors have given me amazing support and advice. Every one of them saying, ‘go for it’.

The quote pictured above was posted on the Facebook page of the wonderful and inspirational Elizabeth Gilbert on a day when I was struggling with the fear of striking out alone with my novel. She continued:

and our fear of being rejected, criticized, ignored, marginalized, typecast, bullied, challenged, misunderstood, mocked, dismissed, and — worst of all — disappointed in ourselves when our completed work does not match the dream of inspiration that initially flourished so beautifully in our minds. I am afraid of all these things, don’t get me wrong. And I’ve experienced all those things. But you know what I’ve always feared more? Facing my death someday and realizing that I never lived a creative life because I was too shit scared to try. Because that would be the worst, saddest, most frightful fate of all. Thus, and always, we must march right over our fears, trampling them to dust under our bootheels (as Hanneke de Groot would say) and continuing ONWARD!

As usual, in my mind, she was talking to me. So I’m off to make something… it’s a less conventional comedy novel called The New Mrs D. However, I am not going to ask you to spend your hard earned cash buying a copy until it is as perfect as I can make it. Had I won a publishing deal, I would be getting some professional editorial advice to make sure the plot is as tidy as it can be, so I am working with someone I have found myself right now. Then I need to get a cover and have the manuscript all properly formatted for publication. All of this costs money, of which I don’t have a lot, so I will be working as fast as I can on all of these aspects and announcing a release date soon. I hope to bring her out for your summer holiday reading enjoyment.

And a special thank you – to all the people who have followed my tweets, Facebook page and blog offering encouraging comments on my writing and telling me how much you want to read The New Mrs D. All of this has added to my determination to keep going. I really do appreciate all of it and feel lifted every time someone tells me how much they enjoy my writing.

This is why I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing with my life. And to anybody reading this who is afraid to create something unique, or tempted to alter their natural creative instinct to go and do what everyone else is doing, I encourage you to fight it and keep doing that which makes you YOU.  Don’t give up. I’m not gonna.

Added 19th June 2014: AND… they said it should never happen, but it has! You can now buy The New Mrs D HERE and within TWENTY-FOUR HOURS of it becoming available for pre-order, my little book went into the Amazon 100 Best Sellers in Women’s Fiction Humour chart in the UK. My book… which they said was ‘unmarketable’.

I’m not sure where it will go from here, but I’ll keep you posted.

COver design smaller Heather X