My Writing and Me (Part 3)

Finding the time to write my first book was tough. I was teaching all day and then had the boys to look after in the evenings. Once the boys were in bed, I had a couple of hours of school work to catch up on, after which I’d fall into bed exhausted. The only choice I had therefore was to start setting my alarm for 4.30am and getting a couple of hours of writing done before my day began.

Once I got into the routine of doing this, I found that I really enjoyed it. I need complete silence when I write so those two hours when the boys were still fast asleep were bliss. Ok, so I was drinking far too much coffee than one ought to, but I’m sure there are greater sins in life.

It took me a year to complete the first draft of ‘Grace-Ella’. When I typed ‘ends’, I sat back and felt sheer elation. I had written a book. A whole book. A book I loved.

‘I’ve done it, I’ve finished my book,’ I said, beaming at my husband.

‘What are you going to do with it now?’ he asked.

It was a bit of a ‘bubble-bursting’ moment. I had no idea what to do with it. I couldn’t submit it to anyone, I was too terrified. Then I remembered how I’d felt after having my first short story critiqued and decided that that would be my next step. I researched literary consultancies and with each service I looked up, the more deflated I became. I couldn’t afford them.

Quite by chance, I came across the critique service offered to writers in Wales, by Literature Wales. I submitted and waited.

When the brown envelope came in the post a few weeks later, it was like those horrible exam results days all over again. I felt sick. What if the report told me I was rubbish? What if it laughed in my face at my pathetic attempt? I wanted so badly not to have my dream of being a children’s author quashed. I opened it gingerly, took a deep breath and read …

The report was full of positivity and constructive feedback. I was overjoyed. I immediately began editing. After a couple of weeks, I was thrilled with my story. Whilst the positivity was aglow, I submitted direct to a publisher, that I had, once again, stumbled across by chance – Firefly Press. Once I clicked send, that horrible sick feeling flooded through me. What have I done? But, it was too late for regrets. Besides, I wasn’t going to hear anything back so there was nothing lost.

By this time, it was the summer holidays, so ‘Grace-Ella’ and any other writing had to be pushed to the bottom of my ‘things to do’ pile, whilst I paddled in the freezing sea, crunched on sand-filled sandwiches, played endless games, bounced on the trampoline with the boys and tried very hard to smile through endless damp drizzly days.

Three months after submitting, I received an e-mail. It was from the editor at Firefly Press. She really liked what I’d sent her and was requesting the full manuscript.

‘Oh my god!’ I screeched. ‘It’s happened.’

‘What?’ shouted my husband, running to the office in a state of panic (I was expecting our third child, you see).

I tried to explain whilst I pirouetted up and down the hallway.

‘Does that mean you’re getting published?’ he asked.

Pop! Bubble burst.

‘Well no,’ I said coming to a sudden stop. ‘But it means that I’m on the right track. That I’m perhaps doing something a little bit right.’

‘Oh,’ he said.

A month of neurotic nail-biting and self-doubt battling followed before the second e-mail arrived. It took me several attempts to sit down and click open. I peered at the message through one half-opened eye. In a nutshell, Firefly Press loved my story and wanted to meet for a chat over coffee. Needless to say, my husband really did think our third child had made an early appearance following my screams.

Coffee was consumed, chat was chatted and I drifted home on a pink fluffy cloud. My book would be edited then put in for an ‘Individual Book Grant’ with the Welsh Books Council. I couldn’t have felt happier.

Editing done, the waiting began. I started on another writing project, to try to keep my mind off the looming grants’ meeting. The date arrived and I sat staring at my inbox. That evening, it came. The e-mail I had been dreaming of for the last few months. The e-mail that meant that my dream had come true. My book had been awarded the grant and was being published by Firefly Press.

Contracts were signed, more coffee was consumed and lots of crazy dancing was done (the latter in the safety of my own home).

Some days, I still stop in my tracks as it hits me that my book will be publishing next year. It’s the best feeling in the world. My husband too is thrilled, primarily because the manic bouts of screaming have subsided … for a short while anyway.

I can’t wait for ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’ to publish next year. And I hope that there will be children who fall in love with Grace-Ella, just as much as I have.

My one snippet of advice – never give up. When it happens, it really is like finding that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow … only with slightly less financial gain!

Hwyl am y tro x

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