Saturday 30 December 2017

Looking back and here's to 2018!

My parents the day they got engaged
Today I am feeling contemplative. Not in a maudlin way, just thinking about the past and what is to come. Let's be honest it is what you do when the year is about to come to an end and a brand new one is about to start, isn't it? I have another confession, I really don't like New Year. It is always full of those promises that everything is going to be different after the clang of 12 bells and then it never is. But also my dearest, darling Daddy died on the 30th December, 21 years ago, so it does tend to taint it a bit. However, I said this wasn't going to be maudlin and it isn't. I just really wish both my parents were around. I desperately want to talk to them and tell them what is happening. I want them to meet the amazing little people that have joined our enormous family and also see the incredible people that their grandchildren have grown up to be.

Selfishly I want to show them what I have done as well. It is only recently I have realised how forward thinking and open minded my parents were. Bit of context first - I was an accident, they told my mother I was the menopause - Surprise! They got me. Luckily they seemed quite pleased. Consequently, my brother and sisters are quite a bit older than me. This meant I had the most amazing childhood. Surrounded by fantastic role models and inspirationally strong women. And a brother who showed me the importance of great cars and speed, also how you should follow your heart and trust your gut. Now, this is what I mean about my parents being forward thinking and open-minded. It was only recently when I attended an inaugural lecture given by Prof Stephanie Spencer and while talking to others at the time that I realised that the path my sisters took in the late 60s and early 70s was not the normal path. My eldest sister went off to Sussex University to study Chemistry in the late 60s - she later did an about turn and became an amazing primary school teacher and then head teacher. Number two sister (yes we were known by numbers at times - that is what happens when you have five children) became a nurse and a damn good one at that.  While number three took a degree in photography, walked around in bedspreads and bare feet - this my mother did struggle with when she accompanied her around Waitrose! She took some beautiful photographs and still does. (She also got arrested for putting giant jellies by parking metres but that is another story). In our house, it was never questioned that you went off to study if that's what you wanted to do regardless of your sex. This I had no idea was not the norm - I have begun to realise I led a very sheltered life.

We were always surrounded by books and I spent my life lost in them. I had a very vivid imagination and liked nothing better to escape into these worlds. I might have had a good home life. School was a different matter. While at secondary school I was bullied so books were the places where I could be who I wanted to be. Also, it could be quite lonely at home as we quite frequently moved so I never formed any long-term friendships and with my siblings being so much older meant they left home when I was very young. I was an aunt by the time I was 11. Books filled those gaps. They provided the friends I needed and gave me so many hopes and dreams. I just hope the books I write can do the same thing for some child somewhere.

When I was young I dreamt of being either a doctor or a writer. Well I have a PhD in creative writing and I have my first novel coming out next year so I think I have possibly achieved my dream on both counts. That is the reason I really want my parents to be around I want to tell them about Flight. Just before Christmas, I was sent the potential covers by Firefly Press, who are publishing it. I had previously been warned to be prepared that quite often debut authors don't love their first cover because it never captures your story apparently. So I had been psyching myself up not to like them and to be prepared to suck it up. I very nearly cried when they came through though - the only reason I didn't was that I was sitting in my office and anyone could have walked in! I opened the email and looked at the attached PDF and there staring back at me were a collection of the most beautiful covers I had ever seen. I loved every single one of them and they all captured the essence of my story. The other thing was I was looking at a cover of a book with MY name on it. My dream really was coming true and this was another step towards it.

2017 had already been pretty amazing Firefly Press had offered to publish FLIGHT and Bridge Publishing had published a short story of mine, entitled 'Home' in an anthology called Citizens of Nowhere .  I had had a pretty wonderful time teaching and presented a paper at NAWE in November which had gone down particularly well that I am now rewriting into an article. I had had a chance to see my wonderful friend James Nicol and Emma Carroll talk about their brilliant books at the Salisbury Literary festival.

As always working with Imogen Cooper at Golden Egg Academy continues to be an inspirational experience. I couldn't have been more thrilled than when two of my Eggs were longlisted for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Undiscovered Voices. I was so excited for them both. So well deserved. As for Imogen, on a personal note, she continues to be my rock and such a great friend, without her I never would be working with the brilliant Firefly and gorgeous Penny, Janet and Meg.

This brings me neatly on to 2018 and looking forward. It is looking like it is going to be an incredible year. In June my gorgeous eldest son is getting married to the amazing April then in July Flight will come out. I get a shiver down my spine every time I write that. I have the pleasure of being a debut buddy in 2018 with the brilliant Vashti Hardy, whose brilliant book, Brightstorm, comes out in March. I can't wait to read it. The cover is so beautiful. Scholastic has done a fantastic job. Can't wait for the launch as well because she is having a joint one with James Nicol who also has a new book out then too, called A Witch Alone, so keep an eye out for that too!

There are lots of amazing books coming out next year from MG Leonard, Jennifer Killick, Eloise Williams, Emma Carroll, Abi Elphinstone, Lisa Thompson and Rowena House (Sorry for the emphasis on women writers there). Come on men let me know about your books too. I know there are loads more but these are the ones that came off the top of my head so I apologise to anyone I have missed off.

I am lucky I am surrounded by a great family but also some incredible friends who have stood by me throughout all the good and the rocky times in 2017. I know they will be there throughout 2018 to share in the joy because I couldn't have done it without them. Thank you to all my friends and family for being you and for believing in me. And thank you, Mummy and Daddy, for giving us wings and telling us we could be whoever we wanted to be.

Happy New Year everyone xxx

I have picked Abba's Happy New Year because my mother loved them - BTW 'Wine time anyone?'


  1. Hooray for fulfilling your dreams!!!

    1. Thank you for being part of them and always being there xxxx I hope 2018 brings magic to you and all your lot xxxx Can't wait to see how things go xxx