Tonight I attend ‘More of Me’ Book Launch II for my dear friend Kathryn Evans – a special for the inhabitants of Chichester and its hinterland. If I have time after I return from the dentists in the afternoon, I shall wear an outrageous green dress. I have heard that green dresses are unlucky – green being the colour of the fair folk – but I have no wish to bring ill-fortune to my colleague. Rather a dusting of lucky fairy dust…
Cover design by Hannah Cobley at Usborne
There will be better accounts with jolly pictures of the event than mine. This is not about the celebration – however wonderful it is.
It’s about the pangs I have learned to set on one side. I’m not going to pretend I don’t have a painful moment of self-examination when I see another writer publicly succeeding where I have not. The shoulds form a poisonous chorus – I should have worked harder, I should have written something more popular, I should have started when I was younger…
But they can be sent into the barren wastes. That’s quite easy when I’m reviewing or reading something so much itself as ‘More of Me’. It has such a distinct voice – at once so very Kathy and at the same time with its own unique tone. I have little difficulty praising a work not written for my readership.
The mental distance is less protection when it’s closer to home. Regular readers will know I am friends with Lu Hersey – whose novel won the Mslexia Children’s Novel prize whilst mine was short-listed. We both wrote about selkies. With such a mutual enthusiasm, you can see why the self-recriminations swam around my ankles.
They’ve come back now the Branford Boase longlist has been announced: Deep Water by Lu Hersey, edited by Sarah Stewart is on there. That delusory ‘it could’ve been me’ daydream lets them slip in and accuse me.
Happily I can call on my experience with Nicki Marshall of Golden Egg Academy, and now my first session of their Editors Course, to grasp how unsung yet special that writer-editor relationship is. A much better imagining. That helps – and the knowledge that though there were similar themes, the likely readers would be different. Not so much rivals as wild-swimmers crossing the same bay, perhaps.
As for Frances Hardinge winning the Costa – her work is so far ahead of mine, it’s like a candle envying a star.
So what have I learnt?
- I’m not as nice as I’d like to be, but I can tell my green-eyed ego to stand in a corner.
- Keep going – as Kathy, Lu and Frances have.
- Go with your wildest, most exciting ideas – that’s where ‘More of Me’ came from.
- Seek for an agent who understands what you are offering.
- Work with an editor who grasps what you intend – or be that editor.
- Try competitions, challenges, anything – but write.
- Quality will out – read and ponder.
“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”