Me and my shadow

harbour-sealIf you’re wanting a relentlessly cheery blog-post with fluffiness and added cute, move along. Nothing much for you here.


Yesterday ( Wednesday 1st July) was the launch of Lu Hersey’s book deep water .

Copies of Deep Water

Beautiful blue books – photo by Ben Illis

I’ve followed and promoted both the event and the novel on Twitter and Facebook because she’s my friend. I rather enjoyed all the sea-themed display pictures – I have rather a thing for anything maritime, and especially selkies. I made a half-hearted attempt to go – but it didn’t happen.

My failure to get to Bristol left me with a mix of both regret  – and relief.

Other people’s launches give you:

  • a chance to catch-up with writer pals
  • the opportunity to meet people IRL you ‘know’ from Facebook and the like
  • a reminder that it can be done

I confess to stroking Teri Terry’s arm at Jane McLoughlin’s launch for The Crowham Martyrs. Partly because she’s a SCBWI pal – and partly so some lucky dust could rub off on me.


Look – sweeties! {photo by Ben Illis}

I also go to industry events of any stripe because I can’t bear to think I’m missing out.


CC Matt Katzenberger I have a dark twin. A shadow self, if you will. She:

  • points out that Lu won the Mslexia Children’s Novel prize with a selkie story when mine was only short-listed
  • can’t fail to tell me how many people there have agents and/or book deals – and I don’t
  • has to recall just how long I have been trying and coming in the also-rans

I fight her off. I tell her that I will support my friends. I point out to her that I review my colleagues’ work with honesty and kindness, that I retweet and post their successes with bittersweet pleasure. She can go back and dwell in the darkness.

Lu reading from Deep Water

Lu reading from Deep Water {photo by Ben Illis}

As for Lu’s book – I know it will delight and enthrall the readership it’s been written for. It has oodles of contemporary adventure, romance and magic, not to mention selkies – what more could they want? [A proper review will follow on Serendipity Reviews soon]

It was the underwater sections that got to me. They’re smashing – and they reminded me that I can write as well. I write in a different voice – mine – but I know I can write that sort of quality. [ Anyone want a MG selkie story?]

Selkies and starfish

Selkies and starfish

I  just haven’t found my readership yet. It seems to be a long road for me. I suppose I do have my shadow for company.

seal-silhouetteI welcome honest comments on this post – but be warned, my dark avatar won’t stand for anything happy-clappy  or glib.

18 thoughts on “Me and my shadow

  1. I feel my gut clench at the emotion your words evoke – and I applaud your self-directed honesty.
    But we are writers, and I know — with absolute certainty — that we all feel this way. Each day we battle comparisonitus, and maybe this only applies to me, but I think the only thing I battle more than my fear of failure is my fear of success.
    Excellent post — I feel less alone from reading.
    J x

  2. Don’t forget that for each one of your shadow’s negative whispers there are ten other writers out there wishing they were as far down the road as you are. Don’t look behind, don’t look to your side, look ahead to where you want to be.

  3. Aargh…why didn’t i think of the rubbing Teri’s arm trick? Now I’ll have to wait until the SCBWI conference! Seriously, KM…the shadow never leaves. One week after my book launch I’m already worried about not getting reviewed, not selling, never getting another book deal and (the biggie!) simply not being as good a writer as my peers. I comfort myself with the realisation that every writer has this shadow. I imagine JK, with all her milliions, is still bristling over not being taken as seriously as Philip Pullman. So, don’t feel guilty, and (more importantly) don’t give up! xx

  4. (remember me from the unthanks weekends?)
    I can’t say anything clever or groundbreakingly different. Just you have to be in it to win it so don’t you dare give up. And shortlisted. Jesus how did you do that?

  5. Oh how I sympathise! I never thought I was an envious person until I became a writer and, though I applaud the success of my friends with genuine delight, there is always a hidden, tiny addendum ‘what about me?’
    I hate myself for it because I aspire to be a generous and supportive fellow traveller, but if you care about your work of course you are going to want it to be recognised and praised. Your turn will come I’m sure. A friend of mine I’ve known for many years through an SF writing site, just got a three book deal with Daw. Two of the books she sold are novels she wrote years ago. Like you, she was always good enough, and, talent being a given, her late success was about persistence, her gritty determination not to give up.
    I think all us creatives cohabit uncomfortably with the same dark shadow and, if we are lucky, the urge to defeat it with our own success stops it from corrupting us too badly. I try to accept mine as the price of ambition and fight to keep its voice from ever coming out of my mouth. (Needless to say it sometimes does.)

    • Spot on, Nicky.
      I want to be that naturally generous warm-hearted person I imagine. The other face of ambition as the dark twin – thanks for that notion.

  6. Don’t give up, Phillippa! Lots of people spend YEARS trying to get published, get LOADS of rejections, but eventually, with hard work, perseverance, and luck, they get there. I read part of your selkie novel at the conference crit, and you have a smashing writing style of a very high quality. You WILL make it, my friend. We will be attending YOUR book launch soon enough. xo

  7. I’ve formulated several replies to this since you posted it but I’m struggling with it a bit. It’s a brave and honest post but I don’t feel at all the same way that you do and it makes me sad that this belief that every pursuit is competitive has spread into so many walks of life. Some things are competitive and they’re meant to be and that’s fine but I don’t see writing and most other creative work in the same way as a tennis championship or even competing for promotions at work. There are awards, contests and bestseller lists that try to introduce competition between writers but they are external to the business of writing. No one will ever writer your stories as well as you do. No one will ever even try to, because our writing is unique to us. Beyond that, things happen when they happen and it’s all swings and roundabouts at the best of times. Most of us want to be published, I get that, but this isn’t achieved by beating other writers. It’s achieved by telling our stories the very best way we can and then by the right story landing in front of the right person at the right time. It can be very frustrating and it can take a very long time but it’s not competitive. The real struggle is the creative process, turning that elusive glimmering idea into a wonderful story. I know the rest of it can be very tough but we all know that nearly every published writer has been through it and it’s never over because even when you’re published there’s the next book and the one after that and the possibility of rejection, of being back at square one or worse, is always there. Maybe I’m odd, I don’t know, but for me success is when I feel I’ve done justice to a story and not measured by an inner progress chart in which I compare my path with the paths of others. I feel a deep quiet joy when someone I know has written a book I admire and gets a deal. I even feel a bit smug, in the sense of feeling vindicated that my interest in them and their work has been justified. Sorry if this seems a bit happy-clappy hippyish but after years working in a competitive workplace where I was a square peg in a round hole, at some point I just stopped caring about comparisons and misplaced competitiveness that makes everyone miserable.

    • I really appreciate the effort you put into this response, Sara.
      It’s a pity that I didn’t make it clearer that I don’t feel I am competing with others – more that their success reminds of my own deficiencies, that’s all.
      Thanks for posting.

  8. Competition is deeply ingrained in our society and psyches, and accentuated by the positivity of social media (hence we recognise how brave it is to be honest like Philippa on this blog). I also worry about the balance between online support & peer pressure to keep going, no matter what. Surely it is perfectly rational to take stock & ask oneself about the opportunity cost of taking up so much of our precious time searching for publication? This isn’t defeatism; it’s about being comfortable with the idea that not every battle can be won; of having the maturity to know that not every dream will come true. Thus we are able to move on, fully realised as human beings, rather than feeling trapped by our own expectations and at the mercy of business decisions which will remain entirely beyond our control.

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  10. Oh Gosh, I completely understand what you’re feeling, it was my state of mind a few years ago when I saw my friends, brilliant writers and persons, being published while I was still struggling with my submissions and waiting for answers! Now I’m published and I can tell you, I always fall prey to jealousy and competition “yes, I’m happy for you but what about me?”
    It’s OK to feel this way, it’s human and somehow I’ve accepted that fact. I don’t know if it will help you with your dark twin, but I wish you every success in your writing journey!

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