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Tag: Bev

My publication story

If you’ve looked at this blog before, or you look back at the dates on previous posts, you will see that there are major gaps and there has been a long hiatus when I’ve posted nothing. Stuff happened – and didn’t happen.

I started the blog because I wanted to get into the habit of writing and sharing what I had written. Even when you know you want to be published, putting your words out in front of people can be difficult and scary. However, consistency, in good habits at least, is not one of my strengths. I’d get into whatever fiction I was working on and stop writing blog posts. I’d get despondent about writing and stop. I started another, secret, blog. Life would get good or bad and the blogging would be abandoned. I’m back to it now because I’m excited that my book is being published and not yet back into writing the work in progress – I find it difficult during school holidays.

So, although you can see some of the journey through the blog, I thought I should share an overview of how I got to this – exciting – place.

Like most people who write as adults, I loved writing, and reading, as a child. There were reasons I didn’t start writing fiction seriously until my forties, and I might share those another day. For now, we’ll skip forwards…

I was the mother of a difficult young child, work as a freelance communication consultant and business writer was difficult, I was stressed and needed to do something creative. Unable to find an appropriate creative writing evening class, I signed myself up to do a part-time Masters course in the evening at my local university. I tried different writing forms, started to find my voice and found a novel I wanted to write. I finished the course with an MA, some lovely writing pals, a half-written novel and writing as part of my daily life.

I finished the novel and entered it into a competition, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. It was shortlisted and one of the judges, Allison Pearson, said some very encouraging things about it. I submitted it to agents and found no takers.

I wrote two more novels, was shortlisted in the Good Housekeeping novel competition, got an agent, broke up, amicably, with the agent, and did some more work on my first novel (and it’s pitch) before sending it to a publisher inviting open submissions for a new digital imprint. Ta-dah! (That sounds much easier and quicker and less soul destroying than it was.)

The editor, Victoria Oundjian, loved Beverley from the outset and was amazingly positive. I couldn’t believe it when I received her email saying she was interested in my book and I couldn’t believe how lovely she was. I was used to rejection (that’s a lie, I don’t think you ever get used to rejection) and re-read the email many, many times looking for the ‘but’. With Victoria’s gentle encouragement, I made some more edits and came up with a new title. (I am terrible at titles. I use obscure cultural references that mean something to me and about 12 other people in the world. I fear it reflects the fact that I am not naturally aligned with commercial realities and, you know, other people. I think I got there in the end with ‘The Busy Mum’s Guide to Murder’.)

The thing with digital publishing is that the turnaround is incredibly quick. I signed the contract about a month ago, did my copy edits last week and the book is published in 30 days’ time. I haven’t met any of the people involved in person and I even signed the contract electronically. It took years to get to this point and now it’s all happening in weeks!

I don’t know how it’s going to go from here. I fear everyone will hate my book – well, the three people outside of my friends who read it. I want to publish more novels, but am concerned that I won’t be able to deliver what the market wants. (And now I feel like I have to be funny. I’ve never tried to be funny before. I think life and politics may have sucked me dry of humour.) I’d like an agent who has the time to help me develop a career. None of this might happen. I have to keep the insecurities at bay, enjoy this moment of success and hold on to my love of writing, whatever comes next. So, for now, cheers!If you’ve looked at this blog before, or you look back at the dates on previous posts, you will see that there are major gaps and there has been a long hiatus when I’ve posted nothing. Stuff happened – and didn’t happen.

I started the blog because I wanted to get into the habit of writing and sharing what I had written. Even when you know you want to be published, putting your words out in front of people can be difficult and scary. However, consistency, in good habits at least, is not one of my strengths. I’d get into whatever fiction I was working on and stop writing blog posts. I’d get despondent about writing and stop. I started another, secret, blog. Life would get good or bad and the blogging would be abandoned. I’m back to it now because I’m excited that my book is being published and not yet back into writing the work in progress – I find it difficult during school holidays.

So, although you can see some of the journey through the blog, I thought I should share an overview of how I got to this – exciting – place.

Like most people who write as adults, I loved writing, and reading, as a child. There were reasons I didn’t start writing fiction seriously until my forties, and I might share those another day. For now, we’ll skip forwards…

I was the mother of a difficult young child, work as a freelance communication consultant and business writer was difficult, I was stressed and needed to do something creative. Unable to find an appropriate creative writing evening class, I signed myself up to do a part-time Masters course in the evening at my local university. I tried different writing forms, started to find my voice and found a novel I wanted to write. I finished the course with an MA, some lovely writing pals, a half-written novel and writing as part of my daily life.

I finished the novel and entered it into a competition, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. It was shortlisted and one of the judges, Allison Pearson, said some very encouraging things about it. I submitted it to agents and found no takers.

I wrote two more novels, was shortlisted in the Good Housekeeping novel competition, got an agent, broke up, amicably, with the agent, and did some more work on my first novel (and it’s pitch) before sending it to a publisher inviting open submissions for a new digital imprint. Ta-dah! (That sounds much easier and quicker and less soul destroying than it was.)

The editor, Victoria Oundjian, loved Beverley from the outset and was amazingly positive. I couldn’t believe it when I received her email saying she was interested in my book and I couldn’t believe how lovely she was. I was used to rejection (that’s a lie, I don’t think you ever get used to rejection) and re-read the email many, many times looking for the ‘but’. With Victoria’s gentle encouragement, I made some more edits and came up with a new title. (I am terrible at titles. I use obscure cultural references that mean something to me and about 12 other people in the world. I fear it reflects the fact that I am not naturally aligned with commercial realities and, you know, other people. I think I got there in the end with ‘The Busy Mum’s Guide to Murder’.)

The thing with digital publishing is that the turnaround is incredibly quick. I signed the contract about a month ago, did my copy edits last week and the book is published in 30 days’ time. I haven’t met any of the people involved in person and I even signed the contract electronically. It took years to get to this point and now it’s all happening in weeks!

I don’t know how it’s going to go from here. I fear everyone will hate my book – well, the three people outside of my friends who read it. I want to publish more novels, but am concerned that I won’t be able to deliver what the market wants. (And now I feel like I have to be funny. I’ve never tried to be funny before. I think life and politics may have sucked me dry of humour.) I’d like an agent who has the time to help me develop a career. None of this might happen. I have to keep the insecurities at bay, enjoy this moment of success and hold on to my love of writing, whatever comes next. So, for now, cheers!

Bev’s school essentials shopping list

In the spirit of Beverley from my novel ‘The Busy Mum’s Guide to Murder’, I felt I should offer some helpful guidance for parents entering the unique circle of hell that lies just the other side of the primary school gates. If you’re going to survive with any kind of sanity intact, you’re going to need to get organised. Firstly, can I offer a shopping list of some essentials.

Nit treatment

Sorry, but it’s going to happen, and keep happening.

Calpol

Stock up. Schools are like Petri dishes and germs run rampant. Especially if your child has not been to nursery, it will take a while for them to build up resistance.

Name labels

Label everything that you can’t afford to keep replacing. Even at secondary, I swear my son’s PE socks have wings.

Spare lunchbox

I know, you can’t see how a lunchbox can go missing. Let me tell you that they do. They may reappear, smelly and slightly mouldy, but for a few days they will be totally awol and you will need an alternative. (Spare are generally pretty useful – hats, gloves, PE shorts, best friends…)

A box/basket

You need a central place for all the school crap. In the door – in the basket. Find reading log under the sofa – in the basket. Homework left in the bathroom – in the basket. ‘Muuuum, where’s my book?’ ‘In the basket.’ (A single drawer or space for all school uniform works similarly.)

Hot glue gun

I bought one in the recommendation of a friend and, oh, the revelation. No collapsing cardboard volcanoes soggy with paste. No limbs falling off bog roll robots on the way across the playground. No arms aching as you hold on to castle ramparts while they dry. You stick it with hot glue and that bugger stays stuck. The third degree burns are worth it. (Add Savlon to the list.)

Wine

Whether you favour alcohol or green tea, you will need something to steady your nerves through first drop off, first friendship collapse, first fight about having to go to school every day, 96th conversation with the alpha mum about her child’s reading age/fascination with the silent ‘e’/knowledge of the eight times table (who the hell could do eights?)/ running prowess/ability to speak clearly, tie shoe laces, play the violin…

Lipstick

You are going to those school gates every morning, looking and feeling like shit. You might be wearing yesterday’s clothes and not had a shower yet, but a bit of lippy can be like armour. (If you’re smugly noting that you work and will be dropping off suited and booted for the office, remember that even when you’re off with the flu, the kid has to go to school.)

And remember, smile and walk comrades, smile and walk.

Bitch!

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The protagonist of my WIP is a bitch, cunning, manipulative, ruthless and murderous. She says the unsayable and does the undoable (if for good reasons). I don’t call her a bitch. I think she’s fine. (Apparently my moral compass is off – it’s only hit and run and she had a good reason!) Someone else, who clearly holds people to higher moral and social standards than I do, dubbed her ‘bitch’. So, it got me thinking about what we mean by ‘bitch’.

It’s only used of women and it’s clearly meant to be bad. But then calling someone ‘the c-word’ is really really bad and that’s just a term for lady bits. But let’s stick with ‘bitch’ for now.

Bitch. Literally, a female dog. Originally slang for a lewd or ill-tempered woman. Then the suggestion of greater evil and (pause for intake of breath) unfaithfulness. When feminism came along, the bitch became bad-good. Along with shoulder pads and spiky heels, we girls needed a bit more earthy fighting spirit (balls?!) to fight patriarchy and claim equality.

In more recent times, some might call them ‘post-feminist’, the term bitch seems to have been further reclaimed and rehabilitated. You can now ‘bitch’n’stitch and there are web magazines for online bitches. These bitches seem a somewhat sanitised version of the foul-mouthed, arsy harridan of yesteryear, sort of ladettes with attitude. Take Elizabeth Wurtzel’s ‘Bitch Rules’, for example. Her rules for a modern day bitch include ‘Eat Dessert’, Be Gorgeous’ and ‘The Only Way to get One Person Off Your Mind is to Get Another One on Your Body’. Whoop. Hundreds of years of female activism and we claim the right to eat, dress up and be promiscuous! Another bitch rule is always ask questions. Why? Because it will make you a provocateur, which is sexy! And here was me thinking asking questions was just a good way to find out what you wanted to know.

The good/bad news is that my protagonist (let’s call her Bev) is not a ladette or a yummy/slummy mummy. She doesn’t have acceptable flaws, such as a penchant for too much white wine, chocolate and the bad boy. She doesn’t go to school in her pyjamas or spend all her money on shoes. She is rude, forthright and Machiavellian. And she is willing to do anything, absolutely anything, to protect her children. That’s my version of the good-bad bitch.

Maybe I need to write some ‘Bev Rules’.