A few weeks ago I ran a Twitter competition offering what I call a mini-mentoring pack. This is something I do every now and then, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed!
My winner was Teresa Hamilton, her pitch and opening page captivating me as soon I read them. I believe she really has something and in the coming weeks and months I look forward to working with her on her opening chapters. I asked her to write a piece for my blog and she kindly agreed to share a little of her remarkable and inspiring writing journey. Over to Teresa…
I’ve always made up stories – I can see them in my head – they’re a film in full colour, but as with most things worth having, it’s been a long road to get this far with my writing and I know I still have a long way ahead of me.
In the real world, where I’ve had to earn the rent, I’ve had a varied career including: - primary teacher, sugaring practitioner (that’s hair removal, not cake making), and portrait photographer in nurseries and play groups. I spent years travelling the world as long-haul cabin crew, where I kept diaries of my adventures and used them to write a contemporary, humorous, epistolary novel, Love Suzi, which I subsequently self-published. Writing this gave me the confidence that I could finish a book.
After a particularly traumatic period in our lives, my husband, three children, two dogs, two cats and a fish relocated from London to the country. I wrote humorous, lifestyle columns for Sussex magazines about our adventures adapting to country living. In my favourite episode I was chased across a field while late for a school pick up, wearing my bejewelled flip flops and only just leapt over a fence before a ram called Bruno butted me.
Unsure of which genre to pursue, I entered competitions. When I was successful with an early-reader text I was ecstatic. The prize was to be published. They accepted another in the series too! I really believed I was finally on my way to a writing career, but it all came to nothing. Determined not to be defeated, I wrote another commercial novel Choices, My heroine’s idyllic world turned upside down when she was confronted with the news that she has fallen pregnant and her grown-up daughter was about to make her a grandmother. This novel was picked up by a small publishing company, but again came to nothing. After that I enrolled on the Curtis Brown online Writing for Children’s course to work on my middle grade manuscript.
As my three children grew up, I wrote a humorous blog The Empty Nest about life without the kids. There seemed to be many blogs about how to bring up toddlers but not much at the other end of the scale.
Then two years ago, my life changed beyond recognition when my husband was diagnosed with renal cancer. He passed away within six months. We had worked at home running a construction company so in one whammy, I lost my best friend, my job - my world. Writing has been my lifeline and whilst I know writing about my bereavement isn’t a magic pill, it certainly does help make me feel better. Audible has also been hugely beneficial while my brain has been in bereavement meltdown. I’ve discovered new writers as well as enjoying old favourites - Laurie Lee’s gravelly, grandpa voice in the quiet of the night reading Cider with Rosie, wrapped me up in a velvet embrace and ceased my overwhelming brain chatter, enabling me to continue to enjoy books.
The idea for my latest novel comes from my struggle to find direction again. My protagonist, Lily, feels her life is worthless when she loses her mother but out of the blue, she meets someone from a completely different generation and social background who like her, is struggling to find her anchor in life. After I had the beginning and an outline, I signed up for the Curtis Brown summer school to see if my idea was viable.
I never expected to win the competition Amanda ran on Twitter. It was by chance I saw it and I entered on a whim. I read some of the pitches and they all seemed much more polished than mine. It was amazing when she messaged me to say I’d won, and did I want to be mentored! I’m really looking forward to where this next stage in my writing career will take me.
When my first short story was published my late husband had it framed with the inscription, ‘Never give up on your dreams.’ I haven’t stopped writing with all that’s happened to me – and nothing’s going to stop me now.