Monday, 4 May 2009

Give us a Flash!


When I think back over the last four years, which is how long I’ve been writing seriously, certain episodes flash into my mind - certain events in my personal literary world which have significantly shaped my journey to publication. As most of you know, a journey which I have not yet completed.

The first is the day I sat down at the computer and started to write. My youngest had started school several months earlier, and after years of toddlers group and afternoons in the park - all of which I wouldn’t change for the world – part of my brain suddenly twitched. I needed to write. And write I did. Polished a bit, puffed out my chest and then I remember, like it was yesterday, interrupting my husband on the toilet (he’s going to kill me for writing this.) I knocked and ignoring his indignation, prised open the door a couple of inches and slipped through a sheet of A4.
“Read this,” I said, nervously. “Do you think it is any good?”
Silence. Prompting from me. More indignation then: “It’s good. I like your turn of phrase.”
Phew! He hadn’t laughed. I went back to the computer.

The second episode, nine months later (they say every novel is a baby) involved the bathroom again (bit of a theme here, I’m afraid.) Me lying starkers under the water, husband sat on the loo (lid down this time, you’ll be relieved to hear), him holding a rejection letter that had just come through the post. Very short, two lines long but those magic words… “You write well.” I was officially a writer now!

The third fortunately didn’t involve nudity and was about one year later when an agent requested the full of my second novel. Deep joy! I embarked upon an email frenzy telling anyone who will listen that my moment had come! I look back on that episode with nostalgic sympathy. ‘Bless,’ I think, ‘she did well but should have known better.’ I’m not quite so green now.

Episode four was a rejection of the full of my third novel. It was no holds barred - the worst I’d ever had. There was much wobbling of my bottom lip and many tears. Thank God for Cadbury’s and White Zinfandel. But I came back - discarded that work and moved onto the next. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The trick is also not to get bitter.

Episode five is when my dad read my current book, the first time I've shown him such a large chunk of my work. He said he was proud and just for one nanosecond, it didn't matter quite so much whether I ever got published or not.

The last one brings me up-to-date and is more a visual image in my mind of this vibrant green blog - my hard-working colleagues, you lovely readers, it’s a rewarding achievement that every day, grows in front of my eyes.

So, if - or rather when - I die, the frames of film-reel that roll before my eyes will doubtless include the above. What about you? Care to share the ups and downs of your literary life? The ones that have considerably influenced your writing career? Go on, I dare you! Give us a flash!

22 comments:

HelenMHunt said...

There are so many it's hard to choose, but so far for me the first would be sitting down and writing my first short story. And the second was when, a full three years later, I got my first acceptance from Woman's Weekly. For the years in between I have to join you in saying god bless Mr Cadbury and the brothers Gallo!

Helen P said...

Samantha, what a lovely post! My literary career is a journey also; from an out-of-the-blue invite to London to brainstorm greetings cards verses (eight years ago) to a biography of a businessman (published this month) via a job as a restaurant reviewer and feature writer at my local newspaper (in Cheshire.) But the biggest flashes are always images of the actual people who gave me those breaks in the first place.

Samantha Tonge said...

Glad you got through the years inbetween, HelenMH, it gives me hope!

Thanks, HelenP! Goodness, sounds like you have a very diverse and successful writing career.

Katy said...

Great post, Samantha, thank you.

My first book - a tale of pony-related intrigue featuring a horse with a wooden leg - was self-published at home in a hand-illustrated hardbacked edition of one by the 6 year old me.

34 years later, my handwriting still isn't all that great. So my biggest flash? The word processor :-)

Susie Nott-Bower said...

What a great post - thanks, Sam!
Hmm - Great Writing Moments...
Well, rather than successes (of which there have been all too few) I guess my moments have been turning-points:
- after a lifetime of writing poetry and non-fiction, going on a week-long course on writing novels: this was an epiphany and set me off in a new direction.
- finishing the first draft of my novel - the pride of actually completing something so long.
- being told in a report that I had the ability and emotional heart to be published - that meant so much.
(I'm still waiting for a positive comment from an agent...)
Susiex
PS What a wonderful LSO you have, Sam!

Shigune Matsui said...

That reminds me. What would happen if you died? Would your writing live on like a soul that curiously wanders upon the Earth? Great post by the way.

Shigune Matsui said...

I've also had those great writer's accomplishments too.
-Getting the first comments upon my first short story
-Finishing my novella, A Heart of Ice
-Getting greater each time as I write

But again, I have had bad moments too... *blush*

CarolineG said...

Great post, Sam. Especially love the image of you sliding your work through the door to your husband! I guess I've had a fair few of these too. Will be on a long car journey today so shall be musing on this.... thank you!

Samantha Tonge said...

Katy, i love the sound of that pony!

Yes, Susie, i am lucky.
I agree, turning point is just as good a word for these moments in time.

Hmm, i like the idea of my writing somehow living on beyond me, Shigune.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Great Post! I've been ewriting seriously for two years and like you have had many ups and downs, including enough rejection letters to paper a wall. One novel behind me - which in hindsight I know now was the novel I had to get out....the novel I'm almost finished (book 2) is the one I hope will further me on my personal publication journey. Fx

Samantha Tonge said...

Good luck with it, Fionnuala!

Gillian McDade said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Sam! A small accomplishment is always a big step forward :)

The Write Woman said...

Lovely post - I almost cried at the point where your Dad said he was proud of you. You're right - we probably all have those 'moments' along the writing road. Mine were: (1)publication of my first-ever short story - a children's story in 'The Brownie' magazine during the 1980s!, (2) winning the 'Winner of Winners' shield for a short story competition - I was SO nervous at the big presentation ceremony in London, I could hardly speak; and (3)- will always be the acceptance of the first novel. Then I DID cry!
You will have even better 'moments' to come: I'm sure of it.

Caroline R said...

Lovely post, Sam, and I nearly cried too at the bit about your dad! It's so important to recognise and celebrate these moments - the writing life is full of so many not-yet-fulfilled dreams that it's easy to miss the real achievements as they are happening.

One of my milestones was when I was boredly sitting in assembly at the age of 12 and the headmaster said he was going to read out the two stories the school had chosen for a national competition... a few words in, I realised the first one was mine.

Olivia Ryan said...

How nice to read about your special memories. I know some might have been better than others but they are the things that stay in your mind and form part of the whole experience. The fact that you dust yourself down after the disappointments and carry on means that eventually your memories will all be good ones.

Samantha Tonge said...

Write Woman, you have certainly had some fab moments. But yes, it's funny how sometimes the small things can mean so much.

Your talent showed at an early age then, Caro - as i've said before, all i can remember from school is being told i wrote like Enid Blyton, and the teacher didn't mean it as a compliment (I loved Blyton!)

I hope so, Olivia - that's a good way of looking at it.

womagwriter said...

Great post!
My first such moment is when my first story began unexpectedly writing itself in my head while I was cooking the kids' tea. I had to go and sit down and type, and one hour later I had a story I really liked (still do, but it's not a seller). First sale, of course, was great. Spending the money earnt from first sale! And a dad moment from me too - he died shortly after I'd begun writing. But I found a folder by his computer, labelled Kath's Writing, containing printouts of bits and pieces I'd sent him or had published on the net. He never said he was proud of my writing, but that folder said it without words.

Lydia said...

It's such a rollercoaster isn't it? My first acceptance letter came while I was bedridden and waiting for a back operation - I can't say it made me feel better but I appreciated it once I was well. I remember crying when I recieved the email telling me my novel would not be published having got down to the last 3 in a competition. I remember the first time my picture appeared in a magazine next to a serial and how validated I felt. Why on earth do we do it??

Samantha Tonge said...

That's lovely, about your dad, Womagwriter..

Lydia, i've asked myself that a thousand times!

Jeannette said...

I can think of a couple of moments, nothing involving the bathroom, sadly...

One was when I was 8 or 9. I must have said something to the family about wanting to be a writer when I grew up. One day out of the blue my grandfather gave me a 3-ring binder and a bic pen with 4 colours. He said, 'If you want to be a writer, you have to write.' So I did.

The other significant moment was about 7 years ago. I had joined a small group of women writers. We used to set ourselves exercises. One exercise was to write about colour. I wrote a poem about purple. One woman -- Julia -- remarked, 'This is quite good. Do you write poetry?' Well I hadn't up until then but after that I started and I haven't stopped! Had first poem published a few years after that happened. I didn't cry but I did jump around for about 10 minutes, hugging the cat because no one else was home!

Samantha Tonge said...

What a wonderful grandfather, Jeannette!

I suspect the cat never forgot that moment, either:)

Fi said...

What a wonderful post. I've been writing for so long (over 20 years) that there are many many memorable pegs on my writing noticeboard.

The first would probably be receiving praise for a story I'd toiled over from an English teacher I admired.

Another would be finishing my first novel and holding the printed out pages in my hands.

Many years later, seeing one of my plays performed and enjoyed equally by the cast and the audience was a delight.

Another would be receiving my first royalty cheque for one of my plays.

Most recently, it has been the realisation that I 'am' a writer, that I can take pride in that title and feel deserving of it.

It's taken a while to get to this stage and there's still further to go on the journey. Long may it continue.