There’s an old saying: A friend is someone who knows the song you sing and who sings it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.
I’m blessed with amazing writing friends. Some are online, some I meet in the flesh. All understand the slog of writing when it feels like nobody hears you, the frustration of not-getting-there, the longing for acceptance.
A while ago, as I trudged through the ever-familiar Slough of Despond, my friend Derek said: ‘Don’t forget. Things can turn on a sixpence.’ There was something about that phrase which stayed with me, and which gave me hope.
Recently, I hit a big low. An agent had asked for the full manuscript of my novel, after saying he loved the first 50 pages. The ‘L’ word! Off went the novel, and I prepared to wait. After two months, I nudged. He said he’d ‘get back to me very soon’. I waited. A month later, he replied. He was sorry to give my novel such a negative review at the beginning of the new year, but…
Fair enough. He didn’t love it any more. As is my wont, I emailed my writing friends with this news and as always, they rallied round in their wonderful and supportive way. Derek added that he’d sent me something in the post.
Next day, I stuck my chin out and entered a competition. And I also subbed the first two chapters of my novel to a small, new publisher whose details had been sitting in my inbox for a while. Derek had sent me them, suggesting I try them.
That night I received a delightful response from the publisher. She liked my synopsis, and would read the chapters. The day after, another email. She liked the chapters and would like to read the whole novel. And a few days later she emailed to say that she was reading the novel at bedtime and didn't want to get to the end. It’s hard to describe what it felt like to receive such an immediate – and positive – response. Whatever happens, I won’t forget the boost this gave me at a time when I’d hit bottom.
Soon afterwards, an envelope arrived: Derek’s mystery missive, which had been travelling through the ether towards me since my miserable rejection email. Inside, a beautiful card with the words: ‘Dear Susie, Welcome to the next stage of your journey.’
And shining like a tiny star, a sixpence.