I am beyond honoured to have made it as a Gladstone’s Library Writer in Residence 2019. This means I’ll get to spend a gloriously unadulterated stretch working on my novel in this stunning and unique North Wales space next summer. It’s somewhere very close to my heart, where much of My Shitty Twenties was written, and I’m following in the footsteps of mega good writers like Naomi Alderman, Sarah Perry and Amy Liptrot. It was a joy to attend the launch salon at the extremely posh National Liberal Club in London last week, where I read from My Shitty Twenties and gave a short speech about what the residency means to me (I can’t remembered everything I said, but I can remember the last line, which just about sums it up: “it means loads”). There’s a misconception that all published authors must be rolling in it and sadly, for most of us, it isn’t the case. As a single mum with sole financial responsibility, I have to have a day job (which thankfully I love), so time ‘just to write’ is precious and rare. I’ll be reading from my book and delivering a talk, Finding Success Through Failure, during my stay. More news nearer the time.
I am thrilled that My Shitty Twenties has been option for a TV comedy drama series by the wonderful Louise Sutton at Lime Pictures. More news here in The Bookseller.
It’s official! My book has been launched and today is the publication date. I had a wonderful time and a right laugh at Waterstones Deansgate on Wednesday night. I read from the book, including a scene when, terrified and confused, exactly 12 years earlier, I found myself in the very same bookshop reading about foetuses. Lots of people very kindly came along and bought the book and Kate O’Donnell interviewed me and was the consummate host. Afterwards, friends and I went to the Manchester International Festival Pavillion in Albert Square, where my mates had saved me a deck chair with THE TRUTH printed on it (below). It was also a special day for my son, who starred in the leading role of Shakespeare in his primary school leaving production. True to form, I couldn’t go because it clashed with work, but I hear he was brilliant and remembered all his hilarious lines, which is good news because his ambition is to act. The DVD’s out next week and I’m stocking up on popcorn already.
If you missed the launch, I am doing loads more events this summer and will keep the ‘events’ page (tab up there) updated. If you’d like to read the book, buy it from your favourite bookshop or order online, with free international shipping, here. If e-books are your thing, it’s available on Kindle too.
Thanks to everyone who came along / read my blog / encouraged me over the years.
A few days after I launch my book, I’ll be heading to Deer Shed festival in North Yorkshire to run a writing workshop. Write Away the Shame is a class in the art of getting over excruciatingly embarrassing experiences by writing about them and (if you’re feeling brave enough) sharing them. And no ground is more fertile for excruciatingly embarrassing experiences than the mud of a festival field, right?
Deer Shed is a brilliant family-friendly festival with ace music, literary and spoken word line-ups, as well as loads of workshops. Find out more and book here.
Come and join in if you can!
My Shitty Twenties, my memoir, will be launched at Waterstones Deansgate on Wednesday 12th July at 6:30pm. I’ll be reading from the book, answering questions and signing copies. If you’d like to join me on the night, book your ticket here. It’s £3 including a glass of wine or a soft drink.
“The freshest, frankest, wisest, ballsiest memoir I’ve read. Daring, eloquent, and important: a glorious tale of one woman’s triumph over the past and her own fears as she learns how to be a single parent in a world where ‘single’ is still a dirty word. I cried heaps and adored every page.”
(Emma Jane Unsworth)
My book is being released into the wild next summer. It will be published by the excellent Salt Publishing. It’s a memoir about becoming a single mother. I’m half-nervous, half-excited. Either way, I’m still nowhere near as terrified as I was about having the baby. Here is a picture of the cover; more news as it comes…
Or rather, why publish it?
Everybody knows that the process of writing from life is cathartic. The fast clatter of fingertips on the keyboard always felt like a tonic to me, frustrations and negative emotions rushing out and ending up on a screen, where they became something positive, a neat little tale with an ending that always made me feel like everything was going to be OK.
But once the words are out of your system, can you really cast them out into the public domain?
When you write a blog, you get instant feedback from your readers, often to say you’ve helped or inspired them in some way. If, after you’ve written a post, you decide it’s too personal / a bad idea / just a bit crap, you just edit / delete / make private. And often you do.
I started writing my blog because, two years in, I had finally settled into being a mother and the fact that I was one and seemed to be doing an alright job of it, totally alone, surprised me. I was also constantly amazed by the fact the small, squirming thing that had been handed to me a midwife not that long ago was quickly becoming a walking, talking human being who came out with hilarious stuff.
I’d thought about writing a book about how I got to that point for a while. I kept thinking back to me, absolutely desperately terrified, pregnant, skint, on my own, feeling like my future had just hit the dead end by the ditch at the bottom of the quiet cul-de-sac where Mum lived and I had to move. If someone had shown me my son and the adventures that lay ahead, I’d have leapt out of bed every morning, counted down the days to the birth, maybe even braved the cheesy couples in the antenatal classes. I wanted to tell other women in my situation my story, for them to have a bit of hope.
My book contract, a wonderful opportunity, came when my son was four. After the celebration came a spontaneous and not massively productive trip to a remote Turkish beach to get started, followed by panic. The story of a birth isn’t just the mother’s to tell: the story I wanted to publish was my son’s too. Could I really write indelibly about the fact he was unplanned? What would that do to him?
With a book, there is no reassurance from your readers, you just send it out there and hope people like it. Most terrifyingly of all, there is no option to edit / delete / make private.
“Write it as a novel,” some suggested, as I went around in circles trying to work out what to do.
I couldn’t, though, because I’d already gone and written a blog about how it was real and lots of people had read it and there was no going back on that. Sometimes, when I was suffering from really bad anxiety, when I lay awake and my mattress felt like a flimsy raft careering towards the nearest waterfall, I told myself I would just have to stop. I would have to get up, open my laptop, email my publisher and finish it all.
While I was busy worrying about how the book might affect my son, he grew up. Four years isn’t much for an adult, but it’s makes a big difference to a kid. Suddenly, I was having to sit him down and have the chat about sex (thanks to The Sims and their ‘Woohooing’ – you think it’s just the likes of Grand Theft Auto you need to shield your children from? BEWARE OF RANDY SIMS!). From that came questions about relationships, contraception and naturally, his own conception, all of which are far easier to discuss with an inquisitive eight-year-old than a mortified teen.
“Where is your book, Mum? When is it coming?”
That question floored me more than, “why did you have sex if you weren’t ready for a baby?” (ooff), but, thanks to The Sims, I felt able to sit down and sigh and explain what (apart from my full-time work and looking after him) was taking me so long.
“You must have been really scared, Mum.”
I was. Just like loads of other mothers are in the beginning, even married ones, who’ve been planning their pregnancy for years. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my son. It’s kind of the point of the book: the shock of the love and the depth of it, when it arrives.
I began to write again, constantly assured and encouraged by my son. I picked up more memoirs, by people who’d been brave to write them, whose stories would certainly help others. Most recently, Amy Liptrot’s stunning account of life on a wild isle recovering from alcoholism, The Outrun, blew me away and spurred me on. Before that, Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh: a bold and brilliant collection of short stories, mixing real-life and fiction, with a heavier dose of the former, reminded me of the importance – and the power – of life writing.
In the middle of it all, I had panicked so much that I’d lost sight of why I set out writing the book.
Then last weekend, when I was snoozing and recovering from a sponsored run with my son, I opened an email from a young woman I don’t know. I used to get them a lot, when I was writing my old blog, but it had been a while. She was pregnant, on her own, frightened, but she said my blog was giving her hope. It reminded me of how helpless I felt when I was in her situation eleven years ago, and it also reminded me why I had written real life and sent it out there into the world. I replied to her and wished her and her baby all the best, but there was one thing I forgot to say and I hope she’s reading this. I forgot to thank her, because she gave me hope back.