For the last year I have been walking the estuary from Lower Higham in Gravesham to Whitstable. Along the way I have met houseboat owners, chalet dwellers, plotland holders and friends of hermits. All winter I have dwelt in my cellar writing up their stories along with my own tale of living in, and finally being evicted from, a caravan on the marshes.
At the end of the month I will take the last part of this journey, heading back to the Hoo Peninsula where I used to live and the little church on the marshes where I started my trip. It has been a journey both physically and metaphorically. I have learnt things about myself and re-evaluated my past as much as I have found out the stories of others. Now the end is in site.
Last week, on a wet Wednesday afternoon, I sent the first 13 chapters, 70,000 words off to the literary agents whose interest in the idea and my writing was the spur I needed to leave my job, go freelance and begin this journey. The next day one of them got back to me, telling me they loved what I had written and wanted to take me on as a client.
This is brilliant news. These days getting an agent is almost as hard as getting a publisher. No agent will take you on unless they think they can get you published. It is the first step on the road to seeing that book on the shelf at Waterstones. It has been a long time coming. I wrote my first ‘book’ at 12, sent my first full length novel to a publisher at 14 ( clearly a precocious and unrealistic child). I should have been leaping for joy at this positive feedback.
Weirdly, I stalled. Can someone tell me why? Looking down the barrel of success, I was scared. Partly it’s because this book is such a personal account of my life in the caravan. Fine for strangers to read it but I am freaked out at the thought of people I know reading stuff I would never actually say. I guess also it’s the thought that success could, on the one hand change everything and, on the other hand, be a damp squib.
Still, I have sucked it up and am meeting agents next week to talk about the next step. It is exciting, scary exciting, but that’s a good thing….I think.