A Merry Perambulation

merry perambulatorsIn 2012 I set out across the North Kent Marshes with a group of friends to following in the footsteps of the artist William Hogarth who had gone on a grand tour from Gravesend to Sheppey in 1732.

The result was, ‘A Merry Perambulation,’ a  light-hearted account of a walk through a changing landscape.

Originally commissioned for Kent’s Coastal Week, the book is now being serialised in four instalments in the new online magazine Longshore Drift.

To read my account of the journey follow the link to the magazine.

A merry perambulation

Longshore Drift

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photo by MLP

Longshore Drift is a new online magazine published jointly by the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership and Longshore Editions. Its primary focus is the landscape of the north Kent marshes, with occasional diversions into areas of related interest. They welcome submissions from writers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, musicians and craftspeople, who can inspire our readers to explore, understand and appreciate the importance of the area.

take a look at the first edition and find out how to contribute here

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On the road to being published

On the Marshes - Success at last.

On the Marshes – Success at last.

It’s been a bit of a journey from being one of the many thousands of hopefuls submitting their manuscript to getting published and I guess I am still only half way there. I learn something new every day.

It started with an idea, that grew into one prospective chapter of a book. One chapter and a synopsis of how the rest might pan out. One chapter which I submitted to three agents, all of whom came back enthusiastically and said great, where’s the rest? There was no rest. That was it, one chapter. I felt then I’d blown it, shown myself as an amateur before I’d even begun but I also knew from previous attempts at submitting work to agents and publishing houses that three agents, keen and interested and saying flattering things about my writing wasn’t nothing. It was far from nothing. It was something which made me so excited I wanted to run round my office whooping if only I hadn’t been sitting next to the miserable bosses, boss.

Better still, one of the agents, Joanna Swainson of Hardman and Swainson Literary Agency wanted to meet. I took her out to the location of my planned book. The Hoo Peninsula in Kent on a day when the rain poured down. I took her to a pub where the meal was terribly salty. I talked ten to the dozen, but still she was keen.

‘30,000 words,’ she said. ‘Show me that and I will see if I can get an advance.’ I went off and started my journey across the marshes and wrote and wrote. 6000 words a day at times. Crazy wordage, much of which didn’t survive but still I was writing. When I had my 30,000 words I went back to her and fearfully asked what she thought. She responded with huge enthusiasm, she asked me if I wanted her to submit it to publishers. Amazingly I replied that I wasn’t ready. I wanted no other voices and opinions in my head until I had completed the book.

So I went away and completed my journey and wrote and submitted my manuscript to trusted readers, who made comments. I edited, long and sometimes tedious days getting the manuscript to a standard I was happy to show to the world.

And then came the tough part. Months of submissions to editors, comments that glowed with praise, that made me want to weep with joy from editors who really supported the book and really understood what I was trying to say and still they all came back and said no. That is tough. Seven rejections in one day with the kind of comments that make your spirits rise and fall with equal measure. It is tough, it is frustrating. It gave me real insight into how hard it is to get published. How, nowadays it is not just one editors huge enthusiasm but a whole team of editors and marketing people who have to agree to take a book on.

It was a black time. Joanna told me not to give up hope. I began writing something new, just to remember the joy of writing once again. Then suddenly it all changed we got not one yes but two in as many days.

I had to choose. One publisher just seemed to understand the book better than the other. Said they wanted to develop me as a writer and seemed to be in it for the long term. I went with Little Toller Books.

Today the journey took a new turn as I begin on the official second draft (although the reality is it is probably the 20th draft) I am working from the comments of one of the editorial team. Her comments have made me think of some of the subjects and issues I raise in the book in new ways. I have been doing more research. I have been contacting people who knew me at that time and asking for their take on events. It is so exciting to think that professional people have taken such time with my writing. To have read it, thought about it deeply and are going to help me improve it.

The book is not due to be published until next year. It is still a long way off but it is half way on a journey I have for so long wished to take.

Happiness is…fulfilling your childhood dreams.

newt close upI was undoubtedly a strange child, the kind that makes their parents worry. I spent most summer days sitting up an apple tree in my parent’s garden, reading nature books and dreaming of such delights as owning my own newt!

Living in a suburb on the edge of London these creatures were a symbol of all the mysterious delights of the wild which were out there, somewhere, if only my parents would allow me to take off into the countryside and go and look for them.

I dreamt of  creating my own pond. I asked my parents if I could, they said no so I dug one in the neighbours garden instead. I figured they would never know. They were in their seventies, rarely went into the garden and never beyond the big privet hedge into the section which had once been the vegetable patch which had now run wild. I roped in my friend and, under my careful instruction, she dug a large hole and we lined it with some polythene I had found in my dad’s shed. I filled it with six watering cans fully of tap water and waited.

A few pond skaters arrived, a red wiry worm wiggled around, mosquito larvae came but no newt. The liner sprang a leak. I got up early every morning to wander up and down the garden with those six watering cans to keep the pond topped up. I waited, I hoped, no newt came.

One night there was a shout and a crash down the bottom of the garden. My neighbour had decided to walk beyond the privet hedge. He fell in my pond. Their was knocking on the door, a telling off, the pond was filled in.

Then, many years later, I owned a house of my own, I roped in some friends to dig a new pond. Under my careful instruction they dug a hole in the garden, I lined it with plastic, but better quality this time. The neighbours complained, fearing mosquitoes and inexplicably frogs, which they were terrified of. I waited.

The pond sprang a leak, but I fixed it. The water stayed high and the newts came, first one, then six, now they wander my garden. I find them under logs, I find them trapped in buckets of water. I rescue them. I delight in them. I think of that seven year old girl who dreamt of newts while sitting up the apple tree and I am happy.