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.

On the marshes – To be published

14 writing by the estuaryAlmost a year since I finished my journey across the North Kent Marshes meeting people living alternative ways of life, I am happy to announce that I have just signed a publishing contract with Little Toller Books.

Little Toller Books are an independent publisher who look for writers who ‘seek inventive ways to reconnect us with the natural world and celebrate the places we live in.’

On the Marshes follows my journey from Gravesham to Whitstable meeting houseboat owners, chalet dwellers and friends of hermits living in the woods. The journey was a way of understanding my own experience of living in a caravan on the marshes for three years, my eviction from my home and the subsequent breakdown in my long term relationship.

I hope the book will help people see the beauty and value of an atmospheric corner of England which is under constant threat and give an insight into why some people follow an alternative route in life.

Many thanks to Little Toller for seeing the books potential, to my agent Joanna Swainson of literary agency Hardman and Swainson for working so hard to get me a deal and mostly to the many wonderful, kind, brave people who took the time to meet me and share their stories with me.

Getting a publishing deal is a huge and longed for step for me but I get the feeling that a new journey is just beginning and their will be a lot of learning to do before the book is finally on the shelves. Like any big and scary change in my life I am dealing with the only way I know how and have begun to write something new.

 

Nature Writing Course

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How could you not feel inspired to write by a view like this?

If you would like to improve your skills then come along to one of the nature writing courses I am running as part of the Up on the Downs festival which is taking place  between the 25th July and the 9th August.

On Monday 27th July we will be at the beautiful coastal reserve of Samphire Hoe, near Dover in Kent. We will be taking a walk across one of the newest bits of England, enjoying the beautiful flowers and gaining inspiration from the seascapes.

Then on Sunday 2nd August there is another chance to take part when we will be walking from Lydden Village Hall through woodland and across chalk downland.

Both courses start at 10am and finish around 4.00pm. Please bring water, lunch and writing materials.

The courses are free and are ideal for anyone who would like to improve their nature writing whether you write for your own pleasure, for a blog or for publication. There will be no obligation to read out your work.

To book a place call 01304 241806

Estuary Life – The Next Step

I have signed with an agent but where next?

I have signed with an agent but where next?

I am pleased to tell you that I have just signed with literary agency Hardman and Swainson who will be hard at work hopefully finding Estuary Life a publishing deal in the near future, but will it still be called Estuary Life? Probably not, we are currently toying with various titles, something I will be the first to say I have never been good at, but hopefully we will come up with something which appeals soon.

Joanna Swainson was an early advocate for the idea behind this book and gave me faith that I was onto something when all I had was one chapter and some rough plans. She came to visit the marshes on a terribly wet winters day and subsequently her and partner, Nick Russell-Pavier joined me on a outing to Elmley Marshes. I am really looking forward to working with Joanna over the next few months.

Having wrestled this book into existence I am most certainly into my writing groove and already beginning to think about ideas for my next book. If you would like advice on nature writing and publishing then why not come along to one of the two nature writing courses I am running in the next couple of weeks for the Up on the Downs Festival. See the events page for more details.