On the Marshes – Launch party

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Breakfast in the porch of St Mary’s on the last day of my walk for On the Marshes

Things are beginning to get real now that we have hit 2017 and I begin to plan for the publication of my book, On the Marshes in April. Yesterday I met with Sue Sparks at St Mary’s Church, Lower Higham, where I am planning to hold the launch party.

The church is set on the marshes and the journey I took when writing the book began and ended from there so it seemed the ideal place to do the launch. However, planning an event in a church does feel decidedly close to planning a wedding.

We talked about candles, background music, refreshments, lighting. Seeing as partly the book is about the break up of my relationship then it feels a little ironic that I now appear to be wedding the book.

I am still a little dazed and maybe can’t quite get my head around that, yes, this book will be out there, published, properly published, like you can go into a book shop and buy it, published.

April will be on me before I know it though and my book and I will meet at the alter. I am quietly fizzing with excitement.

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.