What’s that saying – you wait ages for a bus and then three show up at a once? How about if the buses are writing successes? Are the feelings the same? Relief. Joy. Tears?
Ok there were no tears. Not really. I don’t know why. I definitely thought when I got to where I wanted to go, I would cry. There was a glimmer. A few drops, not even enough to wipe away. And then it was straight onto the phone to call my nearest and dearest who know what it might mean to me to tell them the words.
I got offered a contract.
I got a book deal.
I’m going to be published!
There has been a lot going on behind the scenes over the past few months. As my writing has developed and I’ve worked my way through getting agented and the submission process, I’ve had to go to ground and not talk about it. This has been hard.
As a blabbermouth and blogger, I’m used to writing about my feelings, gathering them, posting them here and dealing with them. When you’re sending your script out to editors, waiting to see if they like it, waiting to see who, if anyone, might offer one of the most important pieces of paper to you in your life, it’s just not possible to put it out publicly that this is happening.
My family knew. Some writer friends knew. In fact, there were a few who were going through the exact same thing as me and we clung to each other desperately. Any news? How are you FEELING? Are we going mad?
The whole process slowly but surely helped me form a new thickness of skin. Being on submission, and giving birth to my second child in the middle of the whole process, may have messed with my mind a little.
But no matter. We are through it now. And I have come out the other side. In a few months I will progress from being an ‘aspiring author’ to ‘published author’.
Dream. Come. True.
My run of good luck started in May, when my play ‘Chop’ was chosen as a finalist in the Wexford Literary Festival. I had never written a play before but I loved the challenge of it and as I knew I would be attending the festival, I thought, why not?
It was around the time I was waiting for my daughter to be born and I’d been watching a lot of Netflix. I noticed that I was drawn to movies and documentaries about killers and death row prisoners and this became the inspiration for the play. Why are we obsessed with death and gore? Isn’t it wrong to be entertained by such tragedies? And how far is too far in selling the murder story?
It took me a few days to write the play – you can read about the process here – and I sent it off merrily and thought no more of it. When it was picked to be performed, I decided to cart the whole family down to see it. I wanted my husband to be there. And we made a family weekend away out of it – possibly the only trip we’ll get this year.
It was quite surreal watching your words being performed on stage. I was nervous as to how it would go. I perched on the edge of my seat and followed their movements, knowing what was coming, yet still lost in it all.
The audience laughed at the jokes. They clapped after every scene. I laughed with them too, enjoying it, feeling high as a kite, thinking, this is so amazing and scary!
And when it came to being judged, I didn’t mind what way the vote went. I felt like I had won already. I had entertained people with my words, right in front of my eyes. That was enough prize for me. The whole thing was a success. (I didn’t come first, but who can compete with Shakespeare?)
After Wexford I settled back into my writing norm, sending off my stories to competitions and working on my new novel. I had almost let go of my first novel, thinking that after so much time, it may be that it wasn’t the one that would make it and I needed to concentrate on the second.
In the middle of May my agent sent me on some feedback that made me look really closely and critically at my work. It wasn’t what the feedback said, or the words used or the advice given. It was the mirror shown to my own thoughts. I always knew my book needed to be rewritten. I knew that it needed structural changes and additional scenes and tighter editing to make it better than it currently was. I just couldn’t face up to it. I didn’t want to tackle it. I didn’t know how.
A burst of energy found me. It might have been the May sunshine or it might have been an acceptance of where I was at and what I needed to do. Either way, I was very excited to get started and I got the novel printed out, bought a spanking new folder and set about reading and editing it line by line, again.
A six month break from the text allowed me the space and distance I needed to be able to view the story in a new way. I’d probably learned a lot more about writing too in that time and developed my understanding of what might be needed to sell a book.
With the paper, I could move scenes and chapters around, checking the flow, trying new structures, identifying where there were gaps. It was hard work, but very satisfying, and I knew, in my gut, that what I was doing was tipping me ever so close to my publishing goal.
I finished the rewrite in about three weeks and sent it off into cyberspace. Job done. Now over to the publishing Gods.
In the middle of all this, I got word that one of my short stories had been shortlisted for JuneFest, an arts festival held in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. I was chuffed, thinking my run of good luck was continuing and I organised to head down for a very well earned Mammy night out with writery types and no kids allowed. Bliss!
I was on a bit of a high. A few days before I’d received an email from the publishing director at Bombshell Books, a new UK digital imprint, to tell me she was reading my script. Two days later she emailed to say she had finished it and that they only took on work they felt they could market well and felt passionate about.
They wanted to offer me a contract.
My rewrite had worked.
I was in bed with my laptop responding to a positive comment someone had left on a Facebook thread telling me how they were sure I would be published this year. (What a wise soul).
I was calm and called my husband and then our best friend and then my mother.
And that was it. Two years of researching, writing, visiting, editing, gnashing teeth and waiting. And here it was.
On the day of the Junefest event, I hopped into my car after pressing send on the contract paperwork and arrived at the venue in flying form. I listened to three established writers talk about their influences, their habits and their thoughts on this funny pursuit we are following.
After their talk, award winning writer Orla McAlinden stood up to announce the winners of the Junefest competition. I came second and had to come to the stage to read my piece to the audience after accepting my prize.
On an absolute high and not really knowing what I was saying, I spoke into the microphone before reading my piece.
“I just signed a publishing contract,” I said, beaming. The audience clapped. “And I have a two year old and a four month old!”
“If I can do it, anyone can!”
Alright Obama, that’s enough now.
Well done. But nobody likes a show off.