Monday, June 30, 2008


I got to thinking when I woke up, about the highlights of my writing - can't call it a career, so let's say journey - to date.
First off was the poem I had published in Judy comic aged 11. I was thrilled and stunned in equal measure, as were my family. I'm sure Mum started thinking thank God, one of them can keep me in my dotage. WRONG!! I can't even remember what it was about. The poem. Ballerinas probably. I was desperate to be one at the time, despite having no discernible talent. Hell, I'd never even had a lesson. I performed an arabesque in my bedroom once and toppled into the wardrobe. Mum bawled, 'what the hell's going on up there?' and that was that.

Next highlight was meeting author Valerie Blumenthal. For a small fee you could book a one-to-one writing workshop at her gorgeous farmhouse in Oxfordshire, with lunch and chit-chat thrown in. Off I trotted, a few years ago, clutching a short story for her to critique, as nervous as anything. She greeted me on horseback in her driveway- an impossibly glamorous creature, with flowing dark hair. Valerie was quite impressive too (ker-ching). "Ooh I love horses!" I simpered. They terrify me really (bad experience as a teenager) and I immediately thought, oh bugger, what if she invites me to go riding or something ridiculous? "Maybe we could go for a ride after our session?" she breathed (she was quite actressy) and I was forced to say, "actually, I only like looking at them," like a complete mentalist. Luckily she didn't hold it against me, and was Kind about my writing, reading it aloud like somebody on Radio 4 so it sounded good instead of inane, and a year or so later let me interview her for an article which ended up in Writers' Forum - another highlight.

Signing up to The Writer's Bureau home course was another positive move. They advertise in the back of supplements and I thought they might be dodgy, but they weren't. I'd never considered writing non-fiction before, but they figured you were far more likely to succeed in this market. Therefore, the first part of the course was devoted to features and articles and, to my amazement, my first two attempts sold. The first was an interview with a lovely lady called Patzi Gooch, God love her, who I read about in the newspaper. She'd given up needlework to be a singer and had auditioned for the X-Factor and I thought it would make a nice piece for CHOICE magazine's Change of Direction series. All our correspondence took place via email - the wonders of modern technology - and it sold straight away, as did a completely random feature about the meaning of April Fool's Day for The Lady magazine. Cripes, I thought. This is a chuffing doddle. Mum started planning a world cruise. Needless to say, it wasn't. I've not matched that early success. Mostly because I wanted to focus on fiction writing and, as predicted, it's a MUCH harder market to crack. That's my excuse anyway.

Another highlight was a lovely lady phoning from the Frome writing festival a couple of years back, to tell me a story I'd entered into their competition had come sixth out of 400 entries. So what? was my immediate thought. Fancy phoning to tell me that. More like rubbing salt in the wound. 'I'm ringing everyone in the top ten,' she said, 'because you deserve to know how well you did,' which on the whole I thought was rather nice. Afterwards. When I'd hung up on her. (I didn't really.)

Another highlight is this whole blogging malarkey, which I've already 'bigged up' in a previous post, but of course the biggest, shiniest, most perfectly sun-kissed highlight is still to come.
Published Author

All I can say is, Mum - don't hold your breath.


Lane said...

I think your mum - indeed all of us should be holding our breath because it's going to happen. Oh yes:-)

Am fascinated by your one to one with Valerie B. It sounds quite scary. I've thought about doing one of Rafaella Barker's sessions but am not very brave.

You should be subbing more journo pieces missus. You're a natural:-)

KAREN said...

lane - Trouble is, If I start flitting from fiction to non-fiction and not succeeding in either area I get all panicky and think about throwing in the towel. I just wish I'd started all this properly years ago. Sigh.

VB made me laugh (in a nice way)VERY arty and creative and a little bit New Age (dahling) but lovely with it. I didn't realise Rafaella Barker did sessions. Meant to say after one of your earlier comments that I loved Hens Dancing too :o)

JJ said...

I was just looking at the blogs, while waiting to go to the airport, but I enjoyed this post so much ... I thought I'd best log on and say as much.

KAREN said...

jj - How lovely :o) Hope you have a great visit!

Yvonne said...

Awh Karen that was a lovely post, it made me smile. So good to hear about your writing highlights, especially as writers tend to dwell on the bad bits. "Actually, I only like looking at them": brilliant! So like something I would say, one of the feckers bit me on the back when I was ten and I've been nervous of them ever since! I'll be the first in the queue WHEN they put your book on the shelves.

Bernadette said...

How self deprecating we all are.
I look at what you've done and think 'Article in Writers Forum, one to one meetings with authors etc. etc. Wow!'
But I've had fiction stories published and you would probably look at that and think how great it was.
We should celebrate our successes more, I think, whilst of course still striving for the next thing.
I read your blog and think of authors like Marian Keyes. You have a fantastically witty and entertaining style and I am sure that if you use that in your fiction it won't be long before you add even more to your writing CV. Just keep going. Bound to happen.

HelenMH said...

It is a hard slog isn't it? But you've really got some good high profile stuff in there. And I've loved everything of yours I've ever read - so there!

SpiralSkies said...

Like Bernadette, I'm thinking 'wow'. You just can' not be a writer you know.

Am most envious and toying with dusting off my own Writer's Bureau box (again). I quite fancy writing articles. They don't take as long as a novel, for one thing.

Your writerly CV's looking hot, Baby! I will be first in the queue for a signed copy of your debut novel.


Debs said...

I think you've done very well (a darn sight better than I have that's for certain).

You've also reminded me that I've only done two assignments from my Writer Bureau course (last Sept!) and had better get on with it.


Clarkey, I agree with Lane.
Right, stop stuffing yur face with cake, sit up and listen to me woman. You must write comedy DO YOU HEAR ME. Let me say it slowly D O Y O U H E A R M E. :) Tommox

Maddie Moon said...

It's just a question of time, Karen. I echo what's been said above, you're a natural!

Annieye said...

You're a rip roaring success woman - and you'd better believe it! Anyway, your mum always knows best.

I know exactly what you mean about preferring to write fiction. I have a report to write at work and the deadline is Friday this week. It's not a boring report - in fact I'm quite looking forward to writing it. But fiction it aint, and therefore I'll prevaricate until Thursday afternoon!

Kerry said...

As always Karen, this was a pleasure to read :) It is amazing what you've done so far and so exciting that the best is still to come. I (and the rest of blogland!) have no doubt we'll be asking for you to sign copies of your novel in Waterstones one day!

KAREN said...

God, you lot are SO blinkin' lovely, (Marian Keyes? I WISH!) I want to invite you all round for home-made flapjacks and mugs of tea (or coffee. Or gin.)

I'd keep you here and you'd chivvy me along 'til the novel is finished and then (only then) I might let you go. Then again, I might not.

KatW said...

Karen your blog is so brilliant because your writing is so witty and intelligent. What does that tell us? - That you have talent and personality - you can't go wrong.

I really enjoyed reading about your 'highlights'. Your last comment about having us all over...........well why don't you do workshops from home like Valerie Blumenthal? Instead of greeting people on a horse you may have to just greet us at the front door. But you could have the black beauty soundtrack on in the background. That would be fine.:-) Oh and personally I'd love a little Victoria sponge while we learn/write..... LOL


KAREN said...

katw - What a fab idea! I used to LOVE Black Beauty, and can just hear the theme music now :o) That was before my unsettling horse incident, of course...

wordtryst said...

You'll do it. Your style is very natural, witty and energetic, and always entertaining. Plus you've already sold stuff. I can't see you not being published.

nanspice said...

Hi Karen
Enjoyed reading about your successful writing career; WELL DONE. Good to know I was your first subject. PATZI

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