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