You can find my article “How To Fail; a lesson for my children.” In the latest addition of the NI4Kids magazine. It’s about the need to build resilience in order to succeed. If you are not local to Northern Ireland you can find the whole magazine online or click the link for my article. I hope you enjoy.
Are you 2018 ready? Yes, or no it appears to be storming away at an incredible rate!
I was silent on this blog for the last part of 2017 because, to be honest, I hadn’t the heart to write anymore. After finishing my second novel, and the excitement when the team at Hardman&Swainson loved it, I had a summer and an autumn filled with ‘positive rejections’. This means my book was well received, very well received in some cases, but no offers were made. My mojo evaporated and disappointment prevailed. I felt bruised from the inside out. And then there was Christmas; it seems to get more twinkly every year, as each city tries to out sparkle the next. The lights distract us from the real darkness outside and for a couple of months we play along. Our Christmas was noisy and busy and hectic and full of love, laughter, arguments and (a little?)tiredness. We lost teeth, we shed tears, my eldest at eleven ‘lost his Christmas spirit’ but we gained some great Christmas memories to bank.
As one year teeters and tips into the next I never feel quite ready. I get a worry knot in my stomach for those I love. The future can be a scary place if you stare at it too long. I always want to press pause, to enjoy the moment a little longer, saviour my family as they are.
On Monday I excavated the house of Christmas decorations and suddenly I felt better. I felt braver. I gathered up my courage all around me and I felt ready. I have the idea for my third book. I know what it has to be. I know what I want to write. I’ve gone too far down this road, and got too close, to give up now. I’ve set myself a due-date and so I’ll start, again. Word by word. No one said it would be easy.
I can’t quite believe that I’ve finished the first year of my MA already! My last module was ‘Life Writing.’ It made me delve into my own life and examine my relationships and personal experiences rather than make it up! Here’s what I wrote when given the task to write about ‘a time when I changed my mind. ‘
I hope you enjoy.
P.S. It feels good to be back! x
Eight Minutes To Midnight.
At eight minutes to midnight, on Tuesday 24th October 2006 I didn’t change my mind. It was changed for me. My cotton nightie was ripped open at the neck and William was laid slick with blood and a cheesy coating of vernix on my bare chest. A sheet was pulled up over us and my life inverted. He was the best decision I’ve never made.
I had not wanted a baby. My pregnancy was unplanned. Our marriage could still be counted in weeks. A whirlwind romance from which I was still breathless. Children were a hazy responsibility in the future. Something for my thirties, something for once I’d established my career, something for when I was a proper grown-up, or maybe never at all.
It took me over two months before I went to the Doctor and faced the truth of what my body was already telling me. Growing and morphing out of all proportion into shapes it had never been before. At least please make it a girl, I’d thought. I was truculent. I thought my life was over. My freedom lost. The fresh foundations of our marriage had not yet set. We wobbled and it was terrifying.
At eight minutes to midnight, I would find out what it feels like to find gold nuggets at the bottom of a pan full of gravel.
As the years have passed, our love has become elastic. We no longer need skin to skin contact to know that we belong to one another. I’m not the epicentre of his world anymore. Each year I am gently nudged a little further towards the periphery. I’m instructed there’s to be limited association in public and certainly no kisses. It’s been years since I’ve had a proposal. I remind him, of how each night at bedtime, he used to solemnly ask me for my hand in marriage and he screws up his face in disgust, “Gross Mum.” I’m more likely to get put in a head-lock these days as get a hug.
William doesn’t know that he was the glue that kept our marriage together when vows could not. He was, and is, too young to understand that he made us try harder, that he is the reason for us, as we are now; stronger, better. We had to wait four long years before the miracle of our cells would combine and stick to me again. Mother nature didn’t care that I’d changed my mind about being a mum, she made sure to punish me for my insolence the first time round.
At eight minutes to midnight he left my body, but I swear I still feel the tug of his umbilical cord, like the stroke of a bell ringer, deep in my gut. I watch him, playing with friends, or sauntering out from school; chatting always chatting to someone. Like his dad, he is tall and broad across his shoulders and I feel my throat tighten and my chest fill up with grateful joy. My boy. My immeasurable, handsome, kind, funny boy. How wrong I was; my life didn’t end with him, the most meaningful part of it began.
Before eight minutes to midnight, I thought I knew love. I didn’t.
I’ve big news. I’m going back to University. As of yesterday I’m a fully registered and enrolled student, again! In July I got accepted to study for my MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast. Fair to say that I am excited and terrified in equal measure – What if I’m the oldest in the class by decades? How will I juggle it with motherhood? What if everyone laughs at what I write, or what I’ve got to say? What if I’m not good enough? All these questions, and more, have been whizzing about my head and feeding my internal monologue. And yesterday they were joined by a healthy dose of ‘What the F***k am I doing?’ Everyone was so, so young. I’m not in the habit of hanging around with folk barely out of their teens. I’m either with little folk who still need help wiping their arse, or people with faces like my own; faces with creases, faces with stories to tell. NOT faces that look so… new. And here’s the other thing; they are all so sure of themselves, they seem to know exactly where they’re heading, they already know their place in the world. It was terrifying. Borderline traumatic. Where have the past twenty years gone? Surely there must be a mistake? I felt completely out of place. Unlike my self-assured compatriots, panic and fear seeped through my system.
I gathered myself over a coffee (though I felt more in need of gin) and I stopped judging. I stopped presuming that everyone was looking at me with pity thinking I was a sad old woman still in pursuit of her dreams at almost forty! I thought of myself at nineteen or twenty years old. I thought about the things I would do differently, if I had my time again. I thought about what my nineteen year old self would make of my thirty-nine year old self. I thought about what I might say to her, if I had the chance. Because I remembered that once upon a time, I too, was a confident young woman who thought she knew her place in the world, who thought she knew what she clearly didn’t. I was that girl. And even though, she has all the benefits of youth on her side, the woman I am today would not swap with her. As the Dixie Chicks say, ‘I’ve gone the long way around’. Maybe not everything in my professional life is how I might have envisaged when I was a nineteen year old university student, but it’s only when you get older that you realise not everything in life goes quite to plan. I feel lucky and blessed to be healthy, to have a happy marriage and two wonderful sons. I guess all those fresh-faced students will have to live a bit longer to appreciate just how precious the simple things are. To realise that sometimes you have to go back, in order to move forwards.
Classes start next week. Please God don’t let the lecturers be young enough to be my off-spring!
Spring has sprung, at last! Hasn’t it? Well, kind of. I’ll take the longer days, at least that’s something – right? I’ve been in the middle of a baby-boom lately; babies have been arriving like the Easter bunny drops eggs! My nephew, and a little cousin to my boys, arrived safely on 18th March.
I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know) but I can’t help but draw parallels between babies and writing a book. One friend has waited over ten long years for her precious baby girl. And then suddenly she’s here, and all the torment of ‘trying’ has disappeared. A brand new life. A miracle. A lucky-dip.
And I can’t help but wonder if I will get lucky… It’s been a hard slog. A long wait. At times, painful. And now, suddenly it’s over.
I’ve been enjoying what I’ve jokingly called my ‘retirement’ . In other words the relief of getting to the end of it. Now I’ve created a bit of distance between it and me I can begin to look back and see things that I didn’t before. My readers are starting to come back to me with their feedback and I know I’ve more work to do. But it’ll never be like it was before. The hardest part is behind me. I can start to live the afterwards, to think about what to do now that I’m not ‘writing my second book.’ Go back to my old day job? Or maybe try something completely different? It’s both exciting and scary.
As I’ve gazed in wonderment at the new lives I’ve had the privilege of holding these last couple of weeks; the parents in awe, my head awash with the memories of my own precious little bundles that I once held. I can’t help but fantasize if my novels will have a life, if they will ever live outside of me, if they might change my life and make my dreams come true. Like new mothers, the effort and pain of the journey means that I am still swearing never again. It’s over. I’m done. I have no plans for any more siblings.
But then again, time has a habit of making us forget the bad bits. And maybe it wasn’t as awful as I remember… And so maybe, just maybe there are a couple more stories bubbling away at the back of my head. Maybe I should never say never. Maybe I have one more in me…
P.s My ‘retirement’ has meant I’ve been able to indulge in some binge reading, the best of which have been: ‘A God In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson, ‘I Let You Go’ by Claire Macintosh and ‘The Girl On The Train’ is as good as everyone says!