Please welcome another fantastic author to the Showcase.
If we hadn’t been aware before the noise of planes screaming across the skies was a giveaway. It was that time of year again: when we are treated to a display of – depending on your point of view – incredible skills and engineering feats or environmentally-unfriendly machines of war. Yes, it was the annual Wales Air Show.
While conscious of both the killing and polluting factors, I can’t help but stand in awe of the amazing show put on by the Red Arrows (RAF Aerobatic Team). And every year I go home saying, ‘I want to be a Red Arrows pilot! Can I be a Red Arrows pilot?’
And Husband pats my hand and says, ‘Yes, dear, now come and have a cup of tea and take your medication.’ He says the same thing when I say I want to be an over-enthusiastic balletic drummer in a gypsy punk rock band. Or a glamorous efficient professional woman. No, wait, actually he just laughs at the last one.
If you bear in mind that I am a sixty-six-year-old woman with gradually deteriorating eyesight you can see his point, at least about the Red Arrows bit. My enthusiasm though admirable (possibly) is unrealistic as is another of my characteristics in this situation.
When I was thinking about what to write for this guest blog post I looked back over a few previous Showcases. ‘They’re all so professional,’ I told Husband, ‘so wise and offering good advice. And just, well … what can I offer?’
Husband, who was lying in the sun at the time, grunted.
‘I need to focus on what I’m good at, my strengths,’ I paused. ‘What are my strengths?’
‘Thank you, sweetie, but I don’t think my total babeness (big regret of my life: no-one has ever called me a babe, or cupcake) would make a good basis for an author blog post.’
‘You’re a good granny.’
He sighed. ‘Okay, you’re optimistic,’ he paused, ‘except when you’re depressed.’
Now that one is true and apposite.
I’m optimistic when I take George the dog for a walk and Husband warns me it’s going to rain. I say, ‘No, it’s not; it won’t rain on us.’ (And I come back soaked because I hate wearing coats.)
I’m optimistic when I say dinner will be ready at 6.00 pm. (Never in my life have I got a meal on the table at the time I said.)
However, I was not optimistic when I submitted the first three chapters of my non-fiction book to Hodder one Thursday afternoon. I was starting out and I had read enough to know how hard it was to get published, even though I’d previously been head-hunted and published by two other firms.
So I nearly set the house on fire when the phone rang the next afternoon when I was cooking chips for my children’s tea, and it was an editor from Hodder saying they loved it, it fitted a gap in their list and they wanted to read it all. (Slight problem: I hadn’t written any more, but hey, I can do that.) A Cop for Christ was published by them and is still available.
So I had reason to be optimistic when I began submitting fiction, thinking publishers would fall at my feet in a bidding war. I was optimistic when I started planning what I would say to the now-deceased Alan Rickman whom I had cast as the male lead in the Hollywood adaptation of my blockbuster. It didn’t happen.
But nearly twenty years and far more rejections later I’m still optimistic that one day …
So is optimism a requisite for a writer? And is it different from hope?
A wise man (okay, Husband) said, ‘Hope is wanting something good to happen; optimism is thinking it will happen.’ I think that’s as good a definition as you can get.
I’ve written about hope being the writer’s enemy on my blog, Not another wannabe writer, concluding, in case you’re worried, that hanging on to hope is a good thing, and that squashed hope doesn’t kill us but builds us. Allegedly. So, yes, hope is our friend but if you are regularly rejected it can be a struggle to grasp those slippery threads of hope
By the way, I write that as if it’s a personal rejection, of us as individuals, but that’s because it is. What we write comes out of us, is our baby, and if something less than good is implied by anyone then it hurts. Whether it hurts a lot or not much it’s still painful. Although in my worst ever experience what the critic wrote suggested she was out of touch with the sort of things I was writing about and was so bad that I was unable to take it seriously. Now maybe that says more about me than about her but sometimes you have a find to way to go on.
And that’s where the optimism comes in.
Optimism allows you to bounce back. To say, ‘More fool them. They’ll be sorry when I’m a best-selling author. And one day, in fact, as soon as I finish my latest novel – this is definitely going to be the one that makes my name. And then they’ll want all my books and I’ll be able to have a yacht and sail around the Med and eat ice cream all day.’
That is definitely optimism.
Older and wiser I have since self-published two novels.
A very brief excerpt from This Time Next Year, the diary of a 50-year-old newly divorced woman. The excerpt is the morning after her birthday celebrations.
I am fifty-year-old divorcee with a hangover. Might as well go whole hog, bleach hair, buy a mini skirt and hang around dimly-lit bars.
John Morris, my favourite client, old gent with old-fashioned manners, who always pays me a compliment, came in this morning. Looked me up and down, said, ‘You look different this morning, my dear. I hope you’re not going down with something.’
Too late, have already succumbed. I am old and unloved.
Once would have thought forty-nine was ancient. Would give anything to be forty-nine again. Must not be so silly. Am just feeling bad because of long-lasting hangover NB What are signs of brain tumour? Must remember to buy more paracetamol. There are people out there far worse off than I am. People dying or being tortured or homeless or all sorts of things. I am very fortunate. Have health (so far), family, home, job. Should be grateful. Worse things in life than being fifty and divorced. Will pull self together.
The Dog-walking Club is about a disparate group of people who happen to walk their dogs at roughly the same time every day in the same park, and who find friendship and love through the group. It’s not really suitable for short extracts. You need to sit down with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate and an evening to spare.
‘This book is a big hug of friendship and a cuddly dog by your side.’ Jena Books
‘There should be more about the dogs in it.’ George
My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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Have a good week,