Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Since getting serious - coming out of the closet

My job finished earlier this year and I decided to give this hobby of mine a proper go for a few months. I spent 4 nights at Retreats For You and as well as writing set up a plan of attack.

Since then I've been writing and editing every day and submitting work, but mostly I really wanted to immerse myself in the word world.

I'm dipping my toe in some social media spaces, which has been an inspiring introduction to writers, successes, skills, reviews, opportunities, and plain old random thoughts at times. The people and groups who put so much time into promoting these, you are greatly appreciated.

No doubt one of the most exciting moves has been to get along to events. 

In the last couple of months I've heard Ros Barber, Andrew Blackman, Gavin Extence, Jenni Fagan, Roshi Fernando, Ben Fountain, Gabriel Gbadamosi, Colin Grant, Sam Mills, Helen Simpson, Anna Stothard. 

We've sat on stools in Clapham Books, in a room in a Herne Hill pub (where curious punters wandered through to get to the mens'), at a long communal table in The Society Club, Soho and a gallery room in Foyles at Charing Cross.  

Hearing writers read their work really influences how I then read their books. I can hear their distinct voice - like Gabriel's metered pace and Jenni's accent - and it makes reading their printed work like a one-on-one audio reading experience. 

And what I love about London is there's always something exciting to go to.

My few months of 'giving it a proper go' is almost up, and I've just reconnected with a recruitment agency to start the 'real work' hunt. But this time has been so valuable to firmly establish writing in my life, and whilst I won't have as much time to dedicate to it, I'll never retreat from this world.

I am a writer.

In terms of publications, I was very lucky to get out of the gates early with a paid acceptance from the second Overland audio journal

The strike rate has bottomed out since, but with some honest editorial services (thanks Amanda Saint at Retreat West, James at The Word Hut) and really useful general reports from competition judges, I'm continually seeing how to improve my work and who to target.  And Shaun Levin's daily exercises are great for when I look at a story and have no idea where to take it next.

Reading reviews from a much wider range of people has not only added to my 'Must Read' list, it's made me explore work I might never have thought of trying. And rather than feel overwhelmed by how  talented other people are, I'm embracing it as valuable, rich, thought-provoking: a world I cherish being a part of.

I have a colour-coded spreadsheet, due dates, word counts, and some talented writing friends to work with. And a dream (as I said to the guy in the bike shop last week after an accident where my only concern was the survival of my laptop).

After a recent week of rejections and a budgetary wobble, a good friend of mine said to me - 'Man up. Grow some balls.'

So I've got all the infrastructure in place. (Then she sent me this recipe which is tasty, and goes a long way - Indian dal).

Thanks to friends for support, and the writing community for letting me in. I hope to hear from and meet more of you soon.

Oh and here are the spoils from the author events I've been to since getting serious.


  1. Lovely post, Jen. You most definitely are a writer, and a talented one too. I look forward to reading more of your work and to getting out into the writing world with you. Roll on York and the Lighthouse!

  2. Good for you, Jen. Getting serious is a big step, and you seem to be doing all the right things. It took me much longer to get a story accepted anywhere, and even longer than that to actually get paid for one!! Nice to see a mention of the Clapham Books event with me and Sam - I enjoyed that one. Sometimes the smallest crowds are the best ones :-)

    1. Thanks Andrew. Am back at my desk after a 2 week holiday and seem to find it ironic that my last post was about getting serious. I'm sitting here reading others' words wondering where on earth do I start. The Delano Orchestra are helping to keep me calm, not to mention boxes of Loire wines if I need to call on them!

      Congratulations on the Bath Short Story award. When I've achieved something today my reward will be to read 'Hunting For Crabs'.