My association with Writer’s Workshop began late in 2009, when I sent them a novel called ‘The StarMark’ for a professional edit. I’d been writing stories for a few years by that point, and my first attempt at a children’s novel had been rejected so many times, I gave up on it and wrote another. (I shudder when I look back, remembering how confident I was that all the publishers and agents would love my first novel; I could have been used as a perfect example of ‘How NOT to Write or Submit a Novel’.) This time, I decided I’d do it properly, get an expert opinion on Starmark.
The expert’s opinion was less than complimentary. It identified some pretty major flaws in just about every aspect you could cover in one novel. At the time, I hadn’t developed the thick skin needed to be able to take on board honest critique or the skills to make the improvements needed, so I told myself I was a bad writer and did nothing for almost a year.
Then my determination gene kicked in. I rewrote StarMark and it was critiqued late in 2010 by the wonderful Debi Alper, who gave me hope; I could write and I had a good story. Early in 2011, as a direct result of rewriting after Debi’s feedback, I got an agent.
In the same year, I joined the Word Cloud – Writer’s Workshop on-line community of writers – as Squidge. I wanted to keep a low profile, just in case everyone there really knew what they were doing and I looked a fool by comparison. I needn’t have worried. Cloudies are a warm, welcoming bunch and I felt at home very quickly.
Over the next five years, the Cloud helped me so much. It blessed me with good friends, who encouraged, supported, commiserated and celebrated every step I took in writing, whether forwards or backwards. It built my confidence as a writer through the monthly competitions run by cloudies, for cloudies, and the feedback forum where I often asked for feedback on what I’d written. It broadened the range of genres and styles I read and helped me to better analyse what makes for ‘good’ writing. And it gave me the tools I needed to be a better writer through events like the York Festival of Writing and courses like the Self Edit Course. (I can’t recommend either of these highly enough!)
All of this in combination with the passage of time made me an author, not just a writer. Not only was the determination gene working, but the persistence gene switched on too. I began to have short stories that were accepted for anthologies or placed in competitions, self-published two books of short stories for children based on a character called Granny Rainbow, and kept working on Starmark…
Then, at the 2014 York Festival, I had a 1-2-1 with agent Clare Wallace; although somewhat disillusioned with the book by now, I showed her StarMark. She asked me ‘Is this a novel you still believe in? Do you still have the passion for reworking it?’
Turned out, I did. I went home and did the absolute best job I could, and submitted it to a publisher in the belief that they would say ‘no, thanks’ and I could self-publish it.
Fortunately for me, they liked it, and in January 2015, I was offered a contract with US indie publisher, Bedazzled Ink. Buoyed up by their belief in me, in the same year I wrote another novel, Kingstone, which has very recently been signed by them too. (Which could be the subject of a whole extra blog, thanks to Julie Cohen’s feedback in a 1-2-1 at York in 2015!)
I know that neither myself or StarMark would have come this far without WW, the Festival, or the Cloudies, and I’m eternally grateful for all that they’ve contributed to my development and success so far. But I’m still learning so I’ll be back at York in 2016, to see what it holds for me this time…