I fell in love with James the moment I set eyes on him, just as I fell in love with writing as soon as I learned to use a pencil. It was a connection that felt absolute and right, like opposite poles of a magnet, and when James proposed two years later, the scene could have come straight from the glory days of Pinewood Studios. The weather, the setting, the fact that he’d written a poem. Even the elderly couple sitting nearby, who raised their glasses and wished us a marriage as happy as theirs, could have been sensitively cast extras. But it was only when we sat down to dinner and he got out his diary that I began to believe. On this date – this actual date, a date that can be written in a diary and communicated to other people, a date that will get closer with every passing hour until it can be counted in sleeps, and then for every date after that one – we will be married.
And now I have a date for the publication of The Ship. An actual date, a date that can be written in a diary and communicated to other people, a date that will get closer with every passing hour until it can be counted in sleeps. Two hundred and seventy four sleeps, actually.
I haven’t been a particularly precocious student of either love or writing, although I shed blood over both for decades. It’s taken a lot of mistakes and failure in both to get to now. It hasn’t been that I haven’t known what I wanted. It’s just that what I wanted was a lot more complicated than ask-and-have, and a lot more knotted around my entrails than learn-and-do. I had no role models – I didn’t meet a happily married couple until I was twenty seven, and I didn’t know anyone who was a published writer, or (more importantly) who believed that I could be one, for even longer than that. I was floundering after my dreams in the dark, and illumination was a slow process. Are those lights, or simply the strange coloured circles that dance when you strain your eyes? But if you shut your eyes to protect yourself from the dark, how will you know when the lights go on?
So this month, I’ve made two resolutions. One is that there will be a launch party. With wine. And music. A lovely e mail from my editor this month opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not alone any more, and there are so many people I want to celebrate with, and to thank. Bringing a book to publication is an arduous journey, and flags must be planted on summits wherever possible.
And secondly, I’ve joined the WoMentoring project as a mentor (www.womentoringproject.co.uk, Twitter @WoMentoringP). The WoMentoring Project is the brainchild of Kerry Hudson (Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, Thirst), who turned a casual Twitter conversation into a brilliant opportunity for aspiring writers who can’t afford existing courses. And one thing I’ll be saying to my mentees is to set dates. Weddings and publication days are preceded by a good many other dates. Make those dates –for dedicated writing time, for researching competitions, events and courses, for submissions to mentoring schemes – and stick to them. Because it’s all very well loving writing, but if you’re serious about publication, there comes a point when you have to start banging your head, not just against the walls of your writing space, but on the industry’s doors.