Friday, 24 August 2012

Sweet Home Cover

I trudged through my twenties on auto-pilot. In my mid thirties I suddenly woke up and remembered there were things I'd always wanted to do. I decided to go back to university. I was a 'mature' student. I was tired and pessimistic. I'd had a difficult few years and I was scared that I'd left it too late. I had four small children and it was hard work trying to juggle everything, but it was also wonderful and exciting and inspiring.

During the final year of my degree I asked Rob Mimpriss to recommend some short story collections. He recommended several, including Carol Shields' Dressing Up For the Carnival. I liked her writing so much that I went away and bought the rest of her short stories, along with Mary Swann, The Stone Diaries and Unless. The Stone Diaries in particular was a revelation to me; I enjoyed the first chapter so much, I read it twice before moving on to chapter 2 - the only time I've ever done that.

Dressing Up for the CarnivalI decided I would write to Carol Shields to tell her how much I loved her work. I looked her up online and made the sad discovery that she had been dead for five years. Instead of writing to Carol Shields, I ordered all of her books and I read about her life. Shields had five children. When she first started writing she could only spare an hour a day. Reading this made me realise I could also find time to write. And, after a while, I began to think that maybe, if I worked hard enough, and if I was lucky enough, I might be a writer too.

I finished my BA and I started an MA. In the coffee break during my first MA seminar I felt so nervous/terrified/inadequate that I retreated to the toilets and almost talked myself out of doing the course. But I finished the MA and kept writing. A year later I sent off a manuscript containing my MA stories and several new stories. I held my breath and crossed my fingers. I alternately hoped and convinced myself that it would never happen. But it did, and I couldn't believe it. It didn't seem real. Until today.

Here's my book.

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