Saturday, 17 April 2010

Five questions (well, one of them anyway...)

A little while ago Suzanne Jones tagged me to answer 'Five Questions' about myself. Well, Suzanne, the weather has been so lovely I've been outside most of the last week rather than sitting at the computer. I've only come in today because that dog everyone thinks is so adorable broke through the hedge and escaped. Yes, I had to retrieve the retriever from next door! Talk about embarrassment.

And apologies again Suzanne, but I have such a lot to say about your first question that I'm not going to attempt the other four now. That question is: "Where were you five years ago?" Thank goodness 2005 was one of my more interesting years. Are you sitting comfortably? Because I just need to explain why my memories of 2005 really begin with 2004.

In summer 2004 I'd started writing again after a break of several years. I was unpublished, except for a handful of readers' letters. Of the things I still wanted to achieve, seeing one of my short stories in print was around the top of the list. When I submitted a story for the annual competition organised by 'Countryside Tales', a small press magazine from Park Publications, I expected another rejection. But I was wrong. Soon I heard that my story had won second prize of £25. To receive actual money for writing a story felt like a small miracle. But more important in the long run was the thrill of seeing my story printed in the magazine in the winter of 2004. I can't tell you what a difference it made to me. At least one person in the world believed my story was good enough to publish. That was all I needed to keep me writing and I will forever be grateful for that bit of encouragement.
So 2005 opened with me submitting more seriously, full of New Year's resolutions to prove my first success wasn't purely beginner's luck. But before the next significant event in my writing life, something completely different happened...

When I was a child my best friend lived round the corner, until emigrating with her family to Canada. For a while we lost touch. But through the wonders of the Internet I managed to contact her again in 2003. After 2 years of frequent emails, she invited me to visit Toronto in June 2005. The catch? I hate flying. It terrifies me. But I knew that if I turned down the opportunity I would regret it forever. So, I made myself get on the plane. I didn't exactly conquer my fear of flying, but I coped with it. And what a terrific holiday I had. Not only was it wonderful to see my friend and catch up on all our news, Canada was a fabulous experience. The C.N. Tower. Niagara Falls. Her dog jumping into Lake Ontario and needing 3 people to fish it out. (There's always a dog getting into trouble somewhere).

Travel broadens the mind, everyone says, and I am sure that it's true. I came home refreshed and with new perspectives. I wrote, wrote, wrote. And in September I had a phone call from Woman's Weekly. They wanted to buy a story. Gosh. If they bought it that meant I had sold it. Sold! I had sold a story! I was on some other planet whose name was Bliss. I know I'd had my readers' letters published, and my Countryside Tales story. But the truth was that I still wondered whether I was deluding myself that I could maybe write a little - you know - on a good day, with the moon in the right phase and a following wind. Wind? Was that the dog again?

Now I was on the shelves in all good newsagents, I needed to get organised. Personally I think that if you have a success with your writing, you should always treat yourself to some small thing to remember it by. Or even a big thing, depending on the size of the cheque. With some of my Woman's Weekly money I treated myself to a Filofax which I still use now. I'd like to say everything is colour coded and filed to within an inch of its life, but you wouldn't believe me anyway would you? But I do keep a list in there of deadlines, especially of competitions to enter and any publishers I've noticed asking for submissions for anthologies. For me, it's good to have deadlines to aim for. They help motivate me to finish stuff.
As for the rest of 2005, well, I was pretty much here. I applied for some jobs, went for some interviews, dug my garden and read loads of books. So all in all, life was good. I did have a different dog though, and I think the last picture should be his. Sam with his favourite Teletubbies ball. Much missed. (Sam, I mean. I still have the ball.)


Morton S Gray said...

Thank you for this. I found it very encouraging, particularly because I am at that stage of wondering if I'm wasting my time writing! I'll persevere and hope my break comes soon.

Joanne Fox said...

Everyone has to start somewhere. Good luck!

Old Kitty said...

Oh Joanne!!

What a lovely, lovely, lovely post!!!!! Congratulations on winning that £25 and getting published. Congratulations with being published in Women's Weekly and well done you for overcoming your fears and flying over to Canada!!

I am so, so inpired by your story - it's brilliant, thank you.

And here's to the gorgeous Sam - muched missed but never ever forgotten!

Take care

Kate said...

Great post, Joanne. You have me jealous now. I've always wanted to go to Canada. Sounds like it was a great year.

Teresa Ashby said...

Great post, Joanne. I had to conquer my fear of flying too a few years ago so know how much courage it took for you to get on that plane.

What a beautiful boy Sam was. They are never with us long enough are they and you never stop missing them.

Joanna said...

I loved reading this. It's fascinating to find out how people start and the different factors that shape their writing career. Thank you, Joanne.

Joanne Fox said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments.

Suzanne Jones said...

Terrific answer - and loved your story.


Joanne Fox said...

Thanks Suzanne - I hope to get to the other 4 questions eventually!

penandpaints said...

Hi Joanne
I loved reading your post too, what a great year that was and Sam was a gorgeous dog.