Over a year ago I attended a writing course aptly titled “The Inspiration Project,” the brainchild of Carmel Harrington, Hazel Gaynor and Catherine Ryan Howard. Safe to say, it changed forever how I think about myself as a writer as well as giving me focus and belief in my writing project. My new years resolution this year was to get my memoir written and while I’ve hit a bump in the road with the life changing event that losing my beautiful mum has been, I am still determined to get there.
So, a little late I’ll share with you May’s installment of the Inspiration Diaries, where myself, and two fellow attendees at that fateful course fill you in on how we are doing, as another month passes in our quest to achieve our writing goals.
This month, we share the ups and downs of writing – and life. if you wish to partake in one of the Inspiration Project courses, check them out here. I really cannot praise them enough.
As a writer, you get used to rejection. It’s the default position and you wait for it, every time you send a piece of your work out. The expectation of good news doesn’t really come into play. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose. Brace yourself, secure your armour and fight on. And it is a battle. Against yourself to steel your emotions, stay the course and keep going.
So when the prospect of good news arrives, you’re on uncertain ground. In order to enjoy the moment, you must remove the armour and be vulnerable again, exposed like a twitching nerve as you wait for news. The closer you get to your dream, the more at risk you are of getting hurt. That’s the nature of the beast unfortunately.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some lovely developments. Firstly, I won a place on the International Literature Festival’s Date With An Agent. In what was a lovely surprise, I’ll be meeting Simon Trewin on May 25th to chat about my supernatural crime thriller The Nothing After. It’s such a big opportunity and I’m ecstatic to have gotten a place.
More good news arrived. Having sent out submissions in March to three top agents, two of them requested the full manuscript. I can count on one hand – okay, one finger – the number of requests I had for a full when my first book was on submission. To have two, this early out of the gates, is unnerving but brilliant news. My mind see-saws between the what-ifs. What if they like it? What if this is the break I’ve been waiting for? What if it isn’t?
I’m trying to keep busy while I wait for news. I’d like to say I’m writing furiously but the progress there is slow at best. Salvation has come in the form of John Connolly’s A Book of Bones and I’m now happily lost in Charlie Parker’s world and that is always a wonderful place to be.
So for now, the armour is off and I feel like Ser Brienne of Tarth, not knowing what to do with myself when I’m not swinging a sword. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, they may each reject it, but this is the closest I’ve come. Has the battle come to an end, or is it just a lovely respite?
A good writing buddy can offer as much support as a decent pair of tuck-you-in, hoist-you-up undergarments. I’m not saying my writing colleagues are like my knickers that I want to sit on them, nor do I want them to hug my bottom, they hold me in and keep me going when I need them. Just like a good bra, they’re close to my heart and underwired to perk me up when my mood is sagging. There have been stumbles, bumps, speed ramps as well as celebrations, cheers and smiles. What you need is someone there for all of it because in this mad writing world you quickly realise how little control you have. You enter a short story or poetry competition, submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher, what happens after that is in someone else’s hands.
However, you can retain control over how you spend your time and who you build your support network with. I made a few wise (and a few bonkers) choices since I started writing – I’ll focus on the wise ones. The year I was selected for a bursary to John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh – it was my choice to enter, someone else’s choice to pick me. I chose to go to Anam Cara in Beara – a fantastic week. I joined Indulgeinwriting. In January 2018 I headed to Wexford for the inaugural Inspiration Project. It was a weekend where something quite unexplained happened, the drive, faith and reassurance I got for my writing was amazing. I’m still in touch with the crew I did this course with, as well as those I met at Anam Cara and in Armagh.
If you invest wisely in where you spend your time and who with, you’ll feel perked up, supported and ready for all that the writing world throws at you. Casey King @letstalkcrime is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency
Every morning we wake with plans for the day, the week and even the upcoming year. Yet sometimes life has other plans for us. So it was for me these past few weeks. Instead of sitting to write my pitch for ‘Date with an agent’ I was taking part in a concluding chapter, as we walked my Mum up her final path in life.
During those all too few precious weeks in late March, our world ceased to turn. As our time together grew shorter, the days lengthened as every second counted. We cherished final chats and when there were no more, we continued to care for my mum, cocooned in our childhood home, her favourite place in all the world.
A year ago, a single thought had spurred me to begin a memoir. What makes me, me I’d wondered? How was it, that after years of abuse and loss, I’d not only survived, but I was happy? As I began to write I’d hoped to stumble upon an answer. Surprisingly, in the first story a possible answer struck me, as I summed up a seismic encounter. “The voice I’d found that afternoon to finally shout, ’No more’ was not only my voice, but the voices of generations of strong, courageous women in my family, who continue to live through me with every beat of my heart. Their voices will never be silenced.”
How often I recalled those words during our last days with my mum as she mothered us to the end, insisting we not cry as she was looking forward to, ‘waltzing with Dad once more’ and worried how we’d be after she was gone. Now it’s all over. Time to return to the ever-spinning world minus the strongest, most resilient person I’ve ever known. The one who helped make me, me.
I have my final chapter. Now I must find the words to write it.