Up And Down


Keep Looking Up…

On Monday, I received an amazing five-star review for Oak and Mist. The reviewer took the time to write a detailed analysis of why they enjoyed the book, and I was (and still am) completely thrilled.

Today, when I logged into my Goodreads account, I noticed someone had given Oak and Mist a two-star rating. No written review, just a star rating (which is fairly common on Goodreads).

So, two days, two vastly different perceptions of the same book.

Writers can be very hard on themselves. Like most artists, I suppose – self doubt and criticism certainly isn’t limited to the writing field. I’ve heard fellow writers whom I know to be talented, who’ve written wonderful work, wondering whether they should keep going, that their work will never be published, that it’s not worth the stress. It’s a very tough business, one in which we have to deal with rejection almost every day. Whether it’s yet another agent rejecting your submission, another contest where you didn’t place, another not-so-positive review or simply a day where no books sell, we need a thick skin to deal with it all.

Yet to write is to have a thin skin. To be open to emotions and vibrations and stories as they happen around us, so we can transfer them to the page. If we shut ourselves away from the world, we shut ourselves away from the potential for new ideas. If we lose the sensitivity that leads us to create in the first place, then creating becomes more difficult. An impossible dilemma.

Or is it? The other week, I wrote about the spider outside my window, who every day creates a new web. The lesson I took from this is that each day is a new opportunity. A chance to get up, dust yourself off, and get on with things. And once my work goes out there in the world, I have to accept that it is open to whatever might come along, good or bad. Art in itself is subjective – what one person might love, another might absolutely hate.

While I was on Goodreads I added another book to my ‘Read’ list. This is a book that was raved about, that had a huge display at my local Waterstones and loads of write-ups in the media. I thought it was a great story – well-written, suspenseful, and with a nice twist at the end. For me, it was a four-star read. And yet, when I checked, it had over 1200 one-star ratings.

So I guess what I need to remind myself of is this:  If you’re writing, keep writing. Do it for you. Do it for those who want to read. Be brave, and get it out there. The important thing is that you are creating something. Focus on the positives, rather than the not-so-positives.

And if your web breaks, spin yourself another one.

(Oh, and this isn’t a ‘poor me’ post – I’ve had lots of lovely comments on here about my writing, and I know I’m very fortunate. It’s just part of my journey through writing, and I think most of us have experienced days like this).




A Gift

It’s no secret that I like to write. These days, it’s my main creative outlet and likely to remain so, as I explore my ‘voice’ on paper.

I do, however, have other creative interests. Both my grandmother and grandfather were talented amateur artists, and I can remember sitting in the Sunday School room with my grandmother before class started, watching her draw an illustration for the lesson on the big blackboard, amazed by how she would use the limited palette of chalks to create a world of colour. Later, in the quiet warm space between Sunday lunch and high tea, she and I would sometimes sit in the big living room at the Vicarage, tick of clock on the mantel as she would draw something and then get me to copy it, my small hand struggling to repeat the lines that came so easily from her pencil.

Several years after my grandfather passed away, she gave me a tin containing the drawing pencils he was using on his last work, a keen painter up until his untimely death. We have some of his work framed, stone cottages on a jetty under a lowering sky, a canal boat dappled with light and shade, and of course his beloved church, snowbound. I’ve never used the pencils but keep them as a talisman of sorts, a small piece of memory.

I painted for many years, even pursuing a degree in the creative arts, sure my artistic calling lay down that path. But the twists and turns of employment and life meant I ended up working in advertising instead, swapping the joys of painting and drawing for producing and casting – still creative in its own way, but not quite as fulfilling. Painting was reserved for my downtime and, while I did produce some work that made me happy, I never had the time to pursue it as I wished.

I haven’t done much painting since moving back to the UK, simply because I was concentrating on my writing instead, capturing the world of Ambeth as it poured out onto the page. However, I recently picked up my brushes again to create a painting for my husband on his birthday. And here it is, just for fun (don’t worry, I’ve already given it to him):


What about you? Do you have any other creative strings to your bow?

Oh and yay! This is my 100th blog post – can’t believe it really 🙂 Thanks to everyone for reading along.

Opening The Gates


So I’ve been thinking about this for a little while. About the concept of creativity and the different forms it can take. There are the obvious ones, like painting and sculpture and music and song. Some people have a talent for designing clothes, able to visualise the way fabric drapes around the human form, while others can manipulate numbers and data, their minds seeing complex patterns with ease. And then there’s writing.

Writers are beset by the same compulsions as any other artist – the desire to create, to tell tales, to engage with an audience as they share their story. However, unlike most other artists, many writers were doomed until recent years to have their work unseen, unread, unshared. An artist can exhibit at a local gallery or market, while musicians sing in small bars or busk on the streets. Designers can make clothes for themselves, wearing their art for all to see. And there will always be a place for those who can work with numbers, as long as there are money and statistics and stocks to be manipulated. (at least, that’s how I see it – forgive me if it’s not the case).

The writer, however, works alone. We cannot force people to read our work, or exhibit it in public. We may press our stories on accommodating relatives and friends, who may or may not read them, but until recent times there really were no other outlets for us. We could submit letter after letter to agent after agent, harass publishers with copies of our manuscript, but unless one of them took us on board the doors to publishing our work remained firmly closed, the gatekeepers holding the key.

But self-publishing has changed all that, opening the gates to all. And I am grateful every single day that I’m writing at a time when it’s possible to produce a well laid out version of my work to share with others, where I can place an order and have a box of my paperbacks, the quality as good as anything you’d get from a large publisher, delivered to my door. Where I can post a blog whenever I feel like it, about whatever happens to come into my head (like this one!) Of course there have always been avenues for self-publishing, but they were usually expensive and the end product not always what was promised, as well as often taking rights from the writers as well. But now we have the same freedom as other artists: to create and share our work with the public and retain control of our ideas.

At my recent author event I briefly discussed the idea that readers are the gatekeepers. And that I think it has always been this way. If a book isn’t good, even if it’s been picked up by a publisher and given a big splashy launch, it’s not going to sell much beyond that if the content isn’t there. Word of mouth is the only way to get consistent on-going sales. If readers like your book, they will tell other readers. Conversely, if your story sucks or is riddled with grammar and structure errors, they’ll tell people about that as well.

So for those who complain about the quality of self-published works remember – if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. But just as genius can be found in small galleries or hidden dive bars, so too can it be found in the realms of self-published works – it just takes an open mind to find it.