2020: My strange journey
I was scared to resign from my Head of Comms job; scared when COVID-19 meant I couldn’t train people in person; scared that my own writing was destined to fester in a drawer garnering only rejections for evermore.
As we enter the last couple of weeks of 2020, the most extraordinary year in living memory, it’s natural to feel reflective. Not to mention it’s my daughter’s fifteenth birthday tomorrow (fifteen - holy moly!) which is adding to the sense I’m getting a good old wallop in the face from the passage of time.
This time last year, I was working as Head of Communications for a very big organisation, a job I enjoyed but one that took up a huge amount of my time and even more of my energy. And things weren’t looking terribly encouraging with my own fiction writing. The seven full manuscript requests my first book received had all, slowly but surely, turned into rejections.
Despite this, I increasingly knew the world of writing and creativity was where I wanted to be, and the idea for my second book, a historical crime novel set in Orkney during the witch trials, wouldn’t leave me alone.
I also knew I wanted to use my professional expertise, and apply it in the field of writing and creative work. So, I started to run workshops training creative people in how to do their own marketing and promotion. I loved it, and was getting such good feedback, not to mention more commissions that, in February, I took the terrifying step of resigning my sensible, well-paid Head of Comms job.
It was while working the three-month notice period that a certain virus hit the UK and turned our lives upside down. I’d always intended to include an online training element to my business, but suddenly this was all I could do, as meeting in person became not only dangerous but prohibited.
At the same time as I was learning how to build a sustainable business training only online, the opening of The Spae-Wife - remember, the Orcadian witch book that wouldn’t leave me alone - was longlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger award. It’s difficult to overstate how much this meant to me. Many of you are authors, and will understand the overwhelming joy and relief I felt that the years of striving and rejection were starting to pay off.
This photo was taken in the summer, at the beach in Norfolk, when I felt like I breathed for the first time in about six months and started to take in everything that was happening.
I’d only written about 30,000 words of the book at the time of longlisting and, under pressure from nobody but myself, I decided I had to finish it in the four months before the Daggers awards ceremony. Suddenly my plan went from finishing the book at a nice, leisurely pace while focusing on building my business, to enormous word count targets and a life spent chained to my laptop.
But it was worth it. I was signed by my wonderful agent and The Spae-Wife was highly commended at the Daggers. Despite the event being held over Zoom, rather than at the usual posh gala dinner, it was a wonderful evening; my daughter made me a dress, and lots of my friends got dressed up to join me virtually with a glass of something fizzy.
Alongside all this, I was getting more bookings for online training, often leading to work with my wonderful one-to-one clients. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with an amazing range of talented writers this year, covering a diverse range of subject matter across both fiction and non-fiction. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to support these authors to find and engage with audiences who will appreciate their work.
I've worked with organisations I admire, from the heavenly Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales to The Romantic Novelists' Association, all topped off with an event attended by 200 people for The Society of Authors this week.
My dream of using my professional skills in the world of writing has turned into a reality, against the backdrop of the strangest year we’ve ever known. It feels a bit overwhelming at times and, although I very much look forward to the greater interaction and chats over a cup of tea at break time that happen with in-person training, I now know online sessions work well and will continue to play an important part in my business no matter what the next few years have in store for us.
You’re on my mailing list because, at some point on that weird and wonderful journey, you’ve got on board and supported what I’m doing. For that, I want to say the most enormous thank you. I was scared to resign from my Head of Comms job; scared when COVID-19 meant I couldn’t train people in person (as well as just being scared of the virus generally, let’s face it); scared that my own writing was destined to fester in a drawer garnering only rejections for evermore.
But, thanks to you, it’s going better than I could have imagined and I’m so glad I took the plunge. I would like to wish you a very happy Christmas and new year. I hope that your festive season is as relaxing and peaceful as it can be under the circumstances.
Please do get in touch if there’s anything at all I can help you with. Communications is the way you build connections between creative work and the people who will enjoy it, and I can’t wait to support even more of you to build those connections next year.