Friday, 13 March 2015

Happy Birthday to Me

Before I was a writer I only had one birthday a year. Now, like the Queen, I have several. And, princess-like, I’m making this blog post All About Me. How very selfish.

But it’s my birthday! If I can’t be a brat then…
Happy birthday, Still Falling!

Two birthdays actually. One is my book birthday. Still Falling, the most infuriating, difficult, elusive book I’ve ever tried to write, and also, I think, my best so far, is Out. In the world. Doing its thing. Being reviewed and that. It feels like a huge deal. Well, a book birthday always is, but this is my first YA title since Grounded in 2012, so it feels like quite an event. 

I’m writing this bang in the middle of my two book launches. Birthday parties, if you like.  Belfast (yesterday) was the home fixture, with my auntie Iris came, and former colleagues, and the lovely American lady who taught me at a novel editing class in 2001 and whom I haven’t seen since, and lots and lots of friends. The Belfast launch is always a bit emotional because you don’t know who’ll turn up but you know they’ll be someone with a personal connection. Tomorrow is the Dublin launch and it’ll be very different – publisher, agent, children’s book people. Lots of friends too (I hope) but very much recent book friends. Sometimes people wonder if it’s worth having launches – I think it is. It’s a celebration of hard work. The one book I didn’t launch properly I always feel I’ve been a bit mean to.
I'm sorry, Too Many Ponies 

But that’s not my only birthday. It’s my ABBA birthday too. A year ago today, I wrote my first ABBA post, ‘On Not Being Able To Say No’ – all about that tension between needing time to write and not wanting to refuse opportunities to make money. (Sadly, in my case, I’m still working on the writing itself bringing in more than pocket money.) I thought it would be interesting (possibly only for me, I admit) to see how things have changed in that year.

I’m still solvent, and still have no intention of returning to teaching. Last week I hid from the madness of World Book Week (which nearly killed me last year) at Arvon, where I tutored a wonderful group of eleven year olds with the equally wonderful Malachy Doyle. (And, to be vulgar about it, earned more than I would have in tearing round hither and yon like last year.) I’ve learned to pace myself better with school visits, and set a strict limit on my commitments for October (Children’s Book Fest in Ireland) which meant I finished the month on my feet and relatively sane.
Thank you, again, Arvon

I’ve written stuff too. As well as Still Falling, I have a YA novel with my agent, hopefully going on submission soon; a MG novel at acquisition stage (fingers crossed), and have just signed a contract for a historical MG with my Irish publisher. Taking Flight has been optioned by a film company. It’ll probably never be made, but I’m enjoying being able to say it. I’m going to be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow next year, which will cut out two writing days from my week but will also give me a decent income. Oh yeah, I think I remember what that was…

As for the not being able to say no? Well, I have turned down a few gigs recently because I needed the time for writing. I needed the time for writing because, when my Irish publisher asked in February if I could produce a short historical novel involving research by the end of April (yes, gentle reader, this April) I said confidently, ‘Yes, of course!’ It will be out in September. So far I have written 1200 words.

I know. When will I ever learn? I said yes because it was a challenge. I said yes because I was flattered at their faith in me. I said yes because I love writing historical even if I’d never previously wanted to write about the Easter Rising of 1916.

Mostly I said yes, because I couldn’t resist the chance to have two book birthdays in one year.

1 comment:

Joanna Patton said...

Happy Multiplicity of Birthdays, dear Sheena! As one of the friends present at this week's Belfast launch, I just want to confirm your feeling that Still Falling is your best book to date, and to utter mine that you just get better and better with each publication, and I can't wait to read your next one. Couldn't be better pleased to see you flourishing, and convinced that soon you won't have to worry about income. It'll be generating itself!