Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Why gardening is like writing a book - Emma Barnes

It sometimes strikes me that writing a book is a bit like gardening.* You've got some vague idea of what you want – and expect – but you never quite know what's going to come up.

This rose has an unexpected visitor...

I consider myself a good theoretical gardener. Walking around open gardens with friends, I'm not bad at identifying plants – and even at knowing what kinds of conditions they like, whether sun or shade, how hardy they are, and when they are likely to flower. I have all kinds of ideas in my head for beautiful borders, and theories about which shapes and structures work best, and which arrangements of colour are most enticing.

The reality, though, can turn out quite different.

Hydrangea - tough enough even I can't kill it

As a practical gardener, I'm mediocre. I buy a plant – and then forget to plant it. I plant it – and forget to water it. I water it for a bit – and then forget it ever existed, and so forget to water it... you get the idea.  Often the plants I end up with, are not so much my choice as the ones tough enough to survive my regime of neglect.

My garden has certain problems. One of them, soil that is probably better for making pots with, than growing plants in. Another, pesky slugs that slime around the place and utterly destroy any green, leafy plants that they can get their teeth into. (Question: do slugs have teeth? If not, they do an amazing job when it comes to chomping up petunias.) I know about these problems, yet I never get round to doing anything about them.

This colour scheme totally unplanned!

So, as the year changes, I'm constantly surprised. Forgotten things flourish. Plants I expected to see have completely disappeared. It's all like writing a book, really...

This month, as I've been enjoying my garden, in all it's flamboyant unexpectedness I've also received the first copy of my new book – as pink and vibrant as a garden flower.

 Like my gardening, this book didn't always go to plan. Among those things that changed along the way were:

  • The main character's name. 
  • The title – twice. 
  • The age group that the book is aimed at.

When I started off, I had an idea I was going to write about religion and cultural differences in contemporary urban schools and neighbourhoods – umm, that didn't end up a major focus.

What did stay the same? The kernel of the book – which was about a very imaginative little girl, whose fantasy life (in this case all about princesses and fairytales) tends to get out of control. And the funny things that happen to her when it does - like when she ends up kissing a frog in the school playground.  Eek!

Geranium Rozanne - my top gardening tip
So now I'm going to sit in my garden, amongst all the glowing, unexpected colours, and look at my pink-and-silver book, and enjoy the fact that sometimes it's a good idea to change your mind, and even go wandering up the garden path.

And my final gardening tip.  Whatever else you do - or don't do - or forget to do - find a shady spot and plant Geranium Rozanne.  You won't regret it.  I promise.


Chloe and the Secret Princess Club is out on 1st September and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

Praise for Emma's previous books:
Wild Thing series - "Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman
Wolfe - "Funny, clever and satisfying..." Books for Keeps


Joan Lennon said...

I love your garden - and Happy Book Birthday to Chloe!

Richard said...

That's a nice analogy. Gardening involves a large amount of shovel-work and of course attention to weeding, just like writing a book.

For indoor planets, you can't do better than the humble spider plant. It's not very pretty although it drapes well, but it can go weeks without water and reminds you of its plight by turning pale. It's the only pot plant that can survive my tending.

Penny Dolan said...

Congratulations on your new Chloe book! I liked the gardening analogy, although at least you can leave a m/s for a while without brambles covering it up, and the slugs are less squidgy to remove.

Emma Barnes said...

Yes, I'm keen on spider plants for all the reasons you mention, Richard. And it produces all those long stalks with baby spider plants - a bit like sub plots sprouting in a manuscript.