Saturday, 21 October 2017

What gives me hope as a writer? by Anne Booth

I've been published now since 2014. My first books were published when I was 49.  First it was my MG novel

and then it was the first of what has become a series for OUP (the 4th one has just come out)

But I first said I wanted to be a children's book writer when I was still at school, and I was 49 when that finally happened, so there was rather a big gap! I even applied for a degree course (English at the University of York) where part of the degree could be a children's novel - but once I had got in, I lost my creative confidence and just stuck to academic essays.

But somehow, I think I mustn't have lost hope. I can't have, not completely, or I wouldn't be published now, would I?

And as freelance writers, moving from one contract to the next, nothing can be certain. We can never be sure that our books will stay in print, or that we will be asked to write another. So how do we keep our hopes up? I thought I'd share the things which have given me Hope.

1) First of all, I am so lucky that I have such a supportive husband. He used to really embarrass me when we met new people, because he described me as a writer long before I had had any book published. But I really appreciate that, as he kept hoping in me, and he tried to help me see myself as a writer and take myself seriously. Now, he keeps having hope that I will continue to be published, and he keeps talking me up to anyone who will listen, and he gives me hope when I worry! I hope that all writers have someone who is their cheer leader - and that we can each be the cheer leader for someone else.

2) My children as well, listened to and liked my stories, and said lovely things and made me think I wasn't deluding myself.

3) Old friends had hope in me, new friends on courses (Arvon courses and an MA in Creative writing) gave me hope-full feedback. They said they could imagine me being published. That helped. A lot. Imagining good things for ourselves and for others is a good way to foster hope.

4) My agent, Anne Clark - if anyone has hope in a writer, it is their agent. Without them, you are really hampered. (I know people do get published with no agent, but I think they must have a level of self belief I don't have, or can't maintain consistently without Anne feeding back to me!)

5)Publishers - once we are published, we still need to be given hope that our book will sell, by our editors and marketing people. So I am grateful to Catnip, OUP, Nosy Crow, Lion and Bounce marketing for all the encouragement, past, present and future.

6) Kind bloggers and tweeters and Facebook friends - many of whom are fellow writers - like those who write for this very blog (!) feeding back positive things, saying they are looking forward to reading 'the next thing'. Again - we can do this for each other.

7) Booksellers and librarians saying lovely things and sharing stories of readers who enjoyed my books.

8) READERS. Readers give me hope. I absolutely love getting letters from readers, or meeting  children at school and sharing my books and talking to them. They remind me why I do this job and that I CAN do this job, that I am not just deluding myself.

This week, the illustrator Amy Proud shared this with me. It was sent to her by a mum who said our book 'I want a Friend' was helping her little boy settle into school. Amy asked if we could share , and she said 'yes', and to tell me that her little boy asks for it to be read to him every day, and every time hears the bit about Arthur trying to catch a friend with a 'great, ginormous net', he bursts out laughing.  This gives me Hope - hope that books can make things better, even in little ways, for children, and that I can write books which make a little boy laugh. What an honour! What a great thing to hope for! I hope we sell lots and lots of copies of this book, but just having made this little boy laugh and settle into school with this one copy is a great achievement - and a source of future hope for the work Amy and I will do in the future, separately or together.

 (P.S. - lest this last bit has seemed a bit braggy and self promoting, to put it in context - Amy and I have had to have a LOT of hope in this book, as its publisher went through radical change & downsizing and we lost our wonderful commissioning editor and editor and marketing person; we thought at one time it would never get published at all - so we are very glad it actually saw the light of day, and hearing good things about it is especially sweet!)

(9) Me. I have to be hopeful. It is no good my family and friends, my agents and publishers and booksellers and librarians and even readers, giving me hope, if I sabotage that by talking myself down. I think all  the writers I know have massive bouts of self doubt - we need to help each there out with this - but also - be kind to ourselves. We must celebrate the successes before worrying about the failures. Stop and smell the roses! I am a hypocrite here, but just because I am a hypocrite doesn't mean I am not right!

10) Most of all, as a writer, I think the act of writing itself ultimately gives me hope in writing. My husband is right - I was, and am, a writer. It may not be easy , it may go wrong, it may make me tired, or despairing, it may not be the first thing I want to do when I get up, (actually, it nearly always is!) and I may write lots which won't get published, but I need to do it,  regardless of being published, and it feeds something in me. It is worthwhile. My husband was right to say I was a writer, because he knew that, even though I wasn't published, I needed to write. I write my prayers every day, and it grounds me and somehow gives me back a sense of who I am, recalls me to myself, and helps me to engage with reality. The best thing I can do to keep my hope in writing, is actually to forget about 'being a writer' as such and actually let myself write!


Penny Dolan said...

Lots of hope-filling stories and people here - and do keep having hope in yourself, Anne, which can be the very hardest.

margaret mcallister said...


Helen Larder said...

Thanks for this lovely post xxxx