Sunday 21 November 2021

'Small Miracles' by Anne Booth - traffic, and other jams!


Last weekend my husband and I booked two nights away with our dog at this lovely Shepherd's Hut, so I could go to a 'Painting from Imagination' course run by the artist Nicola Slattery, a course which had been postponed in November 2020 because of the pandemic. 

The journey there on Friday night was a disaster - we were on the road for two hours but didn't get very far as we got caught in endless traffic jams, and our dog, normally a great car traveller, was retching and barking, and in obvious distress,  so we eventually turned back home, which took another hour, and phoned the farmer who was renting out the shepherd's hut, to say we would be arriving the next day instead. It was all so disappointing.

Then everything suddenly went right, and there was a series of small miracles. The moment we started turning for home, our dog fell asleep and the traffic jams disappeared  We eventually  got home and our kind daughter had made us a delicious  meal, our dog was much happier, and we decided to start again the next day. Our son and daughter said they would look after our dog whilst we were away. We slept well and set off very early in the morning and the roads were so clear - our experience could not have been better. The Shepherd's Hut was lovely. I got to my course in time. My husband went running, which he could not have done if our dog had been there,  and watched the rugby (yes, the shepherd's hut had a TV!) whilst I had a lovely time starting again to try to paint, as I love doing it but never let myself. In the evening my husband cooked a meal, and we watched 'Strictly'. The bed was so comfortable. We had such a lovely break. The next day I did some more painting, and really enjoyed it, and we drove home, and again, the journey was great. Our dog and children had had a lovely time together. Everything worked out after all.

I hope this isn't a twee post. But I wanted to say, and remind myself as much as anyone else, that sometimes things go wrong, but the second, or third or even more times around, it can all work out. It was so disappointing when Nicola's course had to be cancelled in 2020, but her course in 2021 was wonderful. It was horrible trying to drive to the course on the Friday night, with a distressed dog, but it was wonderful driving there the next day. 

In terms of writing, I am just writing the acknowledgements for my debut adult novel : 'Small Miracles' - I started writing this in 2003, at the beginning of my part-time MA in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. I have lost count of the  re-writes I did for that novel - the disappointments, the dashed hopes and rejections for years. But finally, after kind friends secretly booked the novelist Julie Cohen to mentor me (she told me an anonymous donor had given her funding to work with someone) I finally finished a version which worked, and 'Small Miracles' was taken on by the lovely agent, Jo Unwin, who then got me a publishing deal with Harvill Secker, and it will be published next year, in August 2022.

So I started working on  'Small Miracles' in 2003 - and it is eventually going to be published, nineteen years later in 2022!

If I had known it was going to take nineteen years for 'Small Miracles' to be published, I might have given up, so I am glad I didn't, as I am very excited now about the end result. It's a much better book now than it was when I started, and over the years my characters have changed just as I have. It makes me laugh that back in 2003 I described one of the characters, Sister Margaret, who is 58,  as one of three elderly nuns. Sister Margaret will be only one year older than me when the book is published, as I will be aged 57 by next August, when my book will be published, and I am definitely not going to describe Sister Margaret as elderly any more. 

I think that our careers, and our lives in general, can seem to stall or go nowhere at different times in our lives. In this time of pandemic there are so many people, including writers in this group,  struggling because of illness, for example, and that is so hard. Sometimes we feel stuck in personal traffic jams that last longer than one night, and sometimes we don't even have the luxury  to be able to turn off the road and go back home. Politically there are so many things to worry about in our nation and world. But I think it is good to remember that we mustn't lose hope, and that because something has gone wrong one day, it won't necessarily go wrong the next, and that sometimes we can look back on times we felt we had stalled, and realise it wasn't the end of the journey. I know now that because a novel has gone nowhere for nineteen years, it still might have a chance, and even improve. I hope that all those things we feel stuck in now, will change for the better one day (sooner rather than later, obviously!) 

If you would like to go on an Art course, here is the link. I totally recommend Nicola Slattery as a kind and encouraging and inspiring tutor and wonderful artist!

Here is where we stayed. I wish I had taken a picture inside - it is so lovely - and the bed was SO comfortable! You can see inside the huts on the website.


Joan Lennon said...

Just lovely - thanks, Anne! And congratulations!

Lynne Benton said...

Lovely post, Anne - and so pleased about your new book. You're so right: never give up on a project/book you believe in! Small miracles do happen. (And the Shepherd's hut looks great too.)

clare.weiner said...

Lovely. I like the look of the hut! And no, not twee at all, because it is genuine. If something is written genuinely, without self-conscious reference, I think it can never be twee...