In 1957, a 2’ wide aluminium globe made it into orbit around Earth. It was called Sputnik and I remember it well, not because I was interested in Space as a toddler, but because my brother called his guinea-pig Sputnik. Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union. Four years later, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to venture into Space. And, oh dear, he was Russian, beating the USA to it. But not to worry. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong bounced onto a totally barren satellite of dust and rock – the one we call Moon, and planted a great big USA flag.
It was a Space race between rival nations, the only entities that could afford to throw sufficient money at the goal of getting off the one planet in the Solar System perfectly suited to supporting life. The driving force in the Space race was, of…
I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines – I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out any of the four, full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with breast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be good enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.
I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.
There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writinggroup I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion – I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.
‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.
‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’
‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.
So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents
Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me on. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.
There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first time author.
But I was on my way. Or so I thought.
A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?
So – back to square one.
For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.
There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest – months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.
Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agent to tell me she’d set up her own agency, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.
We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.
Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:
“Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”
And then the death knell on my hopes.
“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”
The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.
Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’
I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?
When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’The plot, the characters had been completely changed.
‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’
‘Take it or leave it.’
I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.
‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications...
I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.
I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies.Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but…
I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women“, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up . I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.
Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice
Welcome to the round up of posts you might have missed over the last week.
It has been summer here this week and like many of you very high temperatures. Even I have had to wait until early evening to sit out but that has been lovely.. Australia however has been enduring the lowest temperatures for a very long time with – 4 expected in the Sydney region.. That is cold for Australia. Certainly the weather is very unpredictable at the moment.
A few things going on at the moment and here is an opportunity for poets and flash fiction writers from Judith Barrow and here is her facebook link to DM her if you are interested..Judith Barrow Author
“Hi Everyone, I’m putting feelers out for poetry readings ( your own work ,any subject) and a hundred word flash fiction pieces (subject “Harvest”) for an online festival…
As the Meet the Author’s series comes to an end, time to catch up with recent releases by authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.
Today a showcase for Mary Clark’s poetry collection Into the Fire: A Poet’s Journey Through Hell’s Kitchen
About the collection
A young, aspiring writer comes to St. Clement’s Church on West 46th Street in New York City looking for a job in the theater. Soon she is helping run the church’s poetry program. The New York Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s features many well-known poets of the 1970s and 80s as well as up-and-coming and marginalized poets. The poetry scene, occurring alongside Punk rock and the waning days of experimental dance and theater, is part of the last widespread grassroots artistic era in the United States.
Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey takes place in the rough-and-tumble Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood on Manhattan’s West…
Something we all need just now:”This author is known for an empathetic approach to her writing. She writes what she senses, sharing the ups and downs of her characters with love and compassion. A true storyteller, Sally Cronin’s stories will leave you wanting more feel-good moments.”
Delighted to share the news of my latest release which went live yesterday. A little light summer reading…
About the collection
“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Arthur Brisbane 1911.
An image offers an opportunity to see endless possibilities depending on the viewer’s perspective. Where some might see beauty and joy, others imagine sadness and loss of hope.
In this collection, images and syllabic poetry are brought together to tell a story based on the author’s perspective. The poetry explores our human experiences such as love, happiness, hope, aging, friendship, new beginnings, dreams and loss.
The world around us is an amazing playground and source of all our essential needs as well as sensory experiences that bring wonder into our lives. What lies beyond the horizon? What surprises will we discover as a garden bursts into bloom? Where do the night creatures live?
“You know, Mama, not everyone sees new places by moving to them.”
My daughter was not impressed when I told her we were moving to England. Or Spain. Or Scotland. Or—most recently—Italy. Most people, she pointed out, just book a week somewhere, buy a plane ticket, try not to drink the water, and hope they come back without too many new tattoos.
I blame Covid.
During four and a half months of lockdown in Scotland, the Hub and I worked on the house and garden. It looked better than ever before. We made plans for all the upgrades we should tackle next. He made to-do lists on his phone—lists so extensive it would take the rest of our remaining lifespans and possibly those of several future generations to accomplish.
(Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe ToDo lists?)
So of course, when the Hub mentioned an opportunity to move…
It’s Wednesday again, and you know what that means–time for another special guest! Today, please help me welcome one of the most amazing people I’ve met online, everybody’s friend and supporter, Sally Cronin. You’re gonna love this! Sally, take it away!
Ten Things You May Not Know About Me
by Sally Cronin
Thanks very much Marcia for the opportunity to reveal some possible secrets about myself, in the hopes that none of them come back to bite me….
I had measles when I was two years old and I was left with a pattern of leaves on my forehead which slowly faded away by the time I was a teenager.
I had lived in four countries by the time I was twelve years old.
in 2001 I had my mitochondrial DNA tested. My results showed that my DNA came from Helena whose bones dated back around 20,000 years ago and…
On Saturday 16th January 2021 we had our first Showboat Literary Online. We had a great line up of writers, lots of fun – and lots of interviewing glitches ( for the editing team at Showboat to sort out in order to showcase the event in the next months. But, most importantly, it was interesting to listen to all those who appeared to give us the lowdown on their writing and latest books.
Thorne Moore and I shared the interviewing chair. This is what Thorne had to say about the day, “:I expect everyone is saying it, but it was so good, after a year under siege, to be able to meet up with other authors again and talk about books, writing and the joys or otherwise of publishing, just to remind ourselves that the world will be back on its axis one day.”
Over the summer I will be updating author’s details in the Cafe and Bookstore and also sharing their bios, books and recent reviews with you in this series…
Meet Daniel Kemp
Daniel Kemp, ex-London police officer, mini-cab business owner, pub tenant and licensed London taxi driver never planned to be a writer, but after his first novel –The Desolate Garden — was under a paid option to become a $30 million film for five years until distribution became an insurmountable problem for the production company what else could he do?
In May 2018 his book What Happened In Vienna, Jack? became a number one bestseller on four separate Amazon sites: America, UK, Canada, and Australia.
Although it’s true to say that he mainly concentrates on what he knows best; murders laced by the mystery involving spies, his diverse experience of life shows in the short stories he writes, namely: Why?…
There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Eric – Just Getting By
Eric stood in front of the mirror and for a moment deliberately avoided putting his glasses on. All he could see was a blur and therefore could just about pass muster. Behind him he could feel the presence of his wife Billie and knew what she was going to say.
‘Eric, love you have let yourself go,’ there would be disappointment in her voice.
He slipped his spectacles on and his image immediately appeared all too clearly. He did a quick head…
In this feature, we ask our Crime Cymru authors to name six things that influenced their life and shaped them as a writer. This week, Wales Book of the Year Award shortlisted author Judith Barrow writes an extraordinarily powerfuland moving account of a harrowing childhood experience.
Six of One
As a young child I remember reading The Tree That Sat Down. I had to search for this online, my copy has long gone. Basically, it was about an enchanted forest where Judy (guess why I liked the book!) helps her granny run The Shop Under the Willow Tree. They sell all sorts of lovely things, such as boxes of wonderful dreams fastened with green ribbon. But then Sam and the charming Miss Smith, who is a witch in disguise, open a rival business. I think what struck me then, something I mulled over for quite a while…
Good morning and welcome to the July’s edition of my Green Kitchen… Just to recap for those who are new here…This monthly post will cover sustainability, news on food production…changes for the better and maybe a villain or three…haha, a recipe or two including some plant- based recipes, hints and tips on making my household a little greener…aka recycling and composting.
I would like to say “well done” to those of you who are well on the way to a plastic free home and some have been raised where the reliance was not on using plastic which is great while others it’s all they have known and to sign up for a challenge gives focus…I signed up not to give me focus but to give me ideas maybe something I could do but didn’t know how or…
I was delighted to be invited to join Rebecca Budd on her podcast Tea and Trivia to talk about memories, writing and book marketing. It was a wonderful experience and Rebecca did a wonderful job of making it seem like a chat between two friends. Her husband Don is also a technical genius who edits and produces the broadcast. I hope you will head over to join us.
Welcome to Tea Toast & Trivia.
Thank you for listening in!
I am your host Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you.
I am delighted and thrilled that my blogger friend and writer, Sally Cronin and I are connecting Ireland and Canada, a distance of over 7,000 kilometers. What would take 10 hours flight time has taken 10 seconds in the magic of WIFI time.
Sally is a storyteller. As a child, she used poetry, song…
Over the summer I will be updating author’s details in the Cafe and Bookstore and also sharing their bios, books and recent reviews with you in this series…
Meet Anne Goodwin
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.
Books by Anne Goodwin
One of the recent reviews for Matilda Windsor is Coming Home.
This is the prequel to Tales from the Irish garden and shares the stories of statues we inherited when we bought the house, and for the magic kingdom beneath the Magnolia Tree. The book is also available in Spanish translated by Olga Nunez Miret
Chapter Eight – The Goose and the Lost Boy by Sally Cronin
A short walk from the magic garden was a lake filled with fish and home to waterfowl of every description. The ducks had lived in peace for many years and had grown old and fat on the luscious green shoots that flourished close to the water’s edge.
Occasionally a goose or two would fly in and rest their weary wings during one of their long migrations between the northern lands and Africa. One bright afternoon a pair of young feathered lovers arrived and settled in for the night amongst the bushes. The female was…