The Great Imposter

My imposter syndrome thoughts started a while ago, when I first put pen to paper and considered myself a writer. Back when I was changing nappies in between drafts and using snail mail because on-line forms and e-mails weren’t used much at the time.

Fast forward fourteen years and here I am. I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in The Hook. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s an event held every year at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators annual conference.

For those of a nervous disposition, look away now.

The Hook is where six brave souls get the chance to pitch their work to four agents in a minuscule amount of talking time. No biggie, I thought, I speak in front of important people a lot, I’m sure this will be fine.

That’s what I thought to myself when I submitted my words, again when I received the e-mail that I was selected to appear and once more when I sat in my seat waiting my turn to go up on stage.

And then the event started. As my SCBWI colleagues-in-arms took to the floor for each of their pitches, I suddenly thought, this is huge. Olympic medal huge. Landing on the moon huge. Life-changing huge.

When the event was over and the results came in, not only had I come 2nd (yay but how on earth did that happen, stewards enquiry!), I got the chance to speak to gate-keepers who actually liked my pitch. They were interested in my main character and the life that had been thrown at him, they wanted to know more, to understand my thought processes behind who he is and how he came to be. I had to fight the urge to look over my shoulder, convinced they meant these encouraging words for someone else.

I came away from the conference this year with a huge confidence boost that my writing was more than I ever thought it could be. Even now when I talk to people about that day, I smile and remember the moment the auditorium went quiet and my SCBWI friends crossed their fingers and toes for me as I shared my work, live and on stage. I remember the moment I started to pitch, totally forgetting the words I knew inside and out and so I was extremely thankful for the homemade prompt my son made for me. Just in case, he said. Too right.

I am determined to see this through, to send my work out and see where it takes me. I still feel like an imposter when I find myself in the same room as Carnegie nominees and award-winning creatives as I recognise names from the books that fill my shelves at home. However, a quiet voice in me will say, that could be you one day.

And why not.

Don’t Darken my Eye Back Door Again

I met you by chance. Your mass of brown cells sat quietly behind my optical nerve before the light picked you up and made you visible.

Were you just waiting for your special moment to pounce or are you quite happy with your lot, sitting in the dark, silently evolving without a care in the world?

You may think you’re unassuming with your blob-like structure, but I’ve met your kind before. One minute you’re all ‘yay, look at how cute I am’ then with a flick of your cell structure you force us to wait to hear all about you and the plans you’ve made for me. Plans you had no intention of sharing, you just assumed I would be along for the ride.

I got the news today that you’re not so round and invasive as I first thought, you’re actually the perfect shape, flat and unchanged, the shape of hope. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about you.

I’ve got news for you my freckle friend. Beat it.

Don’t darken my eye back door again. You’re not welcome there or anywhere else on my being for that matter.

I know where you’re hiding now. I’m coming to get you.

Got My Orange Crush

I have no idea why I woke up with the R.E.M song ‘Orange Crush’ going around in my head. Earworms are a normal start to my day but this one was particularly loud and insistent.

Once the first sip of tea was consumed, it dawned on me once again that I had finished my first draft of current WIP. A milestone I’ve been trying to reach for months and finally, I’ve got there.

The pile of paper sitting in its brand new folder, waiting to be read out loud before heading to my favourite in-house geek for tense and grammar scrutiny, smiled back at me from the lever arch file on my desk aka the dining room table.

I tend to think of my work in a traffic light system.

Red – means I am still writing it. Still fighting with characters and chapter headings as I work through the story in my head and when I sprinkle my thoughts onto the page, I hope they resemble something tangible.

Orange – the amber nectar of the sequence is the best part. It’s when THE END has been written for the first time after editing. It’s just full stops and verbal reasoning from now on. A rush of excitement gets me every time I reach this part. Mantra repetition also begins – Do not send it out just yet, it’s not quite ready. Do not send it out just yet, it’s not quite ready.

Green – the pressing of the send button. Sometimes the queasiness felt outweighs this amazing part of the journey. Most of the time I need a wee nap and a cry. There, there my keyboard says. We can have a break and listen to some music.

At the moment, I’m on orange but turning into green shortly. Only when it’s ready. Who knows what the song in my head will be when I press the Button of Destiny.

I can’t wait to find out.

The Dog That Bites

The dog that follows me is not always black.

Sometimes I don’t even see it as a colour as such, more of a presence waiting in the wings, ready to pounce when I least expect it.

I liken it to a storm that’s brewing as a cluster of clouds form overhead, threatening to let their watery cargo fall to earth with great force and destruction.

Dramatic as that may seem, when the world stops spinning for a second and the realisation sets in that rain is on the way, there’s always a strange lull before the onslaught begins.

The undermining bleak aura fills the air, sucking all the life out of everything it touches. Turning yellow into grey and laughter into tears, it sweeps in and destroys happy safe thoughts with one swipe of its huge, bloody claw.

If I listen carefully I can hear the dog snarl and snap as it comes closer to me. It doesn’t care about the destruction it causes as it looms into view or the mess it leaves behind as it heads onwards to its next victim, a shadow of itself forever imprinted on my mind, reminding me of it all at every turn.

I’m lucky to have a salvageable gap between despair and freedom. A small slither of light that guides me home every time the dog appears. I wait for those who aren’t so lucky, I hold out a hand to guide them in but they never appear, they’re lost in the ether of the darkness that dog brings.

A familiar door is closed gently behind me and I can breathe again.


Words Are Beyond Powerful

Words are a spattering of letters jumbled together to make coherent sentences. They are the beginning of a story or the creation of a song.

Words twist and turn and meander across the page, their journey coming to an abrupt stop with the placement of pencil lead proclaiming the end of an idea with a small dot.

Yet words can be cruel, forever held in time for the world to see. Unforgiving and shameful in their lot, words prod at the mind as guilt spreads its talons and digs in deep.

Words can rejuvenate and replenish a soul but only once regret remains firmly on the surface. The words that brought hurt and pain should be a constant reminder to the uneducated.

Words can eventually be reinvented to blossom into something tangible and humble, their presence perhaps not welcome for now but needing to be written anyway as a genuine expression of remorse and concern for well-being.

Words are what we use to communicate our feelings and opinions but more importantly, to bring about long-awaited change.

Words are beyond powerful.