Where I’ve been

Where I’ve been

It’s been a while. A lot has happened. After a concerted push, I finished the first draft of my novel Blues and was excited when an agent loved its concept and asked me to send her a sample. I waited for her response. I waited some more, trying to guess whether the ‘delay’ (does 6 weeks constitute a delay in the publishing world?) in hearing back was a good or bad sign.

But by the time I did hear back, it didn’t even matter – even though the book has been on my mind fairly non-stop (can ‘non-stop’ be modified?)  for the last two years.  By the time I received the agent’s encouraging-but-ultimately-negative reply, my (talented, velvet-voiced) daughter had been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Seeking representation for Blues would only have proven a distraction from the really important stuff. Plus, its subject-matter – of a woman’s desperate search for her ‘lost’ daughter- was slightly too close to my detached, 1960s home for psychological comfort.

My book may see the light of day again if times become brighter, but for now my inclination is to wrap it up with a pretty ribbon and file it in my ‘maybe one day’ drawer.

For some weeks, I couldn’t write. I didn’t have much energy left over from the considerable task of stopping myself from drowning. If I managed to feel anything at all, it was that writing would make a mockery of the seriousness of my daughter’s situation – a futile attempt to hold back a tidal wave of desperation.

But, as I learn the new language of chemo and all that comes with parenting a sick teenager, writing has thrown me a make-shift (probably somewhat holey) life-belt. My notebook is starting to fill, like an occluded drip,with witterings and words.

Like my daughter’s wayward cells, they don’t yet have a shape or a determined purpose. But they make me feel something – which, for the moment, feels better than nothing. And the words which find their way to the page feel necessary.

Maybe one day.beached

8 Responses »

  1. I can only imagine, with a kind of guilty (probably not quite the word) shudder, what things must be like for you guys at the moment. I read this out to Hannah looking back at her concerned face. I count my blessings and I hope every day that Georgina will pull through. She’s a lovely lass. Is she at home and receiving the occasional visitor?
    Writing notes, in fact writing in general, when you have time is great therapy. You and Paul need your strength for Georgina. x

  2. Thanks, Scott. Georgina is being very positive and the house was filled with teenage friends this weekend. I just thought I’d explain why the blog had fallen into disuse. I ‘ll probably post a bit more about writing as therapy/a coping strategy.

      • love and hugs back. I’m sure Georgina would love a visit from Hannah. She has a real soft spot for her (who wouldn’t?!) Plus, I meant to say that I know what you mean about the guilty shudder but it’s just the (bad) luck of the draw. All the more reason to cherish your daughter xx

  3. Hi Helen,

    As you know, my husband, Chris, was diagnosed with terminal cancer twenty months ago. Sadly, he passed away in June. Although our situations are different, we do have one thing in common: our writing.

    I have read your blog and I empathise with the anxiety and the guilt you feel about finding a few hours for yourself to indulge in your passion. I have been in your shoes.

    Yet, I would encourage you do it. Write. Write whenever and whatever you can. My writing (and other literary pursuits) were the only thing which kept me sane as my world came crashing down around me. It is not just a therapy, Helen – it is a lifeline. Grab hold of it and pull.

    You have had a promising start with ‘Blues.’ Submit your novel to three – yes three – more agents. And if in six weeks time you have not heard anything from them, submit it to three more and keep going ad infinitum. Ignore the comments on their websites about ‘multiple submissions’ and lie if necessary. The publishing industry is cut-throat and competitive beyond your wildest imagination. Take control and go for it. ‘Shy bones gets nowt.’

    IMHO continuing with your dream is the best thing you can do for Georgina and yourself. My children are my biggest fans and greatest supporters. The pride Georgina will feel in you if pull this off, will be immense; the guilt SHE will feel if you abandon your writing for her will make you all sad.

    Contact me (you know where I am) if you want to chat more.

    Love and hugs to you and your lovely family.

    Karen Charlton
    author of
    ‘Catching the Eagle’
    ‘The Missing Heiress’

    • Thanks for taking the time and trouble to reply, Karen. I can’t concentrate on my novel right now but am certainly finding it therapeutic to slow down my thoughts by spilling them out onto paper. I hope that writing continues to give you strength and purpose, too, along with the support you’re getting from your amazing children x

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