‘How long have you wanted to be a writer?’

I read many, many interviews with authors. It’s part research and part mental torture. ‘How did you get started’, ‘What was your book deal moment?’, ‘What are your writing tips’. These interviews are invaluable to people like me, inspiring and depressing in equal measure. Plus, when you are bored (procrastinating) you can imagine what it would be like to be asked such questions and mock up your answers to make you feel better. I imagine.

One of the questions I have read, and have obviously pondered myself (you know, just in case!), is ‘How long have you wanted to be a writer?’ I never know how I would answer that. I’ve always written in one form or another, but usually for other people. Copy, editorial, press releases etc. I remember as a child making books in my bedroom, writing comics about little girls at pony club, (middle-class, me?) effectively ripping off Thelwell but as a kid you know no better – if you make the horses bottom small it’s not remotely the same is it!? (If this makes no sense, google is your friend…) I digress.

My mum recently moved to Cornwall from our native Sheffield and in so doing, packed away a house full of my childhood memories. I’ve spent several months coo-ing and ah-ing at photos, cards, pictures, toys and the like but her latest bag of tricks held a treat like none before.

Owl at Home, by Anna Hall. Age 6. 9184 (I’m guessing those numbers after my age are the year… I was never any good at numbers!)

My first ever book. Including an illustration of my main protagonist on the front page – it fair brought a tear to my eye. Was this the age I started my journey as a wannabe? Have I been harbouring this desire for 30 long years? Do I now have a definitive answer including prop for such time as I might be asked…? Who knows, but I shall keep hold of it forevermore, just in case…

Not that the just in case will be any time soon. I’ve been piling my wares on the slush piles of many an agent and so far received all the rejections. IN THE WORLD. I’m happy with that, I knew in my heart it wasn’t good enough, and if the last 36 years have taught me nothing else, it is that rejection is never quite as bad as you make it out when you are 15, hormonal and have little else to worry about. I am proud that I finished what I started. With the exception of practically everything I have ever cooked, it’s probably the first time I’ve seen something through to the end. And I got some lovely feedback from an agent I admire who was very encouraging, that in truth, was enough for me. I’ve still got a few rejections outstanding, but I am moving onwards in anycase. I started my next book last week and I’m enjoying the freedom to write without pressure. And there is definitely a difference this time. Perhaps crucially, I could never pitch my last book. I couldn’t tell you what it was about without rambling, stuttering, talking rubbish and losing the interest of whoever I was talking to. This time, I know I can confidently and easily pitch it in one straight sentence. A sentence that if my test market so far is right, makes you ask what happens next. It might even be tweetable. A twitch if you will. It may be small progress but its progress all the same.

And what of the owl at home?  I know you must be desperate to read what I was writing about at 6 years old, so I thought I’d type it up – spelling errors and all:

Owl was sitting in his armchair eating toast with butter on top and pea soup. He was sitting besid the fire to keep warm in the house. Just then he heard a nouise from out sied. He said who cood that be out in this whether he went to the door and opend it. No-one was there he shut the door he went back to his chair and sat down again.

It did it again he went to the door no-one was there he shut the door. Again. I now who is at the door, it is winter. I will be kind to winter and let him in. he opend the door for winter and let him in. Winter came in he made a mess. Snow was in evry room

Winter you can’t do this you are my gaust but winter dident lessen to owl he just went on. Owl said go out. GO OUT.

Winter whent out and owl lived happly ever afater.

Ah, my blatant disregard for grammar started at 6 and remains strong.

Full stops!? Who needs them…




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