Friday, 4 March 2016

Away Laughing on a fast camel...

I'm sitting at the table this afternoon listening to the radio and crying my eyes out. I'm listening to 'Last Word' on radio four, on which Holly Bourne is talking about the wonderful, hilarious author and comedian Louise Rennison who died last weekend. 

Rennison's books, the Georgia Nicholson series, were the subtitles and manual to my teenage years. They were where we would go to look for advice and to forget our problems by reading about a group of girls like us who made up snogging scales and traversed their teens with hilarity. 

The excitement that we felt when she came to our school for world book day (many years ago now) was enough to make us go to the piddley-diddley department right in our seats in the tiny damp school library. We listened to her reading during the day and came back to hear the same talk and same extracts in the evening, so huge was our love for her and her stories. When she read from her work, she brought her characters off the page in an incredible way, a memory which I have always kept with me and which has influenced my own spoken word style. 

She was an incredibly lovely woman, who signed my book with a shocked face thinking I'd said my name was Jas and not Jess, laughing her wonderful laugh and not worrying about sucking in her nose or placing her tongue behind her teeth like her teenage book-self Georgia was always doing. We asked her about the characters' real-life counterparts and what happened to them after the books (at the time there were only 3 or 4 books in the series, which now has 10), looking shocked at the Sex God's choice of life partner and awwww-ing at Jas and Tom. Her performance is still clear in my mind, and I've been calling on it a lot in the last few days. 

When I found out she'd died, I was shocked. I'd just been thinking about her and how important her books were when I was a teenager, and how important they still are. She was one of those people who seemed to go on and on and who would always be there, laughing and writing. She is a huge influence on me, and on my YA writing. Importantly, she showed us a world where girls weren't there to be sophisticated and chilled out, they were people like anyone else. And perhaps most importantly, that women are absolutely hilarious. 

RIP Louise, you'll be missed by many generations of young women, but we'll be able to laugh through the tears by re-reading your wonderful books. 

Achieving a dream...

Last week I spent an evening at a book launch. For a book that I've been published in. And I was so incredibly excited that I was bouncing around for the whole day before it (A day which included a lecture about standards and policy documents - hard to concentrate, I can tell you!).

Backtracking a little bit, in case you've missed it. One of my short stories, Destiny, has been published in For Book's Sake's latest short story anthology, '(Re)Sisters: Stories of rebel girls, revolution, empowerment and escape'. I submitted the story last summer, wanting to push myself more with my writing. Working to a deadline really helps me to actually get stuff done, so I wrote the story, edited in a fury and submitted on the day of the deadline. Then I took a deep breath and tried to forget about it for a while.

Fast forward a few months to me sitting in a car with my mum driving through West Cork to visit friends when an email pops up. My instant thought was 'rejection', because...well because I wanted it not to be so badly.

It wasn't, obviously.

So there I was last week, surround by the Grrls from our wonderful women's writing group and my mum and partner, as well as lots of other awesome people and some of the other authors from the book. And I read from my story, enjoying every second of it. My new ambition, to read my work out loud more often is definitely cemented after last week.

I was high for days on the excitement and celebration of the night, achieving my dream of breaking my way into the world of published writers. It raised an important point for me, about what I can achieve, in fact, what anyone can achieve when they believe in what they're doing even a little bit; because that little bit can grow and expand. If I hadn't taken the chance, I wouldn't be feeling like this now. I wouldn't be writing more regularly and planning novels and short stories left right and centre.

I have discovered another part of my life that my anxiety cannot touch, that I am proud to speak about and not shy or retiring; I don't hedge my sentences with doubt when I speak about my writing, because unlike with so many other things in life, I know I can find solace in something that I love, that I can lose myself in and that I am completely proud to say I am good at.

Onwards and upwards from here: next, the novel!

Click the link to order your copy of (Re)Sisters from For Book's Sake. It's filled with incredible stories by incredible women from around the world, showing the variety and courage of rebel girls, empowering others to tell their stories.