Last week, a friend who runs a creative writing group invited myself (and another friend with a publishing deal) to visit her class, meet the students and attempt to explain the YA genre. I say she invited us, but I mean of course, that she nagged us until we gave in.
We were terrified.
Quite early on, someone asked me what is probably one of the obvious questions: "So what's changed then?"
And I shrugged and shuffled and grinned and said: "I dunno...nuthin really."
Because I am crap at public speaking. But also because I haven't actually been published yet - and it doesn't feel as if anything has changed.
My preparation for the above event had been all: "Shall I wear this skirt or this dress? Which one makes me look most authory?" And of course, "Should I take some of the diazepam my fellow speaker's back pocket is stuffed with or should we just get really drunk beforehand?"
|"Hello? Is this my Young Adult voice speaking? |
(We have a new Banksy in Cheltenham!)
I really hadn't considered any of the questions I might be asked, obvious or otherwise.
Before long, someone else said: "How do you find your voice?" And myself and fellow speaker looked at each other as if to say: "You'd better take this one, because I have nooo idea what the answer is..."
In the end, we went with: "If you write enough, it'll end up coming out in your voice." But I have a sneaking suspicion there's a far better answer out there somewhere...
(In fact, as I'm writing this post, I'm aware that my blog-voice is different to the two ((again slightly different)) voices that I wrote my two books in. But they are all still my voice. And it isn't a voice I ever searched for or created, because I wouldn't have been able to sustain anything else for the length of a novel. So I suppose it must be practise - like bloody everything!)
Anyway, I was reading back over my last post and I mentioned that feeling of excitement that now comes over me in bookshops - especially in the YA section. So that's one thing that's changed since I was offered a book deal. There have been changes. Maybe they're too small to have been worth mentioning in answer to the question I was asked at the creative writing class - and they're definitely occurring to me too late for that too. But here they are...
*I've been out to lunch with Rowan, my agent, at River Station in Bristol. Which was lovely. She said so many interesting things about books and publishing that I'm still turning them all over in my head a week later.
*I've started reading the Bookseller. Oh, I can't afford to buy the Bookseller, but I scrounge a friend's copy when she's finished with it and it makes me shout things like: "Where's the YA section in here? Why is YA so over-looked? And undervalued? Gahhhh!"
*Similarly, I've started picking up books in supermarkets and reading the acknowledgements before looking at the cover, the blurb or sample pages. All the gushy praise for Rowan Lawton or Rachel Leyshon makes me grin like an idiot. Subconsciously, I start to work on my own thank yous while I'm reading other people's. (Barry Cunningham even does his own letters inside each Chicken House book, explaining why he loves the story! Want one! Want one! Want one!)
*I have tentatively tweeted praise to authors whose books I've enjoyed. Amazon reviews too! Previously, I'd always thought: "Well, why would they care what I think?" But if I'm going to be an author one day, I know that I would absolutely not think that. No, I would think: "Thank you-thank you-thank you!"
*Here and there, in the many millions of notebooks I have all around the house, I've jotted down a few ideas for the story I might write after I've finished the current one. Or even the next-but-one. They may be indecipherable scribbles and they may never amount to anything, but they're a sign that my faith in my writing is growing - I really do believe that I can finish a 100,000 word story now. And maybe another one after that. Why not?
* My favourite of all the changes is that when my seven-year-old was given "My Favourite Author" homework...he chose me. (I made sure he included Neil Gaiman in his talk, since Coraline is his favourite story - and he's too young to have even read mine!)
*Also...I'm happier. It's far from obvious, since life's the same and I can be pretty grumpy, but it's true. I could never have said this one aloud, though - its the cheesiest of all!