Fierce Mothers

Like many sane people, I am trying (with help from their father) to raise two feminists. And I mean feminist in the true sense of the word; raising children to believe that we are all equal, that we should all be treated equally. Nothing made me happier this Mother’s Day than to watch my six-year-old daughter prancing around the garden singing Beyonce’s “Who rules the world?”, whilst my four-year-old son trit-trotted behind her shouting “Girls and boys should rule the world! They should share it!”

There are many people who have influenced my stance as a feminist. Caitlin Moran, OBVIOUSLY. Good friends, literary heroes, teachers. But most of all, my beliefs and attitudes have been honed by the two mothers in my life.

Yes, I have two of them and yes, I love them equally.

This, despite many of my childhood friends thinking it the best thing since, well, ever, has not always been easy. It can be difficult to manage the relationships, to divide your time and affection, to manage your guilt. My first mother is my biological mother, though this makes our relationship sound far more clinical than it is. She gave birth to me, looked after me during my infancy and has continued to be a strong presence in my life going forward. My second mother is my stepmother, who I lived with from the age of about seven onwards and gave me possibly the best role model I could have asked for during the later stages of my childhood and those vital, miserable, formative teenage years.

Both women are fiercely independent, both are very determined and both helped me become the woman, and the writer, I am today. My first mother has shown me how to live life with dignity, whatever may be thrown your way. To manage relationships and navigate difficult situations. My second mother has taught me integrity, drive and courage. She has shown me how to carve my own path in the world without a map to fall back on, how to believe in and trust myself.

Without their strength, tenacity and example I would be a poor, half-formed creature. As it is I am strong.

And I have those two women to thank for it.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mums.

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What it’s like to have your book deal announced…

When the above announcement went out in BookBrunch and on Twitter, I was unprepared for exactly how I would feel.

I had signed the contract a few weeks before, keeping the deal as close to my chest as a locket with a secret inside. A few close relatives and friends new and that was it. Until Emily’s announcement on Twitter, it was something very few people knew about.

After the announcement from Hodder and the subsequent tweets from my agent and a Facebook post by myself, the news was well and truly out. It was good just to be able to talk about it, I told myself. It was good not to have to keep a secret anymore. What I didn’t expect, however, was how I felt afterwards.

Emotional, for starters. Each new comment on Facebook or Twitter, each new congratulatory email I was sent, or card I received in the post, bought a lump to the base of my throat. Like I had swallowed a hunk of cake with such greedy rapidity I hadn’t paused to chew (which, of course, I would never do. Not ever. (OK, maybe once or twice)).

The relief. I didn’t have to keep it secret anymore! I can tell the world! I can shout it from the rooftops!

Relief, again. The submission process, that nail biting, obsessive email-checking period is over, for now. I can sit back and bask in the glow of the deal.

And then…

Panic.

This was the last to set in, wearing the stealth-like cloak of anxiety. Everyone knows, now. Everyone will be watching. I am not just a mother anymore, not just a friend, a cake baker, a Take That enthusiast, an avid reader. Everyone knows who I really am. A writer. My mask is off, I am left stripped bare in the world I clothed myself from.

This last feeling is the one I am working on the most, acknowledging the panic and stress so it can flood through my system and out again, leaving me with the euphoria of reality.

A reality which still seems too beautifully dreamlike to be real.

But it is.

IT IS!!!!!

OH, MY GOD!!!!!!!!!

Preludes and leaf buds…

I’m starting to get excited. Every time I see a new crocus peeking out of the grass I feel a flutter. So too for the leaf buds, the yellow daffodils, the local fields showing a shimmer of green growth above their dark soil. It’s starting, I think to myself. Soon it will be here in full bloom.

Spring, I’ve missed you.

I’ve missed your sunny face, your breeze that’s just the warmer side of winter, the promise of you.

Your assurance that soon I will have the freedom of leaving the house without a coat, of stepping outside at 9 pm to see the sun still shining. Knowing I’ll be greeted by that same sun when my son wakes me up at 5 am.

I don’t like the dark.

I don’t like the cold.

I like the Summer.

And, as with all good things in life, there is nothing quite like the promise of it. And the promise of Summer is Spring. The build-up, the prelude, the appetiser.

There is another promise I love, another sense of build up and excitement and that is, of course, writing. I’m in full flow of book two, about ten chapter in. The pace is building, the characters blooming, the story developing at a beautiful rate. The writing is pretty awful because it’s the first draft, but the promise is there. And that’s what I love.

The first draft of a novel is like the spring’s prelude to summer.  As it develops more buds begin to unfurl, more daisies pop up in the grass, more ideas, more twists, more hooks. It can, at times, be terrifying to stare at that blank screen, not knowing where to start. But when I think of it in this way, as a promise of something complete, the fear melts away. Excitement kicks in.

The blank, white screen, no longer frightening, stares back at me and says let’s go.