Shadow(mancer)s of the recent past

The munchkin broke her collar bone on Tuesday. How? By bouncing up and down on the bed at my mum’s house, having a pillow fight, and falling off the bed. Durr. I was in Peterborough with work at the time, four hours away. Typical.

To reward her for being (reasonably) brave going to A&E and having an x-ray, I took her into town at lunchtime today to get her a little present. Hubby was going to the pub with our brother-in-law to watch a football match so we dropped him off and went for a mummy and munchkin lunch. Just as we reached the cafe and I stepped inside, a mournful voice cried, “Mummy, a seagull’s just pooed on me!” Poor little mite. I ushered her back out of said cafe, dug out a tissue and mopped her up as best as I could. They say it’s lucky. I don’t think she felt very lucky as the white and green slime dribbled down her fringe. And I certainly didn’t feel very lucky mopping it up!

But that’s not the point of this post so let me steer it towards that. The cafe we’d selected is called Taylors. It’s a cafe and book shop in Scarborough, North Yorkshire and is managed by two of local author GP Taylor’s daughters. Many people have had a part to play in my writing journey so far and GP Taylor is one of them so I like to visit his family’s cafe from time to time. Let me explain more …

P1050485When I first met hubby eleven years ago and shared my writing dreams with him, he asked me if I’d ever considered self publishing. I confess that, at the time (2003), I hadn’t heard of it. Having said that, I hadn’t really done any research into how I’d get my novel out there because it really was in the very early stages of an idea and a few poorly constructed chapters! He told me that a local Reverend-turned-writer, Graham Taylor, had self-published his debut novel, ‘Shadowmancer’, and hubby had picked up a first edition of it on a display in Waterstones in 2002. By 2003, it had picked up a publishing deal and, not long after, he also sold the film rights. Very exciting and impressive stuff!

A few years later (we’re thinking maybe 2008 but we’re getting old and our memories are fading!!!), hubby spotted an advert in the local paper for a creative writing course run by GP Taylor himself so I was straight on the phone to book my place and absolutely bursting with excitement.

There were about 25 on the five-week course, representing a huge mix of ages and genres. I remember going round the room doing some intros on that first session and being really disappointed that I was the only romance writer in the room. I’d hoped to find someone with similar interests and it looked like none of my fellow-attendees were interested in chick-lit. Yet it turned out that one person in the room was very interested: GP Taylor himself! He told me he’d teamed up with his assistant, Clare Connor, and was writing a chick-lit book. He was reading ‘Sushi for Beginners’ by Marian Keyes as research – a book I’d read myself – so we often chatted about this during workshops.

GP Taylor explained that his rationale for running the course was that he suspected there was a lot of undiscovered talent on the North Yorkshire Coast and he’d love to help develop some of that talent. Great reason. I hoped I’d fall into that category of ‘talent.’

P1050481The sessions were a good mix of information and interaction. Graham also set us homework tasks. He started by giving us a pencil drawing he’d found online and asked us to select one of the women then characterise her. He left it up to us how we’d do this. We handed these in and got them back next week. Graham was impressed with mine although he joked it came across a lot like a CV. I was working in recruitment at the time and couldn’t help myself!

Our next homework task was to write a creative piece showing the backstory of the character we’d developed and the final piece was to write a short story or start of a book. I’d chosen the woman in the foreground and named her Charlotte Evans. I’d been surprised not only at how easily her backstory came to my mind but that I’d written it in third person (my preference is first) and I’d set it after WWII when my work has always been set in the present-time. Despite all these changes to my ‘norm’, I loved writing my piece and actually felt sorry to stop at the first chapter as I felt there was a whole book in there.

P1050482Graham handed our work out towards the end of the final session. Before he did so, he said that the pieces had been read by him, his wife and his assistant and they were very impressed with the high standard and talent in the room. However, they were all in agreement that there was one piece of work that stood out above the others as something that could be published immediately. Excitement rippled round the room and I knew everyone would be thinking exactly the same as me: “I hope it’s mine!”

And it was mine! 

If I hadn’t been seated, I think my legs might have given way. That one comment absolutely made my day/week/month/year and made me believe I could really have a future as a writer.

P1050484The following year, Graham’s chick-lit book was out. ‘Rosie: Note to Self” was the first of a series of books. I believe that it’s either a re-telling of a bible story or inspired by Christian themes. GP Taylor and Claire Connor were doing a launch in WH Smith so I went along, bought a copy and got it signed. I wasn’t sure if Graham would remember me but he did and we joked that perhaps it would be me at that table signing my debut book in the not-too-distant future.

Fast-forward to today and I’m at the point in my writing journey where, spookily enough, I feel ready to follow GP Taylor’s footsteps and go indie with my debut series. I’ve visited Taylors a few times and have always hoped I’d bump into Graham and have an opportunity to talk some more about his writing. It didn’t enter my head that today might be the day it finally happened. There’s a room at the front with 4-5 tables, then you go through to a back room with 4-5 more, then up some stairs for 3 more tables and the book shop. Graham was relaxing in the corner seat by the stairs although he was deep in conversation with his companion so it would have been very rude to interrupt. Besides, I was a little flustered by the seagull-papping incident, so I ushered munchkin upstairs (as all the downstairs seats were taken). I wondered whether I should say something to him after I came back down and ordered my food. Would I be brave enough?

No. I lost my nerve.

It’s stupid really. There was my one opportunity to speak to a man who’d made me believe I could make it as a writer and tell him that I’ve written (or nearly written) three books since I met him in 2008 and that I’m going to launch all three in 2015. But I chickened out. I worried he wouldn’t recognise me or remember me as the chick-lit writer whose work he’d loved six years ago. 

The munchkin and I ate our lovely lunch then came downstairs. By this time, I’d psyched myself up but Graham had gone. Missed opportunity. So, Graham, if you do ever read this, I’d like to say thank you. You ran that creative writing course six or so years ago because you believed there was talent on the Yorkshire Coast that you wanted to help. Well, you helped me and one day perhaps you’ll read one of my novels and smile to yourself, knowing that you’ve been part of my journey.

Jessica

xxx

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Shadow(mancer)s of the recent past

  1. What a great story! I remember all the fuss when Shadowmancer came out. I bought a copy from The Whitby Bookshop and loved it. Didn’t know he’d ventured into romance though! WIll have to check those out.
    Well, Jessica, how fabulous is it that your work was singled out! Remember this story when you’re next wracked with self-doubt. A great author thought your work was good enough to be published. There’s your validation right there.
    Hope the munchkin is feeling more cheerful now and that the rest of her holidays are a lot less stressful! xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s