I don’t feel like a published writer … but maybe there isn’t a “feeling” to feel

Has it really been that long since I posted? Oops! To be fair, I’ve been on holiday and, even though I was only away for a week, I feel like I’ve only just got back into the swing of things because life had been so hectic just before holiday and immediately afterwards with one major activity taking a lot of my time: the launch of the first Write Romantics anthology!

I can now officially say I am a published writer with both an e-Book AND a paperback to my name. But when I first said that to my husband on the launch of ‘Winter Tales’ on 8th November, he frowned and said, “But you’re already a published writer.” And he was absolutely right. Because, in 2010, an anthology was launched that also featured a short story I’d written.

IMG_1558Back in 2009 when I entered the English Heritage competition to feature in an anthology of short stories set at or inspired by local landmark Whitby Abbey, I had no expectations of winning. Short stories aren’t really my thing, either as a reader or a writer and, but I felt drawn to the competition. I live just down the coast from Whitby and it’s a place I’ve visited since childhood and have always loved. I have fond memories of visiting there with my parents, my grandparents, as a Brownie, Guide and Ranger, and more recently with my own family. The other pull was that one of the judging panel was G P Taylor whose kind words about my work during his creative writing course had made me believe I could write. The entries were anonymous so this certainly wouldn’t have any bearing on my winning or not but it felt like there were two strong draws that I couldn’t ignore.

An idea formed but I absolutely left it until the 11th hour to get it right, submitting it at 2 minutes before the deadline. I knew it wasn’t perfect but I also knew that having a three-year-old, a full-time job and a long commute to work meant I’d had no time to make it any better. The winner was announced and, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t me. An email several months later had me shaking with excitement, though. Fifty other entries had been selected to feature in an anthology that would be sold in aid of Whitby Abbey and my story was one of them! I vividly remember the day I heard. I was at a team meeting in Croydon and we’d taken a break during which I’d checked my emails. I had to share my news with the team the moment we reconvened. I’m not sure anyone quite got it but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face because, for me, this was the first step: an official confirmation that I could write because I’d been selected as one of the best.

IMG_1557It took an eternity for the book to be pulled together and it was late 2010 before it was launched. It was available on Amazon but, as Whitby Abbey is just up the coast, I had this vision of us making a day trip of it. I felt a bit silly suggesting this to my husband as I felt like I was making a big deal out of something really minor. I kept hoping that he’d suggest it himself. Isn’t that what the hero would do in a romance novel? He’d suggest a day out but drive to the Abbey instead and have a bottle of champagne and a cake discretely tucked away in a backpack to be whipped out at the appropriate moment. I won’t go into what did happen but it wasn’t that and the whole experience felt pretty flat and unreal. I had the book in my hands but I didn’t feel like a published writer at all.

Roll forward four years and, on 8th November this year, we launched the e-Book of the Write Romantics charity anthology: Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. We had an online Facebook party which seemed to go well. We even had guests who weren’t anthology contributors attending! I still didn’t feel like a published writer, though. I reasoned it was because I didn’t have a physical book to hold this time and I’d had to download the anthology onto my Kindle as a test so it wasn’t like I’d had the chance to download it as a buyer and have it suddenly appear on my Kindle.

_MG_6911This Saturday the CreateSpace proof copy of our paperback arrived. I’d been out for the day with the munchkin as Santa had arrived in the harbour for a parade to his grotto (don’t ask) so I didn’t get the Amazon package until late in the afternoon. Hubby nonchalantly drifted down the stairs while I removed my coat and said, “This arrived for you.” Eek! The proof! I actually felt quite nervous about opening it, especially as hubby was also dying to see it so was hovering.

How did I feel on actually opening it and taking it out its packaging? A bit numb really. Yes, it was exciting to see it, but not quite as exciting as I’d expected. Maybe it’s because it was a “proof” copy so not quite the “real thing”. Maybe it was because it’s an anthology so my name isn’t specifically on the front. Or maybe it simply hasn’t sunk in. You see, I can say I’m now a twice-published writer but I’m not a twice-published writer who can write full-time or even part-time. I’m a twice-published writer who still needs to work because neither of these projects are about earning money; they’re about charity and rightly so. I’m a twice-published writer who’ll go back to work in a frozen foods factory tomorrow, not knowing if I’m about to lose my job as a result of some imminent restructuring in the HR function. I’m a twice-published writer who is hoping that the saying “third time lucky” does apply to me and that my third opportunity for publication – the release of my debut next year – will lead me a step closer to the dream of writing full-time. Fingers crossed.

_MG_6896Don’t get me wrong, I’m exceptionally excited. I just don’t feel different. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps there is no different feeling. Hmmm.

While I ponder on that one, I’d love it if you could bob on over to Amazon to order Winter Tales. It’s available as an e-Book here and paperback here. All proceeds are split equally between Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust and the book would make a fabulous stocking filler. Go on, you know you want to …

Jessica xx

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6 thoughts on “I don’t feel like a published writer … but maybe there isn’t a “feeling” to feel

  1. I’ve published 7 novels, a novella, and a short story collection, and I still don’t describe myself as ‘a writer’. Some say that if people pay to read stuff you’ve written then you’re ‘a writer’, others say that you can only call yourself such if you make your main living from it. I say, call yourself what you want. As far as ‘feeling like a published writer’ is concerned, I think that maybe that only comes if you’re traditionally published! Big congratulations on the Whitby Abbey thing, though – that must have been a real kick, what a lovely validation and what a worthy cause! And best of luck with the debut 🙂

    • Thanks so much Terry and congratulations on so many published works. I think you may have just answered my question: there probably isn’t a feeling. I suppose if I think back to my day-job, I’ve never had a moment where I “felt” like a Recruitment Manager or a Training Officer so why should writing be any different. I got over the battle to call myself a writer a while ago because I liked the school of thought that if you write, you’re a writer, but I think it will be a long time before I actually say it to someone in a non-writing circle. I’ll probably always say “I work in HR” because the next question is inevitably “Have I heard of you?” which must be so cringe-worthy! I wish you continued success with your work. Very impressed 🙂

  2. Ah, well that makes me a twice published writer as of this morning too and, frankly, my over-riding emotion is one of sheer terror! By tomorrow, I should receive a paperback in the post with my name on the front, which is going to be strange and, I hope, exciting. I’m terrified of not selling or selling copies and people hating the story or the writing, but I guess that’s the ride we’ve signed up for and I wonder if a writer ever truly reaches that self-actualisation at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy? I think we just have to try to live in each moment and not worry about what the future may hold, so relish the fact that you are published in two anthologies and people are loving your stories – how many others can say that? xx

    • Bless you Jo. You have nothing to be terrified about, having read your novella, but I’m sure I’ll feel exactly the same when I have my first novel published. It’s been quite nice hiding behind the collective of the WRs and guests in the anthology! Ah to be a writer and wracked with self-doubt at every stage! xx

  3. I kind of expected the world to change last Saturday. Was pretty peeved to discover it all carried on as usual. 😉
    I think maybe when it’s our own names on the book covers it will seem more real – though probably more scary, too, to be honest. No other authors to hide behind! As you’re so fond of saying, Jessica – eek! X

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