2015 was perhaps the year in which my life experienced the most change. It was a year which brought me new successes, which showed me unknown pockets of the world, which was more exhausting than any other year to date, which turned the odd strand of my hair silver (no, no – not grey), which was exciting and wonderful and scary and chaotic. So chaotic, in fact, that it has spilled over into 2016 – and spilled so thoroughly that it’s taken me most of January to get around to writing this post.
The excitement began really with a longlisting, and then a shortlisting, for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. Nearly a decade of writing and rewriting and studying had brought me to a point where I was ‘suddenly’ being considered alongside some current greats. The newspapers had great fun presenting me as ‘the ski instructor who writes’, and whilst I appreciated the fun in this, the implication that I simply slid down the mountain one day, scribbled out a story or two, then jumped back on the chairlift doesn’t quite show the aspiring writer – and, incidentally, I still consider myself very much a member of that hungry group – the truth of the situation. And so I started to wonder what an aspiring writer might think, if one should happen to read my boastful blog of the year’s achievements, and what I decided I must make clear is this…
It IS a blog of the year’s achievements – not its many failures or its lows or all the years of hard work which preceded it.
In order to bring myself to a point where I could write well enough to be shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, I applied myself to the practice with an obsessive level of commitment: I acquired a 1st class BA honours degree in literature and creative writing, then a Masters degree in creative writing; I worked jobs I hated so that I could focus on chasing the career I’d wanted since the age of ten; I gave up certain things; I refused to believe all those people who told me I ought to give up. And only this last year, finally (and to put that effort into perspective, I turned twenty-nine in 2015) did my hard work come to fruition.
That’s not to say I’m now earning a living from my writing. I’m not. I still work as a ski instructor, and tutor English, and I’m still studying for my teaching degree and lecturing creative writing. I’m busy. I often work until silly o’clock in the morning. I write when I’m waiting at the dentist, or in lunch breaks, or type little memos into my phone when I’m between jobs: ‘story idea – animals, war, horrible decisions’ That’s the one I’m working on now.
And so somehow, after and because of all that, in 2015 I saw my first book published, I bought and moved into my first house, I won the PEN International New Voices Award and flew out to Quebec, Canada to collect the beautiful glass award, I travelled to Guadalajara, Mexico to visit the Book Fair there on behalf of the British Council, I listened to my stories being broadcast on BBC Radio 4, I signed with my lovely agent Chris at Greene and Heaton, I sold my first novel…
I celebrated with a short break in Amsterdam, and by buying myself two little Christmas presents – a pair of guinea pigs I’ve called Herbie and Gus, who are going to keep me company while I write, once they realise that I’m not a giant, vicious predator.
And this next year promises to be just as eventful as the last. I’m editing my novel ready for publication in 2017, and experimenting with my newest ideas, and trying to get more sleep than I did in 2015. There’s lots to come, and lots to look forward to, and so for now I’ll wish you all an embarrassingly belated Happy New Year and get back to work. Happy reading. Happy writing. Oh, and please do share your bookish thoughts with me on Twitter. I’m always interested to hear them.