Focus

And that’s 2020 done. Almost…
It’s been an odd year, although I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I didn’t mind slowing down and enjoyed spending more time with my husband and children, but I struggled to hold on to my writing routine. I write best when I’m alone and know that I have a few hours of uninterrupted writing ahead of me. Obviously, those moments were sparse this year and it was hard to keep my eye on the prize, meaning plotlines and character development in order to complete that second novel. Even trying to decide which novel to work on this year was a bit disorienting! I wanted to stay with the characters I’d come to care about and got to know so well, and made a start on the sequel to Coffee Spills & Songs. I wrote a few chapters for it, got feedback on them from my writing group, and was really into it, until I stumbled upon an online article that said there wasn’t much point in writing a sequel when the first installment of the story hadn’t been published yet.
It made sense to me, so after a bit of deliberation, I switched to my second work in progress, The Martyr and the Butterfly. That’s what I’ve been trying to work on for the past five months, trying being the operative word: I think I’ve spent more time letting the story stew in my head than jotting down the actual words for it. So far, I have three chapters and the synopsis. The thing is, you come to a point in your writing, where you need to do research that goes beyond browsing the internet. I’d like to meet with a couple of bird breeders, and walk around in a crematorium. My senses need to play a part in the research process. But with lockdowns, homeschooling, and strict safety measures in place everywhere, it doesn’t seem to be the right time for that. Hopefully, next year when we go back to interacting normally with each other, I can do the research I need for crafting a proper, rich setting.

What I have spent lots of time on this past year, is submitting my novel to agents and independent publishers. Although it’s a time-consuming practice it takes a different kind of focus than writing prose and is easier to do with squabbling children in the background (I think). Of course, I’ve received loads of rejections, but most of them were kind and encouraging. I did receive an offer of publication too, from an independent publisher, but after much soul-searching and consulting the Society of Authors who looked at my contract, I declined the offer and went back to the query trenches.
I’ve just received a copy the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2021 and will draft up a new list of agents I can submit to from tomorrow, Jan 1.

One more thing, before I go and bang a few more oliebollen (fried doughballs) in the oven. I interviewed writer Kit de Waal for Anglophile magazine (Groningen Uni) this year. We spoke about what being a working-class writer means to her, amongst other things, and it was definitely one of my highlights this year. If you haven’t read her novel My Name is Leon yet you should do so at once! It’s a vivid, uplifting, but also tragic story about a nine-year-old boy who ends up in foster care.

Right, that’s it for now. I’d say roll on 2021, and a very happy new year to you all!

I interviewed writer Kit de waal for Anglophile Magazine. Photo: Justin David



Oliebollen. A Dutch New Year’s Eve tradition

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