As is customary at these times, it seems only right to reflect a little. My writing year was a good one, certainly. It was the year my book Punch made it to the Crystal Kite shortlist, among other things.
For what it’s worth, here are some lessons I’ve learned:
Persistence pays off. Never give up on a discarded manuscript. Mine became book three – Wilderness Wars.
Published authors still get rejections. Keep writing. Nothing else for it.
There is no such thing as being too pro-active as a writer. Period.
What follows is a random and illogical collection of selective impressions, trivia and thoughts on the year that was:
January: SALES: This month, the record was broken: My author visit to Kirkhill Primary sold more books than I have ever sold in a single day, and all sales were to individuals rather than the school. My second visit to Luncarty Primary broke that record again. Never did I get near those figures again later in the year. But it felt good. I love how enthused young people become about reading during these events.
February: WORKSHOPS: I began a series of creative writing workshops, delivered on behalf of Groam House Museum. A bit of predictable income was very welcome, but it pales into insignificance compared to the inspiration and motivation I gained by preparing and teaching them. Writers are inspired by other writers, and I am no exception.
March: WORLD BOOK DAY: I was lucky enough to be asked to appear at Lochardil Primary for this spectacular occasion (they don’t do things by half there!). But the oddest and weirdest and craziest thing was being interviewed about World Book Day by a Turkish English Language TV station. Surreal is putting it mildly! Workshops with Sutherland pupils about local poet Rob Donne were also an excuse to drink in fab scenery. March also saw me get unduly emotional: I defy any new author to walk into a room with sixty kids holding copies of your book, and not to cry a little. Thanks St Mary’s RC Primary School in Hamilton!
April: RESEARCH: As the holidays, family weddings and other ‘life’ stuff got in the way, I took the opportunity to drag the family away to the Solway Firth for a spot of immersion in a Smugglers’ story I was writing. Fingers crossed, one day you’ll all get to read it! We also popped into Caerlaverock Castle, another place of interest to the historical novelist – this one in particular!
May: EXPLORING NEW SHORES: I love getting to know new parts of Scotland as part of author visits, but the biscuit was well and truly taken by the beautiful Isle of Lewis. Thanks to my hospitable publishers, the gorgeous Hebridean Huts and the friendly Pairc School, this was an unforgettable trip. Can’t wait to go back! The exhibition in Groam House also opened, featuring work created during my workshops, which was just a bit special!
June: BUSY TIMES: June was the busiest month for author visits I have had for a while. Perth, Dingwall, three sessions at a local secondary school for creative writing, Edinburgh, a new children’s writers’ free class at Eden Court Theatre, Gourock, Fortrose… I barely came up for breath! But the best bit was making the book trailer for Wilderness Wars – almost my favourite part of the publishing process!
July: BREAK: Visiting family in Germany, seeing the legend Paul Simon in concert, watching too much World Cup football and a relaxing (slightly research-motivated – can’t help myself!) short break in Lochaber, followed by a week in Iceland. This month was about taking a deep breath because…
August: LAUNCH: Because August was about giving Wilderness Wars the best start possible! Seeing all three of my books on the shelves at Edinburgh International Book Festival was particularly special. Launch events in Edinburgh, Nairn and Inverness, with a lovely school launch at Lorne Primary in Edinburgh and Cradlehall Primary in Inverness secured lots of press coverage of my inflatable seagulls!Being on a Historical Novelists’ Association conference panel with fellow Cranachan author John Fulton was also an absolute pleasure.
September: FAMILY: I cancelled a lot of my scheduled events in September due to a family bereavement. Flying to Germany and keeping in touch with my nearest and dearest was the priority here, although I also finished a new novel this month.
October: NESSBOOKFEST: The autumn is usually dominated by the organisation of this festival, although I wasn’t chairperson anymore this year. My remit is press and social media coverage, so i was churning out press releases and tweeting as if my life depended on it. Meeting such a wide array of writers and illustrators was a real honour. It was also the month I resumed author events, with the Word on the Street Festival a particular privilege.
November: BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND: I wouldn’t be surprised if I was one of the authors to cover most ground that week: Peebles’ Read-a-licious Festival, Tongue, Inverness and Dingwall all featured in a bit of a full-on schedule – of which I loved every minute, by the way! Author visits also took me to Perth and Cumbernauld.
December: COMMUNITY MARKETS. People buy books at this time of the year, and as writers, we ignore this opportunity at our peril! I had a go and actually quite enjoyed setting up camp with my box of books. As a result, a couple of dozen books of mine will grace present tables around the country and beyond 🙂
Happy New Year, everyone. May 2019 be good to you!