Anyway, less about me and more about her. Her name is Marsha Moore and below is her story. The bits in colour are where I couldn't resist interrupting. Imagine she and I are sitting in a bar drinking celebratory sparkly stuff and I've asked her to tell me what happened but I keep butting in.
(By the way, I have to warn you that Marsha has learnt absolutely sod all about shoes while reading my blog. Win some, lose some.)
Talking about winning: Marsha has a free copy of 24 Hours London AND a t-shirt to give away to one lucky reader of my blog. (For readers with an address in the UK, US or Canada. For others, you could always nominate a lucky recipient.) All you have to do is make a comment below, and Marsha will randomly pick one from a metaphorical hat and that person will be the winner. The deadline will be 24 hours after this post went out - so 08:00 (UK time) tomorrow.
So, here is Marsha Moore and the rather fabulous 24 Hours London. And I suppose at this point I should disclose that she's very kindly sent me a copy. But I'd already offered to host her so this cannot be described by any silly govt busy-body organisation as "undue pressure".
"Whenever I dreamed about my publishing debut, I’d picture a pastel cover with my name written in large, whimsical font. I’d be the new (but Canadian) Sophie Kinsella of the chick-lit world, my masterpiece appearing straight at the top of the best-seller list (well, it is a fantasy after all!). I’d wear shiny Jimmy Choos (er, well you got that wrong, lady. See below, blog-readers, and be ashamed) and be on all the talk-shows. I could never have imagined that when I finally did get published, it would not be chick lit – it wouldn’t even be fiction – and I’d still be wearing my fuzzy pink (uncool) slippers in the confines of my flat. But do I care? Not a stitch!
Two years ago, when I decided to have a go at getting published, I was dead-set on writing novels. I’d worked as a journalist for both TV and newspapers, and I found sticking to the truth quite tiresome – and very limiting! Fabricating plot-lines and making characters behave any which way I wanted seemed like heaven. So did the thought of working from home, in sloppy clothes, [and slippers] with the fridge nearby.
The first novel I wrote was... well, I’ll call it a learning opportunity (although I can think of much worse things to call it!). I just wanted to see if I could do it; if I could sit still (and keep away from the fridge) long enough to write 80,000 words. I had no story structure; I just went for it! [that'll learn you] After redrafting a few times – then getting around 30 rejections from UK agents – I decided it needed to be hidden away in a dark, dark corner, possibly never to see the light of day again. I was eager to start another, anyway. [quite right] A few months later, I submitted my second attempt to American and UK agents. The responses were slightly more positive, [progress] but the end result was still the same: a big fat no.
It was at this point – 10 pounds heavier [thing is, I suspect you got the chocolate right but you weren't doing enough pacing around; all authors pace around, silly] and slightly worried about my sanity – that I began to seek help in the blogosphere. After reading up on story structures, editing techniques and agent queries, I felt buoyed enough to try again. Enter Novel Number 3. Another 80,000 words and desperate for some feedback, I scoured the web for a writing group in my area. I came across an advert from a woman looking to start a writer’s group in Kensington, got in touch, and we met up at a nearby coffee shop.
Here is where luck intervened: she wasn’t just another writer! She had her own publishing company and was looking for writers, particularly for non-fiction. While I wasn’t that enthusiastic about non-fiction, [no, often we're not, but it's a proper skill, easier than fiction and very very respectable, so do it, fools] I knew one thing: I really, really wanted to get published [oh hooray and hurrah, a working writer in the making] – if nothing else, to stop the pitying looks from friends and family! [thing is, now they'll pity you if you don't win the Costa Award for non-fiction or sell shedloads - the pitying looks never end, I'm afraid] I trotted home and wrote up a few non-fiction proposals (thanks to some great blog advice)... and several meetings later, we’d hammered out the concept of writing about all there is to do in London, hour by hour, in a guide book called 24 Hours London. I signed the contract, hardly daring to believe that I was going to be a published author! I semi-skipped down Kensington High Street (it’s hard to skip in high heels) [thank God it wasn't those slippers - you'd never have been signed in those] and went home to indulge in a celebratory feast of chocolate and wine with my husband. [Yay, a real writer through and through].
That was in April, and life has been a whirlwind ever since! Luckily, although I’ve only lived in London for five years, I love to explore and I’d already done a lot of research on what to do off the tourist track. I wrote the book in just over a month. Then, the hard bit began: marketing (shudder).
I never realised just how much marketing it takes to sell a book – or even to get bookstores to stock it! I’d just thought once you had a book deal, the book would magically appear on shelves up and down the country. I’d already begun wandering into Waterstone’s, picturing my travel guide nestled up against all the other lovely books that had made the cut. [Ah, we all did it. It's the steepest learning curve ever invented. It's where sheer determination and effort come up against the brick wall of chance.]
I’ve learned it’s not that easy; that there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work required by publishers and authors. I’d researched the front end of the publishing process; I just wish I had learned more about what happens after you sign the contract. [Thing is, nothing can prepare you - it's like childbirth, without the messy bits. Though actually it can get messy, too. There was the launch where...] Still, while it’s been a steep learning curve, [told you] I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how helpful and receptive people have been. From bloggers and my fellow expat writers to the Mayor of London’s [you're name-dropping already, dahling] press office, everyone’s been very supportive. ‘There’s no harm in asking’ has become my new mantra!
So I’m not the new Sophie Kinsella (yet anyway – I still haven’t given up on my fiction dream! Fingers crossed for Novel Number 4). And my cover isn’t decorated with curlicues. But what the heck: I’m published! [And hooray for that!]
A big thank-you to Nicola and all the other bloggers out there who offer advice, humour and support to every kind of writer (even those with manky pink slippers!), everywhere."[well, frankly, I'm tempted to draw the line there]
Anyone for a free copy AND t-shirt? Comment away. Anyone want to buy one? Click here.