I have talked before about the importance for me of belonging to a writing group. I joined the Bangor Cellar Writing Group in April 2007 and somehow found myself in the chair in October of the same year (and for the next three years — now Vice Chair!). The time I joined the group was a difficult time for me, still coming to terms with losing Lee, BUT it opened up the world I so needed to be part of. It amazes me that since then I have had twenty stories published, won three competitions, been short-listed in many more and this week sees the launch of my debut novel! I am quite astounded!
But this isn’t meant to brag, writing is a long and sometimes tough process, so I want to say that it proves with hard work and determination you can get there. Really. And so it will for those out there with the same dream and prepared to put in the hard work.
My writing group became a whole lot more than advice, ideas and inspiration — for me it is more about the personal support. It’s about the people who have been there for me and continue to be there for me and who I owe so much. They taught me above all that this journey we are all on, one that involves many hours spent alone at a computer, really doesn’t have to be an isolating one.
Tomorrow we have a showcase at the Bangor Museum, the very place I had my first ever book launch and where I dedicated my first ever reading to Lee — my story Jigsaw that was published in the Making Changes collection by Bridge House. The Showcase evening this week will allow members of the group to share poetry, short stories and novel extracts to the family and friends of group members and we hope some of the public too! I will give another reading from the book, might rehearse one I haven’t done yet as some of the same people were at the launch. And I have a few copies of the book to sign as well! Other writers will also be signing published work.
So five years to the week, after dedicating that first reading to Lee, I now launch my first novel, also dedicated to Lee. It feels right somehow.
So this journey has a circular feel and some of the bumps in the road are gone — but now I feel ready to pull out of the centripetal loop to take on what comes next. I can hear Lydia’s voice in my head as I think that — “You a big ol’ Catherine Wheel, girl, whizzing up a storm.”
I hope the book leaves a trail of fireworks.
Now is that odd time when I wait to see how it’s received and what kind of reviews I get.
I was thinking about that last night when the first of my friends says she read the book this weekend. She said great things about it and asked me questions. She said she was really hooked. Phew.
But reviews are not like critiques.
I have learned to be really receptive to the kind of criticism a critique entails as it all feeds into the creative process of making your MS as good as it can be. Reviews, on the other hand, are criticism on a done deal. This book is finished and I can’t change anything. Some will love it, some will hate it — I just hope not too many are indifferent. Better to have an opinion than no opinion.
I think I need to learn how I will cope with bad reviews. Smile graciously I think is the only way because the very fact it was accepted and published shows someone loved it.
But let’s hope most of the people love it most of the time!
It’s a crazy journey — but a great one. Come along for the ride!