It’s been a day to remember. The postman brought me my very first finished copy of my debut novel The Maid’s Room which will be published in hardback in just four weeks time.
I’m absolutely delighted with the beautiful cover, the font, the bit that says copyright Fiona Mitchell.
Watching my daughter’s reaction as she opened the book and realised I’d dedicated it to her was an absolute gift. I dedicated it to my husband too, mentioning all that I’d gone “through” to get the book published. ‘Oh God, you’ve spelt “through” wrong,’ he said. ‘What?’ I replied, horrified until the smile stretched across his face.
My first and only copy so far of my lovely book is now sitting on the windowsill with a bottle of Mr Sheen beside it.
But I am super happy. Excited. Feeling lucky. Holding my book is like holding almost seven years worth of hard work and determination in my hands. I’ve worked hard at many things in my life – pregnancy wasn’t a doddle for me, parking has all but defeated me. I pounded the pavements as a rookie reporter before enjoying years as a features writer. But this, this feels like the thing I’ve worked hardest at.
For all those writers plugging away at your keyboards, please know, it didn’t just happen for me. There were so many moments when I thought all hope was gone, but I got there in the end.
Today I gave a talk to writers in Singapore via FaceTime and surprisingly, for someone who claims not to like public speaking all that much, I enjoyed it.
Hooking up via a wonky Skype connection, then reverting to FaceTime, there were about fourteen writers in the room making notes while I talked about the long route from starting my very first novel to landing a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Publication of The Maid’s Room is now only six weeks away and I can’t wait.
Hopefully I managed to relay some tips that the writers will find useful. The word ‘perseverance’ was uttered more than once.
I took me three years, three months and 29 days from receiving my first agent rejection letter to getting representation from my lovely agent Rowan Lawton. During that time I became an expert in rejection, so a large part of my talk was dedicated to surviving the submissions process.
My top survival tips include:
- Logging onto Paul McVeigh’s brilliant website to keep you going. There were so many times I snivelled over my keyboard as I read one of the author interviews featured to make myself feel just that little bit better about everything.
- Entering writing competitions. Being shortlisted in the Bristol Short Story Prize for the very first time buoyed me up. Some of the judges and authors who read my story liked my work and encouraged me to keep writing.
- Watching TED Talks. On the days I felt particularly low, I’d watched a Ted Talk. There’s so much to inspire you here, from writers talking about books, to people who’ve overcome enormous obstacles to achieve their personal bests.
- Using the anger. I did quite a bit of ranting about rejection, but then somehow I managed to turn that emotion into energy. Try it – you might just end up writing your soul onto the page.
Preparing this talk was a real eye-opener for me. It took quite a few hours to plan what I wanted to say, so a big shout-out to inspirational teachers everywhere. I had no idea teaching involved so much hard graft.
But the biggest revelation for me was just how much I loved doing a spot of public speaking – hopefully I’ll remember that in future.
Huge thank you to author Alice Clark-Platts for inviting me to speak, and the Singapore Writers’ Group, thanks for listening.