New Walk came out six days ago. I still feel like my brain has floated out of my head, probably sometime after the launch evening and it’s somewhere above the chimney pots in London.
It’s strange and wonderful and all I can do is take regular breaks to stare out at the Autumn sunshine on the buffeting trees and let myself re-calibrate.
I’m getting not enough done right now but I don’t have a choice. (Just a quick reminder here if you’ve done anything big recently – like getting an offer to train as a student midwife, qualifying as a midwife – if my experience is anything like mine, you need recovery time from the good things as well as the bad things!)
Here’s my favourite review so far:
I'm not someone who would usually message but I just want to say Congratulations on your book release. I have bought and read the whole thing already!
I have currently entered my 3rd year of training and can strongly relate to Chloe. Within my training I have had to deal with my mum suffering a brain haemorrhage, my Nan passing and I also was pregnant earlier this year and decided it was not the right time for myself or my family (although i am still not 100% i did the right thing)
I have dealt with some unsupportive staff and felt like I have been taken for granted on shifts as I was an MCA previously at the trust I work in. I feel morale on placement within the trust is very low and the new HoM's idea of help is glancing at the boards and responding to concerns with 'but you always manage!'. With all this I feel like I have 'lost my way' however this book has re-ignited my love for midwifery and reminded why I came into it in the first place - for the women, their babies and their families, so for that I just want to say a big thank you.
Looking forward to the next read!'
Needless to say, I sobbed when I read this.
If you missed the launch check out the video below. Comedy value of me half perching on the seat, not sure there are many 4ft 11 inch authors around! I talk about the single most important writing technique I’ve come across.
(The transcript is below if you’d prefer).
Thanks so much everyone who's shared about 'New Walk', posted pictures of them reading online or reviewed on Amazon!
The Single Most Important Writing Technique I’ve Come Across – my Book Launch Evening Speech
“This is really surreal for me.
It's really strange! Thank you very much everybody who's come, all my friends and family and my online family, please come and say Hi later and we can chat about whatever you'd like to chat about.
The reason it's surreal is I kind of remember when I was about six going 'I'd quite like to write a book, and now I'm 30, tomorrow, and I'm kind of looking down a tunnel in time - has anyone had one of those kinds of moments?
It's a very, very strange feeling.
I want to tell you about a writing technique because I think it's going to help you hack in to some of the stories, the TV series and novels that you like the most.
This writing technique is really simple; the idea is your book should have a single theme and this theme should be inherent in every single scene. It holds the story together.
And has anyone seen 'Breaking Bad'? Really good TV series! If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. This series taught me the most about this particular technique. There's a very mild-mannered chemistry teacher called Walt, and over the course of the series he turns into this meth cooking drug dealer gangster sort of guy.
Right at the beginning of the first episode, he's talking to his chemistry students and he says 'chemistry is the study of transformation'. He talks about growth and decay, solution and dissolution and then you realise that what he's talking about is the transformation of himself.
It goes all the way through the series, it tracks back to every single scene.
And in 'New Walk' I had this one particular concept in mind, and that concept, I had it written down actually, stuck to my computer screen on a piece of paper.
That concept was 'life is not as it should be but you still have to try'. And the reason that was the concept is being a student midwife in the NHS is really difficult. The courage you need to do the job itself is incredible, but on top of that I really haven't glossed over some of the staffing issues, the culture of the NHS, and things like that. But then you still have to try and remember that amazing things happen, even in the same shift.
And I realised that I love 'Call The Midwife', I love the series and I love the book but I wasn't sure there was anything out there describing the modern experience of being a student midwife so that's why I wanted this phrase.
And then I realised once I'd finished writing that the phrase 'life is not as it should be, you still have to try' can be described in one word.
And that word is: resilience.
And I'm not talking about the kind of resilience that sometimes is pressed on us, you know, being masochistic and just absorbing really bad behaviour or y'know, there needs to be political change and you just put up with things.
I'm talking about the kind of resilience where you get home at the end of the day and you still like yourself. And you know you did a good job, and that's what I've tried to write a novel about.
I'll do a quick reading for you.
So in this bit of the novel there's a woman who's making a particular choice about her care and it's not necessarily in line with maybe what the medical advice would be.
And just to say, I've got really good friends who are doctors, and sometimes I think we don't celebrate the amazing things doctors do enough. I have a friend who's an anaesthetist who's here and the amount of work she's put in over the years, she has to know the atomic level of all the drugs she gives and we're sort of like 'oh, let's have an epidural, oo, pain fairy!' so this isn't me saying 'oh no I don't like doctors' it's just me wanting to explore some of the issues that I came across in practice - so here's the reading:
‘How’s Room Four, then?’ says Beth, sat at the staff base and
printing blood forms off the computer as she listens to Jo’s
I know I’m smiling like a lunatic, my feet barely meeting
the floor. I’m having major déjà vu. I have a particular memory
from a birth in Alabama where I was woken in the night, picked
up under the arms and plonked down in front of the pool to
see the baby born. I’ve always wondered why Mum thought
this was something I needed to see, and whether I’d ever do
it with my own child. I never thought to ask her before she
died. Since then it’s been a bittersweet thought, a touchstone
for pride, regret, sadness and passion that I’ve come back to
thousands of times. Tonight it’s clearer than it’s ever been.
Dr Roshni appears at the end of the corridor, some notes in
one hand and a cardboard cup of tea and a KitKat in the other.
I notice she’s changed her shoes for black wellies. She must be
coming out of theatre.
‘How’s it going?’ she asks me.
‘Yeah, very good. The woman in there is amazing.’
‘Oh yes? This is the one that refused monitoring isn’t it?’
She takes a sip of her tea, flicks to the correct page in her notes
and starts writing at speed.
‘She declined being on the CTG, yes,’ says Jo, reasonably.
‘Chloe’s doing listen-ins, aren’t you Chloe? All the makings of
a great midwife already.’
I beam at her.
Dr Roshni frowns. Some of her hair has fallen from her clip
and she brushes it out of the way and asks, ‘Fetal heart okay?’
‘Beautiful, as far as intermittent auscultation goes.’
‘Does she know the implications of what she’s choosing,
though?’ says Beth, and my euphoria fades as I tune into the
worried lines around her eyes.
Dr Roshni adds, ‘I can come and speak to her, if you like.
She knows me from the clinic and knows what my opinion is.
Healthy Mum, healthy baby is what everyone wants.’
‘I don’t think a chat’s necessary, but thank you. Brenna
knows everything she needs to. She’s signed the informed
consent.’ There is the barest edge to Jo’s voice. ‘She says she’ll
get out of the pool and go on the monitor if there are any
problems, but at the moment everything looks and sounds
Dr Roshni stops writing and glances first at Jo, then at me.
I gulp at the brightness of her look, feeling a bit like a mouse
about to be swooped down on by an eagle.
‘If the patient has consented to monitoring if there is a
problem, then I would find a problem.’
She says this with such care that I feel the weight of each
syllable and my mouth falls open.
Jo nods, thoughtfully.
‘I don’t think we need your input yet, but we may at some
point. I’ll pass on your best wishes, though.’
‘Of course.’ Dr Roshni resumes writing and smiles at both
of us. ‘Keep me updated.’
‘Come on Chloe...’
As we walk along the corridor, Jo says, ‘You look shocked.’
‘I just... I don’t think I could ever be a part of that. Telling
a Mum there’s something wrong with her baby’s heart rate
when there’s not. Does that kind of thing happen?’
‘Well, from Roshni’s point of view she’s keeping the ward
and the women safe. It’s really busy and she doesn’t want
to be in a situation she doesn’t have time to manage. So it’s
not great, I agree, but keeping women and babies safe is our
role as midwives too. You’ll learn, don’t worry. You’re mainly
observing right now anyway.’
Now my excitement has fallen away I can feel I’m tired and
hungry. My limbs are heavy. I follow Jo back into the room
and smile at Bob, who’s been making tea for all of us in the
kitchen, and try and pull the atmosphere of the birth room
back around me.
Um, so that's quite a sombre scene, but there's a really happy ending there!
Just I hope you can see the privilege of being a midwife - the emotions you get from the birth room are really amazing sometimes, it's what protects you as a midwife and there are some very uplifting moments in this book as well I hope.
I just want to say as well, I haven't written this book about stuff that actually happened to me as a midwife.
These aren't women who are real or events that are real.
But I absolutely don't think people are going to believe me.
This is based on something that happened with my parents. Um, so when New Walk went up on Amazon I rang my Mum and I said 'oh it's there' and she got to look at the front cover, it was a lovely moment where she looked at the blurb.
And I said 'you know some of my writing friends have warned me that you will probably see yourself in this book and I just want you to know I haven't written about you, it was the intention, you're really not there.'
And she said 'yeah okay, that's a good warning, that's really important.' She was very serious about it.
And then she passed the phone over to my Dad and I heard her say 'Ian! I'm dead and you're a drug addict!'
So, that's that.
Yeah, I just can't tell you how happy I am that Pinter and Martin decided this novel was worth pursuing and I'm really grateful to everyone being here.
And yeah, let's get back to the wine!”