I've noticed the hardest bit of writing my novel, by far, has been promoting it. It's really grim. I'd much rather just release a book into the wild and see how it gets on. But that's not the job description for writers these days.
It's also true that I love reading about anything that happens writers.
And I think women should talk about their achievements more.
I'm trying to learn and grow with all that in mind.
So, this is what happened.
I live near Cambridge so the journey to London is a couple of hours. The meeting was at 2pm, but I wanted to get to the station at about 9.30am so I could sit in the waiting room and draft a new chapter for the next book in my midwifery series.
Here I am at the station!
You can’t see but I wore my charity shop little black dress with flowers, a cardy and some sensible black boots. I like that my power outfit comes from a charity shop.
My train was at 10.44 so at 10.30 I was still sat there having a coffee and writing.
Then I realised the persistent and annoying tannoys were about my train. It was cancelled. Wonderful. I followed the crowd to talk to a harassed National Rail employee but the next announcement was about the train being put back on, so after a crowd of us ran over the bridge with just a few minutes to board, we got on our way.
There were no free seats so I sat on the floor of a vestibule with a Terry Pratchett novel (comfort reading). But I was happy curled up on the floor, it's better than a seat. After getting off at Kings Cross I got the Tube to Brixton, and then went and sat in a coffee shop to write a bit more.
I’m introverted in many ways so trips to London feel intense. I love the place, it’s associated with gigs, conferences and friends but still, I don't understand how eight million people can co-exist in one city. I always feel like I’ve met all of them by the time I've got home.
And things happen in London. After a while sat writing I looked up and got concerned because a guy was staring at me. This wasn’t paranoia, every time I looked up from my laptop he was giving me eye contact, no smiling, just staring.
As a security guard walked past (you get security guards in Brixton Costas) the guy deftly picked up an empty cup from another table to make it look like he’d bought a drink. I guess he couldn’t afford to buy anything. After a while he got up and went out. No idea what it was about or why he was staring at me in particular and I didn’t see him again.
I wrote for a while longer and it was coming out okay. I wanted to write a chapter about a woman becoming very ill after an unexpected postpartum haemorrhage. I have lots of awesome midwives in the first novel, but I also want to show doctors at their best.
After about an hour I needed a break and looked up to see a woman and her baby sat breastfeeding in the corner. I started to leave and she saw me grinning so I mouthed ‘beautiful baby’ and she smiled back.
Then I did some reading about Brixton, which is suffering from gentrification. Interesting thought considering this is where my publisher is.
At 13.30 began to walk through Brixton, past Electric Avenue which was the first street in London to be illuminated using electric lights, past fish stalls, fruit and veg places and wholefoods markets.
I found Martin, the director of Pinter and Martin, behind the counter. He looks like he's from the book world, with Neil Gaiman cheekbones.
See exhibit A! Martin Wagner:
Zoe, who's the publishing manager, popped out from the office over the road. I needn’t have worried about being nervous, they were lovely.
If you're ever in London, 'Effraspace', which is Pinter and Martin's bookshop, named after the street it's on, is well worth a look. It's beautiful and has a rare and wonderful collection of books on midwifery, birth and parenting. And a coffee shop! And they do film festivals, yoga and events in their sunny, wooden floored attached room.
I'm not sure I was coming across as very sensible but Martin is a reassuring person who started the business a few years ago and his aim is to have the best bookshop on birth in the UK. And he made me a cup of builders tea.
We discussed a few things, the contract, some ideas for getting the book into the media including making some artwork out of quotes, and when preview copies should arrive (hopefully this coming week! Aieeeee!! I’ll let you know!).
We also talked about the trailer that’s coming out to advertise book one.
I had a few facepalm moments. When they asked me what my evening plans were I said I was going to see the new Alan Bennett play at The Bridge theatre near ‘The Shaft’. Rather than ‘The Shard’. Eerg. But they didn’t even laugh at me (though my London friends did later!)
We decided on a date for the book launch – anyone can come, there’ll be wine and snacks and books and I’d be so thrilled to meet anyone who reads the blog. It’ll be 7.30pm, 19th October at Effraspace, a day before my 30th Birthday.
Finally I thanked Martin and told him how amazed I was that ‘New Walk’ got picked up and how grateful I was.
I know it sounds stupid but I feel this stuff deeply, always have done. I’ve wanted to write and get a book out since I was about eight. Martin said some very nice supportive things that I'm too embarrassed to write about here and then I set off back to the Tube station, over to London Bridge, my nervous system like a lit sparkler.
I was joined there by two of my childhood friends – this is us, Hollie on the left is a games designer and Jenna on the right is an anaesthetist and that’s me in the middle:
I've known them since I was eleven. They've always read my scribbles and supported me. These days they live in London, and we were off to the theatre to see 'Allelujah', a play on NHS elderly care.
It was one of those plays that make you talk a lot afterwards, there's an evil character in it who thinks she's doing the right thing. No spoilers but it was horrid to see someone in an NHS uniform doing something so awful.
After a quick debrief, we let Hollie go home, it'd been a long day for everyone.
Jenna and I got back to hers around eleven, and sat around eating cherry scones with butter and discussing the play, how her shift had gone that day, and worshiping Alfie, her black and white rescue cat. When I went to bed I was so tired I ended up accidentally falling asleep without brushing my teeth.
I woke the next morning in the pale London sunlight. I love the early hours when no-one else is awake yet.
I sat on Jenna’s L-shaped sofa in her little flat. It's furnished so skillfully – inherited dressers that she’s repainted soft grey, paisley patterns, a clock made out of a bike wheel. And Alfie making happy pigeon like coos because I’d given him breakfast.
I had one of those moments where you take stock and realised the day previously I'd met with a company who were printing my book.
Written over four years, more or less an hour a day. Bizarre. In any given moment I don't have the faintest idea how I managed to get the first book done. And I constantly fight off feelings of being inadequate to write about such controversial subjects.
With my head split between concern that I couldn’t finish the next book and this brilliant feeling of the next book being an unopened present which will let me discover it bit by bit, I kept typing.
Alfie curled up beside me. I drank my coffee and after a while I got pulled into the story and didn’t worry any more.