Back in April, I sent the first three chapters of my second novel to a couple of small publishers, one of which was Ipso Books. Ipso asked to see the full manuscript and then, a few months later, invited me to come in to meet them. So while I was in London for the Breast Cancer Care fashion show and the Britmums’ Brilliance in Blogging awards in September, I paid them a visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I tried hard not to get my hopes up, but the meeting went as well as I could have anticipated, with the team telling me they loved the book and wanted to publish it. After I left, I called Paul to tell him the news. It’s so strange to articulate that the thing you’ve wanted to happen for your whole life looks like it’s going to happen. Whenever you write something, you are essentially trying to communicate something to people, so it’s hard when your work just stays inside your computer, gathering metaphorical dust. Sitting in that room with those two women who had read my novel and clearly felt passionately about it, who cared about, and had cried over, those characters, was the realisation of a long-held dream.
They didn’t send me a contract straight away, because they wanted to see what else I’d written. I sent them my first novel and the first draft I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo, and then I waited, impatiently. And I was rewarded when they came back to me and said they wanted to sign a deal for all three novels. It was more than I’d expected. It was so much more. They sent a contract, I asked a lot of questions, they answered them, and then I signed it, and posted it back. It was all very straightforward, which was strange, because to my mind, it was the entire world shifting slightly, aligning to my deepest desires.
I’ve got a lot of editing to do, and I’m excited to get started. Next week, I’m meeting those women again to have a celebratory lunch and talk about the plan. Writing is solitary most of the time, so I’m looking forward to brainstorming and plotting with them. To talking about these people who I’ve created inside my head; to breathing them full of life. I’m looking forward to celebrating, too. I’ve worked hard on this, and it’s paid off, after many years. That feels worth the raising of a glass.
My cancer has led me here, in a funny way. A year ago, I contacted The Motherload to ask whether I could write something for them about breast cancer in pregnancy. They said yes, and I’ve become part of their blogging community, and it is through this community that I became aware of Beezy Marsh, who has also published a novel with Ipso. Life is mysterious, in the turns it sometimes takes, and I love the fact that one of my worst life experiences has led to one of my best. But I’m equally pleased that the team at Ipso didn’t know about my illness when they decided they wanted to work with me. I’ve got here because of my cancer, and in spite of it.
All being well, my first novel will be available at some point next year. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. I can’t wait to show it to my children, to explain that this is what I do when they are at nursery or in bed. All those words, all those drafts, all those rejections. All that hard work, that self-doubt, that perseverance. My copy of that book will be the exact weight of a lifetime of dreaming, and of doing.