I often think of writing as tapping into that introverted side of yourself. Time spanning hours, days, months and years are spent alone, with your own head for company, creating worlds, characters, themes and plots that will ultimately blend into your story. And all the while that story sits in the comfort of your carved out niche, told only to you and your nearest and dearest.
I set out to write a story I would want to read, with the hope I might see it through to completion. And as the drafts mounted, I took the leap and sent it out, waiting, wondering, and receiving the infamous word, ‘no’. Until I discovered Rose Drew of Stairwell Books. I came across a YouTube clip of Rose performing one of her poems, and I thought, hmmm, maybe she would like it. And she did. And so with a publisher finally on board, the editing process began again, until, finally, my humble story was ready to be released.
Then comes the real yikes, for an introvert at least. Publishing a book is one thing, but then comes the launches. I confess I had in mind small, intimate gatherings with a neat pile of books by my side. It wasn’t to be. Stairwell Books specialise in Spoken Word events, performance poetry and readings, and promptly made clear that the launches were events, open to the public, requiring music, support readings, the works.
I thought back to my days of teaching, reminded myself I’ve spoken in public lots of times, just a long time ago. Talking about a detached subject is one thing, but presenting something that you created, well, the thought of it invoked feelings of vulnerability. So I practised, heading to Poole to meet with Rose at a Rebellious Women’s Festival, and taking a slot on the open mic. Not comfortable with presenting as myself, I read a message from my main character, her thoughts of the patriarchy embedded in the society she comes from.
Emboldened by Rose’s spirited performance, my own reading was well received, and planning for the launches began in earnest.
On the 24th May, I arrived in the cellar bar of the City Gate Hotel, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the lovely folks of Stairwell Books. After a long drive down from York, they came bearing books, and I saw my bound creation for the first time. With the support from a local songwriter, and readings from two local authors, the evening was underway. And despite the nerves and adrenalin provoked dry mouth, I introduced Suni and the world of Shendi, leaving everyone wondering how she would ever escape the mines.
The evening was a success, and cake was devoured, and then I set to work for the 9th June. With my second book cake in tow, I made the drive to Holmfirth, the town I grew up, and set the cake out in the civic hall.
I saw faces of people walk in that I hadn’t seen for many years, along with a local troop of ukulele players, who gave a fabulously eclectic mix from Bob Marley to songs about Norridge Bottom! And once again Stairwell Books were there, to champion this story I had written.
This is Rose:
Now the launches are over and people are reading this book that spent years in the safety of my writing room. It’s been lovely to hear comments of how much people have enjoyed it, couldn’t put it down, and want to read book 2; no pressure! But it’s underway, a redraft before submission. And anytime I’m struggling I glance at the bookshelf where Return of the Mantra, bound in its shiny cover, is nestled in along with some of my favourites.