Wednesday, 28 September 2016

GUEST POST: Cheerleaders by Sue Wallman

Today, I'm happy to introduce Sue Wallman to the blog. Author of hugely popular Lying About Last Summer, you might think Wallman found the process easy - but she didn't. Here are her thoughts on writing, and cheerleaders on tour...

Before I had a book deal, I often found being asked "How's your writing going?" a painful question. When I first started writing fiction seriously I didn't broadcast it too widely, but then as it took up more of my time and mental energy I thought why wouldn't I tell people what I'm doing if it's so important to me?

There were some highlights in pursuit of publication such as being given good feedback by people I really rated, securing an agent, winning a big writing competition and becoming a writer in residence. There were also difficult times, such as endless rejections, losing my first agent, accepting that four of my young adult novels weren't going to make it and failing two acquisition meetings.

It was embarrassing talking about my writing sometimes, other times it was boring or it was too personal. Sometimes I thought people were asking me the question out of habit or they were trying to make me feel bad about my lack of progress.

In retrospect I think it was me who felt bad about my lack of progress. I had cheerleaders but I didn't properly appreciate them. When I received news of my book deal, my mum cried from happiness. My sister whooped down the phone. My brother swore with his special-occasion expletives. My other half sagged with relief. When the news was official I received cards and messages. Even champagne. People who I thought couldn't care less were happy for me.

A friend came all the way from Newcastle to London for my book launch with her daughter who'd been given an authorised day off school. My cousin came from Devon. A Russian colleague of my husband's turned up (though I think he might just have been lonely in London). I had writing group friends, friends from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), friends I knew through my children who'd made the effort on a rainy May evening. These supportive people bought Lying About Last Summer, they listened to my speech, and the huggers hugged me, then everyone went off into the rain again.

Since publication there have been lovely cheerleaders on social media. Book bloggers and people I've never met. I've had emails through my website from teenagers who've taken the trouble to let me know they liked the book.

My daughters have recommended it to their friends. My kind neighbour across the road bought loads of copies including one for her builder. My sister walked into the school at the end of her road with a copy for the English department.

At a SCBWI conference I met fellow debut author Olivia Levez who wrote The Island. She suggested a group of us teamed up to do some events. A group to cheerlead for each other. There are five of us: Olivia, me, Kathryn Evans (More of Me), Patrice Lawrence (Orangeboy) and Eugene Lambert (The Sign of One). We (actually it was Olivia) came up with a group name of Lost and Found because although our books are very different they all fit into that category.

By going on a tour of bookshops around the country we are hopefully spreading the word about our books and supporting each other through the debut experience (because being a new author can be strange). It's a new chapter. Our first panel is on 1st October in Birmingham at 2pm. Other tour dates are listed below. All events are free and we would love it if you could join us if we swing by your neck of the woods. Click here to buy tickets.

Sue Wallman is a former magazine journalist who lives near Kingston-upon-Thames. Her debut book, Lying About Last Summer, was published in May, and her second book, See How They Lie, will be published in May 2017. She likes swimming, eavesdropping and watching First Dates with her three teenage daughters.

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