A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Every author has a lot of people to thank for helping them on their way to publication. Dazzlingly brilliant authors who inspired them. Family and friends who supported them. Teachers, editors, and agents who helped them. Today though, I’m thinking about a group of people who don’t get mentioned as often, and those are the people you meet on the road.
The road a writer takes to getting published is always a long one, because it starts with the first book they read. I found a lot of my journey very easy, because for most of it I wasn’t even aware that I was travelling. Reading books was a carefree stroll downhill on a sunny day. It was only when I first wrote something myself that I noticed I was on a road at all. Even then, I wasn’t really aware that the road led anywhere, and I certainly wasn’t planning to follow it to such a distant destination as getting a book published. Some writers have huge amounts of confidence in their ability, while others have none at all. I was one of the ones with no confidence, and getting a book published seemed like climbing Everest, a totally unachievable ambition.
But then I met other people walking along the writing road, and they told me about things they’d done, and things they hoped to try in future. Writing a letter to a newspaper. Entering a short story competition. Getting a poem into a collection. Having an article published in a magazine. These seemed much more achievable ambitions. Some of them, like writing poetry or articles, didn’t feel right for me, but I decided to try entering short story competitions.
So now I was following the road with a real purpose. I was writing short stories, and entering them in competitions. This wasn’t a carefree stroll downhill any longer, the road was starting to slope upwards and it took a little effort, but my competition entries did startlingly well, and somehow I found I’d started writing a book.
Now writing a book was where the road started climbing a very significant hill. There were other people climbing that hill as well, and a few of them were struggling and having to take rests along the way, so I had the reassurance that I wasn’t the only one finding it hard. Then, when I reached what I’d thought was the top of the hill, I discovered there was still another slope to climb, that seemed even steeper than the last one. When you finished a book, you had to revise it to make it as good as you possibly could. So I gritted my teeth and climbed on upwards.
But when I reached the top of that second slope, the road suddenly plunged off a cliff edge. The book might have been as good as I could make it, but I didn’t think it was good enough. So there I was, right at the bottom of the cliff, bruised by the fall and wondering whether I could face following the road on to struggle up the new hill of writing a second book, or whether I should just give up the journey.
There were other people at the bottom of the cliff who’d given up, or at least needed a rest before continuing, but there were some still stubbornly following the road. They’d fallen off cliffs before, they said, and they weren’t giving up now. They told me that you learned a lot writing your first book. They said that most people had to throw the odd book or two away before they wrote something that really worked.
So I tried carrying on and climbing the hill of writing the second book, and the people on the road were right. I’d learned a lot by now, and the climb was a lot faster and easier this time. When I reached the top of this hill, I was expecting another cliff edge to be waiting for me, but there wasn’t. I found I hadn’t just climbed another hill, but a mountain, because this book was getting published.
A writer has to walk a long road to get to publication. The road has high points, low points, and sheer drops along the way. Sometimes it can seem like you’re struggling to climb an impossibly high mountain, but you don’t have to make the journey alone. There are a lot of people walking the same road, they don’t all have huge ambitions to start with, some are just aiming to get a letter in the local newspaper or enter a short story competition, but you never know where they’ll end up or where you’ll end up yourself.
So today I’m thinking about the host of people I met on the road. The ones I met physically, whether it was only once or half a dozen times. The ones I met online. The ones where I just read their account of struggling with a problem. There are a lot of people I met on the road, and whether they’ve already achieved their ambitions or are still working towards them, they inspired me to walk the road with them.
Janet Edwards lives in England. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, including a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy. She studied Maths at Oxford, and went on to suffer years of writing unbearably complicated technical documents before deciding to write something that was fun for a change. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.
Find out more about her and her EARTH GIRL trilogy at www.janetedwards.com