Love Songs for Sceptics by SJV
I’m Christina Pishiris and I’m here to tell you all about my #OneDay experience. It involves x-rays and scary waiters, but cake too. Lots of cake. So, in the immortal words of the poet Jon Bon Jovi, ‘Buckle up, people, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!’ #80sRockersRule #StillHotJon
My first clue that maybe my submission had piqued someone’s interest was when @BookMinxSJV followed me back on Twitter. I excitedly informed my husband and he agreed it was A Good Sign, but warned me not to read too much into it. (Don’t judge me – we all get crazy excited when a social media celeb notices us.)
About a month earlier, I’d sat down at my laptop, crossed my fingers, and hit ‘send’ on an email to Books and the City’s #OneDay open submission call. All that was required was the first chapter and synopsis. The rest of the book wasn’t quite finished, but that was a mere detail. And anyway, what were the chances that I’d actually get asked for the full manuscript?
Well, the answer came a few weeks later. I was in the waiting room of a French clinic – my mother-in-law had twisted her ankle and we were waiting for her to get an x-ray. I probably shouldn’t have been checking my phone (the nurse with the squeaky rubber shoes was giving me serious Gallic side-eye) but I was bored and there wasn’t enough hand sanitiser in the world to tempt me to pick up the six-month old copy of Paris Match. (Waiting rooms are 2% linoleum and 98% germs.) So, while I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, into my inbox pings an email from Sara-Jade, aka @bookminxsjv, aka the Queen of S&S Towers and Pretty Much Everything. Yes, they wanted to read the full thing, and would I kindly email it to editor Emma?
I let out a small yelp of excitement – prompting a raised eyebrow from Nurse Squeaky Shoes.
But my excitement quickly gave way to panic. I needed way more time to finish the book, but how much could I realistically ask for? Six weeks felt like the absolute most, but after I’d spent a few hours talking it over with my husband (via the patisserie to enjoy a celebratory éclair or three) I realised that I needed to throw myself at Emma and Sara-Jade’s mercy. I emailed and explained as politely as possible that I needed a few more months to get the manuscript up to scratch and if that was too long, I would quite happily (read: sobbingly) withdraw from the scheme. To my astonishment and joy, they emailed back to tell me I could take my time. Time for another celebratory éclair! (Calories don’t count on holiday.)
Back in UK, I’d booked to go to a ‘meet the authors’ event organised by Books and the City. Rather than being held in a library or bookshop, it was held in a glorious country club on a sunny Saturday afternoon during which we’d get to enjoy a cream tea with top authors, including Heidi Swain, Juliet Ashton and Holly Hepburn.
Also in attendance was Sara-Jade. But of course, I didn’t have the nerve to go up and say hello. By a huge stoke of luck, I was seated next to #OneDay rockstar and superhumanly lovely person Heidi Swain. While scoffing our faces with scrumptious cakes and perfectly brewed tea, I mentioned that I’d had that email. Heidi gave me a kind but firm look, and encouraged me to go and say hello to Sara-Jade. (For the record, Heidi was not scoffing; she was eating in perfect lady-like nibbles.)
So, making sure I didn’t have strawberry jam smeared on my face, I tentatively walked up to Sara-Jade and introduced myself, adding very quickly: ‘But I’m sure you must get so many manuscripts you won’t remember me.’ Of course, SJ, being SJ had the perfect response: ‘I do get a lot of manuscripts, but I always remember the good ones.’
I tell you, I was on cloud nine. It even made up for the slight argument I got into with the waiter when I complained that Table Four had twice as much clotted cream as us. (I have since been banned for life #IRegretNothing.)
Well, it was like a rocket up the rear end – metaphorically because, ouch… – I knew I would finish my book before the year was up.
Fast forward to November and very late one Friday night, I finally typed the words ‘the end’ (having written 90,000 words before them, obvs.) I was exhilarated and exhausted, but went to bed very happy.
The only problem was I knew that I couldn’t just send it off. I needed to let the book ‘sit’ for a bit. Stew in its own juices. Or in Great British Bake-Off parlance, let it ‘prove’. (I apologise for the amount of foodstuffs referenced in this blog post. If you’re feeling peckish, feel free to nip out and buy a packet of HobNobs. I’ll wait.)
I managed to keep my eager mitts off the manuscript until Christmas. Then, in that annoyingly useless period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, I went through the draft again, catching as many inconsistencies and typos as possible. Not easy when most of the time I was reading it thinking it was a big pile of stinking poo, but apparently that’s very common for writers. (Ooh, get me, I’m calling myself a writer now!)
So, in early January I found myself on my laptop again with my crossed fingers hovering over the ‘send’ button. (It was actually the ‘return’ button that doesn’t sound as dramatic.) Then, with a whoosh, the book was flying through cyberspace and landing, hopefully, in Emma’s inbox.
Writing a book is hard. But you know what’s harder? Waiting to hear back. You measure your life in keyboard taps, hitting refresh on your emails so often you’ve worn the skin down on your index finger.
But when I got an email saying Emma and Sara-Jade wanted to invite me to S&S Towers to talk about my book, I knew all the angst and heart-wringing had been worth it.
I love a happy ending – I gave my characters one in my novel – but the real-life ones are sweeter than an éclair slathered with clotted cream.
OK, now I’m feeling peckish. Got any of HobNobs left?
I’ll put the kettle on.
Love, Christina x