Dispatches From The Querying Trenches - May. Guest Blog by Kirsten Hesketh

Posted on 3rd June, 2017

This week I am delighted to welcome back Kirsten, with her end-of-the-month round-up of her writing life for May.

 

 

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Were A levels this big a deal when we were young?

 

Regular readers of this column - doesn’t that sound grand?! - will know my lovely son has been having some issues so the fact he is even sitting his As is at once absolutely brilliant and fraught with challenges. But … all this study leave (did we even have study leave?!), driving them into school, knowing when to encourage, when to back off …

 

Roll on June 23rd!!

 

But this is a writing column and two writing-related things have been on my mind this month. The extent to which I compartmentalise my writing life and my attitude towards rejection.

 

This year I entered the Bath Novel Award for the first time. I knew there would be over a thousand entries and that I was very unlikely to be one of the thirty or so long-listed. Sure, a girl can dream, but I thought I had my hopes and expectations well under control …

 

The long-list was announced by email at noon a couple of Thursdays ago. That day I was meeting extended family for lunch at a restaurant 50 miles or so from home. I hadn’t seen some of them for a year or so. None of them knew I had entered the competition. I’d intended to arrive early and peruse the email at my leisure in the car park but, due to the vagaries of the M25, I was half an hour late and everyone was waiting to order. It wasn’t until a break between courses that I had a chance to escape to the corridor and check my emails. Heart pounding, I scanned the alphabetical list of long-listed titles (the competition is judged ‘blind’ so no names at this stage) and … mine wasn’t there. So I turned my phone off, went back to the table and continued the conversation I had been having with my lovely cousin. About A levels as it happens …

 

What’s the betting I’d have gone back to the restaurant squealing with excitement if I’d made the cut …?

 

For me, the disappointment kicked in on the journey home and I had twenty- four hours of being convinced everything I write is a complete pile of poo and that I am generally wasting my time. Moreover, how embarrassing. I thought I was a good enough writer to enter the competition in the first place, the judges must have been having a jolly good laugh at my expense and maybe I should delete everything I have ever written and take up crochet instead …

 

… Only I’d probably be crap at that too.

 

A day later, equilibrium restored, I was back to ‘how can I make my writing better?’ and ‘how long until I can enter the competition again?

 

Onwards and upwards!!

 

I hope you all have a brilliant June.

 

xx

 

PS Many congratulations to all who made the long-list – especially to the writer who made it twice! Very best of luck to you all xx

 

 

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Comments (12)

Thanks, Jen, for your lovely long message to Kirsten. So kind of you to share your own experiences. Rejection is something that all writers have gone through and I agree with you that it is best shared only with those whom you trust to take it seriously and understand what it means to you.
Thank you so much for your lovely long comment. It's so lovely to know you're cheering me on and I'm sending you a big virtual hug and a 'mwah' in return xx
First of all Kirsten, I'm sending you a big virtual hug. Rejection IS hard and (unfortunately) it doesn't stop once you get that longed for publishing deal. Yet, if you love to write and are serious about making writing your career (as I think you are), it is indeed 'onwards and upwards.'

Competitions are subjective...what one judge loves, another one may loathe...and in that sense, writing competitions mirror the real world of readers (see Goodreads reviews--some of mine included--if you need any illustration of that point).

The other thing you mention is how you compartmentalise your writing life...been there and done that, too. If it's any help, what I've learned is that you can't expect everyone in your life to be supportive and understanding (and again that is before AND after publication). You need to find your 'tribe' and, in particular, share the disappointments only with those whom you know will understand and support you.

No matter where we're at in our individual careers, we're all trying to make our writing better (says she who just deleted 1500 words from her WIP today) and have our dark days of rejection and doubt. Glad you've dusted yourself and are staying strong. Please know I'm cheering you on!

All good wishes to your son too for his A levels. xx
Thanks for your comment Sue and thanks for welcoming me back to your blog this month x.
Thanks so much for your support and encouragement Moira - and I look forward to toasting your debut novel later in the summer .... xx
Thanks for your comment Kaz. I don't think rejection will ever get easier, but it does spur us in, doesn't it? I hope your writing is going well x
Haha Catherine!! Knitting is very tricky though ... all those different stitches and shaping arms and things. I once had a Knitting Nancy and that was very straightforward and therapeutic. Maybe I should stick to that! Xx
Onwards and upwards, you will get there. On the handicrafts front can I recommend that you avoid crochet has being very tricky and commend knitting instead. Maybe you could speak your WIP into a dictaphone whilst you knitted?
Thanks, Karen and Moira, for your comments, sending Kirsten so much encouragement. The three of us are well aware of how hard Kirsten has worked. Karen, you are quite right about dusting yourself off and starting again. That is something that writers have to learn pretty quickly. And Moira's comment about luck is important too. It's a matter of sending your book or short story or poem to the right person at the right time, and that is something no one can predict.
Rejection always hurts, doesn't it? Love the way you dealt with it though, Kirsten. We just have to dust ourselves off and try again. Onwards and upwards indeed xx ps Good luck to your lovely boy. Hope the A levels go well x
Another great and informative blog. Yes rejection is a great steaming pile pf poo. And sometimes it seems so unfair and random. I read somewhere that getting published is a mixture of luck, talent and perseverance with luck being a very large percentage. You will get there Kirsten, there's no doubt about it. You're talented, determined and deserve to succeed.
Thanks for the guest blog, Kirsten. I've been thinking about your Bath Novel Award experience at the family dinner table - I imagine anyone would have had the same response as you and kept quiet, especially since no one around you knew you had entered the competition. Also, I think it's worth asking the question: who are the right people to tell about rejections? You're going to get a far more informed and genuinely understanding response from another writer than you will from anyone who doesn't write and who hasn't been through the experience. Just like the responses you're going to get on this blog, I'm sure! xxx