Annabel Pitcher's Blog
January 22, 2015
So it happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as I suspected it would. After contributing on Monday evening to a discussion of mental health on Twitter (#Gdnbluemonday) and revealing that I have had issues of my own, I woke up with the feeling of dread I have come to associate with being honest about this difficult topic. What was I thinking? I mean REALLY? Announcing on Twitter that I’d experienced anxiety, depression and OCD?
GOD, ANNABEL, YOU REALLY ARE AN ABSOLUTE LOON I screamed into my pillow as I writhed with shame. You are supposed to be a rational adult, Goddammit! A no-nonsense high-achiever! Constantly happy and high-functioning with a brain that runs smooth as a BMW engine, not sad sometimes, and struggling, with a mind that stutters and stalls like a second-hand Skoda.
What if people don’t believe you? I cried into the night. What if people DO? I wasn’t sure what was worse – being thought of as jumping on the mental health bandwagon, or being taken seriously.
I’ve almost written this blog several times over the past eighteen months, but have never quite had the guts. It’s the fear of appearing self indulgent and disingenuous on the one hand; the terror of being really seen, warts and all, on the other. But to hell with it. It seems like the right time to say this stuff. I can’t join in a Twitter debate about the importance of being open about mental health while being ashamed of discussing my own struggles in a blog. So here goes.
As a young person, I remember a sense of ennui that I used to call the ‘Sunday feeling.’ I didn’t have the terminology to understand what it really was. All I knew was that, at various points, life would seem vacant, colourless and devoid of meaning, as if it were stretching endlessly into the horizon, monotonous as the desert. Life felt dull and boring and tedious and flat and empty and quiet as a Sunday – but on every day of the week. Fresh new Mondays should not feel like Sundays. Fridays should be the polar opposite! But there it was. I had a Sunday feeling when the rest of the world seemed giddy about the weekend. It didn’t happen all the time. In fact, it didn’t happen most of the time, but the ennui still occurred, every now and again, and it made life difficult.
As did the anxiety. It is vital not to embellish the facts, but it is important not to hide from them either. It is true that I functioned really well as a teenager and have overwhelmingly happy memories of that time, but I also suffered from disturbing, intrusive thoughts throughout my adolescence. These thoughts made me feel guilty, so I’d try to unthink them, tying myself in mental knots. DO NOT THINK ABOUT KICKING THAT PUPPY I would tell myself as I walked down the street, with the inevitable consequence that I could think of nothing but kicking the adorable ball of fluff tied up outside a shop entrance. Or a kitten on the wall. Or a small, innocent child who just so happened to passing me on the pavement. My wild eyes pounced on anyone and anything – the more vulnerable the better. A kind old lady with snow-white hair and twinkly blue eyes? Perfect! In my mind, I would beat her to a pulp. I didn’t really want to. I was simply scared that I wanted to, frightened that thinking it or seeing it in my head made me a monster. So, I policed my thoughts for hours on end, trying to counter ‘bad thoughts’ with good ones, having terrible spikes of anxiety whenever something popped into my mind that was ‘sinful’ – which, of course, was all the time. A sure-fire way of making someone think about a blue elephant is to tell them not to think about a blue elephant.
I coped, though looking back I can see that my response was far from healthy and I became reliant on compulsive behaviours to ease the pain. Now, after years of reading and research, I know that this was a form of OCD, but I didn’t realise it at the time. It was just a weird thing that happened, a nameless feeling, an unknowable, unconquerable enemy. It would have been so helpful to have the vocabulary to define my experience, to be able to put into words that which felt unspeakable, to demystify the sensation by giving it a label that could be looked up in a book.
I am wary of painting an overly bleak picture of my childhood when it truth it was lovely and I was lucky to have supportive, wonderful parents and friends. The anxiety never impaired my ability to go to school or have a social life, so I did what most of us do – I hid my struggle. I squashed it, pushed it down and forgot about it for large chunks of time. Whenever it did rear its ugly head, I told myself that if I got enough A*s or achieved grade-eight violin or got into Oxford or became a size six or ran for an hour on the treadmill or met the new ever-moving target that I constantly set to prove I was GOOD ENOUGH then somehow I would feel better.
I didn’t. Or, at least, I didn’t in any way that really mattered. Victories were shallow and short-lived, a mini-high that felt good for a few days or weeks but left me craving more success. And then I did something brilliant, something so out-of-this-world fantastic that my self-esteem should have been bolstered for life: I got my first novel published (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece). Let me put this in context. This was my dream, my Olympic gold medal, my Oscar, my lottery win – all rolled into one. This was It, the thing I had been striving for my whole life, the validation I had sought for so long, the absolute pinnacle of achievement… and so I stood at the top of my Everest expecting to feel wonderful and I felt… nothing.
Worse than that, actually. I felt really, truly awful. I know how this sounds, and I am cringing as I type. If ever there was a high-class problem, this is it, right? Poor you, you are definitely NOT thinking. How hard it must have been to feel numb at your unexpected success.
I mention it only because it is an important part of the story. Obviously, getting a book published was a real thrill and I was proud and immensely grateful for the opportunity, but did it miraculously ‘fix’ my life, or my self esteem as I expected it to? No, it did not, and this made me feel guilty. And then I felt guilty about feeling guilty, which made me anxious. And then I felt anxious about feeling anxious. Why aren’t you enjoying this more? I’d ask myself, over and again. What’s wrong with you? The question would whir endlessly around my brain as I rattled round an empty house. I’d quit my job in teaching to become a full time writer, but rather than revel in my newfound freedom, I was lost in it. It was too big, too vast, and I was used to structure. I quickly became depressed – and for the first time it was a black, all-consuming depression – which made writing my second novel, Ketchup Clouds, almost impossible. It was going badly to say the least. I was massively behind schedule and that made me even more anxious. So I redoubled my efforts, getting nowhere. Exhausted, I carried on flogging myself, determined to meet this new target, but for the first time in my life I just… couldn’t.
To say I suffered some sort of breakdown is not, I sincerely hope, an exaggeration. It’s strange to think of it now, but I’d wake up after a fitful night’s sleep with gut-wrenching stomach ache then spend the day crying. And then inevitably I’d get angry with myself, shout at my reflection, and even slap myself in an attempt to snap out of my ‘weak’ frame of mind. It went on for months. I eventually made an appointment to see a doctor, receiving anti-depressants that I threw in the bin, ashamed of my inability to cope without medication. Determined not to be a failure, I went to war with my depression and anxiety, trying to battle my own thoughts, reading pop-psychology books, intoxicated by their sugary promises that they could make me happy.
I was convinced of two things, that my brain was the enemy and my fragile state of mind was something to hide at all costs. It wasn’t easy, but I did it, smiling in interviews when asked how my life had changed since getting a book published even though I was on the verge of tears; pretending to people that I was fine… Okay…. Doing very well, thank you very much. For me, the worst part of mental illness was not the anxiety or depression but the loneliness that came with living a lie. At parties, meetings, family occasions, even in the supermarket, everybody else seemed to be over there, while I was stuck over here, floating in a bubble, or behind some sort of glass. There was more than a disparity between the Annabel I presented to the outside world and the person I felt inside; there was a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. I didn’t know how to bridge the gap.
Only my husband was aware of how I really felt, and he was completely and utterly brilliant, endlessly patient and compassionate as he tried to help me out of the black hole. For months, he’d tell me the same thing, which was to stop fighting the way I felt. To me that was counter-intuitive. Of course I had to go to war with myself! I had to beat this thing! Get rid of it! And if I couldn’t do that then by God I was going to squash it down and pretend it didn’t exist!
Don’t, he said, over and again. Just accept it for what it is.
Slowly – and I mean really, really slowly – I started to trust what he was saying. And I started to read. Not anything that dangerously and irresponsibly promised to make me happy; instead, I read about self-compassion and mindfulness that prompted me to start meditating; I learned about leaning into my discomfort, and sitting with my pain, and the acceptance paradox (if you accept an unpleasant emotion, you stop fighting it, so you’re more at ease with it, so it’s less painful and therefore more likely to pass quickly). I taught myself cognitive behaviour techniques, learning how to challenge my negative mindset without attempting to replace it with empty positivity. It involved filling in a lot of tables, laboriously finding evidence to destroy my ANTS (automatic negative thoughts). I dropped the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary so there was no longer a standard I had to meet in order to feel good enough. Slowly – and I mean really, really, REALLY slowly – it started to work. My thought patterns changed. My mood lifted. I began to accept myself for who I am, warts and all.
Now, unbelievably, I am able to write this blog. Eighteen months ago it would have been unthinkable. The thought of exposing myself in this way still makes me a little shaky and nauseous, but nowadays I can breathe through it and click ‘publish’, knowing that I no longer have to present a perfect facade to the outside world. I am proud of my imperfections. I see them for what they are – an inevitable part of being human powered by an engine as complicated as the brain. No one has a smooth-running BMW up there. We all have something that stalls and stutters every now and again.
It took a long time for me to get to this point of acceptance and understanding, and the process was painful and difficult, almost unbearable at times. It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. It’s imperative we talk about mental illness, and about mental wellness, too. Let’s do it in person, on Twitter, in our newspapers and in our schools so that the message gets out: we are all flawed. And we all struggle. And it’s okay. It really is. We don’t have to be perfect.
December 2, 2014
I am very excited to say I have set up a new Facebook page because I am truly terrible at updating this website. I will post videos every week, give you sneak previews of my new book (Silence is Goldfish) and update you with any book news and event information for World Book Night 2015. Every week, I will also be answering readers’ questions in a vlog, so if you’d like to get involved, email me on email@example.com!
The website will be updated in due course. It is on my to-do list. (Don’t read too much into that, though. It has been on my to-do list since 2012).
I am so thrilled that My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece has been selected as one of twenty titles for World Book Night 2015, a fantastic initiative that aims to get Britain reading and foster a nationwide passion for books. On April 23rd next year, thousands of books will be given out for FREE by volunteers. For more information, click on the link above!
March 22, 2013
Writing this on my iPhone in bed in my hotel, unable
to sleep after one of the best nights EVER. I can’t believe I won! Sipping a decaf coffee with UHT milk to celebrate.
What can I say? Well, I really, REALLY was not expecting to win. Before I set off, I dropped off my dog at my mum’s and she held up her crossed fingers and said, ‘Good luck!’ I waved cheerily and called, ‘I’ve got no chance but it should be a lovely evening. Oh, and don’t give the dog too many treats. She’s getting fat.’ Such was my conviction that I was out of the running, I turned up at the awards feeling calm and relaxed. My biggest concern was whether or not I was positioned in a good place to intercept the canapés (I wasn’t, but I soon rectified the problem by stepping a few metres to my right where I could happily grab lamb meatballs as trays rushed out of the kitchen).
The atmosphere was wonderful. It really is inspiring to be in a room buzzing with enthusiasm for children’s books. We were all there for the same reason – because we love stories and want young people to like them too – and I felt honoured to be part of such a great industry. To win my category was exciting enough, but to win the whole thing was laugh-out-loud, woop-for-joy, choke-on-a-meatball WONDERFUL.
I heard Michael Morpugo talk last year, and he compared writing books to giving birth to children. If that’s true, then My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece felt like my beautiful first born, happily cooed over by everyone. Ketchup Clouds was somewhat different: a difficult conception followed by a complicated pregnancy and a long, arduous labour. When I finally delivered it, I was proud of it, but I worried that it was destined to live in Mantelpiece’s shadow. This award for Ketchup Clouds therefore means the world to me. It is proof that, though writing can sometimes feel difficult, with effort and perseverance you can get there in the end. It’s not always about being inspired, or effortlessly penning 2000 words a day while listening to classical music, sipping wine and loving the whole creative process. Sometimes it’s just about hard bloody work.
Thanks to everyone at Waterstones for such a great evening and for choosing my book. Thanks to the FANTASTIC booksellers across the country who work so hard and passionately to keep our young people excited about reading. Thanks, too, to everyone at Orion and Felicity Bryan. I couldn’t ask for better colleagues.
November 28, 2012
All across the land, authors are blogging about their next projects before tagging other writers, who go on to answer the same questions the following week. Think of ‘the next big thing’ blog meme as a sort of writers’ relay, the baton winging its way from studies in London to coffee shops in Edinburgh to writers’ sheds in Somerset – and now to a cosy living room in Yorkshire, where I am currently sitting on the sofa, with my puppy curled up at my feet. Thanks to Marcus Sedgwick, who asked me to be involved. Find out what he’s been working on here.
And now it’s my turn…
What is the title of your next book?
Ketchup Clouds – check it out below! I am so happy with the front cover!
Where did the idea for the book come from?
It took a long time to form, to be honest! There was no direct inspiration, and I worked hard to put the idea together in the best possible way, slowly figuring out how to explore it most effectively. Originally, I set out to write a love story about a girl and two boys, but I didn’t want it to be some sort of cheesy, high-school romance, so I had to think of an interesting way to approach the novel. I came up with all sorts, experimenting endlessly with different narrative voices and structures, before deciding to write the book in the form of letters. Zoe has a dark and terrible secret that she needs to get off her chest, but she is afraid of getting into trouble. To alleviate her guilt while remaining anonymous, she decides to tell her story to a death row inmate because he has done something equally bad so will hopefully be sympathetic.
What genre does your book fall under?
Goodness, I have no idea. I don’t ever worry about that when I am writing. I simply tell a story and let other people decide what type of book it is. However, I can say that, like My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Ketchup Clouds is very much based in the real world, with all its light and darkness. Hopefully people will find some of the novel amusing, and other parts sad. That’s all I really think about when I am writing.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm. Zoe is a bit of an outsider, who doesn’t really fit in with the other girls at school. On the one hand, she would like to be popular, but her true self is too quirky to be mainstream. She is also very bright, headstrong, and a little awkward around boys. Though she is Canadian, the actress that springs to mind is Ellen Page. She’d be a good Zoe, though she’d have to prove that she could do a decent English accent before I gave her the part.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Perks of Being A Wallflower meets Dead Man Walking – a teen love story about guilt and redemption.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is the lovely Catherine Clarke of Felicity Bryan Associates, and Ketchup Clouds will be published by Orion in January 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Far longer than I was hoping! After the success of my first novel, it was so important to me to get the second book right, so I spent an inordinate amount of time coming up with the idea, playing with it, honing it etc., and that was before I even put pen to paper and started the first chapter. In total, I would say it took about a year to complete the first draft, but I was working all day, every day, so it felt a lot longer than that.
What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?
As the book is confessional in tone with a strong first-person narrative voice, I’d be over the moon if anyone compared it to The Catcher in the Rye or We Need To Talk About Kevin. One can dream!
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Unlike My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, where the story just sort of popped into my mind, I had to carefully construct the idea for Ketchup Clouds. However, there was one person who directly influenced my second novel, and that was my pen pal on death row. When I was trying to figure out who Zoe might choose to write to, I came up with all sorts of people (Jimmy Saville was even considered at one point! Thank goodness I changed my mind…) but no one felt quite right. But then one day as I was driving back from my parents’ house, I suddenly remembered that, in my teens, I’d written to a man on death row.
I got involved in the pen pal scheme through Amnesty International and was put in touch with a man on death row in Texas, and we wrote to each other for a few years. It is strange how honest you can be with a stranger – almost more honest than you can be with your friends – and I confided in him regularly without worrying about judgement because he’d done something wrong himself. When I remembered this man, he seemed the perfect recipient of Zoe’s letters, so I used a fictitious version of my pen pal in the novel.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, it’s a mystery story. In the first few pages, you find out that Zoe has killed someone, but you don’t know who, or how… Nothing is revealed until the end of the novel, so hopefully that will keep you entertained! The book is also funny – surprisingly so, for such dark subject matter. Zoe has a crazy little sister called Dot, who lightens the mood. Oh, and there are some passionate love scenes, too. So, if you like to laugh, cry, and be swept away by romance while trying to figure out a mystery, this is the book for you!
Next up is Alex Woolf. Look out for his answers next Wednesday.
November 17, 2012
One of the loveliest things about being a young adult author is that you get asked to judge children’s writing competitions. The ex-teacher in me LOVES this part of the job as I really miss doing creative writing sessions with my students. I always looked forward to those lessons when I worked in school – there is something special about seeing young people’s imaginations come to life when they get excited about an idea – so it is a privilege and a pleasure to be asked to judge writing competitions as an author.
I went into Netherthong J and I School to launch the poetry competition a couple of weeks ago. It is being run in conjunction with All Saints’ Church, and the theme was WINTER. At first I asked the children what they associate with this special time of year, and then we built a typical Winter scene with our bodies. We had children posing as robins, snowmen, trees, snowflakes – lovely!
Judging took place yesterday afternoon and, let me tell you, the vicar and I had several heated conversations about the entries! It was freezing in the church, but we were still there for two hours, reading the poems and discussing them at length. Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. Of course we’d like to give prizes to each and every one, but we had to choose winners, so here they are.
Well done everyone! To see the winning poems, scroll down below:
The frosty cold,
Rosy robins and snowmen.
Baubles like jewels!
Sleigh bells ringing in my head.
Snug in my bed.
(by Mathilda Hatfield-Grossova)
I woke up one morning with frost on my toes,
My cheeks were bright red but not as red as my nose.
I reached for my blanket, but it was not there.
Instead there was a blanket of SNOW everywhere!
There were fir trees covered in glittering lights,
I knew that I was in for some Winter delights!
Then all of a sudden I heard someone say,
‘I saw Jack Frost, come ride on my sleigh!’
Onto his sleigh, I leapt with joy,
And off I went with this strange little boy.
We sped past snowmen and pixies too,
We flew past a lake with its water so blue.
We dashed past some reindeer with their antlers so tall,
We saw some little penguins getting ready for a ball!
Then Jack placed in my hand a little scoop of snow,
And said to me, ‘My child you must go.’
I felt myself being whizzed away
Then woke up in my bed on a cold icy day.
(by Grace Cooper)
The winners and runners-up were announced at the All Saints’ Church Winter Fair. Runners-up received book tokens and winners received book tokens alongside a signed copy of my book.
July 23, 2012
Goodness, two posts in one day! This must be some sort of record for me. Though, to be honest, I don’t think this one counts seeing as I’m just copying a couple of links to blogs I wrote for other websites earlier this month. Still, I thought you might be interested to know which young adult novel I really wish I’d written, and what advice I’d give to young writers above all else. Enjoy!
Today I am mostly getting excited about taking a long and much-needed break from the computer. Is there anything more thrilling than writing an automated vacation response for your emails? I WILL BE SKIVING FOR DAYS you want to cry out in sheer joy. DAYS AND DAYYYYYYS. DRINKING COCKTAILS AND STUFF. SUNBATHING. READING BY THE SEA!
Before I disappear into the sunset, I am trying to do a little bit of planning for the rest of the year. As well as writing my third novel from September onwards, I will be busy promoting my second book. Ketchup Clouds is out on January 3rd and I am getting so excited about introducing it to you.
There are secrets, betrayal, lies, a bit of murder… All in all a cheery little read for those post-Christmas blues (!). Joking aside, there may be a few dark themes, but it’s a love story above all else: tender, poignant and (I hope) ultimately uplifting.
There are school visits, library talks and festival appearances to sort out in the build up to publication, so if you’d like to organise an event near you, please do get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am already booked up for November and have limited availability in September, October and December, so hurry up and email if you’re keen! Only, don’t expect a reply for a few weeks. I am on HOLIDAY you see. As of tomorrow. Apologies in advance for the smug automated vacation response…
July 6, 2012
Today I have mostly been celebrating the Branford Boase award. I was chuffed to be nominated with such a strong field of superb debut authors, and very surprised to win! The evening itself was lovely, though I was struggling to breathe in a dress that I hurriedly bought in London after packing, for some reason, a pair of jeans and a multi-coloured silk shirt.
Honestly have no idea WHAT I was thinking when I stuffed those clothes in my bag, and can only blame severe lack of time and panic about getting my train for my poor outfit choice. After tweets from my friend and fellow nominee, Ali Lewis, about the little black dress she was wearing that evening, I decided to abandon my garish top, and found myself sprinting around London half an hour before my taxi to the event, hurriedly buying the first thing I saw without trying it on, hence nearly suffocating on the stage during my acceptance speech.
Squeezed lungs aside, it was a lovely evening, made even more special by the presence of some talented young writers, winners of the Henrietta Branford writing competition. Big shout out to Miriam, Issy, Jamila, Rhiannon, Callum and Rebecca – names to look out for in the future. It is exciting to think that the authors of tomorrow are at school right now, daydreaming their way through lessons and getting inspired by stories in English, and I wish these young writers all the very best.
It has been a busy few weeks for me, doing the rounds at various local book awards. Thanks to the Newcastle Book Award (didn’t win), the Rotherham Book Award (didn’t win), the Leeds Book Award (didn’t win) and the Hull Book Award (WON!) for such lovely days. Authors know how much work goes into organising these events, particularly when a lot of schools are involved, and it is always a privilege to be shortlisted and invited along to meet enthusiastic young readers.
One of the most INFURIATING things about telling people you work with or write for teenagers is the close-minded response that young people today are difficult to work with. On the contrary, I have spent the happiest days of my adult life with teenagers in schools and libraries. Yes, there are challenging teenagers, just as there are challenging toddlers and challenging adults, but being a teenager does not automatically make someone ‘difficult’. I am sick and tired of people saying, ‘Rather you than me!’ when talking about my job as a teacher or a writer who visits schools. Patrick Ness attacked this lazy attitude in his winner’s speech at the Carnegie award, and I wholeheartedly agree. Those people who seem to think teenagers are surly, challenging, churlish or culturally shallow would do well to meet the teen readers at the festivals, awards and schools I visit.
School visits are certainly the most rewarding part of being an author, particularly because I get to meet teachers and librarians who are doing a fantastic job of encouraging a love of reading in their students. I had a lovely evening in Somerset at Stanchester and Kings Bruton, and was very well looked after by Jonathan Guy and his wife, who kindly put me up and took me to the beach:
Thanks to all those who have made my school visits possible, notably Jonathan, Bridget March, Kirsty McDermott, Lizzie Ryder and Eleanor Parker.
Right, going to sign off now and watch the end of the Murray-Tsonga match in the busy pub where I am sheltering in the corner, typing away, trying to ignore the drunk French guys celebrating every point that Murray misses. My love of Murray is well documented on Twitter, and I want to cheer my boy on and enjoy the match. I have been a fan of his for years, despite the fact his mum looks like a peperami.
Love is blind, as they say! It’s two sets to one at the moment, so going to put on my kilt and get cheering.
If you want to read any more articles about the Branford Boase award, check them out here:
Thanks so much to all those at the award and everyone at Orion for making last night one to treasure.
March 6, 2012
Today I have mostly been feeling guilty that I have not updated my website for months. MONTHS! There's no excuse. I mean, yes, I have been busy, but not SO busy that I couldn't just tap a few keys to keep in touch with the three people who read this blog (hello, Mum!).
So, I apologise. I promise to get better at this blogging lark, even if it does feel like writing a letter, folding it up into a flimsy paper aeroplane and flying it into the great abyss that is cyberspace. Still. It's fun to chat about my books so I'll keep going and hope that somebodddyyy out thereeee is listening.
It's been a lovely few months for my first novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. Delighted and humbled to say that my little book has been nominated for a few cool prizes:
The Guardian Children's Book Award (won by Andy Mulligan for Return to Ribblestrop)
The Galaxy Children's Book of the Year (won by Patrick Ness for A Monster Calls)
The Red House Children's Book of the Year (won again by Patrick Ness for A Monster Calls)
The Waterstones Children's Book of the Year
Longlisted for The Branford Boase Award
Longlisted The Carnegie Medal
And nominated for local prizes in Hull, Lancashire, Sheffield, Rotherham and Cornwall
I'll keep you posted of my progress. I haven't managed to win anything yet, but it really is wonderful just to be nominated (she types, glancing at the much-used A Monster Calls dartboard hanging in her study). Honestly, though, however trite it might sound, I'm chuffed to bits.
Ketchup Clouds is all finished and excitedly waiting its publication later this year. Orion have done a beautiful job with the cover and I can't wait to share it with you! Over the next few months, I will start revealing little bits and bobs about the plot and the characters, so do keep checking my website. Michael Morpurgo spoke at The Red House Children's Book Awards about the process of writing a novel, likening it to pregnancy followed by a difficult labour. You're telling me! Getting Ketchup Clouds out of my brain and onto the page was like giving birth to awkward, lumpy quads. HOWEVER. It's finished. And, I might be the book's mother and therefore a little biased, but I have to say I'm rather proud of it.
Righteo. I have promised myself that I will make the most of the sunshine and go out for a run, so it's time to don the lycra and trainers. In a fit of new year madness, I signed myself up for a few 10ks, a half marathon and a 26-mile hike between March – May and so far I have done little more than a couple of yoga classes in order to get fit. There are no more excuses. The underwear drawer has been sorted and the cupboards have been cleaned out and the darts… oops, I mean cutlery… has been polished. There is nothing left to do except run.
Ready, steady, GO!