How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?

It’s a genuine question. I really don’t know.

I have been close to quitting a lot lately. It’s probably a weekly thing at the moment. I don’t mean writing, by the way, I could never quit writing.

I’m referring to the process of editing and rewriting and revising a book again and again and again in the faint hope of a publisher accepting it, versus making the decision to quit editing, rewriting and self-publish it. I am also referring to my writing company, Chasing Driftwood, which I constantly think about quitting. I am torn all the time. Do I give up on all these childish dreams and get myself a proper job? I am increasingly tempted.

Failure is a horrible thing. We all face it at various times in life, and it’s never, ever nice. We actively work to avoid it. Sometimes that means we never even try in the first place because we are scared of failing. We are scared of that feeling and don’t want to see ourselves as failures.

I think I can safely say that I have at least tried. Very, very hard. And a big part of me wants to keep trying. Despite the mixed feedback from two rounds of beta readers, I still love Elliot Pie and I feel like I have worked on it and worked on it, and made it a much, much better book that it was over two years ago when I started it. I’ve listened to feedback and I’ve acted on it. I submitted to a list of small press publishers and had three of them fairly interested in it, which is pretty positive really. I’ve never had that response to any of the other books I’ve put out. I keep reminding myself of this whenever I feel down. They may still be rejections, but they are positive rejections, which all say positive things about Elliot Pie. I have confidence that at the very least, my synopsis, my concept and my first few chapters are enough to entice people in!

Good stuff. But that leads me on to the reasons it was still rejected. Too long. I did go through it again and deleted another character, but I honestly could not see where else to cut. I know, I know, hire an editor you say. But I can’t afford that right now. Not in the slightest. Another reason for rejection was more specific. They loved the concept and my writing and absolutely adored Elliot, all of which is fantastic news. But they would have preferred the book to be written from the POV of Elliot and his mum. Just to explain, the book is mostly from Elliot’s POV, but also from his mum’s and the three strangers he makes friends with.

Now I can’t stop thinking about this suggestion. It would mean yet another entire and potentially very tricky rewrite. Losing the POV of three characters would also get the word count down…

But I just don’t know. I personally like the other characters POV being there because it means the reader gets to know or assume stuff about them which Elliot does not. His mother never meets these people. Do you see how tricky it could be to rewrite? I would have to write Elliot into scenes he was never meant to be in, or find other ways to suggest elements of their characters to the reader, through Elliot’s perceptions and reactions.

A lot of work. And I have two more finished but unpublished books to tidy up and start doing something with! Plus The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series which I am working on…

Life is short, right? The way I see it right now, I have two options with this book and with my writing company. I keep trying, keep battling, keep working until I get it right, whatever ‘right’ is, or I learn to know when to quit.

These are two separate issues really. I know I won’t quit my company yet. I just desperately need more time to make it all work and I know I will get that in September when my youngest starts school. I have decided to give it my all that year, give it everything I’ve got, and if I can’t do it, admit defeat at the end of that year and get a proper job, knowing at least I tried.

With Elliot Pie…I just can’t decide whether to keep rewriting in the hope of getting a publisher for it…or admit it’s the best I can do, it’s the book I wanted it to be, self-publish and hope for the best.

Funnily enough, when searching for images to post with this, I came across the quote ‘when you feel like quitting, think about why you started’ and it’s now changed the way I am looking at this. I’ve been thinking about what the story I originally wanted to tell and I’ve been thinking about the reason I started my writing company…

But it’s tricky, isn’ it? How do you know when to quit? How do you know when you’ve done the best and you’ve nothing left to give?

Answers on a postcard please! Or alternatively, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Have you ever felt like quitting a project? Was there a point when you just realised you’d done the best you could, and it was time to stop?

Reasons To Be Cheerful

It’s a tense time right now in the UK. The nation has felt divided since Brexit and the looming snap election has opened that wound and stabbed it with a dirty stick. My personal Facebook page is an endless landslide of anger, fear and finger pointing. And yes, I’m finger pointing too. I’m as angry as the next person and truly believe our country needs to vote in favour of hope and change. But this is not a political post. Nor a negative one. I need a break from all of that and decided to write a post about the things that make me cheerful. And not just cheerful, but bloody glad to be alive…

Walking barefoot

barefoot-482747_640

We all did this when we were little kids. We didn’t think twice about it. We had to be reminded and nagged to put our shoes on before we went outside. Now people think you’re weird if they see you walking around without shoes on. But being barefoot makes me feel happy. It makes me feel calm, safe and grounded to feel the warm earth or the wet grass under my toes. It makes me feel somehow looser, sillier, younger and freer. Try it some time. I do it whenever I can. I truly believe in some powerful way it helps you to feel reconnected to the earth and to nature. And we could all do with a bit of that.

Cake

cake-1987326_640.jpg

Tea and cake. Coffee and cake. Wine and cake. Take your pick but make sure there is definitely cake. A nice big flat slab of it. Any cake will do. Me, I’m not fussy. (Unless it’s banana, ugh) Apple cake, carrot cake, coffee cake, fruit cake. Every now and then only a big fat squashy chocolate cake will do. The kind you get all over your face while eating. I think cake is another thing that makes me feel like a little kid. The whole act of making one, from cracking the eggs against the side of the bowl, to shaking the flour through the sieve, to sitting on the doorstep to lick the bowl out afterward. Happy times. I find making a cake cheers me up. I find eating cake has the same effect. Win, win.

Watching Children Play

child-1864718_640

I mean the kind that doesn’t involve adults. Just little kids playing like no one is watching. Just totally lost in their own little worlds. Whether it’s building Lego, or pushing cars about, or making little figures move around. I find it spellbinding. I sometimes catch my little one holding two cars or two dinosaurs and making them talk to each other. ‘Hello’ says one, ‘hello’ says the other. There might be a bit more chat before it descends into a language only he can understand. It’s magical to me that he’s totally happy to be alone, to be playing with something he chose, to be directing that play the way his developing mind sees fit, and that it is all totally real to him. Warms me up no end.

Greenery

1470336_992303410788924_5944084606082827220_n

This is one of my photos from the lane I walk down every day. At this time of year from one end to the other, it’s like a tunnel of green. There are Oaks on both sides, gigantic majestic relics of yesteryear, spreading their arms across to the other side, shading the way. Splashes of colour from rhododendron, dandelions, daisies, dead nettles and pink clover. Bees humming through the wild flowers. Pigeons cooing on the telephone wires. Crows flapping past in two’s and threes. And when I turn my head, wherever I look I see a wall of green. So much green. It’s the same in my garden, due to the trees we have and the trees around the area. They are all so huge that my windows are filled with green. It makes me feel like I can breathe easier, just knowing they are there.

Singing Loudly To Music

microphone-1209816_640.jpg

I do this whenever I can and I have the worst voice ever. In the car, once the kids have been deposited and there is no risk of me embarrassing or deafening them, I turn it up loud and sing along. When I’m cooking the dinner, I put on an old CD, turn it up and dance around the kitchen while singing at the top of my voice. The best thing about music is the way it installs memories in your brain that will then later be exploded every time you hear that song. Tastes, smells, sounds, emotions, all will come rushing back in a an overload of nostalgia. Plus, singing and dancing cheer me up. As long as no one is watching or listening!

Night Skies

12829453_1136278233058107_1794700601345978661_o.jpg

I’m lucky that I live in a beautiful place with a beautiful garden, but wherever you are in the world, you can go outside at night and look at the sky. This always cheers me up and calms me down. Like walking barefoot in the day, sitting up to watch the sunset or lying on the ground under the stars, is the best way to feel reconnected to the earth. It just makes me feel steady and still. Sometimes I feel like the day belongs to the people, and the night belongs to the animals. It feels a bit like trespassing to sit and enjoy it with them.

Dreams

campervan-501797_640.jpg

When I was a little kid I dreamed about being a writer. I also dreamed about being a mother and working with animals. All of these dreams have come true. But you never drop dreaming, or at least you shouldn’t. I dream of writing more books and of writing the one that sees me find true success. I also dream of owning a vintage VW Campervan. A real old style hippy bus. I’d like to live in it eventually and leave the house to the kids if they need it. But before that, I want to go travelling. I want to jump in the van every single weekend with the husband the kids and the dogs and go somewhere we have never been before. I want to work our way all around the UK and then move on to Europe. I want it to have crochet blankets and wind chimes and lots of cushions! We’ve been saving up for nearly three years now. It’s a family thing. we’ll get there one day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my personal reasons to be cheerful list. There are so many more things I could have added it to it, like reading and writing, gardening and going to see live music. How about you? What cheers you up when the world feels like a scary place? What’s on your reasons to be cheerful list? Please feel free to comment and share!

Author Interview; Ashley Rice

Welcome to my latest author interview! Today I would like to introduce you to Dallas-based author/illustrator Ashley Rice. Ashley has created several popular illustrated books, including You Are An Incredible Kid, Girls Rule, and You Are A Girl Who Totally Rocks. Ashley’s latest release is Make Your Dreams Come True. Ashley’s mix of artwork, poetry, songs, real life experiences and positive messages are loved by tween and teen girls (and boys!)  worldwide. Her work also appears on her bestselling line of greeting cards, as well as bookmarks, fridge magnets and so on. It was a pleasure to speak to Ashley, who is a dog lover like myself!

41OGhjG2iZL._SX258_BO1%2c204%2c203%2c200_

1) Who are your books aimed at, and how would you best describe your books?

Most of my books are written for tweens (9-12 year olds) and, more specifically, with tween girls in mind… but I also have a book called For an Incredible Kid, for example, which could be for anyone. I’ve also gotten messages and emails from older girls and women who will tell me how one of the girl power books helped them out in some way, so really the books are for anyone and everyone who finds that, in their own way, she or he can get something out of them.

2) What first inspired you to write these sorts of books?

I’ve always believed that a girl in the world could do anything, and, as I was growing up, and more specifically when I was older and actually got out into the “real world,” I was surprised whenever I would meet someone who wasn’t aware of that fact — whether it was a male friend or acquaintance who hadn’t gotten the message yet about the “girl power” movement, but especially when it was a girl who wasn’t aware of all the possibilities that were waiting for her out there that she hadn’t yet discovered. You have to believe in those possibilities and in your own personal sense of empowerment before those possibilities can turn into real, solid opportunities that can work for you in your life. So I thought it was important to reach girls like that — or, really, just to get the word out to let all girls know just how talented they truly are. And how amazing their lives will be if they keep on believing in the beauty of their dreams. That’s why I wrote the girl power poems, which were then turned into books.

3) How do you decide on the theme for each book?

Sometimes this is an idea that I think of, other times the idea will be based on a suggestion from my editor.

4) Do you often get feedback from children and if so, what do they say to you about your books?

I do get feedback from girls from time to time. Usually when they contact me it’s to tell me why they liked one of my books. Sometimes they will share with me something personal such as how that book helped them to better deal with some specific problem they were having. Those kinds of letters touch me the most and really mean a lot to me!

5) How do you promote your work?

I haven’t really done much in the way of promotion in the past but am starting to do things like interviews now. I do have a blog on my goodreads author page where I’ll post an update whenever something significant happens to me — like whenever a new book of mine comes out. I also have a web page. It’s at http://www.ashleyrice.net.

6) What are you working on right now?

I’m working on some new poems for girls on different “rules” they can make for themselves to live by, and how they can then use those principles they relate to the most to help guide them in their lives.

7) Where do you see yourself and your work in 5 years time? 

I plan to keep on writing and illustrating books along with doing my greeting card line. I have a new calendar coming out next year… hopefully many more books, etc. will follow after that! All I know is that, whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing, illustrating.

8) Did you always want to be a writer/illustrator?

I always wanted to be a writer (since I was 7) and I always drew characters and other things – mostly just doodling — but I didn’t think I was talented or skilled enough to work as an illustrator. I just illustrated my first original poems (which I was turning in to my greeting card publisher to be published as possible greeting cards) as a way to show my employer what types of images I thought could look good alongside my poems if they in fact decided to make those poems into cards. I thought they would then have a “real” artist copy my drawings — or adapt them, really – using their own, professional style. It surprised me when my publisher said they liked my artwork and planned to publish the designs I’d made as-is.

IMG_1404.JPG

9) What advice would you give to young people who wish to follow in your footsteps?

Work hard, believe in what you do, know that anything is possible for you if you are true to yourself, but most of all: never give up! (Even when it’s hard).

10) What inspires you to write/draw?

I get a lot of ideas from browsing articles, etc – whether in bookstores or on the Internet. But I tend to get ideas from anything, really – when I’m walking my dogs and just thinking while surrounded by nature something might come up in my mind that makes me want to write the words down (which is why I always carry my phone with its electronic notepad with me anywhere I go!)… thoughts and ideas can happen that way, or can be inspired by doing something like watching a movie.

11) Tell us three interesting facts about you

I live in a historic neighborhood (with arts and crafts style houses mostly houses built in the early early 1900’s)… and I really love that!

Before moving back here (to Dallas) I used to live in a community in Boston that was all artists’ lofts, and which had originally been a giant piano factory. You had to have two different artistic recommendations to get in, which meant that your neighbors were artists too (so you could help each other out, etc). That made for an interesting time! Also, to live there, we had to paint the outside of our front doors in a style that we liked a lot – mine was hot pink with a hand-drawn blue flower on it, for example. It took like seven hours for me to do though!

I often volunteer at an animal shelter during lunch… but sometimes it’s too hard for me to leave my own dogs at home to go and do that so I just skip it… but on the days when I do go I have a lot of fun and it feels good to help some other animals out… mostly the work involves “socializing” the dogs and cats at the shelter… which basically means playing with them a lot!

12) Who are you inspired/influenced by?

Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Todd Parr, Adrienne Rich, to name a few.. along with all of the other writers and artists who also work for my publisher and are amazing!

Thanks so much for the interview Ashley! Good luck with the latest book.

You can find out more about Ashley’s inspiring work on her blog/website ashleyrice.net

Look out for another interview coming soon!