Despite a late night blogging, and general exhaustion from the intensity of yesterday, I was awake at 6.30am this morning. I lay in bed for a while pondering whether to run or write, until I decided that tight dresses withstanding, writing had to take priority. Besides I was desperate for a cup of tea. By 7.30 I tapped out another few hundred words and was able to go to breakfast full of smugness at my positive word count. After packing, I was able to grab another half hour by the lake accompanied by two geese, one sleeping with it’s head under it’s wing, one standing sentinel. I seem to remember being warned not to worry the geese, as they could potentially break your arm, but these two seemed to tolerate the gaggle of writers sitting by the waterside. With the sun shining on the lake it was as perfect a spot for writing as you could find.
My 1:1’s clashed with my workshop on acquisitions, so I had to leave while the speakers were getting in their stride. A bit unfortunate but inevitable with such a complex timetable to manage. I was a bit nervous about seeing the agent this morning as I had somehow failed to realise she was worked in the young adult market. Luckily she was totally forgiving and full of good encouraging advice, finally laying to rest the ghost of a sneery tutor, who once said my writing was for “young adults” (nothing wrong with that but it’s not what I’m after, and he meant it as an insult). My reader this morning was able to assure me she clearly saw it as an adult text and since she’s a professional, and knows what she’s talking about that’s more than good enough for me.
My second 1:1 was a session with an editor – a “book doctor”. I was even more nervous about this one. I’d chosen my editor carefully from the CVs provided, because I wanted someone very good, but with excellence comes the pressure of knowing my work might not be up to scratch. Thankfully my “doctor” was absolutely brilliant, made wise comments, got me thinking about the chapter in a different way and provided more than enough positive statements to make me feel this project is worth pursuing. I came away knowing I’d got loads of work to do, but I knew that anyway. I also know that my book is very ambitious, but if I keep at it, keep listening, keep working to make it the best it can be, there’s every chance I can achieve my aims.
Over coffee a chance conversation with an English woman who normally lives in San Francisco, was overheard by a second woman as she had once lived there too. The three of us hit it off and had a passionate discussion about the state of the nations, (probably a little too passionate in my case!) before I discovered the second woman is a neighbour in Oxford. So now I’ve made two new twitter friends and someone local to talk writing with. Result.
I caught most of a workshop on what agents want before I was lured out into the sunshine to take my final stroll round campus. This time I headed for the Derwent and Langwith Colleges, where I once spent freezing winter mornings observing duck behaviour. These are the quieter parts of the campus, .They were always beautiful when I lived there, but now the willows and silver birches have doubled in size, and the bushes have spread out, they are even more so . Once again it reminded me that trees are a useful device for showing the passage of time through landscapes and glad I am already using this in “Echo Hall”. As I wandered back to James College, I was besieged with memories again – the day my friend Karen disappeared for twenty four hours, and we searched campus high and low until she returned from a friend’s just after we’d called the police; the time I had to look after several stroppy kids as part of a youth camp, and they’d run riot on top of the Biology building, scampered off in front of the Physics block until I uncharacteristically chased them down and turned the air blue, surprising them into compliance; and the computer lectures that sent me to sleep so often, my lecturer suggested I should bring a duvet. It has crossed my mind more than once this weekend, that perhaps if I’d focussed my energies a little bit more back then, when I had plenty of time to do so, I might have had a novel published by now…Youth is definitely wasted on the young.
Over lunch I was able to catch up with most of the people I’d met over the weekend, though if I missed you I’m sorry. I decided to leave a little early so I could have one final nostalgia tour of the city itself. Places you revisit are always supposed to be much smaller than you remember them, but today York actually felt much bigger. The river is wider, the streets more spread out, the shopping areas larger. But the medieval streets are still beautiful, Margaret Clitherow’s shrine as moving as ever, and though it was disappointing the Minster charges a ridiculous amount to enter, it was extremely pleasant sitting by the river remembering evenings spent running along it’s banks.
So now I’m homeward bound, basking in the afterglow of a wonderful weekend spent amongst the nicest bunch of writing folk you could hope to meet; filled with a determination to plough on with my novel until it’s finally done; and extremely grateful to the wonderful people in the Writer’s Workshop who made it all happen.
I set myself a writing challenge this summer, to complete my second draft by this weekend. I may have failed in reaching my target, but at least I’m well on my way. And as JoJo Moyes reminded us yesterday, failure is part of the learning process.
I’m really looking forward to getting back to Chris and the kids – a weekend is far too long to be away, no matter how lovely the writing is. I know that once I’m back in the swing of home and work life, I’ll struggle as I always do, to make the time to make my writing happen. But after this weekend, I’m more determined than ever to press on with “Echo Hall.” I know it’s a good idea, I’ve been told it’s marketable. I’ve been told I can write. I’m the only person who can make it happen. So the biggest lesson I’ve learned this weekend, is – it’s time to make sure I do.