Here we are at the end of another year. But not any old year. For me, 2011 was exceptional. In March, I landed the major book deal I had dreamt about since I was 9 year years old. In May, I was awarded the doctorate I had worked solidly towards for four years and wanted since my early twenties. Three weeks ago I was announced joint winner of the Calvin and Rose G Hoffmann Prize for a distinguished work on Christopher Marlowe. And to round the year off nicely, I received the bound proof of The Marlowe Papers just before Christmas. Full of typesetter’s errors it may be, but it is still utterly beautiful. 2012 looks very promising indeed.
Anyone who has known me (or of me) for a while will appreciate that something very different is happening. Up to this point I was the author of three collections of poetry, selling only a few hundred copies each; a University of Sussex tutor in creative writing for 12 years for the now (sadly defunct) CCE and, despite some prizes and readings now and again, very much a minor figure on the British literary scene. But in 2012 my verse novel is being launched by Sceptre (the literary arm of Hodder and Stoughton) in the UK and St Martin’s Press (part of Macmillan) in the US. On the back of Sceptre’s proof copy it says, ‘Discover the literary debut of the year’. So what happened?
Hard work happened, of course, long hours at the desk doing (blessedly) something I love. But my dedication to writing hasn’t changed in over a decade. And this time last year the picture didn’t look at all rosy. There was no money coming in to this household of seven, and the credit facility I had utilised in order to write the book was coming to an end. I calculated that in six months, if nothing changed, we’d be homeless. My marriage had broken under the strain of my obsessive dedication to the book; my husband and I had agreed to separate. And if anything could be worse than that, my agent of ten years was ignoring my e-mails. ‘It’s beautiful, and like nothing I’ve ever read before,’ she said of The Marlowe Papers ms. But she couldn’t see any commercial potential in it. I knew I had to turn everything around, and I didn’t have much time. I did, however, have some very powerful tools at my disposal, and in January, I engaged them fully – with, as is now obvious, spectacular results.
I have very good friends that are struggling right now; creatively, financially, and relationship-wise, just as I did for many years. And here’s me, with every part of my life (including my marriage) not only back on track but heading for something rather incredible. So this morning I thought to myself, I’ll share what I know. Rather than start handing out fish (when the fish come in), I’ll see if I can’t teach a few people to fish so they can do for themselves what I’ve done for myself this year, by sharing my story.
But not now. Now is simply the moment for champagne.