Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

By Jackie Hales

2020 was a landmark year for me. I finally did it! As I approached my 70th birthday, I retired AND I finished my novel, which had been on the back burner for a few years. A double whamee! I’d threatened to retire so many times, did it once in 2010, and no-one believed I’d actually do it. Personally, I didn’t believe anyone would want to publish my novel, kick-started by spending two years researching family history, with all the secrets and stories that throws up. Suddenly, just before my birthday, after refusals or being ignored, there was the email I thought would never come! What a birthday present! So now, contract signed, I have to wait for them to get around to publishing “Shadows of Time”. They don’t move fast, do they? I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I am still absorbing the metalanguage encountered for the first time this year – I had no idea that what I was doing was a line edit, or any other kind of edit, and I’d never identified deliberately putting in conflict or a story arc, even though that’s what I’d done! Whew!

Thanks to NanoWriMo, I wrote a second novel at the end of last year, so I need to decide what to do with it. I may have to learn how to self-publish, which will present me with more new challenges. My sister, Bonnie Meekums, nobly took on uploading our joint memoir, “Remnants of War”, for publication through Amazon, so I haven’t crossed that pain barrier yet. It’ll be exciting to see the challenge we undertook coming to fruition. It’s been such a fascinating, sisterly, demanding thing to do, collaborating on it, and of course I think my version of events is the right one, and Bonnie disagrees.  

In my second novel, “Nana Boo”, I’ve experimented with different voices and viewpoints. I spent years analysing and teaching other people’s writing, so it’s good to be able to try things myself, even if that doesn’t lead to publication. I produce a monthly story for my U3A writing group, but it may take another NaNoWriMo to pin me down to finishing a third novel! I’m in awe of how prolific some people are! What an inspiration Oldham Writers have been for me!

In my wardrobe, I have an old box, full of poetry, short stories and “prose bits” (because I didn’t know there was such a thing as Flash Fiction until last year), collected over the years, when teaching absorbed my time and publishing didn’t enter my mind. There are two children’s stories I would like to finish, one because I took it, unfinished, into my son’s primary school (he is now 32!), and the children gave me enthusiastic ideas, and another because it’s based on my dad’s childhood. It really is time I got round to doing this. 

I’ve been so involved with the ever-changing Covid-19 guidance for schools that writing things other than reports and policy seems to have stagnated a bit, though I have written some poetry and a couple of short stories. I’ll probably enter some competitions, because sometimes they motivate me to try something I haven’t tried before, though chances of winning are slim. I started a blog in 2020, and surprisingly, I found it helped the sister of a friend, who can’t get out. She’s also a writer, and knowing she loves reading about my wanders and thoughts keeps me writing it.  

I write, as I always have, because it gives expression to the ideas in my head, but I think I’ve decided that seeking an agent is probably not for me. That said, you never know what’s round the corner, and I had no idea, a year ago, that I’d be typing this, with thanks to a lovely group of people who were kind enough to let someone from the white rose county share their Zoom meetings. 

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