Just the Advice I Needed …

As regular readers of The Elementary Circle will know, in recent months I’ve been getting rather jaded about the waiting game.  I’m an ‘almost-there’ author.  I’ve finished three novels, and have heaps of ideas for others, but now I have to sit back, and wait to see if there’s an editor at a publishing house who believes in my work as much as my agent does.  The problem is, I’m rather impatient, and after a good three years of hard slog, can’t wait for some return on my efforts, even if that return is simply the recognition that comes with a bona fide book deal.

If you’ve read my blog before, you might also know that I’m an orphan.  I lost both my parents back in 2003, when I was just nineteen.  Since Mum and Dad died, I’ve spent five years at university, and three years travelling the world, only to come back ‘home’ at the end of April.  When Mum died, my sister and I were forced to sell our family home almost immediately in order to put ourselves through school and university, and simply live. At Christmas 2003, over the space of three weeks I lost both my Mum and my home, with thirty years of my parents’ marriage relinquished to boxes which went almost straight into storage, scattered across the lofts of various family friends, where they have remained ever since.  I moved into a friend’s family home, and have called their house home ever since.

I was always a Daddy’s girl.  A tomboy as a child, my Dad was the one who taught me to play cricket, who took me skiing, introduced me to Scouting, and sat up late at night reading me tales by Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.  My Dad was my idol, my role model.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Mum dearly, but when my Dad died, I lost my best friend.

I grew up surrounded by my father’s stories.  He had spent his twenties travelling the world, a natural-born linguist, and I not only inherited Dad’s talent for languages but also his desire to travel.  When I finished my Masters and still had  some of my inheritance from the house left over, it seemed natural to spend the money on seeing the world, because if Dad had been given the money at 24, that’s exactly what he would have done with it!  In fact, my Dad actually met my Mum (who was Romanian) when he was travelling around the world.

But travel wasn’t the only thing me and my Dad have in common.  My Dad was a writer.  When he died, I actually remember an old RAF pal of his sending Mum a package with an old story they had written together inside, and last week, when I was feeling particularly down, I went in search of it.

Two hours later I gave up, empty handed.

The whole writing business had just got me so down.  After months of trying to stay upbeat, and trying to keep inspired and active, I was defeated.  Fed up with not even getting rejections from publishers, just total radio silence, and beginning to doubt both myself and my talent, I needed my Dad.  I needed the one person who knew me inside out, which he always did, because I was the female version of him!  I needed his advice.  Dad had been the one who had helped me with A Level options.  He had planned my Gap Year with me, and not just chosen Cambridge colleges with me, but walked me to the gates of my university interview.  Unlike other Dads, mine hadn’t just stood on the sideline of my cricket matches, but had been out on the pitch alongside me – the umpire, the coach, the facilitator of the match.  My biggest fan.

I needed my biggest fan again.  Writing had become such a lonely pursuit, and without Dad around it just felt even lonelier …

And then on Sunday I got a message from one of my closest school friends.  Katherine now lives in London, but her parents still live just twenty minutes away from my old family home, and this weekend just gone, they had tidied out their loft, only to find several boxes of things from my parents house.  Things I hadn’t seen for eight years.

I assumed the boxes would be full of Dad’s photo albums, or old clothes we hadn’t been able to part with so soon after Mum’s death, but last night when I went round to Katherine’s house, I was in for a surprise.

The boxes are full of my father’s projects.  Thirty years of his work.   Pages and pages of notes.  Poems, letters, postcards to Mum, letters, songs, books, research.  Loose-leaf folders packed with handwritten sheets, and boxes full of type-written stories.  Ideas, opinions, connections.  My Dad’s brain boxed.

Eight years after his death, it’s the closest thing I will ever get to a new conversation with my Dad … and it genuinely couldn’t have come at a better time!  There I was literally a week ago wondering if I might have access to one single story Dad had written, and now I’ve been presented by boxes full of his life’s work.  Notebook after notebook, one project after the other, it seems like nothing had been thrown away since the early seventies.  I could never be so grateful to discover a closet hoarder in the family!

I sat in tears, surrounded by my Dad’s work.  By songs, and poems, and sketches, and ditties, and family tree research, and research into Greek mythology, church names, and World War One.  Every intrigue, every interest had been documented.  In a world where most of my possessions have been bought post-Mum and Dad’s death, here were pages and notebooks that my Dad had physically touched!  Line after line of his handwriting, word after word of his own.

But that wasn’t the only way Dad spoke to me last night …

Because amongst those boxes of projects, were letters from publishers.  Letters very similar to the ones I’ve spent the past six months receiving.  Rejection letters, and alongside them frustrated queries from my Dad to other publishers, months after submitting manuscripts, asking why he had heard nothing.

In a world before the internet, in an era where literary agents were scarce, and  in a time when stories weren’t written on computers, but arduously typed, page after page, on a type writer, my dad had been a frustrated almost-there author too!

And you know what, his stories have survived!  He may never have gotten published, or seen his name on the spine of a book, but his stories have still survived him.  And now, his stories sit on my book shelves. This time I’m his number one fan.  Because whenever I feel down, whenever I miss my Dad, not only can I reach for one of his stories, and have him speak directly to me once again, but I can remember that Dad was in this place too, and that if he were here now, he’d be telling me about the time he submitted a book called ‘The Michael Enigma’ about the position of churches called St Michael around Great Britain (??? Yes really!) to publishers, and waited 11 months to hear anything back.  And while my Dad isn’t here to tell me those stories, the stories themselves still are.

Dad’s stories live on, on my bookshelf and in my heart, and you know what, even if my stories never get printed, I’ll make sure that I keep every single one of them, so that one day, my daughter, or my grand-daughter, will be able to pick them up, and hear my voice when I’m no longer able to use it any more.

I love you Dad,

C-C xxx

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23 Comments

Filed under Blogging, C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

23 responses to “Just the Advice I Needed …

  1. Barbara

    Beautifully put. I was in the picture of your life then (however small the part was) and I distinctly remember your graceful demeanour in such dark times. Your father would be very proud of you. Cheers to my grandfather; the inspiration of my life xx

  2. You are so blessed to have discovered so much of his work. The truth of the man lies in that work, not in the rejection letters. So does your truth lie in your writings, not in the rejections. Take heart, you have an agent, you are just one step away from your goal.

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencemacleod.com/

  3. Awesome! This is a beautiful and inspirational post. Everyday I become a little more convinced that there is no such thing as coincidence. Thank you for sharing.

    Stay strong,

    C.

  4. Wow! You are amazing. One of the most beautiful, inspiring posts I have ever read. Brava!

    ecwrites.com

  5. Ramjet0001

    Nice glimpse into peoples minds. Starkly revealing and eloquently put. There’s always a hope after death that someone will reveal themselves to you. That life will be answered with a message from the other side. I am a non believer in the likes of churches for desperate people to have these prayers answered by enriched preachers of hope.
    But one thing I do believe in is what your mind can achieve from a message from loved ones like this.
    Use this in the most positive way, you have received the tools from your father, and from that you can learn from what he has left you. This isn’t just a message, but guidance.
    there’s an old saying ‘you can’t put an old head on new shoulders’.
    I disagree when the new head happens to have stepped the path that your father has already.
    You are a writer!
    You will get published!
    You hold too much stock in one agent!
    And your father left guidance on how not to get published also. Work with him, and change both of your paths!

    My father was perfect, he had no flaws.
    There are some things I can do better than him 🙂

  6. Wow…that was beautiful. I feel anything I have to say will be trite in comparison, but there is no question your dad would be so proud of you. On the issue of your writing, I would suggest to keep doing what you’re doing, i.e. plowing forward. I had written four novels before I finally was picked up by Random House (it was my third that sold as I was working on final edits of my fourth, which I never ended up sending out.) Of those first three, I received anywhere from 70 to 100 rejections for each, including the one that was sold. Was I impatient like you, absolutely. But I knew something that I sense you know to, it’s all about persistence. And you have the added benefit of your father’s mentorship in the form of your memories and his work on your shelves.

    • Thanks so so much for this comment Brett – it genuinely is the most useful comment I’ve received on the blog, putting into context my frustrations! Until now I really had no idea just how much rejection is ‘normal’!!!
      Thanks for taking the time to check out the blog and to comment, I really do appreciate your views and advice
      C-C xx

      • We’re all in this together, from the most successful writer to those just starting out. Sharing what we know, how we’ve experienced our journey, is our responsibility to our fellow story tellers. So know that if you ever have any questions you think I might know the answers to, feel free to contact me. Seriously, anytime. Same goes for anyone you know (or anyone reading this) with questions. If I don’t know the answer, i’ll try to point you in the right direction. Who knows, someday I may have a question you can help me with.

        The thing some authors, not a lot but some, don’t realize is that your success has nothing to do with mine. We aren’t in competition with each other, with craftsmen and women with a common goal…who understands what it’s like to be a writer than another writer.

        Seriously (yes, I’ve used that word twice), that offer for help is always there.

  7. Beautifully written. Thank you.

  8. I agree with what everyone else has written about this lovely post, and I’ll add that anyone can see that your lack of progress is highly unlikely to be anything to do with the quality of your writing. And so surely it’s because you simply haven’t been in the right time/right place yet… So take courage, keep learning, keep persisting, never give up!

    • Thanks so much Joanna 🙂 Having received a rejection a few days ago which specifically criticised the quality of my writing, it’s really heartening to hear such praise!
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting C-C xx

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  10. If you ever doubt your ability as a writer again; your talent for captivating your audience, for engaging them in your tail – come back to this post and remember how eloquently; how beautifully you conveyed to us all this glimpse into what drives you on.

    Try not to be too disheartened at the rejection of those looking to make money from your writing and instead take some comfort from the fact there are so many more who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to read every thing you ever wrote ;).

    NB – some just don’t know they are waiting; they haven’t yet stumbled across your blog.

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