The deadline for the sixth Anna Hibiscus book was March 2012.
So in January I went to Nigeria for Inspiration (and my beautiful father’s 70th birthday celebrations)... but before I got inspired there was a General Strike. Airports closed, flights were cancelled and roads were blocked by angry strikers. I had one of my children with me. The other was now on another continent with no easy way of getting back to him. I cried a lot, meditated a lot, and attempted to surrender. (A for effort, E for achievement.) I did not write AT ALL.
When I got back - a hairy-scary journey later - it seemed that I had only just caught my breath and it was time to go on tour! Because it was by now March. And March is is a very busy month for storytellers and authors. Every school wants an author on International World Book Day (or as close to as they can get one)!
I did mean to get down to writing as soon as March was over but the children were sick and off school with one thing and another.... And one of the great pleasures of working-from-home is being able to Be There For The Children... (When I am actually there that is!) It is a good time for reading aloud drafts - and there was plenty of that to be done because I am always working on more than one book at once. But children off school is not much good for the silence a new book requires.
By the time they were better it was the Festival Season. The Hay Festival, the Dinefwr Festival, The Edinburgh Festival. That is when I get to hear other authors talk about the crazy struggles and joys of writing (or meant-to-be-writing). I get to take the children along on such trips, but not much writing gets done!
And it was the Summer. With my children off school (again) and my daily bedtime stories for the Siblings Together camps. You can read about that below.
Then - at last - it was September. The boys went back to school. September is a very good time to write. I am always ripe and ready for some good solid quiet work after the noisy chaos of the summer months. And I was only 6 months late!!!
2 people that I really loved died. Breath in. Cry. Breath out. Cry more. Work does Not Matter.
Then my laptop broke. At that point I almost had a small nervous breakdown. I bought a new one. (Ouch!) That one was faulty. I had a nervous breakdown. A whole week of stressful cross and weepy phone calls passed before I got it replaced.
Just in time for October. October is Black History Month. If March is busy for authors and storytellers October is CRAZY busy for black authors and storytellers.
Then I wrote the book and sent it to my editor. Eventually I got encouraging noises from my editor. I reread it . And emailed both my agent and editor: “I am rewriting.”
There were words (not for the first time that year) about sticking to deadlines and respecting the schedules of publishers, editors, designers, and illustrators who would all (ideally) like to organise their working lives sweetly, without stress, and months of delay.
I was truly sorry. And truly stressed now myself. I was wrestling with the book. Or wrestling with myself, I am never sure which it is, but the more stressed I am the more the words and ideas just won’t come. It is suddenly not a pleasurable joy to sit at my desk and stare into the woods and let the ideas and words flow out of me. But the process becomes more like being pushed onto a stage and asked to pull a rabbit out of a hat. I know I did it last time. But I don’t know HOW I did it...... And certainly I can’t do it now.
When the week of my son’s 13th birthday came I gave up. I sat outside in the sun sewing bunting for his party. I decided that sewing in the sun was much more fun than writing. Which was lucky as I had obviously completely forgotten how to write....
I abandoned my desk. I gave up completely. “I am going to be a house wife.” I announced to my skeptical husband.
Then whilst I was dozing in bed one early morning, it came. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Effortlessly. And in one single perfect beautiful day “Go Well, Anna Hibiscus.” was written. In December 2012.
Did it take a year? Or did it take a day?