While I had an overall brilliant, formative 4 years completing an undergraduate degree (BA in English with a focus in Creative Writing,) graduating in 2007, one thing that has always stayed with me is something my then supervisor, poet Laura-Gray Street, told me – If I wanted to write books, I should seriously consider not having children. Fortunately this jived pretty well with my predisposition anyway, and furthermore, fitted very well with the attitude of my to-be and now former husband. This was probably due to growing up with a handful of aunts and uncles who did not have children, and always seemed to be jetting off to exotic places.
My life must be allowed to centre upon books. This is why I felt the ferocity of a mother tigress for her cubs – indeed, violent, fierce images came frequently to mind – when defending a book that I’d worked on for three years against a terrible, terrible cover, and an unfortunately nasty editor. It’s also why I chose to break with Templar Press, and why I am equally thrilled that Opera di Cera will not be published partially in pamphlet form with Templar, but in its entirety, with a glorious cover, by Valley Press. My books are my babies, and I put a lot of time, effort, blood | sweat | tears – insert what cliche you will – into them.
So it is with great pleasure that I look towards the next nine months, to see three books coming out – books that have been in the making for the past six years. The editors worked closely with me on the cover design, and I appreciate their skill and enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to holding these beautiful books.
First, due to be published by Valley Press in September, is Pocket Horizon, the marvellous compendium of poetry by a talented set of poets, whom I was able to shepherd into a Masterclass workshop with leading poet, Don Paterson. Don has been extremely generous in his involvement with this project, and he is contributing an introduction to the book, the pages of which also dance with illustrations by Cassie Herschel-Shorland.
Then, on 13 Feb, at a Valentine’s-centred event at the magnificent Bart’s Museum of Pathology, Dr Anna Maerker and I will once more jointly present talks (Anna) and poetry (me) about the Anatomical Venus. This will also be the launch of Opera di Cera. For those of you who made it to the event at the Gordon, I’ll be reading a different selection of poems – and for those of you who weren’t able to make it – here is another chance for wine, women, and wax.
Events at Bart’s are run by the Queen of what I call the ‘Dead Cupcake Crowd,’ that group of fabulously turned-out retro fashionistas who somehow combine red lipstick and bleach-blonde fashion with…well, dead stuff. Carla Valentine hosts a series of events at Barts, and I was blown away by the gruesome Black Dahlia event she held last year – and was also blown away by the strength of the cocktails this woman serves up. The events are worth attending for the drinks alone. Barts Pathology Museum is the perfect place to launch Opera di Cera, just as the Gordon Museum of Pathology was the perfect place to debut the drama. I’m thrilled that we’ll hold the launch there in Feb!
Last but certainly not least, my poetry collection Atlantic, which has been on the publishing list with Cinnamon Press for about two years – always planned for 2014 – will be published in May 2014. Atlantic is a very different exercise in poetry than Opera di Cera. It is a collection of poems written over a long period of time, after Darwin’s Microscope, and up to about now, about family, grief, and the ambivalence of living abroad.
This flurry of publishing is extremely satisfying, and I also want to make it clear to those who aren’t writers that this is unusual. Writers will appreciate that it takes a long time for a book to go from start to finish, and often even longer to go from finished to published. I’ve been working on Atlantic for about 6 years, Opera for about 3, and PH – well, that was an intense, pressure-cooked book, and all the more remarkable for it – we began everything in January of this year. All in all that is still nearly 10 years of work, on and off. If you want to be a writer, I believe you must put that kind of time in.
I’m not sitting still, of course – I have just put the finishing touches on my novel, Double the Stars: The Life and Adventures of Miss Caroline Herschel, and will have some news about that soon, too. And The Naked Muse is going very well – I feel very different about this book, having an agent for it, and am curious to see how that particular journey goes.
These books could not be what they are (and are going to be) without the generosity of the cover artists (Marcos Avlonitis for Pocket Horizon, Tanya Marcuse for Opera di Cera, and Henrike Scholten for Atlantic,) nor without the enthusiasm of the marvellous publishers – Jamie McGarry at Valley Press, and Jan Fortune at Cinnamon Press. Nor – especially – would these books have been written without the support of my friends and family. Thank you all for reading, and I hope to see you at some of the events!