Friday, 21 February 2014

Mentors and Mantras – How I Became a Writer by Pauline Chandler


There were lots of little steps along the way to my becoming a real writer, from getting my hands on notebooks and pencils at primary school, to joining a writers’ group, to getting my first novel published, but I didn’t do this by myself. Like a ball on a bagatelle board, I’ve often been pushed to the next step by something I’ve read, words that became mantras, or by mentors, wonderful people without whom I doubt I would ever have become a writer.

Like thousands of others, I’m a huge fan of the ‘The Voice’.
 The Voice UK judges 2014: courtesy of telegraph.co.uk
For anyone who hasn’t seen this tv show, it’s a competition to find the next superstar singer, judged by four famous singers who don’t set eyes on the contestant until they’ve chosen them to go on, solely on the sound of their singing. I like the banter among the judges, I like will i.am’s mad metaphors and Kylie’s rain dance, even Tom Jones’s name-dropping. He’s sung with Elvis, you know! But what impresses me most is that underneath all the glam and glitz, these people are survivors, who know how to bounce back from the knocks that the artistic life presents. You hear it time and again in their advice to the losing singers: ‘Don’t give up!’, ‘Keep Going!’,‘Bounce back!’ If I had to choose one mantra that's essential to any writer, it's this one.

It was this advice that helped me to get my first novel published. When publishers rejected my story, one of my mentors said, ‘Keep going. Ask them if they’ll look the story again, if you work on it.’ So I did. It took me four years and many drafts, but eventually the story was published and became my first novel for OUP, ‘Dark Thread’.

In print, but not yet in ebook form, ‘Dark Thread’ is also about spinning, real spinning, of cotton thread, in the first manufactory in the world, Arkwright’s Mill in Cromford, Derbyshire, near where I live. It’s also about weaving, metaphorical weaving, of those dark threads in your life that can either finish you or make you stronger. In the book 15 year old Kate has to cope with the feelings of anger and guilt that haunt her, after her mother’s death.  
   
One of my new friends at Authors Electric reckons you have to be mad to be a writer. So true. There’s definitely madness in refusing to give up, when publishers, constrained by accountants and a shrinking market, can no longer support lower-to-mid list writers. I know it’s not logical to keep trying against the tide. Look, I’ve tried giving up, I’ve tried telling myself to bin the book I’m writing and enjoy the garden and my new exercise bike, instead, but I can’t give up. And now, we have the chance to publish our work online, so I'll just keep going!

Pauline Chandler   www.paulinechandler.com
   






13 comments:

Kathleen Jones said...

Welcome to Authors Electric Pauline! Yes, we are all mad (well, some of us!) but we're a good bunch to hang out with. Look forward to more of your blogs.

Pauline Chandler said...

Thanks, Kathleen!

JO said...

Welcome - you'll find all the support you need, and a little bit of madness along the way, with Authors Electric.

Pauline Chandler said...

Thanks,Jo!

Chris Longmuir said...

Great first post, and yes, I agree with the mantra to bounce back. I really believe that determination has a great deal to do with success as a writer. It feels at times you are hitting your head off a brick wall (cliche alert!), but unless you keep doing it then publication will elude you. Oh, and I like The Voice as well, for exactly the same reasons.

Pauline Chandler said...

Thanks Chris. The obsession to write isn't easy to explain to those who don't have it,. It does seem mad !

Lydia Bennet said...

Good to see you on here Pauline, mentors are very important as are mantras. Keeping going isn't always easy but something makes us keep on doing what we do! (I'm Valerie Laws btw, my alter ego Lydia Bennet posts for me!)

Debbie Bennett said...

I'm the mad one... I must be. I have a day job - do I really need an evenings, weekends and every other spare minute job as well?

Dennis Hamley said...

Welcome, Pauline. Dark Thread is a wonderful book. I reviewed the Five Leaves edition for Armadillo. So assured: it didn't read like a first book. And yes, we must be a bit dulally. Why do we bother? Because we have to, of course.

Dennis Hamley said...

PS When we get home I'll put my review on Eclectic Electric.

julia jones said...

Personally I think that writing is a way of staving off madness.

Pauline Chandler said...

Gosh! Thanks for all this wonderful feedback,and thanks especially to Dennis for posting his lovely review of DT on Eclectic Electric. I've a lot to learn about publishing online but I'm definitely with the right team! Sending you all a big hug!

Pauline Chandler said...

I'm with you, Julia. Writing soothes my troubled mind. x