Monday, 31 December 2012

My highest-lightest 2012 highlights

I ummed and ahhed about a piece like this, and then I thought of the very first blog post I wrote. I'd just found my agent and was feeling like I was taking a first step down an exciting, if uncertain road; the only thing I knew was that I wanted to write about what happened next. Back then, I quoted good old Ferris Bueller and I'll quote him again now... "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it". So, in that spirit, below are just ten of the very many great things about 2012.

1) My first official outing as a soon-to-be published author was in January 2012. Thanks to the organisational efforts of my friend Kate, I ran a writing workshop in Kigali, Rwanda. I lost my voice. There was a power cut. It was an eventful first event. I loved it, and will never, ever forget it.

2) On 1st March 2012 The Book of Summers was published in hardback and after weeks of rain the sun beamed all day. I celebrated at The Gay Hussar with my fab agent Rowan, and the absolutely brilliant Headline 'Team Summer', Leah, Ben & Vicky. To top it off, towards the end of the night Leah, my editor, told me that my novel was to be a Richard & Judy Summer Book Club pick. I had to keep this amazing news under my hat for the next three months. Hard? Very. I walked back to my hotel in Bloomsbury that night feeling like one of the luckiest people around. My little book was out in the world and the very best people were helping it on its way.

3) Later in March I had my launch party at Daunt in Hampstead. Friends. Wine. Salty snacks. It was really great. I tried to give a speech to say as much, but I ended up crying instead. I think everyone knew what I meant, and more importantly, how much it meant.

4) In May The Book of Summers came out in paperback and I hit the couch with Richard & Judy. It was surreal and excellent and I just about managed to resist the urge to smother them in grateful kisses. Afterwards we drank cocktails on the Shoreditch House roof terrace and basked in the first (and one of the last) flaming-hot days of the summer.

5) At the end of May I celebrated my USA Pub Day with a plate of maple-syrup soaked pancakes. Two years earlier I'd wed in Vegas and honeymooned in New Mexico and enjoyed countless roadside diner short stacks. There was no better way to mark my publication across the pond.

6) Through the spring and summer I was lucky to get some really lovely reviews for The Book of Summers. I've come to know some brilliant book bloggers & am very grateful for their enthusiasm and thoughtful words. Almost-life-size book cover shots in Marie Claire and Grazia made me squeal in the aisles of the newsagent. I've written three pieces for ELLE through the year, after they tipped me as one of their 'most anticipated debut novelists'. Oh, I do love ELLE. And a really sweet surprise? Emails from perfectly lovely strangers, saying they'd read & liked my book. I cherish every one. And as to any less-than-lovely comments - you're just not a real author without them.

7) In July I visited Madrid for the launch of El libro de los veranos. The Spanish football team had just won Euro 2012 and were parading victorious; I arrived in the city to the tune of air horns. My publisher, Suma de letras, looked after me handsomely. I met lots of charming Spanish journalists, walked the Gran Via in blazing sunshine, spotted my book in two shop windows, and went home loaded with some of the best Manchego in Madrid. Happy, happy.

8) In August I made my first appearance at a literary festival... The Edinburgh Festival. My husband and his brother had shows of their own, so we got to experience it all together. I shared a stage with the brilliant Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. I hung out with my agent & publisher. I saw a mind-melting beat-boxer. It was all ace.

9) Earlier in the year Patrick Neate, my former Arvon tutor (O Captain, my Captain!), asked me if I'd like to contribute a short story to the new Book Slam collection. Would I? Too Much Too Young was published in November. I recorded my story, Me and Bobby McGee, for the Jarvis Cocker show on BBC 6Music, my favourite station. The Book Slam 'lit night club' came to Bristol for the first time, and I read along with fellow contributors Nikesh Shukla and Salena Godden. I repeat... Would I??

10) Through it all I've been writing my next novel, due out in July 2013. Last time it was Hungary and this time it's Switzerland. There's a girl called Hadley, and a story to be told.  2012 has been a year full of excitement and first-experiences, a proper thrill ride, but there've been a lot of quiet moments too. There had to be. Days and nights when I've disconnected my laptop from the internet, closed my writing room door, and lost myself in another world entirely. Even when deadlines are looming fiercely and the words aren't quite flowing I always treasure this; my secret place.

But my single best thing about 2012 - the highlight that beams brighter than anything else - is the support and good cheer I've enjoyed from my dear friends (many old, some new) and family. My husband, Bobby, is endlessly encouraging and always the first person to read anything I write. Without him, without them, there's little point to any of it really, so THANK YOU. And to everyone else, thank you too. May 2013 be good to us all.