Conversations In My Mind#3


Barcelona, Religion, The Head Scarf


Being a writer means you spend a lot of time with just yourself. Even after you have daydreamt to your heart’s content there’s still plenty of time between ideas. And that’s the time my writer’s brain comes up with these conversations with various people, some real, some imagined!

Conversation with neighbours

Me: (opening door to neighbour) Hello!

Neighbour: I hope I didn’t disturb you.

Me: No, no.

Neighbour: It’s just that someone told me that a writer had recently moved in here and I wanted to meet you.

Me: Yes, of course. I suppose it’s because you’ve never met a writer before?

Neighbour: No, no.

Me: Oh.

Neighbour: It’s because I wanted to ask you for something and…

Me: (with wild thoughts running through my head) Yes?

Neighbour: Do you think…if you aren’t too busy…could you sign your books for me?

Me: (looking around) Which books?

Neighbour: (pulling books out of her bag like a magician) These books!

Me: You… you have all my books.

Neighbour: Yes! And my children have read them all hundreds of times. They are always quoting bits from your books and…

Me: (in a daze, signing books) Yes, yes.

Neighbour: Some of the books are a little tattered because…

Me: Your children have read them so many times?

Neighbour: Well… yes. But it’s actually because they love your books so much they both want to read them. And so, sometimes they quarrel and tug them about and so…

Me: I love your children!



And here’s when reality colours the conversation with its grim shades!


Me: (opening door to neighbour) Hello!

Neighbour: Hi! Are you busy?

Me: Well, I am in the middle of some work and …

Neighbour: Ooh, do you work?

Me:  I am a writer. So, I don’t go to an office but yes, I do work.

Neighbour: Oh. So, what exactly do you do?

Me: I write stories and books for children.

Neighbour: All day?

Me: Of course not! I write when I get ideas.

Neighbour: Wonderful! Then you aren’t really busy. (Comes in and settles herself down)

Me: Er…I do have things to do.

Neighbour: Will your boss be angry?

Me: Oh, I don’t have a boss.

Neighbour: This is terrific. Then we can go out. I know! Let’s meet once a week and go out.

Me: (horrified) No, I can’t go out.

Neighbour: All right. Let’s have a weekly meeting here. I’ll get all my friends. They’ll love your house; it’s so nice and quiet. And your family is out all day. No one to object to any noise!

Me: But… I don’t really know these people. What will I talk to them?

Neighbour: Oh, just tell us about your job. No boss, no deadlines, working only when you feel like it – that exactly the kind of job we all dream of having!


A Writer’s World #8 Fifty books and counting…do numbers matter?

A while back my 50th book was published. Of course, the world knew nothing of this but it was a pretty special moment for me.

My first book was a picture book and it was published 15 years ago. I had made up the story to entertain my small son. The joy on his face when I narrated the story to him had been reward enough. And then, I had sent it to a publishing house on a whim. When it was accepted and published, it was a pretty special moment for me. My name on a book was something I had dreamt of, but never really imagined happening. Every book that came after this was a bonus, because my dream had been small and manageable – I had only wanted to have one book published. After the fifth or sixth book I stopped counting. Not because I was tired or had grown so certain of my publishing career but because of something more important.

Publishing my books took a back seat to my desire to write. Of course, I did want the world to read my books but when I was writing and working on polishing my story, that was all that mattered. I dreamt, not of seeing the book in print with my name on it, but of writing a story that would create magic with its combination of believable characters, an interesting plot and a unique setting. And so I glued myself to my chair and thought up worlds and stories, characters and twists. There were years when nothing I wrote was accepted, there were years when I had a sudden rash of releases. There were rejections and long waits for editors to get back to me. There were huge moments of self-doubt, long periods when it seemed futile to write another word.

And then, a new idea would grip me and hold me in its thrall. It would occupy my every waking moment, allowing me no time at all to think of anything else. And that’s how I wrote and wrote and wrote. Why I persevered and sent out sample chapters to editors, and waited patiently to hear from them.

And so, when my 50th book was published it was a pretty special moment for me for several reasons. From dreaming of publishing one book I had come to having my 50th book out. I had risen from the depths of despair where it had seemed logical to never write again and written more. And with every story I plotted, every word I wrote, my voice had become stronger and surer.

It was incredible that something as abstract and insubstantial as an idea, something born in the humble corners of my brain, could have resulted in so many publications. It seemed even more incredible that people were reading the stories I wrote, that I was being paid to do what I would have done for free, that I was recognised for the worlds I had created and peopled.

And then, when I looked at the number of books I had published, 50 acquired sudden significance. It was proof that words can create magic, that they can influence people and create an identity for you that has nothing to do with all the roles you play in your life.

And for that, yes, numbers are important. Every single book you notch up is yet another validation of yourself, and the magic of your words and your stories.


A Writer’s World #7 Why Writing to Authors is Important

How often have you read a book, enjoyed it, and then set out on a mission to urge it on all the readers you meet? It happens to all of us; a book sets our imagination on fire, it fills us with joy and wonder. The world is a different place because we have just read the most amazing book in the world. All we want to do is to go right back to it and read it again and again.

We look at the poor souls who have not been lucky enough to have enjoyed this magic  and feel sorry for them. And so, we urge the book on everyone we meet, assuring them that it will be a life altering experience, that the beauty of the language will sweep them away and the lovely storytelling draw them in. And every time we convince someone to read the book, we are filled with a sense of jubilation. It is as if you have allowed one more person into a secret garden and can now look forward to discussing the beauties of the garden with them.

In all this joyous celebration of a book, where is the author?

Even the most appreciative of readers will be at a loss if asked this question. True, the author is the person who wrote the book. But that was a long time ago, somewhere in the past. Since then the book has travelled the world, it has passed from hand to hand, making a home and nestling in hearts and minds everywhere. It has spoken in different voices to its readers, and has therefore come to mean something different to each of them. It has, in short, become a reader’s book.

This is wonderful, of course, and exactly what any author would dream of for her book. But, wouldn’t it be nice to invite the author to the party you are throwing in honour of her book? In short, wouldn’t it be nice to write to the author and tell her what you thought of her book?

For the vast majority of people who read and enjoy books, the thought of writing to authors is startling and fresh and new. And sometime even a little frightening. Does one really write to authors? And will the author like to be written to? Finally, how does one go about writing to an author?

Yes, of course any author will be thrilled to hear from readers. Finding ways to contact her is no challenge; most authors have websites and are on various social media.

But what does one write to an author? That is the easiest question to answer- you write what you have been telling the world about her book! You tell her how much you loved it and what you loved about it. Authors are humble people and will accept any suggestions or criticism you offer on the book.

I remember feeling down because a book of mine had been reviewed harshly. I didn’t  mind the reviewer not liking the book, because, after all, everyone is entitled to their views. What I did mind was that it seemed as if the reviewer had not really paid attention to the story and had found faults merely for the sake of finding them. And that was when a reader wrote to tell me how much she had enjoyed the very same book. She had picked it up for her child, she said, but been tempted to read it. It had transported her to the days of her childhood and so, she had decided to write and tell me.

Even if your letter doesn’t reach the author at such a dramatically perfect moment, it is sure to bring a smile to her face. Isn’t that a very small return for all the hours of joy she’s given you?