We all have dreams, and sometimes these dreams – or ambitions – are the driving force to success. We’ve all heard the inspirational quotes – “Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you” and like a new religion – steadfast dedication, never falling off the path, never taking your eye off the ball – are the mantra’s thrown at emerging writers all the time.
I have heard over and over again that to be a writer you have to be ruthless in your pursuit of your goals.
And I’m certainly not going to argue with that. But what I have learned, from myself and from others, is that it’s really important to make sure your goals aren’t ruthless to your dreams. The two are very different. Thinking outside the box can often get you to places you wanted to be, but via an unexpected route.
I always wanted to be a writer, as soon as I became a reader. My dream was always that: to write. And as I nurtured my talent, and developed my knowledge and skills, my goal became steadfast too: to publish a novel.
I did get published, and I am a writer. I accomplished my dream, but my goals changed. Here’s why.
I wrote a novel and ended up publishing a memoir. I’m writing a second creative non-fiction book now, as well as a new novel. And it happened because I allowed my dream to be flexible.
I have always been a writer – from diaries to freelance articles in newspapers and magazines, to my day job as a fundraising copywriter for the non-profit sector. I have always read voraciously and it was perhaps inevitable that my writing ambition ended with the ‘top prize’ of a book. I assumed that it would be a novel. And it was the writing of a novel that got me published. But it wasn’t a novel that got published (yet). My dream was to become a writer, so I thought my goal was to write a novel. It still is, but there are many goals that can make a dream come true.
When I submitted my original novel, it got me in front of agents and publishers and garnered enough interest to warrant decent feedback on my writing. This is crucial… the feedback from agents and publisher alike, was that the writing was great but the story needed work. I took this as a golden gift…. to hear from the experts what is working and what is not, were a huge step towards my goal. But although my goal of getting my novel published didn’t happen then (see? The goal is still alive!), my dream still came true, because it was flexible enough to take the opportunities that came my way.
Because a publisher loved my writing, they then looked at me as a writer, and saw something bigger than the manuscript I had submitted. They saw a potential in me that I hadn’t seen in myself. The book they asked me to write, Daughter, Mother, Me: a memoir of love, loss and dirty dishes was based on a blog I had written about my sandwich years caring for elderly parents and very young children and became a best-seller. I am now writing a second creative non-fiction, but am also, with the experience I have gained from that initial feedback and actually getting a book published, the credentials I have earned as a published author, the contacts I have made, and the fact I have a publisher and an agent supporting me, I am also writing another novel. My dream came true because I allowed it to be flexible.
Recently I spoke on a writer panel at the Cork World Book Festival on my experiences getting published. Sitting alongside me on that panel were two other writers, and when we told our stories it seems that allowing our dreams to be flexible enabled us all to be published. As we spoke to a room full of emerging and dream-driven writers, we told them that we can all dream of writing a book but often the story of how that book (or even what that book is) is needs to flexible.
On the train home, I chatted to Inkwell and writing.ie founder Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and I realised her journey to publication has been so flexible it has done back flips and somersaults. The four of us had all been flexible with our dreams, and in doing so had fulfilled those dreams, even if our goals changed along the way. Four different authors, one dream, four different roads to success.
I submitted a novel, which attracted the attention of a publisher who liked my writing, saw my blog and offered me a deal based on a creative non-fiction book. Hazel Gaynor also began with a hugely successful blog ‘Hot Cross Mum’, but it was a novel she set her sights on. When she faced the predictable rejection scenarios, she decided to self-publish because – in her words – “I had to get rid of that book. If I didn’t, I could never start the next one”. She had never dreamed of self-publishing but was flexible enough in her goals to open herself to experiences she hadn’t desired. It was so successful she got a publishing deal and she is now an award winning, New York Times bestselling novelist.
ER Murray also dreamed of being a writer. She wrote, got rejected, wrote some more, and sent her book to Vanessa at Inkwell. Vanessa loved it and referred her to one of the agents she scouts for. Because ER Murray’s dreams were flexible enough, her first book was nominated for the Dublin 2016 Citywide Reading for Children campaign run by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature and Dublin City Council’s Libraries Services and she is now working on the second of her children’s trilogy, as well as launching a book for older children – a YA novel, called Caramel Hearts next week, AND has begun an adult novel. It doesn’t get more flexible than that!
And Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin wrote a book about a wedding dress with bones in it (her fifth, in fact, as she says, ‘it took me three books to find my voice‘). When she started it, it was titled The Dressmaker, the protagonist was an artist and it was definitely literary fiction, but then a detective called Cat Connolly appeared on the scene and it changed totally. Although she was an avid crime reader, it took a while for her to realise that this was a thriller, a police procedural. She recently secured a 3 book deal as Ireland’s newest and most exciting crime writer, Sam Blake – Little Bones is out now and has already hit the No1 slot in the Easons chart. Her dream was flexible enough to change the goals, and success is hers.
Often we are told we are only limited by our dreams. Just be careful you don’t let your dreams limit your ambitions. So keep dreaming. Dream of writing, and being a writer and being published. Hold on tight to that dream, but let the dream write it’s own rules.
(c) Alana Kirk
‘In life women can have many labels: daughter, single girl, wife, career woman, mother. I had worn them all and, while life was hectic, I was the one in control. Then four days after the birth of my third daughter, my mum had a massive stroke and, just like that, everything changed.
Over the time to come – what I call ‘the Sandwich Years’ – I found myself both grieving for and caring for my beloved mum, supporting my dad, raising my three young daughters, while trying to get my career back on track. The cracks began to show. I discovered that, sometimes, having it all, means doing it all and that, amid the maelstrom of need, I had lost the label I had started out with: me.’
Daughter, Mother, Me is the heartfelt, inspirational story of the bond between a mother and a daughter and how one woman – through caring for the person she had relied on the most – finally found herself.
Daughter Mother Me is in bookshops now or pick up you copy online here!
The new rich and compelling novel from the author of The Girl Who Came Home. Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.
Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.
When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.
All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?
The Girl from the Savoy will be in bookshops from June onwards, or pick up your copy online here!
Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets her out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
Carmel Hearts will be in bookshops next week, or pick up your copy online here!
For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm.
Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.
And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.
Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.
Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?
Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…
‘Instantly gripping, perfectly paced, and filled with a brilliant cast of characters, led by the utterly likeable and relatable Detective Cathy Connolly . . . from the murky depths of these buried secrets comes an ending that truly shines.’ – Alex Barclay
Little Bones is in bookshops now, or pick up you copy in digital or paperback online here!