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How The RNA Saved Me by Gemma Jackson

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Gemma Jackson

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How many self-help books have I bought? How many lectures and talks have I attended in the desperate hope of learning the secret to becoming a published author? I don’t even want to think about the answer to those questions.

I feel a fraud offering advice. Yes, finally, I am a published author. My debut novel Through Streets Broad and Narrow is in the shops, on the actual shelves and I still don’t believe it.

I have been sending out manuscripts and been rejected for over 25 years. Yes, you may pick yourself up off the floor now. I did say 25 years. My life didn’t come to a stop throughout those 25 years. I had my habits to support, low life things like eating and having a roof over my head. Someone’s got to pay for those and as I never seem to have a penny to bless myself with….that job fell to me.

I couldn’t give up my dream of being a published author no matter how many times I called myself a fool and a dreamer. I have to write. I simply have to escape into the world of my imagination. The longing to be published by an actual publisher like Poolbeg arose out of my own need for vindication. I needed to know that yes…I could write.

gemma_jacksonThrough a writing hopefuls website I heard about the Romance Novelist’s Association. RNA.  They offer a fabulous opportunity to would be writers. The New Writer’s Scheme was the answer to my prayers. In return for your yearly payment you received expert advice and opinion. A cadre of fabulous women, whose books you’ll see on best seller lists around the world, give their time and advice to wannabe’s.

The NWS offers an expert critique of your manuscript. I couldn’t wait. I’d been sending out manuscripts for years by the time I managed to get one of the much fought over places on the New Writer’s Scheme. I did something either incredibly stupid or incredibly clever. I sent off the very first manuscript I’d ever written. I figured I’d been receiving the same rejection for years so obviously I’d developed bad habits from the start.

I attended a RNA meeting in London before I’d managed to get my much prized place on the NWS. I went as the guest of a woman whose books I love but had never met. She signed me in as her guest. I couldn’t believe how friendly and helpful everyone was.

I learned a devastating fact at that first meeting. I HAVE NEVER RECEIVED A REJECTION LETTER IN MY LIFE. Through my own ignorance I’d been reading, what were…letters of interest… as rejections. Editor’s told me I wrote very well, knew my genre, placed the humour delightfully into my manuscript. I saw and heard none of this…all I saw was the BUT. I threw the manuscript under my bed and started again.

I was a member of the NWS for two years and learned so much.

While listening to Gay Byrne’s Sunday radio program on Lyric FM I had a brain wave. Gay and his listener’s talked a lot about the ‘good old days’.  As I sat and listened I realised that I was familiar with the world they talked about. I started my research.

I read books about the good old days until my eyes practically bled. There are thousands of them and that is not an Irish exaggeration, it’s a bloomin’ fact. These books are set in London, Liverpool, Newcastle and other places in England but there were none about Dublin. The Irish are represented in these books, with the usual, top of the morning to yeh, and begorrah. Because, let’s face it, the Irish have been leaving these shores for centuries.

I sat down and wrote Through Streets Broad and Narrow and sent the manuscript off to Poolbeg. I hadn’t realised how accustomed I was to rejection but when I received the response to this manuscript…I fought. I believed I’d found a niche in the market and had the courage of my convictions. I had the answer to every question and doubt put forward by the publisher. I begged…pleaded and generally refused to take no for an answer. I re-wrote, re-tweaked, re….every bloomin’ thing you can think of. I knew my stuff. I had the information and advice from the ladies of the RNA and I was determined.

Through Streets Broad and Narrow appeared in Ireland’s book shops on the 1st of June 2013 and I’m still trying to believe it.

So when I was asked to write tips I had to look behind me and go..Who? What? But this is my advice and my story for what it’s worth. Good Luck.

(c) Gemma Jackson

About the author

Gemma Jackson was born in Dublin the fifth of seven children. When she was only eighteen months old she was put on the back of ‘Trigger’ the famous film star, Roy Rodgers, horse. This started her love affair with horses.

She grew up in a family with no money but lots of humour and music. It was only years later she recognised the love. She grew up in an era when children were told to sit down and shut up. It never seemed to occur to the adults that the scared stiff youngsters could understand every word being spoken. She has turned all of these force fed gossip sessions into a book of charm and humour.

Gemma has travelled the world always wanting to know what is out there beyond the horizon. She had to work to pay for her travels. She has been everything from a sheep wrangler in Devon to a speech writer to a TV evangelist in America. England was her first stop on her travels, it being nearest and cheapest. She was an au-pair in Brussels to an artist and her family. She was an extra in films in Vancouver, Canada.  She was an air hostess and the poster girl for Iran Airlines when the Shah of Iran was in power. She was a war bride. The war in Iran broke out a week before her wedding forcing her to cater her own wedding breakfast.

She was one of the vast gang of people who helped put Disneyland into Paris. She sat beside Michael Jackson as they watched his 3D image perform in EuroDisney.

Gemma lives, for the moment, in a tiny fishing village at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. From her purple hair to her fat feet she is still up for anything.

Check out Gemma at gemmajacksondubliner.com   or on Twitter @gemmadubliner

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