To keep my pecker up in the darkest days of lockdowns one, two and three, I did what I’ve done since 2015 when I started writing – I wrote. Stories. Bad stories, good stories, scary stories, happy stories, angry stories, short stories, micro stories, stories based on fact, stories based on wild flights of imagination, stories written in different shapes from usual stories, and all of them spilling out my emotions onto the page or into the laptop, so I didn’t drown in the feelings that so often overwhelmed me before I started my writing journey. That’s what creative writing is for me. Therapy. Exorcism.
It’s not overstating things to say that over the last 6 years, writing has saved my life, and that in the last 12 months it has saved my sanity. I’m very pleased to report therefore that in addition to keeping me sane (ish) during the last six months when, in the real world, my 87 year-old mum-in-law had a stroke, my dad-in-law broke his hip, my mum-in-law then caught Covid in stoke rehab and my youngest son had Covid at Uni and had to cope on his own, I wove some of my shortest stories into a novella-in-flash, and that novella has been long-listed for the Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize, which I’m well made up about.
I’m also made up to be sharing the longlist with two of my best feedback biddies (this was meant to say buddies but the typo made me smile so wide, I couldn’t correct it.) So, Michelle Christophorou and Ali McGrane, feedback biddies and flash writers extraordinaire, both have novellas on the Bath long list too, and having read both their works, I’m pretty sure mine stands not a cat in hell’s chance of making the short list. (Making the shortlist is important in this competition because it brings an offer of publication from Ad Hoc Fiction.) But I genuinely won’t mind if mine doesn’t make it – not if theirs’ do – because both their novellas are important pieces of work that really need to be out in the world being read. I can’t say what the titles of any of our novellas-in-flash are, as everything is still being judged anonymously, but it’s all wonderfully encouraging that our collective works have made it through the first stage of selection.
But even that’s not my best writing news this month. Now, as lockdown 3 stutters toward something like relaxation and both my in-laws are home and safe, and new normal is predicated on us all knowing that shit does and will happen, I’m totally stoked (and scared and happy, and anxious and elated) to say that my memoir-in-flash The Naming of Bones opened for pre-orders on Tuesday, and that the response has been really wonderful. If you ordered a copy thanks so very much, and if you posted support on Twitter, thankyou thankyou. If you haven’t ordered one yet, you can do so by following the link below. I can genuinely say that, thanks to the beautiful cover created by Triona Walsh, and the care and diligence taken by Amanda Saint at the wonderful, award winning Indy press, Retreat West Books, it is a thing of real and exquisite beauty. If you follow the link https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/the-naming-of-bones/ you’ll be able to read what it’s all about and decide if you’d like a copy or not. If you live overseas and would prefer a paperback copy rather than kindle, you can contact me direct here, or DM me on Twitter @jankaneen1. I have a few copies reserved that I can cost for overseas posting and fulfill myself, taking payment by PayPal.
When the pre-orders went live on Tuesday I was so emotional. Writer buddy and all round insightful good egg Gaynor Jones gave me a heads up this might happen, but I still had no idea that I’d feel such a strange mixture of joy, terror, exposure and relief at the prospect of my story having a life outside my head. I’m still feeling all these things right now as I write this. But I guess that’s all part of the therapeutic journey I’m still very much on, so I’m going to say thanks again to everyone who’s bought and will buy a copy, and to everyone who reads it, then I’m going to screw every atom of my courage to the sticking place, hold on tight and hope for the best.