Guest Blog by Evelyn Bhatt
Part One can be read here
The writers retreat
One weekend late in November I set off on my own to my very first retreat, of any kind, to spend the weekend with a bunch of people I had never meet (apart from Sue and Jude). I was filled with trepidation, but I knew for this to become a reality I had to sometimes get out of my comfort zone and embrace what was to lie ahead.
Easier said than done when I walked into a lively room full of women – a mixture of ages and a mixture of experiences- some new like me and some real life published authors!! Sue and Jude soon made me feel at ease and introduced me to everyone – it took me until the Sunday when I was leaving to remember everyone’s name. The room oozed excitement and enthusiasm and definitely put my doubts to rest. The weekend enriched me in so many ways I can only mention a few. The camaraderie I felt amongst these strangers was something I had forgotten existed. Not one of these authors or soon to be authors were going to benefit financially from any of my books but that did not stop the many words of inspiration ‘you can do it’ and ‘you have got to tell that story’ – their words of encouragement blew me away. I learnt so much that weekend not only about the techniques but it gave me the opportunity and freedom of time to just write and let my imagination run away with itself. The talent in the room was breath taking and yes definitely made me think – who am I kidding! However, over the weekend you couldn’t help but be swept up in this wonderful force of enthusiasm and I learnt to believe in myself again and the idea that this could actually come true was solidified.
Up until now I had never been on any sort of social media not because I didn’t believe in it – somehow setting up 2 businesses and having 3 children took over and so when everyone knew what – hit like or love and # this or # that meant I was blissfully unaware – but that was all about to change!
You see what I was soon to discover, writing the story is the easy bit – writing your thoughts and ideas down and only you to see it – no problem! But if you are going to let the world enjoy (hopefully) your words – you need to let them know about it!! Made sense of course but never the less terrified me!
Again, thanks to the support of Team Author there was help on hand – courses to tap into – even for novices like me. So, without ever being on FB before I was off to set up something called my profile and an author page – things were getting serious now. I don’t think Sue had ever met such a hopeless case when it came to social media as me. But she held my hand (i.e. set it up for me!!) while Jan gave a whistle stop tour of how tools such as FB could help spread the word and help you build your business as an author.
Well finally joining the world of Social media has certainly been an eyeopener. One of the amazing benefits was catching up with old friends. Initially FB it took over my life- I had 20 years of peoples’ photos to catch up with (I actually felt sad I hadn’t done it before as I felt I had missed out in staying in touch with some of these lovely people – big shout out to Carrie, Sarah, Claire and Lynn that I had gone to university with)
Having looked through everyone’s photos I realised I only had 2 on my profile page – one of me and one of my sock bin (it made sense at the time!) and I suddenly felt I had to quickly sneak in a zillion photos of my life onto my profile page without anyone noticing!! I was soon to discover you can DO NOTHING on Facebook without everyone getting hundreds of notifications that you have changed this or added that – so apologies to everyone for all the strange goings on my page – I will soon have caught up with you all! Oh, and thanks for all your likes btw!
So, what happened next
- Well after my first writers retreat I wrote what was to become my first book to be published.
- I have joined the crazy world of social media – I now have about 10 sources of places I get information from – I can no longer remember where I read it, who said it and more importantly did I hit the’ I like it’ button!!
- Of course, I had moments of self-doubt – me an author – who was I kidding but I’ve learnt a few things to help with that –
- Connect with someone form TeamAuthor or fellow authors – either by social media, meet up or chat on the phone – their support and encouragement is endless. Learn from their stories and their successes – its inspiring.
- Print off pictures of your characters and pin them up by where you write – it gives you endless belief.
- Think what if you didn’t do it and someone else gets to tell your story – that definitely spurred me into action.
- Go sit in a book shop/ library and imagine your book being on that self – why not!
- Sometimes I felt it was a mind field but I soon realised I wasn’t on my own and help was at hand for every step of the way with the numerous resources from TeamAuthor.
- But what will people think – well to be honest my friends and family have been super supportive and want to see the book succeed and so many people have said’ I’d love to write a book but I don’t know where to start’ – so of course I will encourage them to get in touch with Sue and the team
- Thankfully my moments of uncertainty have been followed by moments of great excitement and belief that I can do it, such as
- Seeing sketches of my characters for the first time
- Being sent a proof of my words and illustrations for me to approve so it can be uploaded onto create space – beyond exciting!
- Hearing one of my boys telling their friend his Mum was now an author!
- Going to book launches or hearing about people I had meet on the writer’s retreat launch their first books – go Imelda Summerton, Jennifer Jones Elm Blan and of course Jude Lennon to name just a few – that was inspiring.
My life has now been taken over by socks!
- So many people now say – ‘oh I have a sock bin too!’ they have even sent me photos of their bins and sent me random photos of some of their special socks!!
- People tagging me in adds for socks – I will be known as the sock lady for ever more!
- My sock bin is still over flowing – well I can’t throw any out now – it would just be wrong!
- Leaning there is an actual awareness day dedicated to lost socks – 9th May – the day I will launch my book – maybe it will give you some ideas of where all your odd socks have gone!
- Finding out that socks are also connected to some amazing awareness days – Downs Syndrome day (21st March) and antibullying awareness week in November.
- Creating Supersock- who is he? – a super hero sock of course! with Lisa Williams. He will represent the charities that I hope the proceeds of my book will raise money for (more on that later).
Well I feel my exciting journey is just about to begin – I hope by reading this blog that you will realise that if you want to write a book – if I can you most certainly can – remember I didn’t even know what a blog was when I started out! So, if I can give you nothing but hope I will be happy. Because in reality I didn’t do it on my own – as I said before the enjoyable and easy bit was writing the book – what to do with it next was the big unknown question. Without meeting Jude Lennon, Sue Miller and TeamAuthour would I have published? – well I might have got some printed and made my family buy them but I honestly don’t think I would have had the courage and certainly not the know how to take it any further. The knowledge and encouragement I gained from TeamAuthor has been priceless and made this journey less daunting and less lonely!
By the time you read this I will have published my first book, and a second one on its way – who me an author- I would never have believed that! I wish you all the luck in the world and would love to hear about your exciting journey – you can do it and if you are ever in doubt ring Sue because she knows you can do it! Happy writing.
About the author
Evelyn Bhatt is a children’s author.