Someone once asked me why I was doing yet another writing course when I already have numerous published books – via Winter Goose Publishing – plus an audiobook, as though being a published author is the pinnacle of my desires. My short answer was, there is always something new to learn, always the need to improve, and a desire to hone my skill with every novel I write.
On reflection, this has been a way of life for me. As a qualified nurse, I was always undertaking short courses to learn the latest techniques or understand a medical condition in more depth. I even studied for a degree in child and adolescent mental health whilst working. The desire to learn never stops as knowledge isn’t static, it evolves, and I want to evolve with it.
This current course at The Novelry – A Book in a Year course – has taught me to embrace Grammarly, which I wouldn’t want to be without now, but I have eschewed Scrivener for now as it’s one tech step too far for me. I am a notebook – the beloved Moleskine – notecards, sticky notes, and mind map kind of gal. That’s not to say I won’t try it at some point – I’m just not ready right now.
A downside of studying the art of writing in depth is that it tends to make me doubtful of my ability to write. I am an avid reader, and each time I start a new book, I can’t help comparing my work to the one I am reading. It can sometimes take the pleasure of reading away briefly. There are also so many conflicting views on the rules of writing. Louise Dean at The Novelry prefers to say ‘tools not rules’ which is something I am trying to embrace as I navigate the sea of knowledge to find my own way to the island of literary bliss.
Well, what can i say about me? I’m a 32 year old married woman and mum to 3 crazy boys, aged 12,5 and 3. My eldest has a genetic condition that causes a visual impairment so as you can imagine life can be very chaotic and provides many challenges along the way but I would 100% never change any of them. They fulfil my life beyond measure.
I Adore Books – I adore shouting about books! I’m a reviewer of all genres, whether that be Epic Fantasy, Gothic Horror, a historical romance or a race-to-the-end thriller. I will read them all.
Thank you, Yvonne, for taking the time to listen and review this novel. Hope you all enjoy reading her in-depth review.
Postnatal psychosis strips Colette of her early time with her baby, shreds her sanity, and almost destroys her marriage. When suicide seems the only option, Colette must face her limitations and move forward with demons clinging to every aspect of her life, whilst desperately trying to hold on to what she dearly loves.
The Reluctant Mother. How many times is this a glaring foghorn in many women’s lives? This story was a bit of a throwback for me personally. I didn’t suffer with Post-Partum Psychosis but quite severe PND with my first child. I was a brand-new mother at the tender age of nineteen and was now faced with the reality of a disabled son. It was raw and grieving to a point and unfortunately the bonding wasn’t as immediate as I had hoped. The story is raw and slow – paced but it is everything that it needs to be. It’s 369 pages of pain and misguided mistakes.
A mother. The image instantly sparks a scene of an ethereal being that juggles an amazing amount of tasks each day while caring for children. Society has painted a picture of motherhood that should come naturally, bonding being an instantaneous thing. The truth is it’s more common than not to feel sensations of the “blues.” Society has a large portion of the blame for unnatural expectations placed upon new mothers. The words an unwanted echo in their psyche….They must lose weight. They must be a good mother and wife. You must breastfeed.
The Reluctant Mother is multi-layered and parallel, and the reader was able to recognise situations, characters and pain contained within the pages. The author created a narrative that will resonate with many women.
The story is told in two different viewpoints, Collette and her husband, Finn. The birth of their baby, Dylan has brought a massive change to the dynamics of their family life. Collette is admitting to a psyche ward after giving birth to their baby – a diagnosis of Post-partum Psychosis is quickly discussed. Her pain and suffering is like a cold knife at the back of your neck. It changes her husband too; his actions are at time extremely painful and would make me angry the more I read but I suppose people deal with difficult situations in different ways. It’s a difficult topic to read about and I had to read this story in smaller segments because it emitted strong emotional responses in me.
The Reluctant Mother is tackles extremely difficult topics…Motherhood. Infidelity. Depression. It’s a stark reminder that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Life is going to throw you a curveball and it’s all about keeping your head above water and to just keep swimming. Throw in the deviousness of an apparent best friend who always seems to have an ulterior motive.
The issue that really sticks out in this story is the vow – “in sickness and in health.” Are these words just spoken without any thought of what that actually means in reality. People get sick and sometimes they get struck down with chronic illness. How many people will actually stay and look after them, without looking elsewhere for things there partner can no longer give them. It’s sad and upsetting.
The Reluctant Mother was intricately plotted and beautifully written. A must-read novel about motherhood and depression and most of all about love. Hemmie Martin can bring a scene to life with a mere sentence.
I made great use of the total lockdown period by listening to each chapter of The Reluctant Mother, recorded by the talented Marie-Pierre Voice. This was a new experience for me. I had to read the novel at the same time to ensure the recording followed the print version, and my publisher had to do the same, too.
I must admit, that occasionally, it felt like I was listening to a Radio 4 play – Marie’s voice is so beautiful to hear. As I wrote the book a few years ago, I had forgotten certain aspects of the story, which made me drift into being a listener instead of the author checking for required corrections! The hours of work which goes into recording a book is immense, and I am in admiration of narrators everywhere.
The book blurb: Postnatal psychosis strips Colette of her early time with her baby, shreds her sanity, and almost destroys her marriage. When suicide seems the only option, Colette must face her limitations and move forward with demons clinging to every aspect of her life, whilst desperately trying to hold on to what she dearly loves.
The chapters are narrated by Colette and Finn – wife and husband. Marie manages to read both with individual voices and uses the perfect voice for Finn’s mother – reminiscent of Margaret Rutherford, in my mind. Fun fact – I am hopeless at impressions, and Margaret Rutherford is the only voice I can do – ‘A handbag?’ from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Audiobooks are wonderful to listen to when travelling, doing household chores, lying in bed or lying in the garden. My hubs enjoys listening to them while doing the washing up. I must say that I listened to Hard Times by Charles Dickens, when I wasn’t enjoying reading the book – shame on me, I know.
Here are a couple of reviews of The Reluctant Mother to hopefully wet your appetite.
Masterfully written, this book draws the reader into the stigmatising and life changing world of mental illness. Each main character has their own narrative and their own way of coping. Realistic, powerful & highly recommended.
Have you ever read a book that is so painful to read and yet is so beautifully written that you find you can’t put it down? This book is that for me. Colette’s story is the hardest thing in the world to read if you have ever suffered with postnatal issue, but do you know what I would say even if you haven’t it is a book I would really recommend as it is a beautifully written insight into what is the one of the darkest time in a woman’s life. I am struggling to put into words just how much this story touched me so please bear with me. This is a book that will forever have a place in my heart, a book that broke my heart in someways and yet fixed it in others. If you want to know just what I mean I would have to say read it as it really is a more than five star read in my opinion.
I applied to undertake a writing course when I was working as a nurse in 1997, and my daughters were three and one years old, but the opportunity to study for a nursing degree came along, and there was only so much I could do if I were to stay sane. I reluctantly put writing on the back burner until I retired early from nursing and my daughters were at university. Finally, I have an office to write in where I have a notice board to pin notes and quotes to, and space to spread my work, study notes, and keep my umpteen books on writing. My desk is an old Victorian kitchen table, and my chair is the one my youngest daughter used at her desk before she left for university. Alfie, my white cat, has a bed in the room, which he uses when the mood takes him.
I was struggling to complete a novel, so I put it to one side and started another one, only to find the first one drawing me back to the characters I had bonded with. I started writing it from a different viewpoint, only to find I was stumbling halfway through yet again. My confidence as a writer was low; I was allowing the negative voices in my head to dampen my creativity. Every writer goes through this, I am not unique, but it hurts all the same. Not to be defeated, or drown my liver in alcohol, I decided to be proactive.
Having already completed a couple of online writing courses, with varying degrees of success, I decided to find a longer course which would offer me a deeper understanding of writing and creating a novel. When I stumbled upon The Novelry while searching on Google for writing courses, I was excited by A Book in a Year course which would see me complete my book and edit it thoroughly. I was even more convinced I had found the right course and environment for learning and writing once Louise Dean had emailed a response to my questions.
Becoming a member of The Novelry is more than learning the craft of writing. It is a haven to ask questions (we often feel we should know the answer to), to air concerns and doubts about our work, and to give and receive feedback on works in progress. It is a very encouraging, nurturing, and stimulating environment – and what writer doesn’t need that from time to time.
I didn’t think I was a writer unless I was toiling for hours, making my fingers bleed on the keyboard until I began The Book in a Year course, where I was permitted to write for only one hour a day, which shocked me at first. The rest of the time was dedicated to thinking about the plot, characters and their desires, as well as undertaking the lessons, which were often a springboard to where I was going next with the novel. Although I originally wrote between five and six in the morning, I soon discovered my creativity flowed better between seven and eight in the evening. My creativity is anti-social, but the dark shadows under my eyes are grateful. The course encouraged me to set me a writing routine which I did not have before, and it is something I will continue when writing my next novel.
The Classic course had me rereading novels such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ to dissect the story structure, which I found helpful when looking at the structure of my own work in progress.
The course encouraged me to read authors I had never read before, such as Jack Kerouac, Muriel Spark and Anton Chekhov. There is a list of ‘hero’ books, of which I had to choose one for my bedtime reading, so I end the day immersed in the genre I am writing. I chose ‘The Gathering’ by Anne Enright, then changed the genre of my novel from accessible literary to UpLit, so read ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman as well. During the day, I read other novels, and I am currently reading one book by each of the tutors, to give me a flavour of their work.
I live in Suffolk, on the Norfolk border where, at long last, I have an office to write in. My two daughters have graduated, one as a vet and the other as a computer scientist – don’t ask me exactly what she does! I enjoy feeding the wildlife in my garden and have a hedgehog and hoglet living in a special house of their own. You will find me putting out their special food after dark, then listening to them feeding – it’s surprising how noisy they are.
Sylvia Plath honoured the diminutive, amiable and prickly Erinaceus europaeus which The Times once suggested should be our national emblem in the UK, or perhaps the emblem of writers writing…
“I hold my breath until you creak to life/ Balled hedgehog/ Small and cross.”
The novel I am writing is Up Lit, a genre I came to love after reading ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. My writing is influenced by one of my favourite authors, Anita Brookner, whose books I devoured since the late eighties, and have reread several times. Another comfort read I turn to is Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, which never fails to satisfy me, no matter how many times I read it, and I am also very fond of Anne Enright, Maggie O’Farrell, and Anne Tyler. I have just realised they are all female authors, but this has not been a deliberate choice.
Hemmingway said, ‘Write drunk, edit sober’, which can be interpreted in various ways. Hemmingway was perhaps intimating that a writer should write as though drunk, removing inhibitions and just letting the words flow for the first draft. However, when it comes to editing, the writer should be alert to every word and eliminate the ones which add nothing to what she or he is trying to say. Another way of taking the phrase is one I have tried, which is to write while drinking alcohol and see where the writing takes me. I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking, and I cannot say whether the experiment worked or not, as whatever I write, I edit hard, so probably undoing the dross I wrote while tipsy.
I am particularly fond of the live team meetings with the tutors on hand to answer questions and facilitate the session. Even if I have nothing to say, I like to attend as I always learn something from listening to other people’s questions and hearing the insightful answers from the tutors. They are at eight in the evening, so you will find me in my loungewear, with no make-up on, sipping soya milk or an alcoholic beverage, depending on my mood and whether I have a question to ask!
The live sessions include The Story Clinic and guest tutor classes such as Louise Doughty, author of ‘Apple Tree Yard’ and more recently, ‘Platform Seven’. I have a special notebook where I jot down the nuggets of information; otherwise, I would not remember it all – and that has nothing to do with the alcoholic drink I may or may not be sipping at the time!
I was in awe of ‘meeting’ Louise Doughty as I loved ‘Apple Tree Yard’ when I read it years ago. Now I have this free time; I will be reading ‘Platform Seven’ after I have finished Louise Dean’s novel, ‘Becoming Strangers’, and Tim Lott’s ‘When We Were Rich’.
The community of writers are a vibrant, friendly, knowledgeable crowd. I feel honoured to be in their company and celebrate their milestones and successes. Many of their faces have become familiar thanks to the online meetings, which have been comforting during the lockdown.
Joining The Novelry has given me the tools (not rules -as Louise says!) and encouragement to complete my novel. But not only that, it has lifted my spirits immensely during the lockdown, giving me the drive and focus as the life I knew fell apart around me.
In three weeks, I will commence the Big Edit course, and hopefully, hone my novel into something beautiful to read. I already have the premise for my next book, so you will find me hanging around The Novelry for quite some time. Happy days!
Well here we are again, in lockdown week six – or is it seven? Time is merging and I no longer know what day of the week we are. I even had to think which month we were a few days ago.
During this time, we’ve had to adapt in more ways than one, but I didn’t expect to be cutting hubs hair. Fortunately, he’d bought a beard trimmer before the lockdown, so we went into onto the patio – saved me getting out the hoover – and I did the deed. It wasn’t too bad – but I’m not adding a photo to this post!
To return the favour, I asked hubs to wax my armpits! Needs must, folks. Again, the result was good, but he had sticky palms and my skin was tender for hours, but worth it. If I shave my armpits the skin looks like a plucked chicken!
Hubs and I have been having a battle of the open windows in the bedroom. I’ve always advocated airing the house, especially the bedroom, even when it’s chilly outside. He, on the other hand, likes them firmly shut. We’re both sneaking around opening or closing the damn things, without telling one another. However, during this Covid-19 time, a well-aired house is recommended, so ha!
Although my daughters graduated from uni a year ago, I’m still sending them boxes of goodies to ease the pain of not seeing one another, and to give them some cheer during this time.
I’ve had a good sort out in my office and it’s now uncluttered, so my creativity has increased – although some days the words flow better than others. I’m not the only one to feel a simmering of anxiety and fear coursing through my mind at times, I’m sure. Mind you, I’ve done a thorough spring clean of the whole house – hubs even bought me a pair of special ‘bobble cloth’ slippers which go over my shoes so when I glide around, I’m picking up the cat hairs – genius!
Some local independent shops are offering home delivery of their products, so we’ve been able to support the local deli by purchasing a selection of glorious cheeses, bread and artichoke hearts, plus a cheeky bottle of red wine. I have even purchased my favourite sweets I like to eat whilst writing – yes I know without going regularly to the gym as I used to, this is a risky thing to do! I’m known as the Spog Lady (I’m obviously eating too many oops).
Hubs watched the Netflix, ‘The Tiger King’, whilst I wrote in peace, and we binged watched, ‘After Life’, which I highly recommend, although I cry at the end of each episode.
I’m grateful for having a garden to tend to and sit in, and I feel for those, like my daughters, who live in flats. I admire those parents with children at home – it can’t be easy, especially if they have no outdoor space or the children are little balls of energy as my two were when they were little. Let’s hope it’s not too long before we have a little more freedom to stretch our wings, whilst still keeping socially distant from one another. The photo is the wood-burning stove in our local pub, and I fear it will be months before we see it again – there may even be a plate of mince pies sitting on the hearth by the time we do!
Well here we are, almost three weeks into lockdown and Alfie’s taken to drinking gin! (Before you call the RSPCA – it’s water) I’ve kept my own alcohol consumption to its normal minimum, but snacking has increased – I won’t be beach ready this year, although there may be no beaches to visit, who knows? I’m missing my gym classes, and the online alternatives don’t work as well for me – I can be a bit lazy, given half the chance.
I’ve rediscovered childhood comfort food in the form of bananas and custard – which we’re eating quite regularly – such is the need for comfort these days!
I’ve reread Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman as a comfort read and have ordered Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the copy I have is in a box of children’s books in the loft, which feels like climbing Mount Everest to go there), as another source of comfort read.
I’ve discovered Tiggy is back in the hedgehog house, so I’m feeding him hog food and some mealworms. In turn, he thanks me by pooing all over the patio.
I’ve realised how wonderful it is to have a neighbour with an allotment, as he has provided us with lots of delicious purple sprouting broccoli. I’ve made stir-fries with it using fresh ginger, garlic, bacon and mushrooms with pasta (I had some in fortunately as it’s like gold dust!)
WHO is buying all the plain Galaxy chocolate still?? I managed to find some with caramel in our local shop, for which I’m grateful, but plain Galaxy is another comfort food for me. Hey ho…
Thursdays at eight o’clock is a time to connect with neighbours as we all stand on our doorsteps clapping all the NHS staff, care staff, and other services who are doing sterling work during this difficult time.
I hope you are all still keeping well and safe, and finding the headspace to write and read. Thank you for being here.