For me, life really did begin at fifty five. I was fifty five years old when I took early retirement from teaching after thirty four years at the chalk face and pursued my dream to become a published author.
When I retired a colleague gave me a pillow embroidered with: May All Your Dreams Come True and since then I've done my best to make it happen.
And it's been a great journey.
Last day of teaching career, taking assembly
First, I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association as a member of the New Writers' Scheme. It took me two years to write my first novel (a romantic comedy) and to submit it to the scheme. I received a critique from a published author in my genre, and although I didn't agree with everything she said, I went away and worked on the manuscript a bit more. After receiving lots of encouragement from other RNA members I felt the manuscript was ready to be submitted to agents. I also pinned my hopes on being published by Little Black Dress (Headline) who took unagented work and I knew several members of the RNA who'd taken the same route. Sadly, my timing was all wrong as, in the interim, Little Black Dress had stopped taking submissions.
One of the harsh lessons I've learned about the writing world is that changes happen very quickly: submissions close, agents and editors move on, fashions change. You have to strike while the iron is hot. (excuse the cliché)
I submitted the completed manuscript to an editor and she suggested I lengthen it from 83, 000 words to 110,000 words and develop some of the themes. I did as suggested and Tall, Dark and Kilted (with my gorgeous hero, Ruairi) was born. Again, my RNA friends came forward with lots of suggestions of what to do next. I will be eternally grateful to Amanda Grange (author of Mr Darcy's Diaries) who suggested that I shouldn't waste another two years sending out to agents etc as 'times were a-changing'. Taking Mandy's advice I self-published on amazon – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Made up book shop front promoting my books
Believing there's strength in numbers (!) I formed a small publishing group with three other members of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme: Adrienne Vaughan, June Kearns and Mags Cullingford. We called ourselves The New Romantics 4 and published our debut novels in November 2012. I didn't know how it would all work out but I can seriously say that it's the best thing I have ever done. Log on to our website: www.newromantics4.com to learn more about us, our journey to publication and our books. We are currently working on our third novels, there's no stopping us now.
The New Romantics Logo
Me, the evening when I launched TDK on Facebook
Were all those years as a teacher and Deputy Head of a large primary school wasted? Not a bit. I've carried forward all my organisation skills, determination and expertise into my writing. I've created a social networking presence for myself, become a blogger (!) and – thanks to Amazon – my novels have been downloaded all round the world.
So, for me, life really did begin at fifty five. My advice to anyone is: If you have a dream go out there and make it a reality. Life is not a rehearsal. That's what I did, thanks for letting share my journey with you.
Collage for the New Romantics 4