The first six months of this year have mostly been about getting well (Did you know one in seven women will get breast cancer? I was incredibly lucky mine was found very quickly), getting my husband well (long story – but basically the NHS has saved both our lives recently) and teaching. I also launched a book (The Bigger Picture: Women Who Changed the Art World, written for the Tate and illustrated by the brilliant Manjit Thapp). Now I’m finally in the full flow of writing the next novel and I LOVE IT. No publisher for it yet; no contract. It’s a new direction and I want to see if I can do it first, but at the moment it’s an absolute blast. So I’m mostly living in the shed and keeping my head down. (When I’m not being a mum and step-mum, and navigating through a busy life at home. Like so many writers I know. What you see in the books is the tip of an iceberg of a busy life.)
In September, it’ll be time to step out of the shed again. I’ll be at JAGS school in Dulwich to deliver my Winning Like a Girl talk to Year 7s. It’s all about how hard it still is to be yourself, and be a successful woman. Girls are good at being people-pleasers, because we’re encouraged to be that way all our lives, and so often we think we need to mould ourselves into what other people expect in order to succeed. But that’s not how to stand out, or be happy in the long term, and I have a bunch of brilliant role models to suggest to girls who want the courage to own their space, embrace what makes them unique, and seriously shine.
It’ll be back to teaching, too. I enjoy it more each time I do it, and I enjoyed it a lot in the first place! Each time, I encounter a new set of students with their own voices and important stories to tell. It’s an opportunity for me to share my experiences of the unpublished years and the ten years (and ten books) since, with what worked and didn’t work, what I wish I’d known then and what I’m glad I didn’t know. I only have one rule when it comes to writing for children. (Take my class at City Uni and you’ll find out what it is). Everything else is a tip, a suggestion or a guideline. The best bit is seeing a student’s confidence transformed over the course of ten weeks. Bring on next term!