It would have been my mum’s 76 birthday today. She was fantastic (of course) because she was my mum, but she was also fantastic because she was one of the people who first encouraged me to write. I suspect a large part of this was because there was a frustrated writer buried deep within her. When she was a teenager, no-one had suggested that actually it was quite possible for a normal working class kid to have a bash at writing stories, and aspirations to fame and fortune were rather frowned upon, as though one was not contented with one’s God given lot in life. But as soon as my friends and I reached the age when we felt it necessary to create mini-magazines, which necessitated the writing of daft stories and completely stupid articles, the hidden scribbler in mum soon rose to the fore. Not long after, she produced her first “novel” (a swash-buckling adventure story with a sassy heroine and a host of gorgeous male characters vying to be the hero). My friends and I each got a home-printed copy with a plastic binder – how mum would have enjoyed Lulu and other such sites if she were still with us now!
She attempted a few Mills & Boon novels (the manuscripts of which I assume are still at Dad’s), which got rejected on the grounds that there were too many minor characters (my mum was always too interested in people to keep to just the hero and heroine) – she also tended to inject too much tongue-in-cheek humour into these stories, which I suspect didn’t make the editors look favourable upon them. Still, they’re probably all the more entertaining for it.
So I hope she would be pleased that I’ve stuck at my writing. I wish I could tell her about having done my MA, show her the stories I’ve had published, and say ‘thank you’ for all the encouragement she gave me when I was starting out. I wish she’d lived long enough to enjoy the internet (she was just beginning to move from word processors to PCs) – blogs and Google, information at the touch of a button, iPods and music downloads, self-publishing on Amazon and all sorts of other things she would have found fascinating. But she always had a positive outlook, and loads of future plans, and she made quite a lot of what she sometimes termed her “little life”. Her view was that you never knew what was waiting for you just around the corner – an exciting opportunity, a fascinating person, a great new idea. Any time we were out for a drink together, mum’s toast would always be to “interesting possibilities”.
I’m holding that thought right now – with NANO on the horizon, as well as plans to put together a short story collection. And mum, tonight I’m having a drink in your honour – happy birthday xx