I was sitting in my office in town, marking work and finishing things off for the end of term. The afternoon sky was empty of the forecasted apocalyptic brimstone, which was a considerable relief, as I hadn’t fancied spending the day being smote to death by demonic tongues of fire. Apart from two security guys, I had the whole four storey building to myself; everyone – literally hundreds of members of staff – was at another site, enjoying a conference and warming up for the legendary end of year party. It felt rather illegal and exciting.
I ticked and signed the last piece of writing, felt enormous fondness for the people whose work was in my hands, closed the folder and logged on to my home email.
Sitting in the inbox was a message from Indigo Dreams Publishing. I knew what it was about – a few months ago I’d submitted a couple of poems for their anthology Heart Shoots, in support of Macmillan, the cancer charity. I took a deep breath and prepared for the usual thanks but no thanks, it’s not quite right for us. Don’t worry, I told myself, rejections are all part of cultivating the reptilian hide a writer needs. It’s character building. In fact, I want to be rejected. It’s good for me.
Dear Sophie, I read, blahblah. We had 600 submissions, blahblah. I am pleased to advise you, blahblah, your poem has been selected for inclusion, blahblah.
Your poem has been selected for inclusion.
So there’s an empty four storey building in central London, with me in an office on the fourth floor, laughing and crying. No one saw, but all my ghosts came flying through the city then; they flew up the staircases, up over the balconies, they slid under my office door and settled onto my desk. The noisier ones slapped my back and cheered. The quieter ones just nodded and smiled and gave a thumbs up.
My first ever piece of proper published work. Not a blog post, not an e-book, not a virtual, cyber thing. A real ink and paper book.
Some people people dream of being able to say certain magic words. ‘I’m getting married.’ Or ‘I’m pregnant.’ Or ‘I’m the Queen.’ None of those things has ever interested me in the slightest. My magic words, since age 5, have always been ‘I’m being published.’ It’s taken a long time, but here we are at last.
The poem is here on this blog. It’s called River, and is dedicated to my cousin Suzy Barratt who died from breast cancer in 2007.
The anthology will be published in spring 2013.
Update: June 18th 2013
More good news. One of my short stories, Say Good Morning to the Stars, has just been accepted for inclusion in an anthology for Shelter. Edited by Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood, publication date to be confirmed.