I opened Twitter this morning to catch up on the news and spotted a tweet from @VictoriaAPepe, that said:
“Wellcome Book Trust Prize 2012 longlist of fourteen books has ONE written by a woman.”
Now, I’m never going to write anything profound about medicine, except, ‘doesn’t it taste bloody awful?’ But this inequality still makes my head ache. We need more funding, support & recognition for women in literature! …And not to mention more medicine for my headache. (See what I did there?) 😉
Earlier this year, I tweeted:
‘My dinosaur of a PC has crashed, I’ve broken a borrowed laptop & now my desk has collapsed. God, if you want me to quit this writing thing, GIVE ME A SIGN!”
This calamitous chain of events was all true and led me to begin a search for new writer funding, which ended with me deciding a tiny Samsung Notebook balanced on the arm of the settee will be my office for the foreseeable.
But as I sit here at my ‘new desk’ in PJ’s, next to the pile of clothes I’m going to make time at some point to get into today and having just thrown away another coffee that went cold by the time I even got round to thinking about drinking it, it’s 09.55 and I’m reflecting on my already constructive day – one that began at 6.30am with a pile of ironing, loading up a wash, cleaning the kitchen, helping a child with breakfast, picking towels off the floor (whilst sitting on the toilet!) and pairing up odd socks because five minutes before her school transport arrived, my nine year-old declared she couldn’t find any. Hey, we even found ‘Monday’ socks. Yep, I’m THAT good! However, try telling this to my brother who calls me lazy when he occasionally drops in for coffee before his shift at noon and finds me still not dressed 😀
And, as I reached the end of the top section of my ironing basket earlier and peered round to see two cats staring at me with ‘haven’t you forgotten the most important job of the day?’ faces, all the while I’m thinking, how could anyone fail to recognise the hard graft of women in literature? But I feel it’s important, certainly in my case, to salute some of the sacrifices made by our families too.
Recently, my hard-working, self-employed coach driver husband was asked how he would feel about still doing what he does now if I ‘made it’ as a writer. When he said, ‘fine,’ the unnamed person who – in his defence was a little inebriated – accused him of lacking ambition.
I’d like to point out here, that even though at 6.30am I was up ironing, my husband was himself up at 5.30am ironing his own shirt for work and late last night, after the kids went to bed, sat silently reading beside me as I worked on my book INSTEAD of ironing his shirt. Not that it is ever suggested that it’s my sole responsibility in the first place – but this is my point. Our endeavours are part of a joint effort, is what I am saying. He is very likely unaware I ever do iron as I always leave ours till last because – as every woman and hard-working house husband knows – kids have the smallest garments that take up the largest volume in the basket. Completing at least this section once a week is my way of looking like I’ve done loads in a domestic goddess style-e 😉 And don’t get me STARTED on people who iron duvet covers, pillowcases and pyjamas. Each night we pray not to be run over in our sleep, so the attending paramedics don’t discover how creased we all are.
I’m teaching my children that you can’t achieve anything extraordinary without doing something extraordinary. And my wonderful husband agreed to struggle with me as I strove to try and achieve something extraordinary on a zero salary.
Giving up my job has meant we haven’t bought our house yet and we don’t have the money to pack the teens off to university; my eldest works at the company I walked out of during a recession to ‘find myself’ and is earning while doing her Diploma, my nineteen year old works in a childcare facility and is looking to take a qualification and my sixteen year old just began an engineering apprenticeship this morning. My husband regularly does his own ironing and works away for days on end driving coaches, whilst dreaming of the day we get our first commission cheque and he can buy his own bus. Everyone here is contributing to the upkeep of the family home, whole-heartedly supporting my desire to write and setting about making their stamp on the world – whilst occasionally having to do their own washing and ironing because Mum spends all her time on her Notebook, in between the day’s essential cooking, cleaning, tweeting and duster-dodging. Even the two I have still at school work to earn their pocket money.
Who in this family lacks ambition? We are a team; striving for something less ordinary than a life of robbing Peter to pay Paul – every one believing in me and – more importantly – in themselves. No one is looking for an easy ride. Even cat number three, who has just come home after deciding she ‘didn’t live here actually’ when I called her in last night, is a victim of domestic short cuts. She now wants to stay in and sleep all day after her night on the tiles as an independent woman/cat, but has been sent back outside so as not to add ‘empty litter tray again’ to my list of jobs.
Seeing me stooped over a notebook when they come home from school each afternoon has spurred my nine and thirteen year old’s to sit beside me working on books of their own! Which is OK, but now I’m editing for them at the same time as writing Mrs David Dando.
My nine year-old: ‘Mum, how do you spell domestic violence?’
Me: ‘What? WHY are you writing about domestic violence?!?’
So, I gave up my paying job for a pipe dream, but if I don’t make it as a writer, did I fail? Or did I contribute to creating the next generation of determined writers and five hard-working young folk with the courage to set out to do whatever their ambition drives them to do?
Watch this space… and in case you haven’t heard, this is what I’m currently working on: MRS DAVID DANDO