Friday, 28 August 2009

Booktrust Guest Blog - Part 1

From post-its to pin-ups – a writer’s journey [1]

Posted on Booktrust blog - Monday August 17th 2009
Our Twitter page has put us in contact with diverse parts of the publishing industry, from publishers to writers to book bloggers to parents and carers who benefit from our bookgifting. One of the more interesting personalities on our Twitter feed has been aspiring author Rebecca Woodhead. Author of two books and unpublished, she has been using the internet to her advantage, to build up a loyal following of visitors to her blog and writings. Then she was nominated for Ms Twitter UK, a Twitter competition pitting her against celebrities like Lily Allen and Fearne Cotton and their extensive fanbases.

Mobilising her band of followers, cutely named the Word Nerd Army, and rallying publishers, agents and literary types alike (including Twitter god Stephen Fry), Rebecca won Ms Twitter UK, with the motto 'the pen is mightier than the pin-up', promising to help promote literature and reading and aspiring authors and libraries, all issues close to the heart of Booktrust.

Now with a land of opportunities awaiting her following her victory, Rebecca has written two blogs for us, this week on how she came to write her novel and use the internet to help promote it and in the next blog on how she won Ms Twitter UK and what it means and how other writers can follow in her example of using the internet to pursue their dream of being published.

From post-its to pin-ups – a writer’s journey [1]

Life is a giant mess of events and if you have a motto, it helps. Some people spend years analysing books and following gurus to find their life’s motto. I found mine on a block of novelty post-it notes in a gift shop in America in the late nineties- Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.

The path that led me to post-it enlightenment was an exciting one. With a coma and a nasty run-in with ME/CFS behind me, I wangled a place at Southampton University by offering to conduct my interview in iambic pentameter.

Three wonderful years later, with a degree under my belt and an American under my skin, I set off for a year in the States. My relationship with The American was tumultuous but my relationship with Boston was beautiful. Something about the place pulled out the writer in me.

When I returned to England, the first thing I did was to write a book. It was a thriller. It was terrible: way too scary and way too complicated. By the middle of it I was terrified and decided to lock it away. Years passed. I fell out with The American and fell into a very dull job trying to convince the Public Sector to save money. It wasn’t me at all. Despite the high point of meeting and marrying my dream man, a bunch of ‘think you’ve hit rock bottom? Try this!’ events brought on ‘ME/CFS – The Sequel.’

After years of relative normality, I was knocked flat. My doctor advised me to stop work. The incapacity benefit people were happy for me to try to write a novel, however, so I wrote. Sometimes I wrote from my bed and sometimes from the cupboard-with-aspirations that became my writing space. No matter how ill I was I could always write. After a year, I had a first draft of Palaces and Calluses but our accommodation was intolerable and was making my health worse. We could afford nothing privately and with four thousand people after each place on the social housing list we had no chance. When we heard a landowner was offering to rent out a house at well below market value and was keen to fill it with struggling locals, we grabbed it.

The reality of living in a place without curtains or carpets scuffed the romance off the experience, but with help from a carpet-laying family member and my passable sewing skills, we finally made the place habitable. We found a computer desk by the side of the road, dusted it off, put a computer on it and a few months later, the next novel in the series: Muddles, Puddles and Pearls appeared.

A couple of months before I finished the first draft, I decided to blog my experience. The blog began a journey that would create a group of book enthusiasts called The Word Nerd Army and lead me to beat Lily Allen in Ms Twitter UK using the phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the pin-up’. A nut I may be, but I am holding my ground.

Rebecca Woodhead

Next we'll learn how Rebecca mobilised the Word Nerd Army to help her win Ms Twitter UK and promote literature.


  1. You're one tough little nut -- one that's growing into a sturdy beautiful oak, and whose roots and limbs can withstand the worst "weather" thrown its way. Yayyy!

  2. I also rediscovered my urge to write during a severe bout of Me/CFS. Well done to you Rebecca for turning so many negatives into a great big resounding positive!

    All the very best
    Colin <*((((><(


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