Wednesday 3 February 2010

Guest Blogger Kathryn Evans: fat fibs and proper work

Guest blogger Kathryn Evans is possibly the only belly-dancing-farmer’s-wife- mother-of-two practising to be an author in West Sussex. Nearing the end of her 10,000 year writing apprenticeship, she is currently seeking a home for:
SKIN: Surviving cryostasis for 250 years is the least of Laura’s problems. When her little brother Alfie falls dangerously ill, Laura risks more than her own life to save him. A twisted journey of discovery for 12+.
DYLAN AND MOUSE: Lonely Dylan befriends Mouse, a rodent with a hamster complex and an endless supply of inappropriate costumes. A series of comic adventures for 7+.
All enquires to her agent Sophie Hicks
When Candy asked me to be a guest blogger, I nearly said no. I can’t follow on from  Keren David's guest post! I’ve read Keren's When I was Joe, it’s brilliant.

I am unworthy, unpublished and …ah, in need of publicity. I swiftly changed my mind, before Candy could change hers. After all, this is Notes from The Slush Pile, That I can write about.

I take it seriously, my author apprenticeship. I spend half the week on farm work and the other half writing. By some miracle of parenting, I also find extra bits of week in which I look after my family.

It isn’t easy and makes for conversations like this:
Daughter: ‘Mummy, I need to talk to you about something reeeeaaalllly important.’

Me: ‘Can it wait half an hour darling? I’m working.’

Daughter: ‘You’re on Facebook, aren’t you?’

Me: ‘No. I’m working.’

Daughter: ‘But Mummy, I reeeaaallly need to talk to you.’

Me: ‘Can I just finish this chapter?’

Daughter: ‘Oh, so it’s not proper work then? Good, because I really need a haircut and I don’t know if I should dye my hair red and Mr B*****t was so annoying today and it wasn’t my fault and can I go out on Friday? And, and, and……’
Don’t misunderstand me; I want to listen to my daughter download her day but then, I have to write late into the night. I could just go to bed. No one is going to tell me off. I’m not breaking any contractual obligations.

But I don’t.

I work until my eyes are gritty.


What is this passion?

Where does it come from?

Maybe it started in 1978, seeing my first poem published. The thrill, the utter thrill of putting words together and seeing them in print; basking in the heart swelling warmth of Miss Heathen’s approval.
by Kathryn Hodgkiss
Age 9

I am a volcano, under the sea,
I also live in Italy,
I’m dead now, but my old days were good
As I set off my flames, as fast as I could…
(There were more verses but luckily for you, I can’t remember them.)

Kathy in bellydancing mode: what some folk will do to get noticed

Or was it 1977, when my siblings and I wrote and performed ‘The Water Babies’ for an excited crowd of six. All went well until Lisa, such a Prima Donna even at three, refused to take part unless she had her own hairbrush. Little upstart, we booted her off the show, replacing her with an orange. That orange was as wooden as the bowl it came from, we had to rewrite the whole play.

Spot the Difference.

Or maybe it was 1984, when I started telling big, fat, fibs to make myself sound more interesting? Like the night I had to leave a party embarrassingly early and told everyone I had a modelling job next day. They looked at my 5 foot 2, very ordinary self, with disbelief. I showed them my hands. My dainty fingers were insured for thousands, I bragged, you’ve probably seen them on countless adverts for cuticle cream. I’d never admit Dad had said, be home by half past ten.

In honesty, I don’t know what made me seek this career fraught with poverty and rejection. I do know it isn’t the first time.

For most of my life, I wanted to be an actor (that was definitely to do with ‘Orange Water Baby’).

During my degree in drama, however, I accidentally fell in love with the suntanned neck and broad shoulders of an agriculture student. I couldn’t imagine life without his easy smile so I married him.

 Farming and theatre work are not an ideal mix. And I wanted, wanted, wanted to be with my kids as they grew up and, though I did take them filming on occasion, you can’t build an acting career on the odd bit of work that passes by your doorstep.
I look rough because I was acting, note the hands though, insured for thousands ...

I don’t remember replacing acting ambitions with writing ones, but that is what happened.

Maybe it was having a FRANKLY BRILLIANT, story idea. I typed it up, smiling at my own cleverness. Oh, look at me, I’ve written a book, la la la, stick it in an envelope, la la la, send it off to a few editors la la la wait for the offers to come in.

I got a snowfall of standard rejections.

I wrote another story, only this time, I reread my script and even corrected some of it. Surely, my genius would shine through.


But I did have a rejection from Natascha Biebow. She took the time to critique my work and gave me a brilliant piece of advice. If you’re serious, join SCBWI, learn your craft.

I joined and read and wrote and learnt. The rejections still came but they were more detailed. Beverley Birch even sent me one three pages long. It was the best rejection letter I ever had.

I ‘finished’ SKIN and sent it to an agent. An email came back.

‘I like this,’ said Sophie Hicks, ‘let’s talk.’


Kate Thompson’s Agent. *Swoon*. Eoin Colfer’s Agent. * Double swoon* My heart leapt out of my chest and did a little dance all by itself. This was it, I’d made it!

Gratuitous photo of bestselling children's writer Eoin Colfer with whom I share an agent

Not quite.

Making it to print (and staying there) will always hinge on the next person loving what I do - be that agent, publisher, bookseller or reader.

So bring on the late nights because I do have obligations. If I want to be read, I have to be good. It’s a competitive business and I owe it to Sophie, and everyone else who reads me, to be the best I can be. And one day, one day, maybe I’ll say to my daughter:
"It is proper work."
And I won’t be telling a big, fat, fib.


  1. Really enjoyed this! Thank you Kathy and Candy!

  2. Great post Kathy...and great pics.

  3. Now why couldn't we use that photo of you in a bikini, Keren?

  4. Love the orange. And the rest. More importantly your daughter already knows, just like Sophie, that it is proper work. The difference is that your daughter pretends not to believe it is so.

  5. Funny, talented and gorgeous too!

  6. Ooh, Kathy I can relate to so much of this! Well, maybe not the belly, or the acting the sun-tanned agricultural student . . .

  7. This was fun. Wow. A writer, a belly dancer and a farmer's wife.

  8. But you haven't got a belly, Kathy (envy, envy). Must be all that farm work...

  9. Love it. You do have a way with words, you know...

  10. It's proper work already Kathryn! I loved this post!

  11. You make a brilliant both senses. Really enjoyed this, it was so funny, and you're very talented too.

  12. Love it, Kathy! We'll have to share stories of our thespian days some day. I was once a maggot, you know.

  13. It's gorgeous! I love the easy rhythm of the language, the humour, your passion for and heart-felt joy of writing. I was particularly impressed by the orange : )

  14. Thank you all, and to all who commented on Facebook, and most especially to then, those obligations.....

  15. kathy you're wonderful. I'd publish you tomorrow! I don't know your work, but write about yourself, or AS you - the irony and funniness shines through. Vasu

  16. Loved reading this, Kathy! Now pass me some soft fruit! Please!

  17. Someone please publish 'Skin', it's my kind of book and I want to read it!!

  18. It's lovely to read about your 'journey' to the world of writing, Kathy. You are clearly a lady of many talents!

  19. Brilliant - there are a lot of actors whose performances would be greatly improved by replacing them with fruit!

    Keep at it, Kathryn, and I don't know how you can write into the night - if I write any later than about 9pm, then I'm too keyed-up to get to sleep afterwards!

  20. What a witty, warm, fabulous post!

  21. Having never read a blog before I guess I was a blog virgin, oh dear now I am hooked Kathy,if all blogs are as entertaining as this I am surely lost! you are a dangerous temptress, a magician of the written word pulling more and more of us into your lambyrinth of imaginings- oh please don't stop!


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