You can find all the articles on The Bookseller website - there's a limit to how many you can look at in a month, but you can return the following month to check out the rest.
Looking ahead to the new year, I’m delighted to be doing a virtual Guest Reading Session for Arvon. Incredible authors like Neil Gaiman and Sarah Waters have gone before me, so it's a huge honour to be asked.
Now more than ever, organisations are talking about how to be more inclusive, but while they may be asking the right questions, many aren't listening to the feedback, or they aren’t consulting those most affected to see if their solutions will work.
I'm pleased that the National Federation of WIs isn't doing this; eighteen months ago, they established a Equality, Diversity and Inclusion focus group and I was asked to join. I was pleased to be able to draw on my experiences as a disabled person and WI member to help make the organisation more inclusive to all.
We're all guilty of making assumptions about people, of seeing the world through our own beliefs and life experiences. It's natural but it's also problematic; that's why my WI had a talk on unconscious bias to help us notice when we're doing it and how we can stop.
There are many types of bias including gender bias, ageism, confirmation bias -where you see what you expect, and conformity bias - where you act differently to fit in with a group.
I've never heard the term "unprecedented times" so much before. I think I would happily go the rest of my life without ever hearing it again. Ironically, my experience of severe ME has actually really come in handy. Six years being bedbound has meant I am used to self isolating and being at home for long periods of time. That's not to say it's easy but it does mean I've got a lot of coping strategies. I thought I would share a few of them with you today, I hope they help.
I know there’s a lot of panic around being at home for what feels like a long time, so I wanted to post something to say that it is hard but you do adapt. Amazingly quickly.
Admittedly, I’ve had 20 years of experience, so I’m used to it, but even I find the new restrictions hard. I might only have been going out once a week but losing that is difficult.
My best advice is have a routine. Breaking the day or even the hour up into smaller activities feels less overwhelming.
Start a project, something to focus on. That’s how I wrote a novel. It was a distraction from everything else I couldn’t do. It doesn't have to be big, though. Small steps. Break it down into manageable activities, don’t rush in and overwhelm yourself.
Set time aside for fun things that are purely for joy. Watch Netflix, listen to some music, bake something, read. Take pictures so you can share online and the interaction with others then makes you feel less alone.
Take note of how activities make you feel, if that TV show you normally love is leaving you feeling angsty and stressed, give it a break for now. If the book you’re reading is making you sad and depressed, it’s okay to abandon it for something lighter.
You can have too much of a good thing, hours of bingeing on social media or box sets can make you feel worse. Just doing something completely different will make things feel fresh and fun again.
Make sure to remember to eat and drink. It can seem like time moves differently and you forget the normal routine activities.
Create something. Having something tangible to show for the day makes life feel so much better. It doesn’t feel like a day wasted. It can be something small like a craft activity, an organised drawer, a hundred words of a novel, five minutes on Duolingo. Bonus achievement points if you can touch it in the real world. Somehow that feels like it matters more.
There will be times when you feel like you’re climbing the walls, crawling out of your own skin. Deep breaths. Meditation. All the stuff that’s easy to dismiss but does help. Calm is my go to app. There’s also lots of meditations on YouTube and via podcasts.
It feels like the end of the world, but people with chronic illnesses and disabilities have been living like this for decades. It’s not easy but you don’t have to be miserable the whole time. There‘s opportunities for joy, you just have to adapt and be open to them.
I'm not sure what I expected when I discovered The Choice would be published on Boxing Day. I worked through last Christmas on a major structural edit with a deadline at the beginning of January, so those festivities passed me by. I guess I should have expected the same for Christmas 2019.
It's out, The Choice is now available and selling online and in bookshops and I couldn't be happier or more delighted. It's the culmination of eight years hard work and a life-long dream.
It feels a little surreal, as though I'm still in the dream, but the pictures everyone keeps sending me of their copies of The Choice makes it feel more and more real.
For the past eight years I've had a ritual, every new bookshop I go in, I find the place on the shelves for the W authors. I take a picture of where my book would go.
I recently had some photos taken for the launch of The Choice. We did the shoot in a local hotel that serves the best afternoon tea! Because, of course a book about a world where sugar is illegal and baking is a crime, needs to have pictures featuring cake. Beautiful cakes. And scones. And sandwiches. Wait, where was I?
Thursday 26th December may be Boxing Day, it is also the day my debut novel is released. You might be planning on hitting the sales shopping, or just sleeping off the overindulgence from the day before.
Why not come to a virtual book launch instead?
I'm an author, disability activist, winner of the Good Housekeeping First Novel Competition and The EABA for Fiction 2020 and co-founder of Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses (ADCI).
The Choice is available from:
Title: The Choice
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