For the last few years I have been concentrating on writing for children. First I wrote a two book series of short stories all based on a dog and her family. The stories are scattered with line drawn illustrations. Children seem to love them, but I have decided that I need to re-think them so that they are more in the voice of the dog; so they are on hold.
In the last year or so I have been concentrating on a new series which starts routed firmly in the present and then develops into time travel, backwards. I am half way through the second book in this series.
And now I have discovered a competition for writers for children. There is a set theme, though the story is up for interpretation. The prize is not big in financial terms, but there is the possibility that the winning entry may be promoted for publication. I am very tempted. There is no point in entering unless I really try hard to write my best effort. But there is a penalty to winning; if what I write is good enough, it may be that I have to then concentrate on this new book and abandon what I am currently working on and in which I am deeply involved.
Do I give up the opportunity to enter the competition? Or do I try, and risk having to shelve something that I feel is good and have been told by critical readers is well worth persevering with? Of course, if I don’t win, then I don’t have to give anything up, but maybe that is telling me something too. I have paced about the place these last few days, taken Hoover out for soggy walks, muttered and accosted poor Jo as she was trying to shear her sheep. I have got no useful work done beyond pondering the story for this competition. And my mind is full of old clichés, mottoes and proverbs. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Through hard work to the stars. Try, try and try again. He who asks, doesn’t get. He who doesn’t ask, doesn’t want. – My Grandfather used to say that and, for some reason, it comes to mind, even though I’m not asking for anything; except that someone look at my work. If at first you don’t succeed… Rosie used to attach that saying to sky diving, and maybe there is a bit of me that feels that this is somehow similar. Maybe sky diving isn’t for me.
Yesterday, after much sog and dismal weather I looked up to see that the clouds had evaporated and blue sky reigned over us. Hoover and I went out for a quick fix on the hills. Poppies are bursting out all over the place; brilliant sparks of vibrant determination.
And by the time we were walking up the old drover’s track everything seemed clear. Hoover skipped about, and the larks, who had been silent for the past couple of days rose, singing invisibly above us. I was fairly sure I knew what I was going to do. There is something about watching Hoover’s eternal optimism; her confidence that this next person really does want to be her friend, and will have a biscuit to prove it; that this thing she has just discovered really is the source of smell she’s been tracking her entire life; her absolute trust.
I came home full of confidence. I understand the story. I can see the boy at its centre with absolute clarity. I know his name.
When I took Hoover out for her night walk I looked up at the stars. There they were, brilliant in the darkness, and I felt sure I had the right answer.
But this morning the sun had gone; the sog was back and my confidence has slithered away. As Hoover and I trekked up the track behind the church, the ewes and their lambs had gone to a far corner of the field where they lurked in the shelter of a wide spreading oak. Instead Rambo was on patrol. He butted at the fence. The horns that he presents are even longer. And more convoluted.
What should I do?