‘No Matter What’ – from diary to published book

‘No Matter What’ is my memoir about adopting two children from the UK care system.  Yesterday I received a parcel containing six unblemished copies of the book from the publisher Jessica Kingsley.  The process of writing it has been long and difficult and I’m not ashamed to say that the sight and feel of those books, my books, brought a tear to my eye.

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A few of my blog readers have asked me about my writing process and have asked for advice on how they may write something of their own.  So here, as succinctly as I can manage, is how I did it.

1.  Living the Dream

Some say ‘write about what you know’, others say the opposite.  I have lived every bright light and dark corner of my story and felt I had to tell it.  I had a singular purpose: to show what it is like to parent an adopted child who has suffered neglect and abuse in their early lives.

2.  Recording

Twelve years ago I started keeping a diary again. I felt I was on the cusp of living something out of the ordinary and knew it would be important not to lose any of it.  It was also an outlet.  Every moan, bitch, sadness, disappointment, frustration – the diary got it.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was real.

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3.  First Steps

It was only when life had settled a little that I found the time and emotional energy to start writing properly.  I wrote a couple of self-conscious chapters in the second person, past tense (‘she cried into her corn flakes’).

4.  Serendipity

Although I am the least well-connected person you could come across, one day in the most unlikely of places I got talking to someone.  She was a literary agent.  She took a look at my chapters, liked them and suggested I rewrite them in the first person, present tense (‘I cry into my corn flakes’). Lots of serious writers are sniffy about books written in the first person, present tense.  It is looked upon as a bit of a chav in the library.  It worked for me.  Mother Luck was taking care of me that day.

5.  Hard Graft

I wrote for hours and hours and hours.  I wrote at the kitchen table and in bed.  I planned, I hand wrote, I typed, I redrafted, redrafted and redrafted again.  I showed my work to my agent.  She and her business partner took me on. They said ‘we think we can get this published, let’s write a proposal’.  I bought a desk.

6.  A Selling Job

The proposal was a bore to prepare, but it forced me to think hard about what I was writing and for whom. It contained a synopsis, chapter summaries and market information.  The agency sent out the proposal to a list of publishers.  Within a few days a large publisher said ‘yes’.  That was easy!

7.  Developing a Thick Skin

After weeks of saying ‘yes’ to the book (and please answer these hundred and one questions by tomorrow morning), the publisher then said ‘no’ and we were back to square one.  It was a big disappointment.  We brushed ourselves down, went back out to publishers and the same thing happened again.

8.  Blogging and Tweeting

Despite the ‘two yeah but no buts’, the feedback coming from publishers was positive.  They liked the book but didn’t think there would be a big enough market for a memoir about adoption.  My agent said the words ‘blog’ and ‘twitter’.  By this point I was parenting two traumatised children, I had a gardening business and I could barely open an email.  It was a challenge.  After watching many YouTube videos I launched my blog with a post about the London riots.

9.  Serendipity (2)

One winter morning I woke up with a frozen shoulder and could barely dress myself, let alone pick up a spade. The upside was that suddenly I had lots of time on my hands. (Mother Luck, frustrated at my lack of focus, had sent me a a sign I could not ignore. Ouch.)  Even typing with one hand I made great headway with the book and the blog. The blog was noticed by Community Care who paid me to write some blogs for them.  The end was in sight.  Once my shoulder recovered I decided to give up my gardening business and finish the book.

10.  Signing the Contract

My agent sent out the completed book and the proposal to a final set of publishers.  Within a few days Jessica Kingsley Publishers had said ‘yes’ and meant it.  That was in January.  Within a few days now the book will be available to order from Jessica Kingsley, from Amazon and other websites and may even make it into a book shop.  I have been lucky to receive some positive reviews from some very generous people and I am grateful to all of them.

In no particular order they are Baroness Oona King, Sir Martin Narey, Lorraine Pascale, Carrie Grant, Hugh Thornbery, Professor Harry Ferguson, Camilla Pemberton, Louise Michelle Bomber, Sherry Malik and Jane Evans.

Thank you.

29 thoughts on “‘No Matter What’ – from diary to published book

  1. Three Pink Diamonds

    Thank you for writing this, a very interesting read. I wish you every success with the book & I will be ordering a copy very soon!!

    Reply
  2. Devon Mum

    Well done Sally. I can’t wait to read it. If I bring my copy when we have that well deserved tea, will you sign it for me?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks Flashmaggie. I appreciate your tweet/blog support (and your tweets are brilliant). Hope you enjoy the book.

      Reply
  3. Ross Mountney

    Lovely post – I immediately felt a kinship! I published my first book with JKP too and then independently published my second which was like yours; a diary of our family life (we home educated) called A Funny Kind Of Education, through Amazon. This second one was very personal and as you say tears in the cornflakes to write! So I just wanted to say well done and congratulations!

    Reply
  4. Disgruntled

    That is fantastic news and very inspiring. I currently 1800 words into my first book mostly written on iphone at 4am whilst feeding my young son-best get on and finish!

    Reply
  5. LastMum

    Really great post, and I can’t wait to read your book, it sounds amazing. Memoirs are such a powerful way to educate people and get beyond just dry theory into reality. Congratulations :)

    Reply
  6. Sophie

    Dear Sally,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, I just found it one day and love the way you write…
    I don’t have any links with adoption and my interest might seem a bit strange given I’m far off having a family of my own (I’m 24, studying and single!).
    Just thought I’d reply saying I can’t wait to read your book and as an overdue huge thank you for giving me an insight into adoption and generally cheering me up pretty often in what have been a tough few months for me (funny how honest truth about the hard stuff in life with a good dose of humour can be far more ‘uplifting’ than chirpiness!)
    with all best wishes for you, your family and your book…
    Sophie

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Dear Sophie,
      I am really touched that you enjoy reading my blog. Thank you so much for commenting. I agree with you, sometimes we need to face reality but with a bit of a rye smile, no matter what our challenges are. It’s always good to hear that blogs like mine can reach out beyond those with in interest in adoption to a wider readership.
      I hope that things get easier for you soon and that you enjoy reading the book (there are some funny bits, despite the subject matter).
      Sally x

      Reply
  7. Threebecomefour

    Massive well done to you Sally! I can’t wait to read it. Where do. Get my grubby paws in a copy! Via Amazon? What an achievement xxxxx

    Reply
  8. Threebecomefour

    Ok it’s amazing. I just clicked on the picture of the book and lo and behold I can buy it….simples…..rather like me…..

    Reply
  9. rh

    Just read you book tonight – yes in one sitting but as my husband says I devour books. It was a really heart-warming story and chimed with me as we set out on the matching road (approved yesterday now). A real insight in adoption which made me think a lot.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for reading it.How wonderful that you have been matched. I hope that your journey is not as difficult as ours has been at times, but it’s always best to be educated I think.

      Reply
  10. Mum of two

    Your book arrived as soon as it was published and, as I finished it all too quickly, I am now reading it all over again!
    I am also an adoptive parent and, although we have not experienced the more challenging issues that you have, there is so much that I could identify with. I have laughed (your description of the trials of waiting in the playground had me in fits) and cried (well, so much to cry about) in turn and so thoroughly enjoyed it that I have been recommending it to many other parents and also to some social workers of my acquaintance. They could not do better than put your book on their recommended reading list for prospective adopters. I can think of lots of people in power who should read it too.
    I hope that things continue in a positive, healing and hopeful way for you and your family – but that you still have enough material to write a sequel!

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Book review: 'An inspirational must-read for everyone involved in adoption' - The Children's Services Blog

  12. Helen

    My husband came home with this book at 6pm yesterday evening, it’s 27 hours later + I’ve finished it already (despite working an 8 hour day I managed to read some during breaks too!). I’ve adapted to reading through the tears and feel I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, which I guess is nothing compared to our future if we do become adopters. I have learnt so much, and more importantly realise that what I do know is a drop in the ocean! Terrifying but exciting times ahead, hubby is next in line to read it. Thank you so much for writing down my thoughts and feelings about infertility and IVF, and for showing the highs, lows + pitfalls of this process. H xxx

    Reply
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