2009 was not an easy year for anyone, I think. For me it saw my efforts to establish myself back in the UK for the first time in nearly eight years. I tried to do so during the worst recession in living memory, which was, perhaps, not the best of timing. To say I found this a challenge is an understatement.
The first thing I noticed was that editors wanted a lot for their money, or were not prepared to pay anything at all for honest work. I joined the National Union of Journalists and have found this to be useful in terms of asking for advice, but if an editor ignores you, refuses to reply to messages, and runs your work without byline or payment, I find that there is not a lot of help at all. I have learnt a valuable lesson from this and will not approach a certain editor again as he is untrustworthy. My list of publications to avoid, which, thankfully, is small, has lengthened in 2009.
On a positive note, I have found that publishers are interested in writers who would like to write non-fiction books, and who know one end of a camera from another. Thus I signed four book contracts in 2009, and have been busy with the very interesting job of researching folklore, taking photographs out and about in Hampshire and finding out more about the county. Folklore of Hampshire is now with the publisher and should be in the shops in July. Southampton Past and Present is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be in the shops in October. Haunted Southampton and Winchester: History You Can See will both be available on Amazon soon, and will be published in early 2011.
I have missed the warmth of Bangladesh and Anguilla since I came back to Blighty. I lived in thermal socks for most of the first five months of 2009 and think the inventor of these most useful items of footwear should receive some kind of accolade, if he has not already done so!
During the year I successfully studied to improve my mathematics qualifications, took another course with the wonderful Open University, this time in creative writing, and also took a PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) to enable me to teach at night school and to offer workshops etcetera to adults. I also began tutoring on the non-fiction and the proofreading and copy editing courses for The Writers Bureau. In terms of personal development, 2009 was a good year!
I have edited The Woman Writer for The Society of Women Writers and Journalists for a year now and have learnt a lot along the way. I have found that I cannot please everyone all the time and so, to save my sanity, I have decided to please the majority and not to worry about the minority, who will always find something to complain about. I realised the other day, with something of a shock I have to say, that I have edited magazines in four different countries for more than fourteen years. This experience has stood me in good stead with The Woman Writer, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary.
I went out and about in 2009. I love meeting people and talking to them about their lives, hobbies and careers. Two trips stand out in my mind. The visit to Swanage, in Dorset, I made in May to cover the Veterans Day events there, and to St Agnes in deepest Cornwall, to meet a couple whose home is a living museum of wartime memorabilia. Super!
It was not all work though. I was surprised by the amount of interest shown when I blogged about the new kitchen we had installed in our home, with several emails sent in protest when I dared to suggest that perhaps readers were getting bored with a blow by blow daily account of the work in progress! Later in the year the Legg household acquired Phyllis, an ancient, and very tiny, Suzuki campervan, which I bought on ebay as a project to do up, and which I hope will be fun to travel around in next summer. This was after a disastrous camping trip, which saw a storm ruin our tent and made us vow not to camp again!
In May I started Writing Buddies, the group for writers in Southampton. This was a venture begun to bring together professional and aspiring writers for coffee and writing related chat, and has proved highly successful. We met in Borders bookshop in the city until the shop closed and then moved to the central library for the last meeting of the year. We will meet again at the end of January, at a venue to be decided.
I was pleased to be presented with the Scroll Award for Writing, by the Southampton Writers' Circle, for my piece on the Master of the Queen Mary II, which I wrote for Hampshire Life magazine. This was a very pleasant surprise.
I was interviewed by Express FM radio at the end of the year, which was great fun and I looked forward to hearing the broadcast, but this was not to be. I have now heard that the broadcast tape has been 'lost' and so you can imagine what I think of this radio station now ...
So, looking forward, I will expand my series of talks and workshops, about aspects of writing, my life, photography and folklore. I am speaking to the Southampton Writers' Circle in February, talking and co-hosting a workshop at the Festival of Writing in York in April and speaking at the July meeting of the Writers In Southampton (WiS) group. I am also open to new challenges, so am actively looking for these.
I am also looking forward to the launch of the two books coming out this year. My mother keeps saying that she never thought she would have an author for a daughter! I wonder why she says this, as I have been writing since I was a small child. It was only a matter of time.
So, on that note, I will sign off. Happy New Year everyone!