JB Johnston joins us with her guest-blog post.
Read about her writing life and Brook Cottage Books. Welcome JB and thank you for this lovely post. (Check out her bio at the end too – now that’s a bio!).
My name is JB Johnston and I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I’m currently working on my first novel and want to vomit when I have to admit to being a writer or when anyone even asks me what the book is about. Am I a proper writer because I’m unpublished or just a wannabe who thinks she can write and actually can’t? It’s so confusing. I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme and submitted my novel for critique last year. While the critique stated some really helpful advice I will admit initially to jumping up and down screaming ‘I’m pants at this writing lark! It says so here!’ Once I’d calmed down I saw some positive things in the critique. Since then I’ve been working on ‘fixing’ my novel and I plan to re-submit it again this year.
As a fledgling writer my biggest hurdle to overcome has been time. I simply have little time to write and so therefore I’m writing in short bursts. I’ll literally be 1000 years old by the time the novel is finished. I know we all suffer with time constraints but as someone who works, is a carer and runs Brook Cottage Books virtual book tours promoting other authors I find little time to get my own book off the ground. But I enjoy what I do and just need to work better on my time management. I’ve recently applied for a promotion in work that would reduce my working week to 3 days, so I can keep one of my days off to write. So, keep your collective fingers crossed that I get the job!
Sometimes, when finding the time to write seems like a chore I fall out of love with my novel. This has happened to me a couple of times. Yet, when I knuckle down and put aside a bit of writing time I fall head over heels in love with my characters all over again and can’t think about anything else. It almost becomes all consuming and I even dream about them. If I was to begin over-analysing why this novel is taking so long I’d probably come to the conclusion that there’s a part of me that’s terrified to put the novel out there. To let other people read it is only going to open myself up to criticism. I never actually consider that maybe someone will love my writing. By not actually finishing the novel I can keep protecting my fragile ego! At over 86,000 words I know I’ve a little bit more to do and a little bit more to tweak and that both terrifies and excites me.
As a book blogger and book tour coordinator I know how much it means to authors when someone enjoys their work. All the blood, sweat and tears during the writing process have been worth it all when a book receives a glowing review. I also know how heart-breaking it can be to read a negative review. Do I really want to put myself through this inane type of torture? Of course I bloody well do. I need to write. I have to write. I have so many stories fighting to get out of my over-crowded head that I often end up writing the opening chapters to new novels before actually finishing the one I’m writing now!
When I do eventually sit down to write I must have complete silence (impossible in this mad house) or wear my headphones and listen to a playlist I have prepared to write particular scenes. In my novel there are quite a few emotional scenes, so I need appropriate music to make the sadness flow from my fingers to the page. Quite often I cry at my own writing because it makes me emotional. I’ve printed out my novel and its sitting in a ring binder with hundreds of sticky notes on each page and lots of things scored out with red pen. I must have a selection of coloured pens at the ready. An essential writing aid is a nice candle. No idea why I like to have candles burning when I write! I also like lots of snacks and endless cups of tea. And lastly, the most useful tool I have is a Dictaphone. Its great to read your work out loud and listen back to how it sounds. It helps in checking the flow, particularly for dialogue. There you have it. My writing life in a nutshell. I hope that eventually my book will be well received. Until then, I’ll keep fighting those insecurity demons and maybe one day I’ll be able to stand up and say……. ‘My name is JB and I am a writer and a good one!’
JB Johnston (real name Debbie) is a book blogger and book tour co-ordinator over at Brook Cottage Books where she helps authors promote their work by organising virtual book tours. In the real world JB is a social worker, carer and writer. She has written her first novel but so far is too frightened to send it to a publisher! She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme. When JB isn’t buried under a pile of books she can often be found in some obscure yoga pose at her local yoga studio. Always up for a challenge, JB has also taken classes in ballet, modern dance and pole dancing but has as much grace as an octopus falling out of a tree so gave them up and is now trying to learn something useful and is currently studying British sign language instead!
Mairead Hearne from the wonderful Swirl And Thread blog tells us about her writing life. Thank you for joining us Mairead. x
My Blogging Life
Completely unexpectedly, I received a message from Sharon Thompson asking if I would consider writing a guest post for a new website she was setting up. What was so surprising is that, I am normally the one stalking writers for content posts for my own site. What do I do? I am a book blogger. I have my own site www.swirlandthread.com that I set up in February 2016, as a means to challenge myself and to put myself back out there again. I would never have considered myself a writer, but I do have a huge passion for other people’s writing, being an avid reader all my life.
I studied Commerce in UCC, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science, in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. Having no real idea of what I wanted to do next, I initially worked in Computer Sales and eventually found myself working in the Telecommunications industry up to 2004. My first child was born. I never returned to the industry, as at the time I felt the hours and traveling weren’t compatible with having a baby, so I left my job.
Over the years I volunteered with charities, I was chair of my local resident’s group and I was also involved in many other activities. I rediscovered my love of exercise, walking and running but something was missing. The world was moving on without me. I had always enjoyed technology but had no knowledge of websites or social media, bar the occasional Facebook post. After starting a sewing course, I decided, with the help of my techie brother, to set up a blog….but what about?? Initially I wrote about my sewing journey, but I soon discovered that, as much as I was enjoying the sewing, I wasn’t passionate about it. I do believe that with any blog, the reader needs to be able to feel the passion of the person behind it. With everyone being so so busy these days, time is a very valuable resource and in order to attract any attention I decided to return to what I knew best….my books!
Swirl and Thread was born out of a combination of these two hobbies ~ the swirl of words threading through a story….it made perfect sense to me.
A chance meeting with Vanessa Fox O’ Loughlin of www.writing.ie was to take me to the next stage of my blogging life. As a newbie book blogger, it is a challenge to get your name out there among the publishers and authors. Having read a few of my reviews, Vanessa asked if I would consider sending them on to her for posting on writing.ie. Of course I agreed! I arranged, very nervously I might add, to meet Vanessa in Waterstones in Cork one evening at a book launch. Vanessa arrived with a big bag of new releases for me to read, in my own time, and to review for both my own blog and writing.ie…..my blog was off the starting blocks.
The difficulty for many bloggers is getting their posts seen on social media, but again through hard graft and late hours online, I chanced upon the fabulous book blogger, Anne Cater. Anne directed me toward a fantastic Facebook group, called BookConnectors, that she had set up years previously, an incredible resource for authors and bloggers alike. It felt like I had found my tribe (as the wonderful Galway writer Evie Gaughan said to me).
My blog has gone from strength to strength, but admittedly, at times, it has been overwhelming. I have been so lucky to attend the Irish Book Awards, as a guest of writing.ie the last two years, an experience that I will never forget. It has been a privilege to meet many authors and folk in the publishing world, something that would have seemed like an impossible dream a few years back.
In 2017, I established a weekly feature on my blog, #IrishWritersWed, which was my way of thanking all the remarkable writers this country has to offer. Every week I look forward to receiving the emails, with guest posts attached, from these published authors, these people who are so willing to take the time out to write something for me, for you all…for my blog!
I still forward all my reviews to writing.ie, but after that initial pile from Vanessa, I now receive ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) in the post direct from the publishers and the thrill of opening one of these packages never ever dissipates.
I have been nominated for the last two years in the Bloggers Bash Annual Awards ceremony in the UK in the category for Best Book Blog and have been honoured to receive second place both years. This recognition for me, and my blog, is just such a thrill, especially as it is coming from my own peers.
The blogging community is the most amazingly supportive group, a group that asks for very little, yet gives so much back in return. I have virtually met so many people on-line, people that I am now so happy to call my friends. As to where my blog will go to, I have no idea. For now I am just going to enjoy the ride!!