Today it’s my very great pleasure to welcome Toni Jenkins onto Linda’s Book Bag. I met Toni recently at a blogger and author lunch and just had to invite her onto the blog. Toni has kindly provided a wonderful guest post with a letter to herself all about the road to publication for her book The Sender that I think makes fascinating reading.
Speaking with Toni in Edinburgh
Can an inspirational card from a secret sender really help change your life? For Abby, Kat, Patti and Tessa, it seems to hold that extraordinary quality. The card instructs each woman to hold it in their possession for six months before sending it on, with an invitation to meet the sender two years from the date of its inception.
From Edinburgh to Glasgow, York to Cambridge, the card is sent on a journey to impart its magic.
But who is the sender and what was their motive? And why were they the chosen ones?
A letter to the youthful writer, Toni
A Guest Post by Toni Jenkins
I know what you’re thinking – you’ll never get to see a book with your name on it sitting on a bookshelf. Well, let me tell you, you’re wrong. It will take decades to happen but you mustn’t give up.
You still have some teenage years to live and I encourage you to keep producing those poems and short stories you love writing. They are laying a strong foundation for you to build on when you’re older and will finally take the plunge to become a novelist.
Read, read and read some more. Every writer needs to fertilise their brain with as many words, word combinations and story constructions as possible. Reading is essential to your writing. Take note of what you do like and what you don’t and always ask yourself why.
Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you write, the more you are honing your craft. Every word you write and every word you re-write is adding to your knowledge of what makes good writing better.
Learn to accept rejection. It’s part of being a writer. The stories you hear about writers being discovered and catapulted to stardom are true but as rare as black diamonds. Remember, these are the exceptions, never the rule. The millions of stories you don’t hear about are those of the passionate wordsmiths having their fingers bleed on their keyboards, pulling their hair out in frustration, and receiving yet another rejection letter in the post. The only thing to do is keep going. Don’t give up and don’t ever equate rejection with failure. They are totally separate things. You will only fail if you give up.
Meet with other writers, bloggers (yes, that’s a real word), publishers, agents and editors at every opportunity. Go to writing events and don’t be afraid to speak. You’ll find that, although the publishing industry can be a brutal business, it is also full to the brim with the kindest, most helpful people you will ever meet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and always, always accept advice.
Join a writing group. Fellow writers who critique your work will be invaluable. Every writer needs feedback and these special people are both reader and writer. You can’t ask for better than that.
Share your own knowledge. Every writer’s journey is unique and, believe it or not, you will have your own nuggets of advice that will help others. Don’t underestimate that.
Block out time for your passion. Don’t let trivial things get in the way of committing to your writing time. You will find this is harder than you think, particularly when you’re feeling tired or down. But, where possible, put that aside and push on. Any writing is better than none at all, and this leads to the next bit.
As bizarre as it sounds, the delete key on your laptop is your friend. If you write junk, delete the junk. Don’t get too precious about your work. No-one will want to read rubbish writing so be objective when you’re editing. You’ll thank yourself later.
Continue to collect quotes. Believe it or not, you will also start writing them when you’re older. By the time you’re 45, you will have collected and written hundreds of quotes and they will become your most precious source for inspiration and comfort. Here are three that you won’t discover until you’re older but you should hear them now:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Writing is not always easy. If you don’t have calluses on your soul, this isn’t for you. Take up knitting instead.
James Scott Bell.
You write your first draft with your heart, and you re-write with your head.
James Ellison, Finding Forrester.
Lastly, you can call yourself a writer already. When you write, you’re a writer. You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to own that title. (Her name means nothing to you now but if you think that writing can’t change the world, just wait.)
About Toni Jenkins
Toni’s passion for writing began when she was 9 years old and bored on a long car trip. With a notebook and pen in hand, she began writing comedic poems to pass the time and discovered a great love of playing with language and personifying objects, creating Walter Wall who yearned to travel and Debbie Drawing Pin who feared being typecast!
Over the years she ventured into short stories and began collecting and writing quotes, amassing hundreds of them since her childhood. Finally, in her early thirties, she took the plunge and wrote her first novel, cementing her desire to write contemporary fiction.
A second novel followed after being made redundant from her job in Dubai in the 2008 credit crisis. Grasping the opportunity for a ‘mature gap year’ and to live her dream – writing a novel in Italy – she rented an apartment in the beautiful village of Cisternino, Puglia, living in a country with no knowledge of the language or the local people. She set up her desk in the quaint stone apartment and wrote The Gift – the charming residents taking her in as part of the community, welcoming “the Inglese” with open arms. It remains as one of the most precious experiences of her life.
Following a TEFL course in Prague, Toni returned to the UK, trained as a CELTA teacher and moved into university employment, all the while developing her next novel, The Sender. She has a particular fondness for this story as, aside from exposing the complexities of relationships and the powerful consequences they can have, it also has a strong undercurrent of encouraging empathy and, in particular, spreading the message.
Currently she is working on a final edit of The Gift for release to the public, and constructing the bones for her next novel, The Underling. Toni is never short of ideas (the plots for 9 further books are simmering away!) but, unless she hits the jackpot, writing has to fit around her working life.
She lives in the city she fell instantly in love with in the mid-nineties, and is proud to call Edinburgh and the UK her home.