Today I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Helen MacKinven’s latest book Buy Buy Baby. I reviewed Helen’s debut Talk of the Toun last year and you can read my review here.
I met Helen recently at an author and blogger event and discovered what a lovely person she is so I’m thrilled that she is writing a guest blog for Linda’s Book Bag today all about the support she has enjoyed as an author. I’m also reviewing Buy Buy Baby.
Buy Buy Baby
What price tag would you put on a baby?
Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing.
Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.
Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.
Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.
In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems. But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…
A Guest Post by Helen MacKinven
For this ‘stop’ on the Buy Buy Baby blog tour, Linda invited me to write a guest post on being part of a writing community, either online or both, and it made me realise how lucky I’ve been on my writing journey.
This image was on one of my birthday cards this year. It’s a great analogy of friendship but also one that reminded me of my relationship with people I’ve met over the last few years connected to my writing.
Writing is a solitary activity and I’m happy to spend time with only my laptop and dogs at my side but I suffer from cabin fever if I don’t get out and about often enough. After tapping away on the keyboard, for me, it’s important to seek the company of like-minded folk. As a writer, I’ve had lots of DD support since I began writing. From the beginning of my writing journey, I’ve been very fortunate to have been unofficially mentored by my close friend, writer Karen Campbell, who has offered me feedback, publication advice and even hosted my book launches.
When I did a MLitt in Creative Writing at Stirling University, I was part of a small group of new writers and apart from critiquing each other’s work throughout the course, we’ve all remained good friends (despite trading brutally honest comments in writing workshops!) and meet regularly to share our highs and lows in writing and life.
I did dabble with attending a Writing Group and while I appreciate the benefits for writers, it wasn’t the best way for me to develop as a writer, as unlike the MLitt group, we all had different agendas which didn’t match my needs. The main reason I left was that most of those attending at the time would not be my target readers and this meant I was on the receiving end of multiple points of view from folk who had no interest in the themes and setting of my work in progress. I decided that I should follow my gut instinct and listen to comments from trusted readers rather than a random selection of writers whose attendance was inconsistent.
But, I’ve also gone to lots of one-off writing workshops as well as two residential weeks and met other writers who have stayed in touch with me either in person or online. As the old BT advert says, it’s good to talk and even if that means moaning about rejections, writers’ block and a growing backside from sitting too long, I find it healthy to mix with other writers.
Also, by taking a screen break, I’ve become actively involved with local spoken word groups and their events have helped me build my confidence as a performer and been the source of lovely new friends.
I live in the central belt of Scotland which makes most events accessible but sometimes, it’s not possible to meet in person and that’s where social media is a huge bonus. Through Twitter and Facebook, I’ve connected with many writers, who share links to competitions, opportunities and offer a virtual shoulder to cry on or a #woohoo to celebrate success and their support is especially welcome at times when I’ve needed a boost.
But, getting me and my words out there isn’t just about meeting other writers. Since the publication of my debut novel, Talk of the Toun, I’ve had the privilege of meeting readers and bloggers in person and interacting, not only online. At a recent Book Connectors event in Edinburgh, I got the chance to put a face to the name and thank bloggers, like Linda, who’ve very kindly helped me on the path to publication. To have the support of a reader or blogger who’s tweeted that they’ve enjoyed my book or stayed behind at an event to chat to me couldn’t be measured in bra sizes!
My Review of Buy Buy Baby
Two very different women, Carol and Julia, have one thing in common – the desire for a baby. When they both meet Dan, this desire will lead to more complications than they could possibly envisage.
I thoroughly enjoyed Buy Buy Baby and noticed that, whilst the characteristics that make this very much a Helen MacKinven novel are still there, there is a greater sophistication to her writing now too from her debut Talk of the Toun. I really appreciated the variety to the narrative, with the range of sentence structures and the use of Carol’s journal so that I found Buy Buy Baby very entertaining and convincing.
Buy Buy Baby is filled with local dialect and accent that gives a real sense of setting and character, especially to Carol. There’s also the wit and humour that I’ve come to expect from Helen’s writing. The tone is sharp, sassy and often littered with entirely appropriate expletives and colloquialisms so that it’s as if you’re meeting, rather than reading about, real people.
Also typical of Helen MacKinven’s writing is the fact that, underneath the banter and humour are some serious issues sensitively handled that make the reader think. Carol’s intense grief at the loss of her son Ben, both women’s need to have a child, the use of material possessions to enhance an otherwise unsatisfactory life – all these enhance the depth and quality of the novel.
Another aspect that appealed to me as a reader too was the literary conceit of writing. From Carol’s journal through Julia’s day job to Kirsty’s book launch there are nods to the writing world that give an extra layer of authenticity to Buy Buy Baby.
I really enjoyed Buy Buy Baby – and coming from someone not remotely maternal, that’s saying something!
About Helen MacKinven
Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction, with a particular interest in exploring themes such as social class and identity, using black comedy and featuring Scots dialect. She graduated with merit from Stirling University with an MLitt in Creative Writing in 2012.