Eight years ago I was pregnant and working for an animal charity. I was unhappy.
It hadn’t always been that way but my new manager and I didn’t see eye-to-eye. I knew the organisation had form for treating staff badly and had an inkling that come my maternity leave I might find my position redundant.
Rather than wait for this to happen, I made a plan.
I had previously trained in proofreading, with half an idea this could be a suitable job if I had children. I booked the maximum maternity leave available before my baby’s due date and was lucky to get some freelance work with a series of books that one of my friends was involved with.
I was also determined to finish my first novel, Writing the Town Read.
In the time I should have perhaps been ‘feathering my nest’, I began my freelance career and I completed my book, using the two weeks my daughter was overdue to perform a first round of edits.
When my daughter was born I had a complete break from work for a while then, whilst many new mums were taking that excellent advice of ‘sleep while the baby sleeps’, I began working while the baby slept. I found I could fit my work around being a mum. Not ideal, but I never let it impact on looking after my child and the hard work paid off. A few months into my maternity leave, my employer did indeed find that there was ‘no longer a requirement’ for my position.
When my daughter was one year old, I started to put her in nursery for a few hours a week and looked for further freelance work. Over time, I gained enough experience of the various elements of publishing to realise that I could pull them all together.
Despite some great feedback, I was having no luck with finding an agent for Writing the Town Read and I decided I would like to self-publish. In the meantime, I became pregnant again.
After my son was born I was contacted by a lovely man who was looking for a publisher. I replied to explain that I wasn’t a publisher – yet – and that I was mostly tied up with being a mum but suggested that if he was willing to be patient, I could treat his book as my first full publishing project. Happily, he agreed.
More working while the baby slept, then, but it was so exciting in September 2012 to release Heddon Publishing’s first title, Steaming into the Firing Line; the first of four books I have now had the pleasure of working on with Michael Clutterbuck.
I went on to self-publish Writing the Town Read in early 2013.
Since then, I’ve been very lucky to work with a wide range of authors (publishing 27 books for 17 authors to date), and have somehow found time to write and publish two more books of my own – Looking Past and Amongst Friends.
I love working with other authors and have made some firm friendships this way; often largely via email but I guess that’s OK for writers! It’s an honour to be entrusted with somebody else’s work as I know very well how much time, effort and emotion is invested in each and every book.
My work has developed in ways I had not imagined. I now manage publishing projects for authors under their own imprints, and am currently working on a marketing project for an existing range of children’s books.
I don’t make a fortune but I love my work and I’m very lucky that I do. My priority throughout, however, has been my family. I’ve had to work while children napped, or way into the night; rearrange everything if the kids are ill; plan work so that I can make the most of school holidays. I don’t have a manager giving me a hard time, but I have to be ultra-organised and plan well ahead.
My children are now old enough to be interested in what I do and I hope very much that I can continue to do it, for their sake and mine.
Despite my love of the sea and the South West of the UK, I have tucked myself away in Shropshire – the largest landlocked county in the country – with my husband and our two children. I run a small publishing business – Heddon Publishing – providing essentially self-publishing authors with all they need to turn their story from an original, basic word processor document to a carefully edited, proofed and formatted book. I have met some fantastic people this way, and work with authors as close by as Shrewsbury and as far away as the Australian outback. Family comes first, business second, and after that I write as often as I can – not as often as I would like but I hope there will be more time for that later. I visit Cornwall as often as possible and it never fails to inspire me, which is why I set Writing the Town Read there. My second novel, which I am currently working on, is largely set in my home county of Yorkshire; however I can feel a trip to Cornwall is on the cards for some of my characters! I write books that I would like to read. I enjoy contemporary writers such as Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Tyler. Not that I am putting myself up there with them in writing terms but I love the way their books don’t really fit a particular genre, which I think is also true of my writing. Whilst I would love to make a living from my books, I write because I love writing and I need to believe in the story, themes and characters. I started Writing the Town Read while in my late 20s, before I became pregnant with my first child, and I think that this is reflected in the book. My second novel I am writing now, well into my 30s and a mother of two. I think these life changes are also represented by my writing. I hope to keep on writing stories and that the quality and the content grows and matures along with me. I hope I am still writing when I am 100.
Connect with Katherine:
Jumping off the Page blog: www.katharineesmith.com
All three books are available in print from all major online book retailers and in Kindle format on Amazon
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