When’s the right moment to grab an opportunity? Always? Only when it’s right? Perhaps depending on how much else you’ve got going on? This is a question I’ve asked myself a fair few times since beginning university. The reason for asking? For the last two years, I’ve been balancing my degree with something a little more unusual – a book deal.
I’ve referenced it in hints and whispers here (and elsewhere), keeping it ticking along in the background while continuing with the merry-go-round of essay deadlines, blog posts, journalism elsewhere, and that general thing of trying to maintain a life... But now, finally, it’s something I get to shout about here: on the platform that was instrumental in helping to kick-start it all. And that is thrilling indeed.
So, the basics. My book is called 'Notes on Being Teenage'. It’s being published in June 2016 with Hachette Children’s Books (Wayland imprint). It has a GREAT cover - not because it has my face on it…but because I love the design. It’s going to be an actual, tangible thing that will appear in shops - rather than an endless series of documents and PDFs and emails. To say "I’m so excited" is to somewhat underplay my sense of enthusiasm.
The clue is in the title, by the way. It’s primarily aimed at young women aged 14+. Inside there are eight chapters, covering everything from body image to mental health to social media. Want thoughts on charity shop tips? Selfies? Consent? Difficult friendships – and wonderful ones? Feminism? Writing? Online communities? Family stories? How the fashion industry needs to stop peddling such a limited version of ‘fantasy’? Asserting your right to look (and be) fabulous? All that, and waaaaaay more.
There’s plenty of personal stuff in there too: from watching my dad experience depression, through to worrying about the possibility of remaining single forever and ever ad infinitum. But alongside the autobiographical, there are the voices of so many other young women. In the course of writing this book, I spoke to nearly fifty teens and twenty-somethings. Each with their own backgrounds, opinions, perspectives, and ways of seeing the world. Many are quoted. All of them influenced what I was writing about. ALSO, I talked to successful individuals from a variety of industries. There are Q&A’s with amazing people including Kate Nash, Louise O’Neill, Eleanor Hardwick, and Rosianna Halse Rojas. It has been a labour of love, but such a worthwhile and satisfying one too.
Earlier today, the cover was officially announced by Maximum Pop Books (see the feature here). On there, I wrote this about the book:
“Basically, the entire publication is one big, sprawling set of ideas, essays, lists, interview, stories, bits of advice, and a whole load of notes on what it means to be teenage… I wrote it because I think that young women are brilliant - because I think their voices and concerns and ambitions should be taken seriously. I also wrote it because I wish I’d had something a few years ago that didn’t patronize me, or package up my experience of being teenage into a number of bullet-pointed ‘Issues’ with a capital ‘I’.”
There are plenty of other reasons for writing it too. You’ll be hearing more about some of them in the coming months. For now though, I’m taking a moment to revel in a mix of relief, pride, and anticipation (a little nervousness too, admittedly). I have spent so much time inside this book, reading and thinking and talking with people and writing and revising and editing and polishing, that to get to this point feels utterly magnificent.
I don’t go in for easy ‘inspirational’ sentiment, so I’m not going to say that writing a book was “always what I’ve wanted” or a “dream come true.” I will say this, though. I love writing. I think words are the most wonderful, pliant, exhilarating medium – much as they can be frustrating, at points. To get to write something like this has been a privilege. I’ve had this blog since I was 14, and have been doing journalism on and off since I was 16. I have been given some extraordinary opportunities along the way, and worked bloody hard for others. A mix of luck and graft, if you will. At 20, I can see just how much there is left ahead to learn and work on. There’s an awful lot of possibility ahead. This book feels like the first, wonderful step along the way, and oh I can’t wait to share it.