I always wanted to write. Ever since Mr Baker, my English teacher at my Liverpool Secondary Modern inspired me. One day he gave me a pile of magazine cuttings and told me to write whatever came to my mind. At the end he asked me ‘How did you do this?’ and I couldn't answer. He gave me the key to the English department stock room and during lunchtime I would bury myself in the smell of books and disappear into the worlds created by others. At weekends, I would sit in the new library on my council estate and read everything the library assistant could throw at me. And inside, I nursed the idea that maybe one day, I would write a book that would sit on a library shelf.
But that was my childhood. Years later as a busy Mum and a serving MP, most of my free time was spent in Tesco’s and my kitchen, ironing school uniforms to Downton standards and ensured my house was polished to within an inch of its life. Including the bathroom taps. I chauffeured teenage girls half way across the country to gigs and festivals and spent more hours, shivering in my car outside various gig spots, than I care to remember.
But, all good things come to an end. My girls became young women and left home. Not long after, one Saturday as my Labrador and I took our early morning walk, without warning, I began to cry.
I have the best job in the world but I had reached the position that every woman fears, I was living in the empty nest. Back at home nursing a cup of coffee and a Kleenex, I thought about what I wanted to achieve in my personal life.
So many times over the years, I had tried to write. But not everyone had been as kind as my Mr Baker. It is easy for adults to insult working class children from poor backgrounds. Others broke my confidence and I never found the courage to put pen to paper and over time, I convinced myself, I simply wasn’t good enough. How could I be? If I tried I would be bound to fail. That was what I had been told.
In 2010, an established author who wrote about sex and shopping joined the ranks of MPs. It took me almost a year to find the courage to ask her if she could recommend anyone I could talk to about writing. The urge to try had become overwhelming. I had plucked up the courage and begun writing a blog, encouraged by people like the publisher and broadcaster, Iain Dale, commenting favorably on my work. I was becoming more confident by the day and allowing myself to think that maybe I just could, write that book.
The MP told me to send a sample of my work to her agent, which I did. A rejection letter swiftly arrived which told me to keep up the day job. I had failed. It was a knock that sent me spinning backwards, through the years and into my childhood. I couldn’t even write my familiar blog anymore. The rejection froze me for over a year.
But, I don’t fail for long. The survivor in me always kicks in and drags me off the floor. I had trained as a nurse, established and sold my own business and then fought for years to become an MP. Why was I allowing the personal comments of others affect me so deeply? I remembered Mr Baker, his pride and words of encouragement. I could see his mop of silver hair and his kind blue eyes and I tried again. The flame he had lit somewhere inside me, refused to be extinguished.
My next book went to Piers Blofeld at Sheil Land. In my wildest dreams, I could never have anticipated his reaction. I hadn’t failed. This time I had made it. There was no rejection, no knock back, only praise. I was off the floor and I haven’t stopped writing since.