My book launch Party was amazing! – (Yes I know I kept the existence of the book quiet, but the way campaigning works these days, I knew I’d be opening myself up to all sorts of allegations and misconceptions about my motives).
We held it in a newly opened local cafe called ‘Essence’ (in Midsomer Norton) It is an arty, colourful place. Paintings line the walls, and they make the most gorgeous chocolate cake!
I started to write (or at least have the idea for ‘Taking Steps’ when I was still at school and in fact several early drafts were put together then too but for one reason or another, it never came to fruition.
I’m glad of that, because having to wait until now means that it is the best (I think) it can be.
It’s taken over twenty years to become what it is. As I have grown up and experienced more of life it has grown with me, - so to say for example that I ‘stepped back from activism’ to work on it, would be hugely inaccurate. The two work in tandem whenever I’ve been able.
My motive was (and still is) primarily to raise awareness of disability in a creative way, but actually as time went on the book became about more than just disability. It covers many issues including mental health, childlessness, and activism. I would have written anyway – disabled or not, and I think there is more to my writing than that.
I didn’t write it for money or ego purposes. The book and the ideas behind it were part of my life from very young –and I don’t expect to make money out of it. If that was a consideration I wouldn’t be struggling to do Public Relations type stuff (although I have to do a little). There is something about that side of it which makes me uneasy – for lots of different reasons.
I wouldn’t want you to think either, that it’s a depressing ‘woe is me’ type book. I don’t think it is. It includes fun short stories, articles and commentary on everyday issues too. Maybe as such it is a bit difficult to categorise.
Anyway, back to the launch!
My favourite English teacher-(who always believed in me and gave me confidence) walked in, and I started crying! I shed a lot of tears that night -all of them happy.
She said, "I knew you'd do it", and gave me a hug, then said, "but you embarrassed me by dedicating it me". I replied, "I kept a promise, and I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for you believing in me, and all your little tricks to keep me at it". "Yes you would" she told me, firmly.
I’m not so sure! I’ve always been plagued by self doubt, and I’m not as prolific a writer as I’d like to be, - mostly because of that and the fact I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Also, a lot of the time I feel too ill or am in too much pain to write, so I have to do it as and when.
She and I just clicked and I was so lucky to have her teaching me because her enthusiasm for the subject, for Shakespeare, for theatre, and for words was infectious!
Another English teacher was there too, and she hasn't aged a single day! (Yes I guess I was one of those English Department swats who spent many lunchtimes and break times talking to teachers or sitting in the corner of a classroom...writing)!
Everybody gave me lots of hugs, cards, flowers and wine! A friend bought me a necklace (with a tiny pen, notebook, and footprint charms attached) which I admit I didn’t take off for forty eight hours afterwards.
I probably would have slept in my dress as well if I hadn’t been so scared it would tear! The dress is a floaty, strappy number of grey, pale blue, pink and brown (and so much nicer than it sounds)!
Everyone was so lovely to me and having them there meant more than the book did. Maybe I shouldn’t say that though!
Anyway, the speech was predictably nerve -wrecking and I could feel myself beginning to shake inside, so I didn't say all that I wanted to. I think it went well enough. My family filmed it but I haven’t worked up the courage to watch it back yet.
Later I was told,
.”When you talked about what's happening to disabled people (in your speech) people's jaws dropped”.
I couldn’t miss a chance to raise awareness of the hardship, struggle, sanctions, ‘scrounger’ rhetoric we’re facing as a result of government policy, After all, it’s what I do (and what I’ve always done). Disability rights is part of who I am – and it’s not like it isn’t covered in the book- (at least in places).
My family were so happy too, and I felt all was right in my little world
The food was lovely, the atmosphere was all cosy and I felt so lucky to have so many people I loved all together.
The book made that possible, so I owe IT a lot.
I hope that it does raise awareness, as well as showing that something good and positive can come out of bad things. I didn’t choose my Cerebral Palsy, but I can choose to use my experiences to help (and hopefully entertain) others.
*Taking Steps' is Available from Amazon, and you can keep up to date with the latest news on Facebook: