Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The family member who declines to be named…

…is looking after Hepworth Towers, the cat and my email, while Dave and I abscond on the cut:

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So there will be pretty slim pickings on the blog for a while.

Here is part of Dave’s packing list (for your amusement):

dave's list

Happy holidays!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Come along and say hello!

You’ve seen the front cover of my new book - BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU - but not the back cover. So here is the blurb  -

Frances has been married to Sol since the beginning of time. He is eccentric and difficult to live with, but she finds him endearing and very funny, even while wanting to strangle him with his own jogging bottoms. Now, something threatens to split them apart. Frances wants one thing and Sol wants another, and there is no way to compromise. But I told you last year that I loved you is a portrait of a mature marriage at a crossroads – intimate, funny, tender and honest.

clever, funny, subtle, wry, sad and uplifting all at once…Sue Hepworth writes thoughtfully and insightfully, and with such tenderness and humour” Judith Murray, literary agent

I’m having a launch party at Scarthin Books on June 9th, 6pm -7.30 pm and it would be great of you could come along and say hello and help me celebrate.

I’m also going to be signing copies of the new book in three branches of Waterstone’s on the following days:

Chesterfield Waterstone’s    June 11th, 2pm - 4pm.

Sheffield Waterstone’s         June 18th, 11 am - 3pm.

Derby Waterstone’s              June 25th, 11am -3pm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

“Authors are trying to sell their books to readers. Publishers are trying to sell their books to retailers.”

Do you remember the agent who liked my writing very much but said she couldn’t sell my book to a publisher? You know I’ve been telling you there are loads of mid-list authors with loyal readers who have been dropped by their publishers?  Well, read about this one who has been shortlisted for three prizes, won one, has several books already in print, and whose agent tried unsuccessfully for two years to get her a publisher for her fourth book. Now the author, Linda Gillard, has given up and is self-publishing an e-book. Go, Linda!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An exploding brain

It is 7 a.m. and i have already had a half hour discussion with Dave about the design of my posters for my Waterstone’s events. He is creative and adventurous with design. I am conservative and have too many other things to think about.

A good friend emailed me yesterday to say she loved the cover of my book, and told me other news, and I found myself writing back - “I’m sorry to be so brief, but I don’t email for pleasure any more.” What a poser I sounded.

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What I meant was - “My brain is frazzled with trying to organise so many different things at once and trying to contact so many different people about so many different things” –

    • working out how to upload an image of the book to the entry on Amazon;
    • persuading the wholesalers to stock it;
    • amending the book details on Nielsen (the definitive books database. Nielsen are in charge of ISBNs);
    • emailing radio stations and journalists;
    • writing begging letters to famous people, asking them to read my book and give me a plug for the cover;
    • posting pre-release copies to people who actually want them;
    • etc;
    • etc;
    • etc;   

I am a writer, and not a natural publicist, office manager, accounts clerk, publisher, or techie.  But then, three years ago I couldn’t play the saxophone, or balance on a slackline, could I?

I love the book, I believe in the book, and I will do my damnedest to sell it.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Yesterday morning…

Sue(lying in bed): I feel sick.

Dave: Why don’t you go downstairs and look at your box of books? That will make you feel better.

Sue: I don’t need to. I have one here on my bedside table I can fondle.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Yay! They’re here! My pre-release copies have arrived!

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And here’s a close-up:


Don’t you just love it? Don’t I have some clever children? And thank you, Ella, for the great idea!


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Spring comes late to our lane

When people ask me if I like living here – in the Peak District - I  always say “I loathe it in the winter and I love it in the summer. Winter is the price you have to pay for the other nine months of the year.” Well, now it’s payback time!

My slackline is back up on the front lawn, and this is my favourite time for gardening, when the weather is mild enough to work outside, and the weeds have not yet got a hold so I feel optimistic about finally fettling things.

Every morning lately I’ve been sitting in my study working on my marketing and PR campaign for the new book, but yesterday I kept rushing outside and throwing myself down on the bench, shutting my eyes and turning my face to the sky, and saying, “Come and get me, sun!”

I had to go to the post office, which is in the next village, so I nipped there on my bike. I passed the sheep and lambs in the field at the end of our lane, but they weren’t near enough to the wall to photograph. But down the hill and over the wall amongst the trees, there was:

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What joy. The other day we saw tiny piglets scurrying around in the mud. Yesterday they were lying with their mother on the straw in the ark, and I didn’t have my zoom.

Here are some shots of the lambs from another evening:

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Twitter, Catullus and me

Isaac (my son) and Diane, a writing friend, persuaded me to join up to Twitter in February and since then I have tweeted over a hundred times.

Am I pleased?

Is it worth the bother?

This jury is out.

I can see if your friends and colleagues are on Twitter, it would be fun and/or helpful to be on Twitter, too. You can share ideas and jokes and useful links to stuff on the net. You can have a running conversation throughout your day. Unfortunately, apart from said writing friend above, not one of my friends is on Twitter, so I tweet in an ocean of strangers.

On the other hand I do like seeing what Isaac is talking about when he’s awake. And he does post links to his wonderful photographs via Twitter – including ones like this of my granddaughter, Lux.

bean day 245  april 2011

But other joys on Twitter are few. Yes, there are some links to interesting stuff on the net: I wouldn’t have found about Authors for Japan if I hadn’t been on Twitter. And Samira Ahmed of Channel 4 News signposts current discussions in the media that I’m interested in.

But apart from my Californian family, the one tweeter who really adds something to my day is someone calling himself @arjunbasu. He tweets a lot, and almost all his tweets are vignettes. Here are some examples:

This is some deep valley, he says, and this is one obvious statement too many, but they are alone in the wilderness, so she merely says, Yes

He cuts a tomato while whistling Hava Nagila. I don't know you anymore, she says. And he thinks she's really talking about his new underwear

He woke up and went to work in the kitchen and then she woke up and he said, Pancakes? and she said, But I like to be grumpy in the morning.

It was last call. He was stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper. His cell phone's battery was empty. So he started thinking up his will.

And where does Catullus fit in?  The 140 character constraint makes Twitter a place designed for epigrams. I am sure that Catullus and Martial would have tweeted. Why don’t more people use Twitter to say something clever or witty? Who bloody cares that @Michael43 has just got home from the gym, or that @sarah123 is eating chocolate fridge cake?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Busy, busy, busy

I’m really busy working on my PR campaign and although I keep getting ideas for the blog – e.g. Would Catullus have used Twitter? – I haven’t got time to write these posts. I’m sorry. Please will you make do for now with this old Times piece which I showed (new parent) Isaac at the weekend, and which he enjoyed?

What the Green Paper left out

The Green Paper on parental leave misses the point. Parents don’t need maternity leave or paternity leave. Tired, stressed, burnt-out parents don’t need leave to see their children, they need leave from their children. If only the government would issue parental respite vouchers along with Child Benefit, parents could take short sabbaticals from parenting at those flashpoints when the going gets too tough.

Think of the early infant years when you stumble zombie-like through a chain of frazzled days and sleepless nights, measuring out your life with feeds and nappy changes. Wouldn’t three nights of parental respite put your body and mind back together, remind you who you were, and also why you wanted a baby in the first place ?

Later, when there are two under fives in the house, and you’ve just vicariously suffered two consecutive bouts of chicken pox, closely followed by 48 hour sickness and diarrhoea, you could cash in one of your vouchers. A stimulating city break or a weekend away in unfettered fresh air would give you the strength to carry on.

Once sick children are past the easy stage of being feverish, weak and pathetic, and have reached the downstairs-in-the-sitting-room-playing-with-Lego-phase, it’s wearing. They are well enough to be crabby, but not well enough to have a friend to play. Being cooped up together with no dilution in each other’s company for seven hours every day can make you both feel pretty murderous, no matter how much you love each other. After several weeks of my son’s tonsillitis and quinsy I remember stamping down the cellar steps to fetch coal, saying “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him” and on returning with a full bucket found him behind the door whispering “I hate her, I hate her, I hate her.” If someone had offered me parental respite of just two days we would have both leaped for joy.

Different people have different strengths: a parent may sail through one childhood phase, only to be floored by the next. I find new born babies irresistible, but when they get to four months old I find them boring, and dream of putting them in a time capsule, to get them out again when they are old enough to talk.

There are some parents who do not feel up to making costumes for the nativity play at junior school, or fiddling with all those Blue Peter models. They shrink from the thought of a dozen pairs of greasy hands when it’s their turn on the class cooking rota, and they would rather sign up for a course in lion taming than help on a school trip.

Other parents are a dab hand with all that primary stuff but find it too cold and tedious standing on the touch-line for pubescent hockey and football matches, and too nerve racking watching their sons risk paraplegia by playing in the school rugby team. They also get worn down by a house awash with swirling hormones, a fridge that needs restocking daily, conversations conducted at ten decibels, providing a 24 hour taxi service, and fielding phone calls from teachers pursuing missing coursework.

My personal current blackspot is cooking for a teenage vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables. I love cooking, but as far as making healthy, balanced meals for someone who only wants junk food is concerned, I’m burnt out. I’m battle weary from arguing with someone who at ten paces can recognise and reject anything containing a shred of fibre or an infinitesimal trace of a vitamin. Fights over meeting GCSE coursework deadlines are bad enough - who needs extra grief ?

I’ve shot through my diligent, dutiful catering phase, and serve up instant junk vegetarian every other day, boosted by synthetic vitamins and minerals. If only my innovative parental respite system had been in operation, I might have been able to sustain the provision of healthy food until he left for University, and worried about his own baked beans.

Look, the system needs fine tuning but it doesn’t have to be too complicated. Each parent would have a set number of vouchers for each year of the child’s life, up to the age of eighteen. These vouchers could then be cashed in with pensioners who became registered providers of parental respite, and they in turn would be reimbursed by the Benefits Agency. The system would thus be doubly beneficial. It would boost pensioners’ income as well as relieving pressure on families.

No doubt the Benefits Agency would want to evaluate how parents used their vouchers. Parents new to the job would probably practise spend-as-they-grow, whereas more experienced parents might save their vouchers and have one long decadent splurge during the most arduous phase of adolescence. During a lengthy happy-families phase an insouciant parent might altruistically donate a few vouchers to the PTA fund raising auction. A desperate parent might organise after dinner poker with vouchers as the stakes.

Those especially blessed people born with huge reserves of patience and deep wellsprings of parental instinct may find that their children leave home before all the vouchers are spent. You can just imagine the classified ad: “For sale: cot, box of assorted Lego, inline skates size 5, Nintendo, and fifty parental respite vouchers. Will separate.

© Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers 2000

Friday, April 01, 2011


Thinking about perfection and imperfection with regards to the copy of my book that came the other day, I remembered this piece I had in The Times some years ago:

The idea of perfection

Reading the Orange Prize winner The Idea of Perfection has made me consider the thorniness of liking things just so. I loved the book, but in my Picador edition there were no quotation marks used to enclose the direct speech. And I hated that.

Popular culture abounds with characters with fine discrimination, or obsessive pickiness, depending on your point of view. Remember Meg Ryan as Sally in When Harry Met Sally? “I’d like apple pie a la mode. But I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.” You could say she was picky.

But if there were a team event for pickiness in the Olympics, my family would get the Gold medal, every time. At fifteen my brother was ironing his own shirts, because my mother didn’t do it well enough. Now if you wash up for him he will tell you to turn the teaspoons upside down on the draining board so that they drain efficiently. I am picky about everything. So picky that last time I had breakfast in bed, my husband - who can never remember precisely what I like, but who wanted me to enjoy the treat - brought me three different mugs for my tea, three spreads, and three different types of jam. My father, a Grand Master of pickiness, will spurn every kipper that isn’t from Craster. But if you send him one from that blessed haven you give him exquisite pleasure, and he will be sweet for days.

At least you can be sure of giving great pleasure to high maintenance types if you make the effort and get it right. Those people who say “I’m easy,” or “I don’t mind,” can be impossible to please. How can you possibly know how to delight those colourless children who come round to tea, and who “don’t mind” whether they have fish fingers or pizza or baked beans on toast?

Pickiness becomes truly unbearable, though, when it extends to a delusion that other people want to know your opinion about everything on every occasion even when you haven’t been asked. This week I am dreading my father coming to stay, and casting his critical eye over my treasured garden, because I know he will make derogatory comments about how I have pruned the blackcurrants or let blackspot infest my roses. When someone picks at an expression of your creativity, that’s when it hurts the most.

So if someone actually asks your opinion about something which they care deeply, and in which you can see an imperfection, what do you tell them ? If they have just spent three months stitching a tapestry and they ask you if you think that it matters that they ran out of blue and had to use another dye lot and can you see the difference, and does it matter ? If you can, and it does, what do you say?

When planting our new garden my husband asked exactly where I wanted him to place the silver birch tree, so I marked the spot in the ground with a stick. “We work to fine tolerances here,” he said. When I viewed the tree later from the kitchen, I thought it was nine inches too far to the right, but I bit my tongue and said nothing. I was rewarded for this uncharacteristic forbearance when in the evening he looked through the window and decided that the tree needed moving, about nine inches to the left. Such miracles are rare.

I know I’m difficult. But being the picker can be just as uncomfortable as being the pickee. It is not easy when someone you love has just sanded and varnished a wooden floor for you, and every time you sit down on the sofa you notice a white paint stain (he missed) under the varnish.

I do find it helps to remind myself that in some cultures craftsmen deliberately include a mistake in their work, because only God can create things perfect. It also helps to read the motto my husband gave me “Perfection is our aim. We must learn to tolerate excellence.”

© Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers 2011