I really struggled with this post. Half of me was saying delete it, the other half was telling me to press the publish button, so as you can probably gather by the fact you are reading this, the publish desire was stronger than saying nothing.
This is not the year I should be writing this post, I never wanted to write this, but I guess that at least when I am gone too, there will be a tiny part of the internet that has my memories stamped on it.
Normally end of year posts like this are brilliant to write, if only for the fact that you can look back at your year, and think – I can’t believe I did that!
In terms of book blogging, I have to say that 2019 was undoubtedly the most amazing, fulfilling and fantastic year I could have wished for. I met Antonia, who is the host of Booktime Brunch on Chiltern Voice and she very kindly asked me to be a guest on her programme. I have been on Booktime Brunch three times now, and honestly, being with Antonia is just like sitting with a good friend talking about books! She is one of the most kindest and genuine people I know, and am so pleased I plucked up the courage to reply to her tweet!
Antonia and I at Chiltern Voice Radio Station!
Henley Literary Festival – plus a tote – what more could a Bookworm want?!
After plucking up the courage to approach them, I was lucky enough to live tweet at the Henley Literary Festival, which was a mixture of nerve wracking and brilliant. Sara, Tom, Martha and Sam could not have been kinder, and really helped me all through an absolutely unforgettable day.
I met not only the authors (and could only mumble and blush “I loved your books so much” to them, who were all so lovely!), but also finally got a chance to meet Alison Barrow, Louise Swannell and Becca Mundy, who have been brilliantly supportive to me ever since I started Years of Reading!
It was a hectic, fantastic, memorable day and I loved every single minute.
Tring Book Festival
Fired up by my braveness – or the fact I thought why not, I also approached Alison and Ben at the Tring Book Festival to ask if I could live tweet for them too! They were so kind and welcoming, and it was a book bloggers dream event! I was gutted I couldn’t go to more, and I loved it. From the moment I got there, I felt part of the team and it was a fabulous day.
Ben went one stage further and let me help with the social media for the Festival which was a dream come true! Plus it gave me a real insight into how a Book Festival really works, and it was fantastic to be involved with the inaugural festival – I can’t wait to see what happens next year… watch this space… !
Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award Shadow Judge
I have to admit that when I first got the email from Maddy asking if I would like to be a Shadow Panel Judge on the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award, I thought it was an elaborate phishing email!
Fortunately it wasn’t, and I cannot tell you how amazing it was to be part of such a prestigious and fabulous prize. Not only did I discover books that were unlike anything I had ever read, I also finally met some of my Bookish Friends in real life that I had only talked to online. As well as Anne, David, Linda and Phoebe who were my fellow Shadow Judges, I also met Patrick, Clair, Eric, and Ova. We’ll skip over the part where I went up and hugged a woman before realising it wasn’t Phoebe – but to be fair they did look identical!
I needed to get all of that out of the way, not to brag or show off, but to kind of explain why I did these things. Why 2019 was the year all these things happened.
Honestly, I could give you all some flannel about being nearly 50 and ‘finding myself’ and ‘making time for me’ but it is far simpler than that.
My Mum passed away in March, and I just thought, what is stopping me? What is the worse that could happen?
The last conversation we had before she passed away, she told me that she was proud of me and was glad I had found what made me happy. She said that her illness had made her realise that there were times she had wondered what if, and she didn’t ever want me to look back and think the same.
I realised I didn’t either. I was always someone’s Mum, someone’s wife, someone’s daughter and I am not saying I don’t love that, but it is not enough. I know some people love being at home and get great joy from what they do, and I absolutely admire and get it, but God, I was bored.
It was suddenly like a switch had been flipped, and I realised that first of all, people can only say no – which is why I never tweeted publicly, or wrote some teasing ‘You will never guess what I’m doing’ tweet, because quite frankly, I would have looked a right banana if it never came off!
As I thought about it, I reckoned that most of the people I would approach to ask were technically young enough to be my children, and I always treat people with respect at all times, suddenly, asking someone didn’t seem scary any more! Little by little, with each small success, be it a publicist very kindly agreeing to send me a proof, or someone sending me a thank you tweet for recommending a book, I realised I knew this was something I could do. Long conversations with my bookish best friend Amanda (Bookish Chat) who has been the best cheerleader a woman could wish for, were just what I needed to keep going.
Does this mean that my grieving has stopped and now all I care about is books? Absolutely not – Christmas has been an emotional, heartbreaking mixture of seeing the joy and happiness my kids have (when not trying to wind each other up), and filled with the searing pain of not being able to ring the one person I could share my Christmas with. I forgot to cancel a book I ordered for Mum and I cannot tell you how much it hurt when I held that book in my hands, but that I can’t bear to return it.
Grief is not something you deal with and put away, ready to move on after a length of time. It is an ever present sadness and catches you the most when you least expect it. The most pain can come from the most random thing – from seeing an advert for a telly programme I know Mum would love, to having to explain it all to people you haven’t seen for a long time, when they ask you how your parents are.
This was not what was supposed to happen to my Mum yet, I was not ready for this, I want her here with me and it hurts like hell.
I guess what I am trying to say to you all is this. All I have ever done since starting Years Of Reading Selfishly is talk about books I love. Along the way, I have not only realised that I am actually quite good at it, and I do know my bookish onions (thank you fabulous and wonderful Siobhain), but that Years Of Reading Selfishly is mine, and I can do whatever I want with it!
As we go into 2020, all I know for sure is that I will never stop talking about books, that I am grateful for every book I am sent, and I love what I am doing. I am not going to worry what other people think, or not ask for something because I feel I haven’t earned the right. You know what, I have.
Thank you to every single fellow blogger, author, publicist, and bookish person who has helped make 2019 for Year of Reading so unforgettable – I can’t ever thank you all enough, and have finally found my perfect tribe!
This time next year, who knows? I could have had another wonderful Book Blogging year, or I might have decided that I am done and have stopped doing it all together.
At least I will be able to look back and say I loved every single crazy, full on minute of it, and that’s all that matters right now. It’s just not fair my Mum isn’t here to see it too.
Lots of love,