Tag Archives: Woman in a White Coat

Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

A selection of books recommended by the staff at Foyles

Now that I finished the final draft Woman in a White Coat I’ve been scouring Waterstone’s and Foyles for ideas for the cover. Also looked at covers by designers who entered for The Academy of British Cover Design awards.

I know I’d like to have a white shiny cover and I’ve seen quite a few that I like, but unfortunately mainstream publishers rarely include the name of the cover designer.

Herewith a taster – the beginning of Chapter 3 of Woman in a White Coat

A Country at War

We were tired and hungry, my sister Hannah and I, as we stood waiting in Littleport Village Hall, waiting to be chosen by someone, anyone.

‘Don’t snivel,’ Hannah said. ‘No-one will take us in if they see you crying.’

She pushed my hand away.

‘You’re too old to hold hands Abby, and anyhow your hands are always wet and sticky.’

Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before World War 2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d a week for the first child and 8/6d for each subsequent child. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st, 1939. London railway stations were packed with children and whole trains were commandeered.

Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls.

Continue reading Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

April Fool’s Day and my New Resolution

Abby age 2

My memoir Woman in a White Coat starts 85 years ago in October 1931, two years before this studio portrait was taken.

Who would have thought this serious little girl would qualify in dentistry and medicine, become an entrepreneur and end up as a consultant pathologist in a major London teaching hospital.

I was born at a time when a girl’s only future was marriage and children  – though I managed those too – married to the same loving husband for 60 years with four wonderful children and four equally wonderful grandchildren.

There are 30 days in April and my memoir presently has 29 chapters so if I edit one chapter a day my memoir will be ready to be uploaded as an e-book by the end of the month. That is my April Fool’s Day resolution.

If you email me at abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

Spread the Word – Life Writing Prize

Closing date 05.02.2017

Great surprise to open an email from Spread the Word and find that they have established a Life Writing Prize with a generous donation from Joanna Munro and partnership support from Goldsmiths University, Arvon and the Royal Society of Literature.

It is open now to UK residents over 18, and you can submit as many pieces of not more than 5000 words. The closing date is February 5th 2017.

The judges are Blake Morrison, Dr Katy Massey and Margaret Stead, Publishing Director of Atlantic Books. The first prize is generous – £1,500, an Arvon course, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature and a meeting with an agent or editor. Two highly commended writers will receive £500 each and a meeting with an agent or editor.

For me, it’s a great incentive to finish editing my memoir Woman in a White Coat.  I think that several of the episodes are worth working up as stand-alone pieces. This is just what I need to get me going – doesn’t matter if I don’t get long- or short-listed though having my memoir short-listed for the Tony Lothian and Wasafiri prizes was a great boost to my moral. Having a heart attack set me back and played havoc with my ability to motivate myself. Something like this certainly helps.

Thank you Spread the Word

Heart Attacks and Hallucinations

Ventilation panels in ceiling
Ventilation panels in ceiling

My heart wasn’t doing too well after having a heart attack and two stents fitted so the cardiologist fitted an aortic balloon pump which was driven by a separate external pump.

I was doped to the eyeballs and I don’t remember telling Josh that the pump sounded like a washing machine but I was certainly convinced that the circular vent was the porthole of a washing-machine.

That was only one of the many queer delusions I experienced while heavily sedated, being ventilated and fighting for my life.

 

Any Old Iron??

Sagging bedstead
Sagging bedstead

Our poor Basque grandson has been sleeping uncomplainingly on this sagging folding bed the three times a year his family comes to visit. Quite by chance, I decided to do some of my physio exercises in the spare room on that bed and felt I might sink through right onto the floor.

Had to go to the South London dump to dispose of it and the electric blanket that decided to give up the ghost as soon as the weather turned chilly.

I have fond memories of the Rag and Bone man with a cart pulled by a scraggy old horse coming regularly through Petticoat Lane. He would never give you money in return for your offerings – only give you a little useless gift in exchange.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 Woman in a White Coat

I loved it when the coal man came. We could hear him calling ‘Coal for sale’ from streets away and I would be sent down to ask for a bag of coal.

Continue reading Any Old Iron??

Sunshine and Showers and a Double Rainbow

Didn't realise thee was a double rainbow until I saw my photo
Didn’t realise thee was a double rainbow until I saw my photo. Just visible in the top right hand corner if you click on the image.

That’s what it’s like after you’ve had a heart attack, had stents inserted in two of your coronary arteries, needed an intra-aortic balloon pump and artificial ventilation – some sunshine, some showers and the occasional double rainbow. Good days and bad days and then the sun comes out and there’s a double rainbow.

Out of hospital a month now and trying hard to get back to a semblance of normality. Had to cancel my classes but still enjoy cooking even if I have to sit down during the preparation. Had a couple of trips to the supermarket with Josh but still get tired easily.

 

Why don’t agents reply?

About the others who had trouble getting published
About the others who had trouble getting published

In the old days we had to include a stamped and addressed postcard with our submissions sent by snail post, but at least you could be sure they had got there when your postcard came back.

Now, even if you include a polite request for an acknowledgment, many agents don’t bother to send one or answer subsequent emails. On  the whole emails get to their destination but most of us have problems with our emails  from time to time.
I know literary agents are busy and overwhelmed and all that, but it’s so easy to set up an ‘out of office’ type reply. Elaine Borish charts the initial failure of 33 famous authors from Jane Austen to Zane Grey to get published, but at least they did get replies!!

The Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency  is a paragon of virtue in this matter. Their reply to a submission was by return:
Thank you very much for your email.
For all writers, this is to acknowledge receipt of your work. We personally read everything that comes into the MM Agency and will respond directly within the next twelve weeks if we are considering representation. Do let us know straight away if another agent requests your complete manuscript or, indeed, if you receive an offer of representation.  If you have not heard from us within twelve weeks, please take this to mean that we are no longer considering representation. Regrettably, we do not have the time to respond individually to each submission due to the sheer volume that the agency receives and the necessity of fulfilling our obligations to our existing clients. If you do not receive a response, please do not be downhearted. We receive a lot of very strong material but have to feel incredibly passionate about it from the moment we start reading in order to champion it effectively. This makes it a very personal decision, and one which might well differ from other agents.  Many thanks for sending us your work, and we look forward to reading it.
With my best wishes, Madeleine Milburn

Why can’t the others do the same?? It’s unreasonable to expect critiques or advice from agents – though some agents took the time to add an encouraging explanation to their ‘No’  to Woman in a White Coat – but an automatic acknowledgment takes virtually no effort once it is set up.

How lovely to have a cat

Rupert hugging Josh's shoes
Rupert 2nd hugging Josh’s shoes

I’d love to have a cat again but we live in an apartment on the 9th floor and it would be too dangerous to allow our cat out on the balcony. I’d already had one cat fall from my balcony when I was 7 and living in Petticoat Lane, though that was only from the 3rd floor.

Extract from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
It was wonderful coming home to Rupert. He’d wind himself round and round my ankles, delighted to see me again. I was used to being greeted by a mother who seemed barely to tolerate me.

When I went to the toilet outside on our little balcony, Rupert would follow me and walk along the brick support at the bottom of the protective railings. As he grew bolder, he started climbing over the coal bunker and up to the bar at the top, weaving in and out of the upright spikes. I could hardly bear to watch him. Sometimes he walked along the railings to our neighbour’s balcony. She always had a few scraps for a cat who was always hungry, even when he had just been fed.

‘Be careful,’ I told Rupert. ‘I know you’ve got nine lives, but we’re on the third floor, and it’s a long way down.’

Rupert said nothing and stalked into the kitchen, but when I did my homework he came to sit on my lap, purring loudly.

One terrible day, when I was standing on the balcony watching as Rupert put one careful foot in front of the other on the top bar of the guard rail, my mother called me.

‘Abby, come in at once. What’s all this?’

As I turned back, Rupert lost his footing and fell. I was paralysed; couldn’t move,

‘Mummy, come quickly,’ I screamed. ‘Rupert’s fallen off.’

‘He’ll be dead, for sure, but you’d better go down and see.’

I raced down the six flights of stairs, out into Goulston Street, round into Wentworth Street and into the entrance of our courtyard. Rupert was sitting there, nonchalantly licking a paw, as if falling from the third floor was nothing.

‘You’re a naughty, naughty, kitten,’ I said as I picked him up and hugged him.

The old woman who was always on her first floor balcony, looking out and gossiping about everyone, said:

‘They’ve got nine lives and no mistake. You should look after it better, Abby. You tell your mother I said so.’

Rupert licked my hand with his rough little tongue.

‘You’re to stop walking along the railings,’ I told him, but an hour later he was winding in and out of the spikes, as if to show he wasn’t a scaredy cat, even if I was.

When Josh and i were first married we had a tabby cat we also called Rupert

 From my memoir Woman in a White coat

The New Spitalfields Market

Only this sculpture of a pear. All the fresh fruit and vegetables have gone
Only this sculpture of a pear and a fig remind us that Spitalfields was once a thriving fruit and vegetable market.

My grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls, was in Spital Square on the edge of Spitalfields Market. On my way to school from our tenement in Petticoat Lane I walked through the market, skirting the squashed produce and horse droppings. While most farmers brought in their fruit and vegetables by lorry, some still used a horse and cart.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

I didn’t practise enough to play the cello well, but I enjoyed playing in a quartet. We played with great enthusiasm though not much musicianship. We were rarely quite in tune. Our practice room was next to the sixth form common room. The seniors would come out with their hands over their ears complaining about the noise.

Sarah had a little pitch pipe to give us an A but Jo, the viola player, seemed to have no sense of pitch. Sometimes even we couldn’t stand the sound she made and had to tell her to shut up. When we practised, either we weren’t quite in tune or one or other of us would come in a couple of beats late and we’d all start giggling. Once we started, anything would set us off laughing again.

Good Fridays and our Writers’ Circle

More jesters' faces
More painted jesters

Always look forward to the Fridays when our writers’ circle meets, especially today when a member who hadn’t been able to make it for some time came with a fascinating piece of diary writing. I am preparing a couple of chapters of my memoir Woman in a White Coat for a competition and brought them to our meeting. Annoying to find things i wish I had changed before sending the MS to agents. But then, every time I open something I’ve written I can’t resist re-editing.