We are always delighted to hear a success story from our Writers' Lab participants. And this week we are delighted to introduce author of the Emily Windsnap series, Liz Kessler, on our blog. Emily joined Skyros at the beginning of her writing adventure and has since gone on to publish a New York Times best-selling series. Her books have been translated into over twenty five languages. Read on to find out more about the journey she took …
I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
OK, hold on a sec, let me put that slightly more accurately. When I was eight, I wrote a few poems. One of these, Jinx’s Shop, appeared in my local newspaper and I decided on the spot that I was going to become a writer when I grew up.
What I did in fact become was a journalist and then a teacher. Approximately twenty-five years after my first creative success with that early poem, I finally remembered what I wanted to do with my life.
I was in my early thirties. I had recently made a huge decision to leave a full time job and pick up some freelance work whilst pursuing the dream I had suddenly remembered I’d always had.
I was halfway through an MA in Novel Writing when a few lines of a poem popped into my head. It began like this…
Mary Penelope lived on a boat,
Which was all very well, but it didn’t quite float.
It wavered and wobbled and fell on its side
Whenever she tried to go out for a ride.
As is often the way when deadlines are looming, the poem felt much more interesting than my coursework. I worked on it for three weeks. Then I sent it to a writer friend who showed it to her editor. He suggested I try writing it as a book rather than as a poem. So off I went to do just that.
Only trouble was, by the time I’d told the story of the poem, I realised I’d only written an opening chapter. Now what was I to do?
Well, what I was to do, it turned out, was to go to Skyros on a life-changing holiday.
Here are some things I remember from my time in this magical place…
• Talking to my œkos group about how I wanted to call myself a writer but didn’t feel that I could until I was published – and being given the confidence to define myself in terms of my passion and not my salary.
• Sneaking off into quiet spaces on my own to write the chapter that would become the foundation for my first novel.
• Sitting on a rock looking out at the sea. Watching the way the sunlight danced on the water, and feeling so inspired by this that the description went into my book.
• Writing a letter to myself in which I promised that I would become a published author if I worked hard and kept believing I could do it.
And it wasn’t just these moments. The whole atmosphere of the holiday planted such strength and desire in me that by the time I came home, I had a feeling my life was set on a new and exciting course.
And so it was. I finished the book the following year. Another year later, The Tail of Emily Windsnap was born. Four books followed in this series and went on to be published all around the world.
Since then, I have written ten novels in total and two early reader books. I am just finishing two more and have a contract for another three. My books have been translated into over twenty five languages and sold over three million copies. This is so far beyond what I had ever dreamed of that, even now, I can’t help stopping myself and asking if this has really happened to me.
Would it have happened without Skyros? I’d like to think it might. When I went on the holiday, I was already setting out on a new path and I knew where I wanted to get to. But Skyros gave me the belief that I had it in me to get there and that it wasn’t childish or silly of me to dream of a life where my passion and my job were the same thing. It also gave me an incredible group of friends who would go on to support me and cheer me on every step of the way. (My œkos group still meets once a year.)
The way I see it is that I put myself in front of Skyros and agreed to open up to what was being offered. In return, Skyros shone a torch on my life, showed me the cracks and the dark corners I’d been hiding from, held my hand while I looked round, and then turned its light on a door I hadn’t noticed and invited me to open it.
Over a decade later, I’m so glad I stepped through that door. The journey on the other side has been incredible. And I’m grateful to have been invited to write this blog so I can say something to Skyros that I’ve been wanting to say for the last twelve years.
The Skyros Writer's Lab in Skyros island, Greece, offers an escape in which to
enjoy the joys and struggles of the writing process in a beautiful
location with first-class tutoring, delicious food and great company.
The 2014 Writers' Lab programme is due to be released shortly. If you would like to register your interest, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and we will send you a copy of the brand new brochure as soon as it is released.
For more information about Liz Kessler and her books, visit her website at www.lizkessler.co.uk
Or you can find her on her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/lizkesslerchildrensauthor
Or follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/lizkesslerbooks