Quite often, when I don’t blog for a while it’s because I haven’t got anything to say. On this occasion it’s the opposite — it’s been a busy couple of weeks, as people who follow me on Twitter will have noticed, and I’ve been away from my computer enough that I haven’t been able to blog. So I’m sorry about that!
First of all, I entered Pitch Wars. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry — neither had I until the day the submission window opened, which meant I wrote a query in haste, spent three days attempting to edit until I didn’t hate every single word I’d written, and sent in my entry. Effectively it’s a contest for unagented writers: the first round is to find a mentor with whom you’ll work to edit your book, and then you get the chance to pitch it to agents. I submitted Butterfly of Night, as I just finished writing another draft a few weeks ago and felt it was potentially strong enough to succeed.
Writing the query was particularly tricky because I had to decide on a genre for the book. After a fair bit of research, I decided to opt for calling it a YA “psychological thriller”, especially as Wikipedia listed a few titles that seemed comparative in mood and themes (e.g. Jessica Jones). Then it was time to polish up my early chapters and send them in. I haven’t heard anything yet, so it’s looking less and less likely that I’ll get anywhere, but I figured it was worth a try. If there’s any news, you can be sure I’ll let you know!
But I quickly had to stop stalking the Pitch Wars mentors on Twitter and set about packing, because I was off to Ireland with my friend Charley. You may be aware that I went to Ireland in 2013 following a long obsession with the literature and history of the country, and that’s only intensified after studying ASNaC for a while. This second visit was focused entirely around the Burren, on the west coast, and involved quite a lot of walking.
And rain. It also involved quite a lot of rain.
I guess my first visit to Ireland, where we had surprisingly great weather for the whole week, lured me into a false sense of security. Although I’d packed weather proof boots and a raincoat, I wasn’t expecting to need them, and I only had one warm hoodie and one pair of jeans with me. I was counting on being able to spend a bit of time in sandals and shorts, but I was wrong, for the most part. One of our walks was notable not just because it was 32km long, but because the last 15km of that were in relentless, unceasing rain. It turns out my raincoat is only waterproof for about an hour and a half. Both it and my boots gave up somewhere after the two hour mark, and the last hour was just a matter of getting increasingly soggy.
I’ll talk about my Ireland adventures in more detail in a future post, because I want to share pictures with you but I haven’t synced them all from my camera yet. But this particular walk is something that I think will stick in my mind for a long time. If we’d done that 32km walk in sunshine, maybe we would have remembered it because it was long, and hard work, and because our feet hurt the next day. Maybe we would have been proud of ourselves because we kept going and eventually reached Poulnabrone Dolmen entirely under our own steam, proving that we can read maps after all. But…
… well, it wasn’t really about that, in the end. We thought the stories we told would be about hills and beauty and megalithic tombs and maybe they are, but more than that, they’re about trudging uphill in pouring rain, yelling out the lyrics to Frank Turner’s Love Ire & Song because it’s the only thing we could remember all the words to and we thought singing would help us keep our spirits up. I’m willing to bet there weren’t many people out in those fields at that time, which is probably just as well — our raucous, exhausted shouts of SO COME ON, OLD FRIENDS, TO THE STREETS! might have been slightly disruptive.*
It worked, though. And the rain kept us from thinking too much about how much our feet hurt, although a blister was slowly turning my toe into a hole. (It’s kind of gross. My little toe no longer has a top. I don’t know exactly what happened.) Sure, it took our boots three days to dry and our room smelt of damp, and yeah, we couldn’t get as many great pictures as we’d have liked because it would have waterlogged our cameras.
But you don’t need a camera to have stories.
And we managed the obligatory day of sunshine, too, for long enough for me to get mildly sunburnt on my back, arms, and nose. I can’t believe it. I’m not usually the burning type — I tan, which is handy since most suncreams set off an allergic reaction for me — and it was hardly overwhelming heat. But here I am, with emollient cream smeared on my nose to stop it from itching. It was worth it for the view at the Cliffs of Moher, though. The rest of the week may have been rainy, but when it came to beauty, Ireland definitely delivered:
It was my second visit to the Cliffs. The first was also beautiful, and I was glad I had the chance to share the lovely colours with Charley, especially after the rest of the week had been so wet. I think once we got there she realised why I’d insisted on saving it for the sunniest day that we were there. Worth every millimetre of burned skin.
I’ll be back over the next few days to tell you more about our trip, including the walk to Kilfenora that had us seriously doubting the length of an Irish kilometre and our ability to read maps; disappointing tea-rooms and friendly but potentially axe-murdering pub owners; small dogs and large cows and a deficit of goats; a craft market and a fairy mount we never actually found.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this photo of Charley and me looking adventurous — and far too happy to have been more than a couple of kilometres into one of our seemingly endless walks.
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*Real talk: I had no idea how motivating that song would be, but it turns out when you’re battling the elements, the lines “AND WE’LL STRAIGHTEN OUR BACKS AND WE WON’T BE AFRAID” feel even more defiant than they usually do. Plus it’s a good song for yelling. It lends itself to that. Just be grateful there’s no video footage.