Sara Gethin writes fiction for adults, but as Wendy White she is known for her children’s books. As Sara, she has published two novels for adults with Honno. You will find them at the first Honno Authors Book Fair, scheduled to take place in Narberth on Saturday 7 May.
Like so many writers, Sara saw her latest book, Emmet and Me, published during lockdown. As part of this ongoing thread featuring Honno authors, she agreed to share some of her thoughts and observations about the past couple of years. Over to you, Sara.
What a start to the new decade we’ve all experienced – seemingly endless lockdown isolation, and Covid bringing devastating heartbreak to so many. I’m extremely thankful that my family stayed well, and we managed to see each other as often as possible. I was very fortunate. Still, the ‘new normal’ of the last two years has been strange to live through, for all of us.
My new normal began with a phone call from my GP in March 2020, advising me to shield. That month – and the next – went by in a blur of navigating online food shopping, and long phone calls to family and friends. I spent my allotted outdoor hour walking along the coast, staring across the waves to the horizon. (I’d read a newspaper article that said big vistas helped dispel the sense of a shrunken world. The tactic seemed to work.) I read a lot of books, although I couldn’t settle to write myself.
But during the beautiful weather of May ’20, my mind was suddenly overflowing with ideas. Every afternoon, I carried my laptop to the little shed in our garden and wrote. Months later, the result was a novel-length story for older children. I’ve provisionally called it ‘The Ghost of Greenvale Hall’. The story is darker than my usual offerings for children, taking in the pandemic, through to the Afghanistan crisis. It needs quite a bit of tidying up before it can be sent out to potential publishers, but I’m very relieved to have written something – anything – in lockdown. My urge to write didn’t abandon me. I’m extremely grateful for that.
During one of the times when indoor gatherings were banned, my second novel for adults, ‘Emmet and Me’, was published. It felt odd to have a new book meet the world in such weird times. As an in-person launch wasn’t possible, Honno, my publisher, organised a Zoom event with the help of Caernarfon-based indie bookshop, Palas Print. We invited Irish book-blogger, Mairéad Hearne, to chat with me about the background to the book, and we were delighted to have so many friends join us. Thank goodness for Zoom! (Now, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.)
It was a lovely launch evening, bringing together Britain, Ireland, and even some countries further afield in a way that would have been difficult in person. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as we thanked and waved goodbye to our online attendees, I felt there had been only one thing missing – serving up slices of cake. How I miss book events with cake, and booklovers in the room to eat it with!
Two years on from my GP’s first phone call, my new normal hasn’t changed so very much, due to my unruly heart and the news that Omicron has a particularly nasty effect on cardiac rhythms. I’m longing to meet up with my writing groups in person, visit schools to talk about writing as I used to, and be part of the thriving book fair scene once more. Hopefully, all these will be possible for me soon – I know I will certainly never again take them for granted.
So, I’m looking forward, with huge excitement, to the Honno Book Fair on May 7th. It will be inspirational to meet readers and writers visiting the fair at beautiful Narberth, and to get together with fellow Honno authors – setting out the table, unpacking the boxes, getting a slice or two of cake from the café, and spending the whole day talking about books.
Cake and books. Now, what could be more wonderful?
What indeed, Sara! Thank you for taking part.
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