I saw a short story competition in late July that I really wanted to enter. It is a dragonfly tea competition, and will be judged by Jojo Moyes, who is a favourite author of mine. Best of all, it was free to enter.
I knew it would be a challenge - I didn't find the choices of given titles at all inspiring - but the summer stretched ahead and the closing date was today - the last day of August.
I took the titles to Guernsey as we visited my sister. I imagined carefree days of children running along beaches while I sat and scribbled. Instead, we walked, climbed, played tennis and football on the beach, bodyboarded on the beach and kept the kids up late. By the time we came home, the best I'd done was to have a germ of an idea.
Then we had a couple of weeks of squeezing things in - parties, going in to work, and late night planning sessions. Somehow the time to write evaporated like a summer puddle. At the very end, I took them to a playcentre and wrote a draft, longhand. Last week we went camping with the kids' dad. I took my laptop, which I'd typed the draft onto. We were going to have some time at his parents', and I thought they would appreciate me stepping back, and giving them time with the grandkids. I thought he would be able to do the parenting (for once!) while I wrote.
But that didn't work out either. We ended up camping for an extra night. We ended up putting the kids to bed at 10, and falling into sleeping bags ourselves. There were difficult family moments to navigate; there were children who wanted and needed me constantly. There were people who talked to me whenever I sat down to write. I didn't sleep well, so I felt constantly tired and uncreative. Then my laptop stopped working, and I gave up.
Which left one weekend. I spent Saturday unpacking and ringfenced some time on Sunday, but then Mum phoned and needed me. So it has become a last-minute race to the post, today. We had some family commitments, but in between, I've edited. I don't know how good it is - I came very close to giving in, but in the end, I reasoned that if you give in, you never achieve. And maybe, just maybe, my story is better than I think. Well, I can dream, can't I?! So it has been sent. The deed is done, the deadline met, by a whisker. Now to catch up on the laundry...