Poetry

My autism diagnosis was like a (super late) letter from Hogwarts

It’s the explanation for all my quirks, from my vacant gaze

during conversations to my comfort-first wardrobe.

It’s my Hogwarts Express ticket: once I jumped through the barrier

I finally allowed myself to be me, no longer forcing myself to hide.

I released all the movements I held back for fear of being weird: flapping, rocking,

spinning around and holding my arms wide to catch the breeze on my skin.

 

It’s true, I can’t vanish glass, stun anyone or cast a bat-bogey hex.

But I can talk for hours about writing, old books and Sailor Moon.

 

Some days I can be silent, absorbed deep in my work

or lacking the energy to even move my mouth

and it always bothered me why no-one else seemed to do this.

 

Now I’ve realised there are others out there like me, who prefer

teaspoons to big spoons, see patterns everywhere

and wear sunglasses in supermarkets.

 

Harry got a visit from Hagrid.

I spoke to a psychologist.

The news they gave changed our lives forever.

 

Poetry, Short Stories, Uncategorized

A letter about autism to my childhood self

Hey. Try not to panic. It’s you from the future, and

I’m writing to say don’t worry. Everything

that’s getting to you at the moment will make sense in the end.

 

Like the times you wait by the fence watching the other kids play

wondering when they’ll ask you to join in, and what you’ll do if it happens.

How you’re confused at the ease they interact, talking freely,

while you stand their silently, their shouts and screams of joy

overloading your ears – until the whistle blows and hits you like ice up your spine,

locking you into rigid limbs and wriggling insides. The hold authority has.

And those times you’re unsure what Miss is asking of you, fretting about if you’re doing your work right

because she didn’t go through it fully first. So you wait

and watch the other kids, trying to guess their thinking as they set straight to it

and hoping you can catch a glimpse of their work so you can copy.

Then there’s the time you have to go to the dentist during rehearsals for the school play. Should you put your hand up? Should you just stand?

You ask around in whispers, and everyone says put your hand up. You do, but the teachers don’t see, so then you do stand.

And get told off for not telling them to put you on the end of the row, even though your form tutor read the note at registration.

How about all those times the kids take advantage of your attempts to join in? Sharing

your cat’s cradle only for them to run off with it and claim to the others that it’s theirs,

or when a girl steals your toy and tells the dinner lady you stole it from her

and you can’t speak up properly so give in and let them keep it?

When they’re supposed to share textbooks

and drag them away so you can’t see?

Let’s not forget how you can’t co-ordinate your body in P.E,

or have so much trouble learning in class that you take your work home.

When you have your nose in a book at the doctor’s because you can’t deal with what is going on, and get called rude for not paying attention.

Then there’s your many attempts to get the timing right on Mario’s jump and fail at every try.

When you tell a stranger about how bad mum’s morning breath is

and don’t understand why she’s embarrassed. It’s fact, isn’t it?

Why you can’t understand why people play with dolls when you can just make up characters in your head.

 

Like I said. It’s all fine. There’s a reason for it, a simple explanation:

Autism.

A condition meaning

your brain is wired slightly differently to most people. You notice

things they never will while missing the unspoken signs

they give each other all the time.

It doesn’t mean you’re strange, weird, stupid or a freak.

It means you’re you,

and though you haven’t met them yet, there are others out there

who are wired in the same way

and know just how this feels.

 

So remember, you’re not alone. If you explain

your difficulties (and your strengths)

then eventually the world will start to understand.

 

P.S. In the meantime, try sunglasses and earmuffs — all year round.

Poetry

Return to sender

I don’t want to stand out here in the dark

waiting for a train that may never come.

All the others have been collected,

but no-one wanted me.

They looked at my identity, flicking the tag

away in disgust. Waving me off.

 

It’s quiet now that the crowd has gone.

And cold. I wonder if my parents ever considered

that no-one would take me in.

I was sent away. Now I’m being sent back,

returned to sender. I am useless

like the unused gas mask around my neck.

 

Poetry

Slush pile

The envelope is rough under my fingers.

Debossed

where the pen has been guided,

quick, hasty shapes

that are not so very far from my own.

The stamp in one corner, red

this time. A week ago, it was blue.

Then the letter itself, stained

with tea to age it,

when the grain is clearly young.

The words mean less and less:

What is my name?

 

 

Uncategorized

Querying, yay!

Now by ‘querying’, I don’t mean to raise a series of questions, I’m talking about the other type of querying. The one that means sending out your precious manuscript (or a least a synopsis and the first three chapters) to a literary agent in the hopes that they’ll love your book so much that they’ll drop whatever they’re doing and shout from the rooftops about just how good it is, and then offer to take you on there and then.

At least, that’s what most people querying an agent hope will happen.

Sadly, as many, many writers will tell you, it isn’t that easy. Firstly, most reputable agencies have a well established client base already, so they’re reluctant to take on anyone else so that they can focus on building the careers of the authors they’ve already got.

Secondly, they always watch for trends in the market and keep in mind what books their authors are already working on. This means that if an agent rejects you, it’s probably not because they don’t like your work, but because there’s no call for that type of book at the moment or your idea is similar to one they’re working with already.

As an example, I had an agent send a rejection email the other day saying that although she was impressed by my work, two of her clients had books in the same genre, and she didn’t want to create competition by adding another. Being rejected (yet again) was disheartening, but it was nice to hear her reasons. (Also, if you get a more personal response rather than a form rejection, take it as a good thing. It doesn’t happen very often- agents receive hundreds of queries a week, it’s almost impossible to respond in detail to them all.)

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, is that even if an agent takes you on, they can’t simply wave a magic wand and get you a super publishing contract. They have to fight for your book, to champion it to editors, and if they don’t fully believe in it, then that makes things very difficult. What most authors overlook is that agents get their pitches rejected from publishers just like authors get manuscripts rejected.

So, how can anyone beat all those odds?

The answer is, quite simply, to query as many agents (or publishers; small presses often have periods when they welcome unsolicited manuscripts) as you can and remember that if you really want to be published traditionally, then you have to have the drive to never give up no matter how many rejection letters you get.

A good thing to think is that there are lots of writers going through the same despair of being rejected by an agent or publisher (or, perhaps worse, not hearing back at all or going through long periods of silence where you check your inbox every ten minutes hoping for any news at all, even bad!), so even if you find yourself being overwhelmed by it all, there are always people you can reach out to who are going through a similar experience. Like me, for example.

So talk to other authors. Laugh, moan or cry with them. And, if one or all of you are successful, share it so that people can still see that it is  possible. Fight on!