Tuesday, 2 August 2022
New writers, new essays – we're underway!
In the language of Old Rose in Titanic, "It's been 84 years" since my last update, and while I wish it were for elegant, literary reasons such as attending salons and listening, neck slightly lowered, to esteemed writers of our craft, it's actually because I was due to have a hip replacement last week. (Sybil had had her elbows done a couple of weeks previously and was martyring around the house in an inflatable collar shaped like a pink glazed doughnut. It was all a bit much.)
My operation was cancelled the day before due to the heatwave in the UK causing a meltdown in hospital IT. I've been sulking ever since and eating copious amounts of the Co-op's very good own brand luxury ice cream while re-reading Sorrow and Bliss.
Before the cancellation, however, much excitement was happening. Namely, our final writers!
In mid-June, I put out a call for submissions to fill our final four essay slots. I had been clear from the off that this was something I wanted to do in order to try and get the widest range of voices and experiences possible. We got 220 submissions for those four slots. Utterly incredible. That was quite an afternoon in Starbucks, let me tell you. Then, I got a message on LinkedIn – LinkedIn, of all places! – from someone who was incredibly excited about the book. Their company, a fertility insurance company named Gaia, very kindly offered to pledge to cover five additional essays. Now it was just whittling down to nine essays from, erm, significantly more than nine. At one point my longlist was 35 and I could quite happily have commissioned every single one.
On Thursday 21 July, we had the new funding in place, and Unbound had done the wizardry to work out how it would work with page length – along with everything else, the cost of paper and printing has risen astronomically since we launched the project in December. I commissioned our nine, wonderful new writers, and wrote to everyone who had pitched and who I was genuinely sad not to be able to commission. What a total honour to read those pitches. If you wrote to me – thank you.
It's ridiculous to think that one book could cover every story and experience in 22 essays, but I wanted to do my best, and I know that you will be amazed and surprised. Every single person writing in this book is a terrific writer (whether professionally or not), and also a terrific person (I had a lot of Zoom calls meeting everyone last week which was delightful). I'm not introducing them here by subject matter covered because, as with so much around fertility and parenting, that can reduce you to a rather one-note statistic, and this book is very much about showing that when crap happens to us, it happens to us as a whole person.
So this is our list!
Dr Rageshri Dhairyawan FRCP
They join our previous list of writers, which has been slightly rejigged and to which I am delighted to add Donald Mbeutcha. I am particularly indebted to this group, who signed up in December when they didn't know what they were going to be up to, and did so because they believed in a book that didn't exist yet. Thank you.
Stella Duffy OBE
I completely appreciate that you won't know everyone by name, but when you read their story – oh, you will know them. And they will know you.
When I stopped drinking booze, it was suggested to me to listen to the similarities and not the differences in people's stories, and that is very much the idea here. I am so excited for you to read everyone's stories, to have this book in your hands. I'm editing the essays as they're coming in, and it is a total privilege.
More soon, less sulking. Once Syb and I are both healed, the reward walks can begin and I can't wait.
All love, Kat xxx