The Allotment Project Post 4

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Hello and Welcome to Post 4!

Loads to report this week. First, I’ve finished chapter one. (cue cheering noises!) Second, I’ve found a structure that might work to support the entire year on the garden plot: a month-by-month accounting of what happened intertwined with botanical references. Third, I’m wondering about self-publishing. 

If you’ve ever tried to work on a long book project, you know that it can be a slog at times. But you don’t want it to feel like a slog early on. Days when I’m struggling to write, I have the option to walk to the allotment and remind myself what’s important. Seeing the open sky, hearing finches and a frog or two, feeling the sun on my neck as I pull weeds from around the leeks–these are all part of why I requested an allotment, and also why I decided to write about it. Some of the writing will be tough going because I’m looking back on lockdown. I’ve just finished the February chapter. While I was trying to recall details, I searched online and found several websites with lockdown timelines documenting the first cases in Europe, in England, the first UK government guidance on self-isolation. February was a difficult time, and the next month, March, was even more difficult. I had my first-ever panic attack in a shop. I’m not sure, though, how much to leave in the book and how much to keep out. I won’t know until I’ve written a few more chapters what the tone of the book will be. E.L. Doctorow, an American writer, said ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

About the structure of the book, the idea to use calendar months came fairly early. I feel lucky in that gardening is a familiar topic to most people, and the monthly planting schedule is a common idea. Because so many challenging and unexpected things happened soon after I got my plot, I think that as I continue writing chapters, this month-to-month structure will help me keep things straight. The botanical references I mentioned above start off with brambles–they were the predominant plant I dealt with early on. I spent hours and hours digging and chopping and burning. Blackberries have some interesting characteristics that I hadn’t noticed before, but with which I’m now quite familiar. Lucky you, reader, that one day you’ll get to read more than you could ever want to know about brambles when this book is done.

The final thing on my mind is the possibility of self-publishing. Both of my first two books were published by small presses, which came with some good bits and some challenging bits. For this one, I’ve been hoping to land an agent and get a contract with a big publishing house. A friend suggested recently that I could probably publish it myself because there’s so much out there to support self-publishing these days. Plus, it would give me a new topic to talk with my students about. It’s early days for big decisions though. Any thoughts?

I leave you with a few photos (burning bramble canes and the apple tree we discovered beneath the brambles) to inspire you while I head off into the foggy night of writing, following my headlights one turn at a time.

Happy writing!

Lania