Lions, and Tigers, and Bears – oh my!

You could literally write a book for every family filled with a collection of their stories, from things grandparents say about modern technology to that time when the child mistook rabbit poo for chocolate. Today I want to share one of my favourite stories from my family, about my Mum and her second student accommodation.

My Mum studied music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, with an interesting opening few weeks. In fact, she lasted only three weeks at the halls of residence when her course mate upset the kitchen staff (the line ‘this shit is inedible’ was mentioned) which led to them being banished. They then went on a search and found a couple of rooms to rent within a family’s home, but it wasn’t exactly ordinary. 

The landlords of the house were friends with the owners of Bell Vue zoo, and so they were the ones who usually took in animals after they were rejected by their parents. This meant that, when my Mum moved in, there was a lion, two tigers, three afghan hounds, a seventy-year-old man, and a baby.

A fantastic and almost unbelievable setting, this was the place were a couple first-year students lived. The lion apparently loved going out in the car, so they would plonk him on the front seat and go driving – stopping at zebra crossings were the best part of the journey, as the reactions from people all around them were hilarious. Another time when someone came to fix the oven and walked through the sitting room to say hello, only to encounter the lion spread across the sofa who let out a roar at the stranger. The tigers apparently had a game that they liked to play with them in the garden, where one of them would distract the two of them as the other stalked them. 

The story ends when the lion had to go back to the zoo as, although he was relatively young, he was very big. Unfortunately he was too tame to go into the enclosure with the other lions, so had to go into a cage on his own. My Mum and her friend stayed for a year and left when there were a few leopards and the baby-turned-toddler.

If that happened today, it would no doubt be a viral hit on buzzfeed with photos being shared all over the internet. A few people have even rolled their eyes at the story, probably muttering to friends later on that it couldn’t possibly be true. When you get down to it, it’s ridiculous to think about all of these stories that everyone has – so I’m making it my goal to find out as many as possible. Talk about great inspiration fodder.


The Dream

Apparently it’s my 3 year WordPress Anniversary today – so happy birthday to alwayslovetowrite. I thought it would be fitting to post about today what 16-year-old me had hoped for this blog to one day be.

Since I was in primary school, I knew I wanted to be writer. The earliest bits of writing I can remember include a play about a mystery involving some kids, a dog and a graveyard (I was big on Scooby Doo at the time), a book that explored a crush I had at the tender age of eight with it’s sequel written when said crush moved to another country, and several poems.

In secondary school, for the first year I thought I’d be a lawyer – but then I realised I had no interest at all in being a lawyer and went back to writing. In my second year, I fell in love with supernatural and fantasy genres due to the discovery of Twlilight. Even though I can say now that there are a million books better than Twilight and that the writing really isn’t all that great, I can’t deny that it did have an impact on me as a twelve year old girl. Soon I was writing my own fantasy stories, most of them about werewolves because it seemed obvious to me that turning into a wolf was ten times better than having a pair of fangs. My best friend and I started writing our own book in our third year, Year 9, about guardians for humans which were in fact angels – it also included two very attractive guys and a kickass heroine who rode a motorbike. We even wrote a song to go with the book and fell in love with a few secondary characters, which is when I first discovered that you didn’t have to be the attractive hero of the book in order to be the one that everyone loves.

Years passed and I wrote story after another on my laptop up until the point that I had literally hundreds of documents in my ‘Stories’ folder filled with ideas that I’d started. I’d be writing every day, whether it was in a notebook, on my computer or even on my phone. In a few of my lessons, I would stop the person next to me paying attention to the teacher by telling them all my latest story ideas. Some of them were downright awful and my writing completely undeveloped, but none of my wonderful friends every complained.

So it’s safe to say that my dream has always been to be an author and be able to live off my books. I attended a journalism course in sixth form when I was seventeen and that showed me a completely different way that I could live off writing, but my ultimate dream is still to be an author.

There was one story that I wrote 54,000 words of in sixth form, though reading it today it has elements of being a good book but isn’t written well at all – which is ok. I’m still developing as a writer, and I’m slowly learning that what I once thought was my best writing ever isn’t my best writing now. There was, however, a small story that I had started to write and used to always send little excerpts to one of my best friends and, like a true friend, she’d tell me how much she loved it. I poured my heart into this book with scenes that I’d experienced, from the bad to the good, and little one-liners that friends or family had said that stuck with me. When I finished school, I left this little story and spent my first year at university, but this summer I discovered it again and started to write. At only 20,000 words, I felt that it was finished. And I liked it.

My Mum always has this little joking quip of ‘When are you going to do it?’ when I talk about being an author. I always claim that I’ll send off my work to someone someday, but I’ve never done it. I suppose when you’ve dreamed about something for so long, when it comes to it you just don’t know where to start or if you can start. All my journalism work and university has done wonders to help build up my confidence, so this summer I decided ‘screw it’ and I sent off my little book to a huge list of agents.

Then, the rejections started coming.

I’ve always heard – well, I’m sure we’ve all heard some story – that all writers get rejected and it can be years before you get that first ‘yes’. Everyone likes to use the example of J.K Rowling with rejection stories and it’s all well and good telling yourself this, but it’s hard. It’s horrible. I hate it. Of course you know not everyone is going to like you or your writing, but being told that they don’t like it is something entirely different. I’ve spent the last week – because yes, I’ve only sent off my work to agents over the last week or so – feeling completely demoralised. Is my dream that far out of reach? Am I actually just a shit writer? Why am I even bothering with all these rejections? Why don’t I just give up?

Again, it’s hard to do things like this when you’re life’s dream is on the line. This is all I’ve ever wanted, and alwayslovetowrite has helped bring me to this place as much as anyone. Every time I get a notification of a new follower or someone liking one of my posts, I do a childish little happy dance, or squeal, or grin, or punch the air, or all of the above. 16 year old me started this blog to just post chapters of my writing, searching for some reassurance that she could write and that other people liked it. It’s fine having friends or family tell you it’s good, but to have a complete stranger make a nice comment is completely different. Of course then I didn’t think that anyone would just copy and paste my work or steal my ideas, which is what I was certain a famous author had done when I wrote a chapter of an idea on mythical water horses – which wasn’t that good, but I was very proud of the title ‘Race Against the Tide’ – and then a few months later an author released a book on water horses. Obviously they hadn’t stolen my idea, as it takes a lot longer to write a book and then have it published than a month, but I stopped posting chapters after that.

So now alwayslovetowrite is a true blog, where I vent, complain, attempt to relate – all that fun stuff. I thought for this anniversary I’d go back to the roots, tell you a little story and give you an update that is now constantly on my mind. For those of you who are curious, I’ve written to 44 agents and have had 8 replies; 7 rejections, one of which gave me some pointers and another which gave me a positive response, and 1 request for the full manuscript. We’ll see where this all goes, most likely to nowhere as it’s my first attempt to actually put my name out there (or, more accurate, my writing out there with a pseudonym because no one can say my surname) but I’m still trying. There’s that saying that goes along the lines of if you never try you’ll never succeed, so this is me ‘giving a go’ at actually achieving my dream.

I kind of feel like I’m giving a speech or an origin story, so to make it even more generic I’m going to say a bunch of thank yous even though I haven’t actually achieved anything yet. To my friends at school who probably didn’t do as well in class as they should have because I kept telling you about my latest story, you rock. To one of my best friends who has always read my work and told me how great it was or asked on updates for the characters, you know who you are and you know that you’re the best person in the world. To my parents, my biggest cheerleaders who read every blog I post, especially my Dad who remains the ‘Top Comment-er’, words can’t describe my thanks – especially for putting up for my mood swings and existential crisis recently.

Finally, to all of the people that read/follow/accidentally found my blog – thank you for the support, the love, the constructive feedback and everything else. Happy third anniversary, I guess!

This turned soppy far too quickly.