This week is the 10th anniversary of the Literary Sofa and this is my third attempt to write something coherent about running the blog. It’s brought on an attack of the feels that I wasn’t expecting. The reason? Because it turns out to be impossible to separate my blogging life from my writing life from everything else in the most eventful, challenging, exciting and transformative decade of my life in general (allegedly the one in which women become invisible, irrelevant and past it – think again, society.)
A lot can change in ten years – I expect you feel the same way. My children have grown up and left home. I’ve had two novels published. I’ve wrestled my demons and desires and come out on top. And after some sparkling highs and floor-scraping lows, I’m finally someone I actually want to be.
When I think back on everything I’ve read in the last ten years – 800 books, give or take – it’s hard to think of a single aspect of human experience that isn’t covered. Some books owe their impact to being close to our own concerns, some precisely because they’re so radically different and enlightening. After half a century immersed in words, I still think of writers’ ability to forge emotional connection and show us the world through other people’s eyes as a superpower. Before starting the Sofa I had barely read any memoir, LGBT titles, books by people of colour or non-fiction about psychology and sexuality, all of which feature prominently in my reading now and I am the wiser for it.
Next week I’m doing a post on My 10 Favourite Books of the last 10 Years. It’s hands down one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever had, but they can be fun sometimes..
It’s been a joy to share my love of books with you through selections of new releases, reviews, guest posts and round-ups – it’s all here: have a look, maybe starting with last week’s special edition on French Fiction. I couldn’t have kept at it without the support and appreciation of readers – it was the cherry on top to win Best Reviewer of Literature in this year’s Saboteur Awards – and the stellar contributions of my guest authors, so THANK YOU! We’ve created an archive of original content to be proud of and inspired people to buy and read work they might not have heard of otherwise.
Books need oxygen, daylight, word of mouth. And unpaid bloggers play an important part in that, especially for titles from small publishers without big marketing budgets. I’m glowing right now but it doesn’t always feel rewarding – at times it feels like shouting into a cupboard, you wonder why you bother then suddenly someone tells you they loved the post, or a book you recommended, or a writer says your support really counts and it’s worth it. As an author I am enormously grateful to the bloggers who have given time and space to my work, and this is a common sentiment. The last decade has radically altered my outlook on many things, especially comparison and success. There’s always going to be someone with a bigger deal, more hits, a higher profile. There’s also something beautiful about doing things for the love of it and seeing anything else as a bonus – a helpful attitude for a writer.
Speaking of which, it hasn’t only been about published books here on the Sofa. At times it’s got very personal – I never expected to end up writing about grief, sex and the menopause but it happened and I don’t regret that. It doesn’t hurt to show vulnerability; in fact, it hurts less and makes you feel less alone. The braver you are, the braver you become (thank you, Brene Brown). That was certainly the experience when I shared one of the toughest moments of my writing journey years ago and sparked an ongoing conversation which has come to be one of the most meaningful facets of my career: the Resilience for Writers workshops I run (and will run again) with author and psychologist Voula Tsoflias. My writing posts are some of the most popular and shared on the site, if that’s your passion, check out the Writing tab.
One of the most terrifying parts of life is also one of the most exhilarating: never knowing what might happen next. On that note, and because so many blog readers have joined me in making it over the line to publication (often appearing here as guest authors), I am hosting a Book Pitch Spotlight for unagented writers in early October, details here, closes 30 September. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d be surprised if a few agents and publishers don’t sit up and take notice.
I still enjoy running the Sofa and am looking forward to whatever I can fit in next alongside my writing and other work. Who knows, those nagging me for a podcast might eventually get their way. It’s because I love discussing books that I gave the blog an inviting name, in the hope that you might join me. And you did. If I had to sum up the best thing about it in one word, it wouldn’t be books, it would be people. The wonderful, life-enhancing friends I’ve made. The writers who’ve moved and inspired me. The characters carved into my heart. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.