Today I received my confirmation letter, so it's probably safe to post about the amazing thing that just happened to me. Safe in terms of...well, it's not likely to turn out that I hallucinated the whole thing, or had a really vivid dream. So I shall share.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I was interviewing for a new part-time job. What I didn't mention was that I lost my previous job in really unhappy circumstances. We'll say no more about that, except that my job was my only steady income, and that it left me in a fairly desperate financial situation. I didn't have any savings, and once I went through my pay in lieu of notice I wasn't going to be able to pay my rent, let alone my debts. Signing on for benefits (a humiliating first for me) barely touched that problem.
I told my editor about this, and because my publisher is a fairly small (though mighty) independent publisher, who actually really care about their authors, my editor's boss got on the phone to me. She said lots of lovely things, reassured me that one day I would look back on my redundancy and laugh and think it was the best thing that ever happened to me ('Yeah, right...' I said, humouring her) and then gave me a really fabulous piece of advice. She told me to apply to the Royal Literary Fund for assistance.
I'd never even heard of the Royal Literary Fund before. Once I did some online research I found that they were a really amazing charity, set up nearly three hundred years ago - and funded by successful authors - that have made it their business to help writers out of financial difficulties. They've given grants to some of the most distinguished British authors in history, when those authors hit low ebb. Reading about their history made it seem even less likely that they would want to help me - but there was nothing on their website that specifically prohibited me from applying. So I phoned up and asked for an application form, got together some letters of reference, wrote down all my income (practically none) and expenditures (rather too much) and sent them two copies of both my published books. That last bit is important because the Royal Literary Fund only award grants once the literary merit of the author has been established. Committee members read the applicant's books and, basically, if your work is no good, they can't award you any money.
After all this, I frankly wasn't feeling too hopeful - and when a very nice lady from the RLF came to see me at home to check my application and all my facts, and told me that I was way, way younger than their normal applicants (I'm not close to thirty yet) and that normally grants were made to people who were 'mid-career' rather than just starting out, I pretty much resigned myself to being told there was nothing they could do for me.
I knew the date when my application was to be put forward was 14th of July. I forced myself to sit down and get to work as normal on my current book. I forced myself not to look at the phone. I rehearsed, in my head, how I was going to react when I was told 'Unfortunately on this occasion...' and told myself to remember to thank them for all their trouble anyway.
It was early evening before the phone rang. By then, despite my best efforts, I was feeling sick and jumpy, just wanting to get the disappointment over with so that I could get on and try to figure out how to bail myself out this mess. I answered the phone.
The very nice lady was on the other end. And she said she had good news.
Even then, I was expecting her to follow this with '...and bad news'. That's the format my life has taught me to expect so far. But no. She didn't say anything about bad news. She said, 'The Committee have decided to award you...'
I sucked in a deep breath, thinking she might say, perhaps, a thousand pounds. I would have been incredibly grateful for that much.
But the lady didn't say that. She named a figure. Then she said the RLF would award me that figure per annum for the next two years. The figure (because grants from the RLF are tax-free) was effectively the same as my annual earnings in my old job. She was telling me that I was going to have enough money to be able to write, full-time, for the next TWO YEARS.
I burst into tears and started thanking her so frantically that she barely able to get out her next sentence, which was to tell me that the Committee had also decided they would pay off my debts. All of them.
Even typing this now - even having seen this information in writing - even after three days - I still can't believe it. Things like this just don't happen to me. The Royal Literary Fund not only read my books and liked them - found them worthy beside the work of all the other amazing authors they've given grants to in their time - but they decided to make me a grant that will change my life. Forever.
I can write. Every. Single. Day. Yes, I still have to look after my family, do dishes and housework, walk the dog and the rest. But I get to write every single day for the next two years, without worrying about money, without desperately trying to find any job that will take me, without having to drag myself out and into an office where they treat their workers like a piece of hardware that plugs into a phone. This? This sounds to me like an opportunity to write a heck of a lot of books, peeps. Like a chance to make a huge difference to my career. Actually, it sounds like heaven, only without the unpleasant dying part first.
So when my editor's boss said to me that day I would look back on losing my job and laugh, and think it was the best thing that ever happened to me...she was right.
Holy Marked Up Manuscripts, Batman! I'd better get back to work!