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One year wiser...

This week, The Riff Raff turns one year old – and what a year! Because Rosy and I are giant softies, and we want to share how much we love the friendly community we’re building we thought it would be a nice chance to reflect on how we came to life and our favourite parts of the last year. First, let me quickly whisk you back to before my book came out…

Until the last few months of writing my debut, I’d been under the impression I needed to make it on my own. No one but I, Amy Baker, would be tasked with helping me to bear the heavy load of the epic journey that lay before me. I made up my mind to clench my jaw and power ever onwards. I’d isolate and self-motivate with daily pep talks, set deadlines and strict word counts. Out of fear that people would laugh behind my back, thinking I was kidding myself, I resolved to keep information about the book on the down low. When friends and family members asked how it was going, I’d just plaster what I hoped was a convincing smile across my face and say, ‘good thanks’ and then enquire after their pets.

Looking back, it was as though I had something to prove - I would do this alone if it killed me.

This approach is bananas. Absorbing yourself in a project like a book and not talking to anyone about it will eventually make your head feel like an over-inflated balloon. I was lonely and convinced I was flogging a dead horse. As I became increasingly wild-eyed, I had no choice but to start talking to people about it, and when I did – everything that had been bottled up inside, gradually making me more and more bloated, popped out and suddenly I could see clearly. The rain was well and truly gone. There were fewer obstacles in my way…see what I’m getting at?

At the start of 2017 I was approaching my publication date and battling the shyness that comes with locking yourself away for three years to write. The idea of ‘networking’ made the introvert in me pull her ratty shawl closer, huddle in a corner and shove her fingers in her ears – just the word ‘networking’ made me shudder, even if there was promise of a finger buffet. I searched around for places and events that didn’t make me want to scream into a pillow and didn’t find much. The literary world seemed out of my league and intimidating – like it was a place for others with more talent, more experience and more contacts, people who’d been writing and public speaking for decades, but definitely not for me. Where were the kindly-looking folk I needed, beckoning to me, offering to take me by the hand and help me hobble forward into the Land Of The Published? I wanted that community more than I wanted (and needed) a big cuddle and a lie down – and when I next saw Rosy, we decided to get to work.

Fast forward to now – and our fantastic community, born from a need for a safe space and human interaction, is a year old! Locking myself away and not getting to know fellow writers was a huge mistake for me with my debut. Rather than enjoying the process and revelling in opportunities to pow wow with others stuck in the same craze-haze, I made things really difficult for myself. One piece of advice we constantly hear from our authors is to befriend other writers. Every event and podcast we’ve hosted has been an unmissable opportunity to meet driven, funny, inspiring, talented people. Turns out writers (and the publishing industry) aren’t scary when you’ve all got one enormous thing in common…a love of beautiful books. This community and the friendships we’ve made along the way has made me feel less alone in my ambitions, and that is a wonderful, life-changing, motivating thing. Thank you for that.

While there have been many incredible moments, I think the biggest pleasure for me comes from hearing about each writers’ process. What each author battled through to get their book out into the world. Without fail, it’s a tale of sheer human determination and every time, it’s like music to my ears. It fills me with positivity and makes me believe that anything is possible…which is handy as I battle towards Book Two.

Until I started writing, I saw the rate at which some of my favourite authors churn books out and figured if they can do it, it must just be a case of applying yourself. I didn’t have any grasp on what ‘applying yourself’ actually meant. I didn’t think about the impact of riding an emotional rollercoaster every day that one minute has you wanting to beat your fists against the wall and drink gin, the next making you strut around feeling like Judy fuckin’ Blume. I didn’t anticipate how all-consuming it would become. How hard I’d have to push myself. How it would affect my relationships. I didn’t realise how much it would make me grow up. Writing a book is a madness-inducing process, but it is also bloody special. Going through the craziness, the sadness, the self-growth, the putting yourself out there to big scary agents in shiny offices and being rejected, to meetings with publishers – this is a part of the journey that needs to be talked about just as much as the book, because it’s where the magic is. All aspiring writers are wading through this confusing and infuriating quagmire – we shouldn’t have to go it alone. Doing so doesn’t win you a badge of honour – it makes you eat too many crumpets and pull your hair out in clumps.

I could listen to authors tell me how hard they worked to get published forever, and that’s what The Riff Raff allows us to do - be around (and learn from) people who have made their dreams come true. So, that’s my favourite bit. Told you I’m a giant softie. After this I’ve set aside 45 minutes to watch YouTube clips of successful X Factor auditions...

I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have supported us this year – authors, attendees, listeners, publicists, publishers and journalists. To all of you hoping to write your debut - please keep coming, please keep writing, and please keep talking to us about it. We want all of you who’ve joined us at an event to one day appear on our line-up. We want to cheer you home when your knees are knocking from exhaustion. We want to be there to toast your victory on the day you sign your deal. Surround yourself with fellow writers and revel in the journey. Because it’s the relentless slog that’s by far the most impressive thing when you look back. Finally, Rosy my Queen, thank you for creating this wonderful thing with me and for being a hilarious and calming voice of reason at all times. You make it fun.

Happy One Year Riff Raffers. Here’s to many more xxx

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