My First Time...with Emily Morris
Emily Morris is a writer and award-winning blogger from Manchester. After achieving a BA (Hons) in History of Art and Design with Practice at Manchester Metropolitan University, she studied MA Writing Studies at Edge Hill University. In 2009, just before graduating from her Masters, she won an Arvon 41 Grant, which enabled her to go on an unforgettably good course about life writing, high in the hills.
Her first book, a memoir with the eloquent title My Shitty Twenties, will be published by Salt Publishing on 15th 2017. She is currently working on a sitcom and recently won a place to develop her script on New Writing North’s Significant Ink programme. She is also writing a young adult novel.
Here's the blurb for My Shitty Twenties... When Emily Morris was a 22-year-old student, she found out she was pregnant. The father of her baby told her to 'enjoy your impending shitty, snotty, vomitty twenties’ and then disappeared.
Despite not feeling maternal, Emily decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. She left university, moved back to the quiet town she was from to live with her mum, and braced herself for life being turned upside down.In her memoir, Emily shares the loneliness, alienation and adventure she experienced finding her way as a single parent.
My Shitty Twenties started life as an award-winning and immensely popular blog. Moving, thoughtful, funny and wise, it is now a book that is heartbreaking, uplifting and an inspiration to any parent who has no idea what they are doing.
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.
I can’t pinpoint a particular moment, but I think that as my son began to walk and talk, I dusted myself off, caught my breath and processed the fact that, despite being possibly one of the worst candidates for motherhood ever, I had somehow managed to create and sustain a happy human being and more or less enjoyed the experience. From the horrendous moment I discovered I was pregnant and totally alone to that was, I realised, a story.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
That deep down, I needed to talk to my son about it before I could publish it. I spent many years trying to decide what form and tense my book would take, starting it all over again whenever I sat down to write it. What I was really doing was procrastinating, because I was afraid. I’d lie awake at night terrified of the idea of not being able to take the book back once it was out there in the world. My son knew the premise of the book, but I needed him to understand why finding out I was pregnant when I was a skint, single student was horrible, and that it was nothing personal. I very nearly called the whole thing off. While I was busy worrying about all this, my son was growing up. When he was a very mature nine, and knew about sex etc., I told him everything. He said “Mum, I know all this. Just write it!” Now he is reading it and loves it.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
Rightmove. I can’t even afford a deposit on a house and I very much doubt I’d be allowed a mortgage, but I can tell you every house on the market in my area and how much it’s on for (too much).
What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?
I didn’t really have tantrums but I did have a few meltdowns, complete with tears and snot. How was I ever going to untangle this thing that felt like a lump of overcooked spaghetti sitting in my brain? And should I ever untangle it, with it being so private and all? Self doubt plagues most authors, but I was suffering from depression and anxiety, which massively amplified the belief I couldn’t do it. I am so glad I made it through the other side.
Best thing about writing your book?
Seeing it and sniffing it for the first time.
And the worst?
Sheer panic and sleepless nights. Most people get those if they have a baby. I was lucky in that I had relatively few sleepless nights with my baby, but writing a book about having my baby gave me plenty.
Go-to writing snacks?
I don’t really like eating at my laptop because I get crumbs between the keys and grease on the screen. I do though. A bar of good chocolate and a cup of black coffee to melt the chocolate in my mouth usually does the trick.
Who or what inspires you to write?
My son and the desire to dispel myths about young, single parents drove me to write My Shitty Twenties. Now I am writing a YA novel, and I’m inspired by the amazing young people I work with.
The book that changed you?
To Kill a Mockingbird. It opened my eyes to injustice and prejudice at a young and important age, and Scout’s voice resonated because we were both girls who loved to read. Plus the prose is beautiful.
Your pump up song?
'Buffalo Stance' by Neneh Cherry.
If you could share a bottle of wine with a writer dead or alive, who would it be?
I want one of each. I am going with Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood. All the M.A.s.
What's the one piece of advice you would give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
Be on Twitter (but not when you’re supposed to be writing). If you follow the right accounts, it’s a great way to keep track of what’s being published, what agents want and the opportunities that are out there.
Follow Emily on Twitter.