By V. L. Heathcote
(author of ‘Colouring In’ and ‘More Colouring In’ books 1 and 2 of The Harlequin Triangle trilogy)
I’ve been writing all my life but it has taken until my sixty-eighth year to finally decide that maybe I’m good enough to do something with that skill. Derr! Honestly, you’d think after writing scripts for puppet shows aged ten, winning the prize for English at my grammar school, creating numerous hand-made cards with personalised poems, writing a letter which brought an estranged mother and daughter back together and having a couple of articles published in magazines, I might have had some inkling of what sort of career path to follow! But no, my lack of self-esteem and a mum who, sweet and wonderful as she was, did not encourage any sort of self-promotion, made sure I kept a low profile. Anyway, in the sixties/seventies, it was still – for a lot of us females – ‘the done thing’ to get married and have a family and forget a career. I hadn’t enjoyed the work environment (I now know why!) Not that I’m at all lazy but I was always very nervous of not being good enough. Probably, I’m not great at stuff I don’t like doing but give me anything to do with performance, story-telling, creating pictures and there’s no stopping me.
A period of loss
Getting involved with the theatre, (amateur) brought out a confidence in me I never knew I had. After lots of great parts, I went on to direct and loved that even more and then, script writing followed and a move to Devon. A period of heavy loss came then as one after another of the older members of the family died. In an attempt to escape all the sadness, my family and I bought a pub on the west coast of Scotland. A huge mistake resulting in the three most miserable three years of my life. My husband, after nearly forty years of marriage decided to leave, my son moved back to Berkshire and my daughter and I both verged on nervous breakdowns as we struggled to manage, find work and stay on in Scotland after selling the pub.
But, just as my world was falling apart, a new one was emerging. I was accepted by one of the oldest running venues to put on four of my one-act plays (‘Fourplay’) at the Edinburgh Fringe. Enthusiasm over-ruled caution and I took an amateur cast to Hill Street to perform the plays for the whole four weeks. Amazingly, we broke even – it could have gone so disastrously wrong. Once again, my writing was commended which, as usual, I ignored.
I next found myself in a situation of having to fight for planning permission to build two environmentally friendly homes for my daughter and I. It just goes to show that God, or the Universe – or whatever you believe in – really does work in mysterious ways. I became isolated and totally fixated on writing a case to put to the council to get permission for my home. I got used to working alone and writing for hours on end. I was unsuccessful but again, looking back, I can see I really needed to get away from the poisonous atmosphere of that village and – above all – I now had the discipline to become a full-time writer.
I have freedom
I can’t stop writing. That horrible experience gave birth to a new person. I have a nice flat with a lovely view. My daughter is close by and we have both survived some pretty bad times, too numerous and personal to go into here. I’m sixty eight years old and I’m a writer. Finally, after writing a huge book (which I’ve had to divide into a trilogy, ‘The Harlequin Triangle’), I can say that with pride. I still love my ex-husband but some other woman is now clearing up after him and putting up with his moods. I have freedom. I can breathe and be myself without fear of criticism. Do I wish it had all been different? No! It was my story and brought me to where I am today. I could say my one regret was not having realised my potential sooner but my experiences have given truth and inspiration to my writing. Our personal story as we go through our lives is the only thing we truly own. I believe we should embrace and accept it with all its ups and downs. If you were to watch a film of your life, you really wouldn’t want it to be dull, would you?
Website – www.penleaprintworks.com.