I am so excited, I hardly know where to start. I always like a nice, clean, linear chronology, so I'll start at the beginning.
Three months ago, I was invited to a housewarming by the parent of one of Teen 1's lovely friends. Over a glass of wine (OK, I may be tweaking the truth there a tad) Sally Swingewood told me about her personal struggles to find a decent home and her plans to raise awareness of the housing crisis, as well as money for a housing charity. Her plan involved a book. Of short stories. On the theme of home. It would be highly polished and professional. The stories would be of the highest quality but the authors should include both published and emerging writers.
Did I want to get involved?
Is the Chief Rabbi Jewish? Am I a natural redhead? (Scrap that last one ...)
If you know anything about me, you'll know I couldn't possibly resist. I have my own experiences of what it means not to have a secure home. Combine that with a project that involves writing and I'm yer woman.
I gulped when Sal said she wanted to launch the book in July though.
July? Really? But that was just three months away. Three months to set the ball rolling, get submissions in, sift and edit them, assemble them into a book, format it, do more editing and several layers of proofreading, design a cover and write blurbs, do all the techy stuff to do with e-conversion. Could it possibly be done?
Well, yes, it could, but only if a whole community of volunteers got involved. Before we knew it, we had a website, Facebook group and Twitter a/c. The submissions began flooding in. We put them into piles of 'yes', 'no' and 'maybe'.
And that's when we noticed something very odd indeed. The 'no' pile was tiny. There were a good number in the 'maybe' pile, many of which wouldn't have needed much work to perfect them. But, oh my lordy, the 'yes' pile was HUGE! I've edited and contributed to other anthologies. I've judged competitions large and small. But never - and I mean, never - have I come across such an incredibly high standard.
Sal and I had never met before that party night but, as we began working
together, we realised we had two bodies and one mind. We agreed on
everything - including the need to constantly refuel with the three Cs:
coffee, cake and cigs. Over marathon sessions, involving multiple
spreadsheets, a whole pack of index cards and an arcane coding system,
the book took shape.
Fast forward to now. Our army of volunteers has worked tirelessly and continues to do so. Stories for Homes will be on Amazon as an e-book by this time tomorrow morning. (This is the link!) The royalties will go direct to Shelter who are fully behind the project. In a couple of months time, we should have a paperback version and a Real Life launch party. There's a virtual party scheduled for this Wed, taking place simultaneously on Twitter (#SfHlaunch) and Facebook. There will be a video - with music by one of the authors. We also plan to pair those authors who didn't make it into the anthology with editors to help them to perfect their stories. There's talk about a second volume.
Oh, and if you're wondering about my own experiences which I referred to above, you can see the details here. You can also add your own Real Life housing story if you wish.
Huge thanks to all of you who have made this anthology possible. I don't dare name people because it's inevitable that someone would be missed. But you know who you are and you know that none of this would be possible without you. It's a stunning collection and it's been a pleasure an honour and a privilege to be involved.
Imran Siddiq featuring music by Dan Maitland can be seen here.
UPDATE: buy the book here! It's only been there for a few hours and it's already racing up the kindle charts.