The Year of the Rat
The Year of the Rat follows a year in the life of 16-year-old Pearl, coping with the heartbreaking loss of her mother and the arrival of 'the Rat', her baby sister – a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer alive. No one can possibly understand Pearl's grief: not her dad, not her best friend and certainly not her gran who never really approved of her son's choice of wife. Feeling completely alone, Pearl struggles to find her place in what feels like an empty and pointless world. A story full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how to deal with grief that cuts you to the bone.
About the author
Clare Furniss, who is 40 years old, grew up in London and moved to Birmingham in her teens. After brief stints as a waitress, a shop assistant, and working at the Shakespeare Centre Library in Stratford- upon-Avon, she studied at Cambridge and Aberdeen. She went on to work in media relations for the homelessness charity Shelter and spent several years as a press officer for the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. She now lives in Bath and is completing an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University.
Clare's top ten tips for writing
- Read. As a writer, other people's books are your inspiration - they show you what can be done, they spark ideas. BUT, when you read, remember that the words you're reading didn't just flow effortlessly from the author onto the page. The book you're reading will have taken a long time to write and even longer to edit. There will have been days when its author swore and cried and wanted to throw their computer out of the window. Writing a book is hard.
- Write! This sounds obvious, but it's easy to spend a lot of time talking about writing and thinking about writing without actually doing any. (I know this because I do it myself.)
- Try not to feel guilty about writing. There's always something else you could be doing, and it can be really hard not to feel that you're being self-indulgent. I felt like this all the time when I was writing my book and my children were very small.
- If you can manage it, try to spend a little bit of time each day writing even if it's just 20 minutes. Sometimes this is impossible, especially when you've got young children, so on days you can't manage it, try to read through the last bit you wrote so that it's still in your mind and scribble down any ideas you have.
- It's easy to find a million other things to do rather than write - even hoovering and ironing can suddenly seem strangely appealing. Sometimes it's a good idea to go somewhere else to write - a cafe or your local library - where you can't be distracted.
- Don't worry about starting at the beginning. Beginnings are the hardest bit. If there's a scene in your story that you can see really clearly, start with that.
- Don't expect to get it right first time. No one does. Experiment. You can always change it later.
- Write about something you care about. If you don't love your story it's unlikely anyone else will.
- Find some other writers you can chat to, either locally or online. Writing is a solitary business and to be honest everyone tends to think you're a little bit mad for doing it. It helps an awful lot to speak to other people with the same passion for writing, and whose friends and family all think they're crazy too...
- Accept that writing a book is much harder than you think it's going to be, that you may never be published, and that even if you are, you are highly unlikely to make loads of money from it. If you still want to write your story it's because you love it, which is the best possible place to start.
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Last updated: 7 months ago