"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; On Meeting Philippa Gregory

A favourite novel by a favourite author
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you will know that I am currently in a state of great excitement! Years ago, when I was a 17 year old groom working in a local stables, I met my favourite author Philippa Gregory, who lives in the same county as me. It wasn't a planned meeting.  She is a very horsey person and she had come to look at one of the hunters that the yard was selling.  I was  a YTS trainee there at the time and our paths crossed in one of those moments of pure serendipity.

I was already a fan of her work, having loved the Wideacre trilogy and I must confess to having a bit of a fan-girl moment when I heard she was coming to look at one of our horses.  Back then Ms Gregory was successful, but nothing like the household name author she has since become.  No-one else on the yard had read her books and I can recall trying to explain the sheer magnitude of her visit by saying "She's like the Harvey Smith of historical fiction!"  They still didn't get it.

Anyway, she duly arrived wearing jodhpurs, boots and a Puffa jacket, driving a 4x4 and looking every inch the Yorkshire horsewoman.  I was introduced to her by the owner of the stable yard, who explained that I was a fan and 'a little over-excited' - I was only 17 and completely star-struck.  After a few shy moments, common sense kicked in and I realized that my favourite living author (the Brontes being long dead) was standing right in front of me and I was never, ever going to get this opportunity again...so I plucked up the courage and said nervously "I really want to be a writer - it's what I've always dreamed of doing"  I expected to be laughed at, so it was a great relief when Ms Gregory actually took me seriously and gave me her advice.  This is what she said to me, 24 years ago;
"There are no guarantees; it's a lot of hard work; but if you want to write, then write." 

So of course I did and here I am, multiple books, columns, features, articles and an album later, having succeeded in my ambition.  I also remember Philippa telling me that she had been very lucky to get the kind of deal she had and that not everyone lands on their feet first time.  

It was one of those conversations that just happens, but that proves to be significant.  It was one of those moments that feels magical and guided.  They do say in magical circles that when you are ready to learn the mentor will turn up.  Now I am by no means saying that Philippa Gregory was my personal mentor - she's far too busy for that! - but her words stuck in my head and it was what I needed to hear.  I have all her novels and she continues to be my favourite author.  So I posted a quick message to her on Facebook last night, reminding her of our meeting and thanking her for the tip.  Again, I didn't expect her to really read it and again her graciousness shone through when she posted a lovely reply, congratulating me on my achievements and saying "Well done."  It is like getting a gold star in school!  You can see the post and Philippa's reply here in the Link 

So yes, it's safe to say that I am thrilled and delighted right now.  Magical moments happen in the midst of an ordinary day, but their effects can stay with you for a lifetime. I hope, in some small way, to inspire my readers as much as Philippa Gregory inspired me. 
Marie x

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