by Kim Kelly
ONE FOR THE GIRLS
It’s International Women’s Day again and all kinds of wonderful ladies of the girl variety are being asked what they would tell their younger selves if they could.
I’d tell small Kim to stop worrying. I’d tell her that most people are kind and only want the same things you do; and they’re all as frail and faulty as you are, too. I’d remind her more often, as my own mother tried to tell me, usually exasperated at my too-easily crumbling confidence: ‘Why should you care what other people think? Just be yourself.’
Because being yourself is the most powerful thing you can do. And forget telling all this to small Kim. I needed to hear it only last year.
I’m almost forty-eight years old, and yet I’m so programmed to capitulate to others’ expectations, I found myself in an excruciating bind between what I wanted and what I was being offered. It had been building for a while – oh, for about twenty years.
Do as you’re told, and be grateful – that’s the basic instruction for most women working in publishing, whether you’re a writer or an editor. If you speak up or object, there are a hundred other women knocking at the door, ready to replace you.
Last year, I made the decision to step away from that door altogether, at least for a while, and at least as far as the big-house publishing scene goes. The door remains ajar, and in the chink of light I can see from here a lot of good feeling remains, too.
But for this next chapter in my life, I’m constructing my own door.
I am working only with those who value collaboration and conversation. I am listening only to those who speak with respect. Because I only have one life and I want to make the best books I can with every moment I have left to me. Because my books are made of love and wonder, a bigness of heart that doesn’t always fit into spreadsheet boxes, or genre pigeon-holes, or covers that depict a sales department’s idea of what a woman should be. Because women’s literature is better than this.
I keep waiting for the fear and regret to kick in. I keep waiting for my flimsy and as yet unvarnished door frame to fall over.
But it hasn’t. Only good things have happened since I made that decision. My little Wild Chicory, so much a cry out against the machine, a yearning to express who I am and why I do what I do, seems to have the loudest and richest voice of all my stories so far, so I’m being told now. And whatever might happen in the future, however I might succeed or fail, I’ll own that future as I have never done before.
So cheers to that, and to you, too, for whatever brave and bold thing you are willing yourself to do. Do it.
You can find out more about Wild Chicory here.