Summer holiday writing plans

In a previous post, not too long ago no less, I mentioned that I was an old-fashioned sort of girl, the kind who likes to sketch out first drafts of a story in longhand. Whilst that is true, for me, there are practical considerations to be made, especially with a toddler to take care of. I consider myself lucky, both as a writer and a parent, that I have a day job in a secondary school. This gives me the maximum amount of hours for both my novel writing and my child, considering I work only 9 to 3 on weekdays and have 8 weeks off for summer when school is closed. Last year, my laptop blew up. Since then I had struggled to think of a practical replacement for it. The laptop itself wasn’t really convenient: too much temptation for a toddler’s hands and the cord was a trip hazard. But writing in a notebook meant having to spend hours that I don’t have typing up what I had written. The solution? Time for a tablet.

A novelist friend said that typing on her ipad with a wireless keyboard was handy for her. Generally I had heard that tablets and ipads weren’t convenient for writers as they were slower than laptops and PCs. But for me, slow output is better than no output. Something lightweight and more portable than a laptop appealed to me too, not to mention toddler-friendly.

Tablet, toddler and time-management – essential for a busy writer/mum!

I got myself a tablet in May and I haven’t looked back since. I can honestly say, getting one for novel writing was such a good decision that my only regret is not having bought one sooner!


Debut novel contract signed

Photo credit: clip art-library. com

This time last week, I was still in a tizzy trying to wrap my head round my first manuscript acceptance. Yesterday I signed my debut novel contract after spending 3 days reading through it. Now that I have officially been welcomed as an author with my publishing house, it’s starting to feel more real.

When I was a 20 year old university student in the midst of writing a children’s fantasy novel (which has now been trunked), my dream was to have a novel out with a publisher by the time I reached 40. I am delighted that this goal has become a reality, a few years short of that mark, no less.

Tonight, and this weekend, I’m celebrating along with my writer hubby and our literary baby (who actually piles his dinosaur board books onto our laps for us to read to him). I will be posting more about my debut novel as it progresses.

Fantasy novel accepted for publication!


Reviewing my finished final draft 2 years ago and a hint about a theme in the novel!

Two years ago I finished my first fantasy novel manuscript while pregnant and on maternity leave.

One month ago I received my first request for a full novel manuscript.

At the end of last week I digested even better news – my novel is going to be published!

I’ll be honest, over the years I had become accustomed to getting rejections and so, when I received the good news last Thursday that my novel has been accepted for publication, I admit I had to read the email several times for it to sink in! Even then, my brain struggled to process it: I have dreamed of becoming a published novelist since I was in my early twenties, and for the moment to finally come seemed surreal.

I’m now awaiting the next stage of uncharted territory – my first author contract. More news as it happens…

Request for a full novel manuscript!

In the past month since I last posted, I have received great news: my first full manuscript request from a publisher for my debut fantasy novel. To say that I am excited is an understatement! As any writer knows, tackling the slushpile is a long process: generally you submit three sample chapters of a finished manuscript along with a one page synopsis and a cover letter. More often than not you receive a form rejection letter thanking you for your submission and stating that you will not be published on this occasion. Sometimes you may be lucky and receive a few lines of feedback in a personalised response, usually explaining that you have developed an interesting idea, or that you have a strong author voice, but the particular story is not what the publisher is looking for at the moment. To receive a full manuscript request is rare indeed. A publisher reads your sample and wants to know the full story. Hooray! In my experience, I have received a full manuscript request on only two occasions: once for my literary novel manuscript after one year/twelve slushpile rejections(it’s still making the publisher rounds nineteen rejections later) and now in this instance with my fantasy novel ms after one and a half years/ fifteen slushpile rejections. Here is the first request I received for my literary ms back in 2013:

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Sample poem from Joseph Robert’s collection Brexit Brokeshit

With yesterday’s news that Brexit has now been delayed until October 31st, Joseph Robert’s sample poem, Billion Euro Cheeseburger, from his poetry and fiction collection, Brexit Brokeshit is published on his blog just at the right time: the will-we-won’t-we ongoing saga of the UK leaving the EU will be continuing for some time yet, so the reality in Billion Euro Cheeseburger is as much a possibility as anything!

The full collection is available in print and as a free PDF Ebook with links on Joseph Robert’s author blog.

A new novel work-in-progress

Although it doesn’t feel like spring here in chilly Northern Ireland, I have finally dusted off the literary cobwebs and started working on my third novel manuscript. Literary novel 1 and Fantasy novel 2 are still making the rounds of traditional publishing – more updates here. For now, a bit more about my writing process for Novel-in-progress 3.


As an old-fashioned kind of gal, I am a fan of using longhand to etch out my initial drafts, before typing everything up. The Bumper Value Jotter above is perfect for this: I can type then rip out chapters as I go. For anyone worried about the waste of paper involved in such an endeavour, fear not! I am environmentally conscious and recycle as I go!

In the past, I wrote first drafts on beautiful, hand-made notebooks that I bought at Camden Market while living in London. These are admittedly lovely to look at on the bookshelf, but as any writer knows, a story can go through many drafts before reaching the final polished manuscript. It’s simpler to write on disposable notebooks and print out a finished proof copy on Lulu before preparing to make the publishing rounds.

As for the content of my latest work-in-progress? It’s a literary story, of a travel nature. I’m not one to talk much about my writing before it sees the light of day, so that’s all I’ll say for now. I’ll be updating my novel progress page as it happens, so you can follow more tidbits from there.

Joseph Robert’s new collection, Brexit Brokeshit available now

What a day for UK politics! On what would have been the UK’s departure from the EU, Theresa May’s deal has been voted down for a third time.

My hubby, Joseph Robert, has a new poetry and prose collection out today available on Lulu – Brexit Brokeshit makes sanity out of the most insane three years of British history ever since the referendum. Wasn’t it Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,”? I wonder if there will be a fourth vote on the Prime Minister’s deal…


Happy Anniversary Homo Sapien Leilanderthalensis!

Today WordPress kindly informed me that this is the 8th anniversary of my blog, Homo Sapien Leilanderthalensis… literary evolution. In the almost decade-long adventure of literary blogging and promotion, much has happened. My blog began its existence as a place of self-promotion before evolving into a resource platform featuring writing competitions and providing fellow Indie authors an opportunity to have their work reviewed. Today, since my life is now packed with running Bindweed Magazine alongside dayjob and parenting responsibilities, and so my blog has reverted back to a promotional platform mainly for my writer-poet hubby, Joseph Robert and myself.

This month has also seen World Book Day 2019 on 7 May and World Poetry Day on 21 March. Since I didn’t get round to posting on either day, I have saved up my promotional blogging energy for a combination of both: coming tomorrow is Joseph Robert’s forthcoming poetry collection to coincide with the end of Article 50 here in the UK. More soon…watch this space!

Six poems by Leilanie Stewart for the sixth of March

It has been a while since I’ve published any poetry. Just because I feel like it (why else does anyone do anything, right?) I have decided to publish six poems for the sixth of March. These are a random bunch, no theme, no connection. So, here goes:

1. Living for the moment

Sitting here
in a moment of shut-down
no longer in self-pity that I have the flu
but simply stationary
not even reflective,
looking at the picture
of blue roses and skulls
and picking a spot
why on earth the woman outside
would chain smoke when she has that nasty cough
and thinking,
why aren’t there any birds singing
in the trees outside?

Don’t tell me winter is on its way
I need to fuel this blissful delusion
for only a few more days

2. Don’t wash that chicken, lickin’

is not a holiday park
where you can take the kids
for an adventure weekend

Only an idiot
would soap up that chicken
to wash away
the fingerprints
of the farmer.

3. I hope

I hope
the maggots
have had four generations
of flies off his bones.

4. A sternly worded letter to God

the hell
did you make
a woman’s damn urethra
two fucking centimetres long?

5. The Art Student

One of them
has no make-up on
the other wears
the war-paint in force
one wears only jeans
and scruffy trainers
the other is dolled
up to the nines
one wouldn’t be
out of place in Tesco
the other is in
her nightclub best
one is an artist
but which one really
is the blank canvas?

6. Friendship for the cynical

It might look like
the biggest gold nugget
you’ve ever clapped eyes on
but in actual fact
it’s an aluminium sphere
that’s been painted with a copper tint
and is hollow on the inside.

Keeping hope alive when submitting a novel manuscript

January is just past the halfway mark and already I’ve received my first novel manuscript rejection for the year. Hurrah! I say that of course with a sardonic sigh. What every writer wants is good news from a publisher, naturally.

It’s important to stay mindful of the smaller victories on the bigger journey though. For me, that has been receiving responses from publishers within a few months of submission, making the wait a short one. Getting one or two personal comments at the end of a form rejection is also a bonus; clearly the novel made an impression if a publisher gave their time to provide feedback. These little pick-me-ups along the way is what helps to keep the motivation high. Publication is a marathon, not a sprint, after all!