2019 – so many thanks to give!
HEALTH – I’ve been alcohol-free for 14 months straight now. The longest stint I’ve ever done and it will continue as I’ve no intention of going back on the booze. I’ve found it drains so much time, energy and money and it addles your brain and stops you from getting shiz done. So yep, it’s a definite no-go for me from now on.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE – Me and hubby took a 3 month sabbatical in Bali and Corfu this summer with the objective of doing as little as possible…WORK that is. We did LOADS of other stuff like swimming, running, yoga, gym, sightseeing, reading, painting, eating and, oh sleeping (don’t forget that!). Basically experiencing life unhindered by the obligations of work. We returned fully rebooted and raring to go!
SPIRITUAL – I’ve carried on meditating. It’s got me through a ton of crap since I started doing it 7 years ago and works every time; when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, angry, down, confused…anything negative just melts away after 20 mins of quietening the mind. Then ta-daaa! Everything becomes 100% cool again : )
PHYSICAL – At 48 I’ve never been fitter in my life. The 3 month holiday in the sun helped, as I spent a lot of it exercising. But one of my biggest achievements this year was learning to do the headstand properly, as taught by a wonderful, local yoga teacher in Nusa Lembongan Island, Bali. I’ve also taken up strength training and incorporated pilates into everyday life so that even my running has improved.
FINANCIAL – It took a lot of hard graft over the years including 10 of them slogging away in the advertising industry in Central London, but we’ve now paid off our mortgage! It’s given us the freedom to invest in other things, do up the house a bit and travel more, which both of us absolutely can’t get enough of. We’re thinking Seoul or Shanghai for our next trip.
CAREER – Well where do I even start with this? My debut novel Chinglish took off in a BIG way. Unexpected for a book I didn’t want to write in the first place! I was thrust into the spotlight doing live BBC TV and radio and ended up writing for The Guardian too. WHAT?! HOW?! Bonkers. It couldn’t have happened without the support of the amazing team around me though: my agent, publishers, PR, event organisers, family and friends. I sincerely thank you all.
So 2020 is looking super juicy already with loads of events booked, discussions around various adaptations and talk of a sequel. I’m now fully rested up after a frantic book launch and tour and ready to face the New Year with excited anticipation. I hope you are too, whatever your own special personal goals may be.
Good luck and much love, Sue x
The Guardian Best Book 2019!
Holy crap! If ever I’ve felt like a gatecrasher it is well and truly now. Yesterday I got the news that I had been included in The Guardian’s Best Books of the year list (YA) alongside Philip Pullman(!) and Malorie Blackman(!) as well as others in the star studded list. I still can’t believe it a whole day later – somebody slap me please.
When I was writing Chinglish there was no way I imagined the response it’s getting now. I was a lowly, working class minority lacking what I felt anyway, the background or skills to ever achieve anything this grand. It was just me dumping my angst about being dragged up in a Chinese takeaway. What I enjoyed the most about it though was the serious opportunity to write comedy, I’ve always wanted to succeed at making people laugh and somehow I BLOODY DID IT!
I want to thank everyone who had faith in Chinglish when I didn’t, and cheerleaded me all the way to the bitter end: my agent, editor, publisher, husband, family, friends, my cats who doubled as stress balls against their will, the media who have been amazing and the hundreds of supporters on social media. What a fabulously surreal way to end the year!
Exploding goat headline in The Guardian!
It’s basically a two page synopsis about my novel/memoir Chinglish, fully adorned with embarrassing childhood photos and dotted with some madcap illustrations from the book.
I had so many messages from readers after this was published, telling me how funny it was and how it made their day. I’m chuffed about that because I’ve always wanted to write comedy successfully and I think I’ve achieved that. But I also had some sad responses telling me about the trauma they also suffered as an 80s Chinese takeaway kid.
I’m humbled that Chinglish has touched so many people in different ways, something I never expected, on this scale at least. And I hope it carries on helping people talk about their stories.
Just Imagine Podcast
‘Chinglish’ isn’t just a humorous take on teen angst, it’s about identity, belonging and seeing beyond race and colour. It’s also about hopes, dreams and survival of spirit no matter how battered you get!
If you’d like to hear more in depth about the book and the cathartic process of writing, then click here for a 30 min podcast where I’m being interviewed by Nikki Gamble of Just Imagine, a consultancy that works extensively with schools in the UK and internationally to develop outstanding reading and writing.
Chinglish goes global
I’ve been sent so many pics of Chinglish from all over the world that I thought they deserved to be compiled and displayed. What I can’t get over is that I never asked for these. People have just been thoughtful enough to put aside a few minutes of their day, compose a picture and then send it to me via social media. These people are the kind who always find time to share and put smiles on faces, not just in this instance but in every situation in life. I am SO thankful for them – the world needs MORE of these good souls!
I still can’t believe how I managed to get to talk live on air to the entire nation about my humble debut novel Chinglish! I’m SO proud and TRULY grateful to all the fantastic people along the way who helped to make it happen.
Anyway, just so I can prove to myself in years to come that I hadn’t dreamt it, and for posterity, I’ve collected all the audios and video together here in one place. Click below to view/listen and learn more about how Chinglish came to be:
Tina (real name Kath)
A lot of people have asked if ‘Tina’, my best friend from the 1980s that I wrote about in Chinglish, is real. Answer: YES! And here she is 30+ years on! She’s stlll a bezzie and still wears ‘The Cure’ tops and she runs a fine art printing workshop in Hampshire now – see why I thought she was so cool? Goth Gaz her boyfriend wasn’t real though. He was based on another lad I knew from school who I wish I’d known because he was so mysterious.
Well what a week it’s been!
I had no idea that when I finished Chinglish, the publicity would be so HUGE! Having zero experience of live media I was chucked in at the deep end but enjoyed every second of it. Everyone at the BBC was lovely and welcoming so I felt really at ease…plus I guess it helps that I’m the chatty type!
First up was Vic Minett at Radio Coventry which is where Chinglish is based so it was fun reminiscing about what the area was like 35 years ago! Next was Jo Good at Radio London who was so enthused about Chinglish as she was friends with Louise Rennison and very much into this genre – brilliant! The big one was Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. I love this programme and have listened to it on and off for years, plus Jane Garvey is an absolute legend and hero of mine! I also recorded a separate podcast with her afterwards, about my life after Chinglish.
On launch day I visited the biggest bookshop in the UK, Waterstones in Piccadilly London, to sign some stock. I was proud as punch to see Chinglish on the table in the YA section. For so long I’ve admired the books that appear on these prestige displays, and now I’m on them!
Lastly I travelled to Salford Media City for my BBC Breakfast TV appearance. This was the one I was most nervous about because now everyone would be able to see me! I didn’t get much sleep the night before as you can imagine, but I needn’t have worried as again all the staff and presenters were awesome!
Right now I’m cuddling my cats and having a rest trying to let it all sink in, but people keep sending me messages including, I’ve just learned, that Chinglish has sold out on Amazon UK! I can’t believe the response my book has been getting. It’s been such an amazing experience and my gratitude goes out to everyone who has supported me along the way: my agent, editor, all the team at Andersen Press, friends, family and strangers who have all been so kind and encouraging – THANK YOU!!!!
Do you have an issue?
I was asked to write a piece about the time I was pregnant and homeless. Writing pre that era in Chinglish was hard enough! But I’ve never revisited the time I was up the duff and living in a squat very often since it happened 28 years ago.
It was hard recalling all the details, including the time I had to scrabble around in gutters for pennies, but I saw how my story could inspire and show others that they have the power to change the course of their lives. I enjoyed doing the illustration though, as it does a good job getting the tragi-comic feel across!
You can find my story in edition #1373 of The Big Issue