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  • Writer's pictureJulie Gray

Guest Post Part One: Simone Yemm on Writing Stalked by Demons | Guarded by Angels.

I had just finished reading Hunger, by Roxanne Gay, when I met Simone Yemm. Simone was looking for a manuscript evaluation for her manuscript, Stalked by Demons | Guarded by Angels and the timing and coincidence couldn't have been better. On the very first page of Simone's manuscript, I was caught up with the immediacy and rawness of her narrative style.

Over the next few weeks, I got to know Simone as a writer and as a person and her never-give-up style amazed me. Simone understood very well that writing the manuscript was step one but that getting it out there was another endeavor altogether. Recently, Simone was nice enough to write a two-part blog up about her adventures in Writing Land. Here is Part One:


I’m brewing a baby. Not a human one – I did that last century – but a masterpiece of penmanship. That’s my end goal anyway. For now, I have a manuscript and a jolly good one I’ve been told.

So, what next?

I gestated this baby for two years and after much angst a manuscript emerged. I held her in my sweaty palms, staring with pride and relief. She was mine and mine alone.

I soon introduced her to friends and family and they thought she was marvellous. Perfect. But family can be biased and it takes a village to raise a child – as they say in Africa.

It’s not easy – sharing a manuscript with other people. My heart and soul are imbued in its DNA. Honestly, I just want people to say nice things about her. But for a mature book to emerge I have to let my shroud of secrecy go and work with other people. Those who know more than I do.

So, I found a mentor – someone to hone my writing craft and help me turn something deeply personal into a story with universal meaning. One relatable to a larger audience regardless of unique life experiences.

Once I’d honed until I could hone no more, it was time to pay a professional to light my way to the next steps. I engaged the services of a manuscript assessor. This is how I met the magnificent Julie Gray.

Manuscript assessment is a scary endeavour. I literally paid Julie to tell me everything that was wrong with my baby. I was expecting a harsh analysis of my hard fought labours but what I actually found was professional industry support, empathic encouragement and the tools to rise to the next level. There was something entirely liberating about having my manuscript assessed by someone who didn’t know me at all. There was no expectation for her to engage in niceties.

I took the assessment to heart and started adding, deleting and rearranging all the bits so the timeline flowed and everyone knew what a pademelon was. By the time I’d finished rewrite number umpteen I started to believe my precious offspring was ready to share with the world.

It’s such a scary step to take. What if nobody likes it? What if they say mean things about me? I put on my big girl panties and started to look into the publishing process. Wow. Was I in for a steep learning curve.

The publishing industry has many facets - far too many to cover in this little spiel. I felt completely bamboozled and overwhelmed. But my mentor and manuscript assessor were very encouraging and I was put in touch with an agent. He read over my heartfelt words and sent along his own set of suggestions for a tweak then I signed a contract with him. He was going to find me a publisher. I was so excited!

Roll on six months and I’d spent two months in hospital while the world was festooned under a global pandemic blanket. Publishers sent my agent lovely supportive words about my manuscript, followed up by a thanks-but-no-thanks message. First-time author and a memoir are apparently both hard sells and 2020 wasn’t the year for risky ventures. So, six months after the initial excitement my baby was passed back into my hands and I had to make the decision about where-to next.

It took me all of a week to decide I’ve come this far, no point turning back. I researched publishing then typed up a very impressive spreadsheet outlining all the necessary steps to get my book out there. From creating an Amazon author page to writing trade reviews, I had 27 things on my to-do list. A mountain is climbed one step at a time.

I’m still climbing the mountain but now I’ve signed a contract with a hybrid publisher so it’s definite - I’m getting this baby out there.

So, here I am today. One baby birthed. One crash course in how to publish a book. One contract signed. One big step in the next direction. I’m going to be a published author. The next steps might be terrifying, inspirational, confusing, exciting, expensive and time-consuming. But the only way forward is to keep moving.


Learn more about Simone Yemm and her fantastic memoir, Stalked by Demons | Guarded by Angels. If you would like to submit a guest post about your journey as a writer, drop me a line!

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