Writer, Reader, Mum, Fencer, Dancer, often has too many feels. More of Me Nominated for the Carnegie medal, winner of Edinburgh Book Festival First Book Award. Beauty Sleep winner of 2020 CrimeFest Award, shortlisted for Steam Book Prize. Represented by Sophie Hicks, published by Usborne.
Farming families are obsessed with the weather, but for those of us who have glasshouses and poly tunnels, storms are our enemy. I’ve been tracking the approach of Storm Eunice on the Met Office app and checking the neighbourhood WhatsApp group for news of disasters. Aesop wrote a story about a dispute between, the Sun or the Wind – who was stronger? The Sun won. I dispute that result. I’ve seen what the wind cando.
Ten years ago, I wrote this post.
Wind is the weather that frightens me most. I have cowered in a caravan while wind has rocked it like a demented mother. I have stood paralysed while a tornado blackened the sky and ripped its dark path though one greenhouse after another. I have held my breath in the after calm, shocked by the devastation, fearful of its return and grateful that things were not much, much worse.
Yesterday the sky blackened once more.
Beloved, knew it was coming. Winds had been forecast , and were already high, but he’d also had a phone call from Father-in-Law, who lives a couple of hours away, warning us a line squall had passed over his place and was heading our way.
I was working on the end-of-year report when it hit. My computer switched off. The power was out. In a heartbeat, the gusting wind outside changed to a tearing, rain-lashed storm force 10. Fence panels and gas canisters blew past my office window. My first thought was for the children.
Safe at school. Solid, brick-built, sturdy school.
But where was Beloved? I threw my coat on and battled outside. The rain was tidal, lashing in horizontal waves, the wind threatened to tip me over. I struggled to keep hold of the farm office door but he was there, and safe.
‘I’m scared.’ I said.
‘I know.’ He said.
We clambered through the fallen trees that blocked the track and pushed through the rain to check the greenhouse. Some of the guttering had been torn free but it hadn’t smashed into the glass. I ran on, turned the corner expecting to see upturned caravans, the farm camp looked intact. All seemed okay until we saw the tunnels on the back field. Plastic flapped like the wing of some huge, distressed bird. Metal was buckled and flattened. The wind billowed under remaining covers, sheering rope and threatening more damage. Beloved ran to the rope store. As rain washed our faces and wind tugged tearing rope burns into our hands, we lashed down the plastic and saved at least some of the metalwork.
The wind eased, the sky cleared.
We headed out to the road. Trees blocked it in both directions. So much devastation in such a short time.
‘I’ll get the chainsaw.’ Said Beloved.
Stay safe people, see you on the other side. I hope.
How coronavirus unpicked the stitching in the story of mental health I’d created for myself.
I see myself as a steady platform for others to climb aboard when they’re having a tough time. Call me. Come and stay. Let me do that. Pile it on, I can cope!
I’m the person who steps in when other people are struggling. I’m the fixer when people have problems. I’m a shoulder. A volunteer. A do-er. A coper.
I’ve been stupidly smug about how well I cope with life. I work hard, I manage all sorts – working two to three jobs, running my own business, volunteering, caring for my children, caring for elderly parents, competing in international fencing competitions, hanging out with pals, maybe not being the best friend but being a friend to a lot of people.
I cope. I cope.
I AM A COPER
I have strong, stable, mental health. Others have issues but not me. I am fine.
I told myself. Over and over. Until I believed it. The way I quite literally couldn’t eat for years after my mother died? Like the doctor said when he saw my skinny six year old self – just one of the lucky ones who never puts on weight. I’m fine. The sexual assault I experienced as a fourteen year old that stopped me sleeping for weeks? Just too many scary books before bed. I’m fine. The physical and mental mess I was in after I had my first child? Everyone has a difficult birth story, we both survived didn’t we? I’m fine.
I put time between me and the worst parts of my life and buried them under a thick blanket of being busy. All the ‘busy’ left no time for me to be on my own with my sadness and fear. Being busy made me useful, it made me feel needed. It made me feel I was earning my place in the world. Like I deserved to occupy space.
And then overnight, Corona Virus stripped away of all the things I did to hold onto my self constructed blanket of ‘fineness.’ I was left, cold and exposed and almost immediately, not fine at all.
Covid Lockdown took away the best parts of my job – visiting schools and meeting young people. It took away my beloved sport and the training I’d worked so hard on to over come the broken bits of my body. It took away my creativity – I couldn’t write.
I was terrified my parents would starve or get covid and die alone. I couldn’t visit my dying father-in-law who I’d been the primary carer to for years. And when he died, I couldn’t give him the funeral he wanted. I couldn’t see my grown up children; they are my world and I lived in fear of them getting sick without me to care for them. I felt guilty about feeling sad because I have a lovely house, a lovely garden and a lovely dog, and a husband I actually like who was still able to work and earn money..
I knew I was lucky. I knew people had it worse than me. But I still cried silent sheets of tears as I walked my wonderful dog in the beautiful countryside right outside my back door.
I did everything I could to stave of depression. I spoke to my family everyday. I built things and painted things. I joined Tiktok. I zoomed with friends and ran online workshops and started Our Corona Diary. I tried to train. I ran and danced. And I sank. And sank. And sank.
George Floyd was murdered.
Sarah Everard was murdered.
Two people I didn’t know but whose deaths illustrated the cruel disparity of privilege in our world so acutely, it hurt. It really, really hurt.
I was crushed.
I was broken.
I was not coping and I definitely was not fine.
And as we opened up again, I thought I would magically recover myself. Lol. My first night back at fencing club, I left early and sat in the car and cried. I haven’t been back. I can’t quite explain why. It was partly that I couldn’t face the physical pain of dragging my body back to that level of fitness. Partly that I couldn’t face the increased anxiety that comes with competition. Partly, I don’t even know what.
I wasn’t the same. Something had changed. I was forced to re-assess my life and acknowledge that I needed space to sort out my own mental health. I asked my agent to hold my hand as I started writing again. She did and I have, and it’s going quite well. I walk my dog. I spend time with my family and friends. I’m working on some small, achievable volunteer projects that I’m passionate about – I can’t change the world but I can help a tiny bit of it get a leg up.
I’m getting there.
Recovery is fragile Things I have little control over can tip me into anxious depression – the cruelty we see in the world sometimes, the thoughtlessness. I panic and respond with my heart not my head. I cry a lot. But I don’t feel helpless anymore.
Yes. I’m getting there.
I’ve started to speak to people about how bad it was and the funny thing is, few people noticed apart from the ones who I was speaking to everyday. My children. My husband. My fencing coach. A handful of friends. To the outside world, I still looked like I was coping. Even when I said I wasn’t. And that’s why I’m writing this now.
If someone tells you they’re really busy, so they can’t do x, y or z, listen carefully: they might be telling you they aren’t coping and that one more thing is just too much. They might just need to catch their breath from all the trying. They might just need a little space to remember who they are.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me :
You should learn to say no.
But it always seems to come with a side order of:
As long as you don’t say no to me.
Be the person they can say no to without fear of causing upset.
And if you are not coping – the world won’t fall apart if you say no. Seriously, it won’t. You don’t have to do it all to deserve a space in the world.
You are enough.
And it’s okay to not be okay.
Kathryn Evans is a UKYA author. She writes contemporary fiction with a Black Mirror style sci-fi twist.
More of Me was nominated for the 2016 Carnegie medal and won of the EIBF First Book Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite.
Beauty Sleep won the 2020 Crimefest Award and was shortlisted for the Steam Book Prize.
Hello! I often get sent messages asking me really great writing questions. I love hearing from readers but I also love internet safety – unless we’ve met in real life, we can’t be sure we’re really talking to who we think we’re talking to so, to keep everybody safe in this crazy world, you can pop a question below in the comments, once I’ve approved it, I’ll reply.
Here’s one to start:
Is it hard for you to come up with story ideas or do they come naturally? Because there are some authors that have ideas straight away but there are others where it takes them a while to figure out a story. Caitlin B
I have what’s lovingly called ‘ an over active imagination’. I’m a real day dreamer so I see story ideas EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere. I can see an ant carrying a heavy bit of leaf and think…hmmm, I bet some evil overlord ant is making that one work as a slave, and he’s probably plotting an escape with his best friend who'[s actually a non-binary ant with there own issues and doesn’t really want… YOU GET THE IDEA.
But ideas, aren’t story. Story takes a bit of crafting – I do a popular workshop about ‘Ideas, Plot & Structure because the three things need each other to make a really great story.
Yesterday, 22nd June 2021, I did my first live school visit in 15 months at the wonderful Tor Bridge High in Plymouth. It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, the delay to ‘Freedom Day’ meant we couldn’t do whole year groups assemblies but instead, were a more intimate library full of 30 young people at a time – and it was WONDERFUL.
It’s been a miserable covid year but I’m double jabbed and things are, at last, looking up. I am not going to dwell on the misery, I am going to celebrate!
I have two new talks in addition to Self Esteem & Social Media – and an updated post-covid version of Reading and Resilience , I also have What Women Are and Empathy.
You captivated all the students with four fantastic workshops full of energy, enthusiasm and passion – Joanne Bowls, librarian
See here for more information and details on how to book me for your school or college. I can’t wait to visit!!!
ADULT PLOT & STRUCTURE WORKSHOP 13TH AUGUST BOOK NOW
I’m an award winning author of books for teens, part of the BBC teach series for English and an experienced workshop tutor. This summer I’ve taken my workshops online so if you have a budding writer in your family, why not sign them up for the first one? Ideas, Plot & Structure. There are 2 age groups 9-11 and 12 to 16. Places are limited and it’s only £12 for 90 minutes of inspiring, fun and informative teaching!
Covid-19 has stopped me from doing something I love. I can’t visit schools, I can’t be part of festivals, I can’t share my love of books and writing anywhere where I might be part of spreading the virus.
While I desperately miss getting out and about and meeting readers in person, I am now offering author visits through Kathryn Evans Online.
It’s a new service, I can’t promise there won’t be teething troubles, but it’s competitively priced and designed to flex with challenging timetables!
From video hire, to live workshops and Q & A’s , I hope I have something to offer that will enable young people to continue to have an enriched learning experience with as little trouble and expense to the organisers as possible.
Let me know what you think, point out the glitches, share your ideas!
Kathryn Evans is a UKYA author of award winning novels More of Me and Beauty Sleep. When Lockdown began, she set up Our Corona Diary. She’s going a bit stir crazy now.
How are you doing? Bored? Frustrated? Lonely? Worried? Sad?
I know a few people who are enjoying Lockdown. I am genuinely pleased for them but I am not one of them.
Writing is difficult, a real slog, possible at least now, but still hard.
I miss my daughter. I haven’t hugged her since Christmas because she initially got stuck in China during the outbreak of Covid 19 there and then…well, then is now. Lockdown. She’s in her house. I’m in mine.
I’ve zoomed and run and walked and cooked. I’ve painted and phoned and gardened. I am still working for the farm, and trying to finish my new book. I’ve queued for shopping, and growled my way through people not obeying the new rules. I’ve cleaned my house and cleaned out some of the farm archives. I’ve taught my dog new tricks and I’ve read new books. I have much to do but none of it fills the gaping void of normal life. With one tiny exception. This:
When I set up Our Corona Diary, I thought I was doing something for all the children who’s world had been turned inside out. I had no idea how much it would help me when I hit the pits.
Every week we have a new theme. Week 4 was #Friends and I made what turned out to be a bit of a rough and ready therapy video for myself.
#HelloHobby week actually got me motivated to do more than walk my doggo in the allotted exercise outside hour. Although fencing training proper seemed pointless and impossible without my beloved coach, I tried, and it made me smile:
Our Corona Diary has kept me close to the pals who answered my pleas for help to get it all up and running. Jo Wyton who set up the entire website while working full time and home schooling her gorgeous little boy. Addy Farmer who is inspiring the youngest of our diary writers and who’s very breath seems to calm me. And Candy Gourlay whose friendly professionalism and wisdom have such magnetic charm that she’s convinced many, many wonderful writers and illustrators to share their diary making ideas on our website. I have amazing friends. No wonder I miss them.
And then, there are the people I set the project up for. People like 10 year old Charlie who will probably never get to have his year six T.D.O.F (Three Days Of Freedom)
And Violet Class who sum up #SchoolLockdown so well :
Diarists, you’re helping me, I hope we’re helping you because we hear you and we’ll keep our promise. Our Corona Dairy will be posting until Lockdown is over and then we’ll open up for submissions to our archive – and all of you, everyone of you who tell us you’ve taken part, will be named.
Legendary award winning author Candy Gourlay has guided us in resource building and ideas on how to make a website work and what to do on Instagram and, basically, all things social media AND she drew the picture above!
Dear pal and genius Jo Wyton has built the website. BUILT IT. While also having a one woman birthday party for her son, at home, with no visitors. She’s made something so clever and beautiful I could weep with pride even though I daren’t touch it in case I break it.
Writer and woodland fairyAddy Farmersprinkled magic over the early years pages even while she was ill!
Matt Killeen, yes COSTA SHORTLISTED UBER-AUTHOR Matt Killeen has made videos with lego and written letters to authors asking them to contribute resources while at the same time homeschooling a 4-year-old. The man is a SAINT.