'To hold a dream is lovely. To achieve that dream is unimaginably wonderful.'

13 May 2015

By Pan Macmillan

Mary Wood always dreamt of being an author. But working and raising a family kept her very busy indeed. Caring for her mother during her last months and overcoming breast cancer gave Mary the push she needed to reach for her dreams. Mary tells us her story ahead of the publication of her latest book on 21st May, the appropriately named To Catch a Dream.  

Do you dream of doing something different with your life?

You may be a butcher, baker or candlestick maker – What on earth is a candlestick maker? Do they make the wicks, or mould the wax – uh, uh, I’m off on a tangent and not sticking to the point.

That’s what dreamers do. They toil away at whatever life’s path has led them to do, but their minds are somewhere else. I did it for years. I wanted to be a writer so trained as a secretary, but I couldn’t survive on the pay so secured a job in a factory. After meeting my soul-mate, I married, had children, and then took whatever job fitted into the hours that daddy could be a stand-in mummy.

The most boring, just-to-bring-in-some-extra-money job, was a 6pm-10pm shift in a factory watching huge, chugging machines churn out rolls of fabric. I had to check they behaved themselves and didn’t have a tantrum. If they did, one of their needles would break leaving a ladder in the fabric to rival the ones I had in my nylon stockings. Then I would have the excitement of pushing a red button to stop their naughtiness and alert the engineer - only men could do something as intricate as changing a broken needle! Did I mention that I am a wrinkly and those were the days of suspender-belts and no career-path for women? I’m not old enough to remember candlestick makers, I hasten to add, but I am a post-war, boom baby.

And yes, we did have dreams back then. They were harder to achieve, but nurturing them was just as important. That factory job proved to be a turning point for me as it gave me time to think. Evening after evening, I would live inside my head with the characters of the best-selling book I imagined I was going to write.

My characters were my secret world. I had created them. But it wasn’t until the late nineteen eighties when I was taking care of my mother in her last months that I actually put them to paper and started to believe I could become a writer.

It’s true what people say, that there’s no gain without pain. My pain was years of rejection, a time-lapse that saw many changes for women and had placed me in a high-pressured job in the probation service. The world was now in the age of technology. I had been dragged, kicking and screaming into it, but my options had widened – especially with the arrival of the ebook, giving a platform for authors to self-publish.

By now it was 2010 and I was no longer part of the 9-5 grind, but another set back slowed my dream. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. After recovery, I decided to release my novel on kindle. That happened in July 2011. Within a week my nails no longer existed, and I had sold one copy.
Me? An Author? Was this possible? I had a pedigree, its true – my maternal great-grandmother had been an author in the early 1900’s, but I was from a background of poverty, softened by love. I was the thirteenth child of fifteen, born to an upper-middle-class girl who had defied convention and married an East-end barrow boy! I was brought up in an ex-army hut, and then a council house. And yet, here I was – an author – well, someone had bought my book and that qualified me, didn’t it?

I left my dream world and beavered away in reality. My books climbed the charts and made another dream come true: now, I could spend the winter months in Spain, which is where I do most of my writing.

But then came the pinnacle of my dream – the day Louise Buckley, an editor at Pan Macmillan publishers, download one of my books, curious to know who this unknown in the charts was. Louise recognized my ability. At last, I became a traditionally published author.  

To hold a dream is lovely. To achieve that dream is unimaginably wonderful.

It is apt that as I am writing this article my new book is about to be published. Its title? TO CATCH A DREAM.

I have caught mine.