As many of you will know, I have written a #nurture post towards the end of December for several years now, reflecting on the year which is ending and looking ahead to the twelve months to come. My posts from the last five years are all included in my WordPress blog and, in preparation for writing this year’s contribution, I reread each of these, which I found interesting. (Search ‘nurture’ if you want to read any of them). The posts describe experiences, opportunities and challenges; grief and disappointments; causes for celebration, achievements and success. And they always explore my aspirations and hopes for the future.
A year ago, I made a commitment to myself.
“I have decided that I will self-publish my three short novels in one volume next year. I’m hoping that, as they are short, they may be of particular interest to those looking for novels for Book Club reading and discussion. And as I am publishing all three together, those who buy the book shouldn’t feel short changed! The novels are all different, but there are common elements, such as a focus on friendships and family relationships, secrets and the repercussions of their revelation, human frailty and growth. I suspect my target audience is likely to be women around my own age. I just want more people to read them!”
So my #oneword2022 was actually two words – and using Kindle Direct Publishing (and relying heavily on the technical expertise of my husband) I brought out the three short novels in one volume (as an e-book and in paperback) in the spring. I have spent much of the rest of this year letting people know that they are out there, discussing the novels with those who have read them, and encouraging prospective readers to take a look. I fully understand that not each novel may be to everyone’s taste, but I feel proud of all three – I know that they were thoughtfully and carefully written and they are, in fact, the kind of novels that I enjoy reading. I have found the Amazon ratings and the published reviews encouraging, and have had some interesting and energising conversations about them in recent months. I’m pleased to have sold nearly 200 copies so far.
This is the link to the books if you want to find out more. Many thanks to everyone who has supported me in this.
I was delighted in March to work with Kevin Mulryne to produce an audio version of ‘Making the Leap – Moving from Deputy to Head’ for Crown House. Making the recording was an enjoyable experience, and I am pleased to have increased the accessibility of the book for potential readers.
What else has characterised 2022?
Opportunities and experiences: Professional
My leadership development work has continued, online and face to face, throughout the year. Face to face training has taken me to Alderley Edge, Hull, Leeds, Bedford, Luton, Warwick, Sussex, Aberdeen, Scarborough, Rickmansworth and on multiple visits to London. In February I enjoyed recording an interview with Rachel Johnson of PiXL, talking about ‘Making the Leap’, among other things, and taking advantage of the opportunity to meet up for coffee with Emma Kell, who was recording her own session later that day.
In March, I was invited to speak at the PHAB primary heads’ conference in Chepstow – a great group of professionals – and John and I were able to combine that with a visit to Swansea and Langland Cove, where I met up with the wonderful Kathryn Morgan for brunch in the Langland Brasserie on the beach.
We really enjoyed the HMC Conference in Edinburgh in October. We stayed for three nights and made the most of our time in the city. I particularly enjoyed the chance to hear Nicola Benedetti, Angela Brown and Tanni Grey-Thompson, and the choral workshop with Steven Deazley. I loved watching Portrait Artist of the Year last year, where the winner, a young Scot, Calum Stevenson, had the opportunity to paint Nicola Benedetti for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and while we were in Edinburgh I went to see the original portrait. (My main Christmas present this year was a limited edition print of this portrait, together with a book about Calum and his other work – fantastic).
I love being part of the Myatt & Co team, recording interviews for the CPD short films for educators platform and have enjoyed talking this year to Andrew Hampton, Robin Macpherson and Kate Jones, Bennie Kara and Hannah Wilson, Marie-Claire Bretherton and Steve Munby, Lindsay Patience and Lucy Rose, Ross McGill, Steve Willshaw and Andrew Morrish about the new educational books they have written.
Andrew Hampton and I still run the termly online ‘Leading an Independent School’ course for prospective senior leaders and heads in the sector. Each course lasts four weeks and we start working with cohort 35 on Monday 16th January.
Opportunities and experiences: Personal
As I have recorded in other blog posts, navigating the pandemic wasn’t too taxing for us – we are fortunate in a number of respects. I contracted Covid in April, but I wasn’t seriously unwell, and I recovered quickly. The one thing we did miss during the pandemic was overseas travel, which we have always relished, but didn’t feel we wanted to risk until it seemed safer. This year we made the most of the chance to enjoy the sun in foreign climes – in April we went to Madeira (where for some reason the hotel upgraded us to the most luxurious suite…) and I was able to work on my tan on our large, private, sea-facing balcony.
In June we were finally able to experience our twice-deferred trip to Valencia where, among other joys, we met Malarvilie Krishnasamy and her husband Tim for a meal in a garden restaurant one evening. The hotel was stunning, and we were there on the evening of the summer solstice when the entire population of Valencia (it seems) take to the beach in large family and friendship groups and build fire pits, play beach volleyball, and loud music, and dance to celebrate midsummer.
We returned to Spain in September, staying in my brother’s apartment near Mazarron, enjoying a late week of sun.
Music has continued to feature this year – the banner photo above is of my choral society singing Faure Requiem in our autumn concert. We also sang The Sunrise Mass, written by a contemporary Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo, and that was beautiful – strongly recommended if you’re a choral singer looking for interesting new pieces.
In November I took part with two singing friends in The Really Big Chorus at The Royal Albert Hall, where we sang Handel’s Messiah in a combined choir of 2000, with a further 1000 (including my husband) in the audience. The four of us enjoyed a meal in the Elgar restaurant there before the performance.
My two book clubs (one face to face, and one online) continue to flourish, with some fascinating choices and discussions this year, some of which have introduced me to new authors – always a pleasure. I started a second Twitter account (@jillberrywrites) to comment on my writing and my reading experiences, and have enjoyed engaging with a range of different people through that.
In August I experienced three days of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which were very good fun. We saw track events and long jump, beach volleyball (very entertaining!) and, the highlight, the final of the women’s hockey where England defeated Australia to take the gold medal. We stayed for several nights, spending time with friends in the evenings, and enjoying a curry, revelling in the vibrant atmosphere and and admiring the bull in the city centre.
Throughout 2022 I have appreciated the chance to make the most of friendships and to build new contacts. I’ve continued to have regular Zoom chats with individuals and groups of friends who live at a distance, but have also relished meeting people for walks, coffee, brunch, lunch and meals in the evening. I feel very fortunate in the relationships I have with so many people whose company and conversation always lift me.
John and I returned to the north west to see a play at the school on the Wirral where I was second in English, and I met the play’s director, a former colleague and longstanding friend, for lunch. We stayed overnight in Chester and the following day I drove to Formby, where I started my teaching career a long time ago, to visit one friend for coffee and another for lunch – women I taught with in the 1980s. I also met up with the class of 2000 GSA new heads’ group again for a reunion lunch at Shipston-on-Stour in the summer.
Our village community continues to be strong and mutually supportive. This year we celebrated the Platinum Jubilee with a street party and games, and this photograph was taken, with a drone, of all of us (in red, white and blue) gathering by the village church.
In 2023 I look forward to seeing whether sales of the three short novels continue (or fizzle out completely!) These words from Alain de Botton certainly resonated!
And we are planning holidays to Crete in May and then to San Francisco and the Napa Valley in August.
I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings in terms of experiences and opportunities, connections and friendships, new challenges and possibilities. I’m happy to continue with my leadership development work, online and in-person, while ever I enjoy it, and the feedback I receive is positive. I will carry on my educational reading, tweeting and writing, and may write further fiction if inspiration strikes me. And I know I shall continue to find joy in the company of the many people I care about!
Thank you for reading this. I wish you a positive and fulfilling year ahead.