The May edition of Writing Magazine is running an article about my writing life and The Baby Box in their regular feature Subscriber Spotlight. Do buy it if you can.
The Baby Box is still selling, Ebooks well. I'm glad I had that set up. It was worth it.
The cover seems popular and the book itself is a chunky 'hold'.
New blog: Writers' Block in the Lockdown https://janehayward.blog
7/3/20 Blog - The Respectable Face of Self-Publishing. See my website janehayward.blog; page 'Blog'.
Wednesday 18 March at the University of Chichester on their Self-Publishing Panel. 4-5pm.
Have made 2 podcasts - links on the website and had 2 articles/reviews published on line.
Just to add that a reader has told me she 'cannot put the book down.' That's nice.
The Baby Box now has twelve 5* Reviews on Amazon. Go there and see for yourself.
Here's a review from a fellow writer. Only 1 of the many I have received.
I was awake well past 1am this morning finishing The Baby Box. I want to congratulate you on your book which truly moved me. It was beautifully written and painfully honest. I shall be recommending it to anyone who wants to understand how our society has thankfully moved on from some of the less attractive aspects of the 1960s. Stephanie
The Baby Box is a beautifully written story from a young woman’s point of view about her unplanned pregnancy in the sixties, and time spent in a mother and baby home.
Jane Hayward cleverly captures the life of a teen during the ‘Permissive Society’, the essence of which has clearly not reached her family home. This true story charts her difficult relationship with her parents, particularly her mother and the obstacles she faces from those around her who fail to listen to her and ask her opinions of the future she wants.
It was a book I couldn’t put down. The writer pulls no punches, yet the prose , though sometimes upsetting, is peppered with humour. It is difficult to understand now how pregnant young girls in the sixties were treated as outcasts of society, yet the writer never blames anyone for the way she is treated-indeed at the end of the story there is a beautifully written chapter about her mother which answers many questions.
I loved this book, and as Jane Hayward suggests, she hopes the book will help those children who have been adopted to see things form their mother’s point of view.
by Clare Brown
The Baby Box is a poignant memoir...inspiring and insightful. The book is bravely and movingly written, and the writer's uncompromising prose captured and then held my attention throughout.
by Anne Thomson
The Baby Box tells the true story of author Jane Hayward’s traumatic experience as a pregnant, unmarried teenager during the mid-60s, supposedly the progressive age of free love. This doesn’t prove to be the case for grammar school girl Jane, whose experience of the swinging sixties is limited to longing glances at mod classmate Rita, always on her way out somewhere with massive abortion pills hidden in her schoolbag. Jane’s aspiring middle-class mother assigns their semi-detached Balham home to the more fashionable Clapham area and is delighted to find that her daughter’s boyfriend’s parents live in a smaller house than she does. It’s an intriguing glimpse into the snobbery, prejudices, and frighteningly bad parenting of the lower middle classes in 60’s London.
Hayward writes with dignity and spirit. Her charmingly old-fashioned turn of phrase makes the young Jane’s occasional, utterly understandable outbursts – at one point she compares herself to “a bitch ready to be mated by any cur” – the more shocking. Interspersed with pacy, first-person, present-tense narration, we get snippets of Jane’s diary, and letters to and from her mother and troublesome boyfriend Nick. Through these entries, we get snapshots of the characters’ authentic voices. This is clearly an important part of Hayward’s project. The Baby Box makes for a compelling read, presenting a side of the 60s that’s far removed from the glamour of Mad Men, not least in its focus on women’s experiences.
The Baby Box begs comparison with the hit BBC adaptation of Jennifer Worth’s nursing memoirs, Call the Midwife. Hayward’s sage authorial interjections – ‘Now, thinking of my social worker, I pity her’ – reminded me of Vanessa Redgrave’s narration in the series. Forgiveness is a surprising theme. Hayward’s insistence that everyone – the worthless Nick, her horrible social worker and her parents – should be forgiven for what they put her through, gets a little wearing.
The book’s best achievement is in its portrayal of Jane’s recognisable, stormy relationship with her mother. When Jane finally builds up the courage to tell her mum about the pregnancy, she gets a venomous response: ‘you little fool’. When Jane asks what happens next, mum ‘finishes her tea and replaces the cup on its saucer with enough venom to poison half the reptile house at London Zoo.’ This is funny, but worse is to come. Much as Hayward wants us to (and she dedicates a whole chapter to explaining away her mother’s faults), it is difficult to sympathise with her mother’s coercive, sometimes violent behaviour.
Particularly striking is the generational role reversal of mother and daughter. Mrs Hayward advocates abortion viciously, while her daughter wants nothing to do with it. The complexities of Jane’s situation are brought into relief when she positions herself as the one most attached to the values you’d expect in her mother. Her most consistent stance throughout The Baby Box is that she’s got to get married and keep the baby, thus making everything alright. Her defiance is often in defence of more traditional values than those advocated by her parents.
It’s sometimes difficult to see how Jane got into such a mess. Hayward’s vivid descriptions of her ‘summer of love’ with Nick are not matched by her later depictions of their sex as ‘pretty boring, just a matter of letting Nick do what he seemed to want to do.’ Again, there is a sense of abuses forgiven where they perhaps shouldn’t be. At times, I wonder whether what is a genuinely shocking narrative of abuse and betrayal is best served by its chirpy, Blyton-esque tone – when Jane ends up in a home for immoral mothers, there are more than echoes of Malory Towers. Hayward’s stated intention of making her story enjoyable (which, make no mistake, it is!) sometimes risks disservice to its difficult subject matter.
Jane oscillates, sometimes dizzyingly, between outright defiance of her parents’ abuse, and miserable shame for her own provocation of it. She is caught between twin convictions – that she’s done nothing wrong that can’t be fixed, and that she’s committed the worst sin imaginable. The Baby Box is a fascinating portrait of someone who is aware of her elders’ prejudices and the damage they cause, namely Jane’s tendency to internalise her family grievances. Jane is given a taste of what it is to be a social outcast; the book’s driving tension is whether she will choose to remain one.
by Catriona Bolt, Birkbeck College, London University.
I have been writing since I was 13 yrs old - with a break when I wanted to be a painter! I have had some small successes, a genre novel published by Robert Hale, and winner of a short story prize. This memoir has taken me almost 20 years to write and is the story of a secret I've kept from everyone except my husband and children for 50 years. I found it difficult to write honestly while my mother was alive. The truth seemed disloyal. Having cancer brought the facts of life home to me - that I will not live for ever and if I wanted to publish this story I had to get on with it.
I have an MA in Creative Writing from Chichester University. A short story of mine won the inaugural Lightship Prize and was publised in the Lightship Anthology 1 by Alma Books Ltd. I have been published online by MIROnline (Birkbeck University) and @BirdsThumb. Short stories have been short-listed by Comma Press and Liars' League. I live in West London and am looking forward to setting up a card-table in bookshops in my area to sell The Baby Box.
I blog on www.janehayward.blog
Can be found on Twitter: @jane_hayward
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