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Words Are Life: How It All Began...

Writers need publishers

Five years ago I decided to come out of the woodwork and admit to the world at large that I am a writer. One thing leads to another, so it wasn’t long before I realised that writers need publishers and where I live in Adlington, Lancashire there wasn’t one.

Upon further investigation not only was there not a publisher in my community, there was no one in the nearby vicinity publishing the kind of writing I adored – short stories, flash fiction and short novels.

For years I’ve been saying they are a neglected art form, thought of as the poorer cousin in comparison to the longer novel. Well no more. Suddenly I wanted to champion my kind of writing and help return these forms to their rightful place in readers’ minds.

So I decided to become a publisher too. If there was no one publishing my kind of writing here well I’ll just do it myself. On paper it sounds easy enough right?

But that’s not the whole story. Let me give you the long view…

The truth is none of this would have been possible without the parenting and love of two exceptional people – Vannie and John Atherton - otherwise better known as Mum and Dad.

Mum and Dad at their silver wedding

Scott Martin Productions is a tribute to Mum

For a start I named the company Scott Martin Productions as a tribute to Mum. She was a teacher, an Aberdonian, an active force in the community, and Scott Martin was her maiden name.

It was easy for me to grow under the protection of them both because they were people who made you want to transcend your mistakes and limitations and to constantly try your best to become a more decent, reasonable human being.

As a child, being told off by Dad was the worst experience ever. When Mum told us off, she would perhaps shout and then the job was done, but Dad did the thing of getting me to consider all the consequences of what I had done. Not a guilt trip as such, but more of an ethical check-in reminder.

My most treasured moment with Dad, or Reverend Canon Professor John Atherton of Manchester Cathedral, to give him his full title, occurred just a little while before he went into hospital for his final stay. We were sat together in his study and I'd just assisted him typing up his last piece of research to send to his good friend the Normunds in Stockholm. He put his hand on my forearm and squeezed it and with tears in his eyes he then told me how much he loved me and how grateful he was to me and how I wasn't just his daughter and employee, I was his dear friend too. When he passed away there were two books left open on Dad’s storm damaged elm table. They kind of summed him up – one about Adam Smith and the other about Edinburgh.

Dad: "Really rather nice"

I’ll never forget how my son took exception to his Granddad describing many things as "really rather nice" and how my Dad then felt compelled to say it all the more to him as a form of aversion therapy, until it ceased to be an annoying overused phrase and became instead a sweet family cliché that evolved into a family legend. Sadly, Mum and Dad both died within a few years of each other and even though they are not here, it feels they are both still with me, watching over me.

Literary sign

A few days after Dad's death, I was shopping in a charity shop feeling really low unsure whether setting up a publishing company was the right path for me to be going down, so I asked Dad for some guidance. Immediately there was a literary sign. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it was enough of a hint for me. The first book I saw was 'Happiness' by Richard Layard, it was sticking right out off the shelf. This was a book that Dad and I discussed a lot. Dad's final research had referred to Layard's psychological work in great detail, and he had advanced some of Layard's theories on wellbeing. I have never seen any academic titles at that charity shop, either before or since, and I have also NEVER seen a second hand book by Layard anywhere. I knew then that this is what they wanted me to do. Then a few days later there was another sign following another request for guidance. I found myself magically drawn to a mug that said, 'Follow Your Dreams'. Nowadays, I rarely write without this mug (full of redbush vanilla tea) next to me on my desk.

I thought I'd feel alone when they went, but the truth is, in more than one sense, that they haven't left, and won't ever leave. They are here all around me. Not just in the books on my shelves, and the photographs, but in so many memories. They are the real sense of purpose that drives me as a writer and a publisher.

Every word I write has a little bit of both of you within it

So, here's looking at you, Mum and Dad. Thanks for encouraging my education. Thanks for all the love and care you gave me.

Thanks Mum for letting me drag you to music shops and for taking me to lunch, for caring for the children and for generally being the best possible mother. And thanks Dad for all the time we spent together when Mum was no longer around, and for trusting me with your research and your friendship.

I don't know where I would have ended up without you both. I don't even want to think about it.

Thanks, Mum and Dad. Every word I write has a little bit of both of you within it...

Much love, Lesley xxx

John Robert Atherton (1939-2016)

Vannie Atherton (1937-2011)

If you’re an aspiring writer who wants to come out of the woodwork too, get in touch.


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