Emily Morris is the author of My Shitty Twenties: A Memoir, published by Salt. Based on her award-winning blog of the same name, the book is a raw, honest and funny account of her experience of becoming a young, single mother. Emily recently completed New Writing North’s Significant Ink professional development script writing programme and is working on a sitcom. She is also writing a YA novel. Emily teaches writing workshops to both adults and teenagers. She lives in Manchester with her son and her cat and is no longer in her twenties.
I adore Emily’s book and have followed her blog since its inception. It’s a joy to interview her on the blog.
Describe a typical day for you?
The cat wakes me way too early. He’ll try anything: standing on my hair, prising my eyes open with his paws, gently nibbling my fingers. 6 Music comes on my radio alarm not long after that and I either get up and feed the cat or mumble at my son to do it.
Eventually, I’ll get up and make myself coffee (the instant stuff in a tin that’s posing as something posh) and, if I am being disciplined / have the time, I do yoga.
At the moment, there is loads of writing-related work to do so invariably yoga gets saved for when I go to a class. It helps me loads though and I never regret doing it. My son is 11 and he makes his own way to school now, so the school sprint is a thing of the past. Mornings are for writing stuff and afternoons, I get on my bike and go to work (apart from Fridays, when I work all day).
I work with books and young people, both of which inspire and amuse me daily. After work, I feed my son and we talk about our days. Reading, baths and bedtime are things of the past now and I really miss them. Gone are Biff, Chip and Kipper, mouldy bath toys and nit combs. Off he goes to bed. If my boyfriend is round, we watch a good series.
We’re really into The Handmaid’s Tale at the moment and think they’ve done a cracking job with it. On the nights he doesn’t stay, I read, or write, or sell clothes on eBay, or empty the litter tray, or indulge in whatever other glamorous pastime is priority that day.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Raising my son to be a polite and confident young man and finally writing my bloody book.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My handbag is an abomination. It’s like a portable waste paper bin. I just had to get a new one off eBay because the strap on my last one snapped under the weight of all my crap. It was vintage and proper leather and had lasted almost a year, which is good going for me.
The replacement was cheap so I give it a month. Usually, there’s a purse, keys, notebook, pens, Kirby grips, numerous lipsticks with missing lids and fluff stuck to them, my phone, a load of spent bus tickets, chewing gum, eyeliner pencil shavings, copper coins with melted chewing gum pellets melded to them, millions of little bits of orange, disintegrated tissue.
Everything I own gets covered in makeup and all my makeup has really battered-looking packaging. I’m not sure how I do it. I’m not even massively into makeup. I used to have tampons and panty liners , and they somehow always worked their way out of the packaging in my handbag and became unusable. Now I use a menstrual cup. I would never go back to tampons: it saves me a fortune, is more reliable and I no longer run the risk of accidentally pulling my keys out and finding a makeup stained tampon attached to them.
What are your ambitions in life?
To write books that help people in some way, to have the sitcom I am writing about single parenthood commissioned and made, to be able to afford to buy a house with a garden, to teach writing as catharsis to those who need it most, to find the time to learn Spanish. For now, I love living in the city, but I love animals and sometimes wonder if I’ll end up living in the sticks with a menagerie.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
That the Alphasmart Neo exists. It’s a dead basic word processor that’s basically just a neat little keyboard that runs for hours on AA batteries. When you need to write a draft, you just shove that thing in your bag and go. When you’re ready, you plug it into the USB of your laptop and watch the words appear before your very eyes. No internet, no distractions. Magic.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Treating my son to a meal or a festival (depending on the bank balance) to celebrate the end of his GCSEs. I’d love to have an agent and for my sitcom to have been commissioned and made. I’d also love to have had at least one novel published. And I suppose that five years from now, depending on the bank balance (again) I’ll be planning a spectacular 40th birthday holiday. Or at least a party.
What advice would you give a budding blogger and author?
Be honest, write from the pit of your stomach, if you’re having a terrible day, write about it. If something really crap happens, write about it. The best writing often comes from the rawest of places. Don’t stop to edit; that comes later. Just write. Feeling angry? Clatter it all out, your keyboard can totally take it.
What’s the best advice you’ve received on motherhood you’d like to share?
My mum taught me that it was OK to put my baby down to sleep when he was still quite small. Apparently that’s quite controversial and it doesn’t work for everyone, but it gave us both much-needed independence from each other.
When I went travelling with him, he slept anywhere (most memorably wedged between a shower cubicle and a toilet in his buggy, in a tiny hostel bathroom in the Australian rainforest), and it was always really easy for him to settle at friends’ houses, or with a babysitter when I couldn’t be around. I think that as a young, single mum, I would have really struggled if I hadn’t heeded her advice on that front.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but he’s always been a chilled-out, independent kid. He’s a lot less needy than the cat, that’s for sure.
Finally, happiness is…
Not just one thing: adventures, swimming and festivals with my son, good food and average booze with my boyfriend, the absolute freedom of travelling solo, foot massages, riding my bike, getting sweaty off good yoga, having a long lie-in. Afternoon naps in newly-washed sheets. Late night conversations and karaoke with very good friends.