Wednesday 10 December 2014

Girl Online ... For the Record

For legal reasons I'm not able to talk about the specific details of my involvement with Zoe Sugg's novel Girl Online.

However, now that I'm receiving messages from complete strangers accusing me of things that are a million miles from the truth, and now that my family are becoming furious and distraught at some of the comments about me on twitter - I feel I need to set the record straight as far as I am able to.

Firstly, I did not agree to work on Girl Online to 'get rich'.

Neither did I do it to 'get famous'. People who know me know how ridiculous that accusation is. But for those of you who don't know me, here's what I think about wanting to be famous...

I think it's a hollow and dangerous dream.

When you build the foundation of your life and happiness on the adulation of strangers it's like building a house on sinking sand. It could disappear at any moment.

Far better to build your happiness on the rock solid foundation of love. Love for yourself. Love for others. Love for what you do.

I love books.

I love writing books and I love helping others write books.

And I especially love being involved in the creation of books that help others.

Books that deal with real and serious issues such as cyber bullying, homophobia and anxiety.

Books like Girl Online

I was hugely impressed that, when given the dream opportunity of a book deal with Penguin, Zoe Sugg chose to create a storyline that dealt with these serious issues - out of a desire to help her fans.

And, when I was offered the opportunity to help Zoe, I also saw the opportunity to help get important and empowering messages across to her incredibly huge fan-base.

Messages about self belief, anxiety, sexuality and - oh the irony - online hate.

That was my sole motivation for taking the job.

But - and this is a big but - I did have some issues with how the project was managed. Issues which I expressed on more than one occasion. Issues which I'm afraid I'm not allowed to go into. And issues which have nothing to do with Zoe. I've seen at first hand how caring and considerate Zoe is. I've been very impressed with how she finds ways to use her (completely unexpected) fame to help others, whether that be through her vlogs, blogs, books or becoming a digital ambassador for the mental health charity MIND.

So, to those of you who have accused me of acting like a victim because I dared thank some of the people who have been sending me messages of support, you don't know what has been going on behind the scenes in this project. 

Whilst I was very grateful for the acknowledgement, I didn't know that my full name would be in the book. 

I did not invite any of this attention upon myself.

I'm not remotely interested in cashing in on someone else's fame. The thought of doing so turns my stomach.

This may seem hard to believe in our current celebrity-obsessed society, but I'm really not interested in fame, full stop.

I truly don't care how many twitter followers I have.

I do not need to 'get verified' to feel validated.

All I want to do is be a good mum to my son and get on with my life, writing and coaching others.

Mistakes have been made, but I still feel very proud to have worked with Zoe on Girl Online.

By breaking sales records - because of Zoe's humungous fan-base - book stores such as Waterstones are ending the year on healthy profits.

Penguin, and many other publishers around the world, are now able to afford to offer more unknown writers book deals. Whether you like it or not, this is the financial reality of today's publishing industry.

Thousands of young people across the world have been tweeting excitedly about reading a book!

And countless young people have been talking about how the book has helped them.

I think it would be really healthy to have a broader debate about transparency in celebrity publishing. But please don't blame Zoe personally for a practice that has been going on for years.

I really hope that once this storm settles, people will focus on the serious issues at the heart of Girl Online.

In the UK alone, 45,000 children contacted Childline about bullying last year.

Over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have experienced homophobic bullying in school.

More than 16,000 young people in the UK are absent from school due to bullying.

Research suggests that 20% of young people have a mental health problem in any given year.

Surely statistics such as these are what we should all be getting outraged about? 


You can find the new site here.

Fresh new posts include:

15 Things I've Learnt From 15 Years as a Writer

Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome my illness and become a speaker

An Exciting New Chapter for Dare to Dream