Even though it was my number one ambition in life, I didn’t start writing my first novel till my thirties. But that’s late these days. I’m gripped by the story of 20 year old Samantha Shannon, whose sci-fi series has just been snapped up by Bloomsbury for a six-figure sum.
But now I come to think of it, my daughter and her pals self-published their own book at the tender age of 17. In between studying for exams they wrote a guide covering everything a 21st Century teenage girl needs to know about fashion, beauty, parties, schoolwork, health and saving money. I found my copy the other day and realised it contains quite a lot that a middle-aged mum needs to know – tips on applying mascara, the best vintage shops in Oxford and a divine recipe for blueberry muffins.
They also hit on the idea of asking a handful of celebrities for their top tips for teenagers. Lovely Jilly Cooper wrote straight back saying: “Don’t be too sad, because love is so excruciatingly painful at your age and I just want to say, if it really hurts you, you will get over it. When I was your age I found huge comfort in reading poetry. It seemed to mirror my sufferings and anguishes and longings and made me feel I wasn’t alone and that I would get over my unhappiness.”
Meanwhile TV chef and supermodel Sophie Dahl told them: “Always, always, always wash your face before you go to bed if you're wearing make-up. Otherwise you wake up like an old harridan. I use very basic stuff, cold cream and rose water without alcohol from the chemist.”
Their book is out of print now but it contains some pithy advice for teenagers embarking on exams. “It’s really easy to get stressed out by your friends during the exam period,” they wrote. “Everyone always exaggerates how little or how much revision they have done, so try not to take notice of other people when they talk about it.”
At their age I was gauche, unsophisticated and not half so smart (and no, I haven't changed much). I certainly didn’t know how to cope with exam stress, open a bank account or use a pair of hair straighteners. And with that in mind, I’m off to buy that rose water...