(AND Another Library Talk)
Well, it’s in the window of the Sutton Coldfield branch. What an honour to be rubbing elbows with Nick Hornby, Maeve Binchy and Colm Toibin’s Booker-shortlisted novel, Brooklyn, a novel I thoroughly enjoyed.
As in so many occasions in life, luck plays a major role: Brooklyn is one of those beautifully written miniatures which convey deep emotions with the lightest touch, but alas for Toibin, that year it happened that he was up against the vast and colourful canvas of Hilary Mantel’s magnificent Wolf Hall.
My most recent gift of luck was when I found out about the new publisher, Transita at just the right time in their short history. A few months later, and it would have been too late for The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, so I’ll always be grateful to them for their quixotic venture into the cut-throat world of publishing.
I can usually recognise and welcome good fortune when it knocks on my door – the real challenge though, is managing to remain satisfied with what can quickly be regarded as merely the first instalment , in line with the adage, ‘Much wants More.’
My real test came with the runaway success of the novel with an even more quirky title than mine: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I was reluctant to read it, as I often find that novels which have received a huge amount of hype turn out to be a disappointment. In fact, I did enjoy it, but I felt that it didn’t quite live up to all its rave reviews. Praises that were heaped on that book, matched many of those in reviews of my own novel, and I struggled to ignore the whispers of the green eyed monster – why should Marina Lewycka have received the full lorry load of luck?
When I realised that she was the object of an interview on Radio 4, I was quite prepared to dislike her, but she seemed to have had the same struggles towards publication as I did, and came across as such a nice woman, and was so genuinely enjoying her good fortune that all my resentments evaporated, and I was able to feel happy for her.
OK, so I haven’t been able to give up my day job, but there have been numerous pleasures in becoming a ‘published novelist’ that I am still enjoying. One of the best of these is being invited to visit reading and/or writing groups to talk about my books. Last Friday I was at Weoley Castle Library in a cosy meeting room with every chair taken and a beautiful, working ‘blind’ dog at the feet of its young owner. As usual, I probably talked too much and didn’t give enough time for questions, but everyone (except the golden retriever) seemed to be interested, and several bought copies of both my books, after one had announced that Paper Lanterns
would make a good Christmas present.
What a clever idea – it would make a great Christmas present and a warming good read in this icy weather!! Maybe I’ll produce a Christmas postcard from this photo - it looks suitably festive. If anyone wants to order a copy of Paper Lanterns (or The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society) from this site before 24th December, I’d be happy to enclose a card with it. Just let me know, via the ‘Contact Me’ page above.
BY THE WAY - CLARISSA’S INTERVIEW, featuring my tiny contribution, (see the post below for more info) WILL BE SHOWN AT 10.00 IN THE MORNING ON SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER.
(The first programme of the series starts tomorrow and features June Brown (Dot from Eastenders)
It’s been another busy period juggling work and family matters with little time left for Writing Matters (though, thanks to audio books, I’ve had plenty of time for ‘reading’). I seem to have been living in my car on motorways, driving through gales and cloudbursts – first from my home in Sutton Coldfield to my brother’s beautiful but windswept, cliff-top house in South Wales, then setting out the next morning for the M4, M25, M23, A 23, A27, finally arriving at my mother’s house. Two days later, it was back to motorways again in gales and torrents, all the way home.
My book on these journeys was ‘Deaf Sentence’ by David Lodge. As well as its intriguing plot, it’s an eye-opener* for anyone with friends or family members who are going deaf (*The narrator refers several times to the predominance of sight-related metaphors, compared to hearing ones – wouldn’t it sound strange to say ‘ear-opener’?). If you’ve ever been somewhat less than patient with a friend or relation after your 5th repetition of the punch line of your hilarious joke, you might feel a twinge of shame. This book is also uncomfortably acute in its depiction of family relationships. But don’t let that put you off – it’s also very funny.
Back to what I was saying in my previous post – last Tuesday my house was invaded by the BBC. Yes, that is an exaggeration – it was only a team of three with a few hefty bits of gear.
Anyone who’s followed this blog from its early days and/or has read my accounts of both of my book launches, will know that Clarissa Dickson Wright and I have been close friends since we met at boarding school. Anyone who’s read her autobiographyor seen her talking about herself on TV, will know something about the extreme ups and downs of her life, and won’t be too surprised to hear that the BBC will be showing an hour-long programme about her. As with other programmes, they’ll be interspersing Clarissa’s interview with snippets of comments made by people who have known her. As her friend since childhood, I was asked to make a contribution.
I’ll be very interested to see which sound bites are selected from my one and a half hours of interview, and which of the photos from school days they show, along with the ones of Clarissa holding my daughter as a baby, her god daughter.Clarissa’s interview is the first of four programmes in a series that has been timetabled for advent, the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Considering the time-slot, I can see why this series will have a focus on the ways that spirituality and religion have influenced the lives of the chosen four.
The whole experience was fascinating, but also exhausting – all that concentration! I enjoyed the novelty of it, but don’t envy celebrities and public figures who have to do this type of thing on a regular basis. Even the cat was exhausted by the end of it!
For some reason, my blogging brain staged a shut down after my latest post on October third, and here I am now on 5th November, wondering, to the sound of exploding gunpowder, if some part of that missing month is hiding in my attic.
I blame the accumulation of clutter in our house over the last two decades. I could stand it no longer and embarked on a frenzied clearout that could not be completed methodically, step by step. What was done in room A, would affect Room B, and room C had to be half emptied, to make space for refugee pieces of essential items that were banished from room D . And so on, from mild untidiness to chaos, then utter chaos and eventually, after several trips to charity shops and the municipal tip, to soothing order.
Phew! I was able to draw breath, and after producing a couple of passable poems to ease my creative famine, I turned to my neglected blog and started browsing some of the headlines on my daily updates from the on-line Bookseller. Poetry and clearouts were combined several months ago here in the post
Last week I received an email from one of my favourite bloggers, Litlove of ‘Tales from the Reading Room’,
asking if I would take part in an on-line interview with her. Coincidentally, publishing was the topic. Litlove was interested in my own venture into publishing, Novel Press. Though probably it wasn’t such a coincidence, since Litlove feels that small publishers and publishing cooperatives are going to be important in the years ahead. She is not the only blogger to be investigating publishing trends, as you can see from this post.
I was pleased to spend time in looking back on my experience of being published and becoming a publisher. All sorts of half-forgotten details came to the fore, and now I can see more clearly what a challenge it has been – and, in spite of some frustrating moments, how satisfying I have found the whole venture.
Thank you, LitLove, for asking me in the first place, and also for tidying up my rather rambling answers to your stimulating questions!
This hasn’t been the only interview I’ve taken part in this week. I’ll wait till my next post before I tell you about Tuesday afternoon, when a small BBC team brought their own clutter of lights, tripod, camera, monitor and numerous trailing wires into my own little writing room. Very exciting, even though the focus wasn’t really on me and my writing.