There’s been a little nod. An e-mail indicating that a story written in haste and submitted for a competition wasn’t a waste of time. If ever writing a story could be. Along with the nod comes an invitation. A day out in the publishing world. A Friday in town with pearls from publishing being shared and devoured. It is the stuff of dreams.
First though, the kids.
‘Hurry up, I’ve got to get you all to school and then get the train into town’.
‘Because of a story I wrote’.
It doesn’t feel so cool running the ten minute cut through walk in an attempt to make them hurry along. I’m on my own. I’ll be first in at this rate. While they meander with their leaden legs, wrecked after the week of early starts and homework.
‘Hurry’ I bellow down the field and it is only the other parents who seem to pay any attention. Oh well.
At the dart station – it has been two years since I was at a dart station – the nice man behind the counter has his back to me. He’s counting change. Silas Marner style. Heaps and heaps of lovely gold coins. I cough once lightly to attract him. The dart, I read will be here in one minute. He does not turn. I cough a great big whoop of one the next time. No luck. A kind young man fiddling with a machine steps in.
‘Bang on the window’ he says. So I do, feeling rude with it, expecting to be ticked off for my impatience. But when Silas turns around he is friendly and he is kind. I step onto the train as if I do this all the time. With precision and a feigned aloofness. Yes I can rock on into a station with seconds to spare and alight a train as if it doesn’t really matter. As if the next one along in twenty minutes would do just fine. Which it wouldn’t. I’d be late as hell for this important day. Late and berating myself. But hey. The other bored looking commuters need not know. I’m sailing into town as if to my job. I’m one of you. At last.
Outside the library where the event will take place, story tellers gather. They gather and wonder about one another. Ah yes, you’re one too. Congratulations. We’re led around to a back door and into the sanctum. An already filling room of myriad colours and personalities all with a common goal. To read, to write and to be read. All ages, all walks. To my right there’s a lively stylish grandmother. She says that when she got her nod it might as well have been the Booker prize she had got. She was that excited and couldn’t imagine being any more thrilled about anything. To my left there’s a father on a career break, screen writing in the mornings while the kids are in school. I scan the room. Mostly women with a smattering of men. There’s a buzz of sweet anticipation as it begins.
This is our day we are told. We are to relax and treat it as if we’re in our grandmother’s sitting room. Ask questions. Interrupt. Enjoy. The pearls come thick and fast. Editors and agents tell us that the book is back. E-book reading is waning and people are reverting to the real thing. Phew. But fiction is not as strong as non- fiction right now. Fiction is a tough market apparently. Oh dear.
The celebrated authors arrive. They write commercial fiction, literary fiction and crime fiction. We are treated to anecdotes and humour as they share their trials with getting published. Their rejections. The books that never made it to the shelves. They are self-deprecating. They are real. They love what they do, clearly. They talk about luck and persistence. How it takes both to get across the line.
Tips on selling and marketing your book, which is really about selling and marketing yourself, are shared before we swirl around one another for lunch. The young and the old and the middling. Those who have travelled from various parts of the country and further afield and those who have cycled in the gilded hope that the orange/yellow weather warnings turn out to be fiction. Little platforms that people are building for themselves are revealed. Eyes widen at the semi-tapped but largely untapped pool of talent. For some it is a first little nod. Others have had luck before. All are there though in the hope that the little nods and the little bits of luck will, some day, come to something bigger. Out of the people I was talking to, with a kindred knowing glint, it is only a matter of time. Their voices will be out there for sure. They read and they write and they will be read.
After lunch a clever affable structural editor talks us through being a published writer. Writing, it seems, is about editing. About layers which come over time. A first draft should be written instinctively with freedom and forward momentum. It can then be torn apart and restructured with the help of an editor. She details common mistakes that she sees and how to avoid them. The sweetest thing is that she too is submitting her writing to others. Submitting and being rejected. She shares insightful snippets from her rejections. How the publishers are looking for either expertly paced page turners or brilliantly original voices. The room erupts with laughter. Would it were that simple. The authors continue to interject as questions are thrown from the floor. And then it’s time to wrap the dream up. Goodie bags of freshly published books are given to each invitee. Then the disparate group is set to disperse. It is awkward in ways. Shouldn’t people who have been brought together and shared such a special day be able to stay in touch if they choose? Keep up with one another’s progress. Swap tips and upcoming events and the like. It’s the only flaw of the day. The lack of a contact list. We don’t necessarily want to be running around with a pen asking for details, shy and strange creatures that most of us are. So we’re flung back to our lives, buzzing with renewed vigour for upcoming writing projects. Buzzing from the fact that we are not alone, isolating and all as writing can be. There’s loads of us out there keeping the faith, crafting little creations. The best of luck to you all.