Monday, December 03, 2007

Back home after a very writerly trip

I got home yesterday after twelve days in England, exhausted but inspired... sad that I left J over there for another 3 weeks, but energized and looking forward to a productive month. I already had some lovely news: my portfolio of three short stories has been Highly Commended in the Biscuit Publishing Short Story Competition.

I've got a busy week - I'll be launching the second issue of The Short Review on Thursday (fingers crossed!) and with almost 1000 hits to the first issue, I have high hopes that this issue - which is bigger than the last, with more reviews from my expanding stable of reviewers- will get even more hits from far and wide.

One thing I did in England was pick up several review copies of books sent to me by kindly publishers and distribute them to the wonderful women of the online writers' forum Fiction Workhouse on our fabulous day out last Sunday in London. I had only met one of them - Vanessa, the FW's founder - but due to the nature of the Workhouse, we all felt we knew each other already. Julia, Zoe, Susannah, Mel, Elaine, Vanessa... what a fabulous groups of wise and witty women. We met up at Holborn tube - just before it was shut due to a security alert! - and joined a Wellcome Trust walk about the medical history of the area, called Blood, Guts, Gore and Children. It was fascinating, despite the pavements being a little tough on the feet. Then we repaired to a nearby vegetarian curry house for the real purpose of the day: talking. Hours passed like minutes, and for me, to sit around and natter about writing was like being in heaven! Eventually, everyone sadly had to get back to their respective corners of England, but I really hope we'll do it again, and that more FW members will join us.

For me and Vanessa, the fun carried on, with a trip to Cambridge the next day to meet Jen Hamilton-Emery from Salt Publishing, the small press that is publishing our story collections, hers in March and mine in June. For three hours we talked about stories, about publishing, about our work and other people's, serenaded by the Italian owner of Clowns cafe, who took quite a shine to Vanessa! Jen insisted on taking our pic... spot the tiny clown in the background.

Meeting Jen - who is just delightful, with seemingly limitless energy and highly infectious enthusiasm - made it finally seem real to me. Months I had been worrying that her email with the offer of publication was a mistake, that she would withdraw it when she realized what she'd done. Now, after seeing her in the flesh and hearing her enthusiasm for my stories, I can almost believe it. We had another Salt meet-up last week:with excellent timing (for me!) Salt held a party on Thursday night at Foyles bookshop in London, at which many of their recently-published authors - poets and short story writers - read from their work and signed copies of their books (for pictures see Jen's Myspace blog).

For the first time, I was not sitting in the audience as other writers read and wishing it was me: for the first time, I knew it would be me, this time next year. This was further emphasized when, in the interval, I met several fabulous Salt short story writers that I had heard of and read: Chrissie Gittins, Elizabeth Baines and Carys Davies. We had never met, yet all three of them, without me saying a word, said "You must be Tania". Being someone who thinks of herself as having wallflower tendencies, observing from the sidelines without being seen, I was completely taken aback. But the world is a different place now - the world is blogs and websites and myspace and facebook, and The Short Review. Seems as though I can't quietly observe any more; now I am actually taking part.

It wasn't until J and I were driving back to his mother's that night that it started to sink in - I met authors and they treated me like one of them. I am an author. I am an author. I got quite emotional, and, since I was driving, we had to pull into a service station for an emergency Crunchie. Felt much better.

Now it seems I have work to do - Jen has sent me an Author Questionnaire and I have to find my USPs, she says.... my Unique Selling Points. Well, listening to the other authors read on Thursday night did demonstrate to me that I seem to have USPs because my stories didn't resemble any of theirs so I must be doing something a bit differently. How to put it in words? I also have to think about launch events... Where? When? Who? And I also have to get used to the idea of reading my own work, out loud, in front of strangers, assuming that any strangers want to come and hear me! Life is changing. It's all very, very good.


Anne Brooke said...

Fab to see you on Jen's site earlier on for sure! I've just now sent her the copy of "A Dangerous Man" she asked for, so the book world is getting highly incestuous for sure!

Do let me know when your collection is out in 2008 - you can contact me via WW or the website - - but don't panic if you don't get a response for a while. I've got a couple of books coming out next year so may be up to my eyes also!

We'll have to compare notes on the process after we've both recovered!




TitaniaWrites said...

A couple of books? Wow! We will definitely have to compare notes. Are any short story collections?

Elizabeth Baines said...

Tania, it was great to meet you! I'm dying to read your short stories!

Anne Brooke said...

Afraid not, Tania - both novels ...


But my chapters are short!