Focus, focus, focus

I know I shouldn’t be blogging from work, but I am so, so, very, very tired, and it’s a glorious spring day, and even with the windows cracked in the office I just can’t stay awake. I’m hoping this will wake me up a bit and help me focus.

Pete came to bed about 5am last night, and he actually came to bed. He stripped down to nothing and spooned me through the night. I really don’t know what’s going on with this ‘relationship’. If I can even call it that.

I was hoping we could spend lunch together, so I went home and he was still sleeping. After much prodding he finally got up, but by then I had to go back to work. He said that he was just going to muck about the house today and I’ll see him when I get home tonight.

Right, onto work stuff.

Yesterday’s conference call was fab. Before the meeting Loraine said that she changed her mind about my diary blogs into books idea. That perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea, just not an idea for her. There was someone on the team who may be interested. Fab!

On the call were four agents (one in Manchester, one in Paris and two inLondon), the admin assistant and the Paris intern. It was such an enthusiastic meeting, and the ideas, plans and updates really got me buzzing. (Listen to me, I’m speaking corporate talk with words like ‘buzzing’. I shall stop that now.) Finally it was my turn, and I mentioned the few ideas Loraine hadn’t shot down the day before, as well as the blog idea. The agent in Manchester (interesting note here, the entire agency is all women, except for the agent in Manchester. Why is it again that the literary world is full of women, but more men are published? Just don’t get it.), anyway, the agent in Manchester liked the blog idea and asked me to send him some links.

I sent him my links directly after the conference call, and was quite chuffed that it all went down so smoothly. (On a side note, a lot of the blogs I read aren’t on my blogroll because I’ve gotten into a bad habit of just saving them as a favourite on my browser. I really, really, really need to remember to update my blogroll.) ManchesterAgent rang me by the end of the day, and essentially he said that he wasn’t interested in any of the blogs I’d sent him. He said the he liked the idea, quite a lot, but he wanted blogs with a higher profile, a stronger voice, and an unusual premise. He wasn’t as worried about the narrative arch, as long as they had these other things. But he said to keep an eye out, because it was a good idea all the same.

Also, Loraine and I had an interesting debate yesterday on the concept of what was a ‘new author’. The Scottish Book Trust announced the recipients of their New Writers Awards. Loraine asked me to have a look at them, then asked what I thought. Each writer’s profile is on the SBT website with a profile and an excerpt of their writing. I read through the writing, and, without a doubt, it’s all quite good. They seem to be a talented lot. Then I read through their bios, and I found something interesting. Next, I looked at the bios from last year’s winners, and the year before that as well, and I found the same thing across the board.

Almost all of the winners – in my opinion – aren’t ‘new writers’. They have all won awards, have short stories published, and some even work for publishers or have agents. In fact, to apply for the award you have to have someone in the literary field recommend you. These people – in my opinion – aren’t ‘new writers’. New writers are people who are plugging away at their craft, but they either can’t afford or don’t have the time to study for a Master’s in creative writing. They haven’t won a slew of awards, writing residencies or bursaries. And they most certainly don’t work for agents or publishers. New writers are the plumbers, teachers, housewives…just people. People who write because they love to write, and it is these people that I feel would best benefit from a New Writer’s Award. These are the people that need mentoring and the opportunity to take a break from their day job to work on their novel, collection of short stories or poems.

I said just this to Loraine.

Her response was quite different than mine. She argued that if someone wants to be a writer, they submit to competition after competition, until they get better and they beginning winning writing prizes. They save money for that Masters. They work hard to get noticed by an agent. They work for literary organisations and wait tables at night to make ends meet. If you want to be a writer you do these things, not just because a writer loves the craft, but they want to make a career of all that goes with writing. People are ‘new writers’ UNTIL they get their first book deal. ‘Then’, she said, ‘they are professional writers, and that’s when it gets even harder.’

This is all fine and true. In fact, I used to harbour a desire to be a novelist, but working in the industry has pushed that out of me. Or actually, a better way of putting it is, I now realise I don’t have the desire to be a novelist, or else I’d write everyday. If I wanted to be a novelist, I wouldn’t be working here, I’d be writing my novel. (Theoretically, I can do both, and a lot of people are publishers and writers. But personally I don’t have the desire or the energy to do both.)

However, as true as Loraine’s statement is, I just wonder if we (the industry) are missing out on great talent, because these new writer type awards aren’t open to those who silently plug away. I don’t know, it’s all a big debate. In fact, I wouldn’t mind hearing your opinion on the matter.

Well, I’m more awake now, and ready to focus, so I should go back to work. Oh, and one thing that happened today that has made me quite happy. Loraine wants me to meet this new author whose books aren’t selling.  She wants me to talk to him about doing a cheep book tour (ie, readings in his area that we don’t have to pay for) and him starting a blog. He lives out in Fife, and I’m supposed to meet him at his house on Friday. I’m quite looking forward to it actually, should be a good day out.

Right, done with blogging and back to the job.

6 responses to “Focus, focus, focus

  1. I’m with you entirely on the “new authors” thing. Except… how are truly “new authors” supposed to be found if they’re not in writing programs or entering contests? Where would such a contest advertise for “new writers” who aren’t engaging with the industry/community of writing, who are just at home writing? How would they know about it?

    • Hey Em,

      You do have a point. If you’re just sitting about your house writing in solitude, you’ll never be found. So, yeah, in that sense, people have to actively seek these contests, and the type of people to actively seek a writing contest are the type to be in writing groups and such. My problem — or should I say quandry because it’s not relaly a problem — is that these prizes often offer mentoring to the winners. But if you’re in a Master’s programme or working for a publishing company you already have access to that sort of mentorship. And if a prerequesite for winning a New Writer’s Award is that you have to be published, is that person still a new writer. Granted, they may not have a big novel published, but if you’ve already won prizes and have been published in magazines, don’t you already have access to the stuff the contest is giving away as a prize? It just all seems a little insular.

      But, like you said. The person sitting alone, writing in the evenings, never engaging with other writers isn’t likely to find the contest in the first place. It just seems like an issue.

  2. I can see your friend’s points, and how it is nice to see hard work rewarded, but my gut is with your definition. Beverly Cleary said in one of her memoirs that she was glad she never joined a writing group. I think maybe both you guys are right; it’s just that different writers have different ways of pursuing their passion. Maybe you will be a novelist one day but right now it’s not in your soul. Everyone is different, and writing is art, so it’s subjective, too.

    Congratulations on getting interest in your book! I hope you get to do it!

    • It’s your statement, ‘it is nice to see hard work rewarded’, and I guess that’s the point of these type of awards. Maybe they aren’t there to find new writing, but to reward those who are plugging away at it. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t they be called ‘The Hardworking Writer’s Award’?

      On the other hand, I love your paraphrase of Beverly Cleary. So yeah, everyone goes about it in different ways. For some, they win awards and prizes and then land the book deal. For others, they work quietly and then put the piece out there when it’s ready.

      It’s not an easily answered debate, but as I continue to work in the industry (fingers crossed that I’ll continue to work in the industry), I’m hoping I’ll get a stronger opinion of the situation. Fingers crossed.

  3. Wow this post made me feel really shit, you have to be so determined and organised to become a writer, it’s not enough to just love writing is it? I’m glad you are trying to plug the real ‘new writers’ and also glad that you are back blogging again!

    • Don’t feel like shit. Now I feel bad for making you feel like shit. Although, I do often wonder what trumps the other? Determination or organisation? I’d be so happy if sheer determination made people great writers, but sometimes I think it is organisation. Alas, who know…

      Glad to be back blogging again. It certainly feels good.

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