It’s breakfast at the Writers’ Weekend on the first day. Already you have made an impression with an agent. Unfortunately the impression you made on Glenda Golightly, (Valkyrie of London publishing) is that you are a luggage porter. (see previous post) This, it goes without saying, was not exactly what you were aiming for.
You have helped yourself to a croissant and coffee and now scan the room, like a hypnotized rabbit. The agents, publishers and published writers are all sitting cosily together at the same tables. On the other tables are the aspiring novelists, the writers manqué, distinguished by a slight air of desperation that mingles with the ravaged litter of single portion preserves and spreads surrounding them. You identify an empty chair and attempt to walk confidently towards it. As you edge around a table of publishing industry people, you hear a familiar voice and a lot of laughing.
‘Darling, I can’t tell you how ghastly it was, there was I trying my damndest to get to my room and there’s this lumpen incompetent, trying to pitch her awful novel at me.’
You don’t have to turn in order to confirm the voice as belonging to Glenda Golightly. Her table erupts in amusement. Everything for you has gone into seventies ‘slo mo’. You stand rooted to the spot, watching your croissant slide Peckinpah-like off your plate towards the floor.
‘I’m terrified to let the cleaner into my room in case she whips a magical realism trilogy out of her bucket.’ Glenda chuckles to her appreciative audience, then stops, suddenly aware that someone is groping around one of her feet. She has pinioned your croissant beneath her shoe and as you try to extricate it, your eyes meet. She lets out a gasp. You land the croissant back onto your plate and sit down quickly at the aspiring writers’ table.
They smile at you sweetly.
‘Hi, I’m Chrissy, Young Adult,’ says a woman who, unlike her estimation of herself, looks well into her thirties.
‘Felicity, Womens’ Commercial. Hallo.’
You smile back at Felicity wondering what she can possibly mean.
A hulking creature with alarming hair and bad teeth introduces himself as ‘Barry’. You smile back, grateful for his lack of a mystifying label, ‘ Gothic Fantasy Horror’, he adds. You want to reply by telling him not to be so harsh on himself, when you are interrupted by the very frail young man sitting next to you.
‘Splatterpunk is my genre.’
They all look at you.
‘Oh I see.’ At last you realise that they are appending their names with a genre. But you don’t have a genre. You tell them your name anyway and then in a moment of immediately regrettable stupidity, you hear yourself saying,
‘I forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated consciousness of my race.’
They stare at you. You shrug and laugh. No one laughs.
‘Was that a quotation?’ Asks Chrissie Young Adult.
’James Joyce,’ you mumble.
Whereupon they start to chat to each other, leaving you to drink your coffee alone.
Meanwhile the time for your pitching appointment with Ms Golightly has come. You walk to the room where she is waiting, then stop, calculating that another encounter with this ‘lit diva’ may deal a fatal blow to your nascent novel. You decide to take advantage of her absorption in her smart phone to slink away.
At the reception desk you ask if there is another agent who hasn’t filled all their ‘pitching’ appointments. In no time you are fixed up with a new agent. His name is Bob Kleinwold and you must ‘pitch’ to him in half an hour. You decide to google him at the soonest opportunity. The organiser then informs you that all attendees of the Writing Weekend are required to attend this evening’s ‘ Networking Session’ and checks you off a list.
Fear grips your soul as you assimilate this fact. You sidle towards the book stall, feeling all your aspirations curdle within you like so much date expired yoghurt. Short of meeting Glenda Golightly again, there is nothing that you fear so much as a ‘Networking Session.’ You have nothing to say to anyone. Isn’t that the very reason that you started to write things down in the first place, because it was a better, easier way to express yourself?
‘You see what you did there.’
You look up in alarm to find Barry Gothic Fantasy Horror standing next to you. He proceeds to explain that you alienated the breakfast table with your pretentious quote.
‘Don’t say you write literary fiction either.’ Barry advises.
‘I won’t,’ you agree.
He nods, takes a book from a display, hands it to you and then leaves. It is called ’Network or Die’.
Googling Bob Kleinwold, the agent, you find that he specialises in ’Second world war fiction, cookery books and steam train nostalgia’. You are overtaken by a short but intense fore-knowledge of impending misery.