A year ago, stung by the world’s indifference to my abundant literary talent, I abandoned writing. Yes, I know, I know, I KNOW! – I should have kept going. I blame the whole thing on the ‘Writers of Tomorrow Conference’ whose advertising blandishments simpered into my inbox and then proceeded to advance upon my rational mind like a vacuum cleaner salesman high on a motivational TedTalk. It promised me everything. For the eminently reasonable sum of my entire savings, I could learn how to pitch any novel of any length into a couple of pithy sentences. Furthermore, it slavered, I could master the technique for selecting an appropriate lit agent, write them the ‘Golden’ letter guaranteed to intrigue, delight and make them realise that together we could set the publishing world on fire. The course would teach me easy ways to network with publishing folk without the use of recriminations or even veiled threats. I was being suckered in. After all, I had just reached the conclusion that trying to sell my erotic thriller, set in the fevered and highly lubricated world of Model Engineering, to an literary agent whose main area of interest was potholing, had been the mark of a certain desperation. So I signed up, gentle reader, and arrived at the University of Billericay with my ambitions vaunting all over the place. I saw it all now. My attitude had been all wrong. I just had to go about things in a different manner. I’d be reasonable, charming but assertive. How stupid had I been? I felt that after a few workshops I would be well on my way to that previously impossible destination – publication.
The ensuing fracas during the opening address for ‘Writers of Tomorrow’ was, I fear, a consequence of these suddenly dashed hopes and a thousand other literary misjudgements.
But as I mentioned to the judge, the kidnapping of the guest speaker at the point of the complimentary letter opener was a regrettable misunderstanding, but an entirely reasonable confusion. In my view putting a sharpened object into the hands of ANY assemblage of unsuccessful writers and industry professionals was asking for trouble, especially coupled with the free bar. I believe that it should have served as a mitigating factor to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon. I was, you see, under the impression that the diminutive person making for the microphone was an impostor. We had been promised a best-selling new talent to give the key note speech and here instead was some kind of fugitive milk monitor striding onto the stage. Again, in my defence, having wrestled the creature into the disabled toilet, my sole intention was to ascertain her identity and detain her until Security arrived.
However, after she had plucked her best-selling memoir ‘Let the Talented Through” from the ‘One Direction’ tote bag she wore so jauntily on her shoulder, and shown me the author photo on the dust jacket, I was forced to admit that she was the writing prodigy, Posy-Pam McNicholls aged eleven and three-quarters, I did actually let her go. On the way out I asked her in a slightly ironic fashion, whether she had contacts in the literary world. She smiled at me in an imperious fashion and said that her mother was a Broadsheet Columnist and her father was the novelist Drew McNicholls. I laughed with a touch of cleverly suppressed irony and declared that there was nothing like making it on your own. She answered that bitterness was unattractive in an older woman and that if I thought I could write, it would pay me to write a polite letter to an agent who specialised in my genre. I literally couldn’t reply, so hard was the pressure of my teeth on my tongue. Then she sniffed loudly and asked why I smelt so strongly of gin. Admittedly she had a bit of a bruise to her leg and was crying on the way back into the room, but I think the girl, although talented, is cack-handed and tripped over that banquette without any aid from me.
A few weeks later I was detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Buttworth open prison, where I found the networking possibilities far more fruitful than those at ‘The Writers of Tomorrow Conference’, although I did recognise a few familiar faces from the ‘Aspiring Writer Circuit’. It seemed that I was not the first nor the last writer who had been driven into the arms of the penal reform system; frustration mounts, penury bites and the results can sometimes be ugly.
One great compensation was the Buttworth Prison library where one rainy day I made the most extraordinary discovery. If you want to know what it was you’ll have to read my NEXT POST!