Last Saturday I got to meet a proper author. Not just a proper author but a particular favourite of mine, a lovely person and one of the MFA tutors to a friend: A L Kennedy (who can be found on twitter @Writerer and online @ her website). I’ve been a bit slow to write this up because this writing section of my life has been a shambles while I rushed and failed to get the radio play sorted before the BBC submissions window closed (more on which in another post shortly). But I am now back.
A, for Alison, hopped the ferry cross-channel to my island home for the Guernsey Literary Festival and was doing a mystery reading from, and Q&A about, the various projects she, being an insane workaholic, had completed the last year (short story collection, radio play, Doctor Who novel, grown-up novel, and other radio things).
She had charmed the day before with a reading from ‘Baby Blue’: a short story in which a woman finds herself unexpectedly in a sex shop. The author, I was told, had found herself unexpectedly reading this story to an audience containing some infant humans; so substitutions (‘lady-gardens’ and ‘gentlemen’s gardening equipment’) had to be made. On the Saturday she opted not to re-read that story as the event was happening in the Town Church*.
She read from her short story collection All The Rage (a happy ending, which is unusual for her) and from The Drosten’s Curse, her Doctor Who novel. She got a lot of laughs, answered some questions, and got some more. She was endeared to the audience and felt very much like she was in conversation with us. She is, in short, an excellent speaker.
This is a terrifying thing.
Because I am not.
I am, in fact, incontinently scared of standing up in front of people. This: public readings, interviews, talking eloquently and endearingly, is a major part of the business of writing. You can be paid to talk, it sells books, it sells you as a person. And This is not something I can do. At. All. I physically cannot make myself do it. Which is a bit of a problem, the solution to which I will have to figure out. If I do, I’ll write about it here. That’s what this blog is for. For the moment though, we will just log it as a bowel loosening fact to contend with at a later date.
That bit was the bad news. The good news was: I came away generally edified by seeing an artist do her thing, and talk about her thing, and do and talk about it well.
But there was also a bit of time to talk to her afterwards as she signed books. I remembered one of her students to her, and she signed a couple of books for me and I turned to move on.
However, my lady-friend, who had come with me out of love (she is not a great reader), pulled me back, locked eyes with Alison and began questioning her on advice for my writing year ahead. As far as the LF was concerned we were gonna get our money’s worth. So we stopped and had a chat.
Well, they did at first; I actually found myself in that particularly unpleasant sort of social awkwardness where one realises one is being talked for and must fix this by saying something, ideally in your native language, and ideally not obscene. I did eventually managed to side step the word ‘gusset’ and ask some almost coherent questions myself. Which I am glad about because she was pleasant and helpful and treated the whole thing seriously.
That last bit particularly meant a lot. After all, as yet I have nothing to show for my writing except a lot of paper cuts and a wankers-cramp from too much typing. And for these cuts and cramps I am looking to abandon several of my safety nets: this island home, regular employment, painstakingly built and maintained social circles, my regular doctor, dentist, restaurants, watering holes and other familiar spots for quiet contemplation or painful health enforcement. From all these things I will be moving away to another city, where I will work part time and write.
To have such a ludicrous undertaking treated seriously by someone in the know, who had typed her way out of a drama-student’s poverty was encouraging and en-couraging.
So thank you, Alison, and Onwards.