My friend Colette sent me this Elmore Leonard link, and you’ll go a long way before you find better advice to writers. But I have a bit of advice too. I can’t remember who said that ‘a man at his desk is a man at work, a woman at her desk is available to everyone else in the house’ - but it still applies to an awful lot of people. I speak from experience: I was married for many years to an artist – a very good painter, and when it came to his work, he was entirely single-minded: nothing else mattered. His whole family could have been abducted by aliens and he wouldn’t have noticed. Professor Gloom, to whom I am currently married, is an astronomer. Astronomers are a pretty single-minded lot too. When you tell them the drain is blocked, or their beard is on fire, they just go “Mmm…’ because their minds are on higher things. They also come out at night, like bats, which makes them compatible partners for the sort of writer who prefers to work after midnight. What I’m trying to say is that your choice of partner is vital, because struggling to write while holding down a job, looking after children or parents, and doing all the dreary domestic stuff is tough. So my advice is, read Elmore Leonard if you want to know how to write, but choose your partner with care if you want time to write. Chefs are good (you won’t have to cook) and if you have or want children, try to fall in love with a child-minder, or teacher. Or just stick to dogs and cats. Even Clementina Gloom (the most evil-minded, over-indulged rescue cat in County Down - see below) is a doddle compared with a toddler. For one thing, you can shove her out the door without anyone ringing the NSPCC.
And a last word about the Women Aloud event which so happily surprised me: one of the participants came up to me afterwards and asked if I remembered her. She had been at school with my son twenty years ago - and when I tell you we lived in a sleepy rural area of Zimbabwe (a bit like Cullybackey, but without regular electricity) you will understand how amazed and delighted I was to find her in No Alibis in Belfast. So another vote of thanks to everyone who helped to organise the evening.