A long time ago, when I was living in the middle of Africa, I had a children’s book published. It was called The Animal Bus, and like a lot of buses, it led an uneventful life, trundling along and earning the sort of royalties that wouldn’t keep you in ballpoint pens. 19 years later, living in Northern Ireland, I finally had a second book published: The Traveller’s Guide to Love (Blackstaff Press, 2015). In between I did a lot of travelling, writing, and bookshop-running, but I avoided other writers, on the grounds that they were nearly always mad, self-absorbed, bitter and twisted (understandable – it’s a hard, lonely, badly-paid job) and/or drunk. And I won’t even tell you what I thought about poets…So why am I writing this? Because I have an apology to make.
A few nights ago, at the wonderful No Alibis bookshop in Belfast, I attended the Women Aloud event organised by Jane Talbot for International Women’s Day. When I was asked if I would read - and got the first blast of the Talbot energy - I decided she was mad, but against my better judgment, I agreed. Then I heard there would be 27 women reading in 2 hours (she’s a lunatic) and that the final minute would have us all reading together (oh god why did I agree to do this?) And what do you know, it ran like clockwork, the writers were funny, thoughtful, dramatic, unassuming, welcoming, reasonably sober, and NICE to each other!
So I take back everything I said. Well, maybe not quite everything…there are still writers out there who, I’m sorry to tell you, will go into Waterstones and hide your book behind theirs - or worse, move yours to Plumbing.
(Actually, plumbing would be a much more sensible career choice: well-paid, regular hours, and people are always glad to see you. Take up plumbing.)
Anyway, thank you Jane Talbot and everyone who took part – I’m glad I went.
NB My own book, The Traveller’s Guide to Love, is Fiction, even if someone in Waterstones keeps putting it in Travel. If not there, try Plumbing.