A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.
I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.
Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.
Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.
The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.
I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.
“Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”
I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.
“. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”
He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”
“ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”
I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”
“Not in London?”
“No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”
“Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”
“Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”
Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?