"Encouragement for Writers..." -- Mari Howard



We are at a party – the grown up sort, colloquially, sometimes referred to as a ‘stand up and shout’.

Maybe it is a party for our school graduation year, now many moons away… whatever, it is a party for educated professionals and their (present) partners, so some degree of an embarrassing questions may be expected.

‘As a writer’ (and probably in the company now of many others who have published books) the questions youre asked  might go like this:

From a friend who kept in touch in our forties, when we each began doing stuff we had wanted to, but hadn’t’ yet because of  family commitments: ‘And are  you still writing?’

Well now… what does this question really mean?  Is it ‘Are you still plodding on with that first novel of yours, now at page 1,047, yet nowhere near finished and with no hope of publication or the Booker Prize?’

Or, ‘I suppose you keep trying to interest a publisher, but those rejection letters just keep coming through your door?

Or possibly, (sounding positive, but then - distinctly not…) ‘I was in the airport bookstore and I was going to buy one of your books - but I forgot if you use a pen name - and I couldn’t see your name among the best sellers…’

Paperbacks for sale! (authors photo, Blackwells)

Alternatively (here faintly positive?) ‘I suppose youve reached the stage of teaching courses at writers’ retreats and havent the time to create  something new now?’

These questions may of course begin, (quite encouraging beginning, this) ‘I bought that book of yours – it’s safe in my TBR,’  (here the speaker notices your anxious look, and grins happily, adding a little apologetic  laugh) ‘that pile beside my bed, the overflow from my bedside table – I call it my to-be-read pile…’ (you nod wisely, yes, you’ve certainly heard of books bought only to reside forever in the TBR pile) ‘Something about a labyrinth?’  (Now you the writer recognise exactly which book the speaker’s referring to  - didn’t they buy a copy possibly in 2010, at the last jolly get together?

So, to all those who on finding themselves alongside you, canapé and wine glass in hands, and inquire (staring at your name label first, having probably forgotten the face) ‘Are you still writing?’ your answer should be (in an equally confident jovial tone) – ‘Mmm…’ (pause)  ‘I forget what you do...?’ 

Alternatively, this longer one, ‘And are you still haunting the corridors of the civil service/ teaching sixth formers physics/ operating on knees/ building an app to help fishermen find the fish?’

On then being moved on’ by the hostess, and encountering a haunted-looking soul, possibly someone who became an academic, the dialogue may proceed thus:

Academic: ‘I heard you had become a writer – so many writers today, publishing e-books…’ (shakes hoary head)  ‘I imagine it takes digging deep to find anything new to fire the reading public’s imaginations…I’m reading Colm Tóibín - you should try him…’

Of course, had you a pen name, and had you won the Booker or any other prominent prize… (the Costa’s no longer there to win…) what then, fellow writer, what then?

If you enjoyed this, you might like my poetry book, 

Live, Lose, Learn...  

available from my website


Peter Leyland said…
Very entertaining Marie. You have put that little literary party before us very well. I would be like your hoary academic recommending The Ambassadors by Henry James because it tapped into his life. Am now re-reading your book!
Peter Leyland said…
Mari - can't get past autocorrecting today. Sorry for that
Thanks for your comments and re-reading the small book!That 'something about a labyrinth' also exists between covers & is somewhat longer... autocorrect is a pest - have you heard of 'Petroleum Trelawney', who often presents the BBC3 breakfast show?
Griselda Heppel said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Griselda Heppel said…
Oh dear yes, what levels of disrespect underlie such an innocent seeming question! I mean, I don't suppose Ian McEwan or Jacqueline Wilson or Sally Rooney are ever asked that. You have my sympathy in spades, Mari. I mean honestly, it does sound a bit like, 'And are you still keeping up that fun little hobby you've got which will obviously get you nowhere but it's so nice to have something to keep you busy?' I love your suggested replies, and I loved this post altogether, it made me snort with laughter (not good when you're drinking tea).

Popular posts

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

A writer's guide to Christmas newsletters - Roz Morris

Margery Allingham and ... knitting? Casting on a summer’s mystery -- by Julia Jones

Irresistably Drawn to the Faustian Pact: Griselda Heppel Channels her Inner Witch for World Book Day 2024.

Got Some Book Tokens? -- by Susan Price