Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lonely Bloody Marion

So I swore on Radio 4.  Sorry wimmin.  I'm a bit of a curser.

My hands are still shaking, though I wasn't nervous beforehand, but I realised afterwards the hand tremor is from the coffee as much as it is from outing myself as a saddo on National Radio.  But I’ve always wanted to do Women’s Hour and if that was the price I had to pay, then I was happy to cough it up, along with my angst.

I’m not so lonely these days, but I feel the specter of it, always, lingering there, just as one does with depression when one has suffered from that, which I have too.  But as the women on the program before me were saying, depression is a symptom, and often a result of real sadness.  To those people who think – oh you’re not lonely, you’re depressed, well yes – because loneliness is bloody depressing.  It’s horrible feeling isolated, horrible feeling that nobody is holding you in their mind, and that you’re one of the ‘forgotten’ despite being surrounded by people.  I often think of that poem – I wandered lonely as a cloud, and think it should read ‘crowd’.

I gave the woman who spoke about taking Citalopram which I also take, a big hug, when she came out of the recording suite.  I’ve felt too, exactly as she described, and maybe if more of us hugged those with whom we empathised, we’d all be less sad, less lonely, less isolated with our troubles.

And to the woman who said you have to learn to (and I quote) LIKE YOUR OWN COMPANY.
Well, I DO.  But, frankly, I’m not that much fun to be with 24/7.  I actually love my own company, but in response to not having to endure it all the time.  It’s wonderful to be alone, to loll in bed, to get on with things without interruption, but as a way of life, it’s a bit one dimensional.  I like people.  I like being liked.  I enjoy being enjoyed.  I love laughing with others.  Laughing on your own is a bit of a one way ticket to the loony bin, and I’ve been there.  It’s not funny.

And there are a lot of people in there talking to themselves.  Not a great place for conversation.  Though they are generous with the drugs


Monday, 23 June 2014

Lonely, I am so Lonely

Oh, oh, lonely girl, lonely gi i i rl...
don't know the rest of the woooooo ooo ooords
hey there lonely girl...

I'm on Woman's Hour tomorrow.  Not telling anyone here, as I'm embarrassed.  Though it's the achievement of one of my dreams, I was perhaps not planning on it being because I'm a lonely old bag with not enough friends.

Still, enjoy it anyway, Marion!  It's not like it's a secret...  And since I don't have many friends, then it doesn't matter what they think of me.  They already know.

Friday, 20 June 2014


100 days of happiness taking a serious bashing today with the first agent rejection of which promises to be a trend, I feel.  I'm not the most optimistic person at the best of times, but when you already don't have a great feeling about something, it's hard to talk yourself out of feeling despondent.  Disappointment is such an horrible, crushing feeling that is much underestimated as a source of pain.  And yet it leaves one feeling drained and bruised and full of failure.  It's hard not to compare yourself to other who've had agents banging on their doors and just think that you're a talentless has-been who never even was.

But I've been down the road before and I know that it's a very long one with no guarantee of success at the end, even if you get the agent, and then get the publisher, and then get the book out there.  People still have to buy it, read it, like it, tell their friends and I'm better placed than anyone to know what a thankless trek the whole thing is.

Every day the in-boxes at work are full of stories, good stories, great stories, and many, very many adequate stories.   Let's forget the bad ones for a second, and concentrate on those others that are all easily publishable.  But they aren't.

They are dismissed by page five, or even not read at all.  Why?  Because we can only publish a few books a year and there has to be some type of criteria for filleting them out and it’s often as vague as a dopey sounding heroine, or a plot you don’t like the sound of in the submission letter.  Or it can be spelling mistakes on the first page that put you off, or something that by page 5 hasn’t grabbed you.  It’s as random as that.  So someone who has spent a year writing a book, editing, and changing, and getting their friends to read it, and tweaking the plot just so, is dismissed in a second.

Does this mean that the book isn’t any good.  No it doesn’t.  It just means that it’s not one that jumps off the page and ensnares you, and just like men, if you’re lucky enough to meet them on the bus, there are few books that do that.  There are many that are perfectly fine, and even enjoyable, but with such a narrow space to publish them within, fine, nice and enjoyable, don’t cut the mustard.

And then you get to the books you do publish.  Several people have liked these.  Several people have read them in their own time and decided they were worthy of the next step forward.  They are copy edited, and desk edited, they are sent to printers, covers commissioned, typeset, printed as proofs, printed as final copies, and touted round the bookshops and Amazon.  And then the orders come in – 10 from Waterstones, 20 here, 100 there – even Amazon don’t order big if you’re a first time author, or indeed just an author without any marketing spend behind them.

But if your publisher believes in you enough there will be a marketing spend – and basically they’ll pay a bung to Amazon to promote it, or another to a supermarket to put it on the best seller list at no 6, or another to the highstreet to put it in a certain place on a certain shelf, or to add it to a ‘summer read’ promotion – if it is lucky enough to be picked.

People still have to buy it.  And people are annoying.  They don’t.

The number of lovely books we publish at work, with lovely authors, and lovely artwork, and lovely stories, and poof 1000 copies sold.

This is what the writer is up against.  Why bother?

I’m not sure I can answer that.  As a person who has spent the last year and half writing a book and a half that I think probably nobody wants, I’m really not sure why I bothered?

Not for the pain of rejection and the sting of failure that inevitably follows somewhere along the line.

Not for the feelings of inferiority when other people do better

Not for the embarrassment of ‘working’ in publishing but not being able to get my own book published.

Just because, well I like writing, and I like stories, and I really would like someone else to like my stories to, to be my audience, to be entertained.  To engage with me, albeit second hand.

For us Amazon, the demon Amazon, with it’s possibility of self-publishing is probably the only option left.

So as I flick through the latest submission that’s sent round the office and think, ‘ach, it’s a bit ordinary’, or ‘I didn’t like the writing’ or as I toss the unsolicited manuscript into the wire basket behind my desk with nary a glance at it, or if I have glanced at it, a dismissive shrug when I read ‘I  was abused by my stepfather’ or ‘I spent many years teaching in Lewisham/Burma/Borstal’...  I can’t help think that I’m getting back my own bad Karma.

I’m the author nobody wants to read.

I should probably give up and put my time to better use, feed the homeless, or do a degree in physics (despite not being able to count).

But I’ll keep on churning the words out, because I like the sound of my own voice on paper.  And I’ll give myself my own pep talk.

Life, Marion, is not about success or failure, it’s about living it, doing what you’re good at and enriching yourself with your endeavors.  I’ve published a book before that people liked and it didn’t change my life one iota.  I had no more friends.  No more confidence.  No more opportunities.  What I had was £30K (very nice too) and a book in a shop (even nicer).

But here I am five years later and one and a half books under my belt and I’m actually further behind since the agent I had then has totally lost interest in me, and it seems, I may not find another.

But I still have the stories and the invisible people in my head.

Oh and Amazon Kindle Self Publishing.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Fanning around

Friday afternoons in the office are like one of those sci fi films where a mysterious illness (in this case called seniority) has stuck down the rest of the population, but left some unwitting survivors toiling away at their desks who missed the bolt of lightening, or the toxic rain, or whatever...  The place is deserted.  No cats, fat or otherwise (unless you count me, and though I rank pretty high both on the scales and in terms of service, in terms of authority, I'm pretty slim) and several mice.  And you know what mice are supposed to do when the cat's away?  That's  right, poop all over the desks and sprinkle incontinently wherever they roam.  In fact the real mice do that in the office whether the Boss Cats are here or not.  We worker mice, however, well we're a tad more fastidious.  We do a lot of slow strolling between one office and the others.  Generally some communal food appears.  There is a surge in tea and coffee making activity, and 'what are you doing at the weekends?' crop up as the question du jour.  There are late starts, and early coffee breaks, there are little jaunts to the coffee shop to buy the lattes which we have to work about the twenty minutes it takes to get them, to earn enough to buy them.  There are long lunches and I believe the wine often comes out at around 4, though by then I'm long gone, on my 'early' finish.

Currently there is not a sound in the office.  Not a tap on a keyboard, just the whirring of the fan which is bringing me home from the Island of Menopause to the City of Normal.  With everyone but me gone for lunch I'm beginning to wonder if everyone is dead, and I'm the only one left.  Just think.  I could wear trackies all the time and eat bread again, get stupendously fat.  It actually doesn't sound like such a bad result.  End of civilization? - bring on the buttered toast.  And annihilation would surely be only a fitting result for all those who are mysteriously and continuously busy 'working' at home on the days the rest of us carry on without them.  That's what I'd call Karma.

As well as my sister in law.  Well, because that's her name.

Brief Encounter

So I woke up this morning and the sky was as blue as contact lense cleaner.  I jumped out of bed and put my Spongebob Squarepants shorts and shirt on, so that I looked like a walking block of cheese, and I danced downstairs.  And then I smelt it.  Cat poo.  Then I saw it.  Darn that ginger cat who seems to think that the corner by the front door is a supplementary litter box.  Yeuch.  I went to the loo to get some paper to swab it up with and discovered nothing.  No rolls of paper, no spares on the door, nothing by the side of the computer, nothing anywhere.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr   I stomp upstairs and burst into son's bedroom where a full loo roll sits by the side of his bed.  A little fact he can't seem to comprehend is that his nose is not as important as the person whose bottom is perched on the lavatory.  Or the person who needs to hurriedly pick up poo.  Protestations ensue, as I grabbed the roll and went into cleaner mode.  Double Yeuch.  It's at times like these I wonder at the pleasure of cats.  Ten minutes later after I had bleached the floor, my hands and all surfaces within touch radius, and I watched my bus trundle past as I left the house.

Not a great start to the day.  Not much better when at Oxford Circus the bus decides it is terminating and I have to get off.  But the sun is still shining, and though I exchange a rueful smile with the man in the seat in front who gets off at the same time as me.  And then the smile turns into a sentence, and the sentence turns into a conversation, and the conversation turns into a smiley walk up New Oxford Street, as we fall into step with each other.  Can't remember the last time I spoke to someone who was not a candidate for care in the community.  Can't remember the last time I spoke to a man within ten years of my age who was actually deliciously attractive.  And this man was.  Tall, broad, gorgeous face, sweet smile, little touch of the Mills and Book grey at the temples.  Oh swoon.  Reminded me I had a heart.  I smiled at him all the way along the road and only thought I might well have lipstick on my teeth after we'd shaken hands and he'd left.  Lovely, lovely man.  I wonder what it feels like to be the sort of woman that men like that find attractive.  It used to be me, when I was about twenty and didn't know it, so I can't even look at past experience.

Anyway, sailed along the street the rest of the way to Russell Square, walking on air, a little boxy walking cheese, with a big cheesy smile...