Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Backs, ballet and books

Bought cakes on my way to work today, as it’s my birthday tomorrow but I don’t work on Thursdays. So I will be Mrs Popular for a day, hurrah! The office signed a card for me, which was very sweet, and also sang “Happy Birthday” when I’d sat down at my desk, which was also very sweet – if rather disturbing. I don’t think we’ll be entering the next series of “Britain’s Got Talent” in the choir category … Though of course, if you’re reading this at all, Carol, you’re a solo star in the making!...

The car’s gone in for a service & MOT today, so Lord H and I have swapped cars for the day. Must try and remember that his Renault Laguna is built like a tank, compared to my little Fiesta (goodness, how typical boy/girl couple we sound, all of a sudden, at least in our car choices …) so I can’t swerve into the parking spaces as I can with my own. Hope poor little Rupert (yes, I do name my car – don’t you?) is okay, and safe back tonight. I do worry about him.

And I’ve been thinking lately about scaling down the attempts to break into the world of the mainstream published. I’m just starting my seventh book now, and in my seventh year of writing fiction, and there have been no bites from any of the “big boys” so perhaps it’s time to accept that it simply isn’t going to happen. The constant attempts to chip away at the very thick glass ceiling that seems to exist around me have also, particularly over the last two years, been very debilitating and have really taken away a lot of the enjoyment I get from actually writing. I absolutely loved writing my first novel, The Hit List, and though I think it’s my worst one in terms of quality (which is probably better than it being my best – I like to think I’m improving after all), I’d love to get back that enthusiasm and sense of freshness that powered me through it. And yes it’s lovely to have been recently published by Flame Books ( but I think they’re finding it hard to sell decent quantities of A Dangerous Man which must therefore be tricky for them too. After my attempts to be smiley and nice to people with ridiculous and surely unjustified amounts of emotional power at the forthcoming Annual Writers’ Conference (, we’ll have to see.

The same goes for my poetry, which I’ve been writing for about twenty years now. I get accepted so rarely in magazines these days (though I was doing better – perhaps writing better? – a couple of years ago), that I think it’s time to revisit my once a month submissions schedule. I might scale down to trying once every couple of months. Rejections are soul-destroying enough, after all. Why put myself through it more than I absolutely have to? And I certainly won’t be sending collections out anywhere again. In my experience, people have enthused and promised to come back to me, but then after a year or so they just seem to disappear. I’ll stick to the self-publishing route. It just makes me feel a lot happier. Apart from the lack of sales of course. That’s always a bummer.

All this writerly thought and potential decision-making does make me feel sad, I have to admit. It’s hard to win awards for my work and yet get shunned by 99% of the publisher world – with the honourable exception of Flame! And also not forgetting Goldenford though there of course I do have a directorial say. But, for my own peace of mind, I do have to begin to think practically. And number my sales in the tens and fifties, rather than the hundreds or thousands.

Went to my back exercise class at lunchtime – the last of the academic year, at least for me as I can’t do next week’s. I’m hoping to get away with a light regime this session as I’d like to be able to move without aching tomorrow. I’m such an old crock, you know … Though now they tell me that they might put an extra week on, so is there, even in Health, no mercy?! Darn it, eh!

And I’ve just given up on Linda Fairstein’s Death Dance. I lost interest by page 103, to be honest. I think it was all too fast-paced and exhausting, and I didn’t care enough. I also preferred the sub-plot and had no interest in the main plot about the ballet dancer. Sigh.

Talking of which, tonight, Lord H is taking me out to the ballet at Woking – we’re going to have dinner at the theatre and see “Sleeping Beauty”, so that should be great. I love the ballet. I could have been a ballet star, you know, except that I have no sense of grace or balance. Or indeed any kind of skill or talent in that area. Ah well, another vocation cruelly snatched away, ho ho …

Today’s nice things:

1. Cakes at the office
2. The back class
3. Sleeping Beauty.

Anne Brooke


Nik Perring said...

Happy birthday for tomorrow, Anne!

Many happy returns.

N xx

Irene Black said...

Anne - I know what I should be saying - DON'T GIVE UP!!!! Your work is outstanding, your books mindboggling, your poetry just amazing. But I know exactly what you're going through. Winning awards seems to do little to help. And I know how disheartening it is to keep sending stuff out and then back it plops. I'm still going to say keep trying BECAUSE YOU'RE WORTH IT, DAHHHLING! But only do as much sending out as you can without stressing yourself out - and once you've sent it, forget about it. If it comes back, shrug your shoulders and try again. Easier said than done, I know. You know you're good. And meanwhile we'll all push Goldenford on from strength to strength! It's a great little institution.

Irene xx

Cathy said...

Anne, Irene is right.

Don't give up, but maybe take a break from submitting work for a short while? Recharge your writing batteries, perhaps try something different as an experiment, do a short course or go on a writers retreat. Write what you WANT to, or what you NEED to, but not what you think a publisher might want. (On the other hand you could try to write something formulaic with a very mainstream theme, but frankly I suspect it would do your head in...)

You know you are a GOOD writer. I've not read too much of your work, but ADM really kept me gripped (not easy to do nowadays) and your poetry seems effortlessly accomplished. Just remember that sadly what sells is not necessarily the best written (Da Vinci code, anyone?) It is sometimes just a case of having hit on a theme that becomes topical, but it is mainly just a matter of luck. I'm sure your luck will change eventually.

Have a wonderful birthday tomorrow,


Anne Brooke said...

Thanks, Nik!

And also thank you, Irene & Cathy - I'm really touched by your support (well, you always knew I was fairly touched ...)

A writers' retreat sounds really nice - I'll have a think on it, for sure. Maybe even a weekend somewhere (the upcoming Winchester Conference doesn't count - way too stressful!!)?

I also agree about Goldenford, Irene - I've had more fun from that than anything else, which was why I thought I'd scale down and concentrate on the things I enjoy.

Hugs to you all!


PS I've had chocolate for breakfast - yummy!!

Jackie Luben said...

First, Happy Birthday, Anne (It's today, now.) I'll go along with what everyone has said.

The near misses I've had with agents, are almost worse than not having any acknowledgement of the worth of a book. ('I'm not going to offer you a contract was very much a borderline decision ...').

On the other hand, the occasional shortlisting; publication of one short piece in a small magazine, and best of all, one person saying they loved your work - those small triumphs are disproportionately worth the heartaches that the big people cause us in spades.

We know they don't know what they're missing.

love Jackie

Anne Brooke said...

You're quite right, Jackie! And your stuff should definitely be out there in a much bigger way - it's fab! (Fab? Fab?? Have I been stuck in the 70s?? Sorry ...)

We'll have to work to make Goldenford a much bigger name for sure!!


Lover of Books, Films and Good Coffee Shops Everywhere! said...

Happy belated birthday Anne. Hope you got our 'e' card ok - it was a bit tricky to send so if it came out all wrong I apologise - technology!!!

Anne Brooke said...

It was a lovely card - thank you! I left a thank you message on your blog - hope you got it!