Monday, 30 April 2012

Literary landmark

One of my writer-friends was pleased to have achieved a landmark recently and proudly announced she felt qualified to call herself an author. The landmark? Her first rejection from a publisher. Personally I collect them and enjoy analysing the care with which they have been crafted – or not. My favourite so far was from the late John G Murray of that publishing dynasty, who in reviewing my proposal for the Madagascar memoir, actually apologised for not taking my book. He said, ‘I don’t feel we could make a success of it for you’ – as if was his fault. How wonderfully gentlemanly is that!
Another notable rejection was from Duckworth. I sent a synopsis and opening chapters of a novel for children so long ago I couldn’t even find a record of my submission. The very nice rejection letter dated December 2008 demonstrated that the Submissions Editor had read my words and considered my proposal seriously, but... and there’s always a but.... ‘at this moment in time I’m afraid....’ The remarkable thing about this very nice letter was that for some unknown reason it arrived just a few weeks ago! Apparently it had been lost on some postal system for three years.

People who know about submitting book proposals to agents and publishers say that one shouldn’t saturation-bomb publishers. Sending out multiple mailings isn’t viewed well, but if I was to wait three years between each submission it is likely that dementia would have set in by the time I received a contract for my next book. 

So... ‘What to do?’ As they say in Nepal.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Encounter on the Cam

Our cox shouts ‘Easy oars,’ and we glide in to the bank to hear better what our coach has to say.

I’m distracted, again. Mr Asbo looks angry this morning. Patrolling his patch of the river, his gleaming pure-white feathers reflect in the still water beneath the weeping willow. With wings slightly raised in authority, he cruises downstream towards another swan, a swan with a slender neck. With her is a signet from last year; two-thirds white now, he’s almost lost his grey fluff.

The alpha male approaches the other adult swan. I expect a fight, a showdown at least. They bow to each other. From where I sit, their curved necks describe a heart-shape. They touch bills and chatter them together, uttering tender, intimate sounds. When they part, Mr Asbo is calm, his wings furled. He moves at the tip of an arrowhead of ripples. He is serene. He won’t go for us as we row on down to Bait’s Bite Lock this morning. Not this time.

Jane Wilson-Howarth ( rowed for Corpus (Oxford) in the Dark Ages probably in the first year there was a Corpus womens boat. She has rowed with Champs town club in Cambridge for the last seven years. This snippet was read as part of a celebration of literary Cambridge at the WordFest yesterday

Last word in an Indy piece

Most satisfying to have the last word in an Independent piece on travel health...