Away with the Fairies

On Saturday 12th January, I went to the launch of the Golden Egg Academy in Bath. I expected that I would meet at least a couple of people I knew – and I could now tell them about my latest success. I had known since before Christmas that The Selkies of Scoresby Nab had been long-listed for the Times/Chicken House Competition. You would think I’d be bursting to tell anyone and everyone – but I felt oddly reticent. Shy even.

I found myself lost deep in La-la land: talking with the Barry Cunningham, finding that Beverley Birch had read a  previous blogpost and remembered it, welcomed by Imogen Cooper as an equal. I had slid into a world of my imagination.

But in my daydreams, it had been easy, I had confidence – not this edgy feeling I have now. I feel I’m tiptoeing on the borders of Fairyland, nervous and full of hope and fear.

Joanne Harris by kind permission of Kyte Photography

I’ve had lovely little glimpses and excursions: a workshop with the much-admired David Almond; twitter conversations with the wonderfully accessible Joanne Harris; and even Susan Hill. There was astonishing interview with Greg Mosse on the MA at West Dean where for a moment he helped me soar, to feel like a proper writer.

But I’m scared. I’m frightened to succeed.

I’ve grown accustomed to being second-rate, an also-ran. Grade B ‘O’ & ‘A’levels, a II:I English degree at Loughborough, not Oxford, a minor teaching post. It’s all been quite comfortable – and I bitterly resent it. It’s also painfully true that I envied Susie Wilde her well-deserved First in her MA at West Dean.

There are times I really don’t like myself.

I wonder, am I bringing my own danger into the Perilous Realm? I really don’t mean to be smug or condescending or self-satisfied – but I hear those thin, superior voices in my head. They distract me from paying proper attention, they tell me I know that or this already.

On one hand, I am so wary of pride that I find it hard to rejoice.On the other, I so desire recognition from authors I wish were my peers that I fear I must be insufferable. I look to see who has congratulated me far too often – yet I am genuinely moved when anybody does wish me well.

Am I hunting for fairy gold?


I’m just wild about Barry…

We live in interesting times, Barry Cunningham asserted at the inaugural Hampshire Writers’ Group meeting on Tuesday 13th September 2011. Difficult not to nod agreement at that.

The electronic revolution means writers and publishers must pull together, not apart, he added. No problem – how could I not want to work with a man whom Barbara Large first met dressed as a giant friendly Puffin?

Although he admitted publishing was an unlikely cross between librarianship and gambling, the publication of children’s books has a serious purpose. The writer is ‘the secret friend of children’ to quote Cornelia Funke. We are there for them on the bus, we are them when they’re bullied,  we are there when life is too much – we provide other worlds to escape to, other ways of being.

His aim is to reach out to the bookhuggers, to connect with the emotional world of children’s reading – and so is ours.

How can we do this?

Our use of story, humour, credible dialogue, precise physicality and – food. Children have not changed since the Narnia books on that front. Kaye Webb believed you could tell one big fib – and after that the rest had to be consistent. Nothing to disagree with there.

And where to find the source?

Write for your inner child. That means reaching deep inside yourself to excavate the truth – and a great deal of trust in your editor.’Your family won’t know you as well as I do.’

Well, Mr Cunningham, I am up for that.