The Business of Being a Writer

I think a lot of people imagine writers spending their time at home scribbling in some quiet space, knocking back the odd bottle of wine and firing off emails to their publishers.  My life, like most writers I know, does not resemble this at all (apart from the wine bit).  I try to get some quiet space to scribble, but there are times when the Business of Being a Writer takes over and life becomes as manic and out of control as a bus without brakes hurtling down a mountain road!

For the past couple of weeks I've been involved in literature festivals, workshops, readings, and various other distractions as well as a lot of travelling through snowdrifts and the nightmare prospect of a year's tax returns to be sorted by April. I'm also trying to get the rights back to a couple of books that are out of print, but publishers suddenly become quite shy when faced with actually giving them back to the author, even though they have no intention of ever re-printing the book.  Perhaps they're waiting to see if I suddenly become notorious?  Think of the book deal they must be offering Stormy Daniels!
Perhaps I should buy the book that tells me how to do it?

The literature festival, Words by the Water, was great fun.  I chaired an event on the history of Fell Farming that brought back memories of my own childhood, introduced biographer Claire Tomalin for the Royal Literary Fund Lecture and interviewed two lovely novelists - Zosia Wand (Trust Me is a great read!) and Bella Pollen.  I was also allowed to have my own event, talking about Haida Gwaii, and took part in a poetry reading with other poets from Write to be Counted in order to raise money for PEN.  It was a lovely week talking to other writers and enjoying the wonderful views from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.  I also managed to find time to hear the satirist John Crace who was wildly funny on both I Maybot and Jeremy Corbyn. 

Crammed around the events I recorded a series of 'life stories' for BBC radio, talking about some of the weird aspects of my life and spent a day being filmed for a series about the 'Talismans' that writers have when they are writing.  I talked about the Katherine Mansfield brooch that kept me writing her biography even when I thought it had no future, and the raven feathers and clam shell I found on Rose Spit on Haida Gwaii. 

Katherine Mansfield's mother-of-pearl brooch I have now lent to a museum

Last week I went to London on Wednesday to do a poetry reading with Shearsman poet Janet Sutherland, which was very enjoyable, then caught a train on Thursday morning back to the Lake District in time to drive to Dumfries to do a workshop on memoir, got back about 11pm to catch a few hours sleep before getting up to print material for my reading round group on Friday morning.  I've spent the weekend trying to finish a freelance project before I go off to New Zealand, via Frankfurt and Singapore, tomorrow morning.  Feeling tired yet?  I certainly am!

This is a Writer's Life - crazy, busy, full of things you have to do to earn money, or publicise your work, or simply meet other authors for a bit of mutual empathy. Oh, and then there's the accounts!  But never mind, I leave at 7am tomorrow morning for the warm south and a few weeks of off-grid thinking time.  I'm really looking forward to seeing my daughter again and my two little grandsons. It is worth spending two days in an airline seat or hanging around airports just to get there.  And then there's New Zealand coffee, and - of course - the wine! 


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