Over the years I’ve been a member of your UK swanky city-centre female-0nly places; your corporate-shop ‘love your boss – love your gym!’ deals. And plenty of East Mancunian Spit n’ Sawdust in-betweeners.
So I think that I do know my moolah’s worth – and that I’m good at judging the overall social-aggregate, when it comes to fellow gym-goers.
I know for a fact that I don’t want to be around the sort of folk who invest more in their lycra than in their love of fellow man. Or who think that they’re a cut above the rest of us.
So, I go to a friendly gym. A proper, not up-itself gym. A place where a man some thirty years older than me will lend me a book because ‘”it’s like the sort of thing you were reading on the cross-treader here the other week. I think it’s a bit bobbins, like. But you might fancy it.” A place where a woman will hand me a donation for the “charity thing that you’re doing with the African kids. Overheard you talking about it in the dressing rooms.” A gym where another fella will hand us a DVD (“Oh no, love – it’s not dodgy or ‘owt! But make sure that you check it first before the kiddies watch it won’t yer? ‘Cause I can’t always guarantee that ‘Tinkerbell Two’ won’t turn out to be something that sounds a bit similar to the Disney version…but in’t…”)
And we’re an incredibly fit bunch because we manage to work out AND have a good gas at the same time (last week we covered – politics, religion, breakfast cereals, rat infestation, Manchester City, cruise control, salsa dancing, “smack the little buggers or not”, ‘the bin men’ and The Welsh.)
But this week I happened to overhear a conversation between three of the bigger, scarier looking fellas. It went like this:
Man 1: Did you see that rainbow yesterday afternoon? Did you SEE it?
Man 2: Aye I did. It were be-yowtiful [NB ***this is how ‘beautiful’ is pronounced in west yorkshire***]
Man 3: Yeah – about three o’ clock? It were stunning. Utterly stunnin, it were.
Man 1: It were like…. like one of those moments for me – like where you stop and catch yer breath and go ‘Eee – bloody ‘ell – I’ll have some more o’ that, I will.
Man 2: An I’ll tell you what else. Same afternoon – bit later – I were coming over the top of Holme Moss in the van and there were this light like – like shafts of light just peepin’ through the clouds down onto Holmfirth. Just as I turned the corner at the top. It were like… angel light. You know what I mean?
Man 3: Yeah – I know what you mean. Like – you just catch it at the right moment up there and it sorta dapples through. Like little pockets of angel light or whatever you wanna call it – your little rays just pickin’ out the dark and the light in the landscape. And all o’ that.
Man 2: I know. It were that bad – well – it were that good. That I had to pull the van over and me eyes were just…transfixed. The light had this sort of almost greenish hue to it. You know like when your bronze … sort of…glows like that?
Man 1: Oh aye, I know what you mean. When it’s like that – you think – well. Get me a pen and a bit of paper and I’m gonna write us a poem. Ha!
Man 2: Oh aye. I don’t mind tellin’ you. I cried I did. In the van. Lookin’ at it all. I cried.
Man 1: Did yer?
Man 3: Yeah, I did. An’ the last time I cried was when I were watchin’ that ‘Britain’s Bravest Kids.’ I don’t cry often, me.
Man 1: Aye. I know what you mean, though. Be-yowtiful.
At this point, I do confess that I was wondering what precisely the gym owner had been injecting into the bottles of energy drinks on sale…
But all became a little bit clearer as I passed the guys (still waxing lyrical about the shafts of autumnal light across the peak district) and headed towards the exit doors. “Here Chris!” said the receptionist. “If you’ve been looking for that Writing Magazine of yours – it’s been in the magazine rack all week. You left it behind again. Take it home with you before they all start thinking that we’re gonna cancel the subscription to ‘Top Gear’ magazine…”
I was especially relieved to have this magazine returning to me as bless ’em – the good folk at Writing Mag printed a letter from me in this (November 2014) edition. Copied below for those of you who are curious about as to why I get all hot and bothered about self-publishing versus traditional publishing etc…
DEAR WRITING MAGAZINE:
Leah Osbourne was appalled that literary agent Johnny Geller wouldnt view her as a serious writer – that she is more of a ‘hobbyist’ – because she is a stay at home mum and writes (like a devil!) between her other family commitments.
Virginia Woolf is a great point of reference of course – on being ‘the home maker’ and also being a writer. And I am with her all of the way when it comes to women and writing and childcare and ‘the home’ … And how women have been unable to be taken seriously as writers (especially ‘for income gain.’)
But I also have many male writer pals who would be as equally horrified at this demarcation between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ as Leah is. Blokes who are damned good writers and who through circumstance are tied up with care for children, elderly parents, maybe even a full time job. A medical issue.
So even today (as any Marxist would chirply tell you!) the issue of who can afford to be *perceived by the powers that be as PROFESSIONAL’* versus the hobbyists … nearly always comes down to income. Or class. Or your ‘connections’ (not what you know…etc)
What’s the answer? Well. We are living in writing-revolutionary times. For those who feel powerless – that the Big Guys are impossible to impress, to break into as a writer….Stop trying to doff your caps at them. Go the self-publish route. Show them that you are serious about your art. And yeah this *does* mean planning and pitching your work with the utmost professionalism. If writing a book for example, you absolutely can NOT afford to skimp on the professional editing. Don’t forget that indie publishing can be a two way process. You might well do a selfie and make a few bob yourself. But then pull in the agent or publisher who has stumbled across you via your indie status. As opposed to the desperado slush pile application.
Once you have been able to prove that you are ‘out there’ yourself …well. Then it’s totally up to *YOU* whether your writing is a ‘hobby’ or not.
As for biggie publisher and agent; Philip Pullman himself put it beautifully in the October edition of WM – “the market doesn’t know what it wants, until it sees what you’ve got!”
And I do have much sympathy with Johnny Gellar too. He is simply looking for guys n gals who can cut the mustard and deliver the goods. It is a scary new world for the agents and the publishing houses. We cannot blame them for wanting a simple way to sort the wheat from the chaff. The onus is on us lot to lead them to a new market – as opposed to one that reacts to their perceived ‘demands.’
Chris L Longden, Hudds
(Mind Games & Ministers – www.funnylass.wordpress.com)