Now, today is a slight departure from my normal approach. Generally I just blog away to my readers on any subject that comes to hand. Most of the time I’m not sure if I’m a bus driver, a Romantic novelist or just a slightly dotty old Doris with a fantasy literary life. The fact is that for the moment I drive a bus and I have written Romantic short stories and a Romantic novel that is selling quite well. My home is in France but for a short while I am living and working in the UK. Today I am back in France and as I strolled through the beautiful streets of my little town this morning I was thinking about my project which is to do a blog for Julia Brandt’s “Warm Fuzzies Blog Fest”. The subject to be approached is that of “Do you tell people you are a writer and what are their responses?” Just as this thought was hurtling around the empty space of my mind I came across a snail climbing a very long hill. I took a photo and it is posted above. The Great spirit of Happenstance and Inspiration touched my shoulder and I saw at once the situation of the writer: that slow climb to who knows where, dragging that shell of isolation across the pitiless tarmac of everyday life.
Yes, these days I do sometimes tell people I am a writer. However, I’m careful who I tell. I do not tell fellow bus drivers. Most would reply “Well, I’m glad to hear it cos you’re pretty poor at driving a bus.” It’s true I did break a mirror doing a reverse park and since I’m a woman it will NEVER be forgotten. I do tell a few posh middle class people in England. The responses are usually polite but flippant…”Wow – that’s so cool. I’m gonna do a really sooooper book myself soon. I hope you don’t do that stuff all about billionaires and sex in Paris. That is just so sad yah! It’s kinda like for people who need cheap escape and stuff and buy those awful supermarket books with hero torso on the cover yah.” When you are a something like a bus driver, people like to keep you in a safe slot. My partner Gilles is kinda posh French and has a well paid corporate job. A bus driver who is a published poet and prize winning writer just jangles a bit so I usually don’t say anything. Gilles enjoys the sport and usually blabs something. A few years ago I won the town Literary Festival prize. It was all very public but you know – no one ever said a thing to me. I was a bus driver – NOT a poet. If anyone ever read the poem, no one ever said.
Even more years back I was living in a fairly run down part of South London. My ex husband had been a truck driver and I did whatever temp work could fit in with bringing up kids. I entered a Christmas short story competition in a newspaper. My entry was “Sub Prime” and was based on real events from my life. If you are reading this blog you can get it free here (for every kind of e-reader device). There is also a link for the audiobook version.
A couple of weeks later, the judge – a nationally acclaimed poet and writer called me to say that she was so sorry that the paper could not publish it, but that it had won the prize. She went on to explain that the content was too gritty and could upset advertisers. All the same as a consolation they published a feature about me with a photo. I had entered the competition as Millie Webb. I hoped that no one would know it was me. A few days later a neighbour tersely remarked “Bit posh ain’t ya – writin’ stories.” I told them it was all a bit of a joke. It was sad that no one was able to read the story because they would have seen that it was on the side of working class people. As it was they just thought I was getting above myself. I never ever ever EVER told anyone I was a poet.
So that deals with the two social class poles in the UK. My lovely neighbours in France know I’m a writer because they tend to wander in and find me writing. France is a different society that views “artists” as normal. They do have slight social class/wealth issues but in any event I’m foreign and free.
The other group is of course FAMILY. My own children are completely and utterly embarrassed by the whole thing. I would talk about it but I think they would run out of the room with hands over their ears screaming. I am a parent. They know I write about sex and lust and they just could not reconcile themselves to me knowing anything other than not mixing up the coloured and the whites in the washing machine. I think I would have been the same with respect to my own parents.
These days the writer is visible public property. In some ways I think that the taciturn snail is most likely to produce the best work. Most snails play the whole thing down and tell folk they’re a slug with a carbuncle issue.
Emma thinx: Know where you got lost. Finding yourself starts there.