October 15th, 2007

book and glasses

Take me to the Fair...

In the wake of one of the world's biggest publishing industry shindigs, the Frankfurt BOok Fair, which ended yesterday, The Guardian has a write-up of the Fair and its issues here - go read the whole thing, it's funny and sad and exciting and appalling and you end up not knowing whether to giggle maniacally or sit on the stairs weeping and tearing your hair out. Here's a sample of it:

Oh, the writers. What becomes abundantly clear from Frankfurt is that if you've got a book inside, it's really not a bad idea to keep it there. Why does anybody even want to be a writer? And I say that as one. Two weeks ago the BBC reported that it came top in a survey of the nation's dream jobs. I end up ranting about this at the Bloomsbury stand, and Alexandra Pringle, the editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury, rants with me.

'I know!' she says, 'It's mad. It's a horrible job. It doesn't pay well. It's lonely. It's depression-inducing. It's frustrating. There's no fun to be had. But everyone has a drive to be a writer. And everyone thinks they can do it.

'Whereas to be one is some sort of mental derangement! They're all bonkers. When my writers say I could earn more money at the till at Sainsbury's, I say, well go and do it. There's no point writing unless you feel that you have to do it. You have to really want to do it and to be prepared to suffer to do it. Or else you really might as well go and work on the till at Sainsbury.'

And even if you do write a book, the obstacles are so huge. Jonny Geller tells me he personally receives 1,000 unsolicited submissions a year, and the general slush pile holds another 3,000. Out of those, he takes on maybe five new authors. I always knew that the odds against getting my first novel being published were enormous but I'm actually quite grateful that I didn't know quite how enormous.

And here I am, starting a new project. Or two. Oh, the stories that I have waiting.

And I don't know if I should just give up and play dead, or go and light a candle in a shrine every day of my life in gratitude for all that I have managed to achieve in the last five years or so of my life - there are hundreds, THOUSANDS, *MILLIONS* of writers out there - the famous, the not-yet-famous, the never-will-be famous, the barely-published, and those who still dream the dream and wait with a greater or lesser degree of patience for it to come true. If you raise the bar and count those who have had work published in more than one language, the number drops dramatically. More than five, it drops even more. More than ten, it's exponential. And here's me, with thirteen. THIRTEEN. I have contracts in my contracts drawer from Turkey and Israel and Lithuania and Brazil and Czechoslovakia, and more. My little book came out in paperback in Spain with the word "Bestseller" stamped on the cover. Sometimes even i find it hard to believe.

It's getting harder and harder to get into the charmed circle. I've been lucky. And I'm suitably grateful.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Photos and all like that

I entered a slew of my Alaska pics in the World In Focus contest this yeat - and no, apparently I didn't win anything. However, I did get this from the organisers of the contest:

Thanks for entering the World in Focus contest. Your image, along with
every other image entered in this year's contest, is being printed and
exhibited at PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, from October 18 to 20, at
the Jacob Javits Convention Center.Thanks to our sponsor, Epson, we're able
to print all 27,290 photos on one, massive strip measuring 154 feet long by
5 feet tall. Your image along with everyone else's image will be printed full frame or "no-cropping". However, to fit everyone's photos on this print we had to make each person's image about 2 inches on the long dimension.

If you can make it to New York for PDN PhotoPlus Expo or have friends who
are attending this event, any of your entered images can be found using the
co-ordinates below:

column# 30 and row#4 on panel# 1
column# 30 and row#3 on panel# 1
column# 30 and row#2 on panel# 1
column# 71 and row#4 on panel#10
column# 30 and row#1 on panel# 1
column# 30 and row#0 on panel# 1
column# 29 and row#31 on panel# 1
column# 29 and row#30 on panel# 1
column# 29 and row#29 on panel# 1
column# 29 and row#28 on panel# 1
column# 29 and row#27 on panel# 1

So, if anyone's in the vicinity and wants to check out my pictures, you can pop in and see...
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

I will write my love a letter...

Okay - I think I find this officially odd.

Letter writing has admittedly suffered something of a decline since the advent of email - and in the case of pure information transfer, I don't find that much of a mystery - the pure instantaneousness of it all counts for a lot, and when the idea is to convey actual information, fast, there's no contest. But "real" letters, now - the chatty friendly communications between friends - well, the physical letter is kind of part of the point. It's a question of physically handling a piece of paper, putting writing on it (well, printing on it, in these new fangled days), folding it, tucking it into an envelope, taking the envelope to a post box, pushing it in through the flap while thinking of its destination. It's a *physical connection*, not just electrons. Not to mention that there would be stuff in such letters that is - or should be - secret whispers between friends or lovers, things never meant to be seen by more than two pairs of eyes. The idea of typing in a love letter, for instance, into this website and then having some officious secretary-type anonymous entity print it out and post it for you - it - just - defeats - the - whole - purpose - of - it. "Miss Jones, take a note - 'My Most Beloved, I looked outside at the dawn this morning, and thought of your rosy cheeks while you sleep..."

It's a very odd world we live in.