Most of what I do is pretty focused: small group workshops with the same people for months, making things, knocking the edges off of poems and stories and the fear, the fear that keeps that one woman's mouth shut for a whole five sessions, that keeps that one guy watching his trainers. We chip away, build things. Books and blog and performances. We take it slow. Listen. Laugh.
Then I go home and I write: also focused, also chipping, painfully slow some days.
I think I'm getting good at focused.
So, next month I am taking that careful little bubble down south to the London Book Fair. The Book Fair. It sounds cute, right? Full of twinkly eyed people who smell of paper and old leather bindings, maybe a coconut shy of encyclopaedias, typographic lollipops and a librarian love-in.
I imagine it as a bigger version of one of those incredible libraries/bookstores whose aisles I want to live in, whose shelves I want to bite down on, like that amazing bookshop that contains a writing shed full of pencils/paper/fairy lights, a reading room, floor to ceiling books across two floors and a little place upstairs in which to have a bit of a lie down, if you need it, nestled in beside the kids books:
Instead, an image search for London Book Fair reveals this:
Most attendees are publishers or agents or booksellers, there to do business, to hustle. I have no problem with hustling. I want people to read my book. I do. And yes, I know I am writing a book of short fiction, about war, with not a lot of laughs. Shut up, I know.
But I'm a little terrified of the book fair. I'm bracing myself for the sharp slap across the face that will be seeing the whole thing in all its shouty glossy books-as-widgets glory.
Everyone should see it once, he says, and I say OK, sure, I'll go. I will be leaving my ego at home, in the writing shed.