The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'?  
It came to me in a dream:  short stories are like scallops!  Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did,  but on this occasion  I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime.  At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.

A short story should also be small and perfectly formed:  it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art.  As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story.  But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Oh to be Rich!

If I were wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, the first luxury I would afford myself is a personal hairdresser to give me the Liz Lemon look everyday. But I recently met a man whose first luxury was to set up his own publishing company dedicated to publishing his own work. After working in venture capital for his working life, he's decided to spend his millions in his retirement on his dream. Nice.

I went for a job to be this guy's PA and it was an oddly tempting proposition - a $80-100,000 salary for arranging international 'pilgrimages' to meet interesting artists. But after 2 interviews with two members of his team and one interview with the man himself, I wasn't offered the job.

After about 5 minutes in a room with him, I decided the job was not for me anyway. Apparently, writing for 15 hours a day makes a person rather hard to warm to and he was plainly not interested in me. I made a point of emphasising my love of social realism and of British Working Class literature and that, I expect, ended my chances: I am not someone a rich guy who's writing about himself and spending his fortune on himself can identify with!

Meeting him confirmed what I suspected when I read his writing: he is a very aloof individual. I know a lot of writers are isolated but the best writer is a people person, who can empathise with others to create powerful stories. Perhaps, therefore, the more appropriate adage is not 'write what you know' but 'write who you know.'

But good luck to the guy. He believes in his work and he's able to live his dream, something all us writers would love to do. However, at the end of the day money can buy you fame, but it can't buy you talent and he will only succeed if he can show others his talent is as significant as his bank account. I'll be following his publishing venture with a lot of interest, and just a little envy.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Work, Write Balance

Urgh. I knew this would happen. Having a job really gets in the way of writing! I started a part-time job three weeks ago, working for a lovely non-profit in San Francisco. It's great and it's certainly nice to be earning again, but I have hardly any time to devote to my writing now. I foolishly thought a part-time job would be fine. However, I find it almost impossible to write when I know there's some work to be done and, in a non-profit, there's ALWAYS work to be done.

Now's the time to take the advice all professional writers give. Make time. Find a slot in the day and stick to it, give it your full attention, everything else can wait. For me, it'll be first thing in the morning, before I've had a chance to check my in-box. If I wait until later in the day, it'll never get done.

But it's not all bad. The big advantages of working are the people you meet and the stories you uncover. I'm looking forward to gathering some more life experience I can use in my fiction. I worked at all sorts of hell-holes during my student days. I squeezed peaches (sending the soft ones to street markets, the firm ones to the supermarket); I packed bottles of cooking oil off a conveyor belt; I cored lettuces in near freezing temperatures; and I folded surgical gowns at a hospital laundry. All the details of these ordeals are filed away in my brain and will be put to good use. The jobs I had after graduation weren't nearly so interesting but the job I have now will introduce me to all sorts of people in all sorts of life situations.

My bloke says I should quit my job if it really gets in the way. He's a rare gem of a man and I'm lucky as lucky can be that he is a successful artist: he knows what it's like to live the dream and to have people back you up. He expects a lot of me - more than I expect of myself - which is a good thing because you work so much harder when someone's counting on you.