Tomorrow is the first part of the 2nd Annual Bold Strokes Books Author Event, at Waterstones, in Nottingham. A veritable festival of writers, books and friends, with a distinctly rainbow hue. Brilliant. I can’t wait. I can’t quite believe it’s happening for that matter. I’m going to be a real writer, reading my book to a–hopefully friendly–audience, with a group of other fabulous writers. And it all started with a little e-mail I sent tentatively to Waterstone’s a couple of years ago, asking if they would even consider some sort of event… From small acorns…
To add to my authorly joy, Ghosts of Winter just recieved an amazing review, from Lambda Literary, containing the line “Buck’s novel will undoubtedly be in the small handful of the best books written in this genre in 2011.” Wow. I’m wondering who this “Buck” is. They surely don’t me mean and my little book?
Thing is, they do. I’ll be the one up there on those author panels tomorrow and Sunday. I’m the one with two books on Waterstone’s’ shelves. I’m the one who wrote the book that got that awesome review. I once had a quotation on my wall that said something about the urge to write also being the fear of death, of wanting to say “I was here, I saw it too.” (Forgive me, the orginiator of those words escapes me, if anyone knows do let me know!) I feel the truth of that. I was terrified of going through the world without leaving a trace. And I believe that a huge driving force in writing my first novel was that urge to make a mark. Since its publication, I am less afraid of death. I’ve made a mark.
This struck me again, in a new light, today, when I toured the Galleries of Justice with a friend. The Galleries is a crucial place in my life. Working there was my first real adult experience, and it was also the setting for my first book, Truths. In the old red brick walls of the exercise yard are carved names, dates, tally marks and illegible lines and shapes. They’ve been there since the prisoners kept there scraped them into the brick and stone, most of them counting down the days of their imprisonment, some of them recording their sentence. “Condemned for house-braking” wrote one S. Clarke. Who knows the circumstances? Maybe some of them deserved their punishment. It’s hard to conclude they all did though, knowing the terrible poverty of the times in which they lived, and the severity of the justice system at the time…I tend to believe some of them were basically good men. And they wanted to make their mark. They didn’t want to be forgotten by history. And the wonderful thing is, they’re not forgotten. Today, I ran my fingertips over those carvings, I wondered for a moment about the people who carved them, and I remembered. They made their mark, managed to make themselves a rock that breaks the surface in the flows and currents of history…Exactly what I wanted to to do with my books. Not to be famous, but to be remembered. Just by a few people, for a while.
But y’know, it’s funny how things go. Recognition and being remembered is nice wonderful. Making a mark is a very great thing and I feel honoured to be able to. But the best thing about the coming weekend is that it’s a time of connections. Very old friends and ones I have yet to meet. There’s a whole group of people coming to see me. Friends who aren’t big readers and who aren’t lesbians…but who want to support me. Knowing I’m a part of their lives, I find, is actually more important than whether I’ll ever make a mark on history or not. I want to be cared about, important to the people who know me. And I want them to know how important they are to me, how they all touch me in different ways.
And those unfortunate prisoners probably would have cared very little whether or not I remembered them, today. What would have been important, I think, is whether their immediate friends and family thought about them, loved them, cared about them.
In the great scheme of things, it’s sometimes the small scale, personal things that are most important, not the big ones. I’m a writer, I have an author event and a fabulous review. But I also have people who care about me, and to whom I am important. We’re all part of each others’ lives…
Sometimes it’s not the great review or the recognition that makes the difference. Sometimes it’s just the hugs.