You are a writer, or you would not be reading this. But am I? A cupboard in my hall is overflowing with my scribblings but does that make me a writer?
When I was eight years old, I wrote to Penguin books and asked them if I bothered to write a book, would they publish it. I got a very kind letter back advising me to get some more life experience and then write to them again. The life experience I managed- perhaps too well - but I never troubled them with the fruits of my labour.
I set myself targets - first novel at twenty, then thirty, then forty and finally, here I am at fifty one, nervously waiting to hear from a publisher who is a slight friend of a friend and wondering if my extremely short novel or possibly over-long short story is worth public scrutiny. It is a totally exposing and horrifying experience.
Years ago I attended a writing class and was lucky enough to have the amazing Sheelagh Gallagher as a teacher. She thought I was good enough and, although I respect the opinion of a woman I firmly believe to be a living Goddess, I think there is a reason for that. We would be set a writing assignment and in turn would read it to the class the following week. I am a great reader. I can talk fluently for England, in private, in public and even in my sleep. I talk for pleasure, for fun and even for a living so maybe the writing was mediocre or worse and the reading of it was so splendid that it covered up how rubbish the writing was. I cannot bear for anyone to read what I've poured out on to paper and even the short novel/long short story was read to my husband rather than letting him read it himself. My friend is a published poet - she bullied me into sending it to her email box and the wonderful Julie Malone has read it and neither have said it was awful but they are both lovely, encouraging women who would not necessarily tell me I had wasted my time and theirs!
The more I think about it, the more of a fraud I feel. I have always wanted to be a brilliant fiction writer, not for the money or the fame but because, if I am honest with you as well as myself, I am arrogant enough to believe I can be as long as I do not test the theory by putting my writing in the public eye. I can delude myself that the world is missing out on the next Edgar Allen Poe or Patricia Highsmith merely because I haven't got around to sending my work off. So what is the point of this self obsessed ramble? Well, the point is to tell you how much I admire you. You are a writer, you have put yourself out there and are prepared to accept whatever judgement comes. How did you get to where you are now? What gave you that little extra bit of Oomph to push on through and share what you had to say? Am I actually being realistic in my reluctance to test my writing ability or chicken?
Whatever the answers to those questions may be - and if we meet I will almost certainly ask them - I salute you. You are brave and bold and literally beautiful - pun intended. Those that can, do - and you have done - and I'm jealous!