Last weekend, I was chatting to a woman who told me that she was going to Listowel Writers’ Week as the companion of a writer who was going to be honoured with a special award. She was going to get a chance to mingle with the great and the good of Irish and International literature – and she was going to get to do it for free. To my disgust, she wasn’t the slightest bit happy about this, as she’s a teacher and it’s a busy time of the year for her. I was tempted to put myself forward in her place.
Sucked Into Glory
But before I decided to deem her Miserybags of the Year, I decided to have a good long look at myself. We write for many reasons and some of them are less noble than others. And one of my less noble ones is the glory I imagined would come my way once I was published. I cringe a little now as I think of my fantasies of crowds clustering around me at event, plying me with wine and cocktail sausages, plying me with questions.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of putting events and awards at the centre of your writing life, when in fact they are only the trimmings. In reality, they’re a huge anticlimax. I got my first taste of this when I was published in an anthology of writing that was first broadcast on a show called The Quiet Quarter on classical music station Lyric FM. It was to be held at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
Damp Squib Launch
Since some of Ireland’s top writers had been included in the anthology, I had visions of wafting around the beautiful, airy concert hall, mingling with the great and the good, a glass of wine in my hand. On the day, hundreds of us were squished into a cordoned area, and the crowds were so dense that the mulled wine was out of reach. The only people I talked to were a woman who said I looked funny and a couple who happened to be eating their sandwiches in the area where the launch was happening. They had absolutely no interest in the launch, but also didn’t leave.
So in a way, this woman was right not to be excited about going to the event in Listowel. Events are fun, but ultimately, they don’t mean anything. If you take that attitude, you’ll enjoy the event for what it is. The biggest lesson for me, in both attending and being part of these glittering literary events, is that writing is all about the story, not the glory.
Here’s a picture of me signing the anthology for the two relatives who were kind enough to come with me tot he launch, snatching a few crumbs of glory.