I’ve yet to publish a novel or a collection of short stories. (Update: As of 2012 I self-published a sci-fi comedy & some short stories but I’m still working on the agent & trad deal!) I’m not known in literary circles or seen in bookshops. I’ve been on the radio twice but you wouldn’t have known it was me, there was no hype, my name was called out at the end with all the other contributors.
But I’m not an aspiring writer. Although I’ve only just learned to call myself one, I’ve been a writer all my life. I wrote my first poem at eight. Something all children are asked to do in school but it sparked something in me, an intrinsic satisfaction in selecting the just right word and a self-propelled motivation to do that again and again.
When my second child was born I put my occupation on the birth cert as ‘Writer’. When my third child was born I reverted to ‘Housewife’. At that point with three children under four, writing was something I thought about a lot but didn’t often get around to. I suppose also, having left paid employment, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of calling myself a writer when not earning any money from it.
In the last couple of years I have had recognition from outside in the form of (some high profile) competition shortlists, literary mag publication and reader feedback on blog posted stories. I’m immersed in the writing world online and in a real world writing group. When getting to know new people now there is only a moment’s hesitation in saying that I am a writer, I suppose I have something to show for it now, even if I haven’t had a book of my own published. But, hang on, I’ve always been writing. And not just putting words on the page with a pen, yes, I’ve been an avid diary and letter writer (oh, I bemoan the passing of the letter and still surprise people by sending them real world missives in between email exchanges) or on screen. I’ve always been putting words on the page WITH INTENT.
When I submit to a publisher it’s not the done thing to say I wrote my first poem at eight, I won a local newspaper sponsored trophy in the school short story competition at seventeen and read my story about small mindedness in a small town in public to the townsfolk of that small town. I should not say that as a teenager my family wondered why I spent my time writing instead of watching the television with them. (Although I did watch plenty TV and won 50 pounds in 1985 from an Irish TV show by sending in a poem about my favourite TV programmes.) I should not tell the publisher that the scrawled notes from my school friends in an autograph book filled in just before we left school suggested that one day I would be a famous author (still hoping!). I should not say that the year I did my final school exams I had to keep throwing a manuscript in progress further and further under the bed as it was distracting me from my studies.
So I’m not an aspiring writer. I am one. Are you? The question then is, are we any good, does anyone want to read us. I’ve had some official recognition as I’ve said and wonderful reader feedback on my flash fiction and short stories. In this changing publication world it seems that readers rule in particular in the case of e-book self-publishing, readers vote with their downloading finger and I’m hoping to test the water here shortly with an e-book of interlinked flash fiction. In the case of traditional publishing publishers make the call on quality, marketability, fit, trend and timing. If we pass these criteria we will one day call ourselves authors. But the title of ‘writer’ is not something that can be given to us, we have to see it in ourselves, nurture and believe in it, tell others and make them believe it too.