47. Confessions from the pristine coalface

Every now and then your emotions get the better of you. For my passionate partner and American critiquers who would like me to demonstrate a less ironic approach to romance and writing this is probably a good thing. Earlier this year I went straight out bat-dung crazy – a side effect of which can be writing poetry. Some months before I had sent the first 10,000 words of my new novel to a London literary agent, Mr X. He was soon back in touch: ‘Loved the opening chapters, send the rest of the book.’ So I did. And then I waited. And waited. For weeks and weeks and weeks. In the end I swallowed what was left of my pride and sent a follow-up email. Mr X told me he wouldn’t be signing me up. ‘Why?’ I felt the question was valid. ‘And what advice would you give me for next time?’ How naive of me to expect a reply…

Meanwhile a friend has received £8,000 for a two-book deal, that’s approximately 0.04p p/word, which is 100 per cent more than I’ve earned from my fiction this year but only £7,500 more than I earned as a student by way of a prize for my first fumbling attempts at crafting a novel. Yes, times are hard for writers and every now and then we should be permitted to vent spleen…


To all the agents out there

May your children

Be born illiterate


May your risk-averse nature

Get you into trouble on a daily basis


May your pens

Run out of ink

At the crucial moment

When foolish authors

Are about to sign their lives away


May your body

Run out of mojo

At the crucial moment

As foolish lovers

Are about to submit

To your 15 per cent

(20 per cent for overseas rights)


May your spouses be unedited

And your grandparents redrafted

May your nieces and nephews be typos


May your uncles defy category

And your aunties write in green pen

May your mother-in-law exceed the agreed word count


May your brothers be spellchecked

And your sisters put in parenthesis

May your garden be choked with flowery prose


May your semicolon function arbitrarily

And your metatext snap as you warm up for the book fair

May you rupture your pride while skiing down a slush pile


May your life be overwritten

And your synopsis be too wordy

May your sample chapters get lost in the lab


May adverbs spring suddenly from the back of kitchen cupboards

May adjectives mug you on dark and brooding nights

May every cocktail taste like a mixed metaphor


May your career start to slide

When you fail to reinstall Word

And get stuck in Comic Sans forever


May you never find the right words

To explain the problems you are

Having with your utilities

To company representatives


Especially during your retirement

As you sit alone wondering

Where all those nice dead authors

With their fine words are now.