I love being a writer. I have been a mid list writer, writing books that get lovely reviews, that get chosen in 'best of' round ups, and put on shortlists (not winning though and sadly not selling that much), for longer than is technically possible. In fact, last week at a swanky private view in town, I talked to a literary scout. When she asked me what I did she said, "Mid list? I didn't think the mid list existed anymore,"
I know, from talking to friends that I am not alone. And of course I'm not about to jack it in. I know I live a charmed live, with plenty of everything except money. But things have changed. This time a year ago I had bookings that began in September, packed out October, trailed off in November, but filled my next years diary as far as next May. This year, apart from two visits to the wonderful Discovery Centre in Stratford I have none. Nil. Zero. Nothing.
I know I haven't had a 'big' book out for a year or two, and I am doing a couple of free events in local schools in November when the next novel, BRAVE NEW GIRL, since you ask, comes out.
But this is the first year in, oooh, ten, years, when I have hadn't gone into a school and been paid to do workshops or booktalks or anything.
I remember telling some adult would-be children's writers that yes, we do get smaller advances than adults, but that's ok because we have another revenue stream; school visits. Well it looks like that one just dried up.
Of course I am not suggesting there will suddenly be a drought of children's books. There are always new writers and there are always people (me! here I am!) who want to write. But advances are going down, and I do worry children's writing might become something that only the people who sell shedloads or who are lucky enough to do because they are already wealthy are able to do.....
Actually that is never going to happen. Writing books reminds me of suburban riding schools. There are a few lucky ones who actually own ponies, and there's the rest of us; hundreds of eager, keen as mustard kids who would do anything, mucking out, cleaning tack, running errands, licking the salt lick or abasing ourselves in any possible way, just to have a go at brushing the pony let alone sitting on it and having a ride.
By the way, the picture is of me at the Mudchute Riding School on the Isle of Dogs in about 1985.
My next novel, BRAVE NEW GIRL is out on November 3rd published by Frances Lincoln. It's funny and warm. Honest.