Saturday 18 May 2019

Making wine from sour grapes - by Lu Hersey

If you watch the BAFTAs or the Academy Awards, you notice an interesting thing about actors. They can convey any emotion, from deep sorrow to ecstatic joy, and make us totally believe in their on-screen characters – but they just can’t quite get it right when they don’t win an award. Their fixed smiles at the success of their fellow actors really doesn’t quite cover the gritted teeth and barely suppressed anguish at not grabbing the Oscar for themselves.

The thing is (I’m not up for any book awards right now, so I’m allowed to say this), WRITERS FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME! 

Of course we do. We can recognise the brilliance of another writer and be glad they’ve been acknowledged – but at the same time, we wish we'd won instead. We just want to run away and sulk BIG TIME. What we really DON’T want is to be all over social media telling everyone how delighted we are for the winner and how amazing and deserving they are…but obviously we do it anyway, because usually it's true. We just can't feel it at the time.

In any kind of writing competition, whether you’re looking for an agent, or a publisher, or hoping for an award for your published book, not succeeding doesn’t mean you’re no good – just that someone else won. I’ve read manuscripts by excellent writers, telling fantastic, original stories, who somehow haven’t yet found a publisher - and plenty of published books by amazing writers that weren’t even nominated for any awards. There must be an entire library’s worth of books out there that deserved all the accolades, but didn’t get them. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean they’re not great books by brilliant writers.

Years ago (more than I’d like to admit to) the person I believed I was going to marry, married someone else. There was one song that kept going around in my head - Yvonne Fair’s It should Have Been Me. (Turn up the volume - it’s amazing and packed with raw emotion. Forget Celine Dion.) The quantity of sour grapes I swallowed congratulating the happy couple was enough to pack a crate and the champagne toast practically choked me – but years later, I’m glad it worked out the way it did. My life just took a different direction, and truth is, sour grapes can mature into fine wine.

The same goes for writing awards and competitions. Don’t waste your energy wondering if you should give up and if you’re no good – just congratulate the winners. You might win next time…and you’re going to really appreciate others wishing you well.
Meanwhile, maybe we should start a virtual library for all the brilliant books that weren’t best sellers or award winners, but really deserve some love…

Lu Hersey



Catherine Butler said...

It's a very good point. If I were an actor, I think I'd go for "rueful smile, with a nod of the head acknowledging the justice of the gods." People might actually believe that.

LuWrites said...

Think I'd go for the full grumpy cat expression, Catherine... :)

Sue Purkiss said...

I think I'd toss my head (would work better if I had long hair) and walk out with my nose in the air. That'd show 'em!

LuWrites said...

Now that I'd like to see, Sue... :D