Those who know me well know that I pack a good suitcase. I've been doing it for a number of years now. Even with house-moves I excel, though after nearly twenty of them that's a talent I don't wish to exercise any time soon thanks.
So late last week I packed two-and-half outfits, two pairs of shoes (one high, one low), the book I couldn't bear to leave behind, a stash of face cream samples; I adorned myself in my beloved Ethiopian silver and took off.
This time it was just me and my work. No auditions for the soprano. No great social happenings. No shopping moments. Not even very much food on the menu except for a Lebanese meal and an attempted Yummy Mummy morning tea. I took the cheap bus from London to Plymouth, where I'd been asked to read from my story 'Montgomery Akuofo, Father of Twins' at this year's launch of the review Short Fiction, at an event within the Plymouth Book Festival. ('Montgomery' is in Pelt and Other Stories.) The issue is full of touching artwork and well-crafted stories. It's an absolute thrill to see one's work in such a beautiful production.
Of course I have no photos of the way I was clutching my book that evening, not looking up (AT ALL) at the university lecture theatre above. Or showing the way I tried to plant my feet a little apart to lessen my chances of toppling over - a real risk given my thumping heart and new slick boots. Or how I steamrollered over the rude words ('cock', 'bush' - twice!) so as not to laugh or meltdown.
I had a good half-pint beforehand. This is strongly recommended.
One of the best things was of course meeting writer Rachel Fenton, especially over from New Zealand, with whom I had a drowned-rat experience in the driving Plymouth rain the night before. Rachel won this year's Short Fiction Short Story Prize and read a section of her wonderful story - and I'll interview her later on the Pelt blog and grab an excerpt. Other wonderful aspects were the cocktail afterwards at the university and a lovely dinner where I was able to speak more with Chief Editor Anthony Caleshu, and Assistant Editor Tom Vowler, both of whom are top writers with good tips.
After the endless journey back to London my bum was so paralysed I walked halfway across town with my gypsy bag rather than sit down again. The Queen was in, perhaps.
So this author has come back to the ranch buzzing. In fact, after even further writerly talks in London she woke up sleepless and frazzled last night and had a terrific idea for a bit in a story she is revising. So what did she do? She picked up her phone and half-blindly typed it out. There. This is what writers do, isn't it? The 2.43am brainwave?
I read my brainwave this morning after the alarm. What garbage. Even worse than before. Cancelled.
The one thing I did grasp from each writer I spoke to, is that there is a greater shared passion for words, a yearning to read the works of others and to get our own work right, to produce the very best from the bowels and bones of us.
And we are all so fragile and disbelieving and moneyless. The lot of us.