‘If on a winter’s night a traveller’ what?!
Italo Calvino’s epic adventure in perceptions of reading and writing was devoured by book lovers of every variety when it first came out. At least, the first few pages were. If it has a fault (I think it has two actually) it is that the first few pages are so utterly, delightfully entertaining to booklovers it’s worth buying just for those…
Left in the waiting room
… but the exhilarating beginning makes the next twenty or so pages feel like a let down. Many faint-hearted bibliophiles put the book down in the station waiting room in that lull between the opening funnies and the unfolding of what the book’s actually about – but no matter. If you’re one of them, especially if you put it down several years ago, you can pick it up again, enjoy those first few pages anew then forge ahead to learn more than you ever thought to ask about you reading, you writing, and your writing being read. You can also take a guided tour around your assumptions and expectations of publishing.
What kind of reader are you?
So ‘fault one’ isn’t really a fault. It’s a test of the strength of your bibliophilia. But fault two is definitely one. In the whole marvellous adventure of a book, I rarely forgot that this was a book written by a man and, throughout all its glorious twists and turns I only found one or two pages in which Calvino remembered that it was just possible that the reader (the one who’s reading his book at the moment, not the one in the book that he writes about) might possibly be a woman. So if you are a woman, you are probably used to the mental acrobatics involved in reading books that assume you’re male but if you don’t happen to be a lesbian you’ll get to the end and say ‘oh, that wasn’t quite the happy ending I was hoping for’. If that happens to you, I suggest the next adventure in bibliophilia you might enjoy would be Steering the Craft by Ursula le Guin.
If on the other hand you’re a man, and you haven’t discovered Steering the Craft because it’s so often presented at a lovely book about writing written by a woman and therefore horribly often presented as being only for women, go on, be a rebel – read it anyway, it’s brilliant!
And finally, if you read everything you find on the internet critically, with a touch of cynicism – as you should, of course, you are probably thinking blog posts are often selling something – what’s this one selling? Well here’s your answer:
What kind of writer are you?
I run Earlyworks Press. It was originally set up by a bunch of indie authors and artists in Hastings, feeling their way to the idea of a club that could serve as a national network and marketing tool for indie authors. It’s morphed this way and that over the years, according to the needs and wishes of its members but one thing has never changed: every year we run two or three writing competitions with cash prizes and publication opportunities and every time we judge a comp, we invite the winner and maybe half a dozen other entrants that catch our interest to come and join us in whatever we’re currently up to so I hope that after you’ve read this, you’ll consider putting in an entry to one of these.
[Note added Jan 2022 Um…. well like everything else in the last few years, amidst COVID lockdowns, Brexit ructions etc etc etc… well, everything has changed. Where are we going now? What will we do next… Spring is round the corner, let’s see what happens….]