Saturday 19 April 2008

Pole Dancing

A friend recently directed me to the following link, which opens into a humorous piece written by author Robin Hobb on the perils of blogging. Mr. Hobb is not a fan of blogging and compares it to pole dancing – something that can be done by anyone who wishes to "stand naked in the window of the public's eye...and twitch and writhe and emote" in stark contrast to skilled story tellers who dance "the dance of a thousand veils". "Blogging," he sighs, "condemns us to live everyone else's tedious day as well as our own."

Right, then. Let me sashay straight into my tedious day(s) and tell you exactly what I've been up to since that joyous moment when I opened a bottle of wine and emoted sloppily over my finished manuscript all of a five weeks ago.

For the first two weeks I slept in, read until two in the morning and had lunch with friends I haven't seen in eighteen months. They are used to my emerging from my cave only infrequently and they always speak to me in soft tones and give me gentle glances because they believe that after finishing a book I'm in a fragile state. I play along and ham it up: exhausted author who is slowly making her way back into the sunlight of every day living.

What else? Well, I've been immersing myself in housewifely things! I've baked! I've shopped! I've done creative things with socks. Usually after doing the laundry I simply chuck all my husband's socks into the anarchic sock drawer and leave it to him to try and bring the partners together. I firmly believe this to be a character-building exercise and that I'm doing him a favour. But over these past few weeks, I've found myself rolling the socks into those cute little balls. Challenging.

About three weeks ago my first readers started giving me their feedback on the new manuscript. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, these are friends whose judgment I trust and even though they tend to couch their criticism in diplomatic terms, they do not hesitate to tell me what they think is wrong with the book. Their feedback was gratifying – everyone seemed to have had a good time reading my story – but there were one or two... or maybe three little things, which had escaped my attention and needed to be fixed. One of my characters had inexplicably turned brunette after being a blond for most of the book. One character had simply disappeared never to be heard of again and a few of my readers, not unreasonably I suppose, wanted to know what had happened to him.

I also received feedback from my brother who lives in the States. Deep breath here. My brother is my mother's clever child – doctoral degrees from Carnegie Mellon in physics and electrical engineering – and my mother swears his first word as a baby was "quark". ( Actually, I have two talented brothers – the other one lives in South Africa and looks after my website and also designed my MySpace page but he and I move to the same mellow vibe and we have boundless tolerance for each other's eccentricities.) My mathematically gifted brother, on the other hand, despairs of his sister's fuzzy thinking. In my new book, I had dipped a toe into the realm of quantum physics – courageously I thought – but my brother used a different word. I took his comments on the chin and rewrote those passages, which were causing him such distress. I won't say he is one hundred percent happy with the finished product but at least he is no longer talking to me through clenched teeth. For some reason he took it personally that I had criticized Einstein.

I also heard from my agent and oh happy day, he liked the book as well and decided to send it through to my editors immediately. And now I'm waiting for my editors to send me their notes. This is a nervous time.

This is also the time I should be thinking of a plot for the next book and the characters whose company I will be keeping over the next eighteen months. Usually by this stage I have a pretty good idea where I'll be heading but this time around I am coming up empty. One or two anaemic ideas are rattling hollowly and forlornly through the caverns of my skull. No dance of a thousand veils, for me yet. Did I mention this is a nervous time?

Oh, yes, I also had a gig two weeks ago at the Brompton Library in South Kensington in London. After the reading, I removed the blog entry in which I alerted friends to this event and I've been receiving messages from some of you curious to know if the evening went well. It turned out quite fun although at first I thought: tough crowd. For the first ten minutes no-one smiled when I made eye-contact, no-one except my good friends in the first row laughed at my jokes and I felt as though I was slowly settling to the bottom of the ocean. But then things started to improve -- whether because of my fantastic presentation or whether because of all the free wine and very little solid food that was on offer, I'm not sure -- but by the end of the evening we were rocking!

This is probably enough pole dancing for now -- thanks so much for emoting with me. And now, I spy an errant sock...

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