Thursday, 28 May 2009

Maya and her Mama get the blues

Maya, we think, has a urinary infection. It is very typical, because just yesterday I was telling my mother in South Africa during a skype conversation how lucky we all are not to have been ill since being in India. We consulted the Bradt guide to travelling abroad with children (highly recommended to anyone thinking of travelling with sprogs) and apparently this is very common for girls in hot, damp climates and exacerbated, according to Deepa, by eating too many heat-producing mangoes (??). Anyway, she's been to the doctor this morning and done a urine sample so we'll pick up results tonight. In the meantime though she's in pain when she goes to the loo which must be horrible for her. We're feeding her copious amounts of juice and having frequent washes and hopefully we can ride out the storm before turning to antibiotics.

As for Maya's Mama - well, her blues stem from something entirely different. When I wrote my last novel a few years ago I had some very encouraging feedback from one particular literary agent. He said that I was in the top 0.1% of what he read professionally but felt my writing was better than the story and that I really needed to keep writing and pen a new novel. Anyway, I've never forgotten those words...they have helped to spur me on in the past couple of years. So now, as you know, I am finally in the position to be able to do some writing. I thought it was worth sending the synopsis back to the same literary agent. When I asked him if this was alright, he said he'd be 'delighted' to see a synopsis and excerpt so I worked really hard on this and off it went. Today, I received his reply. In short? Not on yer life, mate. He just wasn't interested at all and said there was no chance that this kind of story was marketable. Without a shadow of a doubt I want honesty, so from that point of view I am grateful to him. But of course it's natural to feel disappointed too, because I know, I know that my writing has improved tenfold since the last time. And I believe in this story so much more.

He suggested I read his e-book about how to approach writing in terms of the marketplace which would help me come up with a new project. I am sure this is the sensible thing to do. But then, having read this e-book, would I not just feel unutterably depressed at having to bin something that I'm loving writing and believe in? I'm sure, if I worked hard enough at it, I could write a thriller or chick-lit. But that's not me. That's not what I want to write. It's the age-old quandary isn't it, whether or not to sell one's artistic soul to the marketplace. In short, I think I'll eschew his advice and write this damn novel anyway. Hey, even if I don't sell it, maybe I'll have some readers from amongst you guys.

Before I finish this little rant, as an aside I'd like to add how delighted I am to hear that Alice Munro has won the Booker Prize. I have only read one of her collections of short stories (though I'm longing to read more) but this book 'Runaway' totally blew me away. This is good, old-fashioned story-telling at its very best. She crawls under the skin of her characters in a way I've rarely come across, surely something that every aspiring writer aims for. But - and this is the reason I bring Alice Munro up - she is winning this prize at the age of 77 and has been sidelined for many years. Why? Because her fiction previously has been perceived as too 'quiet' and by reading Munro you're not multi-tasking by simultaneously absorbing significant historical events for example. You're even in danger of just reading her for simple pleasure. Don't get me wrong, there's some historical novels that count among my favourites, but I'm just so, so pleased that character counts for something amongst the booker judges, not just swashbuckling action. I will not be deterred, I shall write this novel if it's the last thing I do. Success with it is another thing and of course depends on how you measure it. But if just one person reads my novel (published or unpublished) and truly enjoys it, well that's success enough for me.

Sorry, I really have gone on for far longer about this than I'd intended and once again, completely and utterly hijacked Maya's blog. As I write, Maya is happily fishing small play fish out of a tub and soaking Lily. If she's bossing her little sister around that's a good sign she's not in pain for the moment. Fingers crossed for the results tonight.

ps - Photo above taken just before Maya had her major flip in the Tibetan temple that I talked about in the last blog, and I was still blissfully unaware of what was to come!


  1. Oh, how I sympathise with your rejection story. It's such a kick in the pants. But it will all fall into perspective. Keep writing. Don't let them grind you down.

  2. Thanks Fran, you're right I know. In a way, it makes me even more determined!

  3. Thanks Pat - yay, my first taker!!