I once acted out of character and it paid off.
Let me explain: I am quite shy. No, really.
It is easy to be gregarious on (I was going to say ‘paper’ but I guess technically it’s) plastic; much harder in real life when the person you are talking to is not behind a monitor six thousand miles away going ‘Huh? Wazzsheonabout?’ but standing right in front of you, rictus grin plastered on face, thinking, ‘Huh? Wazzsheonabout?’
I’m rubbish at cold calling; at asking strangers for something. I once had a job as a Carpet Cleaning Saleswoman (it was the early Eighties; I wasn’t a person then). I had to go door-to-door to tell people that they needed me because their carpets were dirty. All for an alleged weekly wage of £75.
I was so bad at cold calling and made so few sales (ten-day total sales: zero), they put me on commission at the end of the first week (it was the early Eighties; I had no rights that I knew of, being eighteen and stupid). In one month I earned a grand total of £9.
If they had only asked me to write to the customers, it might have been a different story. As this one is turning out to be, because it’s about my writing group. No, really.
I saw an article in our local paper about a local writer who had just published her third book – actually, it was her second book, although she has written her third book; the reporter got it wrong – may his rugs remain forever filthy – despite the author sending him the details in cold hard ether. Fortunately, I didn’t know that at the time, or this might have been a different story (not really, but repetition is a good comedy device and I’m feeling facetious today, even a little lightheaded, not having blogged at you for five days).
I read in the Stockport Express that author Allie Cresswell had not only published her third book [not], but she lived in Stockport and had a website. I moseyed on over to her website by way of dinner, dessert, crisps and a bar of chocolate, and thought she looked friendly enough, so I girded up my now ample loins and popped off an email.
That’s the bit that was out of character – I cold called an author. Yo! I said, I belong to Stockport Writers. We have no money; will you come and talk to us for free?
Yes, she replied; I’d love to. I’m pretty sure my charm and erudition won her over.
Emails were exchanged; details were organised (please run the whole session, however you like, but don’t arrive before eleven because the Art Gallery won’t let us in until then because of insurance issues, I think); cake purchased in honour of our guest. The great day arrived…
All joking aside, it was a great day. Warm and friendly, Allie told us a bit about herself (passing off the sloppy journalist’s carelessness as just one of those things…so magnanimous*), her writing background and her career. Then she read from one of her books – we enjoyed it so much, we asked for more. After a break for tea and cake (these loins won’t amplify themselves, you know), Allie set us a writing exercise, which had everyone interested and animated. To keep things fresh, we do rotate the chair each month, as in, a different person chairs each month’s meeting; we don’t sit in swivel chairs and circulate stationarily (the gallery staff keep those chairs to themselves; we can’t complain because they let us use the space for free). To have someone entirely new set the prompt made us all a little giddy, and produced some wonderful freewriting.
*If I appear to be losing it a little here, it’s because I am. Remember my magnum opus (I Went To London To Be On Telly And Get Free Stuff)? It might have turned out all right in the end, but that sloppy – and somewhat vindictive – journalism has made me over-sensitive. Besides, that Stockport Express journalist didn’t publicise our guest speaker like I asked him to in my second – and last – out of character cold calling email. May his rugs remain forever filthy.
Allie brought some of her books and I felt, having strong-armed her into coming along, that I ought to buy at least one of the novels, but I didn’t have enough money on me. Fortunately, she sells them for Kindle, and I was able to buy two for less than the price of one hard copy. Even more of a bargain, the Amazon account is hooked up to the Hub’s credit card and not mine so, technically, I got them for nothing. And I had cake! What a great day. Our guest also got a booking, from one of our writers who attends another group, so it was a win-win situation.
Now I come to the reason why I haven’t blogged for five days: I started one of the books, Relative Strangers. As a pretty woman might say, big mistake; huge. You should see the state of my house – I’ve done no housework because all I wanted to do was read; and the dogs aren’t talking to me.
The book explores the dynamics of family life by gathering together one extended family in a large house for one week.
At first, I was confused by the sheer number of characters but I soon worked out who was married to whom and had which children and which in-laws and which rooms and cars and grievances and grudges. The book is packed with incident and was a really interesting and fun read, but not fun in the way – I hope – this post is fun. It was a fascinating exploration of relationships: the characters, for the most part, were neither good nor bad, but human, with foibles and faults like we all have.
The ending surprised me. And that’s all I’ll say, because I don’t want to give anything away. If you like surprises, don’t read the blurb on the website because it tells you in which direction the ending heads.
There were more typos than I usually approve of but I let them pass because I enjoyed the book so much. I only mention them because I want this to be a balanced critique. Definitely recommended. You can trust me; it’s not like I’m a journalist (sorry, Kateshreswdaytheexception).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post because you may not get another for at least the next five days: I have her other book to read.