‘I’m just emailing to see if you’d like to have an event at the Hub.’
This is a special feeling. I spend a lot of our time creating my own opportunities, submitting, asking to be included. Often, the answer is no answer. Often, the answer is ‘no thank you, please try again.’ Sometimes the answer is yes – an amazing feeling. But the question coming from someone else? This was a new one, a welcome addition to my writing experience.
So I am curating an event at Humbie Hub, with writer R L McKinney. It’s just over a month away, and I’m not as nervous as I am excited. We’ve planned such a great night, of stories, songs and STOVIES*. Please use the contact page if you’d like tickets. Or you can get them at the Hub!
*a traditional Scottish dish
Leaving the supermarket, I noticed a pile of cardboard boxes in a little fenced off area at the back wall. I wanted to take one but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t need any of them. Then I remembered: the Cupar Co-op of my childhood. Food shopping with my dad on a Saturday morning.
He would always get a box. Pack it with precision, try to get as much in as he could. That time we fitted all the food into one huge box: enough for the seven of us for a week. But it was made for cereal and I can still remember his rage when he lifted it out of the car and it came apart in his hands.
It was twenty years ago when my Dad died. Little things remind me now. Cardboard boxes in a supermarket.
‘You manage your mental health so well!’
I suppose, if I did, I wouldn’t dwell on what was meant as a compliment,
and twist it into an accusation –
a positive equals a negative
a negative of the photograph
that other people see,
my perfect, tinylife.
My calm exterior, my social media cut and pastings: insta-wonderful.
She can’t possibly have mental health problems,
look at her – she’s onstage! Smiling!
Perhaps I tell people I’m a special snowflake
as a way to get attention or
Or I hold onto a former diagnosis
as something that makes me interesting,
marks me out,
gives me an intersectional identity.
I don’t ask to feel this way –
performing one day, then tears all the next –
I don’t ask for meditation and counselling and prescription after prescription.
I manage it well.
Yesterday, I made my first appearance at a Book Festival. I’ve not managed to visit many, even as a punter, but every time I have made it along to one, I’ve felt like I was among ‘my people.’
Our event, Books, Blogs and a Blether, comprised of myself, Joanne, who runs Portobello Book Blog, and fellow writer Natalie Fergie chatting blogs and writing. My favourite moment?When we asked everyone to share what they were reading with the person next to them, and the room exploded into a cacophony of book enthusiasm.
The idea of writing being a lonely profession isn’t new. But events like yesterday don’t just help me feel less alone. They make me feel supported by my network, new friends and readers. I even got some great feedback on the first Chapter of lucky draft 13 of Novel number 2.
It’s the little conversations I remember.
With Linda: ‘We’re such creatures of habit. The other day I said “but Anna, we squish our teabags!”’ Conversation, circa 1994.
With Anna: ‘I find it’s best to shake them off first, and then use the hand drier.’ Conversation, circa 2003.
At the time I can remember thinking ‘these are odd conversations. Words I won’t remember.’
But Linda lives at the end of a long road now, and Anna lives over the other side of the world. I see them a lot less than I drink tea or wash my hands somewhere with a drier. It sucks.
So every time I make a cup of tea, and squish my teabag, I’m glad to remember my friend Linda.
And every time I shake my hands before I dry them, I’m glad to remember my friend Anna.