‘In my last job I used to punch Buttons…now I’m not allowed to do pantomime anymore!!
I thought I might share a little of my poetry…this one was originally included in Penguins & Panamas and was inspired by a moment that I experience on an all too regular basis. It’s called ‘At the Top of the Stairs’.
At the top of the stairs I stand wondering,
Hands on hips, then a scratch of the head,
Attempting to recall a memory
That all of a sudden is dead.
I’m trying to gain inspiration
Scanning each bedroom door with a sigh,
Whatever it was lured me up here
Has left me confused, high and dry!
Was it something I wanted to look for?
Or a task that I needed to do?
So I pause for a second to ponder,
No, I don’t have to go to the loo.
There’s no light at the end of this tunnel,
And it won’t be alright on the night.
At the top of the stairs just frustration,
With the chance of remembering, slight.
But now a dilemma has started,
To remain, or give up and go down,
If somebody else sent me up here
That’ll make me appear such a clown.
At the top of the stairs I’m still standing.
Hands on hips, with a memory that flew,
I was sure it was really important,
But now that I’m here…not a clue.
© Jamie Gray 2013 – 2019
I really don’t want this to sounds like ‘sour grapes’, but after working for over three years writing and perfecting my first novel, ‘Penguins & Panamas’, (shameless plug) then spending hundreds of hours composing interest letters, along with a concise synopsis, to send off to the many, many literary agents around, why did I not have even a sniff of interest?
I was desperate to know why.
Okay, I understand that the most obvious answer is definitely not the one I want to hear…in fact I believe that everyone who has put heart and soul into their manuscript would never admit (or accept) they’ve turned out a piece of rubbish.
And quite right too, because why would anyone commit so much of their valuable time to a project that they genuinely didn’t believe was going to be successful. I truly believed in my story, my characters and my ability to assemble each and every aspect of my imagination into a readable manuscript…as I also believe that everyone who has ever put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in an effort to entertain others does too.
I was starting to think that maybe my family and friends, having read my book, were being too kind…maybe I wasn’t a good writer after all.
So, in the name of research I trolled Amazon for other ‘self-published’ works in order to obtain, read and compare the work of various other aspiring writers to mine. I wanted to see if I could gain any insight into why so many of us are turned down.
I ended up (generally) reading stories that I absolutely loved. They were well written, had believable characters and provided various emotional responses. The sort of thing you would expect from a good book, and certainly on a par with some of my favourite ‘well-known’ authors (who of course I won’t name, just in case they read this and are offended by some unknown saying that some other unknown is as good a storyteller as them)
So…I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s them and not us…well most of us.
Book shop shelves are teeming with ‘Celeb Books’ who of course already have a large fan base who will readily buy anything their icon puts their name to. So I suppose it fair to say that agents and publishers are so busy with this, along with their regular writers, that they have no time or capacity for us normal, hard working, cash strapped writers.
So take heart all you great scribblers who’ve been rejected, I can honestly suggest that it’s not your fault.
Oh My Gosh…these grapes are so sour…anyone got sugar?
As a continuation of my last post, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this idea that once a photograph or piece of writing is committed to an online public domain it will remain there indefinitely. It’s so easy to create a site like this that any budding artist, poet, writer, photographer etc can display their creations for the world to see…forever.
In the past a publisher would only continue to reprint books that sell, and an author that wasn’t considered profitable for their literary agent would be quickly discarded and replaced. Now I’m sure that there have been many great works from some incredibly talented people which have drifted into obscurity simply because they lived long before the development of the internet and it’s powerful ability to record, store and recall pretty much anything.
Unfortunately for me, the book that I’ve written (sorry if I mention that a little too often) have never been taken up by any of the publishing houses. So had I lived through the earlier part of the twentieth century and was desperate to see my work in print, not only would I have been required to purchase a minimum print run and store the remaining unsold copies in my little ‘two up, two down’ terrace house, but on my demise some poor relative would be detailed the task of disposing of them, thus rendering my life’s work extinct...permanently.
But fortunately, I am living in this super age of technology, and with the development of ‘Print on Demand’ services and the ease of ‘self publication’ I, and many like minded, hard done by scribble merchants, can be reasonably assured that our brilliant manuscripts will live on for all time…unless of course our great benefactor Amazon needs to free up space on its futuristic country sized servers.
So there it is, we all actually have the potential to live on forever…at least the things we’ve worked hard to create can. And maybe many years after I’ve departed this mortal coil a spirited literary agent will download Penguins & Panamas, laugh themselves silly, and wonder how I slipped through the net all those years ago.
Never before have we all had the ability to get our ten minutes of ‘Andy Warhol’…but I would prefer it to happen within my lifetime so I could at least enjoy it 😀
Just recently I’ve been going through a lot of the stuff I’ve collected over the years, including hundreds of old black and white photographs which belonged to my parents. Just like them I grew up in an age where digital technology was a futuristic pipe dream and we had to use the old fashioned ‘light sensitive paper’ inserted into a modern day pinhole camera to record our memories and special events.
I know it’s really hard to believe how daft things used to be…just imagine only a maximum of 35 pictures to a roll of film, and even then you couldn’t tell if they’d turned out okay until you’d carefully taken the film out of the camera, delivered it to a local chemist and waited a week before they were ready to collect and view. Hands would tremble with excitement as the colourful packet labelled ‘Your Lasting Memories’ was opened and the shiny paper squares removed, only to discover that several shots were out of focus, four images were of people without heads along with another six indistinguishable pictures of blurry blobs because a thumb had partially covered the lens. To add insult to injury there would be a sticker attached from the photo laboratory informing the disappointed recipient as to what they’d done wrong and how they could correct the problem in future. But of course it was too late by then as the holiday was over, or the party had finished, or the Bride and Groom had actually returned from their honeymoon and moved to a different part of the country.
Even the professionals could mess things up occasionally and I remember a situation where an entire party of ‘re-suited and re-booted’ wedding guests were reassembled weeks after the original event so the photographer could ‘have another go’ at getting it right as something had gone drastically wrong the first time round.
Of course the other side of this issue was the longevity of the memories in question. Images printed on paper can fade, get lost or be destroyed. Even photo albums of important events long past have probably been abandoned in the rubbish. The photo above is of my own parents wedding , and it probably hasn’t seen the light of day for decades…and there’s a fair chance it would have been returned to its hiding place until such time that someone else discovered it and discarded it due to a lack of knowledge or interest.
But something has changed now. Just by the simple act of writing this and attaching a photograph I have potentially ensured that the record of this particular event will last forever. The happy memories of the actual day for the attending have disappeared along with all of those folk in the photograph. But you can see on their faces the joy and happiness, and everyone who views this is now witness to one of life’s greatest gifts…the chance to get together as friends and family to celebrate a special occasion.
I would like to explain the reason for my title page containing a picture of a ‘Dancing Bear’.
It was during a trip to Canada that I first came across these incredibly skillful carvings, and I was so fascinated by the story behind them I just had to get one. For me the sculpture I bought fills me with happiness and I find it inspiring…no matter the situation I’m in, it can always raise a smile.
There are several different explanations of the story behind these carvings, and I’m sure someone will put me right on this, but the version I was told by one of the sculptors is the one that captured my imagination and truly explains the joy I see them, and probably the explanation I want to believe is true.
“The Inuits are great hunters, and we believe that if you’ve lived a good life and have provided for your family then the gods will bless you and return you after your human life to be one of the great hunting animals. These are the eagle, the wolf, the walrus and the greatest hunter of them all, the polar bear...
...If the gods see fit to reward me for living a good life and being a great hunter by returning my spirit in the form of a polar bear, the greatest of the animals, then I would be so happy I would dance.”
What wonderful symbolism and a great outlook on life…and death. I often look at my Dancing Bear sculpture and hope the story becomes a reality for the teller and offers him some sort of hope to carry forward in life.
And I get to wondering if all story tellers (including we writers) need to make sure we offer our audience something in return for the commitment they make to read our work…even if it’s just raising a smile in this complex world we live in.