DISCLAIMER: None of this really happened at all. I made everything up - especially the people. And the venue. York isn’t even a real place. Please don’t sue me.)
After spending the last two weeks in Jordan (the country, not the pin-up girl) I’d flown home for the Festival of Writing. This was it - my chance to impress agents with witty tales of derring-do, to storm the gates of Castle Publishing and emerge a rich and successful writer. It was finally within my grasp, all of it: fame and fortune and a side order of hot chicks.
So, I bought bananas from a neo-nazi near Birmingham bus station - like you do. It was a simple misunderstanding; with a mass of muscles and tattoos where his sleeves should have been, a shaved head and kick-yer-face-in boots, I thought he was the most terrifying person I’d ever seen. And he was about to beat the shit out of me. He bawled something incomprehensible at point blank into my face, which my panicked brain interpreted as “You’re gonna die you fuckin’ little turd!” (but which, on reflection, might have been a sales pitch for bananas). I raised my hands in self defence and he slapped a bag of bananas into one of them. It seemed like a good idea to pay him after that.
Unfazed by the attempt on my life I made it to York in high spirits. Ah, York! It’s a magical place, the clear, sparkling river winding past ancient town walls and BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH. Whatever. I had to quash that writerly instinct within me, that one that sought to constantly narrate my surroundings in lurid prose. No, there was no concentration to spare for creativity at the Festival of Writing. Agents and publishers would be guarding those gates; armed with lethal invective, their razor sharp comments could cut down distracted writers mid stride. Truly, I was going into the belly of the beast. Only the Gods knew if I’d be coming out again.
As my coach surged through town I caught a sign in the window of a pub: 2 meals for £19, it promised. ‘Good Value!’ it added underneath, which was quite obviously a lie.
I caught a local bus to the University. “A writer eh, going to a writing conference?” The bus conductor was in a talkative mood. I felt I’d given him fair warning, and that if he wanted to say anything stupid it was mine for the documenting.
“We get a lot of conferences there,” he told me. “Them Samaritans did one there. They were nice people, them Samaritans.”
I had to physically restrain myself from doing a face-palm.
I arrived and checked into my room, in the process breaking the door handle. This is why people don’t invite me to their houses. I stripped off and had a shower, delighting in the heat of the water as it removed nine hours of travel on two coaches, one bus, two cars and a unicycle. That’s the last time I hitchhike past a circus. Steam rose and I luxuriated in it, right up until the point where the shower curtain adhered itself to my naked back and bum cheeks. I tried not to think about the last ten users of the shower suffering the same indignity.
At dinner I was reunited with my friends from the Word Cloud whom I’d met last year. At last I could feel comfortable, for here were people who wouldn’t judge me. I opened my bag. “Anyone for a banana?”
I picked a table at random for the Literary Networking event and listened carefully to the instructions. Ten minutes then change - imagine all the agents I could meet in an hour. Though I didn’t have a star on my badge, so I would be staying at this table. This was where it could all happen, I told myself. After a brief awkward silence I encouraged the old dear ext to me to speak first. “Well, my book you see - well, it’s a novel you know - it’s about a young lady, from olden times - well, it’s historical you see. Historical romance. Yes, that’s it. It’s about this young woman, and her sister - only her sister doesn’t come into it until later, because she married a man who... well, her husband, in the beginning was a...” I glanced at my watch. Five minutes gone. The woman continued to ramble at great length and by the time the bell rung to change seats she still hadn’t made any sense. In my head I was no longer referring to her as the ‘old dear’. Four new people dropped into the seats around me. The Old Dear remained motionless. As the room settled down once again, she cleared her throat. “So, I was saying, my book is about a young lady...”
It was the third session before I even got to speak. By that point we were supposed to be discussing literary works of the 19th Century. The oldest book I’ve ever read is Lord of the Rings. I went blank for a few moments, then was struck by a flash of brilliance. “Has anybody read ‘Pride and Prejudice... and Zombies?”
Authonomy Live was a potentially great event, fatally flawed in one way: It’s distinct lack of me. Still, the winning piece included the word penis so I felt I’d been morally represented. Exactly as happened last year, the writers at my table listened intently to every reading. Then they conferred with each other. Then they asked me what it had been about. I gave them the gist and there was much nodding. I made a mental note to suggest a better microphone for next year.
About the co-ed bathroom in the Roger Kirk Centre, I have only one thing to say. Sorry! I mean that. Maggie and Barbara, thank-you for understanding. In my defence I’d like point out that thing does look exactly like a urinal. I only hope no-one was scarred for life (as I nearly was when the motion activated red-hot water sprinkler came on).
That night there was drinking and merriment as I moved amongst the tables, searching for anyone with the power to alter the course of my life. Time after time I sought out influential agents, screwed my courage to the sticking point, sat down next to them and asked them one burning question; “Would you like a banana?”
At one point I became entangled in a fierce debate on the subject of my genre. “I absolutely disagree,” said the gentleman opposite me. “It’s a genre with a very high degree of literary talent. To call those books boring shows a total lack of appreciation for writing of any kind of quality.”
I conceded that my point may have been a tad disrespectful, and
glanced down at the man’s name badge. “Well, we can chat
tomorrow,” I told him, “I’ve got a one-to-one with
His eyes rolled.
Saturday morning came far too soon... (to be continued)