The scariest thing in the world....(York Blog)

Published by: Tenacityflux on 11th Sep 2012 | View all blogs by Tenacityflux

Odd things frighten me. I’m not scared by the prospect of standing on a stage and removing my clothes in time to music, neither am I scared of standing on a street corner painted blue with an eight inch Perspex unicorn horn glued to my head, both things life has called upon me to do. Why not? We all have bodies, we can all be blue, these things are not unique, they are not mine alone to own; they are common.

            What does scare me, what has my heart beating at the cage of my ribs like a trapped canary, is the thought of sitting at a desk with a person who’s read my work and is going to talk to me about it. Not just talk about it; judge it, analyze it, shoot it down in flames or make it soar again with their appreciation of it and I am terrified.

            I create my physical persona to draw attention in the way the class clown makes himself an object of fun before the world decides to do it for him. Like all exhibitionists, I am a whirling morass of insecurity, paranoia and fear inside a gleaming, glittering carapace that screams ‘look at me, no, look at me!’ in the hope that ‘they’ won’t see me at all past all the glitter. Walking toward the table where the agent sat, the sample of my work in the stack under her hand and a warm, welcoming smile on her face, I felt each painful, sugar bright layer of artifice I’d constructed drop away, until I sit in front of her naked as I’ve ever been.

            ‘I like you’re hair,’ she says. ‘I’d love that colour but it just wouldn’t suit me, I haven’t got the right colouring.’

            Is this a ploy, I think? Yes, this must be a ploy, she’s softening me up – never mind chick – your book’s shit but your hair looks fierce.

            ‘Thanks,’ I say, trying to be all girls together, as if the camaraderie of the ladies room might save me. ‘I’m basically translucent, so, you know, fair and freckles and all, my Dad was a red- head–’ Shut up, I’m begging internally, shut up! She’s not here to talk about your hair dye; she doesn’t want to borrow your lipstick, shut up!

            ‘It’s a bit like speed dating this, isn’t it?’ she says, riffling through the papers at her side. I see them at once; I see my word babies blinking out from the bottom of the heap as if they looked to me for comfort.

It’s all right, children, mummy’s here, I want to scream, let me take you away from this nasty woman and her evil intentions. I love you, no matter what!

‘But there’s no wine,’ I say and sound as if I’m insinuating she’s drunk it all. ‘I mean, there would be wine, if this was a date, maybe we should ask for some…’ It’s not a date, oh god, does she think I want a date? Does she think I find her attractive? Do I find her attractive?

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘we should ask for some, it is a writers thing after all.’ Does she find me attractive? I’ve not been in the real world for so long I can’t remember how grown-up’s do this!

‘So,’ she puts her hand on my manuscript. ‘This one, yes, I really loved it.’

The sweat my back freezes. The roaring noise in my ears and the dry, painful yank of my heart misses its spot. What?


‘Yes, I read it again on the train, I just wanted to – the breakfast scene, I was there, I was sitting at the table and the family, I had them in my head at once. Oh, and I loved the girls together, how they were, the tension in the little detail, it’s great.’


‘So, what’s your idea for it?’


Silence. A void rips through the room; my feet rush away from me and I’m spinning into it. Pitch? Pitch! To fall, to drop, to tip headlong into disaster; pitch!

‘Yes…’ the last fragment of my self-preservation kicks me in the ass. ‘It’s Tipping the Velvet meets Charlotte Gray, it explores repression and how we create persona to hide from society’s censure, be that of ones sexual or national identity, what we do to survive, what we’ll give up and what we cannot. It’s about how when we escape, we become exposed, which is both frightening and liberating, and the cage we left can seem so comforting we seek to build another.’

‘Right,’ she said. ‘Gosh.’


That’s what I think I said; to be honest, I can’t remember. Whatever I did say, she wants to read it when it’s ready and as I shook her hand and said goodbye, I was dressed again; if it’s in the Emperors new clothes or not, remains to be seen.







  • MinxieAD
    by MinxieAD 5 years ago
    I hope you did get those words out as they sound pretty amazing!

    I am usually fine in 'not real' situations - like the ones you mention above. They're man made, by me.

    I loved this blog because I have always thought of you as an extravert and extravert equals confident. I don't mean in a showy off way, but just because that's who you are.

    This 121 was really important to you and it would be to me (when I eventually get to York) so the pressure to get it right is scary to start with. My confidence took a huge knock a few years back, so to read that everyone feels just as scared as I would makes me feel like part of the human race again.

    Thanks for this blog as I loved the contrast of you's depending on the situation that you're in. I can identify with them just lately and part of my 'make it to York' experience will be to mend my broken confidence a bit.
  • Skylark
    by Skylark 5 years ago
    Brilliant blog by a brilliant lady - huge congratulations for getting the recognition you deserve! And you describe the nervousness before the 1:1s perfectly. I was in Debi's prose lab workshop just before going to have a Very Important chat with an agent and something was said about 'showing' rather than 'telling' feelings at moments of heightened drama - well, at that moment, I would have made a perfect case study for total and absolute terror....
  • MinxieAD
    by MinxieAD 5 years ago
    Although I've never been naked in public before! I may give that a go this week as a first step? ;)
  • sirtanicmills
    by sirtanicmills 5 years ago
    Oh my, TF, you can write!

    I have just deleted a few more lines. They were too dull.
  • Noodledoodle
    by Noodledoodle 5 years ago
    I loved reading this Sophie; it's beautifully captured. I don't know how you do it - well, I do. You work hard at your craft and your work deserved that agent's praise and so do you. Good luck with it x
  • Simon M Garrett
    by Simon M Garrett 5 years ago
    That's one of the most real, true things I've read in ages. Thanks for sharing it. So glad it all worked out - sounds like you'd been really working hard to get to that moment. Nice result :)
  • bryo
    by bryo 5 years ago
    Great blog Tf and congrats on your Bridport recognition.
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 5 years ago
    TFX - you have GOT to submit this for the festie book! Brilliant, brilliant writing! You deserve your success.
  • Hil
    by Hil 5 years ago
    Beautifully written TF. And I loved that breakfast scene too. I assume we're talking about the 'Left for Paris' one. I also liked the other breakfast scene. All in all, I think you are an excellent writer - and now it seems like this is starting to be recognised... so well done, and keep it up, and may it go even further! Be brave! (But you are allowed to cry!)
  • Tenacityflux
    by Tenacityflux 5 years ago
    Thanks chaps, I have submitted this for the book, I wrote it as I waited for the train home as I wanted to do something when it was fresh in my mind and as a thank-you for all the help I got over the weekend. I can't promise that getting naked in public will make you braver, but it doesn't hurt! I have to say though, these days they'd probably pay me to keep my clothes on!!
  • Tenacityflux
    by Tenacityflux 5 years ago
    Yes....what is it with breakfast? I guess it's the start of the day, or perhaps, the end of a night - I must do afternoon tea next!
  • annec
    by annec 5 years ago
    This made me laugh as it is just the kind of frantic internal monologue that I had going during my one-to-ones. I was giving myself a particularly loud internal shouting-at when I entirely failed to realise that an agent was actually telling me she was interested in my manuscript, and finished up asking her if she had any suggestions as to who I should submit it to. [beats head repeatedly on desk at the mortifying memory]
  • Athelstone
    by Athelstone 5 years ago
    Oh my God! You nailed that feeling of not quite remembering what was said.
  • John Taylor
    by John Taylor 5 years ago
    Ooh - ow -ouch - that was me last year. The exhibitionist storyteller who fell to pieces before the perceptiveness and gentle humour of Julie Cohen, my book doctor, knowing that my precious baby was in her hands. Even five minutes later, I had no clue what I said, but I remembered just about everything she said. Tfx, you are an extraordinarily gifted writer, and this is one more example - nailing those feelings so exactly.
  • Mcallan
    by Mcallan 5 years ago
    This is so true TFx. A certainty for the festival book!
  • Neil Evans
    by Neil Evans 5 years ago
    Pretty good, nice one & well done. I'm on the case btw
  • MarkR
    by MarkR 5 years ago
    TFx this is wonderful.
    Bravery and vulnerability so often go hand in hand - never more so than with a 1-1. You've captured it perfectly here.
  • Debi
    by Debi 5 years ago
    Not only will this deffo be in the book, but so will some of these comments, I reckon. :-)
  • saintlywriter
    by saintlywriter 5 years ago
    Great description of how the 1-1s make you feel. Wish I could have recovered as well as you did though. From what I can remember (which is not much as my subconscious is protecting me I think) I babbled breathlessly quite a lot and giggled like a delirious teenager at inappropriate moments! I do remember being told to stick at it and work on giving more clues to the reader so that's what I'm planning to do. When I have got my breath back of course :)
  • Charlie
    by Charlie 5 years ago
    Fantastic blog, Tfx, felt like I was there myself. I recognize a lot of that insecurity, and the babble and telling yourself to shut up... Your talent shines in this blog and your other work, very enjoyable.
  • Old Fat Prop
    by Old Fat Prop 5 years ago
    You are definitely on a roll... This was only just brilliant. When I read the honest thoughts like these and of all of the conflicting emotions involved, I think I will never understand the gender...despite a lifetime of research.

    This was equally, illuminating, confusing and entertaining for me.

    Well done again.... you are hearing that alot lately....

    But a 121, ... Should it not be: "This is my book....and I have hostages....... your call."?
  • Jen
    by Jen 5 years ago
    Amazing blog! I felt like I was there at that table! wow and best of luck - this year sounds like your year :)
  • bazbaron
    by bazbaron 5 years ago
    I was same as Jen there TFX, I was like Patrick Swayze beside you, watching you in awe! Brilliant piece :-) Good luck
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