Writing is a weird business. The main part of what we do is faceless – we spend time alone, curled over keyboards or notebooks, looking inside ourselves and picking things apart. When we do send things out into the world, it rarely involves live-action relationships with editors and the like. Emails, forums, blogs. So much of what we do happens under layer after layer of facelessness.
I don’t know what many of my favourite authors look like, or how they present in person. I was shocked to find John Marsden is such a confronting mixture of crude and intelligent. I’ll admit that Camus’ theories are more palatable than Sartre’s based on their author pics. Last week at the Emerging Writers’ Festival I was surprised by how much Carmel Bird just looked like someone’s mum. I love Alan Bissett’s writing all the more for his outgoing personality, and I’m reading Death of a Ladies’ Man in his very attractive accent. The way authors look and present themselves in person, face-to-face, can be worlds away from how we imagine them through their writing.
This made the Emerging Writers’ Festival an amusing space to meet and greet. The main thing that struck me over and over again during the two weeks was how weird it is that the two sides of our job are such polar opposites. Absolute isolation versus schmooze-fest. I’m not saying that either is preferable – I love both. But when someone talked about me without knowing I was in the room, or when I had the “a-ha!” moment where I connected someone’s writing projects to that person I’d been talking to for the last hour, it really struck me how singularly bizarre writing is.
08/06/2011 at 10:04 am
Nice one Sam.
From your friendly bullface guy.
Now, off to do more weird business
08/06/2011 at 2:10 pm
I find this all very interesting as well… I don’t consider myself a particularly social person, or good at being social, but I like this aspect of the festival and writing events. I like talking to other writers, and connecting twitter avatars to real faces.
I often wonder how it affects our publication chances though. Do editors sneer when they get a submission from someone they met at a launch who was really grating or pushy?
08/06/2011 at 2:26 pm
Good question… Surely it’s better to have your name recognized? And if I know you at all Ben, I’m pretty sure you’re not that “grating or pushy” guy that editors would cringe about. Networking is important, it helps to have someone remember your face when they receive a submission, I think…
13/06/2011 at 8:54 am
Certainly I can’t speak for any other than myself, but I’ve taken the role of editor for a few publications over the years (working on p17’s poetry at the moment) and I find that knowing a writer’s face is a nice touch, and it establishes a connection, even if it’s only a small one at times.
In the end, of course, the submission itself is the key. Whether writers I’ve met were pushy or lovely folks, I always let the sub itself decide things for me. But I agree with Sam here, in that, at the very least it can encourage me to offer a personalised response to a sub, which can be rare if in this game, especially if an editor has been buried by hundreds of subs. Which makes me all the more impressed with GDS – over 3000 subs last issue. Woah!
15/06/2011 at 5:28 pm
Great post Sam!