I don’t often post twice in a day, but am afraid by next week all this will feel sadly out of date. Do you know the children’s storytelling game of ‘Fortunately Unfortunately’ (or at least that’s the name we used in our house)? The first person starts off with a story and after a few sentences ends on a cliffhanger ‘but unfortunately then…’. The next person picks up the baton and carries on for a few more sentences, ending with ‘but fortunately then…’. And so on. One positive for every negative development in the storyline. That’s very much how it felt to me yesterday at the London Book Fair.
Fortunately, I was wearing sensible walking shoes, so I could face the acres of books, stands, events with standing room only, frantic searches for toilets and venues. I’d been advised by the brilliantly-organised Twitter friend Estelle to bring a back-pack and a tote, as well as my own snacks and drinks, so I was able to carry the heavy burden of cultural enlightenment. Unfortunately, I kept losing my map and so missed out on dozens of publishers I was interested in meeting.
Unfortunately, being a Book Fair novice, I did not make any formal appointments or arrangements beforehand to meet people, especially since I felt I did not want to waste anyone’s time. Fortunately, I got to informally see and hug people I knew from beforehand: Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books and Susan from the wonderful website and blog The Book Trail , literary agent Jo Unwin, author and translator Michelle Bailat Jones , Polish language translator Antonia Lloyd Jones.
Fortunately, as I found out at the conference on Translated Children’s Books, there are some great initiatives in place to make it easier for publishers to take the risk on translated fiction, of which Booktrust’s In Other Words, Reading the Way and Riveting Reads recommendations for school libraries, and the Hay Festival/Aarhus joint initiative of selecting 39 best European children and YA authors under the age of 40. Unfortunately, when I briefly spoke to writer, translator and cultural agitator Daniel Hahn, who has been involved in most of these initiatives, I realised that it was too late to champion the cause for Romanian literature, as the selections have already been made. Let’s hope that this is not just a one-off project, and there will be updates and potential to develop it further in the future. Although I would agree with Hahn that it would be nice to think that such initiatives will no longer be required in the future, because translation will have become mainstream.
Fortunately, I got a lot of information and reading suggestions for Malta, Latvia and Lithuania, which were missing on my #EU27Project list. I also found out about possible funding for translation projects from Romanian into English. Unfortunately, I managed to gather so many materials (see above), that the handle on my sturdy tote bag broke.
Unfortunately, the Careers Fair for jobs in publishing was extremely crowded and I felt like I was the donkey among sheep (good old Romanian saying, meaning I was the ‘biggest’, i.e. oldest, one there). Fortunately, the recruitment agencies did not seem to think I was a complete waste of space if I fancied a career change (possibly in academic publishing rather than mainstream fiction).
Fortunately, my day did not end there. I met a friend at the Wellcome Collection and then attended a poetry reading at the Bookmarks bookshop in Bloomsbury. The poets reading from their new collections were American poet Michael Waters , Roy Marshall (whom I knew from his wonderful blog) and Mihaela Moscaliuc, whose debut collection Father Dirt I had absolutely loved. Three very different kinds of poets, with a bouquet of poems at once sad and touching, funny and wry, thoughtful and provocative. I got all three books and look forward to reading them at leisure.
Unfortunately, the poetic evening had to come to an end with a mad dash for the train, crying children all the way home and some forgotten school uniforms to sort out for my sons. Fortunately, I have the memories…
I know I always pick on Facebook, but I really don’t like the showing-offiness of that platform. I haven’t completely abandoned it, because it did help me to reconnect with some long-lost school friends, but I visit it as little as possible.
Afright from a nightmare where my mother once more
waxes satirical about my weight,
I shake off the sludge of family binds and turn
to my friends in the blue glow of pre-dawn screens.
That’s the way we do it now: no calling, no comfort
Can you believe that dVerse has reached its #191 Open Link Night? Please join me there for a celebration of poetry in all its forms, sizes, themes and approaches. I’m attempting a list poem this time.
Peeled plum tomatoes
A healthy interest in red-blooded stuff
Vampire teeth well-hidden
Till at least the third date
Because I don’t like flaky
But not too puffed up either
A winning smile
Ah, always forget the milk
of human kindness…
There’s got to be more than asking:
‘Need help with your packing?’
While looking elsewhere.
It’s been five but only to me.
To others it’s three, or two,
if they remember at all.
Life moves on, distance no friend,
search for shared words or memories,
fall back on blandness that cannot offend.
Smiles a little too fixed,
eyes darting to others for rescue.
My stories too long, your chambers too full,
no room at the inn for the perpetual wanderer.
Tomorrow I’ll use post-its in coloured gradations,
fill spreadsheets and schedules, submit with method.
Each sapling of wisdom, each stray pun I will corral
till the gravity of the day after arrives with a thud.
But maybe not just yet. I will be off to Geneva this coming weekend for the Meet the Agent event which I helped organise, then delivering some training to a UN organisation (my freelance work still seems very much in demand, even if no one wants my talents on a more permanent basis), also wrangling with the French tax office, who still don’t seem to have understood the messages I’ve been sending since August 2016. If I ever do finish my WIP, it will be dedicated to them for their ‘contribution’.
I’ve been experimenting with some new poetic forms recently, because I’ve never been too comfortable about prose poems. What makes it different from experimental prose? I struggle to understand. Also, I’m amused by the marketing patter on some of our electronic devices, so they gave rise to this…
Innovation is advancement but not precursor of success, pervades our daily lives, frustrates us with its complexity and unreliability to the extent that globalisation enables us to embrace new products and services.
Is ‘carriage return’ now obsolete? Has sense-making ceased to matter?
We crave tangible products, satin-coated sensuous curves,
Chick-lit metallic moulding our systems
Augmented realities and playfulness
Passive-aggressive well-modulated female voices
That we can shut up in an instant (unlike our wives)
To understand the music of the should, we need sentiment analysis and emotion management, we need to move past utility to ease of use and access all hours. Oh, and playful surprise! Please entertain me. It’s all about the image, the swoosh of light around the globe in an instant. Encompass, integrate, unify in the twilight glow of sameness. Susceptible like all the others, you reach out to grasp and bind my gaze to ever-recurring shape-shifting values.