El Niño sent out, Gammy bluetooth, €100 voucher for Ryanair, letters with the word “Unfortunately”. #20 –

Was thinking of going travelling but agent says El Niño could pop any day. Be around Ireland in case we need to do some paperwork, sign some deals, edits, all that. A typical advance could be between €5,000 and €10,000. This was big shtuff.

Then. The first publishing house got back, nine months later, and said it’s not for us. We’re not taking risks with new writers at this time. Please feel free to send us your work in future. The second one was the same, six months later, and the third, 14 months later said they were concentrating on a new direction towards Biography, Sports and General Non Fiction. It was said to be unwise to send to them all at once in case two of them wanted it and there’d be a messy conflict and both of them might withdraw. Something like that.

We were working down the ladder from the top publishing houses to the lesser well known. And it was taking longer each time. I kept getting images of the book being used as a coffee coaster or a door jamb, or buried in a pile of dusty manuscripts beside an overworked unpaid intern, in some stuffy office with bad ventilation and a broken toilet.

The prevailing concept at the time was all about the first five pages. If the editor wasn’t hooked by then, they’d abandon the book for the next one. This is the only way they could get through two or three thousand novels a year and still have time to produce one, maybe two. These days, I reckon it’s down to the first line. Think about the amount of less time people have. The amount of distractions. At most, you have five seconds to make a good impression, after that it’s adios. The attention span is gone. Can’t handle the work. Readers get physically tired if the point isn’t immediately obvious. You’d wonder if there’ll be any readers left at all soon.

One day then, I was listening to the radio and it said call this number to enter the competition. I hadn’t heard what the competition was but I called it anyway. I was after getting one of them gammy Bluetooths that sit on your ear like a beetle and I wanted to try it out. So I stuck it on and let the world ring. Ring ring ring. Kept thinking of Echoes, by Pink Floyd. Next thing on comes your man, the DJ. Hello, he says, what’s the answer?!

I says Howya, what’s the question? No time, he goes. A or B? Quick Quick Quick. Five seconds. B so, I said. Congratulations he goes. You’ve just won a €100 voucher.

For what? I asked him.

Ryanair he said. Book a flight, go anywhere you want, have a good Summer. Bye Bye Bye. Shauna’s going to take your details, bye.

“Hello?’ Said Shauna. “Can I have your name and address please.’

Next thing I knew I was a TEFL teacher in Madrid.

Left the gammy bluetooth at home though. Looked a bit weird in fairness.




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