Monday, 19 July 2010

Not-so-Secret Agent

It dawned on me today that I have been living a lie. For the past crikey-knows however many years, I have been living in that State called Denial (just down the road from Disbelief) because, yes folks… for all my bemoaning and wailing at getting hearty sniffs of but never actually securing one…I ONCE HAD AN AGENT.
Oh yes.
Now, whether she could legitimately be called a ‘Literary Agent’ in today’s current climate remains debateable.
So, the technical bit…
I was probably something like nineteen. And in those days (“waaaaay back when”) this was very close to twelve – in terms of mentality; emotionally and physically – I mean, I was still a virgin! Back when Virgins were fashionable and not just fodder for the Un-dead of this/that World or the next.
Also, I’d written six books by this time. (More technical stuff: they were all diaries. But they’re still books, right?) I’d had one short story published in the local newspaper, and a rejection from the BBC for a Fawlty Towers episode my best friend and I wrote. Oh, and a quite curt letter from Michael Grade telling me that if I really thought I could do a better job than Terry Wogan on his eponymous chat show, then I’d have to start at the bottom like everybody else at the Beeb had and not just leap into his comfy chair because I’d run out of career options after leaving school.
My mother was a post lady.
And this IS relevant. Because one of the ladies on her ‘round’ was a b***-selling author. Who, although only lived round the corner to us (remember this WAS the early 80’s and “round the corner” was still a Big Deal – tantamount to, say, a weekend in Prague and all the preparations that might justifiably go into planning something major like this) I’d never met, never heard of and in fact placed this on something of a pedestal.
B***-selling author, Eileen Pickering - nope I'd never heard of her either - In my village! Down the road! On my mum’s post-round!
Who knew?!
Well, mother did, obviously.
And she said she’d help me on my rocky road to publication and literary success! (Well, okay then, she said she’d read my bumbling efforts at short-story writing and my rhyming poetry about dying Fawns and unrequited love and let me know what she thought and send some off to some publishing places she knew…so, Agent? Hmmm…not sure.)
I paid for the photocopying, the stamps and the envelopes and in return she let me have my very first rejection letters. Via my mother.
So doubly humiliating then.
Even worse was the fact that my writing generally featured angsty teen first-love, testosterone-fuelled car mechanics and rom-comedies of errors involving randy driving instructors and pouty Advertising executives (of which I knew absolutely nothing…really).
And her genre? Westerns (she wrote under the pseudonym of Mark Falcon). So her forte in brooding, bristling cowhands and winsome corseted wenches in Shoot’em’up and Spitt’em out City probably didn’t resonate too well with my juvenile literary endeavours.
I do remember one of her comments saying something along the lines of: “not certain there is a specific market for this kind of style” and so heralded the very first heartslump in my chosen field.
And now Heartslump seems like quite a fitting name for a ghost-town in an obscure Western town.

Ah well, it’s back to that lil'ole state of Denial I think – and don’t spare the horses!

***book/best – details far too sketchy to be deemed concrete fact.

10 comments:

Caroline Green said...

Such a funny post, Debs...I particularly love your letter from Michael Grade! Do you still have it? oh and ouch at 'double the humiliation'!! Is all good material though and helped make a a very funny post, so worth it. For us, anyway ;)

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks Caroline!

Lindsay said...

I'm sure I'd have preferred your show to Terry Wogan's - if it was up to the standard of this post anyway. Am I the only person in the country to loathe him? I wrote to the BBC once too - to complain about that very same Mr Wogan. Got a reply too, inviting me to participate in a show about Mr T, but sadly I couldn't make it.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Lovely post, Debs. Ah, the hope and optimism of teenhood... I sent off a HAND-ILLUSTRATED article to a teen mag back then and was most affronted to be given the brush off.
Susiex

Luisa Plaja said...

I love this post! So funny. Especially 'fodder for the un-dead'!

Derek said...

I'd love to hear more, if there is any, about this adventure. It sounds ripe for collection in an anthology of cautionary tales!

Gillian McDade said...

When you mentioned Westerns, Debs, this reminded me of the time, in 1987 at the age of 12, I decided to write a book of western poetry.

Loved this post!

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks everybody - Caroline, I think the Michael Grade letter went straight into the bin in teenage disgust!
Lindsay, at the time I really DID think I was better than that Wogan chap, and I didn't need varying lengths of wigs as assistance...
Susie - did you ever try Vision-On with your drawings? I loved that show!
Thanks Luisa - Un-dead- v.popular right now - who'd have known?
Derek, there probably is much more - I'll have to look into some regression techniques - this only came back to me literally the other day!
Gillian - Western Poetry sounds like a hitherto untapped genre - maybe you could post some for our delectation?
Thanks for the comments guys!

Emily Gale said...

Is the author still around, Debs? I bet she tries to claim you back when you hit the big time. "Oh yes, I was the first to spot her..." etc!

Debs Riccio said...

Emily, apparently she was still about in 2008... am certain she wouldn't remember me!