‘You need to blog,’ they told me. ‘If you say so,’ I said. ‘But get a website first,’ they added. ‘Okay,’ I replied. ‘And also a YouTube channel, a Facebook account … and don’t forget to twitter.’ ‘Oh God!’ I said. ‘What’s wrong?’ they asked. I told them: ‘When will I have time to earn my living? To write my fiction? To go out and get a bagel?’ They stared at me. ‘Are you serious about this business or not?’ They looked as if they already knew the answer to that one.
‘They’ are my dear colleagues in Noah’s Arc, a Nottingham-based writer’s critique group that meets every month in the private dining room of a certain well-known Italian restaurant. (This is a wonderful venue that allows us to celebrate in fine style over lunch afterwards if our work has been admired, or conversely to have nothing further to do with one another when it has been as comprehensively panned as the sea bass.) Noah’s Arc critical encounters are valuable artistically and socially – writers can feel lonely and rather extraterrestrial unless they see others of their kind from time to time. I still feel lonely and rather extraterrestrial, but at least I know now there are others worse off than myself.
What Josie Barrett, Laura Grevel and Liz Hart – excellent writers all – did not tell me at the time is that this stuff can take over your life if you let it. So I blame them unreservedly for suckering me into this caper. I am now lumbered with a website and a blog to maintain, plus the prospect of a rapidly expanding roll call of social media accounts and passwords to commit to memory. And yet I must admit my colleagues were right. ‘You were right!’ There – for all the world to see.
Now I have a great monkey on my back and it needs feeding. It will eat anything, including me if I’m not careful. What on earth do I blog about? There are only so many words in me, and I need most of those for my fiction. So I’ve decided that anyone reading this will have to make do with the leftovers.
Let’s start at the beginning. If anyone wants to know about me, they can go to my About page. At the time of writing, this does not exist, and it may never see the light of day. Who knows? I don’t. That’s as much as I am prepared to admit for the present.
Next, there’s my fiction. If you really want to know about me, go look at my stories. In fact, if you don’t want to know about me, go look at my stories. They are liberally displayed gratis for your delectation on my website at jackmessenger.org.uk. Did I mention the link to my website? It’s at jackmessenger.org.uk. So you have no excuse. Go there, read and leave a review if you feel so moved.
Why the website? Well, it’s a showcase for my writing and an attempt (possibly forlorn) to expand my readership beyond my wife and two pet greyhounds. I’ve written a lot of published non-fiction (just search for me on Amazon and you’ll still find a few, including one written by an imposter with the same name), but finding an outlet for literary fiction today is extremely difficult. Literary fiction is a neglected area in today’s publishing marketplace, where commercial pressures are such as to promote conformity and imitation. We are, my friends, largely in the uncaring hands of multinational conglomerates for whom the bottom line is the bottom line. Literary fiction does not sell. Hence the preponderance of pap palpitating on the shelves of bookstores.
Fortunately, these days there are all sorts of ways that writers and readers can (often literally) take matters into their own hands. For example, there are some awesome online literary journals which demand to be read (of which more in future posts). However, the main tool at our disposal is old-fashioned word of mouth, magnified a billion-fold by the power of the Internet. This is where you come in. You know what to do, so do it. I’m watching you and I’ll know if you don’t.
I’d like to see my website and blog evolve and continue to grow. Once the rest of Noah’s Arc gets their act together we could extend our association via related websites and eventually take over the world and make it a better place (I declare this ambition now in the interests of full disclosure).
As an obvious next step in what looks like becoming an illustrious and hideously time-consuming blogging career, I shall write posts about the background to the stories I have on my website. How’s that for self-cannibalization?
So do feel free to let me know what you think of it all. Reviews are most welcome.
That’s all for now. Be seeing you Susan.