Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Some days the sun shines

There is a bar in Summertown called Joe's and today we tried it for lunch. David had tagliatelle and I had Caesar salad, and both were so good we were almost weepy with gratitude. We topped the meal off with chocolate pot, creme brulee and two coffees. The cappucinos were frothy right down to the bottom of the cup and tasted most marvellously of coffee - not an experience to be had in either the local Costas or Starbucks, where the coffee tastes like tainted hot water with a scum of froth on top. On the way back, we were approached by a willowy blonde bearing a tray of taster cups outside Starbucks. What? Starbucks touting for trade? 'Yuk! No thanks!' I said. 'I know what that tastes like.' 'Try Joe's,' David told her. 'The coffee is great there!' A beautiful blonde speechless and nonplussed, a corporation witheringly, publicly and loudly dismissed? Oh, God, it felt good! So good! And the sun is shining today.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Advice for Young Writers

I teach creative writing to American students studying at Oxford University. Among this year's students is one who is a star. She writes so brilliantly that, after reading her latest offering, all I can do is sigh with pleasure - and not a little envy. For some time I've been encouraging her to submit work to publishers but she procrastinates. Today I found out why: she is scared of her own future.

In college vacations she has worked for literary agents and publishers, so she knows the business from the inside and is painfully aware that these days the usual trajectory for a successful novelist is to begin incandescently and then peter out in a shower of sparks. Gone are the days when an aspiring novelist's career was nurtured by editor and publisher. My student knows the game and knows she doesn't want to play it.

God help us - what do I advise her? Any ideas? Publish under a pseudonym until she feels she is at her prime and then burst upon an unsuspecting world fully-formed? It's one way, but I'd be grateful for any serious ideas. It really is a problem for the twenty-somethings with real talent.