I’m en route again: this is my habitual state, I think, on my way somewhere else. It’s hard being away from T. Middy. After three weeks apart when I was in New Zealand, we’re now facing another four weeks on opposite sides of an ocean. This time it’s the Atlantic. I have six weeks in (or near) London to get a lot of work done, and to take the short screenwriting course at the National Film and Television School. This latter I’m excited about, and dreading, in equal measure.
There’s also a wedding to attend, and friends to see – including the long-threatened Virgin Classics reunion. TM arrives at the end of June for two weeks, and we already have numerous theatre tickets sorted out, and various social plans in place. Before he arrives, I’m off to Luxembourg with my friend Sarah for a couple of days, to see fireworks and a parade. And this weekend I’ll be in Wales, which always makes New Zealand look a paler shade of green, at the home of my good friend, Deborah Keyser. She tells me her daughters associate my visits with gin & tonics, and the excessive watching of property-buying shows on the computer (Location x 3, Property Ladder, Streets Ahead, etc). I’m glad to provide such an educational, non-Welsh-speaking presence.
My trip home to New Zealand earlier this month was great in many ways, in no small part due to my niece, who is very funny, and excellent company. The visit was marred by two things. I’m the editor of the new issue of Landfall. Here’s the cover. It’s called “Flung”, and it’s an expatriate issue, of sorts.
I’m very happy with this issue, but regret soliciting submissions by email. I did this to make it as easy as possible for people overseas to submit; it also meant that I could get submissions directly, rather than waiting for daunting, fat envelopes from the OUP office in Dunedin. (Although these arrived, in large numbers, as well.)
But it also meant that I needed to send out rejection emails personally, rather than relying on standard letters sent out by the OUP office. This task took me much longer than it should, and the final emails were only sent out a week or so ago. And the fake intimacy of email meant several people wanted to prolong the correspondence, requesting more detailed opinions; announcing their profound disappointment or ongoing frustration with Landfall; and, in one bizarre and semi-coherent case, abusing me for perceived crimes against the New Zealand literary canon, the healthy development thereof, etc. At the airport last Sunday, it was hard not to feel … hmmm, how about: glad to see the back of them?
The other disappointment was courtesy of my publisher, Penguin. Forbidden Cities was one of the few short-story collections that made it onto a Commonwealth Prize regional shortlist. I was hopeful that it might also wriggle onto the shortlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. That’s a shortlist with potential career-changing ramifications; the FOC is also one of the few international awards for which obscure short-story collections published only in New Zealand can qualify. But Penguin forgot to submit the book in time, and now it’s too late. I’m upset, and very disappointed, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It looks as though Forbidden Cities will just get to fade away. I know: I need to make much more effort trying to sell my books overseas. Writing them seems like enough of an effort, but clearly I have to hustle harder, become a squeakier wheel. Invest more money and time in getting the books to agents and rights sellers and publishers overseas.
Exhausting just to think of it. I’d rather think about my flimsy tissue of a screenplay outline, sure to be shredded next week at the NFTS course. (Or what movies I’ll be sleeping through on the plane tonight.) Wish me luck.