One of the things I did in May, which I spectacularly failed to recount, was to go to a talk by Fay Weldon at Malfest (the Malpas Literary Festival).
I’ve never been to this before but decided to take advantage of a literary icon speaking more or less on my doorstep.
Fay was a good speaker, she had a dry sense of humour and was very humble despite her success.
It was bit weird walking into the talk though, because the speech followed a lunch, so all the attendees were sitting around round tables. Fortunately I managed to find a spare chair which meant that I didn't have to join a crowd I didn't know especially as they all seemed so dreadfully, dreadfully - ladies wot lunch, if you know what I mean.
I digress. I'd forgotten how much of Fay Weldon’s work I knew, even though I've never read anything of hers. Remeber The Lives and Loves of a She Devil and The Cloning of Joanna May?
She originally worked in advertising - said she got into it because she had a boyfriend who worked in advertising and that was all the qualification you needed in the 60's.
On her first day she was told to sit down and write copy and eventually she became good at it (her words not mine). She was part of a team who coined the slogan "go to work on an egg".
From there she drifted into writing scripts, and from there books. It made me wish I’d been born in a different era when publishing seemed so much easier – or perhaps nostalgia makes it seem much easier.
She wrote the first scripts for the original Upstairs Downstairs but was “sacked” because Mrs Bridges wanted to be portrayed as a nice person, and Fay didn't think it would be true to type.
She has written a trilogy set at the turn of the 19th Century - based on an upstairs downstairs theme. Two have been published and the third just completed. I've read the sample chapters of the first two and think they are something I would enjoy, so yet more books to put on my To Be Read list.
The image that most stuck in my mind from her talk though, was when she had young children, she said she used to sit on the stairs with notebook in hand, so that the children could still see her and be comforted by her presence but couldn’t get at her. Just goes to show “not having time” is definitely not an excuse!
She was very humble about her success and said the only way to ever get published was keep writing and sending your stuff out.