Angela Slatter

This weekend Angela Slatter won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction for her story ‘The Coffin-maker’s Daughter’, from A Book of Horrors, edited by Stephen Jones.

The writing game is a fickle beastie.

It’s not all splash and dash – any writer will tell you that very few aspects of the life move swiftly (well, except for money out of wallets and the brief lives of bottles of red wine).

There’s a lot of slow-motion stuff – rather like the Bionic Man or Woman running – a lot of thinking about the same stuff over and over, waiting for responses to submissions, making endless cups of coffee in the hope that caffeinated percolation will assist story percolation, and doing the research you know is designed to keep you away from the horrible moment when you sit down to actually write.

I like to call this ‘procrinspiration’, which is a term I came up with whilst, err, procrastinating.

My point? Writing is a slow game.

There are no limos turning up on your doorstep, no one throwing cash at you (unless your day job is pole-dancing in order to support your writing habit), no continuous popping of champagne corks, no glamour. In short, no one really pays much attention to you for very long periods of time.

Hopefully, though, someone in your life does pop in to check you’ve not died and been eaten by the cat, nor have you taken to wearing an aluminium hat in order to stop all your great story ideas from escaping. It’s often been said that writing is a solitary profession – which is really stating the bloody obvious and I would like to give that person a bit of a slap.

Yes, some days, it does get to you. You sort of want to have someone pay attention, just for a little while.

I have been known, on occasion, to tear a piece of paper up into tiny confetti-sized pieces and throw it in the air as part of a personalised ticker-tape parade.

But then, I am a sad git and should probably get out more.

But the solitude is okay on several levels. Most of us don’t really play well with others.

Our preferred companions are imaginary friends who, while they may well talk back, at least don’t steal the last biscuit.

Imaginary friends don’t care if you’ve brushed your hair for a few days, nor do they care that your shirt is inside-out and that you’re wearing mismatched socks.

Some days, however, the writing gods are good and kind. Some days you wake up to find you’ve won a British Fantasy Award and people are saying nice things about you – at least until they read the bit about the mini ticker-tape parades.

Those days are delightful and surprising and, when you consider the other folk on the short list, extremely humbling. The whole experience is brief and beautiful and fleeting.

You also discover that you can only pull the ‘But I won a British Fantasy Award – I deserve chocolate’ gig so many times (fifteen, to be precise).

This is an experience I will treasure on those other days, when the writing gods have hangovers and decide that misery should have company.

On those occasions when I decide I am a bad writer, that I cannot string two words together, that Stephen and Jo must have been mad to accept my story, that I should simply take up house painting (or pole-dancing) full-time, and that the writing police are about to tap me on the shoulder and denounce me as a fraud, I will remember this day and think Maybe, just maybe I am doing something right.

–Angela Slatter

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