A recent exchange of emails with Terry Jackman and John Moran outlined their first rewards for writing; in both their cases it was chocolate (always good for a writer). That prompted me to recall mine…
My first writing ‘income’ was a ticket and a place on a coach from Sheffield to see the Monkees at Wembley Stadium way back when I was at school. I was one of eight winners of an essay competition in the Sheffield Star. (I wrote an essay on world famine.)
I can’t remember what the upper age limit was, probably eighteen, but the lower one was fourteen, though <ahem> not everyone had observed that fact and the newspaper didn’t check.
In fact they didn’t do anything except tell us, individually, that the coach went at such-a-time from the train station in Sheffield and returned about 3.00 a.m. Not terribly responsible considering we were all school-age kids.
That possibly pushed me into the other thing I do reasonably well – organising. When I received my winner’s letter it included the names and addresses of all the other kids who’d won. Well, it seemed sensible to me to do something about the newspaper’s lack of organisation. I wrote (letters of course, in those days) to all the other winners and arranged that we should all meet up at a specific point in the station at a specific time carrying something that made us obvious to each other. By the time the reporter from the Star caught up with us we were all together and chatting in a group.
‘Did you all know each other already?’ she asked, somewhat surprised.
‘No, but since you didn’t give us specific instruction about meeting up I wrote to everyone and arranged it,’ I said.
I got a blank look. I’m really not sure how she expected to pick eight individual kids out of the crowd on Sheffield’s busy railway station without accosting everyone under eighteen to see if they wanted to get on a coach with her to see the Monkees in Wembley. (Which brings to mind a line from a somewhat politically incorrect song by Fred Wedlock: ‘And there my Lord, and members of the jury, rests the case for the defence.’)
The concert was great, by the way. Front row side-balcony seats about as close to the stage as you could get. The Monkees were a manufactured boy-band (for the TV show) but they could really cut the mustard on stage and in the days when most pop groups on tour played for twenty minutes to top off a whole bill, they played the whole night. It satisfied my little teenage heart! (I believe I might – just might – have been madly in love with Davy Jones at the time. Very sorry to note his passing at the age of only 66 in 2012.)
I wish I could say that, encouraged by early success, I went on to take the publishing world by storm, but sadly I didn’t even try. Not a storm, barely a drizzle. I always wrote, but didn’t seriously submit things until the late 1990s. My first short story sale, i.e. one for actual real money at professional rates, was not until 1998.
I have noticed one thing, though. In the world of publishing, and, in fact in any field of endeavour, the harder you work and the more you try, the more luck you seem to have. Funny, that, isn’t it?