I THOUGHT I had made it.
The letter I had opened informed me that the short story I had submitted would be published in a hardback collection.
The paper I worked on in Skipton thought my achievement worthy of a feature and the photographer took me down to the subway leading to the railway station — “try to look like a heroin addict”, he instructed.
Soon the bookshop the newspaper owned stocked copies and I waited for Paper Clips Yorkshire: Short Stories by Writers in Yorkshire to take off. Then I waited some more.
My effort, Mirrors of Apathy, was a pretentious take (obviously I didn’t think so when I wrote it) on what I envisaged a pointless life to be. I won’t expand too much on that here as it could upset some people. Indeed, my dad’s brother was furious. Quite rightly, I suppose.
The story was written in 1992 and just a year or so later Irvine Welsh stole my glory with Trainspotting. That’s not exactly true. He wrote a novel and I didn’t. He got published and I didn’t. It turns out you actually have to finish something, not just talk about it.
The ensuing article and picture (I still have the cutting) in the Craven Herald & Pioneer featured myself carping on about my inspiration for the story and how I had a novel in the pipeline. The Druzhba pipeline — the world’s longest oil pipeline — in Eastern European Russia now looks like a bungalow drain pipe compared to mine.
My comments in the paper’s article provoked a number of letters from outraged trainspotters.
“You look like an heroin addict,” my mum added when she saw the picture.
I’ve still got the original story I typed out and I have about 60 pages of A4 filled with the words of my attempt to expand it into a novel. I’ve often picked it up and wondered if I could have made anything of it, but it’s not really me now.
I looked up Paper Clips Yorkshire: Short Stories by Writers in Yorkshire and found one used copy for sale on Amazon at $45.86. Bit pricey, I thought. Maybe I should put my copy up for sale.
I briefly wondered what had happened to the hopes and aspirations of all the other writers featured in that not much sought after collection.
Had they made it? Did they think, like I did, that they were on the verge of stardom when they had their story published and it was only a matter of time before a major publisher called to offer them a deal to pen a series of novels? Did they suffer crushing disappointments? Are they still trying to make a career of their writing?
Unless you are Irvine Welsh or, God forbid, say Dan Brown or JK Rowling, and your writing captures the zeitgeist, then there’s probably not a lot of money to be made from being an author, but at least your work is there — I’m not sure where “there” actually is — somewhere, for posterity.
Now then, where’s my copy of Paperclips?