Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Still not gagged

I am clearing up the breakfast things this morning and dreaming the dialogue I have to write today, when the telephone rings.

'Hello, is that Starling Editions?'

I whip off my dreamy writer's cap and pull on my publisher's hat smartish. 'Yes, it is.'

'This is Gardners. Did you receive the order we sent for The Birth Machine?'

'Yes, the book is in the post. You should receive it by tomorrow.'

I know what this usually means. Some academic is writing a book and wants to refer to my novel, or, since it's the beginning of the academic year, someone wants it for a course.

Not that this last will mean I'll sell a class-worth of copies: a lecturer friend long ago made me aware that classes get by on photocopies nowadays. Do I mind? Do I heck. No, I just jump up and down with glee and triumph because my novel still has a life, long after it was once almost suppressed and people tried to silence me as a writer.

Once upon a time I failed, in the eyes of the feminist world, to be a good feminist (long story), and there were those who thought I should be deprived of a platform and a voice. Letters went out warning feminist journals that my reviews should not be published, and pressure was put on the Women's Press, who had just accepted my first novel. The Women's Press, afraid of 'alienating their market', seriously considered withdrawing their offer, and it was only after I'd jumped through hoops of abject public (well, feminist-public) apology, that they went ahead. They were never happy, though, I think, with my pariah status in the feminist world, and when my novel sold out its 3,000 print run they declined to reprint - unusually for them at that time.

Damn good job I decided to reprint it myself instead. It was also a chance to restore the original and crucial structure which the Women's Press insisted on changing 'for their market' - with no leg to stand on, I felt unable to argue at the time. And why did I call my press 'Starling Editions?' Not simply because a black starling is a significant motif in the novel, but because starlings are noisy, insistent birds. You can't shut them up or easily chase them away.

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