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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Winding up my tour at the Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference

A view outside The Leadership Center in Aurora, NE; it seemed especially appropriate to my last-but-one destination on a four-week tour.

I am back home. Arrived yesterday lunchtime, slept almost 13 hours last night, and feel 'as right as ninepence'. (Even most Brits are unfamiliar with that simile, so my American friends don't need to feel inadequate. It appears to have its roots in the mid-17th century, when there was a nine-penny coin in circulation, and the original phrase was 'nice as ninepence'.)

Anyway... back to the tour, before it all blurs in the memory. I thought the Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference was a thrilling event. About eighty attendees, plus several members of the public. Number one, I was staggered by the level of experience, talent, ambition and accomplishment amongst those present - and consequently nervous about addressing them on 'my remarkable career'. The more people I met, the less remarkable I felt. Number two, I was overwhelmed by the generous and welcoming mood. I was received so warmly.

When I took the podium at 0845h on Saturday morning, I spoke about the two strands which have woven together to make me the writer I am: firstly, the experiences I gathered as a young man, working some 40-50 jobs while figuring out how to be a writer, and then the many ways in which I have earned a crust as a professional since the early 1990s. I raised a few laughs. Even got away with a risqué story from my days in a steam laundry when, as a fresh-faced 14-year-old, I heard two 50-something women discussing contraception.

I sold quite a few books too - albeit at discounted prices. There was no way I was going to be able to fit any leftovers in my suitcase, which was already perilously close to being over-weight when I flew in.

And then came one of those 'from the sublime to the ridiculous' moments. My final gig was to be a reading from 'Cody, The Medicine Man and Me' in downtown Lincoln. I was ready, I had a dozen copies of the novel with me, and a favourite pen in my top pocket. Only one problem: nobody showed up. I'd heard of such stories over the years, and always wondered how bad it might feel. The answer is, not quite as bad as I feared. In fact, as we got to the appointed hour I found myself hoping nobody would show. Or rather, please not just a single person. How would I handle that? I suppose I could point to the fact that Garth Brooks the country singer was in town, giving eight shows over the weekend... but that would be pretty lame.

Another mood-reflecting shot, downtown Lincoln, Saturday evening

Over the next few days I shall have to evaluate the whole enterprise. And I am sure I will decide it was well worth it. I remind myself that even failures are stories. More so disasters. 

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