Two nations divided by . . .

October 21, 2008

People quite often marvel at the unmitigated glamour of my life. Homes in both the USA and UK? Flying across the Atlantic? Nipping around New York and London in pursuit of the literary life? Well, I hardly like to complain, but wish you could see me now: clad in a ratty pair of track-pants and striped apron, my big blue rubber squeegee mop drying out from having cleaned the bathroom floor, the contents of my suitcase strewn across the bedroom, and piles of papers around me as I’ve been practising my Big Speech for tonight. Oh, sorry, did I forget to tell you? I’m actually in London, where I’m the ‘top transatlantic literary agent’ who’s speaking for about an hour at Storyville, part of the Big Leap professional development company, which hosts lectures on writing themes each month. People are paying a fair sum (no pressure, folks, no pressure) to come and hear me, and I’ve been warned to stick diligently to the topic or there could be some complaints. Actually, I’m quite looking forward to it (or will do once I’ve got the first few sentences out of the way), but there’s a degree of stress here, since I’m also opening speaker for the SCBWI mid-Atlantic conference over in Arlington on Saturday (yes that’s right, with the small matter of a flight and a touch of jetlag in between!). As my old mother said on the phone just now, ‘You’ve got to remember you’re not as young as you were, dear.’ Thanks, Mother! Don’t you love them?
As always, it’s good to be over here, if somewhat schizophrenic. I’m pleased to be able to tell you that the price of gas has dropped dramatically – it’s now $6.77 per gallon, so a wonderful decrease from the $7.76 it was last time I was over. (Of course, we think in litres over here, so I did the math based on yesterday’s exchange rate.) Does that make you feel better, Americans, as you fill your tank? Yes, I thought it would! The news over here is just as bleak however – full of homes being repossessed, negative equity, and the plight of those whose assets have been frozen in various banks of Icelandic origin (including my sons – great savings advice having been given by their mother some time ago, in easier economic times). Plus I’m concerned about my old friend who is struggling to keep his business (partly based on the housing market) afloat, by reducing his staff by one-fifth. Of course, everyone blames him for it all (‘I hope you die and your children too,’ as one of the outgoing staff members said sweetly); and the Conservative Party (headed by David Cameron) here are trying to make the case for PM Gordon Brown being responsible for the entire global economic collapse. Nice try, Mr Cameron. So the moral of the story must be that everyone wants someone to blame; everyone has an axe to grind. It’s always very interesting seeing the news from a different perspective – not least US election news, which is dominating the media here. As my Ma muttered the other day, ‘I hope they’re thinking about us as much as we’re thinking about them.’ So, if you’re reading this and you live in America, I’d be really grateful if you could possibly think about Britain right now for a sustained period of time (about 10 minutes would do it), so I can reassure my mother!

But now I must end this less-than-crafted piece of prose and do a few hundred more jobs before I shoot out the door and on to the Underground. Not least I must make sure my glamorous persona is firmly back in place, which may require several vats of make-up. There’s never a dull moment as a ‘top transatlantic literary agent’ and I’m just setting the stage for an auction for a first novel by a young debut writer I’m representing. I’ll tell you more about her in due course, but I can tell you that she’s American but lives in England, which is rather interesting. It looks like we have three New York houses offering, so no doubt I’ll be online or on the phone late tonight (given the time differential) when I’m back from the Big Speech.

Take care, everyone, and cheerio from autumnal, chilly London. Not only are we ‘two nations divided by a common language’ but also, it seems, ‘two nations divided by a sizeable difference in gas prices’! But hey, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Right?

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