I got an email this morning from a very well known creative writing organisation asking me if I would mind awfully lecturing for them for a week next summer.
It paid well. Accommodation and travel was thrown in. It would be a chance to work with 16 budding writers and help them build their craft. It sounded absolutely blissful and the kind of thing I would adore doing.
But I knew as I read down the email that something was not right.You see chick lit authors rarely (if ever) get invited to lecture at courses run by very well known (and relatively expensive) creative writing organisations.
We aren't really considered proper authors - what we do, our hours sat grafting at the computer, researching storylines (like depression, domestic violence, eating disorders and other things which affect many women), the edits, the rewrites, the tears that it's not working, the late nights trying and trying and trying to get just once sentence to work, the book tours, the opening your heart to your readers, the plugging, the blogging, the being a WRITER.. well in some eyes it's not enough.
So I knew as soon as I saw the invite that it wasn't meant for me. It was meant for that other Clare (no i) Allan who wrote 'Poppy Shakespeare' which is considered a pivotal book about depression. I know it so well because it was released at the same time as 'Rainy Days and Tuesdays' - a book essentially about a woman's emergence from depression.
The difference was mine had a brightly coloured cover and a dash of warm hearted humour. I imagine it also had fewer big words and more use of the word "feck".
In addition I have just clicked onto the programme list for the Dublin Writers' Festival taking place in the capital this June. The line up is impressive - but elitist. Where is Marian Keyes - arguably one of this country's largest literary exports? Where is Cathy Kelly, or Patricia Scanlan, or Maeve Binchy, Sheila O'Flannagan, Anna McPartlin, Melissa Hill, or even Claire Allan (the one with the 'i' in her name)?
This might sound a little bitter and ranty and it's not really meant to me.
The mistake this morning was a genuine one and that is fair enough but the Dublin line up makes me realise it goes a little deeper than that. It remains a great shame - a HUGE shame in fact - that writers in this genre are so often overlooked and dismissed and it is about time that course programmers and festival programmers woke up and realised that we have much to offer.
Now, there's a challenge to anyone willing to take it on.
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