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Charlie  Hill
Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. His short stories have been widely published in print and online. He is also the author of two well-received novels, the most recent of which - a satire called Books - was simultaneously lauded by the Financial Times and the Morning Star.

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A Year in the Life of a B-List Author

What follows is an account of a year in the life of a B-List author. It runs from November to November, partly in a barely-credible homage to the transgressions of High Modernism and partly because – let’s face it - you won’t be able to move for this kind of pish in a month’s time.



Am told by my best friend that my website makes me look like ‘a failure’. Decide to upgrade. Then I change my website. Switch from a free Weebly effort that took me ten minutes to set-up to a bespoke number, all whistles and bells. It’s jazzy and eye-catching with just the right combination of precision-calculated self-deprecation and third-person immodesty. Or, in the words of the designer, it’s ‘a guerilla anti-website website’. It takes days of meticulous tinkering to get it just so, but it looks the dogs.



Realising that I have no absolutely no guerilla anti-writing writing to go on my new website, decide on a new approach to my work. Come to the conclusion that it is too easy to write without challenging myself or my readers: that way torpor lies. So I ditch the high-energy, reference-heavy approach to storytelling to which I have become accustomed and adopt instead a more experimental prose style, concentrating on short, oblique pieces. (Or long oblique pieces. The length doesn’t matter: oblique is all.)



Am approached about a teaching gig. At a city-centre college, kids from challenging backgrounds, the whole bit. ‘The first of many,’ I am told. Begin my lesson preparation straight away. Plan to be part mentor, part inspiration, with a hint of David Lurie just to keep everyone on their toes.



Decide I’ve been shying away from my responsibilities to the digital community for far too long. Set up a Twitter account. Start to follow industry names - authors, bloggers, national newspaper editors – to shower them daily with examples of my wit.



Respond to the disappointment of another callous and short-sighted Hay rebuffal by throwing myself into the organization of my very own literary festival. Discover there’s nothing to it. Bag a million-selling, award-winning novelist, raconteur and international superstar as headline act.



Am alarmed to discover that an influential blogger may have referred to me on Twitter as ‘an arse’. Leave Twitter.



A raft of not-so-oblique rejections arrives, heralding the beginning of what will be – it is now becoming apparent – the longest unpublished spell of my career to date.



Sell my second novel. To an award-winning independent publisher, an outfit of integrity and commercial heft and peer respect and copy editors and loveliness, that happens to be based in my home town. It’s a proper deal too, complete with an advance and small print about Rights that might conceivably matter.



Enter short story prizes: The Salt Prize, Words with Jam, The Sunday Times thing. Am very confident I have found the perfect balance between oblique and high energy, reference-heavy. Prizes have various incentives, rules and regulations, with one stipulation in common: ‘under no circumstances can alterations be made to short story once entered’.



Realize my entries to The Salt Prize, Words with Jam, The Sunday Times thing need altering.



In the wake of FacePalmGate, Roger Ellory bails from my very own literary festival.

In place of the mooted twenty, three students turn up for my first writing class. At the end of the session, the college issues the students a Iist of guidelines for their work. These include:

  • No abusive, prejudiced or perjorative language
  • No overtly sexual content or language
  • No drug references.

I say: ‘Please ignore this. The first thing I look for in a text is sexual content, drug references and abusive, prejudiced or perjorative language.’ This goes down like a retarded crack-whore at a five-year old’s birthday party.



Whilst in the throes of negotiating my contract, Tindal Street Press cease to exist.



Start all over again…


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