Hubris, gratefulness, politesse?

I’ve spent a couple of days now, staring at the little heap of my books that was delivered on Monday.

They stare back.

I am paralysed by knowing what it is good, or fair, or right to do in this situation. I am sending books to people who have been instrumental in its genesis, and to whom I know it will be welcome as a mark of my esteem, if nothing else. These people include my excellent first reader, my best friend since High Shcool and my writing compatriot Bunny Goodjohn.

Then there are other people: important people, and ones that I would like to thank. Most notably A.L. Kennedy and Jonathon Porritt, both of whom gave generous and charming quotes for the book jacket.


Is it hubristic to send people a copy of a book they’ve had an advanced read of? Does it look arrogant? Would they prefer something else or would that look as if I don’t have confidence in my own book, or that I didn’t rate them highly enough to send them a copy? Well, I think they both know I rate them rather highly: Jonathon has been a leading contributor to the environmental field since I first entered it more than 20 years ago, and I’ve valued working alongside him tremendously. As for A.L. … well I’m on record as saying she is a goddess to me.

And yet I’m terrified that sending the damn books will seem brash, and not sending them will seem ungrateful and ungracious, and as a result the books are sitting on my dining room table, next to ready labelled envelopes which seem to grin at me maliciously with their open flaps whenever I pass.

And then, if I do send them, what to write in them? And why didn’t my parents send me to calligraphy classes as a child so that even if I can’t find the ‘right’ words I can produce some nice-to-look-at ones?

So I distract myself by stuffing seeds, sweets and limerick first lines into the flowerpots that are serving as goody bags for the launch, which somewhat eases my mind until I start to worry that nobody will turn up and that I will have to take all the flowerpots home again …

And then I go and crochet something, to take my mind off the subject that I was using to take my mind off the subject of the books … this publishing stuff is actually quite stressful, you know?


  1. Charles Lambert
    4th March 2011

    I think I probably find it easier to write a book than a dedication.

  2. Kay Sexton
    4th March 2011

    But Charles, you’ve had three lots of practice at this – I was expecting tips from the master, not concurrence!

  3. Charles Lambert
    4th March 2011

    The worst was when I wrote to a dedication to a charming young man called Felix. Felix, I thought, that means happy. Happiness is a wonderful thing (as Madame de Gaulle once memorably remarked). So I wrote “And lots more of it.” And immediately wished I’d died before picking up the pen. Explaining only made it worse. If you read this, Felix, accept my belated apologies.

  4. Mike Mertens
    4th March 2011

    I have been in the opposite situation and I can certainly tell you it was great to be offered a copy of the volume I helped to shape in some way. It was not an expectation but all the same very welcome when it came!

  5. Found art blog
    4th March 2011

    Well, you could ask them…? And as for what to write, there’s two very good ones that may work. “Thank” and “you”.

    Keeping it Simples.

  6. Vanessa Gebbie
    4th March 2011

    Smashing, and scary, and how we do analyse to the nth degree, us lot!

    How lovely to have endorsements from not just Mr P but also the great and wonderful AL. Bless them with your last breath for taking the time to read, and for giving them their important words.

    As someone else has said – ‘thank you’ seems about right.

    It is SO hard knowing what is right. This writer contacted a couple of well-knowns, as they’d been kind enough to judge ones work highly, met, got on OK for ten minutes in 1342…’would you be able to… if you can’t’ I will understand- I know you must be terribly busy…’

    I got charming brush offs from secretaries.

    I’d put up a shrine at ALK and sacrifice a few beans every night, meself!!

  7. Jim Murdoch
    5th March 2011

    Something for you to crochet. Your book arrived in the post today. I have to say it both looks and feels lovely. Much as I recognise the need for e-books, nothing feels quite like a new book in the hand. I’ve just got to finish off a review of Nabokov’s Pnin and I can make a start reading this: so going from the ridiculous to the sublime (I hope). Carrie also says it looks lovely and wants to read it when I’m done. I will be in touch.

  8. Kay Sexton
    15th March 2011

    Vanessa – it was amazing to get comments from A.L. who is quite possibly the nicest writer I have ever met, as well as being a literary goddess. Jonners is a star – I’ve worked with him, on and off for oooh … twenty years(?) and his generosity is legendary in a world (environmental activism) where most folk are pretty generous anyway.

    Charles, you’re a bad lad!

    Mike, that’s nice to know, and somewhat reassuring.

    Found Art – you are right, as always!


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