Saturday, 30 July 2022

The Joy of Food

A week ago, I got food poisoning on a trip to Derry and Donegal. And since then the runs have continued. So my constant companions have been sachets of Dioralyte and rolls of Andrex. By the fourth day, I was feeling rather weak and exhausted, so I rang my GP. He told me that most food-poisoning was caused by viruses, but there could be other culprits. So he needed a sample to send to the microbiology lab. T went to the surgery and collected a large brown envelope he had left for me. Inside was a small container, a wooden spatula and a pair of surgical gloves.

I put a plastic picnic plate in the neck of the toilet. It wasn’t long before I had to go. The watery diarrhoea collected in the plate. I scooped some of it up with the spatula, screwed the cap onto the container and sealed it in the plastic envelope. I also made a mental note to never look for a job in a microbiology lab.

The doctor also included a prescription for an anti-spasmodic drug. You take one tablet a half an hour before eating. He also advised me to only eat dry toast, mashed banana and plain boiled rice. This is not much of a menu. But at least it was something to munch on. I remembered one of my times in hospital for cancer treatment when I had to fast for twelve days. After four days I lost all interest in food, and by the end I had to learn to eat again.

I have kept to my plain menu and the anti-spasmodic tablets. Indeed, for last night’s tea, I had a very exotic dish: broth with slivers of boiled chicken in it. And this has managed to stay in. So I am hoping that I’m now turning a corner. I’ve heard nothing from the microbiology lab, so I don’t know yet what bug has laid me low. But I am looking forward to maybe trying a bit of boiled carrot with my chicken broth tonight. I don’t think I’ll be taking food for granted again.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

The Agent Submission

I’ve now reached the final task on my Advanced Crime Writing course. The agent submission comprises my writing bio, the synopsis and the first three thousand words of my book. The opening is the most important part of any book, because it either gains a reader’s interest or it does not. And the reader I am trying to interest at the moment is one of the literary agents at Curtis Brown. They will be reading the openings of the novels of the thirteen writers who have completed the course. If one of the agents is interested, they would then ask to see the full manuscript. Over the past week, the course organizers have been lowering our expectations. An expression of interest in our work is possible, but unlikely. And all of the agents are ‘very busy’. So we would not hear anything for several months, if at all. But hope springs eternal.

During the course, I’ve been preparing my submission with great care. An earlier draft of the opening of my book got helpful feedback from the tutor and other participants. Since then, I’ve formed a feedback group with several of the writers on the course. And over the past week we have been reviewing one another’s submissions. The deadline for the agent submission is tomorrow. So today I have been making final edits to the opening of my book. The structure and content is already there. It’s more a matter of a word change here or there, and a comma instead of a full stop. But small details matter.

When I finally send it, I will cross my fingers and breathe a sigh of relief. But that is not the end. For then I have to go through the rest of the manuscript and make it as good as I can. Editing is painstaking and rather laborious work. But it has to be done, and done carefully and thoughtfully. In a couple of months, I just might be getting a request from an agent to read the manuscript. Please wish me luck.