Thursday 11 June 2009

At least no one called me Dear!

I don’t often go shopping. I don’t like shops or crowds and if I’m in the wrong frame of mind for it I go into a kind of trance and can’t think straight enough to buy anything. Some might say it’s because I’m a tightwad and panic at the thought of opening my purse, but it goes deeper than that.

Well today wasn’t too bad, but in every shop I went in at least one person came over and asked if I was all right. In Boots as I was leaving with my small bag, one of those pretty make up ladies leapt out from between the counters and bellowed “Thank you!” – Big Smile too.

Even in the foody bit of M&S someone asked if I was okay. In the Early Learning Centre I was asked three times if I needed any help, was okay, are you all right there? One of the assistants even came and relieved me of my purchases and put them behind the counter as I carried on browsing.

In Clinton Cards a woman smiled and said “Are you all right? Do you need any help?”

In W H Smith . . . oh hold on, no one spoke to me in there, they were too busy chatting to each other. But who needs help buying magazines?

On the market the lady who served me said “All right, darlin'?” but she was saying that to everyone.

I started to worry. Did I look ill? Decrepit and incapable perhaps? Was my skirt tucked in my knickers and they were trying to pluck up the courage to tell me . . . well it wasn’t that because I was wearing trousers. But perhaps they’d split up the back! Was I wearing odd shoes – I hardly dared look. I wasn’t. Maybe my hair was standing on end. Why the concern for my welfare?

I have since been told that it was nothing personal, but that shops have stepped up the customer service to try to persuade us to spend more of the money we don’t have in their shops.

This has absolutely nothing to do with writing does it? But I did buy a copy of Writing Magazine with a pretty pink cover because I noticed there was an interview with Gaynor Davies in there. And I did what I always do when I buy a writing magazine – I hid it under another magazine in case anyone saw it.

Bizarre isn’t it, but I imagine people will see me buying a writing magazine and titter behind their hands. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps because when I first started out and even when I was published, some people made unkind remarks or laughed at me. I sometimes think it was those people that gave me the determination to be a writer.

Anyway, I'm off now for a read . . .


  1. People made unkind remarks and laughed at you??? Well, if they did, it was because they were jealous. I read recently that more people in the UK want to be writers, than any other occupation! And now you're successful, they must be even more jealous, so there! Honestly, I do think we writers were born to suffer! We have to develop thick skins, don't we!

  2. Elizabeth McKay11 June 2009 at 20:27

    Ah, but Teresa, who's having the last laugh?

  3. I think most people see us as delusional wannabes with JKR being the only one who has patently "made it" in the so-called real world. I'm sure this is the main reason we don't tell anyone what we do (me included). In a society which judges most things by the monetary reward it provides, we are seen as a little odd. But that's a lovely thought, Olivia - I hadn't read that about writers. Thick skin, moi? Just watch that water flooding off my duck feathers!

  4. By the way, Teresa, I've just read your revised profile and I just want to say I love bats!

  5. Hi Teresa. I'm nowhere near published yet, though I am taking the Writers Bureau course, but I buy the writing magazines every month from WH Smith, and make a big thing of picking them off the shelves. I suppose it's because I know it gets them curious. I can feel the silent questions from behind me.

    But, like you, I hate shopping with a vengeance. I put it off as long as I can, though usually they lure of a magazine forces me into the mall.

  6. I don't know what's worse, shop assistants who go over the top or totally ignore me. If it's the latter and I'm waiting to purchase something, I usually keep looking at my watch and they take the hint. If it's the former, I try to remember that I was once a shop assistant who was told to ask the customer if he or she was all right. I never liked doing it because I thought, if they want something they'll ask.

    When it comes to the writing magazines. I love buying them. I've had articles published in Writers' Forum mag and it's funny then. I long for the assistant to say, "I see you have an article in this month's edition then?"

    Of course they never do. But it gives me a buzz.

    Do you feel the same when your stories are published in magazines, Teresa?

  7. When Steve, a friend of mine, was interviewed for Writers' Forum, and had a big picture in there, he showed it to the shop assistant and she said, 'Oh, that man looks just like you.' When he said it was him she laughed.

  8. And the only reason I don't tend to tell people I write is because they always say, 'I'm going to write a book one day.'
    Or they think I make as much money as JK which is why most of the public are writing - not for the love of it but in the hope of getting rich.

  9. And furthermore I LOVE shopping. Why? Because our nearest shop is 4 miles away and in the nearest town (8 miles)there are no decent shops. When I get back to Malvern, or Worcester I go mad at the sight of shops and spend, spend, spend, especially if Irene Yates is with me. She is so good at helping me spend my money :-)

  10. I can really identify with hearing the phrase, 'I'm going to write a book one day...', Lynne. Some may well do, but there are others you know probably won't. I usually say: "So, what's stopping you then?"

    I love helping other writers and sometimes run free online workshops, but I have come across some people who keep emailing for info about writing but don't appear to be doing any writing themselves. I feel like shouting, "Just write the bl**dy book!"

    The other thing that bugs me is when someone says: "I've got a great idea for a book you could write..." I know they are trying to be helpful but I have enough ideas of mine own to rein in.

    Gosh, don't I sound like a grumpy old woman today?

  11. Thanks, Olivia!

    True, Elizabeth!

    Lydia, I love bats too!

    Teresa, I’m glad I’m not alone in hating shopping! Good luck with the course!

    I didn’t really mind the shop assistants asking, Lynette – I was just a bit surprised and worried as to why!! Yes, I do feel a bit like that when I have a story in a magazine! And I do identify with people wanting to give you their ideas. You don’t sound like a Grumpy Old Woman, but even if you were you’d fit in well with me!!

    Lynne – I can just imagine that shop assistant laughing at Steve! Oh and all those people who are going to write a book one day – or as one woman said to me her daughter “could easily do that!” Write stories for magazines that is. And I think you’re right, most people seem to think it’s a quick and easy way to get rich! If I went shopping with you, Lynne, I’d enjoy it!!!

  12. I used to sneakily buy the writing magazines too, but when I had my column - in Writing Magazine - my then husband would often open it in the shop at my page and see if anyone associated the photograph with the person he was with. He was so star struck, bless him.

    As for "at least they didn't call me dear", I have a lot of Geordie friends and they do call me dear - and I hate it.

    Quick hello to Lynne Hackles (and apologies to our hostess for hijacking one of her visitors) - we met several times at Solihull Writers' Workshop when we were doing our joint thang with Worcester Writers.

  13. Elizabeth McKay12 June 2009 at 10:17

    I once heard someone say 'everybody wants to be a writer but nobody actually wants to write!' (If anyone starts a Grumpy Old Woman's Club, please can I join. I've got all the necessary qualifications.)

  14. How I identify with the comments about how easily people could write a woman's magazine story. Hmm!

  15. Pah! So some people think it's easy to write for a woman's mag do they?! Oh how sadly disappointed they would be if they tried! Let's hear them say it when they've tried it.

    I hate shopping too - all those crowds and far too much noise for my liking. If I go shopping I have to know exactly which shops I'm going to and what I went to buy and where it is in the store. If I can't find what I want within ten minutes I'm out of there!

    Julie xx
    PS I promise never ever to call any of you 'dear' and yes, I want to join the Teresa Ashby grumpy young women club too!

  16. I hate crowds, so normally do my shopping online - painless until the credit card bill arrives. The writing magazines are on subscription, but the postman already knew I wrote as I frequently meet him to see if any of my SAEs have come winging back.

    A waiter once called me 'dear', it was crushing.

  17. Teresa:

    1) The reason so many shop assistants spoke to you is that you must look like you have money to spend!

    2) I try to never tell anyone I write, as they always tell me they're going to write a book once they retire/find the time between manicures/can be bothered/think of something to write about. All those reasons make me want to slap someone, which is not good for my karma, so in my real, physical life I pretend to be an indulgent mummy, and no more.

    3) A dear friend of mine has an article in Writing magazine (?) this month: Sally Zigmond. She's recovering from a badly-broken leg/hip, and we should all pile onto her blog and be kind to her, and wish her well.

    4) We have bats living in our attics and they're lovely little creatures: not wrinkled at all, just small and flitty and secret. Very similar to a writer at work, in fact. I love them.

  18. One of the best things about this blog,Teresa - so thank you so much for starting it - is hearing other writers say they've experienced things you thought only happened to you. When I read the rest of you saying you've been told so many times how easy it must be to write for women's mags, I don't feel such a ratbag for wanting to stick pins in the people who say it to me! Hey ho, girls! Let's hear it for the grumpy writers' on-line club!

  19. I actually like it sometimes when a wannabe says it must be easy to write for women's magazines. I tell them how much Norah pays us and watch their eyes glint. Then they announce they'll write for TaB too. A week later they tell me they've sent off a dozen old stories and then the subject is never mentioned again.

  20. And another thing, dears...
    Hello to Dianne from Solihull. I'm a long way from there now. And here's a bat story. I was in Durham when I saw a little bat lying on the pavement near the Cathedral. I was deciding what to do about it when I saw an official sign that said something like this.
    Please do not move the bats lying on the ground. They are teenagers who have been out on the razzle and will find their own way home eventually.

  21. Good Morning Grumpy Writers!

    I don’t mind being called dear by people older than me, Diane (and I’d probably forgive Geordies – I love that accent!)!

    Maybe we should set up a Grumpy Old (and not so old) Writers Club, Elizabeth!

    Amazing how many there are isn’t it, Geri!

    I’ve been known to abandon trolley (and husband) in supermarkets, Julie. I’ve walked into shops and turned round and walked right out again because they’ve been too busy. But once I’m in there looking for something, I can’t think straight even if I know what I want and it takes me ages to buy anything!

    Me too, Suzanne! I do most of it online. Years ago my mum’s post lady told her I was famous in the local sorting office because I got so much mail and my mum proudly told her it was because I was a writer . . . I don’t think she explained the significance of all the big brown envelopes though!

    Jane – ha ha – 1) they would only think I had money to spend if they mistook me for one of those scruffy eccentric types with piles of money in the coal shed!
    2) I don’t tell anyone I write unless I absolutely have to.
    3) I saw Sally was in the Writing Magazine – haven’t got to her article yet, but I will! Sounds awful, her broken leg/hip, poor Sally.
    4) We found a young bat on our drive a few years ago and (on the advice of the bat rescue people) had to keep it in the airing cupboard until we could take it over to them. It was a dear little thing with such a sweet little face. I had never thought before about them being like a writer at work!

    Thank you, Lydia! I was so reluctant to do this, as I’ve probably already said and I’m so glad I did.

    That made me laugh, Lynne – I’d never looked at it that way before! I wonder if our bat was a teenager. I think the local cats would have killed it if we’d left it where it was.

  22. Hello everybody,

    I’ve only recently started writing short stories and have had five accepted so far…something I’m really quite proud and pleased about. So why is it that the only people (apart from family) that I feel comfortable mentioning this to is other writers? OK, I’ll answer my own question – it’s because only other writers like yourselves know just what hard work and effort goes into getting a story right.

    My first acceptance was from People’s Friend (and it took a couple of re-writes, and a lot of great advice and support from the ever-patient editor I worked with, to get it publishable)

    When it appeared I was basking in my own glory until an unthinking acquaintance raised an eyebrow and suggested I would do better targeting a more “upmarket” magazine. Yes..I know! (She’ll be featuring prominently in my first murder story!!)

    Anyway, Teresa, I just wanted to thank you for such a superb blog – and to everybody else out there for sharing your humour, experience, and good common sense.

  23. Rena, that's brilliant - five acceptances and you've only just started!!

    Oh, grrrh! The woman who made that suggestion - glad to hear you'll be getting your revenge in a story!

  24. Oh, can I join this Grumpy Old Women's Club, please? I can find plenty to moan about, believe me, and I hate shopping too!
    It's not the 'normal' shops that upset me (although I do tend to stand outside when my husband and sons go into places like Game), but it's the weekly trip to Tesco (or is it Tesco's)which really annoys me!
    It seems that wherever I stand with my trolley somebody wants to get to the products right behind me and they glare at me and push my trolley out of they way, and when I want to get to a tin of something on a particular shelf, there's always a group of people just stnading there talking about mind blowingly important subjects like what their chiropodist said or when they last saw a long lost friend or relative.
    Then there's the toddlers dicing with death in front of my trolley whenever I manage to pick up a bit of speed, and the check out people (or whatever they're called these days) who must think I'm an octopus and can cope with packing four bags at once as the goods are coming through.
    I could go on, but I'd better not. Maybe I should put it all into a story? It wouldn't have a very uplifting ending though - because putting all the shopping away when I get home makes me pretty grumpy too!

  25. I don't think you're grumpy at all, Susan. It all sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

    I was once in a supermarket where the end of the conveyor belt was a long way from the loading point. It was a double till point and an old lady from the other half, who had packed her own meagre purchases into her shopping bag, then stretched over to my side and proceeded to stash away things I had paid for into said bag. I was so gob-smacked at her blatant cheek that I forgot to be cross.

  26. One of the reasons I write is to get revenge. I once wrote a story in which my MC, from a council house estate, was bullied by two middle-class girls at her grammar school. It was a story I'd wanted to write for ages because it was my own story and in fact I'd subbed it on about three different occasions over fifteen years. But it was only when I stepped right back from it and made the family in it very different from my own that it took off. The theme, I guess, was that pretending to be what you aren't will only bring you unhappiness and that you should be proud of where you come from because your people are probably good people, who love you, I don't think I brought that out fully enough in my earlier attempts.

  27. Don’t get me started, Susan – what about kids that are allowed to go round supermarkets on scooters? Or the people who wait for all their shopping to go through before starting to pack it and then wait until they’ve packed it all before looking for their purse/wallet!! Or the ones that stand in the queue keeping a place while their partner goes off round the store getting more shopping . . .

    Blimey, Rena! I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone try to pinch my shopping!

    I think those stories that so important to us are the hardest to write don’t you, Geri. I agree we should be proud of where we came from (wherever it may be), it’s what helps to make us who we are.

  28. I agree that personal stories are the hardest to write, but distance is really helpful for most stories, I find. It's one of the reasons rejected stories are sometimes accepted when looked at again and altered. The distance from the initial creation process helps me to see faults that I would never have seen at an initial edit.
    Congratulations on your acceptances, Rena and don't let anyone rubbish the Friend to you! We'd all be worse off without it!

  29. Thanks Lydia. You're quite right about the Friend. It's a great mag (especially since they have now bought two of my stories) but it is a difficult market to crack.I also have the rejections to prove it. Once they know you, however, they are full of support and encouragement, and no writer can ask for more than that.

    The opportunity to distance yourself from a story really is a great help. When I read through some of my rejections I'm horrified that I sent them out like that in the first place. Most stories benefit from a good old re-write anyway. I'm trying to learn patience and not send out stories in that first flush of euphoria just after I've typed The End. Putting them "in a drawer" so to speak for a few days is a great idea because the final read-through always throws up typos or other horrors so easily missed first time round.