‘It's just a clump of words – a mess on a page. Where's your imagery, your similes, your word sorcery? There's no rhythm, Alan, no flow, no arc, nothing. Do you even want to be good? Do you even read?’
I stood, stunned, in front of the whole group, while Brian gave me ‘constructive criticism’ on my short-story; A Beggar’s Chance in Hell. I fought the urge to wipe his spittle off my jumper and return it to him on my balled-up fist. But l wouldn’t, of course; nobody at the Atlinghall Writing circle ever resorted to physical violence. Words, not Deeds, was our motto.
I looked up, suddenly aware of a deafening silence filling the room. Brian was staring at me, finger pointed, ready to jab me by the looks of things.
‘You think you’re better than me, don’t you?’ he squeaked. It was clear from his voice that I had somehow driven him half-mad, and he was on the brink of smacking me one.
One of the lady members gave a sob, which broke the tension somewhat. I opened my mouth, but he shook his head.
‘I have a degree in all this, you know? That’s why I get to sit here, trying to help bring something out in all of you. A poem in the local paper is probably where you should be aiming, at best. But you, Alan, always the attitude, just because you have a book on Amazon. Anyone can have a book on Amazon, for the record. It doesn’t mean anything.’
There it was, the crux of it all. My book, I Can Write, Mother, sat at 104, 047 in the chart, whilst Brian’s, The Art of Wrestling Verbs, languished at 105, 530.
‘There, there, Brian,’ I said, patting his shoulder, ‘it doesn’t mean anything.’