Day 5 of the A to Z challenge, and time for Envy. It’s not going to be pretty, guys …
No one likes to admit to feeling envious. It’s not a nice emotion, it’s had a lot of bad press (deadly sins and all that), and it diminishes us – even in our own eyes. But most of us have experienced the green-eyed monster at some point in our lives.
What kinds of things make you feel envious? With me it’s book awards. There, I’ve said it. I’ve come right out and admitted it! Just now I’m reading The Innocents – winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2012 – and every time I pick up the book and see that little red badge on the cover I feel a small stab of envy.
I’m not envious that Francesca Segal won, of course – she totally deserved to, it’s a brilliant book and I’m really enjoying reading it. And it’s not that I think I’m anywhere near good enough as a writer to stand a chance of winning such an accolade (but maybe one day …) When I take out my envy and have a good look at it, I realise it’s all part of the indie-inferiority-complex that I manage to keep hidden away most of the time. Self-published books can’t be entered in competitions like the Costa Book Award. Indie authors are barred, just like we’re barred from all the major high-profile book competitions, and societies like the Romantic Novelists’ Association. We’re barred because clearly we are all, as a group, completely crap and not worth bothering with.
Bitter? Me? Well, maybe just a tiny bit. It’s the root of my envy, at least. I’m not good enough to be entered into a competition like this, but I know a number of indie authors who most certainly are – Linda Gillard and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn spring to mind. My circle of author friends is small, but there must be a whole world of talent out there. But without a publisher to send in the required copies, without the established network, they are permanently excluded.
OK, I’ve heard all the arguments – it would take too long to read all the entries, publishers act as a filter etc – and fine, I agree it’s problematic to open up a competition to author-nominated entries. But the people who run these awards are intelligent and creative – if they can’t find a way to be more inclusive then shame on them.
So am I saying that secretly I wish I did have a traditional publishing contract? This question has been niggling away at me for some time now, mainly to do with options around my MA study (which I’ll come back to on M). Is that the root of my envy, really? I know own thing – being honest with myself is a principle that’s hugely important to me, and I need to dig deep to find the answers. Unpleasant feelings like envy, anger, shame and hate give us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves – and that has to be a good thing!