I spent about a week trying to decide whether it was ethical to write a review about a book written by Iain Grant, my editor for Ten to One, and Heide Goody, one of the judges for the project. Since I already published one for the first book (Clovenhoof) in the series back in March, it seemed worth exploring the reasons behind my hesitation and my ultimate decision to joyfully endorse Pigeonwings.
The reason for hesitating is pretty straightforward. I’m the middle of a writing a book that also has an element of competition. (If you’re new to this site and have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll throw you some context about Ten to One over here.) At the moment, we’re down to eight writers (out of the original ten), and the bar was raised impressively between Chapters 1 and 2. Do I want to be the last writer standing eight chapters from now? Of course. We all do.
This made the decision to write a glowing review even more difficult. I blame this difficulty entirely on the fact that I was not brought up to believe I should do whatever was necessary to win. My parents had deeply entrenched beliefs about the ethics of competition in all aspects of life. We were to be open-minded, compassionate, hard-working; if we didn’t win the day with those methods, then we weren’t meant to win it at all.
They stuck to those ideals, occasionally to their own professional detriment, and without a doubt, those lessons, taught almost entirely by example, stayed with me. They were harsh ones to learn too, since the disappointment of being passed over after putting forth an honest best effort is excruciating. I think what saved me from the heartbreak of the many (many) times I’ve learned that I am not the best or most valuable person in any given situation is that my parents didn’t tie self-worth to success; instead, I was brought up to believe two things: self-worth is connected to effort and intention – not results – and love is unconditional.
What it came down to ultimately was that I didn’t want to write a review of Pigeonwings only because it felt a little funny to promote the work of people in a position of power over me. On the other hand, I think I may have unintentionally just defined what most people consider a form of networking. I’ve never been very comfortable with networking or self-promotion (as far as I can tell, most introverts aren’t), but I understand the value of it.
What I understand even better, though, is the value of working with people who are good at what they do. I enjoy collaborating with writers who are talented, competent, and passionate. It’s easier to put aside concerns about conflict of interest when I consider how difficult it is to get a great book published, and how fortunate I am to be working with people who manage to do just that. It might make me a little uncomfortable to get out my pompoms and start cheering for this book, but to be honest, back in March, reading Clovenhoof was what convinced me to fight for this job. Finding these authors and loving their work has given me to the opportunity to work on a book I adore, and if that doesn’t earn them a little well-deserved recognition for their own literary efforts, I don’t know what does.
I also loved Clovenhoof so much that when I went to Amazon last week to pick up the new novel and saw that I could borrow it for free with Prime, I didn’t. I paid for it (because yes, I do believe spending money on something signifies worth), and then I spent the next few days carving out little blocks of time around hosting two of my best friends to read it. (I discovered I could read fifteen percent in the fifty minutes it took me to go four miles on the cross trainer at my gym, which made me feel like a multi-tasking maven.)
While Clovenhoof got me (and my apparently disruptive laughter) glared out of a London Starbucks on two separate occasions, Pigeonwings nudged me to wake up before my alarm just so I could squeeze in a chapter before the start of another day. Let me tell you about how only the promise of truly pleasurable reading could ever convince me to roll over before dawn…
Clovenhoof, who had been enlivening the quiz night at the Boldmere Oak by shouting out random wrong answers before he was kicked out by Lennox the barman, staggered home, turning each merry stumble of his hooves into a tap dance worthy of Gene Kelly. He tottered up the high street, not yet decided if he was going to indulge in a goodnight kebab, curry or pizza, and saw two shady looking figures outside Books ‘n’ Bobs.
“There’s nothing worth stealing in there,” he called out.
“It’s us,” said Ben.
And it was. Ben and Michael were sitting on folding garden chairs, wrapped in winter coats and blankets, Michael with a clipboard in his hands, Ben with a computer tablet in his.
“We’re doing a scientific study,” said Michael, a phrase that Clovenhoof typically understood to mean ‘spying on naked neighbours with a telescope’. As there were no neighbours, naked or otherwise, in sight, Clovenhoof was nonplussed.
“We’re recording local bus traffic,” said Ben, “and comparing it to relevant astrological data.”
“We log the bus and use its registration number to find its place and date of manufacture and draw up the corresponding horoscope.”
“You’re calculating the horoscopes of buses?” said Clovenhoof, who was quite sure he hadn’t drunk enough to be making this up himself. (loc 1489)
For more about Goody and Grant, head over here.