Hazel McHaffie



Perfectionism is the writer’s besetting sin. Every book is flawed or even failed copy of the ideal book that existed in your mind before you began. And every book is, at some level, a correction of the one that went before.‘ So goes the editorial in the Spring edition of The Author.

How true. I used to have a sticker on my computer that said, ‘Perfection is always one more draft away‘, but I took it down in the end because … well, you know me!  Mrs An-inch-away-from-obsessive. I’d have been putting off publication date ad infinitum. In the end ‘good enough’ has to do, or the jolly old title will never see the light of day.

Over my Dead BodyBut I think it’s this abiding awareness of imperfection that’s partly what makes it such a joy to go out to meet real live folk who’ve read the books and love them, to listen to their comments and generous commendation. They come to the stories without all my baggage and yet they enter into the lives of the characters and talk about them as if they too know them personally. All very confirming.

I’ve been doing quite a lot of author appearances since Over my Dead Body came out, and people are so kind. So thank you, librarians, event organisers, audiences, readers – keep up the good work. We writers need you, just as you need us. And never underestimate the value of your feedback. If for any reason you can’t get to an event to speak to us face to face, pop a comment on our websites, or post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. We love to hear from you.

OK, my mind might have been wandering down the track of never being quite good enough, but that’s made me more aware of other kinds of perfection in our amazing world:SwanPoppySpider's webWe can’t go out and photograph the human brain but how amazingly crafted it is to be capable of conjuring up fictitious scenes and people so vividly that other brains can picture them and feel their emotions merely through black squiggles on white paper. Imagine that! I am lost in wonder.

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Honorable invitation

BlossomWhy a picture of spring blossom? Read on …

It’s a few years now since I left academic life behind, but I still get occasional requests to fulfil roles relating to my former life which are gratifying but must be declined in everybody’s best interests. I always said I wouldn’t become a dinosaur on the conference circuit and I’ve held to that resolve – even when very tempting genuine invitations came from Canada and New Zealand (two countries I’ve always wanted to visit).

But the letter that arrived here from the States a few weeks ago was doubly delightful – not just an unexpected and courteous request, but one couched in extravagant terms to boot, which I why I’m sharing it with you. The age of chivalry is not dead.

InvitationIt was headed ‘Honorable invitation’, and the text began by ‘soliciting’ my ‘gracious presence’ at a forthcoming World Congress in the USA. ‘Gracious presence’ … me?? They would be both ‘pleased and honored’ if I would ‘consent to be their speaker’. I mean, how could one resist such a charmingly fulsome request?

And no, it wasn’t junk mail; the conference actually exists. But I’m under no illusions: I am not the honorable gracious presence who could best fit their prestigious bill. Scraping the barrel comes to mind!

I duly crawled back down from this virtual pedestal and burrowed back into my secluded and unknown study where I scribbled on in splendid isolation. Ah yes, but I am emerging three times this month to honour other less flamboyant invitations: two to speak in libraries, one to a bookclub. Not international, not hugely prestigious, but much more realistic. And fun! In one of them the audience was made up entirely of young adults – all bookworms! Wonderful.

I know my level.

BlossomRather like the beautiful tree to one side of our house: one week gorgeous blossom at its best, admired and appreciated; next week petal confetti blowing in the wind, lightly resting in all sorts of places. Nevertheless still nourishing the ground it sinks into. Here endeth the lesson!

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