Saturday, July 5, 2008
WHAT DOES A WRITER LOOK LIKE?
The not-bad-looking old bird below is me, photographed for our local (once-a-week, 12 pages, small town) newspaper, by Mick the owner/editor/publisher. Who will forgive me if I mention he wasn't famous for his good pictures! The occasion was the publication of my first book in 2002.
I look writerly here, don't I? Pure serendipity. I've had people say to me, and (overheard!) about me: "You don't look like a writer." In fact they leave unsaid the fact I look in everyday life just like the other things I am: wife, mother, housekeeper, home gardener, grandmother and great-grandmother. See first photo!
It certainly made me think. I've thought of myself as 'a writer' all my life, though I wasn't published in book length until I was 61. What is a writer supposed to look like? Someone frightfully intelligent, all sharp-nosed and in a suit? And a romance writer - a glamorous lady wearing glasses, clutching a rose in her teeth, a glass of champers in her left hand and working on a keyboard with her right?
Well, writers are people! And you wouldn't pick one out of a crowd unless a red arrow descended on his/her head. How do you pick someone who's keen on fishing? Or is a serial killer? Or an artist? Or a truck driver? Or a coroner? Unless they're famous (or, in the case of the killer, infamous) they look like anyone else.
I have a game I play with the "Events" section of the Sunday paper. Not the social pages, but the wedding photos. They are charming, the bride and groom look happy. Yet the statistics tell us 46% of marriages end in divorce. The game is, I look at these smiling people and try to pick which couples will end up apart. Do you know what? As a game it's no good, because I don't hear about these people later on in life. But NONE of them look as if they'll ever separate from the spouse they've just sworn to love forever. Oh, occasionally I might not like someone's looks. I think, he looks like a tough nut who'd beat his wife. Or she looks like a spoiled brat and will lead him a merry chase. But I'm probably wrong every time. Because cameras lie, and the moment caught for eternity by one of them just might not be a great moment. So, you can't judge people by their looks.
Now, about that other photo of me, taken a few years after the first one AND when I wasn't looking, by my brother. Now this woman does NOT look like a writer. Especially of romances. More specially of sexy contemporary romances. (The first book was one.) She looks like a housekeeper (not a good one if you look around her!) and grandmother with no hobbies except her garden. So, if I'd put that picture up on its own you would have been rightly bewildered. But, folks, this lady has been married to the same man since 1960, and if you think she's too old to harbour thoughts of romance, remember this: she has four children. And they have between them thirteen children. And the eldest of the thirteen has three small children of her own. How do you think mums got be mums in the first place, if they didn't know about 'romance' etc.? Do not judge a book by its cover or even the blurb on the back. And don't say "so-and-so doesn't look like a writer/artist/chef/mass murderer/actor/saleslady/cat burglar". You don't know what kind of person they are until you know more about them than their looks.
And neither, darn it, do I.