The Writing School, Miranda France

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Such a funny, wise, clever, beautiful and memorable book. I say this as a desperate writer and writing school attendee; maybe Miranda France’s memoir won’t land as sharply if you’re not of my ilk but I’m sure it will entertain nonetheless.

I was immediately convinced that the retreat France hangs the book around was Ted Hughes’ old house in Heptonstall, Lumb Bank, where I stayed for a week in late 2019, and hope to get back to one day.

Ever keen to insert myself into the story, even though I moan about it in journalism.

It is funny - funny as in tragic and pathetic not as in haha amusing - to think I was flogging my first thing back then, and wondering whether to bother with it, whether to carry on. In the end I laboured on, and sent The Lost Sister out to a few agents in summer 2020. I didn’t really think it was good, or good enough, or what I wished to launch at the world as my grand debut. But a few respectable agents read it in full, which was exceedingly gratifying.

It seemed quite a strong first step, at the time. I dived into my next book, Feeding Time, as if I’d learnt everything from finishing a single manuscript. Each time I’ve sent it out, I’ve been so sure of a good response. Three drafts, 16 full reads, 3.5 years later…no offers. It’s not that I refuse to stop flogging a dead horse, but people keep asking to see it, to read more, to profess their admiration for all kinds of things about it and about my writing, just not with enough enthusiasm to actually wish to work with me.

The effect of this is that the rejection is both impersonal and acutely personal each time. I cannot hope to match everyone’s tastes and must not measure my writing against what they want to work with, and what they believe a fickle industry desires. And YET, I am asking them to collaborate, to spend time with ME and MY WORK, MY WRITING.

It’s like not getting picked for the team. Every single fucking time.

Some rejections are a kind but obviously pro forma few sentences. Others are detailed and generous. I know there is no point working with an agent who is half-assed about me, as I know what happens to work that I am half-assed about - not very much.

Oh well. The only person who can give up is me. Yadda yadda. Blah blah blah.

I knew I wanted to read Miranda France’s memoir but had forgotten the name. I asked on X/Twitter for ‘that book about writing set in France’, and Miranda herself popped up to wonder if it was hers. So glad she did! 

Next I will read Bad Times in Buenos Aires, published in 2002, the period when I was obsessed with the place.


Get your copy of The Writing School from bookshop.org for £18.04. I love the cover design.