Margaret Jennings: Anthology Editor and Writer

I sometimes wonder what I’d do if my last thought on my death bed was, ‘Oh! I didn’t make it as a writer!’ Then I realise I’d just die – and I don’t suppose you can take any emotion, let alone profound disappointment, into the next world with you.

I have always been a writer, I will always be a writer. It is the way I am made. I didn’t always write because I somehow believed that writing was for people posher or more clever than me. This I expressed in a poem, “ Po-wit, Po-wit ? Where I come from / it’s like the froufrou stink of the bath / demented.”

For years, I hid my strange, pretentious, habit from others. But beautiful sentences sing to me, a new (and appropriate) simile or metaphor thrills me, and clichés do my head in. Now I chase the dream but the dream always seems to be running away with a fleeter foot than mine.

Many years ago, I plucked up courage and went to my first writing group which was lead by Denise Bennett. Then I went to University as a mature student to study English with Creative writing. I was fortunate in being taught by Vicki Feaver and many other talented writers. My work was received well and I went on to do a Masters in Creative writing. After a few years in the wilderness (studying for a French degree which I foolishly thought would give me time to write), I joined the Writers of Lovedean. I have had poetry and short stories published. People say they like my work. I go to open mic events. I have finished one novel and am half way through the second. I was long listed for the Bare Fiction prize. I work hard every day to improve my work.

Then Charlotte came up with the idea for Portsmouth Plugged in. I am a great fan of Alan Bennett and have always wanted to attempt a monologue. I met Alan once, sorry, Mr Bennett. I arrived late for a reading he was giving in Chichester. Amazingly they let me in. He was reading poems, so as quietly as I could, I found a space at the back. Then an attendant said I had to move because I was standing in front of a speaker and no-one could hear.

‘Look there’s a seat over there.’

Indeed, there was. In the middle of a row. I walked over and indicated to the woman that I needed to get to the seat. I didn’t dare talk because the Great Man himself was speaking. But instead of standing back against her chair so that I could edge through, she walked out into the aisle – and all the others followed, interrupting everyone’s enjoyment of the reading. Afterwards, at the book signing, I went up to Mr Bennett and apologised for disturbing him.

‘That’s all right,’ he said, ‘ I never noticed you coming in when I was reading my poems at all.’

I am still a fan despite being cut down to size.

I am looking forward to watching the films in Portsmouth Plugged In, and I’m keen to write my monologue. I’ve also been asked to run one of the workshops. This will mean analysing exactly what makes a monologue a monologue as opposed to a straightforward piece of first person writing. I might get in touch with Mr Bennett, mention that we have met before, send him some buttons because I have reason to believe he likes them, and ask if he would like to come and be our honoured guest. I know the answer will be no, but there’s no harm in asking.

My main role will be that of the editor of the anthology. And there will be no favouritism. I have to hope my piece is good enough to go in. If it is not, I shall do what Candy Crush has taught me; create lots of movement in the writing world by sending lots of stuff out, take time out to consider new tactics, treasure the advise of others, and keep going even when life seems to have you stuck on a level. And after sulking for a bit, I shall start chasing the dream again, in the hope that she now has a thorn in her foot and cannot run so fast.

And I will no longer have to fear a feeling of failure on my deathbed.

1 thought on “Margaret Jennings: Anthology Editor and Writer”

  1. I sometimes wonder if Jane Austen’s last thought was ‘Oh! I didn’t make it as a writer!’ Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors yet she won little fame during her lifetime, and hardly received any money. Unlike humans, stories are timeless. Perhaps, when the time comes and profound disappointment starts to creep in, you should think ‘Oh! I haven’t made it as a writer, YET!’

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