Saturday, 9 August 2008


Congratulations to Tania Hershman... prizes are falling out of the sky onto this clever lady's head...fabulous writer, whose collection The White Road and Other Stories I can't wait to read.

Three competition notifications in a very few days, this week. Second at Vignette Press, Third at Momaya Press, and first at a competition she can't reveal until later in the year. This comes hot on the heels of securing two residencies in fabulous international writing retreats, won on a competitive basis.

T and I shared over a year's worth of writers' ups and downs, and she describes what it feels like to suddenly have all this good stuff landing, on her BLOG HERE:
It is lovely lovely to be able to blog about this. As it is to blog about all friends successes.

But: something to think about.

One of the last discussions on The Workhouse, one that really upset me, was when someone posted Gore Vidal's quasi-famous quote:
Every time a friend of mine succeeds a little part of me dies,
- of course loads of us went 'huh'??? We were a group who supported each other, celebrated and commiserated together. Like a family.

I am thick, badly read, have been living with my head in a hole. I hadn't heard this one before. And it did upset me. And I cant get it out of my head. It seems evil, to me.

I thought of all the writers I have worked with since late 2003, and it suddenly became clear. Writers seem to fall into two groups. Those who are delighted when their friends and colleagues succeed, and those who are not. I have experienced the ghastly, potentially very damaging behaviour of the latter, and have no intention of coping with it again, if I can help it.

(Oh sure, if two of you were going for the same comp and one succeeded, and the other didnt... there is frustration, a bit of bashing the wall...but there is also pleasure for the colleague, isn't there? Unless I am a totally naive idiot!!)

Slightly different to the treatment I had on occasion, a while back. Including this:
Anon 'helpful' emails were sent to the organisers of not one but two competitions when my name was among the winners, announcing that my entries ought to be disqualified for breaking the rules. They hadn't.

But the embarrassment was not nice!!

What I cant understand is this... how Gore Vidal can call himself a 'friend' of those whose success makes him 'die inside'. Surely, self preservation makes it likely that he would go out of his way to prevent that 'death;, and therefore try to ruin the chances of the said 'friends'.

Some friend, Mr Vidal.

So writerly reader types...I suggest that if you know any writing colleagues who look like they might be of this type... run a mile. Or ten!

Meanwhile, go and read some of Tania's work, it is fab. I just did, and it cheers me up when I'm down. She has such an original 'sparkly' 'sideways' take on life.


Tania Hershman said...

V - your post is so wonderful, thank you, and I am so grateful that neither I nor you nor any of our writer friends & colleagues is of the Gore Vidal school of thought. That made my stomach churn, because I am always so delighted for everyone else - more so than for myself, generally - as are you, I know. It's not a question of winners karma or luck, there not being enough to go around. It's a question of hard work, perseverance, getting our work out there, with an enormous amount of help from our colleagues. This story that won two prizes has the fingerprints of you and many others on it.... That's why we all delight in each other's triumphs. May it always be so - and may the spirit of Gore Vidal's quote never darken our blogs!


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Perzackly!! Let him go and be that sort of 'friend' to whosoever will have him.

Nik's Blog said...

Excellent post, V. True, true, true. And, of course, HUGE congrats to Tania.


Nik's Blog said...

PS I blogged about something similar a while ago here:

PPS I think anyone writing in to ask a comp to disqualify you is an utter disgrace.


Julia Bohanna said...

Yes, that quote has always stuck in my craw..that's why I posted it up on The Workhouse initially. It is simply an alien concept..being close to writers who are shining literally warms me. I smile when I see their news and get excited for them.

I do not want to 'gore' fellow writers who have the gall to do well; instead I put them on a podium and tell everyone: 'I know them...friend...workmate....really do know them.'

Most of all, it does not disminish my own 'ambition.' That belongs to me and if I crave someone else's then it's second-hand - like those baggy old bras in the charity shops. No, it looks best on the original owner.

Tania looks fab in her bra of success....I hope she floats and floats on the plaudits she is receiving fast and thick.

Looking forward to the launch of her book in September too.

Those who 'gore' have dark hearts and I am keeping mine light.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Julia

I am glad you posted it. It was one of those 'aha! moments, and the strange behaviour of many people over the last few years fell into focus.
And there was me thinking they were true originals, and a bit strange cos they were fellow writers!!

Lauri said...

That is appalling- I'd never heard the quote before. You are right V to say he is no friend. When writers I've helped succeed I always see it as partly my success.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Lauri

Its such a tough world out there, isn't it. Yes, it is great when someone you've helped does well... it validates you too... that your advice, feedback, whatever, was of positive benefit.

The thing with the quote is the resonsnce it leaves in my head. It is what is unsaid, the next logivcal thought.

That no one voluntarily opens themselves up to hurt, 'a little bit dying' as he puts it... and therefore there must be effort on his part and people like him, to actively scupper the chances of others.

That's what sticks in my throat.

Even if writers do rush around trying to make trouble for others, it will not make them better writers, or help them succeed themselves, will it!!!?


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Sorry Nik, just saw your last post.

It is, it's unnecessary, far too small minded for any person aspiring to be a real writer of good fiction(!) and also, it is not my problem in the end. I knew I didn't enter things without sticking to the rules.

Whoever it was has to live with themselves. These things will come back to bite them on the bum at some point.

kate said...

I haven't heard that very unpleasant remark but I've heard it's little brother:'in order to succeed it's necessary that others fail.' So much poison. It has always seemed to me that the success of others, especially one's friends, is encouraging and opens the possibilities for others. There's room for everyone and the more success the better.
I'm sorry someone as generous as you, Vanessa, had to suffer from what sounds like pure envy of your talent.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Kate... I guess, maybe in high falutin' business, you get winners and losers every day. Writing... you can't compete against other people. Its not a race, or a mountain climb up the same mountain with the same equipment so someone can yell 'winnah!' when one of you gets to the top.

All you can do is your best. And bow to those who do it better.

Cadenza said...

It pains me to say it, but I've met writers who subscribe to this school. Petty jealousies, overfragile egos... with friends like this? And as for you, Vanessa Gebbie, being 'thick', and poorly read, well hell, I hate to begin to think about the rest of the population.

I know you've met this kind of shallow response in the past, but those of us who know your work... well, we 'know'. Trust that. And BUGGER the rest.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Mrs Z! Nice to see you on the blerg. (my new name for a blog)

We've all met both types, I guess, no names no pack stuff.

Thank you for the lovely words.

Davina Curoopen said...

“One of the last discussions on The Workhouse, one that really upset me, was when someone posted Gore Vidal's quasi-famous quote:
Every time a friend of mine succeeds a little part of me dies,
- of course loads of us went 'huh'??? We were a group who supported each other, celebrated and commiserated together. Like a family.

-- I hadn't heard this one before. And it did upset me. And I cant get it out of my head. It seems evil, to me.”

Hi Vanessa,

Great discussion. I hadn't heard this one either. The trouble with Vidal, as I’m sure you know, is he’s a satirist and he can’t always be taken at face value.

His is a rather contagious and provocative quote and - to get high falutin' - I think a non poetic epigram using literary paradox. Thanks Wikipedia!

Puts a different spin on it but I know nuffin' else.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Davina! Nice to hear from you.

I have to laugh, when I read your post, I thought you said, "Gore Vidal is a satanist"...

what on earth is a "non poetic epigram using literary paradox..?" good old Wikipedia! what did you put in the query box to find that one??

Davina Curoopen said...

Satanist! lol.

Should I confess...I queried nothing. Twas my furniture, see, that's what happens when my furniture does my writing for me.

There'll be a big old bonfire tonight.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Oh to have furniture like that. Then I would get twice as much done...

Shelley Marlow said...

Congratulations on your successes, Vanessa!

On a separate note, having conversed with Gore Vidal on a number of occasions, I am certain that he made that comment in jest.