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Advice from the Literary Agony Aunt

Ask Shelley

Once upon a time, in my way-back incarnation as a jobbing journalist employed (illegally) in a Fleet Street features agency, one of my tasks was to provide a regular advice column for dissemination to the far flung outposts serviced by the agency. Readers, probably not that many, in places like Kowloon or Easter Island or the innermost wastes of Alaska, were treated to juicy perversions and unimaginably complex existential crises.

I invented the questions and the answers. It was fun.

Such fun that ever since I’ve believed that there’s an agony aunt inside me, wildly signalling to be let out.

And now, here she is! Newly arrived into the world, and complete with Dame Edna Everage spectacles to add gravitas to my counsel. Each week a new dilemma – or maybe two – will be published here and on my Facebook page. Here’s the first one:

Dear Shelley, I’m a sensitive soul and the slightest rebuff makes me cry. How can I grow a thicker skin to deal with the rejections I’m bound to face in my writing career? – Weeping Willow.
Shelley: “There, there, Willow. Dry your tears. While writerly sensitivity is indeed a strong asset, self-pity will not help. I sense that you are at the beginning of your chosen career, more focused on being a writer than on writing. Still thinking about your first great work? Well, get on and do it. Hold on to that early excitement and don’t distract yourself with fears of rejection. You are right; for a writer, rejection is as inevitable as death. But so what? Most of the time we live our life as though immortal, so write that book as though it’s the next great novel. It might be. It might … er … not. In which case someone will tell you it is rubbish and you will strengthen your resolve, draw on your indignation, and carry on.”