Just received some copies of the Large Print edition of Wilbur, so now I’ll still be able to read it when my eyes go, and – best of all – it has a handy wipe-clean cover, for those tricky spillages.

It will be published in paperback next month, and the cover is being finalised at the moment. Having considered a number of designs we’ve come back to something very similar to the one used for the hardback, but in a different colour. In my daydreams about publishing my first novel I didn’t give much thought to the significance of the cover, and now I don’t feel well-qualified to make any decisions about it. If ever I go into a bookshop to buy something I’ll be armed with recommendations from friends and half-remembered reviews from the Saturday Guardian; I don’t browse in the hope of finding something that catches my eye, so I’m ill-equipped to judge which colour would appeal to the widest possible demographic.

Having vetoed a couple of new designs, one on the grounds that it looked good, but didn’t give the potential reader any idea what the book was about and the other because it would have been actively misleading, I’m beginning to wonder whether I shouldn’t just leave it to the publisher to make the decisions…

I’ve finished working on the Encompass project with Spread the Word and miss working with my partners, the writers’ group at Greenwich Association of Disabled People. It snowed on the day of our first meeting and few people could make it to every session, but the work produced was excellent and we printed a small anthology.

Some of the contributors had very little confidence in their ability to write creatively, never having received encouragement, and many were inhibited by their spelling. I made a cardboard effigy of Dr Johnson with a cross through him to sit on the table and explained about his dictionary and how spelling wasn’t always standardised. He kept falling over in protest, but I wanted everyone to write what they felt without having to worry about doing it perfectly. By the end of the project everyone had produced at least one piece that they were happy with.

The aim of Encompass was to get people writing while providing existing writers with training that should help them earn enough money to support their writing habit, but when the project coordinator called me today I was at the checkout in Sainsbury’s, rather than at my desk. She was phoning to ask how many hours of paid work I was currently engaged in per week, and the answer was none. Then she asked me how many hours per week I was writing…

My new distraction is the buddy scheme I’m involved in during the London Book Fair: the British Council asked for volunteers to pair up with visiting South African writers and I put myself forward, not seriously considering that they might actually require me to do anything. I’ve always been the first person in a seminar group to give a paper, despite knowing full well that the first one is always the worst and that all the other members of the group will learn by your mistakes, and I was the first Encompass writer to begin her workshops – before we completed the training, so I still haven’t learnt. I’m the Corporal Jones in any gathering, only slightly less belligerent – and without the bayonet, obviously.

Not that I’m unhappy about it – I think it’s exciting – it’s just that I’m worried that my poor buddy will be expecting a proper writer, and all she’ll get is me. I’m not sure when you qualify to call yourself that – if ever – but I don’t feel I’m there yet.

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