Archive for the ‘one-woman-show’ Category

Pin Up Girl

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Peirene puts on her dark shades and retrieves a big sunhat from underneath her desk.10023979124_b5fc2c316a_z

‘Where are you’re going?’ The rain is pelting down on the sky-lights of our new office, so I’m curious to know what the Nymph is up to.

‘Nowhere special.’ She pulls the hat over the left side of her face and heads towards the door. ‘Just to the loo,’ she then adds and disappears. A few minutes later she’s back. Still in shades and hat. Although I notice that now the sunhat covers the right side of her face.

‘This is very peculiar behaviour,’ I can’t help commenting.

‘I’m trying my best,’ the Nymph mumbles in reply.

‘What? To pretend that it is sunny outside?’

‘No.’ Peirene rolls her eyes .‘I’m trying to pretend that that poster,’ she points with her head to the wall just outside our office, ‘isn’t hanging there. And since I can’t avert my eyes, I have to shade them from its sight as much as possible.’

I’m shocked. That poster is of me! It’s a stunning 1m x 2.20m banner that hung from the ceiling in the entrance hall of the literary festival in Bangladesh in 2015 announcing my appearance on stage. Afterwards the organisers gave me the banner as a souvenir. And ever since then I have been dying to hang it up somewhere. I might never be such a celebrated star ever again. And so, I might as well be proud of that moment. And now with the new office I finally have found the perfect wall for it.

‘You are just jealous,’ I shrug my shoulders as if her comment didn’t affect me and turn back to the computer.

‘Me and jealous,’ she sighs. ‘You misjudge me. Did I tear your poster down? Rip it up? Burn it to ashes? No! Instead I accept things as they are’ She shuts her lips, breathes deeply and returns to her desk.

After a while I ask: ‘So you think that having the poster there right next to our office door is a bit embarrassing?’ I have to admit this had crossed my mind. Peirene nods her head.

The next morning I have decided to take the poster down. In its place I hang a poster of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation.

I feel Peirene’s hand resting with approval on my shoulder. ‘I like the  Archangel Gabriel hovering by our door. Perhaps he is waiting to come in and read the first book in our 2017 “East and West” series?’

With the help of an ancient Greek nymph and now an archangel too, we should have an excellent year.

Image by isterik 32, creative commons.

A Publisher’s Confession

Monday, October 5th, 2015

I love Matt Damon. Yes, I do.  Whenever I see him I know that deep down we are meant for each other and that he, too, is pining for me. And one day he will come and rescue me. ‘Rescue you from what?,’ the Nymph asks matter-of-factly.  ‘Well,55054217_c259ba5242_z rescue me,’ I reply, rolling my eyes. What a silly question.

Peirene throws me a bemused glance over her reading glasses. ‘I thought you like to see yourself as a woman who didn’t need rescuing.’ I refrain from replying. Nymphs simply don’t understand.

Needless to say, Peirene refused to come with me to the cinema this weekend to watch The Martian. Her excuse: she was reading through the proofs of our next newspaper that Clara has just finished editing.

‘Brilliant film.’ I walk back into the office with shining eyes. ‘Matt D and space and perfect teamwork where everyone is determined to give their best.’

‘Hollywood schlock,’ Peirene mumbles without diverting her eyes from the screen. ‘I’m embarrassed to be working with someone with such mainstream tastes,’ she adds.

I ignore her last comment. ‘And the final line was wonderful. Matt says that if you want to survive or try to make something happen you have to solve one problem after the other – step after step after little step.’

‘Absolutely ‘ Peirene says in a sarcastic tone.

‘Why that tone?’ I settle at my desk.

‘While you are busy indulging in teenage phantasies, some of us have worked very hard. Solving one problem after another. Clara is the real hero. The newspaper is outstanding. Have you seen it?’

‘I glanced at it. I can’t wait till it comes back from the printers.’ I pause, then continue: ‘By the way, that’s an example of perfect teamwork.’

‘Perfect teamwork? I didn’t see you becoming involved.’

‘I didn’t have to. The newspaper editorial is Clara’s domain. Not only did she fulfill her job. She exceeded my expectations.’

‘Aren’t we lucky with Clara,’ the Nymph states. I nod. ‘We are indeed.’

However, suddenly a wicked grin appears on Peirene’s face:  ‘But you won’t be so lucky with Matt. Judging by the film, it’s Matt that needs rescuing from Mars. And, what’s more, he is saved by a woman – so I don’t think he will be saving you.’

‘How do you know?’ At first I’m slightly bewildered. Then it dawns on me: ‘You have seen the film too!’ I am laughing. Evidently Peirene is a secret Matt Damon fan but she can’t bring herself to admit it.

Image by richard, creative commons.

Easter Break

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I am taking an Easter Break and will be back with latest Peirene drama at the beginning of May.



Image by dwstucke.



Love is in the Air

Monday, March 25th, 2013

As an entrepreneur and small publisher you need many skills. In fact you have to play the all-rounder. From deal brokering techniques, viaLove Birds editing skills to spreadsheet expertise – you should be perfect and move with ease. Ideally.

It’s the art of spreadsheeting that causes lady-like perspiration. Now, don’t get me wrong. I pride myself in my own competence. After all, I operate an impressive monthly spreadsheet where I record in detail Peirene’s outgoings and earnings.

However, once a year around this time, I reach my limits. The royalty statements are due to foreign publishers, agents and the Peirene authors. Three spreadsheets have to be amalgamated – from our book distributor, ebook distributor and my own spreadsheet with the subscription, stall and website sales. And that’s not all. They then have to be divided by individual titles. Frankly, when I set up Peirene, I didn’t reckon with this. And once a year I shed bitter tears of frustration.

Luckily I have a spreadsheet superman living with me. My husband. He loves them. And I love him when he helps me with the Peirene royalty statements.

But this year there will soon be even more love in the air. Authors will be delighted this week when they receive our statements. Payments are coming their way. We’ve done well last year. In fact the spreadsheet shows that each year we are doing a little better. Our brand is working its magic. The Nymph is a rising star.

‘Thank you.’ Peirene smiles at me. ‘I guess that means a  pay rise for me. A rising star can’t dress in last year’s fashion.’

I pause before answering. I don’t like to disappoint. But I have to. ‘Paying out royalties makes the authors happy. However, we will experience a temporary cash flow issue.’

The Nymph pulls a face.

‘Anyway,’ I continue, trying to cheer her up. ‘Judging by the snow and ice outside, spring will be late this year. So no need to rush to buy a summery wardrobe.’ The Nymph leaves the office muttering that small publishers who can’t manage spreadsheets shouldn’t even try to deliver weather forecasts.

The Return of a Triumphant Queen

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

A triumphant queen returns to the shores from which she sat sails many moons ago. Crowds cheer, flags fly, the queen lifts her hand wavingThe Queen. Image by Girl Guides of Canada graciously. I imagine Mick Jagger returning to the LSE or Bill Gates being honoured at Harvard. That was me last Wednesday at 16.30pm as I was coming out of Euston tube station, heading towards my old college.

SOAS, where I studied from 1987 to 1992, had invited me back to give a talk about publishing as part of their Writing Week. I had already been interviewed for their student magazine ten days ago.

As I walked along Euston Road, I pictured myself standing at the podium in the main auditorium looking into a packed audience of eager, young faces ready to receive the wisdom of a mature alumna. I imagined a couple of my old professors sitting in the audience too. They had recognized my name on the programme and now wanted to see what had become of their former student.

At the reception I was pointed in the direction of Room 406, one of the smaller, dimly lit classrooms. Fair enough, I thought to myself, better to have a small, well-populated kingdom, than to address an amphitheatre with empty seats. My talk was scheduled for 17.00. At five past two students appeared. By quarter past  four more joined but one left as soon as I started to talk.

‘So, no red carpet for you,’ Peirene of course can’t avoid teasing me the next day.


‘A waste of time then?’

Well not quite. I quickly jettisoned my speech, gathered my five acolytes around me and engaged in a conversation. We discussed the art of translation, how to set up your own business and the importance of marketing.

‘It doesn’t sound like your students wasted their time,’ Peirene remarks. I look at her in surprise. It’s rare to receive a compliment from her.

But she is right. And what’s more I was given a master class in the thoughts and concerns of students as they enter the job-market. I will manage Peirene interns better as result of my hour at SOAS. As Mick Jagger already sang ‘You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need’.

Image by Girl Guides of Canada.

Spot Remedy

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The beauty of blind spots is, you can’t see them in the mirror. On others, of course, you spot them from afar.Facial. Image by  classic_film

I am good at detecting blemishes in other women.

A few months ago my daughter’s school sent out an email asking parents to present their professions at a school’s career fair for their 6th form pupils. A brilliant initiative from the school and a great opportunity for pupils to gain insight into different career paths. I signed up.

The evening took place in the big sports hall. The professions were divided into sections. As a publisher my stand was in media. I was busy talking all evening and only at the end did I have time to look around. With the exception of a young woman in the property section, two ladies in the teaching department and myself, all the other professionals were represented by men. I was so surprised that I even checked the name list of the exhibitors in case some of the women might have left early. That wasn’t the case.

I know mothers in the school who are practicing lawyers, doctors, marketing directors, actors, writers. Where were they? Of course one could argue that working mothers have to rush home at the end of the day to cook dinner. And some might have had prior engagements. But these are women who have daughters at the school. I assume they – like me –hope their daughters will one day combine career and family. Why didn’t they take this opportunity to show their daughters how it is done?

I have my own favourite explanation: Women still find it difficult to value their career as part of their identity and therefore struggle to represent it to the outside world.

I am not one of these women, I thought, as I walked home padding myself smugly on the back.

Well… pride comes before the fall.

Increasingly for the last twelve months I have been invited to join panel discussions and give talks. I like speaking publicly, so initially I said yes without hesitation. I became aware that on some of these occasions others were paid and I was not.  At first I thought it’s because my fellow speakers are better, more famous, more professional. Then I felt a little hurt. Eventually, Peirene put me straight:

“You have to ask.” She stated dryly.

“I don’t like to ask.”

“Then you don’t value your own worth.”

The words hit home. This week I had an opportunity to test Peirene’s theory. And to no surprise it worked. I will be paid the same fee as the other speaker.

“You owe me a thank you,” Peirene whispers into my ear.

I am grateful to the Nymph for mercilessly pointing out my blind spots.

Image by classic_film.

Gender Issues

Sunday, April 10th, 2011


Women can multi-task. It’s one of the glorious advantages of our sex. We are born with it. It’s an integral part of us. I’ve been thinkinggeography-fieldwork-photos-085 about this assumption for some years and, taking myself as a sample of our species, studied it closely. I am now ready to publish my findings: the above notion is wrong.


Or, let’s put it differently, if it is true than I am a rare sample of our species. The Woman-who-cannot multi-task.


Or perhaps I might even be a man in disguise.


Like a man I can do one thing at a time. I concentrate on the task at hand, try to give my best and then move on to the next. Like a man I go into tunnel visions. And, like with men, that sometimes takes extreme forms. My right hand doesn’t know what my left hand was doing a second ago.


On Tuesday I sent out Peirene’s April newsletter which sports a great quote by Oscar Wilde. “Anyone can write a three-volume novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of life and literature.” Perfect for the Nymph’s books. That evening I received a lovely email from a wonderful publisher colleague who also happens to be the publisher of the Millenium Triology. He congratulated me on the IPG award and then went on to say, that he will kindly overlook Mr Wilde’s remark. I read his email and reread it. In fact I read it a few times. Do I know a Mr Wilde and which remark? I couldn’t make sense of this email at all. So I wrote back. When I received the reply, I had to laugh. I realized that  Peirene’s April quote had gone straight out of my head the moment I had sent the newsletter


On Thursday I looked in my calendar in the morning. I noted that at 3pm the guest editor of the next Ms Lexia issue wanted to come to my office to interview me. I made a mental note in my head to leave my desk in time to wash my hair, put on some make-up and change from jeans and old T-shirt into something more respectable. Then I wrote my to-do-list for the day, put my head down and started to work. Suddenly the doorbell rang. I jumped up. Who might this be? I opened the door. The editor had arrived. It was 3pm. The appointment had totally dropped out of my mind.


But no harm done. The interview took place. The nice editor didn’t seem to mind my jeans. And actually Peirene has made some good progress this week. No 5, Tomorrow Pamplona, has arrived from the printers and I have finally bought an e-reader and downloaded all the manuscripts I need to took at. I also have decided to pay more attention to Peirene’s Facebook page. Not only have we started to run a weekly quiz, with the first winner already announced, but also the Nymph and I  have become film makers. “The Arrival of No5 – a haunting and lyrical exploration of The Book” is up on Youtube and Facebook. Forget Madmen and The Wire – PeireneDrama is the new thing.


And so, perhaps, I can multi-task after all.

“Frankly, I am pleased about that.” Peirene throws me an approving glance. “I wouldn’t have wanted a male publisher. He couldn’t possibly understand my desire for sophistication and good looks.”

Two True Geniuses

Friday, June 25th, 2010


True genius shows itself early – think of Mozart. Well, I don’t want to be too boastful BUT I, too, belong to that select circle. Already at the no-2-launch-034tender age of two I knew what I wanted: to extend my waking hours. I used to get up at 4am every morning. Sadly, unlike Mozart, I didn’t have the support of my parents for this precocious talent.  


It is true that I no longer get up at 4am. Instead, however, I am on a mission to fight the 24-hour-day. And just in case you are thinking– oh dear, she’s cracked! No, SHE has not cracked. I am totally sane. And my mission is utterly logical, too.


This week, I have accomplished the following things: I had my first ever BBC radio interview, I attended a PR party, the TLS summer party, an evening with women writers and publishers. I’ve made good headway with organizing the next Peirene Salon in September, I replied to over 200 emails, paid a few bills and sent out some more reviews copies. I also had a two hour root canal treatment session at the dentist.  Oh yes, I also gave my kids a wee bit of attention, ran the household, and kissed my husband –only once and very briefly, as I really don’t have time for such things at present.


Because there is another list, of all the things I didn’t manage to do this week: I was meant to write the synopses for the book covers for  Peirene Title No 4-6. I haven’t. I was meant to think long and hard about the content of the now-very-soon-to-be-launched-monthly-Peirene-newsletter. I haven’t. I was meant to read through the finished translation of Maybe This Time, Peirene Title No 6. I haven’t. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.


In order to accomplish all my tasks I’d need more hours, or more days in the week. I am easy. If we extend the week to at least nine days, we can keep the 24-hour-day. Alternatively, let’s do 30-hour-days and we keep the seven day week. How about a vote on that?


I could of course just accept the day as it is, conserve my energies, have a good night’s sleep and a lovely weekend and then complete all the outstanding tasks next week with a clear head. But in that case I would have to give up my life-long defiance of the passing of time. In this area – like in so  many others – I find myself courageously refusing to admit defeat.

Never-Ending Loo Roll Bliss

Saturday, February 27th, 2010


So it has worked. I mean, the dirty weekend story. It got me publicity AND sales. I am sure that’s what did the trick. On Tuesday I received a webite-home-112smallmessage from the distributor: “We are invoicing the last copies of Beside the Sea!” On Thursday morning  The Independent congratulated Peirene “for choosing this gem of a novel”. And on Thursday afternoon my nymph and I featured on the Elle magazine cover – ok, nearly. But we did make it onto the Elle blog.


Actually it’s quite good we didn’t make the Elle cover. I don’t feel the part at all. I should be in seventh heaven, walking on air, head in the clouds. Also, I had that infamous break (this is the last time I mention it -  I promise) only two weeks ago. So I should be happy. Instead I am exhausted, every task is a mountain, I hate my to-do list, which just seems to get longer and never shorter, and I am once again at the point where I will give it all up. This time for real. The juggling act between Peirene, house and family has anyway been heading for total collapse, so I might as well count me blessing while I am still sane and leave with my dignity intact. And since I can’t give up so easily house and family, it has to be Peirene. I am not making a drama out of nothing. I am dead serious.


Last night I went out to a reading. Before I left the house I had cooked for my children some food – to be precise, rice with pesto, since this was the only food I had handy. I had had no time to shop. So I left the house feeling guilty and a bad mother. After the reading  I went out for a drink with some colleagues (the networking bit – has to be done) and arrived home when children and husband were fast asleep. In the bathroom I realized we had run out of loo paper. I went to the kitchen to get kitchen paper – that had gone too. So I decided – wise me – to make myself a cup of tea to calm down. And guess what, we had run out of milk too. I went to bed with a burning sense that I couldn’t cope any more and decided at four o’clock in the morning that something had to give: Peirene. 


Of course giving up Peirene won’t make me happy. It probably won’t even guarantee an uninterrupted flow of loo paper in our household. And as for bad-mother-feeling and guilt ?– I had them before Peirene too so no change there either. I am therefore dead serious. I want to give up Peirene, but I won’t. I will however go now and make myself a nice cup of tea ( I bought loo paper and milk this morning – really no big deal and no one had come to harm in the meantime ) and sit on the sofa and read the reviews -  just one more time – and pat myself on the shoulder. Well done me.  


I am feeling better already, just talking about it. So perhaps, after the cup of tea, I might start plotting on how to get on to this Elle magazine cover after all.

Madam Serenity

Friday, January 15th, 2010


I have become what I’ve always wanted to be, Madam Serenity. Worries, hardship, strife are things of the past. Serenity has finally descendedwebite-home-081small upon me. Precisely at 4.49 pm two days ago, when with a push of the button I released Peirene Title No 1 to the bookshops and the wide world.


I knew this moment would come but I didn’t realize it would be so soon, until I received an email from Bill, the Distributor Man. “When do you want us to release your first title, Meike?” I emailed him straight back, informing him graciously – because after all how could he forget the world-changing date – that publication is not until 4th of February. Yes, he replied, he therefore advises me strongly to release the book now. The bookshops need to receive it in good time. But, but but …, my anxiety level was raising as I send back my response, doesn’t that mean some bookshops will start selling it early, ignoring the date I have carved in stone all those months ago. Some surely will, he instructed me patiently, but that’s absolutely normal and unavoidable. I then sent an email to a trusted colleague requesting approval for what I was about to do. Is that the way it is done in publishing land? I needed reassurance. Absolutely, he confirmed, release date of the book is 3 to 4 weeks prior to sale’s date.

So for a moment I sat very still, reflecting on the magnitude of the deed. Then I pushed the button. Ok, lets do it. So Peirene is now released, unleashed upon the wide big world. And surely the world will never be the same again.


Afterwards that day I continued work as normal and it wasn’t until the following morning that I realized something had changed inside me. Somehow nothing seemed urgent any longer. I was – I am – utterly calm. Serene. My job done, Peirene out there, perhaps it’ll sell, perhaps it won’t, the outcome shrouded in utter mystery. All I can do now is wait and observe. I made myself tea and lit a few candles. Meet the new me.


PS  Actually, let’s hope I will be through with this new-me business quickly. Because otherwise Peirene Title No 2 will never see the light of day. And that, trust me, would be a pity.