‘What disgrace! What humiliation!’ Peirene kneels in front of the fire place in our front room. She dips her hands into the cold
ashes, then rubs her cheeks. ‘The shame, the shame,’ she wails, rocking back and forth.
I’m watching the spectacle in stunned silence.
‘What have you done to me?’she continues her lament, looking up at me accusingly. I’m not aware that I’m guilty of any misdemeanour. ‘You reduced me from a proud Nymph to a beggar. You demand that I pester people. That I harangue them. And not just strangers. If only! Instead it’s our dear readers, subscribers, fans and friends that I’m forced to pester. I can’t do this any longer. How low have I sunk!’ Peirene now lays down in front of the fire place and curls into a ball. ‘My dignity has gone. I want to disappear from the surface of the earth,’ she sobs.
For a moment I wonder if I should talk her out of her misery. All at once I have understood her distress. But there is nothing I can do about it. I fetch a blanket from the sofa and cover her. Then I sneak out of the room and head back upstairs into the office. She’ll snap out of this mood eventually, I’m sure.
This scene took place two weeks ago. A few days prior we had started our Kickstarter campaign to encourage crowdfunding for our next Peirene Now! book, Shatila Stories. It’s hard work to persuade people to invest in a book that doesn’t exist. What if the book turns out poorly? What if it’s not something they feel like reading. We discovered quickly that you can’t just send out a newsletter and hope. Most of our working days since the beginning of the campaign has been spent drafting individual emails, facebook and twitter messages. And again, often it’s not enough to just send one message or one email. I know from experience that it’s easy to overlook such emails. So people have to be reminded. But subtly. And yes, the Nymph is right, all this can feel like begging, pestering, hassling. Asking for help is never easy. Yet, without help we can’t pull off this project.
‘Oh my God! Oh my God. Do you see this? Do you see this!’ The Nymph is shrieking. She has jumped up from her chair. Her cheeks are glowing from excitement. She’s pointing to her screen. Our Kickstarter page is open. And we have just surpassed our target amount of £8500! Someone has donated £1000. I, too, now have tears in my eyes. ‘You see,’ I squeeze Peirene’s hand, ‘people really want us to succeed with this project. We are not alone in thinking the book is important. Everyone who has pledged, is playing their role. A collaborative work of art in every sense of the word. This campaign was worth our effort, wasn’t it?’
Peirene nods, while pointing again to the screen. ‘And another pledge! We are now nearly at £9000! Unbelievable.’ Suddenly she turns to me ‘You know what? We should extend our target. And don’t’ worry. I won’t lay down in the ashes again. We have another 11 days to go. Let’s see if we can make it to £12,000. Because then we could also publish the Arabic version of the book ourselves.’
My eyes light up. The Nymph is right. Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to find an Arab publisher who might be willing to publish the Arabic edition of Shatila Stories. So far without luck. A novel by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugee writers won’t be a comfortable read for anyone and publishers shy away. But if we manage to cover the production cost for the Arabic edition ourselves, we can just go ahead. And I feel strongly that we need both, an Arabic and an English version.
‘Let’s do it!’ I say. ‘Let’s raise the bar to £12,000.’
Image: Wikimedia commons.