The Cost of Glamour

It’s January – the time of New Year’s resolutions. Many of us have decided that the time has finally come to be loved, valued and paid a fair price for our work. At Stage Door. Image by  slimmer_jimmerleast that is what the internet – always a good mood detector – tells us. Writers, translators and publishing colleagues have taken to twitter and to facebook to complain that they will no longer – never ever again – be exploited and asked to give anything for free, especially not readings and talks and articles.

I didn’t make such a New Year’s resolution. It didn’t even cross my mind.

Up to now I thought I was lucky. Last year I was paid money three times: for an article I wrote for The Guardian and for appearing at the Edinburgh Festival and the South Bank Centre. However, all in all I gave ten times as many readings and talks – 30 in total to be precise. In most cases I even paid my own travel.

Each time I am asked to appear publicly, I am delighted. It gives me an opportunity to leave my desk. It gives me an opportunity to talk about reading and writing, about Peirene and the art of the novella. It gives me an opportunity to connect to people.

I have learned to accept that the money I need to earn in order to keep Peirene and myself afloat, has to be generated by other sources.

But coins are not the only currency for payment in this world. And money does not accurately measure the value of my work – or myself.

I, too, organize events and so I can see both sides. I know that organizers in general aren’t depriving me of my pay because they feel they can take me for a ride. In most cases – sadly but true – the organizer will make a loss on the event – even if they don’t pay fees and do charge for tickets.

I feel honoured when someone brings me a ready-made audience. Sometimes there are five listeners, other times there are 50 or 100. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that I have the attention of an entire room. I am not sure there can really be a price for that.

And let’s not forget: Both Peirene and I love to put on lipstick and high heels. We enjoy presenting in front of an audience. Without the glamour of performance our lives would be virtuous, hard-working – and certainly lacking in colour and sparkle.

Image by  slimmer_jimmer.

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