Tuesday 9 June 2015

The Orange Balloon of Success

by Caroline Lawrence

JP, me & Anthony McGowan with Roland Chambers behind
On Thursday 9 May 2015, I went to an upstairs room next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London to meet a bunch of other writers I had never met before. The function was called Did Anybody Ask the Author? and there was no fixed agenda apart from a brief to talk about what interested us and how we could help each other

I went mainly out of good will towards one of the organisers, John-Paul Flintoff, (AKA JP), whose daughter is a fan of my Roman Mystery books. The other main sponsor was Unbound, a publisher funded by crowd-sourcing. 

After a warm welcome and a bit of milling about, JP got us all to brainstorm and jot down a bunch of questions. Any questions to do with publishing past, present and future. Whatever most interested us. Some of the questions I remember were Does Anybody Get Edited Any More? How Can I Make Shedloads of Money? What does a Publisher Actually Do? Is Amazon Good or Evil? Is Being an Author Just a Vanity Project? 

After an excellent lunch (roast chicken, vegetables, salad and Eton Mess) we got into little clutches and discussed these questions. I imagine some groups stayed on topic, while others just chatted, getting to know each other. I met a couple of writers I already knew and respected, and got to know them a bit better. I also made the acquaintance of some fascinating people I had never met before. It was fun, stimulating and thought-provoking. 

Some of the other authors in attendance. 
At the end of the day we put our chairs in a big sharing circle so we could sum up our findings. 

Strangely, an orange balloon appeared out of nowhere, bobbing gently into the middle of our writers’ sharing circle. I remember thinking, 'Where the heck did that come from?' The balloon was obviously from some other function. It was past its best, but had enough helium (and magic?) to stay afloat in the centre of the circle. It hovered at eye level, gently but insistently demanding our attention. 

‘It’s the Balloon of Success,’ someone said. ‘Whoever it goes to it will be massively successful.’ 

We held our collective breath as the balloon gently drifted towards a writer named Charles. It was about to touch his knee when it hesitated, paused and then drifted a little higher and back into the centre. 

At this point JP muttered something about it being a distraction. 

The Orange Balloon of Massive Success!
There it was: the orange balloon of massive success. Just hovering there. Distracting us all. 

So what did I do? I stood up, walked into the middle of the circle of my peers and reached out. It hung there temptingly. Hovering in front of me. Like a half wild creature. Would it shrink from my grasp at the very moment of my reaching for it? If so, that would be a bad omen. The universe punishing my bold hubris with humiliation.

I reached out with forefinger and thumb, aiming for the only spot possible: its little knot. 


I took my prize back to my chair and gently wedged it under. I didn’t need to keep it or take it home with me. I had publicly gone for it. I had carpayed that little orange diem. I had put my own desire above propriety. 

It wasn't until I got home that I realised what I should have done. The point of the meeting was to help and encourage one another. 

Now I see orange balloons everywhere!
Having grasped the balloon, I should have taken it around the circle and touched it to each author's head as a visual, tactile symbol. For one person's success does not preclude another's. There are a thousand different types of success. One for each type of author. 

We can all have the orange balloon of success if we are only bold enough to reach out and grasp it. And if we support and encourage one another, the universe will smile on us even more. 

How can we support one another? Go to author events. Buy each others' books. Support startup projects. Tweet positively. Meet regularly in small groups and large.

Let's boldly go for the orange balloon of massive success and let's also be magnanimous and generous to one another. 

For more information about Did Anybody Ask the Author, go HERE. Follow them on Twitter at @AskAuthor


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the orange balloon of success has infected you with its magic, and will now spread virally among those you touch.

Felicity Banks

Caroline Lawrence said...

Yes, Felicity! May it touch you, too! :-)

Sue Purkiss said...

It sounds like a useful event, with or without the balloon!

Lydia Syson said...

Well, at least you are touching everybody now, and we can all e-spread the magic orange balloon of success…terrible when you realise too late you may have done the wrong thing!

Ann Swinfen said...

Great post Caroline, and I second your conclusions!