Section A – Graham Swift

If you want to think about Section A a bit more, read this interview with Graham Swift from The Bookshow. Swift is in conversation at the Cheltenham Literature Festival talking about mentors and literary friendships in his new book Making an Elephant, Writing From Within. In many ways it’s about how he came to be a writer, what being a writer means to the way you live and about the mentors, friends and experiences he’s had along the way. Here’s an extract:

Ramona Koval: Here Graham Swift talks about mentors, literary friendships and a particularly kind editor, Alan Ross.

Graham Swift: Alan Ross, who is no longer with us, sadly, but he was for a long time the editor of a magazine called London Magazine, going back now to the 1970s when I was still this aspiring writer. I’d never had anything published, and at that time I was only writing short stories. I thought I would just be a short story writer. How you wrote a novel, I just didn’t know. And I was sending off short stories to this place or that place, and I sent quite a lot to Alan at London Magazine, and I got a lot of rejection slips back, but somehow his rejection slips always carried a little note of hope about them because he would write…I can see his handwriting, he would say ‘Almost this time’, ‘Not quite’, ‘Nearly’. He was like someone gradually pulling me in, and I felt, oddly, that I knew him before I met him.

And then the magic moment came where he said ‘Yes, I’d like to publish this story.’ And I did meet him, he said ‘Come and have lunch.’ I had never met anyone like Alan Ross before. He was a writer himself, he was a poet, he was a journalist, he privately collected paintings, he just moved in a world that was not my world at all, I was a boy from South Croydon, he lived in South Kensington.

And I went to see him and I describe all this in the book but it was a wonderful combination of, as I think I put it, being both let in to a world and being let out. I was being let in in the sense of I knew I was no longer alone as a writer, I had a home, I was meeting someone who was a real friend, certainly to my writing. And I was being let out in the sense that for years up to this point…and I’m no exception, I think this is true for any struggling writer, it’s as though you’re in a box and you need letting out, and that box can almost start to feel like you’re under a stone and you’re going to stay there forever. And it’s only at the moment that you get published that that lid, that stone gets lifted, and Alan sort of lifted the lid at the same time as he said, ‘Come in.’

And, as you say, I associate him always with a particular drink known as a Negroni, which I’d certainly never drunk before I met Alan, and it’s a lovely little pink rosy-coloured cocktail, quite powerful, and I always associate that with Alan but I always associate it with the moment where I entered this world which I dared to think I belonged to but I had not entered it before. It was a really wonderful moment.

Ramona Koval: Do you feel like you belong to it now?

Graham Swift: As I said, sort of half-and-half still. Some people might say of me that I’m a quite established writer.

Rad the rest here.

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