Yesterday evening to Macmillan HQ for the launch party of the Macmillan New Writing (MNW) imprint.
There were, at a guess, about 150 assembled in the Macmillan atrium for the usual wine and nibbles. The first six books in the MNW series are officially published today, and the good and the great were invited to wish them well.
I gathered, from Richard Charkin no less, that literary agents had been invited, but most had not turned up. Similarly, all the journalists who had written hard things about the scheme had also been sent invitations, but they too were notable by their absence. Pity. But then they go to so many of these things, and at the MNW do they might have been asked to justify their position.
It was a very pleasant occasion, and I think I managed to meet most of the first six authors, plus several other interesting people. One such was a lady I have met before, who is a writer of radio plays (among other things). I asked her if she was still able to get her plays produced on the BBC. She smiled. No, she said. They have got rid of all the real producers, and now there are just bunny rabbits, who favour young writers because they're cheap.
Ah, the joys, as I have remarked before, of the writer's life. Well, at least if you write prose you can just stick it on the internet. But if you write plays it's harder.
Amidst all the natural, and perfectly proper, euphoria of the launch, two people helped to put the matter into perspective. One was Michael Barnard, the onlie begetter of MNW. He pointed out that this year the Macmillan company as a whole will publish (if I heard correctly) about 6,500 titles. MNW will publish 14.
The other person to administer a little corrective, if only to me, was a man who was there just as a friend of one of the authors; he was not a writer himself. I had quite a long chat with him and as we were leaving he leaned forward and said to me, confidentially, 'Of course, in the end, you know, it's only words on paper.'