‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.’ There is some truth in this famous statement by Cyril Connolly. I guess that Connolly was thinking more of male writers and the necessity to support a family and the need to write for money. Still it is worth noting that many of our greatest women writers – Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontes – have been childless.
There is no doubt that when you have children, hugely rewarding though it is, time, energy and the mental space that writers need are in very short supply. On the other hand, being a parent does supply you with some great material. Here’s an example: years ago I delivered my daughter to a children’s party. The child in question had just joined my daughter’s school so I barely knew her parents and they barely knew me. There was a great scrum of parents and kids when I arrived. I can’t remember now if I left my mobile phone number, but I do remember that as I drove away I realised that the parents of the party girl didn’t even know where I lived. What would they do if some reason I didn’t return to collect my daughter?
I jotted it down as an idea for a story and when, last year, the theme of ‘Guilty Parties’ was announced for a CWA anthology, I thought of it right away. The anthology is out now and ‘What’s the Time, Mr Wolf’ is in it. It’s lovely to find myself there along with old friends, like Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Lovesey and many others that I have met at conferences, and yes, parties (guilty or otherwise) over the years. The hardback is a bit pricey, but no doubt it will be out as a paperback and an ebook in due course, and you could always order it from the library. It’s a great way to sample the work of writers you might not have read before.