It is publication day for Nine Pints, UK edition. The subtitle is different: this one is "A Journey through the mysterious, miraculous world of blood." But the book should be the same, barring some spelling differences. I'm so delighted to see it out in the world, though I was talking on Twitter earlier with Marina Benjamin, a fellow author, about how anxious we writers get. For me, the anxiety isn't only pre-publication but post- and even-more-post-publication too. I probably start to calm down after about a year. I tweeted that, and then did not expect what happened next: that Margaret Atwood replied to me. Margaret Atwood! One of the best living writers, by many intergalactic country miles. She told me about John Bunyan, who in the second book of the Pilgrim's Progress, talks to his "little book."
It was good to be reminded of this: that alongside the trepidation — will people like it? what if they hate it? what if I got things wrong? — there is the excitement of seeing something I have worked on for years launched into the world. I remember so many long days at my desk, going downstairs to the kitchen (my office is in a complex of artists' studios) alone and in the dark, then cycling home in the dark, then getting up at 7am and coming straight to work to do the same again. At the time it felt exhausting: it got to the stage where I had to buy eye-drops because my eyes stopped working as they should. It got to the stage where my boyfriend forgot what I looked like. My eyes were fine after I had a rest, of course. My boyfriend is still my boyfriend. Still, it felt hard. Not hard as in doing trauma surgery or fixing spina bifida in the womb or preventing terrorist threats or having to work anywhere near Donald Trump. But, hard. And suddenly, I know that it was worth it.
Not least because of how excellent my publishers are being, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., staff at Macmillan Books in New York will have a blood drive tomorrow. Nearly sixty pints of blood, to celebrate Nine Pints: how great is that. And in the U.K., Granta Books has gone into partnership with NHSBT to launch the #shareapint campaign with 19 bookshops up and down the country. They will have displays encouraging blood donation. You are not required either to buy the book or give blood. Not everyone can give blood, and current restrictions mean that sexually active gay men aren't allowed to (unless they have been celibate for three months). I don't agree with that. But only 4% of the population of the UK give blood, so that must mean a lot of people who can, don't. The use of red blood cells is decreasing, because surgery is more efficient (more keyhole, less open), because what is called patient blood management is making blood use more efficient. But we still need it. Synthetic blood is years away from being a reality, and even then it will be expensive and probably not as good as the stuff that comes out of an arm. So if you can, please do #shareapint
Here is the display at Haslemere Books in Surrey. I love it.
And here is the press release from Granta, featuring me and Jack, a staff member at Leeds Blood Donor Centre, where I gave my last pint. My book is dedicated to the NHS, because it should be.