It’s 1990, I’ve just had my first few stories published in Highlights for Children and Cricket, and I’m wondering if I’m a Real Writer now.
The editor of a Cricket story about the legendary King Canute, who ordered the tide not to come in, is intrigued about a plaque in Southampton, England commemorating the event. It was mentioned in the research material I’d sent her. Is there really a plaque? she wants to know. I need to respond to her query like a Real Writer.
This being the dark ages before computers or the internet, I call a tourist bureau in Southampton and am told the plaque is indeed hanging in an establishment called the Canute Hotel. I call the Canute Hotel to double check and find myself speaking to an earthy chap with a cockney accent. I can hear raucous pub noises in the background. Is there a plaque at your hotel commemorating King Canute’s face-off with the tide? I ask him. He thinks there’s one out front somewhere. Would he…go outside and check the wording? He will not. It’s raining and he’s not about to go out there, he tells me. Well…are you pretty sure there’s a plaque out there? I ask him. He says yes and that I should stop bothering him and call the City Council because they own his hotel. I call the City Council and a gentleman (who is definitely more interested in the pursuit of knowledge than the proprietor of the Canute Hotel) consults The Book of Monuments and Memorials, confirms the plaque’s existence, and gives me the exact wording on it.
I write to my editor and tell her there is indeed a plaque at the Canute Hotel in Southampton but I advise against recommending it as a place for young readers to visit.
When I drop the letter in the mail I wonder if I have handled all of this like a Real Writer. I do so want to be a Real Writer.