Posted by: tabliope | June 19, 2008

Help wanted.

For the sake of mine and Mr Pork's sanity I need to find myself a long-term project given that it is very unlikely that I'm going to get anything like decent paid work in this country.  Although I teach a little English I cannot do too many hours because of a combination of tedious government bureaucracy and the slave-owner attitude of the language schools.  Essentially, self-employment in this country is rather tricky unless you know that you are going to earn above a certain amount that will at least cover your health insurance.  High unemployment is a feature of where we live and we also have an enormous student population who tend to take the unskilled, part-time posts that I might think of applying for.  It would be impossible for me to work within my own occupation in this country because of a number of reasons: it is largely language (and to some extent culturally) dependent; I haven't worked in my own field for five years and have thus dropped off one of the registers and would need to do a considerable amount of work to bring myself back to a state where I would be fit to practice.

At the moment I do some voluntary work for a charity that provides food to poor people and I quite enjoy it but I don't enjoy it enough to do any more of it than I do already which is one day per week.  It's physically hard work as well as being mentally stimulating but it can be enormously stressful.  I am considering looking at some extra, different voluntary work that would allow me to widen my social network and also further improve my language skills.  In some areas my language skills are excellent – all the food words, for instance – but there is a set routine to what I do which means that I'm extremely proficient in some situations but still pretty bad in others.  I try to vary what I say but in the end there are only so many ways to say 'what type of bread do you want?' or 'would you like some lettuce?'

Someone suggested to me that I should write a book about how to cope as a trailing spouse (I didn't invent that term, by the way) and Mr Pork agreed.  My reaction to that is that it would be interesting and I'd quite like to but I'm not sure that I'm necessarily the Poster Girl for trailing spouses given that my own experiences haven't been particularly positive and that I'm sitting here five years down the line asking for help from my imaginary chums on t'internet.  I also don't know how to go about it – I mean, how to market myself to agents/publishers.  I don't see myself as having marketable skills in this area because I haven't got a body of written work behind me to say that I can do this. (I've only tried my hand at fiction and not got particularly far)  So, dear internet chums – is this even worth thinking about?  Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?  I promise to read everything and take it on board and not dismiss anything without giving it some consideration.  I won't say 'yes, but' or put up arguments as to why things wouldn't work.  I don't want people to be polite and say that I could do this when they don't think that I can.  Please drop any ideas as to what I could do into the box and also any advice, information or anything about the book idea.

Ta. x



  1. I think the Trailing Spouse project sounds an excellent idea – there are so many things you could cover in it.  If it was a book written by someone other than an imaginary internet friend, I’d be interested in reading about how you go about immersing yourself in a new culture, how you cope with home-sickness, how you square having an independent, feminist nature with, as other would see it, living off your husband, the other sorts of trailing spouses you meet, the attitudes towards you of your host country etc.
    As to whether you could do it; I’ve no doubt you could – you write well, you’re objective, humourous, kind and impatient in the right proportions.  I know not all of your experiences have been positive, but that doesn’t make them any less valid than someone whose experience has been easy – if anything (should you wish to write about it), it gives an additional dimension to the project – it would make the reader think ‘how would I cope?’ in a similar situation.
    Re publishing – I’m afraid I have no recommendations although I do have a friend who is a writer who may be able to give me a few leads.  I could ask her if you like?

  2. What I meant by ‘if the book was written by someone other …’, was i.e. a stranger – I would read your book because you had written it, if you see what I mean.

  3. I think it is a good idea – you could write it as part-advice, part-memoir.  It doesn’t have to be serious either.
    Ms P knows about publishing, I think.

  4. I agree.  You’re such an excellent writer that anything you did would be a joy to read.
    (I sound like a real suck-up, don’t I?)
    I’d be interested to read it even if I didn’t know you because I was nearly a trailing spouse myself once – an army wife of all things *shudder*.

  5. Army wife – that’s the worst kind, isn’t it?

  6. Yeah, I reckon so!

  7. I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m not saying that to be polite – I think it would be ace. You’ve already got lots of material on that other blog we don’t mention here.

  8. I agree – you’ve got a lot to work with already, and we all really enjoy reading your blogs.  Go with Jando’s advice, it’s spot on.  

  9. Have had some non-fiction published, so please feel free to message me if you’d like to discuss. Always keen to help fellow writers! x

  10. thanks all – anyone want to be my agent?Jando – any tips that you can pick up would be brilliantMs P – I shall message you ta.

  11. I’m going to strike a note of discord here. As one of your devoted readers from day one, I have always loved reading your writing – but I’m not sure that your experiences I know about would add up to a book that someone would want to publish, at least not with the angle that you’ve proposed. As you say, you haven’t had endlessly positive experiences, but nor have you had horribly, fascinatingly negative ones either. If I was a broadsheet editor I’d be asking you, “Yes, but what’s the angle?” over and over again until we found something stronger to hook the story on.
    I’d have thought you would have more luck looking at it all from a humour angle, and possibly a slightly fictitious one as well. I remember the old days of you writing about the Barbaras of the expat community and your dinner parties and various experiences dealing with them and other aspects of change. If I was a publisher I’d prefer something more along those lines, with lots of humour and astonishing anecdotes and possibly a lot of creative license. If you want to write a book about being a trailing spouse, you pretty much have to be the most successful one ever, or the least successful one ever. Anything in between is much less likely to be published.

  12. Would you mind saying what your area of expertise is? That might give us an extra clue as to what to suggest.Just off the top of my head though…Is there a German equivalent of the National Trust? Could you get one of those showing people round an historic landmark jobs? Are there enough English speaking tourists in your area to make an English language guide job a possibility? Even if it was voluntary.Does the University have a lot of English speaking students? Is there anything you could do in student services for them? Maybe write a guidebook for English speaking students on arrival. This would not just apply to your local university, but all English speakers arriving at German Universities.Have you got any craft/art skills that you could develop as an Etsy seller?Sex chat line operator :)If you’re up for writing a book, how about an ex-pat Miss Marple style mystery/detective thriller.Is there any Admin’ work you could do for Mr Porkette or his company?Teach yourself to programme Flash or Java or some such and become a website designer. You don’t need to be in a specific location for that, the power of the interwebs means you could have clients in any country of the world, provide a service via the nets.Do you already have a skill you could provide via the interwebs? (I don’t think Gin drinking would apply :)You’re doing your Garden up. Could you do anyone elses garden?Bespoke Dinner parties/Party planner OK you’d have food hygene regulations to deal with. More learning, is that a bad thing though?Could you go back to University? There’s one in your town.Is there a German equivalent to the BTCV that you could get work with? OK digging out ponds and hedging might not be your thing, it’s free exercise though.Is your area quaint enough for you to write Guided walks. You’d have to re-search etc. and maybe have the guides printed. Maybe make them available as PDF’s that you could download. Translating them would help your language skills.Podwalks. Research and prepare an MP3 that visitors could use to walk around your local town. Maybe include interviews with grommety old locals:”You’re now standing outside the Rathaus it was built in blah blah blah. This is Herr Schmidt who used to work in there in the 30’s he tells us etc…Now walk along the street in front of you and listen to the next chapter when you arrive at the building opposite McDonalds.” I’m sure you’re computer is up to creating that sort of thing. You just have to learn how.That should give you some things to be going on with.

  13. that is really helpful, Kate and a bit what I was sort of thinking too – really a DMTS with better knobs on.  The friend I was talking about didn’t know about DMTS – at least , I don’t think they do.

  14. Chaotic – thanks – some really good ideas there which I will think about

  15. I can’t add anything helpful that Kate, Jando and Cha0tic haven’t already said extremely well. Just to say I have always enjoyed your blogs immensely in all their guises and would love to read anything that you do publish. Best of luck.

  16. I don’t have time to think about this properly today, p’kette, but will give it some thought.  Just really wanted to ask what happened with the wedding shop project back in the day – which I thought was bruddy brilliant – it rarely failed to make me laugh out loud.

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