Jersey Festival of Words: Clare Pooley, The Sober Diaries
By Sam Le Quesne
CLARE Pooley came to the Jersey Festival of Words to discuss her booze-busting memoir The Sober Diaries, which lifts the curtain on a seemingly perfect former life that belied her increasing struggles with alcohol. And yet the conversation flowed as freely as the wine Ms Pooley now avoids, covering everything from the question of why writers write to issues of truth and identity, and the importance of knowing how to mix a good mocktail.
It was a natural, good-humoured interview, thanks in no small measure to the Festival’s vice-chairman, Paul Bisson, who has a particular knack for bringing out the best in the authors he’s on stage with. But it was also down to the sheer good humour and genuineness of Ms Pooley, who seems to have mastered the art of talking about serious subjects without taking herself too seriously.
Those who have read The Sober Diaries will also recognise this as a hallmark of her writing style, which was honed, as she explained to the Opera House audience, in the wilds of the blogosphere. For her, writing was born out of urgency, as a kind of emergency therapy in the early days of abstinence (she had tried the traditional path of Alcoholics Anonymous but found that its talk of recovery and diseases was simply too negative for her). She prefers brighter terms (‘sober revolutionary’ is a favourite).
But this isn’t the indulgent rhetoric of Cali Valley self-help – there’s plenty of humour in there, and much of it at her own expense. Which is probably why the worldwide readership of her homespun blog began to multiply so rapidly, until, at a million strong, she had a solid enough base to show to a publisher.
‘Look,’ she was able to pitch to them (her background is in marketing), ‘there are people out there who would want to read a whole book about this.’
And if her media appearances, TED talks and a forthcoming novel based on similar themes are anything to go by, she was undoubtedly right.
It’s a tricky thing to carve out your own niche in a subject that has already been so comprehensively covered by writers (for there are few lines of work more littered with immoderate drinkers than writing) but Clare Pooley has managed to do it.
How? By being unapologetically honest (and above all, funny) about the quirks and imperfections that we all secretly share.