Q. As a publisher, I have been fortunate to discover an unpublished writer who is the author of some truly remarkable poetry. I have made my selection and want to go ahead with his first collection, but my stumbling block is that he is adamant that, along with the remarkable verses, I must include other work which is certainly not of the same quality. To include what is frankly doggerel would compromise the rest of the work. He is beginning to be querulous about this and says he now doubts my judgment. Mary, how can I persuade him that I know best?
– Name and address withheld
A. Tell him that you have been thinking about the disputed poems and have suddenly been able to clarify the reason for your instinctive rejection. The quality is not in question, it is that they have quite a different feel to them from the other work. Therefore they should be grouped together with others of their type and published as his follow-up volume. When the time comes round for Volume 2, tell him that the ‘bean counters’ in your publishing house would prefer a repeat of the style of his work in Volume 1.
Q. Much-loved friends have invited us to stay in a hired villa this summer. We have googled the villa and it is pleasant enough but our friends have lower standards than us and we worry we’ll have to ‘muck in’. Shopping, cooking and washing up is not our idea of a holiday – so, without seeming to be spoilt and pompous, how can we find out whether they plan to hire a cook before we accept?
– Name and address withheld
A. Say you will reply to their invitation later that day, when you have seen if you can clear your diary. Coincidentally you have just heard from an absolutely brilliant cook you know, asking you to recommend her to anyone who might be looking to hire. Would they be interested? If they say ‘no, we thought we would all muck in together’, then you have your answer. Ditto if they say ‘we’ve already hired one’. But if they say ‘yes’, do the spadework yourself to find them a cook.
Q. Quite some time ago I lent a book to a very good friend. I have many other friends waiting to borrow it. Each time I ask him to return my book, he replies saying that he is still reading it. How do I retrieve the book without losing a good friend?
– M.K., London N2
A. It will be worth paying to get this nuisance out of the way. Tell him you have just been given some free Kindle tokens. All he needs to do is download the free Kindle app and you can supply him with a free Kindle version. In this way he can finish it at his leisure and you can recover the hard copy.
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