Saturday, 27 June 2009

About connections and talents

I am reading Wife in the North now.

I bought it as part of my “blog into book” research. Because, as you probably realize, most of us sad bloggers secretly hope that we might write a book one day. (Or get noticed in some other, not anyhow less glamorous way).

This is how it happened. One day a friend of mine asked if I considered starting a blog. (She probably just got tired of me ranting on.)

-What on earth for?- I wondered. I had only sort of heard of blogs, but never as much as glanced at any. (Yes, I used to have a real life before)

But the friend then proceeded telling me the story of the Wife in the north. This woman, -she said excitedly- only had her blog running for weeks when she got noticed by an agent and offered a book deal!

Curious, I googled ‘wife in the north’, read about her publishing deal and came across some more realistic details of how it actually happened.

It did not surprise me that she had help. As an Azeri, I am well aware of the power of connections. Back home, without connections and money-you are nothing. And will most probably remain nothing till you die-however hard you tried or however talented you might have been. Getting into a good university or a good job- everything is a lot harder in Baku unless you are related to someone influential or can pay. Preferably, both.

Having moved to the UK, I quickly realized that similar rules of the game apply here. (The cynical Azeri in me seeks evidence all around.) Only with a larger number of exceptions. Talents do get discovered, and people can make it without connections or daddy’s money. But it is just so much easier if daddy could help, isn’t it?

I admit, sometimes It can be difficult not to get bitter. You feel like you spend all your life knocking your head against a brick wall. Until you give up. That moment of recognition that your life will probably just pass by, and you will never become anyone can be harsh. When that happens, men tend to spend their money on a mistress or a Porsche, and women focus on breeding and house extensions.

But back to the wife in the north story. Of course, I thought to myself, she would get a book deal. She was a professional journalist, with all the right connections. Her local MP put her link on his site, as well as a famous American writer. She got that needed push, the exposure. Whereas, for the rest of us, bloggers, the reality is a lot more cruel. There are thousands of blogs, with at least half created by mummies and housewives. Most of them are painfully boring. Glancing through tons of comments other bloggers leave on wife in the north blog, I can just hear them screaming out- Find me! Read me! I can also blog! Look at mine!

But the truth is, most of them are missing one important factor.

Just reading the first few pages of wife in the north book, I could see it clearly. This Judith woman is bloody good. Her turn of phrase, her sense of humour, her beautiful attention to detail are something no MP could help her with. And all the rest- the useful connections and influential people linking to her blog are all just the lovely little extras. What really matters is that she is very good and most importantly, she managed to make me laugh, smile and even feel very sad a few times.

So all I wanted to say is….

I was wrong and I was not fair. Because the bottom line is this: the woman can write. More importantly, she is very funny. And everyone who says she got the deal because of her friends and connections are just jealous, bitter and talentless saddoes.


  1. Wow! With all those recommendations, I guess I'll be looking around to see what Judith has to tell.

  2. Hi Scary Azeri,

    Love your blog! You might also want to check out It is also run by a full-time blogger/mom. Perhaps she is one of the top ten most popular bloggers in the U.S. She has also written books. I have a feeling that you might like her too:-) If she manages to live in Utah and be interesting to thousands of readers, you can do it too!

    Good luck!

  3. Nanul,
    Yes, of course I have heard of dooce. She is huge.
    She has been there for a long time though. Pioneer advantage etc. :)))

  4. I like the way you express yourself, the manner, the style, the amount of the words. Everything is just right. However, you unintentionally insulted some people who can not answer or deny what you might think of them because they are dead. Writing about those poor kids who died in the oil academy shooting, you came up with the hypothesis that they may have bribed their way to university, which is unfair. In fact, those who died were “the bright and intelligent”. And you mentioned universities again Must say, I understand you: I am 40, and I finished mechanics and mathematics faculty, because I couldn’t even hope to become an orientalist (vostfak was what I really wanted), I didn’t even “grope”. Mathematics was not so popular with the “rich and powerful” in the former SSSR. You are 36 and may not know that university admission process in Azerbaijan is 90 % (or even more) free of corruption.

  5. You may not believe me, but Misir Mardanov, the Minister of Education (has been so for 11 years) tried many times to give entrance examinations back to universities, so that his Ministry and his dull subordinates would be responsible for admission examinations (and make it impossible for the poor and unprotected to get normal higher education). Thank God, so far the admission commission is in charge. I think it may be a surprise to you (pleasant, I hope) but Azerbaijan's experience in reducing fraud in entrance examinations to higher schools was even mentioned in the document “Corrupt schools, corrupt universities: What can be done?”( it is a UNESCO document), Google it up and you will find out that Azerbaijan’s student admission commission is an example of “measures to counteract corruption”. The Russian (shortened) version is here What I wrote is for you to know, not for you to publish, but if you decide to publish I will be really grateful. Good luck.

  6. Sofisticos,

    Thank you for your honesty.
    I don't personally view my comment about possible bribes as an insult to the dead. I don't think the dead would care much.
    I would not attempt to assume they were intelligent just because they are now dead. Also, just because someone is intelligent in Baku does not mean they did not have to bribe anyone. Alas.

    Your statement that Azeri education system is 90% free of corruption is fascinating at the very least. :)) I am sure though, as a mathematician you understand statistics quite well.

    Anyway, it was interesting and thank you for the link!!

  7. thanks for sharing this detail information with us

  8. Oh, dear. I never said EDUCATION is not corrupt. Schools and universities ARE corrupt, because they are given to the mercy of the Ministry of Education. I said UNIVERSITY ADMISSION PROCESS, which is the responsibility of the commission. You just don’t know the intrigue: there is conflict between the admission commission (being totally computerized they exclude human fraudulence) and the REST of the education. I hope you will post my answer too, so that other people reading your blog will not be confused either. Thank you.

  9. Wow... Azeri admissions process must have improved by at least 85%! Because I very clearly remember being one of the only 5 people who got in without any “help” out of 100 something students in my year. Such an improvement in just 15 years!
    Fascinating! :):)

  10. I think you have never told us any stories about your learning English. With your talent to find funny moments in any situation it will be really engaging:)How it started and went on:)