I spent so many years of my life being camera-shy that author Allan Boroughs' memorable description of my profile pic as "the hottest real estate on Twitter" (which I think was maybe 200 profile pics ago) still seems like one of the strangest things I've ever had said about me. However, while Allan is clearly an expert at flattery, it IS nice that people seem to enjoy being in it - and even nicer that I like updating it with new pictures in which I think I look ok.
So, after 31 years or so in which I instinctively tried to avoid having ANY pictures of myself on the internet (Okay, admittedly, for over half those years no-one I knew had even USED the internet, which made that part easier), how did I end up posting quite so many pictures of myself?
I blame David Stevens, personally. (For NEARLY everything, but in this case I actually have a fairly good reason to.)
When I moved down here originally, I'd been teaching in a secondary school for 7 of the 8 years prior to getting this job. I'd seen bad things happen to teachers on Facebook - fake profiles set up, groups started solely to talk about how much people hated them - and coupled with my long-held dislike of the way I looked, that was enough for me to be very keen to keep any photos of me far away from public viewing. Of course, David knew none of this when, at an event, he grabbed my phone, got Daphne to take a photo of us together, and said "Go on, put that as your new profile pic." (At least he ASKED then; now he just uploads them himself on the rare occasions I see him!) I did, fully intending to take it off moments later. And then I think I forgot until the next morning - as David was there, I'm assuming I drank large amounts of Prosecco.
And then when I woke up the next morning, I went to take it off, and decided not to. Partly because I really liked the way I looked in it. (I HATE photos of me without glasses normally so this was a BIG DEAL.) I still don't consider myself to be good-looking in it (or in any picture to be honest!) but I'm smiling (it may be the first picture taken of me this decade where I was!), I'm standing next to someone I really like, and my hair could be worse - and often is. (Also it's kinda blurry, which helped!) Partly because I was trying to figure out the probability of anyone from the college I teach at seeing it and expending the effort to do anything bad with it, and I decided that our students are a) too nice to do that and b) have better things to do with their lives, to be honest. So I left it up.
And then people started commenting on it. (PATRICK NESS commented on it!) And at some point down the road, superstar author Abi Elphinstone decided she wanted to be in it, so we took one together. And then a couple of other people joined in, there was friendly rivalry between David and Abi culminating in one of the three of us together, and people seemed to enjoy them.
And then somewhere down the line - I'm not sure where exactly (so many book events, so much Prosecco!) it became something of a thing. It went from me tentatively asking people if they wanted to be in one, and crossing my fingers they didn't laugh at me (somehow, this rarely happens!), to a few people asking me if they could be in it. (Yes, I know most people are just humouring me, but it's nice that they do that!) It's featured dozens of bloggers, a huge amount of UK authors, and even some who've come over from the US for events and I've been lucky enough to meet - as well as two dogs (Buffy and Pluto) and one baby - my friend Daphne's lovely daughter Theia.
And somehow, every time I put another photo up, I get a little bit more confident about showing my face. Yes, I still need to take 7 or 8 attempts at it sometimes (or, more realistically, get someone else to take 7 or 8 attempts!) in order to get an angle when I'm even vaguely happy with my chin. But I like the way that I smile when I'm with people I'm a friend of/fan of (in a few cases, both!) I feel my happiness at having a fun time shines through. And, as my friend Debbie said at Sara Grant's wonderful Ice Bar launch, they've started to form a really nice record of great days/evenings. From Katie Webber's first event as a chair, interviewing Leigh Bardugo, to Lauren James and Alice Oseman in Birmingham, via the brilliant launch for the Mystery and Mayhem short story collection, and from numerous #DrinkYA events to lots of cinema and theatre trips, and other days out with fabulous friends, looking back through them reminds me of lots of amazing times.