Here’s a very brief post on the blog! Here’s wondering if any of you nice followers have discovered my Author Page … or investigated what I wrote when I’m not writing the blog or doing one of a hundred thousand other things?
For example, this weekend, promoting my work (and hopefully entertaining an audience) at a book festival along with other authors, many of them, like me, members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
On Saturday (23rd, Shakespeare’s Birthday …) the Hawkesbury LitFest will be taking place – all day from 10.00am to 5.30pm … a great gathering of authors in the Cotswold village of Hawkesbury Upton. H.U. is a friendly place – especially friendly to Books and Reading … (Also to Italian food at the Fox restaurant, and to cakes, coffee and tea at the festival Cafe). It’s friendly to authors and a crowd of us will be going along to read, discuss, promote, hopefully sell our work, and to meet other authors and our readers …
You may live far away, in South Africa, Canada, or the USA – but have a look at the Mari Howard Author Page on Facebook anyway … have a look at the LitFest adverts to see what we’re (I’m) doing this weekend, and let me know, via blog comments (if you have an opinion: should Facebook ask authors to pay to promote their pages? I am undecided – this is not a rant either way – I am just wondering, would the promotion be worth the cost? At $10 a day?)
And thanks for following .. welcome to several new readers …
Nearly every writer friend seems to’ve joined the NaNoWriMo challenge this year – November being a drear month of dreich weather what could be more attractive than sitting down at a computer and banging out a story? (I think they’re using it to try out fiction writing, see if they can do it for the long haul … real novel production takes a lot more work and time than this!)
Here’s a poem I wrote to celebrate Writers’ Month:
(illustrated by our elderly cat, Moppet, who’s become a bit ‘Nanna-like’ lately)
Nana’s nicked my pencil, she’s casting on her words
Nana’s doing Wry-Mo, that knitting fun for nerds
She thought it was a needle, she was in such rush,
To get her novel started while there was quiet and hush.
Nana’s cast on lots of words, and she’s working really hard
Nana wants to win this year, she’s really quite a bard.
We creep around like mouses, and make her cups of tea,
We tell her ‘don’t procrastinate!’ when she goes for a wee.
We’re buying all her shopping, we’re making all our beds,
We’re being very very good, and keeping down our heads,
‘Cos otherwise, as Nana said, we’ll get put in her book,
And then we might get deaded, all drownded in the brook.
She’s reading up policing, she calls it ’cosy crime’,
She writing, writing, writing, creating all the time,
The words just grow an’ grow an’ grow, a long long trailing scarf,
We’re not allowed to read it yet, we hope it makes us laugh.
When at last the WryMo’s over, and we get our Nana back,
We’ll know that it’s been worth it, despite the sweat and flack,
And the cheesecake for our breakfast, and the prayers for something else!
And she’s done her fifty-thousand, so her banner will unfurl
With ‘I’m a Winner!’ on it, in plain and rib and purl,
(Though cable’s really suited to her wry and twisted style.)
For Nana’s knitted up a book, which we never thought she could
Without the NaNoWriMo to keep her working like she should
And I shall need my pencil back because you see
I’m knitting up a novel now, as wry as it can be.
Late summer bank holiday isn’t known for its predictably splendid weather, but we HULF Pop-Up LitFest people were hoping.
Here’s some of us at the Hawkesbury Village Horticultural Show showground, preparing our marquee, and hoping that our location – next to the Pimms Tent and opposite the Local History Society stand, will attract customers!
Saturday’s weather was fine, bright and warm …
There were lots of stalls and attractions …
and floats from the carnival procession (this one won 2nd Prize in the competition)
We’d thought we’d do some readings from our work to attract the customers … but look at the opposition!
The marquee was also opposite the biggest, loudest, screamy-est fun fair ride!
We abandoned the readings idea (next year we’ll find a quieter spot maybe with the Teas)
But, we made some videos of readings, and we sold books!
What drives sales?
a blurb that hooks the reader in …
enthusiasm from the salesperson (in this case, we were all there as authors selling our own books) …
belonging to a supportive community (we were all members of ALLi, re-meeting after the LitFest for World Book Night back in April, at the Fox, and re-meeting each other – authors Ali Bacon, JohnLynch, Ellie Stevenson… and more I’d not met before… ).
Glasses of Pimms from the Tent, and later cups of tea – all brought round by Debbie who’d organised our appearance at the Hawkesbury Show …
wanting to succeed …
and keeping on until the end … in the last hour, we all made more sales than through the previous three and half.
To become a writer is to expect disappointment… wise words, from a wise writer. His quirky, lighthearted, semi-fantasy writings are deceptively wise. His name is Alexander McCall Smith.
And at a rather bad time in my life, a friend’s kindness was to introduce me to his wonderfully affirming stories.
An Indie Author Life seems about the worst idea in the world. Edit and publish your own books? Write, design, and print your own publicity? Promote yourself on social media? Find your own readers?
Fun at The Fox: the Hawkesbury Upton LitFest
One of many ways to promote our books is to follow up every opportunity to appear before an audience, willing to invite them into your stories by reading an extract or two. Thursday was World Book Night, and over a hundred people gathered at The Fox, Hawkesbury Upton, to celebrate.
It was a warm sunny evening, and the initial readings could be held outdoors in the marquee, giving the event a summery feel.
Later, after the official opening by Katie Fforde of the Romantic Novelists Association, a huge-er than imagined crowd meant we were packed in the Function Room like happy, book-loving sardines. Authors (gathered partly via our membership of ALLihttp://allianceindependentauthors.org/) were wreathed in smiles, locals curious enough to purchase a pint and join the fun gathered to hear a bit about the writing life. And more 5-minute tasters of Indie authors’ work.
Situated in a village rather than a large town or city, had a really cosy feel, and The Fox was providing not only the venue but dinner in the restaurant and/or B and B for some of us.
I was able to read from both my novels (Baby, Babyand The Labyrinth Year) about the Mullins family – Max the GP and his wife Jenny, genetic researcher – and my ‘Wannabe’ poem found a use illustrating the apparent romance of being writers … (see blogpost Trips and Tropes ... )
The LitFest Effect …
Friday morning was time to take a walk around the village: rolling green Cotswold countryside, wild flowers, a sloping lane bordered by woods, and the ancient, part-Saxon, St Mary’s church.
Where a friendly local dog-walker borrowed a key and showed us around. After a few over-busy months, and a series of appliance disasters in our house, elated by the country break, ‘Writing this now,’ I wrote on Saturday evening, with that quote from Alexander M S in my head, (Radio Four Saturday morning)t- ‘I’ve still got that now all the exams are all over feeling … ‘
It was actually time to affirm the whole quote …
To become a writer is to expect disappointment…until you remember that the glass that’s half empty is also half full.
Half full, half full, I am telling myself … Thursday to Saturday maybe it was completely full … but even if I (and others) sold nothing, the glass is not half empty (as here in this intellectual city we so easily think) … no, it is definitely half full – and it will be full again … Mma Ramostwe of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is so encouraging, as she says, ‘... it is well known …’
… Alice and Zoe, Max and Jenny’s children, are beautifully realised characters in their own right, not drawing attention to themselves, fitting into the story exactly as they should.
The conflicts begun in Baby, Baby of religious fundamentalism versus tolerance, scientific progress in genetics and fertility against the risks of new procedures, are more relevant than ever, and Mari Howard does an expert job of weaving these themes into her story without ever letting them weigh it down. In her wonderful, accurate portrayal of the different strands of Christianity, she shows how faith and science don’t need to be mutually exclusive …
Before the old blog collapsed, I was thinking about the kindness of friends.
It all began with someone else’s blog (as it often does), posted on a Facebook site I belong to, where authors share about writing. The blog piece had all of us rather quirky writers sharing how it is for us who don’t fit the standard ‘genres’. I was still working on my Charlie Hebdo response (I may bring that over here later, or I may decide too much time has gone by and reactions have become old news). But I think the discussion was kicked off by this a guest post by Vivienne Tufnell on Philippa’s Rees’s blog ‘Involution’ (http://bit.ly/1DTFgfJ).
Since when the phrase The Kindness of Friends has stuck around in my head like a catchy title for Alexander McCall Smith, something to partner The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, and The Lost Art of Gratitude. An introduction toMcCall Smith’s lighthearted wisdom was the kindness of a friend during a time of loss and sadness, and now we have a whole host of them in our bookcase.
Without the kindness of friends, I’d probably not have moved from writing articles to writing novels: way back when a friend gave me that push of confidence, and showed real interest in what I wrote, books began appearing on my doorstep. Slightly unusual books, books which made you laugh or smile but carried deep and honest assessments of human nature and human predicaments. Books which encouraged my sort of writing, the kind I wanted to do.
Years before, the kindness of friends had assisted my flight from a perfectly frightful flat-share at Uni. Details apart, one of the horrible things was, the flat was in somebody’s attic, which three of us shared, and we had no front door. The landlady’s cats had a nasty habit of coming upstairs to poo underneath the furniture in our rooms … and once the dog came and deposited a present on one of the beds (not mine). Friends, once they heard, came with a car (rare for students to own one back then), we bundled my possessions into it in plastic carrier bags, paid the rent up and did a flit. That of course has nothing to do with writing, though it may get into a story one day.
Not that I don’t love cats: cats with clean habits and outdoor toilet ideas. Spike is a close friend: a ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’ and possibly has a story in him too.
Then there’s the kindness of friends who love to push a pram with your twins in it when they go to collect their kiddies from school: my New Zealand friend got to revisit her maternal baby-instincts and I got an hour off in the afternoon. Mummy-stuff indeed. And my more recent Hong Kong friend, who lived next door for a year with her family, and was always up for a mug of tea and a chat. The weary writer and the weary, breast-feeding mummy ‘chewing the fat’ in her rather chilly, rented house. The kindness going both ways.
So when creation’s by the mind, and the book’s our baby, is there a kindness of fellow-author ‘friends’?
Despite talk about jealousy and competitiveness of authors, about ‘trolling reviews’ on Amazon, our discussions around reaching readers with books that defy genre-typing engendered posts written with enthusiasm and encouragement. Comparing our experiences, sharing what works. A counterbalance to the thriller/crime/sci-fi mystery guys’n’gals whose sales top the lists. ANd followed by a rather splendid review of my first novel, Baby, Baby (Hodge 2010, available from the website (http://hodgepublishing.co.uk/home/) (or Amazon, p/b or Kindle).
Technology is neutral: how we use it is not. The Alli site members’ group (allianceindependentauthors.org/) proves the kindness of friends can exist across the net : sharing ideas at every level from newbies starting out to experienced authors who sell in large numbers. Even support themselves by writing. Sharing advice, frustrations, thoughts, guest posts.
(I wonder if Virginia Woolf would have lived longer if she had had a virtual band of fellow-writers displaying the kindness of e-friends?)