Whilst still high on cloud nine that we managed to handle self-publishing a few other things have also impacted on me, this week. It has been timely because at some stage, reviews will come in, and reality will say hello. Don’t misunderstand. I have no misgivings about our efforts in creating Stories of the Dark and Light but writing is much like fine wine. Age or time if used wisely improves the process but like first-time winemakers you need to hone your craft by taking on board the reactions of others. If you haven’t handled the process carefully then vinegar is the result. It doesn’t mean you give up however you do need to add a bit more thought, to your approach.
I’m Italian and I grew up to the stomping of grapes in the cleverly designed concrete contraption housed in the garage. I lived in Sydney so options for my father and uncles were limited. They made their own, contraptions that is, contraptions that included a still (you had to be there in those days), as well as the area that housed the bare-feet grape-bashing once a year gathering of relatives. In the early years the ensuing results were was often foul, at least compared to the wines I enjoy these days, but other times they held a certain appeal and the dregs of those particular good moments extended into a grape jelly I have yet to taste the equal of.
Why the differences in outcome? It may have been due to numerous work constraints (real jobs I mean) with available helpers, or perhaps it was the type of grapes purchased. As time passed and I grew older and understood more, I saw the improvements in the equipment and resulting product as someone new to the growing brood of relatives, added their suggestions to the mix. My father was many things I was often at odds with (cultural differences) but there was one thing he did that stood out I truly hope he passed on to me – he was a willing learner.
Am I ready for critique, ready to find out whether the product is wine or vinegar? No. Am I willing for it to occur, a question I consider more important? Yes, I am but not without trepidation. Who wants to drink vinegar? Hang on a minute, isn’t cider vinegar good for you? I better not digress as I can be very good at finding excuses. Instead I will concentrate on the fact this week contained some extraneous events. These have made acceptance of what may be said in review so much easier.
Last Saturday for instance I went to the Burdekin Reader and Writers Festival held in Ayr, North Queensland and listened to and spoke with such noted authors as Matthew Conlon, John Marsden, Nick Earls and Kim Wilkins amongst a few. What a humbling experience but also what an inspirational one. Each and every one of them showed the willingness they have to keep honing their craft. You heard it in their voices and in their words even at their highly respected professional levels.
I learned writers build a bridge to often unrelated ideas in order to present a truth. I learned how hard it is to do this in a unique and novel way. It isn’t that I didn’t know these things but as John Marsden said very eloquently, the colour of truth is grey and not the black and white we presume. When we believe we know something we only know a small part of it, a small view you could say. It is the seeking out of the full truth that creates the better writers even if that truth is that we haven’t done a good job,
On the Sunday I attended a writer’s workshop held by the Queensland Writers Centre. There we were treated to an excellent day of honing the realities of marketing by Lauren Sherritt who did an excellent job of not scaring us silly. This is the behind the scenes hard work to get the created work out there, a time-consuming and confronting operation. If you didn’t love what you did then you would never attempt writing as a profession. It is a demanding and selfish task master during the process, and in the necessary extensions of the process. Yet that perfect glass of wine does happen and not at all in isolation. The wine may vary in colour, flavour and aroma yet will still be wine. It doesn’t happen if you let things get in the way especially the things that may not be palatable.
Having self-published without professional input has been a little harrowing. It was a risk which is why we wait with bated breath for the thoughts of our readers. Yet it was also a liberating experience as ultimately it is the readers we will answer to, accepting their words may lead us back to more conventional processes. I have to admit to doubts regarding the manner we handled our project (as humans we always doubt ourselves) until I happened upon an author by the name of Jane Davis. I looked at her website and am downloading her new book as I blog. I found her thoughts motivating and thought in turn to share them with you. Don’t forget to click on the links if you want to explore Jane’s books further but for now this is from the blog I read. Jane says the following:
Self-publishing is the mechanism that freed me to be more ambitious in terms of where I wanted to take my fiction. Instead of being dictated to, I am free to write about the issues I’m passionate about and fascinated by – the big subjects. Remove the pressure of trying of to mold something to fit the current market – which agents admit is risk-averse and overly-commercialised – and it grows wings. For authors of literary fiction, creative control isn’t just a plus. Increasingly it’s becoming a must.
So with those words this adventure continues led by readers we hope to find through marketing means we are still navigating. We have had one very kind review already and may have a long wait for the next one but hey haven’t I just compared writing to wine so maybe this is our resting in the oak cask period.
Till next time