My wife and I are regular visitors to Port Fairy, Victoria. As a daughter of a Western District farming family, Susan has connections aplenty there. No less than three of her cousins have holiday homes in the town, including the little bluestone (basalt) cottage on Sackville Street, in the heart of town, that we often stay in.
The cottage, the town and the coast feature often in my fiction, as they do in my life.
It’s just 10 hours before my new storyletter Tall and Tiny Tales goes live with its first episode and podcast.
I think I’ve done my groundwork well: it’s a good concept well-executed, with some strong material … I think. My attempts at promotion have been moderately successful: I have over 60 subscribers on board. That’s not a bad start!
But what if it’s crap?
Will I see my subscribers desert in droves?
Who am I to think that I can reinvent myself as a fiction writer anyway?
Am I making a fool of myself?
Similar thoughts are often at the back of my mind when I try to do something that I haven’t done before.
Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to me. I am, after all, British by birth, and my natural inclination is to mumble disparagingly about my accomplishments.
‘I … err … write the odd short story from time to time … Nothing much, and you probably wouldn’t be interested … but if one day you don’t have anything better to do, then maybe … ?’
This is a recipe for not getting read until I am dead. In my obituary I will be hailed as a literary genius and riches will be showered on my bemused heirs. Heirs, I might add, who never showed the faintest interest in a darned thing I wrote …
Meanwhile, in the real world: I’m not a literary genius, but I am a half-decent teller of short stories (laying British modesty aside), and it is something that I enjoy doing.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy it more, though, if someone actually reads my stuff. If they’re not my wife or my mum and I haven’t had to employ emotional blackmail – bonus points!
A morning at the surf beach is a satisfyingly complete sensory experience. It quickens the pulse and floods the nervous system with endorphins, the brain with dopamine, leaving the conscious mind in a happy daze, sinuses and skin refreshed and ears abuzz.
So why do we go there so infrequently? When we first moved here, nearly 20 years ago, we went often. Over the years … well, life has got in the way, with its clutter and preoccupations. This seems a good morning for decluttering!
Our morning begins with the short drive across the peninsula to Ocean Grove. As we approach the last of the low ridges upon which the seaside town sprawls — ancient sand dunes — we are rewarded with a first glimpse of the sea.
What awaits us? Long, regular lines of rollers, or broken surf? A greyish, surly sea under a leaden sky, or a mirror of cerulean with barely a ripple overlaid on the long swell?
If you’re an indie author like me, you’ll already have made the discovery that ‘Write it and they will come’ does not work. It will never work.
It doesn’t matter how good your writing is: how gripping your plots, relatable your characters, polished your prose. Your writing will languish unread, unless you find ways to get readers to clap eyes on it.
Fortunately I like a challenge, and I like learning new stuff, so this doesn’t bother me much. In the past year, I’ve had more than a few ‘Eureka!’ flashes of inspiration which quickly turned to ‘Meh …’ realisations. I pick myself up, dust myself off and try something else.
… but also I keep doing what I’m doing – constantly refining and trying to do it better. Building an audience requires dedication and commitment. It ain’t gonna happen over night.
Who needs video games to keep them entertained? This stuff is FUN!
The trouble with being a full-time coursebook writer is that you’re always preparing lessons for others to teach.
With the drawn-out publishing process, there’s about a year’s development from concept to finished work. Even then, the book has to jump through bureaucratic hoops to be approved by the relevant education authorities, before final printing and distribution. By the time you’re actually getting royalties, (usually the only form of feedback you’ll ever get) the work itself may be a distant memory.
It’s all a little … abstract.
That’s why I enjoy opportunities to teach. For me, they’re recreation, not work. They’re also a way of keeping myself grounded.
It has happened again. A couple of days away in our campervan, and I’ve come back with a new tale to tell.
It is not something that actually happened – thankfully – but it was definitely inspired by the place we stayed and what we experienced there. It is a unique tale, then, which would not have been conceived anywhere else.
You’ll have to wait a while to read ‘Badger Hill’, as I’ve submitted it for a competition with my local writers’ group and don’t want to disqualify my entry through conflicting ideas about what constitutes ‘prior publication’.
It’s a little darker than most of my output, although it starts off innocuously enough. A woman receives a minor injury at the end of the first stage of a multi-day hike. At least the campground is idyllic …
My output of stories has been prolific over the past months. Clearly, a world-record series of lockdowns here in Victoria has been good for something!
However, ‘Write it and they will come’ isn’t proving to be a sensible way of getting my writing to readers.
I ruefully recognise that I only started reading some of my favourite contemporary authors after an obituary in the media. That’s a little long-term for this writer. I’d rather be read alive than dead.