I’ve woken to a dull, rainy day and I’m shivering. Mostly, I hibernate in winter to write. Reading a good book under a rug on the couch is even more tempting when I’m mulling about my writing – or just plain stuck.
Is it a coincidence that most of the worlds Cities of Literature have cold climates? Does cold weather make it easier to foster an environment to write? Apart from Melbourne, Australia, there’s Edinburgh, in Scotland; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Reykjavík, Iceland; Ulyanovsk, Russia, to name a few of the twenty cities who have the honour of being called a City of Literature by UNESCO. Surely the weather is not the only criteria – after all Melbourne’s winter hardly falls to the depths of cold compared to many on the list.
Did you know that Melbourne and Iowa City were the second and third cities approved by UNESCO in 2008 after Edinburgh? So what does a city have to do to make it onto the list?
According to UNESCO a city should demonstrate the following,
- Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing
- Quality and quantity of educational programs focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary and tertiary levels
- Literature, drama and/or poetry playing an important role
- Hosting literary events and festivals promoting domestic and foreign literature;
- Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centers which preserve, promote and disseminate domestic and foreign literature
- Involvement by the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature
- Active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.
Interestingly there’s no mention of the weather.
Melbourne City of Literature has a lot to do in winter to help inspire you with a fix of literature. From large events such as the Emerging Writers Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival and Historical Novel Society of Australia Conference to the many numerous smaller festivals held in the suburbs and country towns, there is something for everyone. It’s no accident that many are held in winter and attract large numbers. It’s a wonderful indoor activity to network and learn.
The rain has stopped, the sun is out and my teacup is empty. The time has come to get off the couch and book my tickets to get my fill of inspiration. Perhaps you can too.
I mean the month of June, of course. Apart from the plunge in temperature in Melbourne, a lot’s happened. My book of short stories, Out of Nowhere was published. My webpage had a makeover. I held my first radio interview. My book was officially launched and I’ve made a further dent into my current novel. Whew!
Publishing a book means getting it out there to let readers know. I shot off a bunch of emails to libraries, distributors, and book stores. The two book stores who have my first book happily agreed to stock my second. Goodreads held a giveaway for five copies and 853 people from around the world entered; 300 put it on their book shelf to read. I did a couple of ads on Facebook with mixed results but overall got some good exposure. How that translates into sales is too early to say.
The radio interview was done a few weeks ago on 3SER 97.7 Casey community radio on a show called Viewpoints. I chose to pre-record it and was surprised how easy it was to talk about my work. Of course the host, Henry Grossek was the consummate professional and made it very easy by asking all the right questions.
Soon after I held my book launch on June 24th at the Wheelers Hill library with a good crowd in attendance. Book sales helped to defray the costs of publication. Award winning YA author, Nicole Hayes launched my collection with a wonderful speech. The support and encouragement I received from everyone was nothing short of phenomenal and the reviews so far have been very complimentary.
Amongst this feverish activity, I finally worked out the ending of my next novel, A Perfect Stone. Now on to finish my second draft then constant rework for the next few months.
Yes, it’s been busy.
Joining the publication of Climbing the Coconut Tree is Out of Nowhere which was released 31 May 2017.
Unlike my first book which is an historical fiction, Out of Nowhere is a collection of short stories written over the last eighteen months.
Everyone has a story to tell and I was often inspired by other peoples stories or the things that just happen. So a theme began developing about how the unexpected can take us by surprise.
There are sixteen short stories. The Surprise follows a mother and son’s life changing journey; in The River, a woman sees something she wishes she hadn’t. In the title story, a man tries to understand his wife – too late.
Feel free to take a peek at the book trailer or the book.
Presenting my book trailer for Out of Nowhere: A collection of short stories.
A huge thank you to the very talented Jonny Lynch who put the trailer together; to Anthony Guardabascio from Continue.com.au and to Con Karakaltsas for the watercolour painting from which the cover art work has been adapted.
Hope you love it as much as I do.
I’ve done this before.
So you’d think I could decide on a cover fairly quickly. It should be an easy process. But it’s not. Anthony, my cover designer has the patience of a saint.
I chew on my fingernails and ponder. Is the art work right? Is the font the right size; is it in the right spot? Does the blurb make any sense to anyone else but me? Is the layout good enough? Is it eye catching enough? Then finally I think it’s nailed and I stuff up the dimensions of the book. And I find out that size really does matter. So many things to think about.
Yes, getting the book cover right is time consuming.
So where is the cover for ‘Out of Nowhere’, you ask? Coming out soon.
Eighteen months ago I decided to expand my writing horizon and learn how to write short stories for no other reason, than to see if I could. Playing around with voice and structure, I was inspired by lots of different things around me and let my imagination run wild on the page.
Some of my stories were leveraged from real events which I suppose many writers do. I read somewhere that writers should write what they know. Historical fiction for me is not necessarily what I know but what I’ve found out. My short stories on the other hand are closer to what I know or have observed.
Now that I have a collection of short stories what do I do with them? One of my stories has been published in the Monash Writers Group Anthology while another was short listed in the Lane Cove Literary Awards.
I’ve published one novel so why not publish a collection of short stories. The process is similar. It needs an editor, a snappy book cover, an ISBN, formatting etc.
But the marketing is quite different. My novel fell neatly into an historical fiction niche. Where does a collection of short stories fall? Who reviews short stories? Who are my readers? How do I get a readership in amongst all the books that are published daily?
If anyone has successfully marketed a short story collection, I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, I’m getting read to publish and take the leap into another new round of learning.
The other day someone asked, “How do you take your books?”
“With a cup of tea or a gin and tonic depending on the time of the day,” I replied with a grin.
But it got me thinking.
With bulging bookcases and little space, some years ago, I began reading my books electronically saving space and weight particularly when on holiday or travelling. Reading on my iPad meant I didn’t have to search for the best lighting – I could just take it with me. Simple and easy. The cost of electronic books was also very affordable which meant I could buy more. With so many advantages to reading on a device, why don’t more people buy and read their books that way?
Perhaps it was a fad but I find myself now reverting back to the good old paperback. I like to hold it and flip the pages back and forwards. To read the blurb on the back cover, inside cover, to look at the artwork. Sure I can do that electronically, but I like the feel of it in my hands. Sometimes I just don’t want to look at another screen.
I like to read in bed – a paperback doesn’t hurt as much as a dropped iPad on the face. Yes, that has happened to me. I bought a new book shelf and I actually love to look at my books – I don’t get that same feeling with the books on my device. Sometimes, I scan the shelf, pick a book I’ve already read, open it anywhere and start reading. I’m also fussy when I buy a paperback not just because it’s more expensive but it has to earn its place on the tight real estate space of my book shelf.
I haven’t totally given up electronic books- I still get them occasionally. Now I’m thinking about audio books. I can listen while I’m out walking or driving and I like that idea.
Thinking about that question again, I’d say, I take my books in a variety of forms but I prefer the paperback.
What about you?