Self Publishing. . . a steep learning curve…

self-publishing

 

I’ve finished the book and now begins the road to publication. I have purposely not chosen to pitch to an agent and go down the traditional route. I realise this will upset a lot of people, but I simply don’t have the time. My book Dear Tosh is a memoir that I have been writing on and off over the last ten years. Last year for one of my MA modules I wrote 5,000 words about losing my son and they were well received by my tutor and by my colleagues. It focused my mind, and with the tenth anniversary of his death coming up in 2021, I pulled everything together and the result was a memoir of twenty-seven letters written to Tosh over the period from November 2020 to February 1st 2021; covering the anniversary, being in France with The Man, living with the lockdown, all these factors contributed to the making of the book. I feel it needs to be published and available before the moment is gone.

It’s a big responsibility, publishing your own book. I do not want to send something out that can be criticised for its lack of professional appearance in any way whatsoever. I was told that one mistake people make is to try and design the cover themselves, so I’ve handed that over to a specialist company. I’ve worked with a mentor to get the structure of the book right and I’ve made sure the text has been proofread by a professional three times. Rather than exporting from my computer onto a PDF to send to the printer, I’m using the typesetters. All this is costing, and I am fully aware of the privileged position I am in to be able to do this but…I am seventy years old now, and I’ve waited a long time for this. I hope the book circulates to thousands of people — but I’ll settle for a few hundred — actually, I suppose I’ll settle for a few friends buying a copy 😂. So far, those who have read the manuscript, have given glowing reviews and endorsements. Fingers crossed for a minor success. 🤞

This is just the beginning. If it’s meant to be, I might be picked up by an agent for future books that I write, and I won’t have to be waking up at 5.30 in the morning, worrying about the next step of the process, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of panicking to do.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress but at the moment I’m aiming for a publication date in April. That’s if I can stop fiddling with the text, worrying about photographs for the cover and put the thing to bed. This week HAS to be the final week of editing and tweaking. By Wednesday, I want it off my desktop and in the hands of those who know what they’re doing at this stage of the game.

Note Number 90…Should It End Here?

90 copy

I opened up the programme to write this latest blog post, and I realised that it would be post number 90. As the whole point of this site was to have 90 posts, it appears I may have just come to the end. But, who cares? I think I’ll carry on for now.

The news is that I am forging ahead on the self-publishing route for my memoir with great gusto! It’s a learning curve that’s for sure. Proofreader, ISBNs, typesetters, printers, distribution  — it’s all go. Writing the book was nothing compared to the work I’m having to put in now. I’m sure it will be worth it though.

I’m also setting up a new website where there will be a link  to order the book. You will be able to read reviews — or send them in when you’ve read it! This blog will be published on that website too. There’ll be a cover reveal at the beginning of March and hopefully the book will be available in print and as an ebook from the middle to end of April. As soon as I have an actual date I’ll let you know.

Yes! There will be a launch, online or face to face, depending on the restrictions. I’ll be drinking the fizz either way. I’ll read a few excepts from Dear Tosh (I have settled on that title) and maybe do a Q&A session.

It’s all very exciting. No time to stop now. Better dash…need to just do the millionth read through of the manuscript. Feels like being back at school…

tenor

Note Number 89…It’s all about the writing…

I cannot believe it’s nearly the end of January. I know many people are saying that it’s been a long one, but for me it has flown. Those who know me will understand that January is not a good month for me and this year has been a little more difficult because it’s the 10th anniversary of the loss of my lovely son, Tosh. I have TToshweeted and Instagrammed and Facebooked photos etc., I’m just going to post one photo here, to remind you all what a handsome bloke he was. 

This blog is all about the writing. I have been handwriting and typing my little fingers off all month — well for a couple of years actually — there have been Zoom workshops about memoir writing, poetry writing, how to pitch your book to an agent and how to write a proposal.

I’ve been concentrating on memoir because that is what I’m writing. For the tenth anniversary, I’m completing a memoir about losing Tosh. the book’s working title, (which I think I’ll keep) is Dear Tosh. I’ve written a series of letters to him, telling him how things were from my side, when he had that fatal accident in Portugal. I’ve also brought him up to date with family events, and a few world events, over the last ten years. Obviously a lot has happened: births, deaths, marriages, the usual stuff.

It’s been quite a learning curve when it comes to editing, with so many chapter re-writes and redrafting,  but I think I’m nearly there. It’s been an interesting journey and even though an emotional ride I have to admit that I am also enjoying it. It is like spending time with him for part of each day. I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s finished…perhaps I’ll just carry on.

Writing has become a habit. A good habit. Which is exactly what you have to get into if you want to complete a book of any kind. I now write morning pages each day and a journal in the evening, when I remember. During the day I scribble away creating poetry or editing and redrafting the work in progress. I used to hate the editing side of writing, preferring to just create, but for the memoir, I’m loving the process of reading, checking, changing, cutting, adding, moving sections around, and generally tidying it all up. 

I’ll update you with the progress of the memoir and if I get any publishing deals that I can’t refuse, you will all be the first to know. I hope Tosh would approve of the book.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Note Number 88. . . Advent Calendar Takes Over. . .

Liberty Calendar copy

The Liberty Calendar is HUGE!!

This year my children bought me a Liberty Advent Calendar for my birthday. It is absolutely fabulous. I love it. A big box full of 25 little boxes to open every day from the 1st Decemer until 25th. So far it has revealed: special bath oil, face cream, lipstick, body cream, and a whole load of other things.  I’ve been posting over on Instagram each day. But, just to make the whole thing more fun for the family,  The Man and I shot a video of me opening the box for the first couple of days. This quickly became boring, so we made a little bit more of it, creating a character or a storyline each day and made little movies. I struggled but mastered (to a basic degree) how to use IMovie adding titles, music, speeding up the film and all sorts. Thinking up ideas wasn’t a problem but it began to take up most of my day and I have other important things to do! Like finish writing my memoir and creating more poetry — which I’m very much into at the moment — so today I resolved to stop making the mini series of Opening the Liberty Advent Calendar 2020 (what will she do next?). We haven’t completely abandoned the project, but will film a few random days between now and Christmas Day. I cannot possibly divulge what themes they might be. In the meantime, I thought you might find it mildly amusing to watch a couple of the earlier box openings, so I’ve uploaded number 6 and number 8 here.

Both clips were filmed before we realised it was better to use landscape mode on the iphone.

Operation Box Number 6

Look No Hands…(Box Number 8)

I always wanted to be in a movie…. download

Note Number 82…Zoom, just one look…

. . . and then my heart went boom (Remember the song?)  Well, I’ve been ZOOMING now for a few weeks, and so far the closest I got to a heart booming was for my children and grandchildren. Although, I have to confess I felt a twang when I attended a masterclass with Sebastian Faulkes Then, on the 5th August, I watched Simon Armitage on an Arvon Zoom at Home and there was a flutter in my chest when his face came onto the screen. I have seen Simon live onstage in Bridport. Hearing him read his poetry and speak about it was great entertainment, but “meeting” him on Zoom felt special. I reckon I know him personally now — but If I see him in the street and rush up to greet him, he won’t know me at all — I’m suffering from Zoom illusions.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage 

Last week I attended a Forward Meet the Poet session with Vicki Feaver (if you click on the link you can hear some of her poetry). What an inspiration she was! A wonderfully ‘laid back’ lady with so much poetry knowledge which she willingly shared. Forty-five minutes wasn’t enough time. I don’t know about others, but I could have watched and listened to her reading her poetry all evening. She was speaking about her book I Want I Want I Want which has been shortlisted in the Forward Arts Prize. I can recommend the book. Her poems are full of imagery and after reading them, they stay with me for a long time. I think this what makes a good poem: good imagery and desire to read them over and over again, each reading bringing you closer to the heart of the poem. I aspire to write like this. At the moment I think I’m a bit hit and miss and not very consistent in my work. But, for me, it’s still early days. It takes a long time to learn poetic skills.

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

On Saturday 15th August, I was “interviewed” by my son Matthew Rickard. He’s started a new series of podcasts that you can watch on the 1095 Pod on YouTube. I enjoyed the experience and hope if you have the time to visit that you enjoy watching.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of many different answers to some of his questions. Isn’t that always the way? I never mentioned “imagery” when speaking about poetry and for “memorable life events” I never thought about “giving birth to twins” which has to go down as unforgettable. Also, being present at the birth of my first granddaughter — how did I not think of these things at the time?

Me

ME!
Well gotta think big — I’m now on the same page as Simon Armitage and Vicki Feaver !

Only twelve days left before MA Dissertation submission — Better stop having delusions of grandeur and get on with it!

Note Number 81. . .

poetry

Image Clip Art Barn

Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.

The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.

Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry   We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.

Me and Orchard

Me with the Orchard in the Background

If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.

I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.

Lemn-Sissay-Event

Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy

Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .

 

Note Number 80. . .Writing Buddies. . .

criticism

I wanted to share the fact that having friends who write and who can give constructive criticism of your own work, are the best of all friends. When I first began my MA in Creative Writing, not only was I rubbish at giving feedback, I wasn’t very good at taking it. The latter still applies (sometimes) as it is not easy to be told something is lacking in your work.

A couple of weeks ago, in a general Teams chat, I was given a bit of a slap from a tutor. He told me that he thought my poem, ‘lacked articles and personal pronouns,’  was, ‘amateurish’ and ‘could have been written by an undergraduate.’ To his credit, he was at pains to tell me he knew nothing about poetry, (why bother to comment you  might ask?) As you can imagine I was hurt. I turned to my friends, who were supportive with encouraging comments. They liked my poem and maybe just a couple of changes would make it even better.  I then turned to my poetry tutor who, without telling me the poem was amazing or crap, gave me some sound advice and I quote:

I wouldn’t worry too much about what you might perceive as negative criticism. It is always tough to take, but nearly always has something of use you can take from it. I learned years ago to wait until my emotional reaction to criticism had died down before using it to improve my work. In the end, people may have different qualifications to critique, but everyone’s opinion has some merit.”

I think I’m going to print this out and frame it.

Back to writing buddies. Too many of them, and you become confused. You need just enough to give varied, subjective opinions. Listen to everything all of them have to say, and if there are similarities in their comments then those are the ones of which to take note. I have settled on around six friends whose work I respect and consequently I respect their opinions.

writing buddies

 

Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 77…The Times They are a Changing…

 

university

My university campus has all but closed down, and from next Monday all lectures and seminars will be online. I’ve been coughing since Friday and have self-isolated. Although, as there is no automatic testing in the UK I could just have a ‘seasonal cough’. .Thank goodness we live in the countryside and only The Man might be within a metre of me. . .

At the moment I can still walk the dog. It’s easy not to meet anyone. But, she has been a bit poorly. The vet kindly carried out a telephone consultation, (with me, not the dog) to diagnose the problem. . . she needed a special diet to sort out her ‘tummy troubles’. After couple of doses of paste from a tube, four ‘special’ (exceedingly expensive) meals. She is — as of this morning — right as rain. Is rain correct word? I think we’ve had a little too much of that lately. (I wonder how long we’ll have to keep on with the exceedingly expensive food? 

 

jpeg garden

Jpeg in happier sunny tummy days ….

diaper-clipart-incontinence-6

Could have done with one of these…

I am disappointed that my uni days are all but over. Now, everything is Skype, WhatsApp, and sharing work via email. I had so enjoyed going to the campus, meeting other students and attending lectures and seminars but. . .

learning

I think, the thing to do in these situations is to turn them to your advantage. I’m not using the car now. So travelling time to Exeter and back can now be recycled into writing time. It’s also making me a much greener person on the planet. Have you read how much difference the ‘lock downs’ are making to the environment already? China has much cleaner air and the canals in Venice are clearer and some dolphins have returned. Is this going to be a massive turning point for the world? I do hope so.

Back to my univeristy work. I have two deadlines, 27th April and 28th April, by which time I need to write two pieces of creative writing of 5000 words each plus one supporting essay and on annotated bibliography.

For the Prose Writing Workshop, I’m dabbling in memoir. For this submission, I also have to write an annotated bibliography using at least five books that I have read. I must give a short descrition of each book and explaination of how the book informed my writing.

My other module is Realism writing. Alongside my creative story, I must submit a 1,500 critial essay. . . I’m not so good at those. I cannot quite get that academic voice going but I’ve been practicing. The best way to learn about writing is by reading. I am at present drowning in novels, short stories, essays, academic how to books and online masterclasses. Phew!

My book shelf

Some of the books I’m currently reading

As well as flights and holidays, so many things are being cancelled. Today I received notification that an event scheduled for this July has been postoned until July 2021. The seriousness of the situation hit home. It’s a strange time to be living through, and it could be a long haul. Keep in touch with family and friends by whichever ways and means you can without putting yourself or others in jeopardy. We have a new grandchild. . . a little boy, but it seems it could be some while before we can give him anything but a virtual cuddle.

 

primrose

Spring is around the corner. . . 

PS. If you notice that this is note number 77 and you thought the last note was 77, you are correct. I had to delete a post from a couple of months ago. I couldn’t stand the numbers being out of sync so had to edit accordingly. Happy Days. x