Friday, 1 March 2013

PINCH PUNCH by Penny Dolan

I am very grateful to the person who planned the new rota for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. She gave me the hard-to-forget day that is the “first of the month”.

Along with remembering the blog-post comes remembering a rhyme, and making sure I’m there before himself.


It’s gentle fun, the way we play it, but it isn’t always so for authors.

Writers get plenty of pinches and punches and have to get used to them or give up, I guess.

PINCHES are the tiny moments when something nips at your confidence unexpectedly. They are the moments that make you feel silly and/or needy for even having had expectations.

For example, there are the following:

The Prod of the Poisonous Pen: That negative phrase in a review that brands itself across the brain for far too long afterwards.

The Pinch-You-in-Passing Person: This is the librarian or teacher who dismisses your latest book while oozing & enthusing about another book or author. “What we’re really looking forward to . . . “ (And to dismiss a book is to dismiss the writer, my friend.)

The Nip of the Book-Non-Buyer: This one picks up your book, sniffs, and puts it down. The extreme version takes your book out of their child’s hands and offers them one by a tv tie-in or celebrity.

The Sad Smile of the Un-Chosen:  There are lots of awards around now, and I am very glad of that for many reasons.  Occasionally comes the good moment: one’s book is chosen and listed and one is very grateful and happy. Then comes the down-side when one is not THE Chosen. Even when you didn’t expect to be, it might have been nice to be Surprised.

Ah well. Just a mini-pinch, because it was an honour all the same. Though pity that stoical author whose serious novel on a heart-felt theme was pipped at the post by an amusing book about a farting bear. To those who have to smile bravely in public when such announcements are made: we salute you!

In lots of ways, pinches are good for the writer as a person. They are the moments that remind us not to get too grand or vain about our work, to think about others. The moment might smart but the pain can be licked away.

PUNCHES are the serious stuff, the blows that can knock a writer down.

The worst is when a book that one’s heart and soul has gone into goes Out of Print. This news is often discovered by chance. It rarely comes from an editor or the publishing house.

My toughest Out of Print moment punched out at me from nowhere, just as I was setting off on a very happy tour of school visits. The eager bookseller rang to say that, if I agreed, the publisher’s warehouse would release ten of my last twenty “author copies” of a title for her to sell at the event. I rang the warehouse, feeling sick in the stomach, mumbled my agreement and smiled all the way through the tour.

Inside, I was hurting. What I knew was that now that title had gone out of print, the rest of the series would go too, like a run of dominoes. 

The fact wasn’t anything special. Lots of people go through it, sometimes as they are still writing the series. The moment was just one of those re-shuffles, those occasional clearing of the lists, aka the wiping of my entire backlist. That was a punch, that was, and I wasn’t wearing my iron corset that day.

I’ve learned to have that trusty garment ready more often. Even in the fine world of kindle and e-books and being in charge of your own publishing destiny, I’m sure pinches and punches happen.

“Courage!” is all one can say, and perhaps remember that at least we mostly live where many of our words can be published without truly serious or vicious reprisals . . .
Enough. End of this rambling. The sky grew darker than I expected when I began.

Meanwhile, back to more comfortable territory. 

I’m ready for tomorrow, as long as himself doesn’t read this post over my shoulder and as long as Blogger scheduling works around 6.30am.

For what I’ve found out, while researching this saying, is that the words should be delivered between dawn and noon, and with an extra line for luck.


Wishing you No Returns, especially from your books.

Penny Dolan


Kate said...

I've never even thought about what it must feel like to go out of print - it must be horrible!

Clémentine Beauvais said...

Oh, this is such a great post. Thank you *sororal feeling of virtual connection*

Joan Lennon said...

I didn't know "Pinch, punch, first of the month!" but I ENTIRELY know everything else of which you speak ... Courage, indeed, is called for. And deep breaths.

adele said...

We do pinch punch too and this post is brilliant and you describe SO WELL the feelings that go with the pinches and the punches. Fantastic. That out of print thing has happened to me SO OFTEN and never ceases to hurt. I compare it to a child being sent to gaol! Possibilities of release or parole but not FREEDOM at the moment. And yes, that smile...I'm good at that even though I've only been shortlisted twice in my life. Big awards I didn't get and for the SAME BOOK. Which is of course OUT OF PRINT!! Ho hum...

Penny Dolan said...

Can't believe you hadn't heard of "Pinch Punch", Joan! Maybe you had a genteel upbringing? :-)

Kate & Clementine, thanks for your sympathy. It was some time ago and as you can tell, I'm over it now. Ahem.

Adele - Yes, when O/P strikes you feel silenced! But thank heaven you understand the no-award feeling - now I know it's not just a nastily private niggle. To go through it twice (or more) for the same beloved book? That's some tough smiling!

I'm currently on a couple of lists (and very glad to be there, thnak you) but as my novel is loooong with much writing and the other titles are shorter, snappier reads, this time I truly have no expectations at all and can just enjoy being listed.

Sue Purkiss said...

LOVELY post!

Sue Purkiss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kit Berry said...

What a wonderful post! I understand the pinches and nips well, and just how much they hurt. I haven't yet experienced the punch, being quite new to this. But I know, Penny, that when it does come (as it surely will) I shall remember this post and it will help immensely. There's nothing like knowing you're not alone in your despair to help you deal with it. Thank you! And lovely to meet you recently too xx