Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Keep learning and carry on - by Wendy Constance

( Many thanks to Wendy, who stepped in at short notice to write her first post for ABBA. Nicola Morgan will be back next month.)

If there was a handbook for debut authors when Brave was published in April 2014, I
didn’t know about it. I naively expected my Publication Day to receive some form of recognition. Instead, in the words of the recently departed Paul Daniels - ‘Not a Lot’ happened.

Two years later I’m learning about the workings of the publishing industry as I go along, with help from friends I make along the way. It’s daunting for a writer - who spends much of the time alone, dog and laptop her main companions - to plunge into marketing. But unless you’re already well-known it’s likely your book will receive little publicity.

I’m lucky to have 3 independent bookshops plus Waterstones within ½ hour drive. One organised several school author visits during the 1st 6 months after publication, for which I prepared a PowerPoint presentation plus papier-mache spear points and sabre-tooth fangs (Brave is set in the Stone Age 13,000 years ago).

What next?

Late November 2014 I read about the new director of the Essex Book Festival in the local paper. I contacted her and she was extremely helpful. I was too late for the 2015 Festival (it’s in March, most events are booked 6 months before), but she advised me which events to go to. She also advised me to join Twitter, which I did. I introduced myself to the local arts reporter at one of the events, who was happy to write an article about me. I was learning.

I organised three school author visits in 2015, using an improved version of the PowerPoint, and I contacted the Essex Book Festival director in plenty of time to be offered two 45 minute taster Imagination workshops (1 for adults, 1 for children) on Sunday 20th March 2016.

I was determined that the participants would have fun and leave the workshops with at least one idea they wanted to nurture, so developed various writing exercises including some drawing; my ‘Tap into your Imagination’; and a bag of random objects to ignite imaginations – shades of Mary Poppins. I thought they might remember me either as Tap Woman or Bag Woman.

They liked it. One of the women from the adult group dashed off at the end of the session eager to start a story she’d been inspired to write.

After much concentration five of the eight children enthusiastically read out at least one of their efforts. Afterwards the parents thanked me, saying how proud they were of their children’s work.


I’ve learnt in future workshops to set a time limit for each exercise - instead of leaving it open and waiting for all pens to stop. I’ve also learnt that workshops work better for me than PowerPoint. Enthusing others to write is a joy.

I’ve learnt to befriend local Festival Directors and contact them at least 6 months before their event. I’m now booked for the June Felixstowe Festival.

I’ve learnt to join whichever social media suits you, and I’ve learnt that a lot of writers on Twitter are friendly and supportive.

I learnt a lot about the editing process after winning the competition which led to Brave’s publication, an opportunity I’m grateful for. It was a one book deal, so I’m still working part-time, but that leaves me time to...

...carry on writing.

And keep learning.



Elen C said...

Congratulations on publication! The learning curve levels off a little, but never stops. It's great that you're enjoying the journey!

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes, congratulations! It's a lovely cover, and they sound like great ideas for workshops.

Anne Booth said...

Congratulations! And I love the idea of the Mary Poppins bag!

Emma Barnes said...

Congratulations on publication and on getting out there and inspiring others too.

Ann Turnbull said...

What a beautiful cover! Congratulations!

Liz Kessler said...

Lovely blog Wendy. Sounds like you're doing great!

Wendy Constance said...

Thank you all for you lovely comments. Yes I was very lucky with the cover, and although the journey can be a bit bumpy at times, that makes it more interesting