Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Famous Authors at a Tiny Writers' Festival!

The first annual Wakefield Writers' Festival on May 9 and 10 in Wakefield, Quebec was a resounding success. It was held at the historic Wakefield Mill Inn and MacLaren House and we packed the place. In true Wakefield fashion, everyone arrived at the eleventh hour for the Authors' Brunch, giving the organizers bleeding ulcers, but hey, that's how the village rolls.

Guest authors were Frances Itani, Trevor Ferguson and Tim Wynne-Jones.

I'm trying to find the words for the level of thrill I felt listening to these generous, talented writers share their experiences and adventures in writing over their long successful careers. I'm still gob-smacked that they were there at our new little festival. All three are award winners. All three have sold millions and millions of books. There's a level of intimacy with a book that is unmatched by any other medium. When I met Tim Wynne-Jones--the author of Zoom at Sea and Zoom Away--children's books that I read over and over to my kids--well, if he were Brad Pitt I couldn't be more excited. As parents we are careful about what we put into our children's bodies, but less cautious about what we allow into their minds. I trusted certain authors with my kids' minds and I have to say, they did a good job. So thank you, Tim Wynne-Jones!

Trevor Ferguson has a new book out called The River Burns (Simon & Schuster). Set in my village, Wakefield, it is a fictionalized account of the burning of the covered bridge. Trevor read from his novel and we were riveted. His style is funny but deeply felt. His characters are human beings we might have met. People are interesting to Trevor Ferguson. I like that in an author. I can spot it right away when an author finds real people interesting. He had a fantastic story about the moment he knew he was going to be a writer. It involves a near-death experience with a train and a pledge written inside a Gideon bible.

Frances Itani is so famous that my blog traffic will increase just by writing her name here. She read from her novel that is coming out in August, 2014 (HarperCollins). Again, it's very hard to sum up our feelings in that moment. All around me, there were whispers from those who had read all of her books and the sheer joy each one gave. Her reading was splendid. I haven't read Frances Itani before but I'm going to now. And not because she is recognized, but because of that reading. I want a good story, told by a master of the craft and she delivered.

For authors out there with book readings coming up, I have a piece of advice that I learned this weekend. Professional writers read professionally. They know their selection, they take their time, they deliver a performance. Frances, Tim and Trevor read to us like we mattered, like they were telling us a great story. In other words, they made the reading about us not them. Watching them was a revelation.

Local author, Kimberley Mansfield read from her first work of fiction, Deadly Tricks (General Store Publishing) and had us spellbound. This book is garnering rave reviews in the community and online. As a writer of fiction, I'm perhaps more in awe of Kimberley's achievement than all the rest of us combined. She was creating and writing against incredible odds. The pressures of life and our own baggage can sink our work but Kimberley held on through some tough times to produce her first work of fiction and she did it exceptionally well.

That is heroism. Yes? We have no excuse not to keep writing. What defines a good book is different for each of us, which is why we need so many. I'm a reader first. So get writing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Launch in a Brave New World

I waited until I saw what it looked like before I wrote this post. I've been burned before.

It arrived an hour ago via DHL from CreateSpace. My self-published (although that isn't entirely accurate: Kim McArthur, Kendra Martin, the copyeditor and the proofreader at McArthur and Co. shaped the mss and turned it into a novel suitable for public consumption).

Okay--my semi-self-published novel, The Grey Lady, arrived today. I opened the box. I felt sick with terror. If you've read what I went through the last time a box of books arrived from a publisher, you'll know why. I lifted the top copy. The cover is a bit dark--no problem--CreateSpace said to expect that. Something to do with transparency being flattened. The designer and I can tweak and upload a new cover in a few weeks if I feel it's really necessary.

But I'm scared to open it. I'm scared it'll feel like a POD. I'm a book snob--I admit it. I was raised with print and I love books. I love them, like spend the-grocery-money-on-them kind of love. The page is part of the experience. Thanks to Kendra, I now understand how the layout and design of a book conveys the story too. We are not only reading words on a page--we are reading the collective consciousness of everyone who works on a book.

I open it. Deep breath. It's pretty damn perfect.
I'm pretty damn happy right now.

To sum up this month's adventure in self-publishing: Doing it myself has been the most respectful, empowering experience I've had with publishing to date. CreateSpace, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing will change the face of publishing forever if they keep doing as they have been doing. It's not easy. You have to really want your book out there to do-it-yourself. But so worth it.

I don't believe self-publishing is having an negative impact on literature. I believe a corporate bottom line with shareholders to think about has a negative impact on literature. I believe that by empowering authors to tell a story their way, we are opening the door to critical thinking, to challenging our current beliefs. As a reader, I can stop whining about the lousy "bestsellers" I've been reading these days and go find my own bestseller. And when I do, I'm going to write a goddamned review that says so.

Okay, I'm getting giddy and philosophic right now. But hells bells! I had no hope of seeing this book in print last year and here it is. I don't care--I'm opening the champagne!