On the shelves!

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Here is Pocket Money on the shelves of Paradox Books, Devonport.

Well, I had wanted to write all about my trip to the Hundertwasser Art centre I visited recently, but something caught my eye in my local bookstore. My book on the shelves already, which was sooner than I expected it to be! So, people, another blog about my jolly book. Or rather the bits and pieces which go into publicly announcing it on New Zealand media which is on-going. Reviews can take ages to come out, so I was told today, and I won’t always know when that will appear in the media. Do I need to have someone who will read the daily papers and check whether one story which was selected for an on-line source has occurred? It would be terrible to miss the very opportunities that might make me even a little bit famous.

Honestly, I have been so busy, filling out Q & A requests from media, taking calls from my publicist and mulling over all of this during the night when I’m supposed to be asleep! Tomorrow I am going to be pre-recorded for a national radio arts show, and have been checking through the salient points that I am most likely to be asked. I am actually not as anxious as I may sound, and think that the twenty minute interview will go well. I have listened to Lynn Freeman’s interviews many times on her Standing Room Only show, and she does have a nice approach, and comes across as well informed. Not being live, makes it easier, so I guess if there too many mumblings and um’s on my part, they can be edited.

Time for a lie-down.

The (frustrating) last lap…

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Although Pocket Money & Other Stories won’t be released until June, at least the marketing is getting underway. It has been rather strange, sitting back, and letting the publicist take over the reins. With the last book, in 2020, I did all the marketing and promotional work, and over the past few weeks I’ve basically been fluffing around. But this week, I decided I must secure a venue for the June launch. One place had been mucking me about, and so, I visited a couple of others, which were unsuitable, and then? I found a very convenient venue, just down the road from my apartment. And now, I need to put the invitations and posters together, and get them ‘out there’.

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A book cover and an unfinished sketch

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Book cover of my new book, including spine.

I did start a sketch for this blog, but it seemed some weird force was against me completing it. I knew that sketching two people, as opposed to one for a portrait was difficult (as I have completed several like this in the past), but I was keen to sketch this image of my granddaughters together. And, guess what? I have one looking fine, my proportions spot on, but the younger girl? I just couldn’t get her right. But, I haven’t given up on that project, yet.

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Why does it have to be so hard?

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The reasons I haven’t been posting are not because I was away on another sojourn enjoying the sights, quite the opposite. I wrote a post some weeks back (Sept) about the time it takes in this writing lark to hear back from people. In that post I wrote that I had sent off a pitch to an agent regarding my short story collection. I waited the 6 – 7weeks indicated when I should have heard back. Seven weeks turned into twelve and I decided to chase this up. No response. Last week (16 weeks from original submission), I wrote a longer message. A reply, saying: “Oh, so sorry, your work must have been sent to So and So’s scam folder and been deleted, for all the work from that month has been seen to, and your file is nowhere to be found.” And then the bit that said – “sorry about this, you can resend if you wish, but we understand if you want to send it elsewhere.”

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The Time It Takes

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“Jim Schaeffing 044 Watching the Clock, magazine story illustration, circa 1950. Mixed media on board” by Illustration Ark [CC PDM 1.0] (text added)

When others discovered I wrote, I was asked many questions beginning with W. When? Why? What? and Why? again. The last why was because I had always been known as an artist, and friends couldn’t understand the shift. I don’t think any of them would have understood that it had started as a game. I was teaching English in Japan, spending a lot of free time on my own and reading a lot of fiction. One evening, I wondered if I was capable of dreaming up a plot for a novel. Well, that was twenty years ago, and the answer is ‘yes’. I have been writing fiction ever since and absolutely love it! But some days, I don’t wonder why I started, but why I continue, as it all takes so long.

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Why do you stop reading a book?

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Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.

I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

We were thrust into level 4 Covid lockdown and I found myself without a book to read, and, libraries were closed. The thought of it! Thank goodness for Gabby, who said she would swap books with me. I put The Midnight Library (recently read) into a wee bag and walked (mask on) the few blocks to her letterbox and popped it inside. That afternoon, she did the same for me, and left The Elegance of the Hedgehog at my front door.

The title was intriguing. The setting was Paris, a favourite city. It didn’t take me long to start reading. Except the ruminating on Marx at the start almost made my head spin. But when the protagonist Renée introduced herself on page 15, I was hooked. 

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Editing: keeping it interesting

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A writer at work

I am currently in the process of reading through twenty-one of my short story manuscripts, following my reader’s track-change suggestions. As Suzanne is very good at her work, I mostly click ‘approve’, and keep scrolling for the next comment. I always re-read the work after this initial browse, in case I find any small thing I think will improve the flow, or a word which now seems inappropriate. Why would you change anything at this stage, you might be thinking? Well, it is because these stories span ten years of writing, and some of those early ones may still require more ‘tightening’.

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Procrastination: my middle name

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oz

Yes, well, Procrastination, I think, must be my middle name. That’s me above, procrastinating. A month back, I was anguishing over how to progress with my new novel, having written several pages and coming to a halt. So, I began collecting more background material, and that helped to a point. I wrote approximately one more page. I had begun writing in 1st person perspective, and was fairly happy with that choice.Then I began wondering whether 1st person would give me the depth of insight I wanted from other characters. So, I changed what I’d written to 3rd person, and stopped. Why? Because I decided to write an article about libraries back in the day. That’s awaiting an edit. Following that, I re-edited a collection of twenty short stories I’d written over the years. My reasoning was, why start a new story when I already had a novel-length book waiting in the wings? Good. Finally I was focussed on one thing!

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The Upper Hutt Library and me

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The delivery of crated books to the new library, September 1956

Since leaving my last post unfinished, I have been travelling in the South Island, and look forward to sharing those exploits next time. To recap, the last library photo shown was the disassembling of the old upstairs library in September 1956. The image above is the relocation of the new library in the main street: it is this reincarnation I would visit for many years to come.

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