The World Was Whole

The World Was Whole
Fiona Wright

I found out about this book during the hazy final days of editing my thesis, a body of work all about Fiona Wright’s first essay collection Small Acts of Disappearance (2015). My first thought was, ‘Oh no, now I have to go back and mention a book I haven’t read so my research is up to date’. It wasn’t until this year that I felt ready to tackle another essay collection, especially one by an author I’d studied so intensively for a year. Boy am I glad I did. Nonfiction lovers: this is a must-read.

In many ways The World Was Whole acts as a sort of sequel to Small Acts, though the two can still be enjoyed on their own.  At the centre of both books is Wright’s personal experiences living with anorexia nervosa and anxiety. In The World Was Whole, Wright uses her personal experiences to explore the modern world’s relationship with the home. She doesn’t look at the home as just the physical buildings we live in, or the spaces we interact with, but also the bodies we inhabit and how they can represent both sanctuary and uncertainty.

Throughout the essays in The World Was Whole, Wright examines her own life, which is built heavily upon repetition and routine, both of which are upset constantly by the circumstances of her health and finances. Like many millennials, particularly those with unstable financial situations, Wright rents. This means she is almost always on the move from house to house, from space to space. Forever trying to settle in and make these spaces her own, only to be flung elsewhere by circumstances beyond her control. She gets to the heart of the constant anxiety and uncertainty of renting when she writes: ‘I want to be able to get attached to a place, without knowing that my presence there is always subject to someone else’s needs or whims’.

Another strong aspect of Wright’s writing is her exploration of her own experiences of chronic illness. Within literature there is a tendency towards stereotyping the sick, particularly the mentally ill and female, as helpless victims or self-obsessed attention-seekers. Wright brings a strong current of humanity to her writing, showing what her lived experience of anorexia nervosa is like. She isn’t afraid to critique the limitations of Australia’s healthcare system, which often causes a great deal of grief and frustration for people struggling with chronic conditions. Importantly, Wright describes her illness in terms of the constant shift back and forth between getting better and getting worse, and the anxiety and fear that comes with this flux. ‘On the first day in the hospital,’ Wright writes, ‘I curl on my bed and cry for a full hour after every meal, and I keep thinking, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I don’t think I can do this. I panic at the piece of meat that’s on my plate for dinner, I gulp for breath, great ragged gasps that hurt my sternum and then I sob outside the dining room because I hadn’t realised, somehow, that I’d gotten quite this sick. I’m so afraid of what I’ve done and of who I have become.’

There is a rawness, a brutal honesty, to how Wright writes about her illness that is so important. It’s the kind of writing that gets under your skin, touches something familiar within you and forces you to experience, even for just a moment, what it is like to live with such an illness. The rawness isn’t always shown through pain. There’s also joy. Wright shows the complexity of her life in all its facets, both difficult and special.

Wright’s essays are a delight to read. Often painful, always beautiful, they represent the growing skill and relevance of Australian essayists today. Personal essays like these allow for engaging discussions of issues that affect contemporary society: from poverty to racism and the need for change on a government level. Wright is only one of many Australian essayists using the essay to spark conversation and give readers a new way of looking at these issues by engaging them through the personal, as well as the purely factual. To avid essay readers and newcomers alike, this is a book worth putting on your list this year.


Words and photography by Lisandra Linde

Flights of Fancy and a Writer’s Imagination

Possibilities

A notice pops up in my inbox, something unexpected: a call for applications for a month’s writer’s residency in Granada, Spain, the city I first visited twelve years ago. Suddenly, I am transported there. I can fully imagine myself being the resident writer, speaking my intermediate-level Spanish, participating in local literary events, adding some more to the writing about Spain that I have already done.

I am so fully taken by such a possibility that during the night I start to feel anxious. I worry about leaving home to travel across the world and all that I would have to organise to make that possible, as well as all the things I would miss about home. It plays out in my mind like a movie, drives me crazy, my imagination giddy with anticipation. I toss and turn as my mind wanders in and out of potential scenarios: the long flight alone; the writer’s room near the university; whether I’d be able to make a cup of tea (should I take my thermos?); the weather; the clothes I would  wear; the people I’d meet; the activities, seminars, readings, or various social events. Would my Spanish would hold up? Would Marina, my flamenco dance teacher, be able to recommend a class I could attend?

 

Anxious and willing

Anxiety is both a physical and mental experience. Once I remember to breathe, my thoughts become clearer. All that seemed confusing or impossible during the night seems lighter and more manageable to me in the morning. I remind myself that people travel all over the world all the time, for work, for pleasure – a month here, two weeks there, ten days elsewhere. It’s no big deal. The distance, the time, the different culture.

I have useful conversations about this possible adventure being realized. What an opportunity, if it were to come off, if it all fell into place. I meet with a fellow writer at a local café and we speak in Spanish about the trip. A good thing for me to be practising if I am going to have discussions or readings or give lectures in Granada. In the meantime, I hope for peace, equanimity and courage.

 

Commitments

I have made a commitment. I have written and organised my application. Three people have written letters of recommendation. I send it all in five attachments to Carmen, the contact person in Granada, and I wait for a response. Did she receive it? It’s there in the outbox saying it has been sent, but how can I know for sure? It’s the last month of winter here, but perhaps over there she’s on holiday, escaping the August heat wave?

If I were to be chosen, I would travel across the globe to the south of Spain and spend November in Granada. This is when I could do with more of the subjunctive in English: if I were to be chosen I would take my work about Spain and share it with Spanish writers, readers and audiences. I would risk the exposure this would entail and the possible criticism for it being inappropriate or for misunderstanding their culture. I would risk being misunderstood myself. Or perhaps they’d appreciate it.

I have made a commitment for this experience to throw further light on my work. I have made a commitment to be immersed in the Spanish language, to participate in the cultural life of Granada, as much as opportunity will allow. I have made a commitment to write, to read, to research and to communicate my interests as clearly as possible.

I have made a commitment to sleep on my own in a foreign city, to face the night demons if necessary, to rely on my inner reserves of strength and to remain open. I have made a commitment to uncertainty.

Chances are this trip will not happen.

I am only one amongst many applicants from around the world. I already know I will be disappointed if I don’t go, even knowing I’ll be nervous if I do. I am preparing myself practically and psychologically for the journey. Now that the application has been sent, I feel a sense of space. Along with all the others it will be considered. What will be, will be. I will stay focused. I feel surprisingly neutral.

I turn to face the wind.

I push myself into it, pleased with the effort.

 

What if . . .

I begin to wonder again, what if they don’t approve of what I have written about their country, their culture, their iconic poet? What if they are offended by this work from an outsider to their culture? Sensitive topics, sensitive themes. I’ll have to risk what little reputation amongst friends, colleagues and readers I might have, lay it on the line. Yet in the end this application might be nothing more than a process. Time will tell.

I need not have worried about my application disappearing into digital space. I guessed rightly that the staff had been on holidays all of August, and as it turned out, early September too; and anyway, as Carmen explained to me on the phone when I eventually rang, in her casual, friendly, no-nonsense Spanish way, also the weather had been a pain because it had been too hot. Too hot to do anything.

 

Yesterday’s surprise

Yesterday’s surprise was that I look as old as I am. If in doubt, just see my latest passport photo. See how my face has lost its roundness, see all the new lines and folds in the skin, like a crumpled piece of waxed paper, moist enough, but too thin to resist gravity. Line up all the old passport photos: 23, 43, 63 . . . see how I’ve progressed through the decades from a black-haired, young woman to one of late middle age, happy to have made it this far, but astonished at the changes nonetheless. We like to say that photos are deceiving and perhaps they are, the camera can manipulate, but so can our eyes – our failing eyes – when we look into the mirror in a favourable, softening light, instead of the stark white light that lays the truth bare, reminding us of the ultimate journey we all have to take. I celebrate being here now. I celebrate all that makes life a curious wonder, including my changing self.

 

Equanimity

Today I have reached the peak on the mountain of equanimity. On the mountain that overlooks our river-city of Hobart, I sit, listen and look around, just one small being; here temporarily, in this ancient, natural world, breathing in the scent of solid earth, grounding myself. My vivid imagination is both a gift and a burden, the weight of some possible scenario carried like a back-pack full of provisions “just in case”. The waiting game is a strange place to be. Things come in their own time. There are people waiting all over the world to take the next step: waiting for permission, for rain, for answers, for love or compassion. Waiting and hoping. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that ultimately there is nothing to chase after, that we can go back to ourselves and enjoy our breathing. So for now I am here on this solid mountain listening. Listening to the birds and the breeze, absorbing the peace. Equanimity. We come. We go. I am one being in a magnificent universe. Here now, beyond thinking, beyond anticipating. Que sera, sera.

 

Soy escritora (I am a writer)

I am, at this point in my life, able to live everyday freely and as I chose. In our culture people like to say they are busy, that they are active because it tells themselves and others they somehow live a worthy life. What do you do? is one of the first questions we ask people when we are getting to know them. I no longer join the flow of people in the mornings on their way to paid work. For the past 18 years I have been finding my way in the world of books and literature, writing, reading and publishing my work, participating in the literary life of my community. This is how I spend most of my time. Every now and then I still have to remind myself of what this means. One of my first daily activities is to write sitting up in bed, looking out my window at my neighbourhood valley and, with my fine-point pencil, discover the words that are ready to fall onto the smooth, inviting paper of my notebook. Call it a task and it already sounds more acceptable to our culture’s work ethic. Call it work. But I have always wanted my life, this one life, to be more than just a list of tasks that get ticked off every day. I want spontaneity, uncertainty, freedom. The purpose of being a writer is to be a writer which means writing, reading and thinking from morning until night. But also, of course, attending to those “dear tasks of continuance” so affectionately described by Denise Levertov, that keep body and mind together and sometimes spark some unexpected flash of inspiration. The question in Spanish is: to what are you dedicated?  To answer this in English is to uncover another side to the question what do you do? In my life I am dedicated to writing and literature, learning Spanish, learning the art of flamenco dance, creating gardens, maintaining my home, responding to injustice, having good relationships with friends and family, looking after myself. I am no longer the frustrated writer with little time to herself. I am the poet with space and time, my work is out in the world finding places to be. I feel most purposeful when I’m writing a poem or a piece of prose. Who am I still trying to convince? Perhaps my internal critic who tugs at my confidence as I wait to have my application considered by an international panel of judges.

 

Life is what happens . . .

The silence of a sun-lit morning is like a prayer. My eyes drink in its astonishing beauty. These last few weeks I’ve been thinking about death, about life ending or transforming as Thich Nhat Hanh says and how each day of our lives is precious. We have had a significant death in the family, our dear, elderly father-friend. A man with a loving smile and of gentle persuasion. To be the eternal writer-witness, not only of other people, events and things but also of yourself, gives me a serious gaze. I feel the need to smile and laugh more. Every thought, every act, every word carries a signature says the wise monk. Anne means grace. Can I live up to my name?

 

The significance of zero

Today is the day the selection panel will announce their decision. It is still night time in Granada but already it feels like the answer is “no”. I’ve been ahead of myself these last few months, anticipating a time to come that for all intents and purposes is not going to happen for me. On this side of the world we are always ahead of agreed time. And for these last few months I have been, in my mind, three-quarters convinced that I would soon be in the opposite time zone, leaving the brighter, longer spring days here for the shorter late-autumn days there. Now I feel sure I am not going to be making that journey. All should be confirmed by tonight. And all my practical preparation to date will be for naught – the books, the plans, the ideas for workshops and projects. Perhaps not for naught entirely. Zero is a significant number. A chance to begin again.

 

El compromiso

How to tempt fate? Name it, decide on an alternative course of action, pretend you are taking initiative,(water the garden so it will rain), make other plans, reach a conclusion, a compromise – only to have fate shout back at you. “But wait!” Wait another week as it extends the question mark over your life for a few more days. Let me just trick and tire you out, it says, deflate your new resolve, stretch it out, beyond the limit. We’re on Spanish time here. In Spanish compromiso means promise not compromise. Beware of false friends. Suddenly I feel tired of it all: of being ahead of myself. The waves of adrenalin have worn me out. I’m ready to go but will I be going? I’m over it. Over it.

 

The Art of Living

This morning, in this part of the world in our little city beneath the mountain it is blessedly quiet. I have slept and woken again. The Earth has turned. Again, I have arrived at D-day, the extended D-day. I’m sure I know the decision already and it’s time to leave this strange land of waiting. Time to let go. For the past three months I have been encapsulated in a bubble of possibility. Time to burst the bubble. Time to become un-encapsulated. This year has been a year of waiting for all sorts of things: replies from publishers, application results, calls from the hospital. The art of waiting involves effort and patience. As does the art of writing. Lorca once proclaimed, “true poetry, true effort, renunciation.” A writer recognises these sentiments. I have learnt that the art of waiting takes me to the present moment, wherein is found the art of living. I smile at the cloud in my tea.

 

Re-viewing

I am not going to Granada in November. As I had strongly suspected by the end, I was not one of the two writers selected out of, what turned out to be, seventy international applicants. Time to relinquish all that build-up. Time to close the file. Time to wind down, to sleep more peacefully. Time to return to my life in this small city with its own concerns. Time to reflect on the power of the imagination and how it can draw you into its intricately, detailed and convincing world, a world that is as big or as small as you want it to be, but a make-believe world nonetheless.

 

November 2018.


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Words by Anne Collins

anne-collins-photo.jpgAnne Collins’ last book of poems The Language of Water (2014) tells the story of a modern day odyssey. Her two earlier poetry collections are titled Seasoned with Honey (with three other poets, 2008) and The Season of Chance (2005). Her landscape memoir titled My Friends This Landscape (2011) is a collection of prose and poetry. A forthcoming collection of poetry How to Belong will be published in 2019. Her manuscript (prose and poetry) with the Spanish themes is currently under consideration.

 

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

Kylie Leane Booth.jpg

Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

KE Fraser Panel.jpg

Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Self-Publishing Your Poetry (or Other Writing-Related) Book

Let’s be realistic here: the publishing market is tough.

This can make the dream of holding your very own published book (that you’ve spent countless hours toiling over) in your hands a little…disheartening but, hold on. Have you ever considered self-publishing before?

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Listen Leeza, that seems pretty hard, and I’m not sure what to do. I mean, where would I even start?’

Well, the very same thought occurred to me, so I interviewed some successful and experienced authors who have self-published their own books. These authors are all poets, but the same strategies can apply for writers seeking to self-publish other books too.

So, here’s what you need to know about self-publishing:

(The following answers are by published instapoets, who can be found under their respective usernames. They are fantastic, and I would one hundred percent recommend perusing through their pages.)

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Michaelapoetry

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michaelapoetry’s ‘when he leaves you’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Honestly, I ended up self-publishing because I was too impatient to wait for a publisher. I submitted my proposal to one publisher, but they get so many submissions that their response time is longer than three months. While I was waiting for a response, I ended up writing the entire book. It got to the point where I just wanted it to be in people’s hands, and I knew going with the traditional publishing method as my first route could take months, if not over a year.

Also, fun fact! A lot of self-published poets that I have a lot of respect for went on to be picked up by publishers – Rupi Kaur, K.Y. Robinson, Amanda Lovelace, Dawn Lanuza, Courtney Peppernell, Alison Malee (the list goes on!).

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

Amazon’s Createspace – it’s seriously so easy to use. Once you figure out formatting specifications, all you really need to do is upload your cover and interior files. Createspace also has a ton of forums that are just a Google away – you can answer most of your questions with those which is so helpful!

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

A bunch of fun random things I learned:

  • Make sure you’re using an embedded font. At first, for the italics in my book, I was using a font that didn’t have an italic setting – so I just used the “italic” function in InDesign. InDesign was manipulating the font, which means it wasn’t embedded (technically it didn’t exist). When I printed my first proof, the font didn’t print fully in some places. I switched it all to a real font and we were good to go!

  • Single page book layout.> InDesign defaults to the double page layout (think two pages side by side), which is actually helpful for setup to see how your pages will look – but when you upload to Createspace, you need to have a single page PDF.

  • Just look at other books. If you want your self-published book to look legitimate, look at a ton of different poetry books – how they format their dedication, acknowledgements, headers, page numbers, which pages they leave blank, etc. It’s cool to be original here, but some conventions are standard and add a level of professionalism to your self-published book.

  • Canadians get free ISBNs! This was awesome to learn – you can also get a free ISBN from Createspace, but the legality of who owns what part of your book gets a little foggy with it (honestly, I was never able to figure out if I’d be able to re-publish my book under my own ISBN or under a publisher if I used a Createspace ISBN). If you’re Canadian, you can very easily apply for a free ISBN account here.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I got a professional designer to design my cover. I think that if you want readers to feel that you’ve really put yourself into this book and it’s actually worth buying, you should definitely get a professional to help you out. I know personally I’ve passed on books that used a generic stock image or something that could be found on Google as cover art – not bashing those authors, I just think it’s important to show readers you care enough to invest your own money into the cover that will end up on their shelf.

Marketing? Please explain?

I like to think of marketing as community building, especially on Instagram. As “instapoets”, we’re so lucky to have the Instagram community on our side! My main advice here is, if you don’t care about what anyone is writing or doing, no one will care about what you’re writing or doing. You often see accounts with large followings complain about the Instagram algorithm – but these are the same accounts that follow 100 people, sparsely respond to comments, and barely ever read, like, or comment on other people’s content. Instagram totally gives back what you put into it – I’ve built such an amazing community of writers and readers that I genuinely love connecting with, and to be totally transparent, I’ve been able to grow my Instagram following and engagement because of it.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

I just wrote my own copyright at the front of my book, haha. I did not consult a lawyer. In terms of finances, between the cover and paying for proofs to be shipped to Canada (proofs cost about $3, but shipping is like $25 to Canada), I spent less than $400. I had savings to dip into and am happy to say I made all of that money back through book sales since then!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

Don’t be afraid to do a few $5 boosts on Instagram posts or run some $6 ads (I’ve done both of these things) – it can be a really inexpensive way to remind people of your brand and your book. If you make $3 per book and a $5 ad will help you sell 5 books, you’ve already made $10. Definitely play around with small amounts and make sure you’re calculating ROI [Return on Investment]. There can also be value in just finding a larger audience for your work vs. getting concrete sales. Really think about what’s important to you before starting ads. Also, there are A TON of resources online about Facebook and Instagram ads – get to Googling!

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Maiapoetry

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maiapoetry’s ‘the fall, the rise’ poetry collection

Why did >you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Well, I always thought of self-publishing first. I did submit to a couple of publishing houses, but I didn’t want to wait—haha! I wanted to get my work out there, something that I had been working on for so long. I decided to self-publish because, after all of the hard work, I knew it was something I would be proud of. It was something I could say I did for myself. I believe the benefit is the joy you get from knowing you did it all yourself, literally. Of course, I had an artist for my cover, but reaching out to him initially, going over designs, ordering copies of my book to edit, hiring an editor, finalizing the finishing touches, it’s a lot! And it feels good to say I did it all with the help of my artist and editor. That is definitely a priceless feeling.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Create Space to self-publish. 

Any tips of the trade?

Edit, Edit, Edit! Haha, you don’t want to miss anything. Always look at one part of the book at a time. For instance, read through the actual work of the book, but then with fresh eyes go back and check the headers, page numbers, etc. Also, have a friend read it and edit it, or an actual editor. Just proofread until you can’t anymore! But don’t stress yourself out, make it a fun journey.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

My artist designed it for me. He is amazing. I told him what I wanted and boom – there it was coming to life. Now you can always do it yourself if you have the means, but seriously, there is some amazing talent on Instagram—reach out! That’s exactly how I found mine and I am glad that I did.

Marketing? Please explain?

For marketing and promotion, I did some promotion shoots with a photographer prior to the release of the book. I now use those to market my book on my Instagram. Also, reaching out to poetry pages that post other people’s work is beneficial. Just reach out and ask if they do anything for new authors, such as posting work for you, and some definitely will help you out. There are other pages that cost to promote on their Instagram; it all depends what YOU want to do.

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

I have a certain budget I set out this sort of thing. I had an artist and editor I paid for, so it might be more than others who self-published. Once again, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The decision is yours!

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thetaleofmymind

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thetaleofmymind’s ‘The Tale of My Mind’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I have had a life long interest in writing, and the idea of publishing my own book one day has been a dream of mine since I was a child… I never imagined that it would be something I could achieve myself. In the past nine months or so, I began writing a lot of poetry and realised that I was putting together enough quality content to consider amalgamating it into a collection of sorts. I did extensive research into publishers as I pieced together my manuscript and contacted several, who turned down my approach. I quickly came to realise that as a new author, the best solution moving forwards in the modern age was to self-publish, with so many cost effective solutions available. My plan was to gain enough traction through an Instagram campaign, my book and other techniques that I would have a worthy and proven case in the future, if I were to re-approach publishers.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I made the decision to use Lulu. My main reason for this was cost. Many of the printing agencies I researched required buying an inventory of stock, which was a route I considered. My original plan was to put together a Kickstarter campaign and raise enough money through pre-orders to guarantee sales and lock down a quantity. However, this would have also meant handling every stock item, order and postage myself and would also have placed liability on me for quality and damages, etc. The beauty of Lulu was that I could simply create my ‘Print Ready’ manuscript and artwork online, order a proof copy and then let them handle everything else. Each book is printed to order and shipped directly by Lulu, so the only involvement I have is collecting a small royalty! It’s worked seamlessly up to now.

Any tips of the trade?

My biggest tip would be realising the importance of others. Writing my book was the easy part. Gaining a following, creating the artwork, putting the manuscript together and perhaps most importantly editing are all steps of the process that I owe to family, friends and other incredible authors out there. Without this help, I would never have got my book to market.

Make sure you have a solid plan for what you want to achieve, and stick to it as best you can. This will ensure continuity throughout the journey and make sure that the writing process is as smooth as possible.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I was very fortunate in this aspect. I decided that my creative talent stopped at writing and that I needed to enlist the help of an artist. I started my search on Instagram and discovered the incredibly talented Rishikant Patra (@doodleophile). I immediately fell in love with his hand drawn, space-esque drawing style and asked for his help. A 17-year-old artist based in India, he immediately jumped at the opportunity and within about 3 weeks he had created artwork better than I could ever have imagined. The results were phenomenal and I would say without question that I owe the initial attraction of my book to him.

Marketing? Please explain?

This is probably the area I have struggled with the most. When I first started writing the book, I created a project-dedicated Instagram account. In the modern world of marketing Instagram is a fantastic tool (particularly with creative projects) and I grew to over 2000 followers in less than 3 months; a figure I was very happy with and continues to grow. Being social media active gave me a great pedestal to demonstrate my potential in a physical, ongoing manner and when the time came to release my book, I had a ready-made platform from which to plug. Unfortunately, my day job is sucking up a lot of time so I haven’t had the opportunity to market the book elsewhere as much as I would have liked, but it is selling steadily and I am gradually putting together a long-term marketing strategy to expand my reach.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

Copyright was something I managed to put together fairly easily, after a little online research. Making sure my content was protected was a top priority and, fingers crossed, I have everything in place that I need! Financially speaking, Lulu has made this process a walk in the park. My main outlay has been promoted posts on Instagram, but I would certainly say that at this point, my project is profitable!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

As previously mentioned, Instagram has been my main port of call for advertising. Using the media platform to hint at book content, showing the creation process through Stories and using promoted posts to expand the reach allowed me to gauge the general reaction towards my project and writing style in real time, which helped me sculpt the book as much as it advertised it! A great way to kill two birds with one stone. The next step is to begin contacting local papers, magazines, and journals to help expand my promotional reach.

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cristinafilomenapoetry

self-publishart
cristinafilomenapoetry’s ‘Lost’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I had no other choice to be honest. This is my first book, I’m a recent graduate working a part time job (and at the time I published I was unemployed) and publishers cost a lot of money. I wanted to get my work out there but I just didn’t have the means to bring it to an actual publisher, so I did some research on different self-publishing platforms and picked the one that made the most sense to me!The biggest benefit of doing it myself as stated above was the fact that it didn’t cost me much at all to get it out there, and I was able to publish EXACTLY what I wanted to publish in the way I wanted to publish it! It was an amazing learning experience doing it all myself too because I was able to experience not only writing but also editing, designing, AND publishing, so I ended up gaining a ton of knowledge on the process of the work that goes into publishing a book that I would have never gained if I had gone through a professional publisher.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Ingram Spark, and at the time I thought it was the right choice, but for first timers out there I would recommend a more user-friendly publisher. Ingram Spark is amazing for publishers that are a bit more seasoned and know how the business works, but platforms like CreateSpace and Blurb are amazing for first timers because they’re 100% free and easy to use!

Any tips of the trade?

I’m still a beginner in the field myself, but the one thing I would suggest is start building your following AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you’re thinking of writing a book but haven’t started, get that Instagram account going! Start posting examples of your work so by the time you’re ready to make some money off of your writing you have a ton of people that will want to support you in it!

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I didn’t design my own cover art! I used a design group called Yonderworldly Premades which (until recently) offered pre-made book covers that you could purchase and have altered to fit the aesthetic and vision of your novel. They were great to work with and I’m very happy I got a professional to do the cover because it’s one of the first things a potential buyer sees. If you have a good looking cover, you’re more likely to make that sale, because unlike the saying, people do judge books by their covers. It says a lot about how serious you take yourself as an author and how your present yourself as a seller.

Marketing? Please explain?

I’ve done all of it myself, and I’ve learned A LOT, but I still have a long way to go! The thing I would recommend for sure is using Instagram to market your book every chance you get. It’s one of the most popular and accessible social media platforms and allows your readers the chance to put a face to your name. It’s also important to brand yourself as a writer and a social presence. What kind of writer are you? What do you want to ultimately achieve by sharing your writing with the world? What kind of aesthetic will people think of when they see your writing? These are all super important questions to think about as you move forward with your marketing. And if you have the means and don’t want to bother with marketing yourself, there are a ton of different options for hiring a social media marketer to take care of it for you!


Interview by Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

Main image accompanying article by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A big THANK YOU to all of the Instapoets who participated in this interview. You can find their profiles, and links to their self-published works, below:

Michaelapoetry

Check out her healing words:

https://www.instagram.com/michaelapoetry/

Buy her book:

http://michaelaangemeer.com/shop

maiapoetry

Check out her raw words:

https://www.instagram.com/maiapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.maiapoetry.com

thetaleofmymind

Check out his deep words:

https://www.instagram.com/thetaleofmymind/

Buy his book:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/daniel-fella/the-tale-of-my-mind-as-told-by-dan-fella/paperback/product-23646924.html

cristinafilomenapoetry

Check out her powerful words:

https://www.instagram.com/cristinafilomenapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.cristinafilomenapoetry.com/the-book

 

National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

Podcast Panel.jpg

 

As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

In Conversation With: Joel Martin- Speculate

A few months ago, in late April, I made the pilgrimage to Melbourne for an exciting new writers festival called Speculate. As a writer and reader of speculative fiction, it was everything I felt had been missing from my other festival experiences, which tended to focus rather heavily on Literature, with the occasional Genre fiction panel almost as an after-thought.

Speculate, a festival focused entirely on speculative science fiction and fantasy fiction, packed into a single day an amazing line up of informative sessions with some excellent big-name guests, including Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Michael Pryor, Laura E Goodin, Alison Arnold, Trudi Canavan and more. The sessions covered everything from setting, language, character development and futurism, with some often surprising discussions. I was incredibly impressed by the quality of this festival – in its inaugural event – and the work of the relatively small but passionate team who made it happen.

In light of this, I spoke to Festival Director Joel Martin about why he started Speculate and what it takes to create a writers’ festival.

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What made you want to start your own writers festival?

Speculate was started because we felt there needed to be more speculative fiction discussed in the literary circuit, especially focusing on the craft of writing.

 

How long did it take to go from conception to the festival?

Ian Laking (our comms manager and my co-host on [my literary podcast] The Morning Bell) and I had a coffee at Flinders Lane after hearing a talk by Vince Gilligan (of Breaking Bad fame). I think that’s about the first time I actually verbalized my desire to make Speculate happen. That would have been July 2017. In hindsight not a lot of time to set up the inaugural event in April 2018 but I think we pulled it off!

 

Did you have any pre-requisite knowledge, skills or connections that helped you? Do you have a background or day job in arts or publishing?

I work as a freelance editor and through that and the podcast [The Morning Bell], I’ve been really lucky to meet some amazing people, including some of the talented authors that were at Speculate. But I think the one thing I’d want to highlight for the question is the team behind Speculate. Ian Laking, Rachelle Dekker, Alex Fairhill and many more people put plenty of work into the festival, working volunteer hours while juggling home lives, full time jobs, studies & newborn babies to make it happen (they didn’t literally juggle babies).

 

What were your biggest challenges in this journey? Any triumphs you’re especially proud of?

One challenge (and it’s a great one to have) was how to feature so many great spec-fic voices in one day! We’re quite spoiled in Melbourne to have some of the best spec-fic writers in the country and it was a real struggle to have to focus down on just five sessions. I never like picking favourites, but I was very proud of showcasing Dungeons & Development: Characters Under Pressure. It was an absolute pleasure to put together and it was a joy to be in the audience watching those amazing folks make something wonderful of it. I think tabletop, pen and paper and video games have unlimited potential to deliver great narratives and I want to see more of that on the literary circuit. Indeed, we should be embracing it!

 

What have you learned from this experience that you’ll take into next year?

So many things! A lot of that is on the backend side, as you learn to implement systems a lot more effectively the second time over and streamline the entire planning process. And we’ll have more time, which should be a huge help!

 

Do you have any long-term goals for the future of Speculate? Any particular guests you want to host? Any special venues you want to run it in?

I like to take things one project at a time, but I often think just like predicting the future of Science Fiction is a risky business, I wouldn’t want to guess at what shape Speculate might take in the future. Honestly, I have so many guest names I want to throw out, but I think the wisest course of action [is] for me to remain silent on that. Just be assured that we plan to always aim for the sky! We were very lucky to have the wonderful venue of Gasworks Arts Park. It really suited the community focused vibe that we hope to encourage at Speculate. As much as I know the question of venue is a serious one, let’s fantasise for a moment. If I had my pick of any venue in the world I’d want to hold a Speculate opening, I’d be hard pressed to think of a more impressive setting than Italy’s Verona Arena. Speculative Fiction is big on wonder after all!

 

What’s the biggest piece of advice for anyone else looking to start their own festival?

I’m going to cheat and make it two pieces of the same whole.

Identify clear goals in order to find your niche, and bring in people with likeminded passion, who will support you but also challenge and refine your vision. The team behind Speculate 2018 was critical to its success, and that might seem like an obvious statement but I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good group of people behind an idea like this. Writing often seems like a lonely profession, but a celebration like this need not be.

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It was great having a chance to chat with Joel about his process and team, after experiencing such an excellent festival as Speculate. I definitely recommend you all sign up when tickets are released for 2019.

And while often literary events and festivals seem like the stuff of magic, at the heart you’ll always simply find dedicated, hard-working people with a vision and a passion for books, writers and writing. I hope more dedicated festivals pop up around the country – especially here in Adelaide where our writing scene really could use some activity outside of Mad March – and that we remember that a robust writing community is the most important thing to keep our industry flourishing. Aside from actually writing.

 


Words and photo by Simone Corletto

20170920_080752Simone Corletto is an Adelaide-based YA and Science-Fiction writer. She’s performed her work numerous times for Speakeasy and at the National Young Writers Festival. Her first co-edited anthology, Crush, was published by MidnightSun Publishing. Her work has also appeared in Empire Times, Double Helix, RiAus, and the 2017 Visible Ink anthology “The End”. She spends her spare time crocheting lumpy hats, writing about teenage superheroes, and telling people about her science degree. She tweets at @SimCorWrites

NaNoWriMo – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Every November Twitter is taken over by desperate writers mounting an immense personal challenge – the writing of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Now in its 15th year, this yearly word marathon has developed quite a reputation. Some love the excuse to devote an entire month to writing, children and partners be damned, and the social opportunity of write-ins for otherwise word hermits, and of course, the global writing community coming together to celebrate this shared hobby. Detractors, however, decry the flooding of unedited self-published NaNo Novel uploaded to Amazon in December by enthusiastic people who haven’t heard of the term “revision”, and the detrimental approach to speed writing that values quantity over quality.  But love it or hate it, NaNo is an institution, and one this author would definitely recommend giving a go, if only to see if you can, at least once, if only for the 40% Scrivener coupon.

So, how should you go about undertaking such a challenge? By following my simple rules:

 

1: Register on the NaNoWriMo website

Perhaps the obvious first step but I’ve met a surprising number of people who started NaNo without even realising there was a specific organisation that started it all. It’s free to sign up and participate in NaNoWriMo (at https://nanowrimo.org), although they do take donations and have a pretty snazzy merch store, if you’re into that sort of thing. The site also lets you track your word count and spits out some pretty neat progress graphs and statistics (such as an estimated finishing date, and approximate daily words needed to finish in time). You can also join your region and meet a bunch of people in your area who are also taking part in this event. Which leads me to;

2: Join your local region

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. It can be even more fun to do with other people around you, who you can bounce ideas off of or ask for feedback. Your local ML (Municipal Liaison) will plan write-in events throughout the month, as well as some more casual social gatherings, and also offer online support on the official forums and possibly a Facebook group, depending on your region. I’ve made many new writer friends through these events, whom I catch up with during the rest of the year as well. So it’s definitely worth getting involved.

3: Plan

Even if you’re someone who likes to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind, novel writing is a Big Ordeal. Those 50,000 words will feel mountainous, unless you break it down. Planning as much as you can before November will make your month far less stressful, but if over-planning saps your motivation to actually write the thing, try just creating a loose plot outline and character sketches. And even if you do plan in great detail, don’t be afraid of throwing way that plan if you think of something better as you go.

4: Pace yourself

It’s tempting to want to lock yourself away all month and do nothing but write, but this isn’t sustainable nor particularly healthy. Make sure you take breaks from your work to eat and drink properly, see friends and give your hands and brain a rest. If you’re balancing NaNo with full time work and/or managing children, you may have to get really great at fitting in writing where you can. But don’t go so hard that you give yourself RSI. NaNo isn’t worth physically injuring yourself over.

5: Don’t Panic

If you fall behind, miss a few days, or even start after November 1, don’t panic. There’s still time to catch up. You can do this. As mentioned, the website will tell you how many words per day you will need to finish on time. Doubling your daily target a few times can make up for a few days when you were too busy to sit down at your computer. Some people can only write on weekends because of weekday commitments. Whatever your life demands, you can still do it. Just take a deep breath and go.

6: Have Fun

NaNoWriMo is meant to be a fun challenge. If you’re finding yourself exceedingly stressed out, step back and evaluate if it is realistic for you to force yourself to do. If 50,000 is too long, try setting your own goals. The Camp NaNo events, (held in April and July) allow you to specify your own word goal on the website, but you can still aim for whatever you want to aim for in November. This is entirely a personal challenge after all. No one is policing what you do. No one will dob you in for doing it differently. And even if you don’t make it to your goal at the end of the month, that’s still okay. Ultimately any words you wrote are words you didn’t have before you started this challenge, and that’s amazing. The discount code prizes for “winning” are pretty nice but the real prize is the work you wrote during this time.

No matter how you go this month, NaNoWriMo is about building a regular writing habit, and engaging with other writers about this art form you all love so much. So give it a go. Take the excuse to sit down with that novel idea you’ve always wanted to write ‘if you had time’, and see what happens. Lock away your inner editor and just start typing. As a wise person once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

 


Words by Simone Corletto

Simone Corletto is an Adelaide-based YA and Science-Fiction writer. She spends her spare time crocheting lumpy hats, writing about teenage superheroes, and telling people about her science degree. She tweets at @SimCorWrites