In The Future Will Everyone Be Crowd-funding? Guest post by Erinna Mettler

Fifteen minutes flyerI’m pleased as punch to introduce my fellow Beach Hut Writer, Erinna Mettler. Erinna is stupendously talented; her stories are perceptive, thought-provoking, laced with subtle humour. Magical.Over to you, Rin.

I write short stories. My first book, Starlings, was what is known as a daisy chain novel, which is a set of interlinking short stories with characters and settings in common. My second book, In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes, is not a novel but a collection of short stories themed around fame and that’s as far as the connection goes. In the UK, short story collections are not looked upon favourably by agents or publishers. This is not the case in the US, India or even Ireland.  A handful of companies do consider collections but to be honest you have to either be a best-selling author or have won a major short story prize to get past the slush pile. I haven’t got an agent and with this second book I didn’t really try to get one. I half-heartedly sent it off to a few US publishers until somebody suggested I try the innovative crowd-funding publisher Unbound.

Since the company was established in 20 Unbound has gone from strength to strength. Their catalogue includes books by Jonathan Meades, Terry Jones, Kate Mosse and a Booker Prize listee (Paul Kingsnorth with The Wake).  In the promo video Unbound states that, ‘authors get to write the books they want to write and readers get to read real books, that in a crowded, celebrity obsessed market place might never see the light of day.’ This statement really appealed to me. I have not forgotten my rejection from a high profile literary agent a few years ago telling me they just weren’t in  love with my writing on the very day they announced a 2 book deal with Martine McCutcheon. She only wrote one and that went into bargain bins straight after it was released. I submitted my manuscript to Unbound. They accepted it within a month.

The thing with crowd-funding is that everything moves at a super-fast pace. I got the email from Unbound Digital on a Friday asking for a biography, an extract, photos, a cover and a short promotional film by Sunday! If you are thinking of submitting to them I would suggest you have all of this ready to go at a moment’s notice. They give you around 90 days to raise the funds to get your book published, which works out at about 350 £10 pledges. When you are fully funded you are assigned an editor and then, about a year later, you get the full marketing and distribution you would from any major publisher.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I have quite a large social media network but it has been very hard to gain pledges. I blog weekly, I post daily on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve done events, press releases, radio and sent out emails to everyone I know and still each pledge has to be eeked out. As I reach the end of my 90 days I am spending several hours a day marketing and no time actually writing, luckily for me I have the book finished and ready to go. When someone does pledge I want to shout their name from the rooftops. One thing that has worked for me was getting a short film made by Brighton’s Latest TV. This has been like a visual press release and I have gained many pledges since it went live. Wish me luck, I have 150 pledges still to get and time is running out.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame? No Thanks!

 

2015: A Writer’s Year

In a 12 month period during which I have seen no new publications of my own work, you’d be forgiven for questioning my post title. But with a new novel set for imminent release – Redemption Song on 28th January – and a new edition of my debut, Bloodmining, set for the summer, it’s been a writing year rammed with re-writing. And as we know, writing is rewriting.

Work on Redemption Song followed a traditional publishing journey with a draft submitted to my editor Greg in February, followed by substantive comments after a London Book Fair meeting in April, the copy edit in the late summer, more copy-editing in September (naughty me) and proofs in October. And a sparkly new book very soon *an excitement/fear stomach flip combo*. 2016 promises to be a year of fabulous fiction – for starters Jo Cannon’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is published on the same day as mine – and who knows if my book will be remembered in amongst so much good work? I can only keep my fingers crossed and keep on keeping on.Redemption Song Final

Alongside the work on Redemption Song I redrafted my very first novel. Me-oh-my what an interesting (ahem) experience that was. Proof positive of how much I’ve learned in the past four years. I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity: to put right all that was lumpy and bumpy in the first edition. It still isn’t perfect – what is? – but I am much, much happier with it. I’ll keep you posted once I have an exact publication date.

Despite the absence of a new book, 2015 was full of appearances too. So many that I had to consult my diary to recall many of them! It began in January with a talk at the University of Hertfordshire literary festival, and another at the University of Kingston. In March there was a reading with other Brighton authors at the Oxfam bookshop to celebrate International Women’s Day, and more local readings at Together the People Festival, and in the Tinker Box at the Brighton Festival in May. To top it all I was invited to two events at the Shoreham WordFest; one running a short story workshop at Ropetackle and an in-conversation with organiser Morag Charlwood and fellow author, Ed Hogan. We spoke to a packed crowd on a wet and wild Monday evening and it was such a pleasure I get a lovely warm feeling thinking about it again now – in direct contrast to the hideous weather that night.

August was spent at the glorious Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales, working on another novel with a working title of The Bad Buddhist and Me. I have blogged extensively about my time there so won’t repeat it. Suffice to say, it was a truly incredible experience. I love that place! I want to go back!

11705357_10153295090155817_6347792843615633973_nAnd then there were the talks to writers groups at libraries, and my mentoring and coaching work with emerging writers; work I enjoy enormously. It’s such a delight to journey with other writers, see their work develop. And I was lucky enough to edit some fantastic books, including Sarah Rayner’s Making Friends with the Menopause – a self-help book in the same family as her amazing bestselling Making Friends with Anxiety. I’ve read some incredible books too; you can read about my favourites here.

2015 has been a good year, for me, and right now it’s hard to believe 2016 could be better. But the great thing about the future is that we don’t know what it will bring, what plot twists, thrills and spills will be thrown our way. We can only endeavour to make the most of the ride, learn from the challenges and bad times, and appreciate the good. And remember those for whom life has not been so kind, and when possible, do something about it; extend the arm of friendship and support; money when necessary and if you can afford it. I’d love to know if 2015 has been kind or mean to you, and hear about your plans and dreams for 2016.

In the meantime: Happy New Year dear readers – journey on, loving and learning.
Laura x

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Together the People Event #Brighton #Bookie Events

11873463_1141573805858130_6494183470167534546_nThis weekend, 5th and 6th Sept, myself and other Beach Hut Writers are appearing on the Soapbox at the Together the People Festival in Preston Park, Brighton.

Each evening at 6.15pm six authors will read a short extract from their work followed by a brief interview. We’re a diverse bunch, writing short stories, crime, literary fiction, women’s fiction, YA and more. Do come along to the soapbox stage if you fancy it. P.s. There are some fab bands appearing too, including Levellers, Super Furry Animals and Billy Bragg!

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Gladstone Library Retreat: Day Ten

11058666_10153295080275817_3431906838164195866_nThis is the end, the end … and I’m overwhelmed, feeling a tad emotional, sitting in the library before I say goodbye, absorbing the atmosphere.

In summary:
• Inspiring, Creative, Tranquil, Nourishing, Open-minded, Open-hearted.
• The ideas and subsequent words have come – just nudging 13,000; and as ever the story isn’t quite what I thought it might be – a good sign as far as I’m concerned
• I’ve read three smashing novels during my stay: The Island Escape, Blackmoor and Wide Sargasso Sea
• I’ve eaten delicious food, taken some beautiful walks and snapped away like mad on Instagram
• I’ve met some incredible people: authors, journalists, writers, academics, theologians, minsters, interns and other members of the staff team. Special thanks to warden Peter Francis and interns Sophie and Sian and all the cooks and cleaners

11705357_10153295090155817_6347792843615633973_nIT’S BEEN AMAZING

THANK YOU EVERYONE AT GLADSTONE’S FOR HELPING TO MAKE IT SUCH A MAGICAL COUPLE OF WEEKS

To quote Arnie, ‘I’ll be back.’

Gladstone Library Retreat: Day Nine

Salley Vickers 2nd collection of short stories

Salley Vickers 2nd collection of short stories

Over lunch with my Norwegian novelist friend we discussed our progress yesterday morning – this post is late because of an event at the library last night (more on this below). We always do this when we hook up in the Gladstone restaurant Food for Thought, which, incidentally, serves spanking gorgeous grub: breakfast, lunch, afternoon cream tea, supper. Did I say I might need to diet after this stay?

Victoria (not a very Norwegian sounding name, I know …) asked what had been the best thing about my morning. I said: ‘Scrapping everything I wrote in the library last night.’ She laughed and asked if I was serious. Of course I was. It meant that this morning I was able to begin a new, relevant scene and, boy, did I enjoy writing it. I’d known last night that most of what I was writing was cobblers but for some inexplicable reason was unable to stop. It was background information and added nothing to the story. Perhaps the writing down means that I know it better? But quite honestly the reader doesn’t need to. It was boring. Good riddance.

We agreed that writing is an odd job – for many reasons more than just this – in that you can feel overjoyed about chucking away hours of labour. And we agreed that we love it.

I have a sense of an ending (thanks Mr Barnes) to my stay and the need to spend as much time as possible in my favourite place in the library – the gallery of the Theology Reading Room, but I wrote over 1,000 ‘good’ words yesterday and I took a few hours out to catch up with my sister. We headed to a spa, so yet another indulgence.

And last night the library hosted the very splendid Salley Vickers for ‘An Evening with …’. I heard Salley speak at GladFest last September so knew we were in for a treat. She spoke about her seven novels and how they have informed her latest collection of short stories, The Boy Who Could See Death, the enduring significance of old stories and why it’s always good to pinch them (‘you don’t have to think of a plot’) and how she doesn’t plan her writing, at all. I’m not familiar with Salley’s work but will purchase a copy of The Cleaner of Chartres before I leave. Inspirational on many levels, I learnt a lot. Victoria and I had the pleasure of Salley’s company over wine in the reading room once the audience had gone home too. We talked Edinburgh (the festival), travelling and the eye-watering cost of London property! Oslo is much cheaper, apparently.

My time is running out here, so I’m off to the library now.

Gladstone Library Retreat: Day Four

Gladstone's Library in north Wales

Gladstone’s Library in north Wales

The Good News: Another morning in the peace and splendour of the Theology room. I have completed a second chapter and the word count has tipped 5k. These chapters – and a section, which might become a Prologue, and another section which I kind of like but am not sure what to do with just yet – are OK. Reading after lunch, very pleasant.
The Bad News: During reading time – in which I was also thinking ‘where next’ for my character and story – I was struck by the ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing; I don’t know if this is the best way to tell this story; what the f**k is the story; hasn’t it all been done before’ stick. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling. Fell asleep.
There was also a minor drama with the Gingers. They have been staying with my mum for the past four days (she lives just down the road from here and we all travelled up here together) and were due to travel back to Brighton today, alone for the first time. They were cool about this – especially Ginger1, who was ‘in charge’ – the only minor worry was crossing London on the tube for the connecting train to Brighton. And then there was a strike … luckily, my mum got wind of this before popping them on the train at Chester. My parents are so lovely and my boys are very, very lucky – they will be driven back home tomorrow; train tickets in the bin. So all will be well and thank goodness they didn’t find themselves in London trying to navigate the buses from Euston to Victoria.
More Good News (because you should never close on a bad note): I have made contact with other writers! Lovely writers: an Irish woman from London working on her first novel; a Norwegian novelist with a deadline from her editor and a PhD student from Alabama, currently living in Edinburgh (when not here at Gladstone, natch). We have broken bread together twice and shared writerly woes and triumphs. I told them about my afternoon and the silent nods made me feel 100% better. No words required. After a couple more hours work, we’re meeting in the reading room to enjoy a glass or two of wine together.

I’ll end with gratitude to have happened upon such a smashing bunch, and noting how wonderful the staff here at the library are too.

Imposter syndrome

One of the more interesting responses to the Chris Bryant v James Blunt brouhaha comes from novelist Sarah Perry in the Independent. She argues, convincingly, that Blunt misunderstands the relationship between wealth and privilege and artistic success. You can read her article here.

I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter and had such interesting conversations I wanted to blog about it. You can read the dialogue here.

2015-01-21 15.30.22Like Perry, my origins are not discernible in my accent (I don’t have one, pretty much) and like her, I find publishing events ‘alarming’ and bluntly – pun intended – scary. My shadow self is terrified that I’m about to be found out – imposter in these posh circles that I am. My stepfather was a steel worker and a mechanic and my mother has held a variety of jobs, all low-paid and low-skilled, and I went to Manchester Metropolitan University, so like Perry, I’m never in danger of bumping into friends of the family in the industry I now work in.

However, I recognise how fortunate I have been. I’m tenacious – irritatingly so, some would say – I’ve worked hard, I have some talent (or so I’m told) and I have also had some luck. Without this, it unlikely that I would have ‘made it’ *hear me snorting*

Of course, the core of the debate surrounds funding for the arts and without such support there are voices that will simply go unheard. The same is true of further education. Over the past fortnight, I have spoken at events at the University of Hertfordshire and at Kingston University.  At both, the students were warm and receptive – an absolute pleasure to speak with. At Kingston, I appeared with author Sharon Zink, a fellow resident of Brighton, and it was reassuring to take to the lectern with someone I knew, because, guess what, I was very nervous. Imposter syndrome again.

During the Q & A, an audience member pointed out that neither of us had studied creative writing, that neither of us had an MA, nor a BA, in the discipline. (I’ve not got an MA in anything; Sharon has a PhD – she’s a clever clogs J) The observation wasn’t meant in a derogatory manner and it led to an interesting discussion on the value of degrees in creative writing, but it reminded me that once upon a time I had wanted to study for a creative writing MA, and guess what, I couldn’t afford it. Going to my parents for help wasn’t an option. Instead, and this is what I told our audience, I read everything I could about craft – books, articles, magazines, anything and everything. I continued to read voraciously and I wrote. A lot. And, as I’ve said, I got lucky. However, I know a couple of writers for whom an MA was invaluable, priceless, 100% necessary in building confidence as much as working on craft and without it, they doubt they would ever have had the confidence to submit work. And what a shame that would have been.

Life is unfair, no doubt. But I believe in equality of opportunity and believe that as an advanced, civilised society we must do everything within our power to at least attempt to level the playing field, in the arts, as in other areas of society. Diversity is enriching – for all.

Here endeth the rant.

A review of The Girl on the Pier – and some blathering

Girl on PierAs a rule, I don’t review here on my blog. Doing so would imply posturing as a critic, something more serious than the often casual, personal but considered, thoughts I leave on Amazon, Goodreads and Waterstones’ online presence. However, rules are meant to be broken, and regular visitors will note that I do review from time to time, and the observant amongst you will notice that such reviews tend to cover books by indie authors or those published by smaller houses; the theory being they might need more of a boost. So, today, I’ll talk briefly about a debut novel from acclaimed sports writer, Paul Tomkins, The Girl on the Pier.

I might never have met Paul or read his novel but for a confusion of Brighton addresses, and I am grateful for that minor administrative error. Let me explain. Alongside my fiction, I work as an editor/mentor for developing writers – freelance and for literary consultancy, Cornerstones. Paul hired Cornerstones to look at his novel but a mix up at Cornerstones HQ meant that I received the manuscript instead of another Brighton editor, Araminta Hall. As it happens Araminta is a friend of mine (and author of the best-selling Everything and Nothing and more recently, Dot). Anyway, I was working on another manuscript and had to pass on Paul’s, but the incident connected us. The novel’s intriguing and promising premise stayed with me, and I was delighted when, months later, I received a copy of the novel.

First off, it is an object of great beauty. Cleverly designed with high production values, it is a book to cherish. I have fetish-like tendencies when it comes to books and I love stroking this one – it even has flaps (ahem). So beautiful is it that it came as a surprise when I discovered it is self-published. I emailed Paul to find out the story behind his decision to go down the indie route because I knew there was agent interest in the book and because, bluntly, I’m nosy. But that’s a story for another post.  Possibly …

I rarely read self-published work, not unless it comes highly recommended or I know the author’s work from short-stories or other published work in reputable media. I know that there are some fantastic self-published books out there, but the harsh truth is that there is an awful lot of rubbish and life is too short to wade through the proverbial. This sentiment is shared by many and I might incur the wrath of many for saying this, but hey-ho, it’s only my opinion.

But, I will shout about The Girl on the Pier because it deserves to be heard above the noise (din?), because it is a work of serious intent, well-written and with a fabulous central conceit. Here’s my brief review, and if you’d like to buy the book there are links at the bottom.

Forensic artist Patrick is charged with the reconstruction of the skull of an unidentified girl found on Brighton’s famous West Pier in the 1970s. As he painstakingly reconstructs the girl’s face, memories of a childhood crush surface, blending with obsessive thoughts of a magical night spend on the pier with Black, a beautiful photographer, in the 1990s. An accident means that Patrick loses Black’s telephone number and is unable to trace her, yet he never forgets her or the incredible night they spent together. Abandoned as a boy by his parents and successive lovers, Patrick is an intelligent but damaged man, and as we follow the two mysteries, the lines between fact and personal fiction become increasingly blurred.

Reflective, atmospheric, and written in gorgeous prose The Girl on the Pier is a literary thriller about ghosts from the past, art, disappointment, obsessive love, and the slippery nature of memory. In Patrick, Tomkins has created a seductive and beguiling narrator, one so smooth it takes a while before you might begin to question his version of events. Set mostly in and around Brighton, the now destroyed pier is exquisitely evoked and the story is choc-a-block with intelligent insights. ‘The hardest thing in human existence is to accept that what’s done is done. Death is final. But so too are our actions, each and every last one of them. We can seek to alter the course of where the present is heading, and we can apologise, and try to put right that which we have got horribly wrong. But none of it can change what actually took place.’

It’s common in reviews, especially nowadays and by marketeers, to liken books to others, but I can’t do that with this novel because it isn’t quite like anything I’ve read before.  And this is a very good thing. Commonly, I lean towards faster-paced works but I really liked this book and it made me want to improve my own prose. And what I will say is that if you enjoy well written stories which require a little thought and leave you thinking, then you should enjoy The Girl on the Pier.

Buy the book on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Girl-Pier-Paul-Tomkins/dp/1784621048

Find out more about Paul and his work here: www.paultomkins.com

Books and Boots and High, High Heels – and Pride

Sept 2014 011Books and Boots is the fabulous name of a walking and book festival held in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The festival is the brain-child of Anne Wicks, former owner of the Castle Hill Bookshop – a gorgeous independent shop nestled at the foot of the castle in this ancient town, which has been serving book lovers in Richmond and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales for over 30 years. The bookshop works with a community initiative and Gillian Howells creative consultancy to run the festival, and this year was its 10th anniversary.

As the name suggests the festival boasts a diverse programme of walks and talks and bookish events in and around the town. From ghost tours to mountain hikes to literary discussions there’s a lot to see and do, and in between there’s the town itself to explore (an absolute treat) and you can explore the dales independently too, of course. Now, I’m not a hiker – take a look at the shoes I bought while I was there – so I was all about the books and I was there as a guest. (OK, the heels aren’t sky scrapers, but they’re high enough for me.)

Sept 2014 007On Monday evening, I spoke with a group of book club members in the library, all of whom had read my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars. The audience were warm, attentive and had loads of brilliant questions, and two hours passed by in a flash. To my surprise they even wanted me to read from the book – not just one extract but two.

I felt privileged to part of this festival, because it really is very special and yet it’s not as well-known as many I can think of. Do check it out next year and if you’re in the area do visit the town – it’s stunning – and Castle Hill Bookshop which is a delight to browse around. It’s only small but feels much, much larger; it has a Tardis-like quality.

In other news this week, once back from the festival I had chance to hoof it down to my local cinema and catch the movie, Pride. What a treat that was too. Wonderful. Funny, touching, sad in places, it’s a great British film. The attention to period detail was brilliant – right down to the ‘angry’ theatre company van the LGSM group use to travel to the valleys of south Wales. Readers at a book group I talked with in Brighton a couple of weeks ago likened Public Battles, Private Wars to the film, and now that I’ve seen it I am truly flattered. I’ll also add that I agree with those readers – if you’ve enjoyed Pride you’ll probably get a lot out of my novel.

Shoes I bought in Richmond!

Shoes I bought in Richmond!

Oh, What a Night!

Early June, in a Sussex barn – you can hum along to the old tune if you can remember it – seventeen book clubs, fun, food and wine, what a venue, what a night…

The Big Barn (photo by Sarah Rayner)

The Big Barn (photo by Sarah Rayner)

To explain. Last night, along with three other authors – including the wonderful Sarah Rayner whose latest novel Another Night, Another Day is a blinder – I had the privilege and pleasure of talking about my novel Public Battles, Private Wars to members of 17 different book groups in an enormous 400-year-old barn in rural Sussex.

Yes, 17; there were around 100 people present. Added to this was food and wine and representatives from East Sussex Library Service and a book stall selling our wares. The Big Book Club Bash in the Barn is the brainchild of and organised by Diana Carsons, a powerhouse of a woman with a serious passion for reading. Originally, she hails from Rhyl in north Wales, not far from where I grew up, so she has more than one thing to recommend her. Book club members come along with food and drink (and their own chairs) which is then laid out for all to share. After grub and chat, they listen to authors speak about their work and then representatives from each group talk briefly about their favourite reads of the year and those they found more challenging. They share ideas and tips, and as authors we get the opportunity to connect with readers, many of whom might not have been previously familiar with our work.

Diana sandwiched between me and Sarah

Diana sandwiched between me and Sarah

It was an incredible night. I spoke to many gorgeous people and sold all the copies of my novel that I’d brought. I stepped in at the last minute and had no time to get a decent stock, so admittedly this wasn’t too many. But given that I didn’t expect to sell any (I was speaking with best-selling novelists who’ve been around much longer than me) it was the icing on the cake of what was an exciting and memorable evening. Author heaven, I’d say.

Thank you to Diana and Sarah for inviting me. And to the book groups members for listening so attentively and, more importantly, for loving literature. Keep reading.