Confessions from the Desk

Writing a book is hard work. And I thought (naively it turns out) the work would be over when the manuscript went to press and magically emerged as a book. Wrong. Since my first novel "The Last River Child" came out in October I have been in a mad dash trying learn as much about promotion as possible. Forget book tours and signings, forget basking in gushing reviews - when you are an unknown writer trying to get noticed your entire life is about hustle. I am overwhelmed almost to the point of paralysis with all the suggestions - build a website, sign up for facebook, post a video on you tube, send out press releases to every media outlet and bookstore you can think of, contact libraries, alumni organizations, hometown newspapers, forgotten friends, long lost relatives. Like most writers, this whole business of self-promotion makes me cringe. But I am trying. Who knows maybe I'll even get good at it. (I doubt it, but I'm trying to give myself a pep talk here.)

There have been amusing moments though. Like the first time I went into a bookstore with my mother and we saw two copies of my novel on the shelf. Mum scooped them up, carried them straight over to the nearest salesperson and announced, "My daughter wrote this book. And she is right over there!" The salesperson then very sweetly asked me to sign the books, which I blushingly did, trying for all the world to act like I did this sort of thing every day.

And I have found some wonderful champions. My Aunt Marg deserves special mention for carrying my book with her everywhere. She pretends to read it in public then strikes up conversations with strangers just so she can say, "This is a really good book!" Never admitting, of course, that the author is her niece. How cute is that?

As for all this promotion stuff I find it helps to remember I am not promoting me - I am promoting my book. I might find courage and hidden PR talents yet. Wish me luck.

Dialogue Exercise # 1

Here's how this exercise works: I give you a line a dialogue and you write a scene with it. The line I give you can go anywhere in this scene, at the start, the end, in the middle - just as long as it appears somewhere. Here's the line:

"What was the point of all that?"

(Tip for improving your dialogue - when you have finished writing, read it out loud. Then revise.)

Random Writing Exercise # 14

Write a short story that includes these three words: wave, giraffe, cosmopolitan.

John Updike

I've not read much by John Updike and felt like I should do something about that so I picked up the four books in the Rabbit series recently. Last night I opened "Rabbit, Run" and was awed by the opening few sentences. Here they are:

"Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seems to catapult their voices high into the moist March air blue above the wires."

Updike has built a complete scene with such economy yet still managed to make it feel voluptuous. I especially love that third sentence - so poetic, yet cinematic too. Studying those few sentences is a master class in fiction, folks.

Week 54

Justin hated waiting.

Week 53

For their first date they went to a movie, which Frank hated, then to a restaurant, which Anna hated.