Don’t Let the Booker Get You Down – The Artist’s Task

I know a number of writers, me included, who find the idea of having to market one’s self or one’s work thoroughly depressing, and for the most part, totally ineffective. Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads Giveaways, Blog Tours (thankfully I’ve never done one of those) and who are we talking to? Mostly we are talking to ourselves. Or I suspect to other writer’s in similar postions.

If we’re not published by the mainstream it’s hard to get our work out there and hard to find readers. (Although when we do, on that rare occasion, find readers or reviewers who offer their unsolicited praise this is as a gift from heaven!)

We feel we’ve failed because we’re not the name on everyone’s lips and we haven’t made the shortlist for a big prize. We allow ourselves to be judged by a publishing world that has little intellectual, or material, investment in writers. We doubt ourselves. And worst of all we forget that the joy is, and must always be, in the work itself.

Amit Chaudhuri in his Guardian article, Why The Booker Prize is Bad For Writers    argues – ‘The meaning of a writer’s work must be created, and argued for, by writers themselves, and not by some extraneous source of endorsement…Virginia Woolf didn’t wake up in the morning and think, “I wonder if Mrs Dalloway will be longlisted for the Booker?”’ (I love this reference to Virginia Woolf. It’s going up on my wall!)

I read Chaudhuri’s article this morning at coffee time. I read it with great relish and I recommend it. We need writers like Chaudhuri to remind us what it’s all about, and to give us permission to carry on. Permission to reclaim ourselves and our work.

And in case you’re in need of further reminding and consoling as to the true work of the writer here is an unmissable piece by Mary Oliver, on – The Artist’s Task

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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The Astronomer’s House

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I had to think quickly about my new novel – I needed to provide a synopsis and an idea of what the cover might look like – so I came up with this, photo courtesy of Unsplash.com – a wonderful resource for free images. I’m not sure it really does reflect the landscape of my new novel which, as usual, is more water than earth or sky, but I do like it. It will definitely do for now…

Forgive me but I’m still stuck in the territory of reviews –

I find I’ve just got to write something about what for me is the very new experience of reviews popping up unexpectedly, out of nowhere. One day I have twelve Amazon reviews – a few weeks later when I happen to look there are twenty two!

Let’s face it we all have a handful of friends and readers who might be willing to post on our behalf but this time, as it happens, I asked no one for an Amazon review, though early reviewers were kind enough to put one up.

Now something entirely different is happening – readers, people I don’t know, people from far away, are posting – like this from Jez

on 3 July 2017
If you love Tim Gautreax, Ron Rash, Daniel Woodrell, this book is up there with the best of them.
A little book with a huge heart! Aiyana’s spirit is unstoppable.

 

Honestly it brought tears to my eyes – A couple of lines is all it takes. ‘A little book with a huge heart,’ I love it! Thank you Jez and thank you to all those readers out there, on Goodreads too, on Instagram and Twitter, taking the time to tell others  about, Sometimes A River Song.

When readers tell the world that they loved your book, it’s the best feeling there is. There is nothing else like it…Thank you x

 

You will have to forgive me for posting this Goodreads review of Sometimes A River Song, by Cherry Radford. (Cherry is also a writer, although we don’t know each other) but but it just blew me away.

Also – If you’re on Goodreads  – from 29th June – 7th July I will be running a Giveaway so please do enter.

‘Once in a while, I’m so astounded by a novel that it’s really hard to write a review. It’s as if I don’t want to pin down the magic. But I’m having a go, because people need to know about this stunningly original and beautiful novel published by a small but brave independent.

The mesmerizing voice is mainly that of Aiyana, a 15-year-old living with her family in a riverboat community in 1930s Arkansas. It’s a hard life for women – but especially for Aiyana, whose whose father says she ‘ain’t worth more than another man’s dog’, has denied her any education, and regularly subjects her to life-threatening cruelty. She needs to escape, even though her father knows ‘every inch of this river from mountain to sea’. She also knows there’s no hope for her in the world that ‘be made of the word’ until she can read…

Despite the ever-present sense of danger, there are plenty of moments in which ‘my heart felt warm as a new laid chicken egg’. I particularly loved the folkloric protection by her eccentric native American grandmother – and, of course, the beauty in Aiyana’s beloved river through the seasons.

It’s a short novel, but deep and wide; I was totally swept away. As others have been; it has already won a People’s Book Prize (outstanding achievement) award. Read it!’

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Sometimes A River Song is also available in paperback

At The Peoples Book Prize

London was hot. Very hot. Arriving at Stationers’ Hall, a stone’s throw from Ludgate Hill, in the shadow of St Paul’s, I felt the first flutter of the ‘what am I doing here?’ nerves and wondered how long I could keep my cool.

We gathered in the foyer, all finalists. The men in black tie, the women, in an array of stylish dresses, from vibrant Nancy Mac to pastel Anthropologie. The shoes were as fabulous as the surroundings. There was tension in the air. Who didn’t want to win? But there was comradeship and celebration too.

Tatiana Wilson, founder and champion of the People’s Book Prize greeted us warmly and ushered us upstairs. We stood about chatting in the reception rooms while photographs were taken of us with our books. We were undoubtedly a friendly crew and one of the highlights of my evening was being in the company of other generous and talented authors.

 

After the first glass of wine, yes, I allowed myself just the one glass, I relaxed. I was keeping my cool. Guests arrived. We moved into the Hall and soaked up the beauty of its stained-glass windows and wood panelling, its white tablecloths and glittering place settings.

Then there was dinner itself. It did not disappoint and was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat. No way could I bring myself to spoil those delicate red nasturtiums that graced my starter by putting them in my mouth.

As dinner ended and proceedings moved to the prize giving, that flutter again. The First Time Author, the Non-Fiction and the Children’s prizes were all awarded. Fiction next I thought. But no, next came the announcement of the Best Achievement Award. It was a surprise to me. I really should have read the programme.

When Rupert, Master of Ceremonies, began to speak about the winning book, without first naming it, the flutter grew. Could this be my book he was talking about? I dismissed the thought. I knew nothing about this award. It had nothing to do with me. But by the time Rupert revealed the author’s birthplace and spoke of her work in women’s prisons, I knew it had to be me.

My cool flew up and out through the stained-glass windows. I somehow got to the stage. I hope what I said made sense. My prepared Fiction Prize speech which we were told to prepare in the event of winning no longer seemed to fit. I spoke off the cuff and felt very emotional. I still do feel very emotional.

If you read what was said about Sometimes a River Song, I’m sure you’ll see why:

An amazing, accomplished, beautifully written book.
Masterful storytelling
Gorgeous, captivating, innovative lyrical prose.
The People’s Book Prize wants to recognise its inspirational content to women all over the world, that despite an unfair society one can lift oneself out of misery through the strength and love of the women who fight together for a better life.
A magical book that speaks to every sense and to your heart.

When I returned to my seat I downed a glass of white wine and ate four hand-made chocolates in quick succession, just to steady the nerves you understand.

Following the final award of the Fiction Prize I drank a cup of black coffee. I never drink coffee after midday but it seemed like the right thing to do. The Prizes were done and congratulations were followed by winners’ interviews for the Sky video. I said my Thank-yous, principally to Tatiana.

It was time for goodbyes.

When I stepped out of Stationer’s Hall into the night, I couldn’t deny that the air had cooled but I was still hot, very hot, and it felt to me like the ancient heart of London was on fire, shimmering and beating around me.

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Peoples Book Prize – Best Achievement Award

Dear Everyone

this is just to say thank you so much for all your support. On Tuesday evening in London at the Peoples Book Prize Awards, I was, much to my complete surprise, awarded the Best Achievement Award, the ‘jury’ prize as it were, for Sometimes a River Song. In awarding the prize they read out some of the comments readers had left when they’d voted – some of the reviews and also spoke  about women the world over who struggle with illiteracy -it was very moving and left me rather speechless.

More when I recover! (And a picture)  But in the meantime thank you, thank you

A x

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