Monday, October 20, 2008

Spongebob breaks the ice...

Lots to talk about today. Just swung across to Janet Reid's blog ( and saw a very smart comment. She advised writers attending conferences that conferences weren't just about meeting agents and editors. Conferences are a great opportunity to meet other writers as well and this should be one of your purposes in attending. Of course there is much value in meeting agents and editors but in the day-to-day wilderness/jungle that is a writer's life one of the best survival tips is to make friends with other writers. No one else can know better the difficulties/agonies/ecstasies /disappointments and minutiae that make up your existence. No matter how generous, kind and understanding an agent or editor are, your writer friends are having the same experiences as you. No other group are as well trained in the art of surviving life as a writer. There is a divine karmic interwoveness to the whole thing too:- Some days i need support and encouragement, other days I give support and encouragement to someone else. We don't have a lot of writing conferences in New Zealand, but writers groups, critique groups, classes and organisations and their meetings are great places to make writer friends. They are an essential part of the writers toolkit.

Now I also came across this interesting piece (via Jenny Rappaport's blog, LIT SOUP at 'about the marketing end of the book business, the rationale behind how buyers pick books, and a nice dose of bookselling history too.' You can read it here:- Its written about the American market but the general themes are relevant here too. Just as the health system has a purely financial end that recognizes the most expensive widgit is too much for the budget, at the polar opposite of the emotional end of being sick where you don't care how much the best widgit costs, its the one you need, the book industry takes your beloved book baby and says it needs to sell x copies or it can't break even. No matter how the industry evolves over time we will always be emotionally attached to the books we have slaved over and pored our hearts into and the publisher and booksellers can only sigh and say we have to make enough money to cover our book producing, book selling operation costs. They are not charities and there is no way we would want them to be. It is good to understand how all aspects of the book industry works. And it is always comforting to know that I am not the only writer being rejected or skipped.

The flipside to the financial realities is the fun to be had in meeting your audience. I visited Owairoa Primary School today in Howick, East Auckland. I met with each of the four year-3 classes at the school and talked about ideas, the writing and book making process and reading. It was a lot of fun and the children were wonderful. I'm glad i packed all my books into my Spongebob Squarepants suitcase. The children thought it fitting that books be protected by the King of imagination and it was a great ice breaker. Having my little viking bear along as mascot was also handy. The children were interested and enthusiastic. It got a bit tricky at the end, as having covered the same material with each group i began to wonder if i was repeating myself to the same crowd. As the information came out in different orders for different classes depending on their responses I couldn't follow the same sequence and tick off the list as i went. I will have to figure out a way to avoid this problem. I hope I get to do more school visits in future.

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