Saturday, June 9, 2012

be the writer you want to become...

I know I have posted on branding before but I wanted to talk about it again today from a slightly different angle. Recently I went through the very interesting exercise of determining and defining what the 'Melinda Szymanik' brand meant, with two of the very fine publishers who have published my stories, Pear Jam Books and Duck Creek Press. As I have wittered in the past, I write a variety of lengths of story for a variety of ages. To say I am a picture book writer, whilst true, ignores the fact that I also write short stories and novels for younger and older children and teens. Focus on one thing and you miss the others. I have written funny stories, sad stories and dark stories. Many of my stories are reality based but there is often something a little otherworldly about them, but then they are not what I would call fantasy. They don't make pigeon holes that I easily fit into. So if you like to read you might want to know if you would like my books. When we discussed what I write we came up with this

"Melinda Szymanik is the award-winning NZ author of smart, layered fiction for all ages,
focusing on the family, the challenging and the unexpected – all with a little dash of magic."

Today as we discussed branding again amongst a group of writers, one writer's work was described as like Jacqueline Wilsons. Therefore, if you like Ms Wilson's books you are likely to enjoy this writers as well. Fair call. I am unlikely to get this kind of comparison. Partly because I write across ages etc.... There are writers I revere. I would love to write like them, but I don't. I would love to be compared to them (in a good way) but I won't. So I have my brand statement and I think that covers it pretty well. It is strange being a brand. I am not just Melinda Szymanik, of a particular age and abode, daughter, sister, wife and mother. I am not just a product of my environment, experiences and education and a fan of certain books movies, programmes and pastimes. There are people who think of me differently when they see the name. Probably a few going, oh God please, no! but maybe some who say 'I like her work' and hopefully, wishfully, wistfully, some who might even say I really want to read her next one. It must be weird to be very famous where your brand seems to take on a life of its own and is off, busily manifesting something new in the corner, while you holiday on Mystique. I find it strange enough that my name might conjure up a particular view or opinion of me because of all the things I have written. But it does. It might be harder to realise your brand if you are still in the early stages of your writing career. It is harder to detect patterns when your 'body' of work is still growing, even if patterns are already there just waiting to emerge. But it might pay you to think about what elements are crucial to how you want people to perceive you in future. Even if you are still producing sufficient writing to demonstrate 'what' you write, keep in mind that people do form views and opinions at every stage so 'be' the writer you want to become. As Neil Gaiman said at that commencement speech 'make good art'. Your art is how people will remember you. And whether the critics love or hate it, and the judges of awards embrace you or ignore you, as long as it is the art you want to make then people will see you as you want to be seen. You have to live with that so make sure you can.

I recently stopped by at this blog post by Talli Rowland (via Maureen Crisp) about how our dreams of success shift with our understanding of the world we want to succeed in. For many of us we begin with the dream of being published. Some dream of awards and riches. Other of movie deals and fame. Our dreams are sometimes realised in ways we didn't anticipate. The authors world in particular is like the view seen in a rearview mirror - not quite the size and shape of the actual object. I dream of finding fans amongst the world's readers, and having my books translated into other languages. I have sometimes dreamt of travelling to other countries because of my writing. Maybe in my wildest dreams I would wish that one day a new writer says their books are kind of like the books of Melinda Szymanik. Of course, then I think my head really would fall off.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

I'm probably totally going off-topic, but I am so so so intrigued to see what JK Rowling will pull off with her first non-children's, non-Harry Potter book series, first ever adult novel! Hey if she can do it, so can you - and you have with your wonderful picture books AND now YA and who knows what else!?!?

Take care