As a new author on Amazon, particularly a self-published one, I thought it might be interesting to write about this journey. So much is changing about the publishing world and sharing this experience with writers and readers might prove useful now and in the future, or at least a bit entertaining, if I can get enough courage to laugh at the fumbles so far.
I’d even like to reflect a bit on what authors of the past might have thought about having the power in our own hands to bring our writing to readers. Virginia Woolf was self-published, as was Margaret Atwood, Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain and Stephen King. It has already been an amazing education to learn about the process of publication and all the things that go on behind the scenes to bring a book into the world. It is a strange and complex world and I’m very glad to have some helpers, the professionals who work in it.
I have written all my life. I remember writing books and physically putting them together with my younger sisters when I was seven or eight years old. We had an assembly line. I would write the words and draw the pictures, Jeralie would colour them in, and Kathie would staple them. Leslie was a baby, so we couldn’t employ her yet. But she watched. My sisters did a lot of things with me. We had a theatre production company and put on plays using all the neighbourhood kids. We also had treasure hunts, and haunted houses and sold candy door to door. We had a pet funeral service. For 25 cents we would bury your dead turtle, goldfish or mouse in a black matchbox, put it in our red wagon, draped with flowers, and proceed at a respectful pace to the local cemetery, where we would bury the pet with a spoon. I remember we cried for these pets, for free. This was a time when our tv watching was limited to Saturday mornings by my mother. The rest of our days were filled with play and I think that developed the muscles of our imaginations.
As an art and design teacher, I had a chance to work with students on developing their creativity, but also spent every free moment I had on my projects, both art and writing. When I moved to the UK to teach in London, I couldn’t afford to live near the school, but I used my 3 hours a day on the train to write. I also did research on weekends, at libraries, at the National Archives and the British Library as well as museums. I walked a lot, all over London, like Dickens, and all over Twickenham and Eel Pie Island when I was working out my novel which takes place there, called Swan Diaries. I met an old woman, whose name was Pamela. She fed the swans every day, the ones living near Eel Pie Island, on the Thames, and knew every swan for generations. She had kept a swan diary for 38 years. It was meeting Pamela and getting to know her that the idea came to me to write a historical fiction novel about a woman who lived on the Thames feeding the swans for 38 years. I imagined her life marrying her sweetheart, just before World War II, losing him in the war and having him come back to her, many years after the war ended.
I’m still working on this novel. There was another one called Wings, which I’m still working on as well. And there’s a third called Three Steps of the Sun. But it was during the lockdown of 2021, that an experience bubbled up in my memory very strongly. In 2004 I put my finger on a map of England and it landed on Penzance. I decided to hike around Land’s End, on my own, and it turned into a remarkable adventure. Memories of it came to me and I found the map I did with a lot of drawings on it. I decided to take one day out a week from my other writing and try to make a little story out of it. It came out mostly formed and felt uncomplicated, but layered. It reasonably captured my memories. I put it away and went back to my ‘real’ work. When I got Covid in March of 2022, I was so depressed about not being able to get agents to even read my work, that I decided to look into self-publishing. There was a lot to digest.