I was trying to be a good marketer, a role I’m not comfortable with, and googling myself to check on my web presence. These things must be done. I’m scrolling along. Things look good. Up to date. Then I’m going back in time a bit and suddenly I see that my unpublished historical fiction novel, Swan Diaries, made the longlist for the 2020 Exeter Novel Prize (!) Whaaat??? I had applied for it, but not heard anything back. There it was. Fact. I had to read it several times. This prize matters to me. I did a happy dance. But wow. It would have been nice to know this in 2020! And who could I tell? The news was almost 3 years old.
It felt strange to think of all the permutations I’d been through in my head as a writer since 2020. This was when we were all stuck in lockdown when spirits were low. The important stuff in the world was taking all our head space. DEATH. THE FUTURE. CHANGE. It was when I was feeling low about my writing and finding it hard to feel it was important or worthwhile. I was low enough that I came to a decision to start writing something fun, something quirky and different. I threw out the rulebook and just started A Cornish Odyssey and didn’t realise it was starting me on another path, in fiction and in self-publication. What might I have done differently had I known I had received this literary honour? Would I have started this story and then the next and the next one? Maybe. Maybe not.
No regrets. For whatever reason, fate, and my spam folder, hid this news from me then and waited until NOW to show me. And strangely enough, I’ve just finished the last Odyssey book and have returned to editing my historical fiction novels. I have three novels I’m now reviewing and getting ready to submit in the normal, excruciating way, through lists and hunches and research and fingers crossed. I’m not sure if I can or want to be a hybrid author, but then again, what if that is exactly right for me? These are strange and dizzying times for writers and publishers.
Thankfully, my self-publication experience has led me to meet many wonderful and interesting people who have given me new experiences and guidance. I’ve learned a tremendous amount. And I still feel like I’m new at this. Protecting myself from scammers, bad information or methods of marketing that just aren’t for me, seems like a full-time job, and that’s why I had to limit my time and resources around that. My first and most important job is living which includes being accessible to my family and friends. My next priority with my time is writing and reading. It’s high priority. The marketing is important, I know, but I must keep limits on it. It can’t take over my time or resources for my writing and reading life in fiction. Slowly, I’m learning how to get at a balance.
This blog post is posing a question. What if you already have what you seek? I’ve been reading a lot about that in Buddhism lately. Certainly, it helps to meditate and reflect on that. I’m not very good at being in the social media world. Everything happens so fast and winds me up too tight. I’m glad it is there, as it is an amazing way to find people, but I’m trying not to get too keyed up about being a wave in the ocean. Buddhist thought advises us to be both the ocean and the wave. Connected to the here and now of the wave action and, at the same time, connected to the whole ocean and all the deep time movement of it everywhere all at once. Deep time. Big time.
So, did it change me to find this out? Yes and no. It hasn’t changed my plans. It must be true that I’ve been in touch with some deep time part of me that hoped and believed my writing was moving in a good direction and this was a kind of confirmation that was welcomed. I’ll keep at it and keep seeking confirmations. They lead to growth. I’m the kind of writer that cares about writing. Revising. Getting a good story but writing it in such a way that the reader participates in the discovery. I’d rather keep trying for that and be surprised and happy when I reach it, than write to a formula or a particular audience that isn’t interested in the language but more about the plot. I hope I find my tribe one day. But I’m still journeying.