Ramble On Book Launch

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Thank you again to everyone who played a part in the launch! It was by all accounts a wonderful afternoon (you can read Mayur’s account here) and there were many wholesome conversations about walking, mental health, and the importance of connecting with the outdoors.

The librarians were amazing. They made trees, stole borrowed pot plants, set up and packed down, made tea and coffee, and generally put a whole lot of energy and effort into the day. I look forward to working with them again!

Contributors to the book Mayur Wadhwani, Grace Penlain, and Anya Forest all spoke, reading some of their contribution, and we were treated to an awesome stop-motion video (below) by Theo Foyster.

 

Shout out to the goody bag sponsors: Auckland Transport, New Zealand Walking Magazine, Blants, and PhysioLogic; and to the spot prize sponsors: Louise de Varga, Keitha Smith, J. C. Hart, Erena Waho Thompson; and to the event sponsors: U Go Aloe, The Magic Brush, and Auckland Council. Thanks for making the day fantastic!

It’s okay to not be happy with your work

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When I was finishing off the formatting for Ramble On over the last few weeks, it was taking longer than anticipated to get it done. On top of genuine tech issues, I was procrastinating like crazy and I could feel a knot in my chest just at the thought of getting it done. Something was holding me back. I tried talking to my partner about it (he’s pretty good with the pep talks) and he said as long as I was 95% happy with it, then it’s okay for it not to be perfect.

I couldn’t even say that I was 90% happy with it. The final outcome was not how I had envisioned it at the start so I was grappling with this on top of general wonderings of ‘is it good enough?’ He told me not to worry about it so much – the important thing was that I was actually doing it.

At Tauranga Zinefest I was chatting with the artist next to me, who had recently illustrated a children’s picture book. As our conversation continued, I asked her if she was mostly happy with her work. She didn’t say anything but her face said no. ‘90% happy?’ I asked.

Nope! In my opinion, her illustrations were fantastic. They gave a great vibrancy to the story, reflected the tone of the words, and had a distinctive style. Her opinion of her own work told me that maybe it’s okay for me to not be super happy with my work, either.

Maybe the important thing here is taking that original vision and striving towards it, rather than having something that is perfect. Maybe it’s about actually doing something about the vision, rather than just thinking or talking about it.

I may never be 99% happy with my work – but I’ll do my best to get as close as possible, and be proud of my efforts.

And now, I best get back to writing.

Linkies:

On bookselling: you get back what you give

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I’ve been selling at events for a while now. The first was The Caretaker of Imagination book launch, then craft markets, and finally bigger events like New Zealand’s annual zinefests and the NZ Book Festival. Not being a salesperson at heart, I’ve learnt a lot.

Last year, the NZ Book Festival almost didn’t happen. It was only in it’s third year, though, so we pulled a team together and gave it a good shot.

On the day I made conversation with customers, shared my story about how I got into writing, and repeated my ‘elevator pitch’ for books people were interested in dozens of times throughout the day (with plenty of help from my niece – thanks, Angie!). My setup wasn’t great and I was feeling a bit flustered but I made my stall fee back, as well as a small profit on top of that. Besides sales, I launched the second annual NZ Young Writers Anthology, met some wonderful people, and got to catch up with a bunch of my author friends.

It surprised me then how many people complained about their lack of sales afterwards. An author friend, Kirsten McKenzie, wrote this brilliant post about the do’s and don’t’s of selling. Read it. While I certainly didn’t have the upbringing that Kirsten did, I’ve learnt what she’s learnt: engage with your customers, don’t sit down, smile, have a tablecloth, a table full of books, and don’t play on your cellphone the whole time.

At most events I’ve been to, I’ve done well. However, at Tauranga Zinefest last weekend I broke most of my rules. The problem was that all week, and the previous evening, I’d been working on two new stories. I was still in creative mode, and I just wasn’t in the mood to sell or engage with people. And guess what? It showed. The organisers of the zinefest did an amazing job, but because I didn’t bring my A-game to the event, I didn’t do nearly as well as I usually would.

It reminded me how important it is to bring myself fully to every event I attend. No matter what mood I’m in, I need to be there for the customer and engage with them, and make sure that my stock levels and signage are what they need to be. I’m going to take this lesson forward for the rest of my events – onwards and upwards x

On over sharing

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Sometimes I’m aware that I say a lot more than many people would about the stuff that I’m struggling with, as well as what I’m celebrating. I do this quite consciously and for good reasons.

On an old blog, I wrote a post about only seeing people’s ‘highlight reel’ – whether online or off. It was after a conversation with a couple of writer friends. One commented on how productive and confident I was, and how well I was doing, when they were riddled with self doubt. It was the concept that we only see the highlights of a person’s life – we don’t get to see behind the scenes.

Um, excuse me? I was full of self doubt, and there were a plenty of days where I achieved nowhere near what I wanted to achieve. If it wasn’t for my partner, and my then-new writer friends Amanda Staley and J. C. Hart with their encouragement and words of wisdom, I’d have given up. From then, I decided that I was going to share more behind-the-scenes stuff. I still think this is important – I don’t want to be seen as this person who just does things and achieves them with no problem in the world. That’s not a way to inspire people – it’s just a way to make themselves feel crappy in comparison. Last week after a school visit I got an email from the teacher affirming this:

“It is wonderful for the children to see real people talking about this and it will help them understand that it is not something ‘weird’ about them if they experience any of that – it is ok to ask for help and admit life is not always peachy and easy. Thank you so much for your openness and for providing a good platform to start a discussion.”

So reason no. 1 is just about being a real person, because real people can be real role models.

The other is about mental health. I hid it for most of my life – hid it pretty well, too – and was diagnosed a few years ago. The official diagnosis meant lots of things, one of them being I could talk about it without the perceived need to convince people it was real. Many people are still surprised though. I know I’m seen as a young, pretty, privileged, and capable woman – not the kind of person that people picture when they think of mental health problems. It’s important to me to help break that stereotype and stigma: having depression is not a weakness, and it doesn’t mean I can’t function in life. It just means I need to look after myself while giving to others. I also believe there is a positive side to depression, and anxiety, but we only focus on the negative.

So reason no. 2 is about breaking mental health stigmas, and showing that it is not a sign of weakness.

And what about celebrating achievements? Well, I am actually proud of what I do! I’m also excited when I manage to achieve something I never thought I could do, or touch someone in a way that inspires them to go on and try something new, or feel better about themselves, or just feel a little bit better about themselves. I want the world to be a happy place, and I want to hold my place in that happy world. I’m going to keep celebrating my wins because they excite me and I worked for them! I also want to see more people celebrating their successes. While there’s definitely an up-side to Tall Poppy Syndrome (I do believe we’re all of equal value), one of the drawbacks is that we tend to downplay our achievements. I want to celebrate my win of publishing a book, even though billions of people have done it before me; I want to celebrate my two sales on Etsy even though that’s a bad week for other people. It doesn’t matter how small my win is in comparison to others – it matters that it’s a win for me. And I want to help you celebrate your wins. We’ll be in a much happier world when we can recognise and celebrate our achievements without shame.

So reason no. 3 is about recognising and being proud of my work – and encouraging that in other people.

I feel sometimes like my honest, open sharing is seen in a negative light (attention-seeking or complaining about a privileged life), but I also feel that it helps more people than it annoys, and that is far more important to me. It also just feels like it’s a more real version of me on the internet, and I’m all for being real ❤

P.S. Featured image is me as a kid, because that’s about as real as it gets. Also cuteness.