A new direction: Focusing on Non-Fiction

Blue Mushroom Books, News, News & updates

I’m starting a new publishing company called Blue Mushroom Books. Everything is still a work in progress right now, but this is the story behind the move:

For love or money?

Some time ago, my writer friend and official encourager J. C. Hart put me in the direction of a book titled For Love or Money by Susan Kay Quinn. There seemed to a be a divide in the indie publishing space – either you wrote for the love of it (and made little or no money) or you wrote to trend, made lots of money, and were considered a sellout.

We all know that life is never that black and white, but Quinn’s book not only built a bridge between the two, it showed that really there was only one side to it. Quinn talked about an author’s ‘wheelhouse’, that is the strengths of an author; what is easy for them to do well. She said to take the skills in our wheelhouse and see what successful genre it may match (disclaimer: I read this aaaages ago, so I might not be 100% accurate, but this is the gist of it anyway).

From then to now

I’ve been thinking about my wheelhouse ever since. I’ve published a fairly wide range of books, and it’s been fun experimenting. Looking back, my mindset has shifted significantly. At first, I was in it to be a children’s author. I love reading children’s novels, so that’s what I wanted to write. I held children’s authors in high esteem. But I also tried wordless picture books, non fiction, zines, anthologies, and colouring books.

I loved writing those books, but I think I’ve got them ‘out of my system’, so to speak. Like, I’ve said what I needed to say. Now I’m just forcing myself to write more – and that’s not good for anyone. I enjoyed the colouring book art, but it wasn’t challenging enough to keep me interested long-term. The zines were also fun, and I intend to keep making them, but I only really played the publisher role so I wasn’t involved enough.

Crafternoon Tea, March 2017

My author wheelhouse

What I’ve realised is that my wheelhouse is semi-collaborative non-fiction. I just have so much fun with it! It’s fun discovering new things, it’s fun publishing other people’s work, it’s fun illustrating, it’s even fun formatting (except when it’s not, then it’s extremely frustrating).

I’m focusing on New Zealand. New Zealand is a fascinating place. We have a ridiculous number of native / endemic plants, animals, and fungi, and some places that are still largely untouched by humans. I’m learning about the weirdness of nature, and I get to share my fascination and excitement with other New Zealanders. I get to draw on the expertise of people who know more than me – people who may not otherwise be published – and describe the wonders that make New Zealand worth celebrating.

The extinct huia bird.

Blue Mushroom Books

I had a couple of options before this name was chosen. First was White Pine Press, inspired by the kahikatea (which interestingly, isn’t actually a pine) but that was taken. I then tried Pohutukawa Press, since the pohutukawa feels like a sign that I am home. That was taken, too. Recently, I’d heard about these blue mushrooms (entoloma hochstetteri) which are native to New Zealand, but also found in India (for those of you who don’t know, I am an Indian-born New Zealander). It seemed like a good fit.

And it wasn’t taken! I registered the domain straight away, and over the next week started building the logo and the book topics. I’d done Ramble On, and I will also be including I Am A Writer / I Am An Artist in the Blue Mushroom Books catalogue, as they are based in New Zealand.

Following on from these I’ll be writing about our plants, insects, fungi, sea and river creatures, slugs & snails, and a whole raft of other things. The leatherback turtle book will also be published with Blue Mushroom Books, as well as a picture book about our native carnivorous plant, drosera arcturii. I don’t know whether I’ll branch out to publishing other people’s work.

Obviously I’m only just starting out, but I’d appreciate if you could follow me on Instagram and Facebook where I’ll be posting interesting stuff about New Zealand’s natural world.

Taking ‘selfish’ out of my vocabulary

Thoughts & Ramblings

Last week, I had a long chat with a good friend of mine. She had picked up that I had been tired lately, and sat me down to talk about it. I think I ended up talking a lot more than she had planned, but I enjoyed our chat and we both felt good afterwards.

Among the advice she gave me was ‘take selfish out of your vocabulary’.

You see, sometimes when you’re doing something you really love doing, and you have the opportunity to keep on doing it, you can actually feel bad about it.

Writing and painting are things that I do, first and foremost, for me. My painting is a raw self-expression of who I am and how I’m feeling, and sometimes I feel it’s too raw. My paintings develop organically, and when I finish a painting, I often question whether I am opening up too much on the canvas. In the end, however, it is art true to myself.

My writing is a different kind of self-expression. It’s not so much my self that I put into words, but my ideas. There’s a reason why highschool English teachers ask about the ‘author’s message’: we’re fighting to make our voice heard; to teach, in a more subtle way than ramming our message down people’s throats.

The bottom line being: my work is selfish. Or at least, that’s how I see it sometimes. It’s all about myself, my ideas, and my desires. This is the thinking that leads me to question whether I ‘should’ be writing – or get a ‘real job’.

And that’s where my friend’s message comes in. Fellow writer JC Hart has had this chat with me before (so obviously it’s taking a while for the message to sink in lol). Doing what you love is NOT selfish. I’m a teacher at heart as much as I am a story teller (I’ve noticed that many people’s first comment when they see my artwork is: “There’s a story in that, isn’t there?). It sounds cheesy, but all I want is for people to be happy.

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I want to be a living example – for adults as much as children – that if you really enjoy doing something, if it fulfills you, then there’s no reason you can’t do it. You don’t have to have what’s customarily referred to as a ‘real job’, and I’m out there to prove it. I’d like to add that I’ve already seen results in this area, which is beautifully rewarding for me! (Although if a real job fulfills you, then by all means go ahead).

On the wall

In addition to all of that, my wise friend Deborah Moss (and artist! Deb painted the puzzle piece for me, titled ‘Stars Make Me Teary Eyed‘) reminds me that it’s not what you do, but who you are. We all know that if we are around vibrant, healthy and generous people – we simply feel better. If you’re doing something you love, and enjoying your life, the spirits of people around you are automagically lifted.

So I’m taking selfish out of my vocabulary. I’m using the gifts I’ve been given and the support people lend me to do the best that I can, and hopefully inspire some people along the way 🙂
Do you ever feel like you’re being selfish to follow your passions? What keeps you going?