Change or failure? A pep talk to myself

Thoughts & Ramblings

Changing direction can feel like failure. You know, we’re taught to stick to things and not give up, to persist, to be consistent. Giving up is like admitting that the challenge has beaten you; that you’re not made of strong enough stuff.

So if I change my mind – if I stop persisting and give up to try something else – does that mean I’m not made of strong enough stuff? Is it the same as giving up?

This reaction emerged when I sat down to write this blog post. Goodness knows how many times I’ve blogged about changes. Why can’t I just stick something out?

I’ve realised that the sweet spot between my skills and my passions is creative non-fiction (including, perhaps, working with other authors as a publisher). This is quite a move from children’s fantasy fiction, and involves a change of audience as well.

So is this just me following a shiny new idea because fiction has ‘beaten’ me? Is this just giving up in a blue mushroom disguise?

I hope not.

I only started writing about five years ago. I hadn’t written a word of fiction before that since intermediate school, so I pretty much dived in head first, and everything I’ve published has been in that five year window.

So how on earth could I have expected to know what I wanted from the start? I couldn’t. Of course there were going to be changes! I was writing stories that were personal and creative, playing with zines, testing collaborations – in a word, experimenting.

And what’s the whole point of an experiment? That you don’t know what the outcome will be. It might be to find out if something is true, or to discover something new. After five years of experimenting, I am closer to something that will work for me.

Of course, the experimenting isn’t going to stop. It’s a bit like editing. First, you check the story as a whole – does it make sense? Is it exciting and engaging? Then you get into finer and finer details. At the moment, I’m refining rather than all-out experimenting.

This isn’t me throwing in the towel. It’s evaluating the outcomes of my experiments to create a business that is fulfilling, rewarding, within my skill set (but still challenging), and revolves around something I am incredibly passionate about: the beauty and wonder of our natural world.

And it’s not to say I won’t ever publish fiction again. I have The Train To Nowhere still in the works, and I’m sure there’ll be some more chapter books in my future, too – you can’t get rid of me that easily!

I am not going to see myself as a failure because I am open to change. In the words of Walt Disney: “Progress is impossible without change.” I am a work in progress, and I am proud of my work.

Go forth & experiment.

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.

Keep doing what’s honest to you

Ranting & Rambling

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of watching the news in the morning, and the other day there was an interview with Bic Runga (you can watch the interview here). She had been nominated for the Silver Scroll, alongside four other women songwriters, and Bic was asked about her twenty year career. How did she stay relevant? How did she keep coming up with new ideas?

I loved how down to earth she was, but what I found inspiring and motivational is how she described her approach to song writing. She says, “I guess you have to keep doing what’s honest to you; that’s all you can do.”

When I first started writing (so for The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story) I had three rules that I had to meet before I was ready to publish. One of them was that the story had to be true to me. I think I lost that a little with Beyond the End of the World, which is perhaps why I’m not as proud of that story as I am of my others, but I’m regaining that now.

Now, I’m focusing very much on what’s true to me; what’s honest to me. In Bic’s words, that’s all I can do, but I think that’s also what I should do. Because what’s the point otherwise?f

It has been refreshing this year to start cutting out voices that are telling me what to do, telling me how to be a success, and telling me that there’s a right and a wrong way to do this whole indie thing. And the more I follow my own nose, the more I am rewarded.

Which is all to say that there’s more than one way to make a buck as an indie, and more than one way to carve a niche. Perhaps my niche is something that doesn’t really exist anywhere else – I mean who else publishes colouring books, anthologies, collaborative non-fiction, AND children’s books?? – but I can chisel away at it until it becomes something special.

What is Independent Publishing anyway?

A to Z Challenge, Behind the Scenes

For the April A-Z blogging challenge, I’ll be blogging about my latest release, The Caretaker of Imagination.

I hadn’t intended on being independently published, and I’m so glad I’ve chosen this path, but what is independent publishing?

Customarily, and author will write, edit, and rewrite a manuscript, send it into an agent or a publisher, and wait for one of them to believe the manuscript is saleable in the book market.

Once a publisher accepts a manuscript, they then have their own editor look through it, the author makes some changes, and then it’s back to the publisher who prints and distributes the book. The author and the publisher both promote and advertise the book. This is how I’d intended to publish my work.

As an indie author, it basically means that I am my own publisher – not only do I need to write, edit and re-write the book, I also have to get it printed, distribute it, and market it myself. That’s a lot of responsibility!

The pressure is worth it, though. You may have heard the adage, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Well, it works the other way around, too. I have a lot of responsibility, but I have the power – or control – to make decisions the way I want them.

Publishing independently meant I could choose my illustrator (Jane Thorne) who’s also a really good friend of mine. It’s meant that I only made changes to the story that I wanted to make, and that we could put out a Limited Edition run with Jane’s favourite illustration on the cover.

It means a lot of hard work to get my book in the hands of eager young readers, and I’ve had to learn to do stuff that I’d never dreamed of having to do – marketing, taxes and web skills. It’s been a brilliant journey so far and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next!

 

If you’re interested in The Caretaker of Imagination, you can purchase it from one of the links below:

PRINT BOOK

AMAZON

KOBO