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Posts tagged ‘Radio’

Writing is…

I was watching Matt Haig on the television this morning and was impressed by his openness and how much good sense he spoke. I also wondered how on earth he’s managed to write so much and so well, considering his struggles with depression. The popular stereotypes of the writer seem to be either a rich dilettante declaiming aloud whilst a nervous and wispy secretary follows them around taking down every precious word or, more commonly, a tortured genius wrestling with self doubt, drinking heavily and somehow wresting great works from the edge of the abyss. Of course, it’s much more mundane than that. Writing is long hours sitting alone, sometimes with ideas bubbling away excitedly but more often inching towards a daily, then weekly target. It is flirting with repetitive strain injury and running up and down the stairs to see exactly what the damn dogs are barking at. And then losing the perfect phrase you had in your head – for ever.
Writing is a lot of hope, even more waiting and an ocean of disappointment. It is knowing you’ve written something good but no-one will so much as glance at it. It’s a lot of standing around with a fixed smile hoping someone will come to the table and look at your book. There are radio talks that seem to pass unheeded and readings fraught with terror in case no-one comes. Writing, my friend, is not for the faint-hearted.
So why do we do it? Well, there is the thrill of seeing your name on a book – a real, honest-to-goodness commercially published book. There are the people who email or (occasionally) stop you in the street and comment favourably on what you’ve written. And there are the moments where after hours of work suddenly the whole thing comes together in a single seamless whole – plot, story, character and setting combined to tell a tale.
But there are a lot of setbacks in writing. A whole lot of nos. I’ve had a rough few months. A whole heap of confusion, the problems everyone gets whether they’re a writer or not. Things I was hoping for didn’t turn out as I expected. One or two were big disappointments. Sometimes it feels very hard, getting up only to be knocked down again but – well, if I didn’t do this I don’t know what I’d do. Perhaps it’s the same with Matt Haig. Perhaps that’s what keeps all writers scribbling away against the odds.
We’ve got nowhere else to go.

Writing – and Being a Writer.

The more I do this – job? thing? – the more I realize I had no idea what I was doing when I first sat down to write “Death of the Elver Man” in 2010. I had just completed my MA at Teesside University and was inspired and excited by the experience. Above all I wanted to write. Anything – stories, novels, an opera, screenplays… Not poetry though. No, definitely not that. To be quite honest you would probably have to taser me to get me to write poetry. And only an audience tasered into unconsciousness could possibly bear to listen to it.
Everything else had me smiling over my keyboard and I started off along the path, writing, searching for a publisher, entering competitions – and so began the slippery slope.
I did not know then what I am beginning to understand now. There is writing, the glorious moments of inspiration (rare), the happy sigh at another page in place (more common) and the astonishment at a whole, completed book (three so far and counting). And then there is being a writer. The latter is necessary as soon as a book is published, especially if you want to garner more readers than your immediate family. There are readings from the book to arrange, signings at local bookshops and perhaps the occasional interview with a local paper. A Twitter account needs constant (or at least regular) feeding along with a web page, especially if it has a blog. Yes, dear reader, this is me being a writer. Even if I am actually, physically writing.
Sometimes you might get lucky and a radio station offers you an interview or even a regular programme. (Thank you Southside Broadcasting and BBC Tees). This is great fun as well as good publicity but it all takes time – time away from writing. And all this without even considering things like arranging publicity material such as bookmarks, responding to queries and emails and preparing accounts for the end of year tax return. Sometimes I’m amazed I ever manage to write anything at all.
Well, over the last six weeks I’ve done two radio broadcasts, three book signings and a talk to a local group. I’m preparing material for a literary festival in Montserrat, am reading submissions for this year’s Impress Prize and have another radio broadcast on Friday. It is all rather interesting and wonderful but when it dies down a bit I’ll be so happy to sit down at my desk, get out my notebooks and start on the next novel. Because what I always wanted to do was write and I am very, very lucky I can do just that.

Attention-seeking Authors

Writing a book is one thing. Getting it noticed is quite another, and that is what makes up a good percentage of a writer’s work between novels.
There are a lot of ways to attract attention, some good and some not so good. An example of the latter is flooding the Twitter feed with messages, all saying “Buy my book!” Surprisingly this strategy has the reverse effect and is a sure way to get yourself ‘un-followed’ on a large scale. A few messages passing on news of the book, signings and so on, preferably mixed in with a lot of other stuff, is much more effective and can actually lead to some nice on-line friendships so I would recommend this approach.
It is, of course, very slow in building a following but, hey – unless you are one in a million lucky it is unlikely you’ll have much of a following as a writer until at least the third book Patience is the key here. It is so easy to get despondent and I wonder sometimes how many writers, good writers with real potential, give up as their books sink below the wash of pulp and self-published misery-lit, unread and unremarked. Local bookshops can be a life-line here. Every book can go on Amazon, of course. That’s part of the problem. How can you attract any attention in such a crowd? But a local bookshop can offer a showcase – perhaps a signing or even a reading. Sometimes they put the book in the window. That’s an exciting moment, believe me.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to speak on local radio take the time to prepare, have a couple of anecdotes ready and be sure to thank everyone who has helped you get this far. Barely 1% of writers are commercially published so just making the cut is a big deal – and none of us make it alone. Oh yes, and let people know when and where they can hear you. In my case, 2pm – 3pm on BBC Radio Tees, Wednesday 8th October (and for a week after on i-player). There, I hope you will all tune in and enjoy my choice of music and listen to us chat about life, writing and the universe in general.
There are also bad ways an author can get attention. In my case I have been setting off the security alarms in my local supermarket for the last few days. No, I’m not shoplifting. This has happened on the way in. I’ve emptied my pockets, left my bank card home, even taken off my watch but to no avail. As I go through the door all heads swivel in my direction and I curse the fact I am wearing one of my “Jennie Finch – The Moth Man” publicity T-shirts. Well, last night I had a good hunt through everything I was wearing and uncovered the culprit, a security tag in my jeans left there by the shop assistant in France. It is with some relief I can go out shopping again in relative anonymity.
Still, on the plus side, Amazon report a sharp rise in book sales and Kindles so I guess it is true to say any publicity is good publicity.

Radio Gaga

I’ve always been a fan of radio. I remember buying my first transistor (cast your minds back – or ask your older relatives) and glorying in the freedom to listen to what I wanted, when I wanted. This was at the time of the pirate radio stations and, living as I did on the east coast, I would sneak the radio into my room at night, listening through a tiny earpiece as the signal crackled and faded under the attempts by the authorities to jam transmissions.

It has also had its disappointments. My excitement when the first Open University course I took announced seven special “radiovision” programmes was only matched by my disappointment when a cassette tape and two dozen colour postcards arrived in the post. To be fair, the programmes were excellent and I still have the cards, small colour prints of new and unusual works of art. Still, it didn’t quite live up to the science fiction fantasy in my head.

Of course, it is all different now and the role of radio seems to be ready for another change. Whilst for many it is just background noise at work, for some it is fast becoming a way to communicate ideas and knowledge to a wider audience. Many of us get our morning news from the radio – so much more informative than the television, more detailed and with a wider range of topics. Whilst music radio is increasingly redundant – why listen to someone else’s choice of music when you can live stream your own from a service such as Spotify? – talk radio opens up the world with new voices and different lives. I firmly believe this is the future for radio. Yes, some music interspersed is great and radio can offer a chance to hear new and different music too. Whether national, local or community station, it is through the voices of other people that radio offers something unique. Something the world really needs right now. All we have to do is stop and really listen for a moment.