On November 25, I was honoured by feminist theatre company Scary Little Girls with a reading of one of my stories as part of the online launch event for greenhamwomen.digital (read more about this amazing project in my previous post).
"Liberty Dock" is a piece of short fiction about a woman at a turning point in her life and wondering what to do with her newfound freedom. When I write fiction, I try to say something about the human condition and encourage readers to reflect on their own situation and attitudes. I'm sure the themes of loneliness and grief will resonate with many readers/listeners, and I hope the ending is uplifting to anyone dealing with these emotions.
I encourage you to watch the whole show, but if you're short on time, my story starts at around the 13-minute mark. Enjoy!
While Books with Spine usually focuses on the printed word, I’m not oblivious to the power of digital storytelling. Interactive environments offer us the opportunity to take control of a nonlinear narrative and experience stories in a completely different way, with music and visuals complementing the written and spoken word. When the content shares the lived experience of pioneering activists and feminists during the early era of British environmentalism – BOOM – we’ve got something that totally fits the brief of Books with Spine by the name of Greenham Women Digital. My understanding is that there is also a book to be published sometime in 2021, so watch this space.
GreenhamWomen.Digital is an online interactive exhibition which launched on November 25th to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The original plan was to create a touring exhibition until 2020 threw its corona-shaped spanner in the works. But for once, the virus did culture a favour because now we have something that will be available for environmental and peace activists and feminists the world over, in perpetuity. Cheers, Rona!
What’s the Story?
The project is a ground-breaking, interactive online exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which sprung up at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire in September 1981. The first occupiers were a Welsh group called Women for Life on Earth, and their mission was to protest the storage of cruise missiles at the base. The camp grew over the years, augmented by many other women’s groups and individuals campaigning against nuclear weapons. Amazingly, the camp was not disbanded until the year 2000!
“Our aim is to give people a flavour and feel of what life was really like at the peace camp,” explains Rebecca Mordan of Scary Little Girls, the production hub responsible for coordinating this ambitious project.
The website was developed by mixed-reality specialist Animorph. Explaining the cooperative’s involvement, Producer Geoffrey Morgan explains: “Together we set out to push what an archival website can be and do. We wanted to create a multi-modal experience.”
The resulting site contains a huge amount of music, artwork, interviews, and dramatisations, reflecting the diversity of those who were part of Greenham.
Rebecca Mordan explains: “Like any organic movement, there were different ideologies, interests and personalities. As a result, like-minded women gravitated towards each other and shared spaces in different camps at gates situated all around the site.
“Visitors to the exhibition will be able to explore the different vibes and activities at each of the gates (violet, indigo, turquoise, emerald, green, blue and yellow), finding interactive multimedia at each.”
Designed almost like a treasure hunt, visitors are encouraged to explore widely while collecting songs, stories, and first-hand accounts hidden in the 2D and 3D landscapes. By clicking on an object or scene, visitors can share everyday camp life: the protests, actions, love and loss during this pivotal period in British history.
But don’t expect a sanitised or singular view of events. Part of the joy of this experience lies in the fact that it is based on interviews with more than 100 women whose lives were deeply affected by their time at Greenham. Like witnesses to almost all dramatic events, their accounts vary. It is their unique and sometimes conflicting memories and perspectives that create such a rich tapestry.
Explore the Greenham Peace Camp today!
When you're writing for fun or catharsis, self-editing will often take your writing as far as it needs to go. But if you're a writer with an eye on publishing, working with a professional copy editor can improve your publishing prospects, providing you are fully open to the process. Working with a professional editor (either one you hire or one assigned to you by the publisher) can be a stressful situation for many writers who are accustomed to flying solo, but with the right mindset, you'll enjoy a rewarding collaboration. Here are five ways to enter the process.
Mindset 1: It's as good as I can make it ... but it ain't perfect.
You'd be surprised how often I see manuscripts that have "author fatigue" written all over them, and it's clear the author has said, "Oh, that'll do." Only seek an editor when you have self-edited the heck out of your manuscript and are satisfied that you can take it no further. Copy editors love to work with manuscripts they can take from good to great, rather than manuscripts they can turn from okay to good (or from bad to readable!). However, don't hand it over with the assumption it's flawless ... because you WILL get a shock when the edited manuscript is returned. Expect there to be edits a plenty, and remember that even Hemingway needed an editor.
Mindset 2: It's great to collaborate!
As a writer, the page is your stage ... but even a one-woman show needs a crew! Think of your editor as the guy/gal in the lighting booth who's there to ensure you're looking your best. It is not in your editor's interest to steal the limelight or make you look bad, so enjoy the rare moment of creative partnership. Keep in mind that every editor is as unique as every writer, but hopefully your styles complement each other. If you continue to collaborate, the symbiosis will become stronger and the editing process will become easier.
Mindset 3: It's not about me.
The copy editor’s only objective is to make the reading of your manuscript as easy and pleasurable as possible. As tough as it seems (especially if you're paying), the editor's first loyalty is to the reader, not you! Edits are not criticisms, so try not take it personally.
Mindset 4: Every edit is a learning opportunity.
You are always free to disagree with the editor and reject any edit, but it’s often beneficial to understand the editor’s choices or recommendations. You will also learn a lot by studying the grammar, punctuation, and usage edits, which will improve your writing craft going forward.
Mindset 5: Professional editing is an investment.
Unless it's offered as part of a publishing agreement, professional editing will cost you hard-earned cash. That reality is especially harsh because writers themselves so rarely see financial rewards for their efforts. But if you feel you must hire an editor, think of the expenditure as an investment in your development as a writer, not only in terms of craft skills but also in terms of experience with professional editing, which agents and publishers appreciate. A professional edit is also an investment in your book, increasing its chances of being picked up by an agent/publisher or a reader. Hopefully, with great editing, you will see a return on your investment down the line!
Whether you self-publish or are fortunate to get a traditional publishing deal, the chances are you will have to do a lot of your own book promo. This can be highly time-consuming and frustrating ... especially if you go at it half cocked, so to speak. But where do you begin?
I asked marketing/PR expert (and agented writer) Anna Caig for a few choice words of advice for promoting your book based on her experience as a trainer/coach of writers who want to build their brand and reach more readers. (To find out more, or to work with Anna Caig, go to https://www.annacaigcomms.co.uk). Here is what she shared.
1. Be clear on your author brand
Does thinking of yourself as a brand have you cringing or running for the hills? If so, you’re certainly not alone. But this is about pinning down what makes you stand out, and it’s often one of the most enjoyable parts of the work I do with authors. Looking at where the inspiration and motivation behind your writing comes from is a good place to start thinking about how to differentiate yourself from all the other authors out there.
2. Use your storytelling skills in your marketing
It’s amazing how many awesome storytellers revert to flat, linear descriptions when they’re talking about themselves and their work in bios, on their website, or anywhere they’ve got limited space to tell potential readers what they’re all about. But by using the same skills you use in your writing to describe your books and yourself as an author, you’ll be off to a flying start.
3. Also think about what you *don’t* want to share
Your author brand is a version of you that you’re comfortable sharing with the public … it is not all of you, warts and all. For example, many people get inspiration for their writing from painful personal events. Sometimes you’ll be happy to talk about these explicitly, but sometimes you won’t, and that’s fine. It is important to establish this ahead of embarking on marketing a book.
4. Before any marketing activity, set yourself some objectives
Is it all about sales? Do you want to build your mailing list? Are you setting up a community of readers in a Facebook group? Spending a little time thinking about what exactly you want to achieve with your marketing activity is an important first step in putting together a strategy and will ensure everything you do contributes to a specific outcome.
5. Write a strategy
Snore, right? A strategy’s a dry old document that sits on a shelf and never gets used? Well, nope. A marketing strategy means you know what you want to achieve, who exactly you’re targeting and how you’re going to reach them, and what you’re going to say. Not only does spending a little time on a strategy save *a lot* of time in the long run, it also ensures your marketing is coherent.
6. Be creative when it comes to reaching potential readers
Most spaces, digital or in-person, dedicated to book promotion are crowded and competitive. I always encourage writers to think outside the box when it comes to reaching readers. Put in the simplest terms, if you’ve written a book about trains, don’t just target people who love books, target people who love trains. Think about where you can find this audience and use the channels that will reach them there.
7. Digital and social media are just channels
I hear a lot of ‘you should be doing x, y or z’ when it comes to book promotion, and never more so than with digital and social media. But the truth is, these are just channels to reach audiences. There’s no should about it, unless they will help you talk to people who are likely to love your books. And you’re much better off using two or three channels well than spreading yourself thinly across loads because you think you should be there.
8. The rule of thirds
No more than a third of the content you share with your audiences should be explicitly promoting and selling your books. Another third is all about engaging content which doesn’t overtly sell: this is where you can give audiences a glimpse behind the curtain, share interesting information relating to your research, writing process, or just elements of your life that form part of, or complement, your author brand. The final third is where you respond to others, have conversations and comment on what other people are doing, building your relationships and communities.
9. Give video a chance
There’s no point forcing yourself to create content you really don’t enjoy, but I’ve lost count of the number of writers I’ve worked with who are reluctant to give video a go and then end up loving it. There is a lot of evidence that video is more effective than text or images in engaging audiences, and there are many different ways to try it, from a more polished, edited video to a quick Facebook or Instagram live. Try some different things out and try not to worry about ‘getting it wrong’ (whatever that means!) You don’t need to be too polished or perfect. The most engaging content often includes flaws, or even mistakes. It can be scary to put yourself ‘out there’ and be vulnerable, but you may be pleasantly surprised by how your audience responds to content which contains faults. Look at the engagement on a serious Facebook post, versus the outtakes and bloopers post from ‘behind the scenes’ (from those who are brave enough to share these) and the latter will almost invariably reach more people and elicit a more positive response.
10. Have fun
Yes, book promotion is a serious business that will find readers for your work and persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it. It’s important to bear in mind that content you enjoy creating is likely to be more effective because the energy and enthusiasm will come across to your audience. So, enjoy yourself!
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith