The publishing world is dizzyingly unpredictable. We lament plummeting print book sales and tremble at the rise of the e-reader, and then the UK’s largest book retailer removes Kindles from its shelves. What strategies should writers wield to navigate the rapidly changing literary landscape?
The 2015 UWRF features a hefty handful of sessions and workshops that deconstruct and reimagine the writers’ craft. Have Pen, Will Write on Friday 30 October will explore the reality of being a working writer, while On a Deadline discusses how best to maximise your productivity when the dreaded deadline looms.
For a glimpse at the indispensable advice and shrewd know-how in store for the 31 October Making It session – where emerging writers will reveal which strategies they employ to get their work on the radar of readers, agents and publishers – two participants, Sam Cooney and Antonia Hayes, have shared a few pearls.
“When you find yourself resting in the warm glow of praise, absorb it for a couple of seconds and then get back to work,” says Sam Cooney of The Lifted Brow, a quarterly print magazine from Australia and the world, publishing literature, visual art, and things in-between.
For Sam, it is essential writers, “understand that there are no shortcuts. Excellent work produced regularly over a lengthy period of time: this is the equation for success (whatever ‘success’ means to you). You can’t trick editors and publishers – and you sure can’t trick readers – into believing you are talented and industrious and serious about writing unless you put your head down and do the work. Sure, a single piece of work can garner you some attention, but it’s superb piece after superb piece that people respect.”
What writing lifts Sam’s brow to the sharpest angle? “Writing that is new, that makes me uncomfortable, that causes my feelings to squirm and/or my brain cells to shift and re-firm into new shapes. Newness in a piece of writing can be a new voice, a new story, a new angle on an old story – something that hasn’t been said before. Some people turn to reading for comfort, but I read to jag myself out of whatever straight line I’d been walking. (Note: sometimes this writing comes in forms that are not just text: in comics, in video, in interactive writing, in social media posts.)”
Antonia Hayes is an Australian writer living in San Francisco whose debut novel Relativity was published in June this year, but not for a second did she breathe a sigh of relief and relax when it hit bookstore shelves. Amongst other engagements, Antonia travelled for 24 days across four cities, appeared at three festivals and eight other literary events, took ten flights and appeared at dozens of bookstores on her Australian book tour alone. Phoar!
Says Antonia, “It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a book’s release – plus it can be really hard to think of your own work as a product – so once you can compartmentalise the writing from the publicity, it’s much easier to manage all that promoting inside your own head (although I still get extremely nervous before I ever need to go on stage or do an interview!).”
With all those festival appearances we’re sure she’ll be an old hat by the time she graces the UWRF stage. For Antonia, the real work of being a writer is “juggling the variety of kinds of work! I feel much more comfortable with the invisible parts of being a writer: researching, reading, editing, and of course writing itself. The visible parts – events, festivals, media – are still part of the job, though.”
Want to find out more about making it as a writer? Explore the Main Program here. Sam will also be appearing in sessions on ghostwriting, social media narcissism, and in conversation with Nam Le; and you can see Antonia in finding creativity in the everyday, and writing a child’s mind. Buy tickets here.