Guest post by William Wood
When my anthology Stories for Sale was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2013 I little suspected the changes to come: changes in my own life and in our geopolitical lives. We now live in a different world.
Let me start even further back. When Philippe Delerm published his bestseller La Première Gorgée de Bière et Autres Plaisirs Minuscules (The first mouthful of beer and other small pleasures) I was inspired to write my own book of small pleasures. This was published by Sunpenny Press in 2011 and I revised it under the title 100 Small Pleasures in 2017. This was before the Danish claimed hygge which resulted in the cult of mindfulness in Britain. I felt resentful and envious because Delerm and I had pre-dated the craze and besides, having lived five years in Norway I knew that Norway had originated hygge or kos, related to our word cosy.
That’s as maybe. As luck would have it, another of my books, Trying to Care, an account of my four years spent living with and looking after my nonagenarian parents who each had a different form of dementia. The book is not without humour and a growing self awareness. Again it was ahead of its time. Social welfare and concern for the elderly has become trendier recently.
A third book that also appeared at the same time was my novel Bribes d’une Identité Perdue (Traces of a lost identity). I love languages and European culture and I was so dismayed by the Brexit vote that, European as I thought I was, I resolved never to write in English again. To my surprise a French publisher accepted this novel. I have not translated it into English.
In 2018, then, I had three new books to launch and publicise. At the best of times I am useless at self promotion. I am no salesman, no performer. However I thought I had better make an effort.
But suddenly something happened worse than the national suicide by Brexit. My wife was diagnosed with cancer. We had just moved from crowded East Sussex to rural Cumbria to make a fresh start. What we saw of it for the next eighteen months was mainly the inside of hospitals. Anna died despite the added misery of chemotherapy and I had forgotten about my books.
Then of course Covid 19 struck and the first lockdown. I took up writing again and to lighten the mood published an anthology of comic verse Oh No! I did this in collaboration with Green Arrow Publishing ordering just 50 copies to cheer up my family and friends. Ironically it was a great success. I had requests for multiple copies to give as gifts and even orders from bookshops. It sold out quickly with no effort on my part.
My next project was to gather more of my short stories. Not as well edited as Stories for Sale where I had the invaluable advice of Kay Green. I published them myself on Kindle. I think the stories are all right but I feel ashamed of sinking to vanity publishing. I did the same for Four Novellas and felt worse. My vocation is to write. It is natural to want to share what we have written but almost pathological when we are driven to self publish.
The advantage of bona fide publishers, as I have hinted above, is that you open a dialogue with an editor. Our work needs this kind of scrutiny. Sadly several of those I have worked with, Babash Ryan, Sunpenny etc have disappeared and their books are out of print. I continue to write, but I no longer have the desire or the energy for the moment at least to chase up publishers and sales. I just exchange the odd manuscript with like-minded friends. At least they will not say, “Awesome William” as some did in the days before I abandoned Facebook.
Or if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to have your copy delivered to your door, post free.