jjsheahan.com
Welcome to the web site of JJ Sheahan
December 19, 2014

Two friends from my days of the classroom have created TasRes Art and Technology which, in their words:

offers a unique residential retreat on Tasmania’s beautiful North West coast for artists, writers, journalists, art curators, researchers, digital film makers, photographers, textile artists, dancers and educators who want to improve their digital design skills to promote their own work and learn how to incorporate cutting-edge digital technology into their art. (http://tasres.com)

 They invited me to talk at their first weekend residency in Stanley. I was to be the self-published writer exhibit, dispensing wisdom from my hard-won experience, or something of that ilk. So long as they didn’t mind there being more experience than wisdom, I was game.

That was two months ago. There was still the caveat, ‘if we get the numbers’. They got the numbers. I didn’t start to get nervous until this afternoon, but nervous I was. Thankfully, the final hours of the First Test against India in Adelaide kept my mind off my own butterflies.

Stanley is a special place, a great situation for a weekend like this. As writers, they were a diverse group. I was relieved that the topic was my experience of self-publishing, not writing historical fiction. Time evaporated and we were soon off to dinner where the conversations continued.

What I did not get to say …

  1. Rejection is a bit of badge of honour among writers, and artists generally. There is a saying that you can’t count yourself a real writer until you’ve collected 29 rejection slips. In this day and age of not-so-mannered rejection, I reckon Enduring Silence counts for two slips.

  1. Find others you can trust to be honest without being brutal about the quality of your work. If that sounds like too much, find the readers in your circles of acquaintances who know enough to be able to tell you what effect a piece of writing has.
  1. Pay attention to what you say when someone asks what the book is about, and the impact your words have. This response is like any piece of communication: it can be improved with study and familiarity. People don’t really want to listen to a rambling answer of chronology and/or the major themes and/or how this work intersects with Tradition X in literature and/or where you drew your inspiration from. When someone asks you how you are going, they are not expecting a roll call of your current and recent ills. Hint that things might not be so well, and if they want to continue down that path, they will ask. Then you can lay on the detail if that is where you want to go. I found that my answers, which varied according to who asked the question, developed into a single, though long, sentence which hit the key elements of what the book was about. It is like a pitch.
  1. Prepare by crafting the promotional items: a pitch, author bio (short and longer versions), press releases. Craft them. They are the ambassadors of your writing. Consider what it is that you bring to writing that is special: what experiences, knowledge, understandings, etc.?
  1. Prepare to talk about yourself and your writing. When you publish something, you will assume an aura in eyes of some because you’ve written a book. Ignore the niggles or shouts of self-doubt: you have accomplished something that many people would love to do. No need to wallow in it, but be proud of your accomplishment.
  1. Be interested in others and interesting in yourself. It’s a trap to treat every contact and event as a chance for self-promotion. Every person, every encounter, every experience is an opportunity to learn.
  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  1. Even if your book is picked up by a mainstream publisher, you as the author will be expected to do a great deal of promotional work.

Thanks, Sue. Thanks, Julianne. And thanks to the participants. It was fun and I’m energized by the experience. Missing the end of the cricket was of small moment.

PS Australia won the test in what was probably a thrilling last hour or so.