Yours virtually...

The publishing industry and the lives of many writers have been derailed by the events of the past few weeks. The Covid-19 virus is changing the way we live and work. As someone who has been teaching online and and writing in seclusion, self-isolation feels familiar, but of course, our current situation is extreme and incredibly unsettling, impacting on our daily lives in unseen and unexpected ways. Like me, you may have found it difficult, or impossible, to work in the current climate of uncertainty. Writing and author events have been cancelled across the board. But admidst all this chaos and dark news, there do seem to be a few seeds of hope that have taken root and are showing signs of sprouting into something more positive: authors online.

I've been so impressed by the ways in which some writers have adapted their well-laid plans and taken to the internet in order to promote books, to teach workshops, to join forces and work in collaboration, to have conversations be it in writing groups, or book clubs, or with the reading public. Initiatives such as Writers Go Forth on Facebook are helping authors to promote their books.

If we focus on the rainbow instead of the rain, it could be said that this temporary glitch - if writers are able to embrace it - may even have its benefits, such as permanently broaden writers' spheres of influence. For me, it's been a blessing to be able to participate in some of the many online writing events, which I would never have been able to attend in person. Here are just a few:

The first was the virtual launch of Lauren Chater's new novel, ''Gulliver's Wife'.. Lauren was looked relaxed and comfortable. conversing online, and she responded to chat questions with great eloquence. Her research into 17th century midwifery for this novel sounded fascinating. Lauren's instincts for delving into history to showing 'Small lives can be extraordinary .... and women's stories and experiences are valuable' resonated strongly with me. The experience was heart-warming because I felt part of something bigger - the writing community. Needless to say, I went straight out to buy her book (well, actually I ordered it from my local independent bookshop, Farrells In Mornington and a friend delivered it). I look forward to reviewing it in next quarter's edition of Lou's News.

The next virtual book launch I attended was the launch of debut novel 'No Small Shame' written by Christine Bell, and of course, that was added to my book shopping list at Farrell's. Although this online launch was a pre-recorded session, (and I was slightly frustrated because I was dying to ply Christine with questions), it was nevertheless informative, fun and well-attended. I'd love the opportunity to follow it up with an interview with Christine, to see how she is getting on as a debut novelist during this difficult time. If you're reading this Christine, and it's something you might be interested in, lets Zoom! It can't be easy if a debut author who's barely dipped a toe in the water, but thumbs up to Christine for braving this situation head on and taking the plunge. Her novel, No Small Shame sounds intriguing.

I'm probably doing one too many online writing courses at the moment - two just with Writers Victoria, which has done a fabulous job of transferring so many of their workshops to virtual classroom learning. I couldn't help jumping at a recent initiative by Charlotte Wood, (author of several books, her latest being The Weekend) when she offered to hold a free online workshop for writers via Zoom. It was a bit of a sprint to get a spot as she had to cap attendees at 100 (that gives some indication both of her popularity and how respected she is as an author). I learnt so much from this one session and cannot thank Charlotte enough for sharing her wisdom. Keep an eye out for future courses!

Although the official book launch - online of course - of 'The Year the Maps Changed" is not until 28th April, thanks to the Peninsula Writers' Club, a couple of days ago I was able to enjoy hearing all about Danielle Binks' 5-year writing journey. For personal reasons (namely hours spent in smoke-filled rooms listening to opposing factions argue over the maps demarcating territory in Bosnia in the '90s) I'm particularly interested in reading this debut novel. Danielle gave us a taste of the prologue: "People within the borders keep the truth and know the way." It was a great way to whet our appetites for me and I only wish there had been more time to talk to her. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this self-confessed history nerd's debut.

What all these virtual events have shown me, is that writers are resourceful and the writing community is very much alive and kicking. The current situation is a game changer, but it doesn't mean the game needs to stop altogether. Our priorities may change, but hopefully our writing doesn't stall permanently. We can all use this time to reflect, to consolidate, to share and, of course, to write. Every word counts!

With that in mind, I'd better get back to it.

Yours virtually,

Lou x








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