Preparing for Non-Fiction Print Publication

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When you self-publishthe research and writing are the easy parts. The real work begins after the last full-stop is placed on the page.

First there is the editing. I was fortunate to have funding this time and so for the last year I’ve worked with a wonderful mentor / editor throughout the writing. This had many advantages as I learned how to correct my mistakes as I wrote. The final edit was certainly made easier because of this. Consistency was an early challenge, making sure that things such as dates, numbers, titles and punctuation were treated the same way throughout the book. However, the regular monthly contact with my editor soon helped me iron out all my early irregularities.

Citing references was another challenging process, especially as I wasn’t as thorough as I should have been in the early stages. Then there were the photos, deciding which to use and whether I had permission to do so. Some fell into the too-hard basket and as my self-imposed publishing deadline approached I omitted them.

Eventually I felt my work was done, just days before I was due to deliver the manuscript to the designer at the printery. But that is another story.

A Middle Child Considers Riding a Bike

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The life of a middle child can be somewhat solitary, especially when your brother is nine years older than you and your sister not yet old enough to be an interesting playmate. I found my own amusements, one of those learning to ride a bike and being able to venture forth alone into the wider world. Most of my early years play was on my own, my only company my own imagination. One day, probably about the age of six, I was investigating the darkest corners of our old overcrowded shed, when my curiosity rested on Mum’s old bike resting in the corner.

The bike and I weren’t complete strangers. When I was much smaller I’d travelled around town with my mother, perched in a tiny seat above the back wheel behind her. At first she’d pick me up and place me in the seat, but eventually I preferred climbing up on my own without her help. My instructions were clear when riding in that seat – hold on tight to the seat and don’t let go. There were no child safety restraints in the 50s. I must also sit still, very still, otherwise my mother might wobble and we’d both crash to the ground. So I sat in obedience, part terrified, part thrilled by moving effortlessly through the air, my feet far above the ground, my feet resting on little footrests to avoid them straying into the spokes.

The risks seemed high – mangled feet, falling from my perch, or movement that caused my mother to wobble and crash – all enough to keep my four year old body rigid with fear. Yet the excitement was even greater. I felt so grownup to be moving on wheels and so envious of my mother’s riding skill. I’d laugh and declare to the world that I was king of the castle.

New Book, New Writing

Two years can disappear as fast as water rushing down a plug hole when you’re immersed in a writing project. That is an excuse, not an explanation, for my absence here. Now that my writing project is finished and my transition to full-time writer is complete I’m excited about renewing my presence here.

The social history project mentioned in my previous post back in 2015 has come to an end and the book, Down at the Baths is about to be launched next week. I’ll post a sneak preview of the cover here and more details about it will follow shortly.

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New projects are lined up and my writing life is looking exciting – to me anyway. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you

Blending Your Stories with those of Your Community

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As we know, writing life stories is popular at the moment, recording stories from our past so they are not lost to future generations. We may all think we have nothing special to tell but, from experience, what we find everyday and uneventful, others find fascinating.

Have you ever considered blending your stories with those of your community? Social stories give a reader so much information about the past. Take the hotel in the photo above for example. There are many stories I could tell about this building, from my own family and personal experience back to fascinating things I’ve learned about its history.

All communities have buildings that have been demolished, replaced with more modern constructions. There are also buildings that may be in danger of vanishing some time in the near future. If the stories relating to these buildings are not recorded, part of your community social history is lost.

Why not blend your own stories with those of your community. Start writing them down while you can.

Writing the Book is Only Part of the Story

I’ve allowed myself three years to write the story of the local swimming pool I frequented as a teenager. I didn’t realize how many new skills I’d need along the way. I’m a writer and this is a story I want to tell. I thought I’d research and write and produce a book. Wrong! The reality is this book is taking me on an amazing learning journey.

My book is a local history one, a social history, the story of the local Municipal Baths from 1917 until closure in 1966.That sounds easy, gathering up information and writing. But there’s more to a book than that, as many of you wiser than me already know. I feel as if I’m undertaking a personal three year on-going education course – and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, there’s the research. This is new for me and I’m already learning rapidly. The people at my local library are amazing, showing me where to locate information and how to access it. The old newspapers are giving me an insight into community reaction to the building of the baths in their town. The Archives contain lots of valuable data. I’ve been recording my own anecdotal stories and will soon be delving into stories from people who experienced the baths long before I did.

The research will continue for a long time yet. I hadn’t ventured too far into the project when I realized I needed to put this story into context. What was the local community like at the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s? I’m off to the library and onto the internet, gathering stories of the local community and the swimming world of the time.

All this sounds fine, but the book needs to written in a style appealing to a wide readership. I hope to blend facts with my personal stories. This will involve a different style from  my writing so far. I enrolled in an online Creative Non- fiction writing course and this is proving a wise investment of time and money. I’ve been reading a book about undertaking research. I’m also reading books, both novels and factual, which weave backwards and forwards in time, rather than tell a chronological story. I’m getting a feel for how my book will be written.

I’m now six months into my project. My writing skills are improving, I’m getting more skilled at research and I’m becoming e of a social and local historian. Who said writing a book was easy? But I can tell you from personal experience, learning as you go is lots of fun.

Life in the 1950s – Will You Come to My Birthday Party?

By the age of nine a very important social reality hit me with a wham – if you wanted an invitation to birthday parties you had to throw one yourself. These social events were reciprocal and the urge to be a party goer called loud and strong.

I managed to persuade my parents I’d be a social outcast if I didn’t have a party for my ninth birthday and was allowed to offer four invitations, with the assumption my little sister would be allowed to attend. You can see the size of the smile on my little sister’s face in the photo below. You can also guess we’re sisters by the unshapely haircuts and the fact we’re the only ones without a stiffened petticoat beneath our party dresses. Yes, we’re both the middle of three in the front and back rows.

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Fifty one years later the only person in the photo to attend my 60th birthday party was my sister. The others had long disappeared from my life. However, I’ve had contact with all but one of the other four in the last twelve years.

First there was Jillian. Against all odds we ended up standing side by side amongst thousands on Wellington’s crowded waterfront on the Millennium’s  New Year’s Eve. After staring at what I thought seemed a familiar face, I uttered her name, to find I wasn’t mistaken. What a fantastic reunion that made. Next came April, in recent months, discovered quite by chance after an online transaction. This re-connection was closely followed by Susan, connected with again at our primary school Centenary reunion.

The only girl in the photo not yet connected with in adult years is Helen. She moved away from our town not long after this birthday photo. Helen and I kept in touch for many years, writing letters and meeting up whenever I went to Wellington, where she lived. But as is often the case, our lives went in different directions and we lost contact.

Today birthday parties, both the giving and the attending, are huge events in many kids lives. My friends and I played games such as Pass the Parcel and Blind Man’s Bluff, while kids today enjoy sleep overs, pool parties and gatherings at fast food outlets.

Times may have changed, but birthdays are still times to be celebrated. I wonder how many of today’s kids will look back on their ninth birthday and smile.

What about you? What memories do you have of childhood birthdays?

Let the Story Begin

Once upon a time, about fifty years ago, a young girl made a trip to the local swimming pool. The water, the dressing sheds, the concrete surrounds and the people all recognised another victim and cast their magic spell, pulling her into their family.

Without stopping to think, she cast off her former life and allowed the magic of swimming to possess her. Day and night during the summer months, for many years, she plunged into the water and reached out for her dreams. Even the winter months beckoned, with only the land fitness and strengthening programme keeping her warm. The girl knew her life was perfect.

But all good stories come to an end. Fortunately for the girl two events coincided. She developed an interest in boys and dating at the same time the City Fathers decided the old baths no longer served a purpose. The old pool had come to the end of its useful life. A new, modern swimming complex was opened across town and the doors of the old baths closed forever.

Now, nearly fifty years later the girl has rekindled her passion for the old brick building which once enclosed the passions of her teenage years. She recognises a story needing to be told, the story of the place the old swimming baths held in the hearts of the town’s swimming community.

Yes, my new writing project has begun. The minute I opened the first archive box of treasure yesterday, I trembled with anticipation. This box held material enabling the fifty year story of the baths to be brought to life. The pool was a grand old lady, opened in 1917 and closed forever in 1966. Her story deserves to be told. Over the next two years or so I intend piecing the story together and recreating the magic that once existed for so many of the town’s young people.

Let the story begin.

Is there a place holding passionate memories from your past that no longer exists?  Why not record your memories, enabling it to live yet again in the hearts of others.