Reading so I can write

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I’m always surprised whenever I hear another writer say they don’t read other books when they’re working on their own. To me, that sounds almost like a sacrilege. A writer not reading? All the time? 

I’m one of those writers who are not only always reading, but especially when I’m working.

Of course, sometimes reading others, particularly those writers I especially admire, can fill me with despair. I know I’ll never be as good or even close to as good as they are and sometimes it can almost discourage me from even trying. I mean, if I can’t be as good as Herman Wouk, Margaret Atwood, and Pat Conroy, why even bother?

I think some writers worry it might somehow influence them, and not in a good way, if they read while working on their own project. Maybe even lead to a bit of subconscious plagiarism.

But I find reading someone else’s work not only often inspirational; it can also be extremely helpful. If I’m struggling with writing a specific scene or trying to share a concept, I can learn a lot from examining how someone else handled and mastered a similar issue. It often helps me to get going again.

And if I’m reading someone else’s work for inspiration, I can tell myself that I’m not really procrastinating. I’m working. Really.

 

Writers aren’t just writers anymore

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One of the things I’ve been surprised to learn about the book publishing industry is how much of a crucial role today’s author must be willing to play in order to help promote their own work. 

Writers aren’t just writers anymore. They’re marketers, publicists, lecturers, and public speakers.

It seems naïve to me now, but last year I thought my only job was to write the best book I was capable of writing, then just be open to any suggestions regarding final edits and rewrites from my publisher.

After submitting my final draft of “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood,” a part of me was happy to be finally finished with the whole damn thing. After all, it had pretty much dominated my life day and night the entire time I was researching, then writing, and then editing the book.

Come to think of it, the research part took just as much- if not more- time than the actual writing part.

Yet even before I had finished the happy dance around my home office after completing the final draft and pressing “send” on the email to my publisher, I quickly realized that my job wasn’t quite done yet. Next I had to help find my readers.

I’m not sure what I used to think- that my book would somehow magically find readers on its own?

My publisher, Simon Dardick at Véhicule Press, has gone above and beyond in his support of “With a Closed Fist.” But I’m not his only author of course. Nor his last. As I’ve been quickly learning these past few months since my book’s launch in Montréal back in November, I have an important role in helping to get the word out there.

So I Twitter, try to update my Facebook status and website with any news about my book, happily accept all press interviews, speaking engagements, and swear a lifetime debt to the few individuals who- quietly behind the scenes- are trying to help me reach some other important goals in regards to my book.

But I admit, it feels a little weird sometimes. I’m a writer. I feel most comfortable sitting in front of my laptop, doing research and working on my current writing project.

Not that I’m complaining, because really I’m not. Talking about my book is actually turning out to be much more fun than I ever expected it to be.

But to be honest, I just hadn’t realized just how hands-on today’s writer has to be if they want to reach as wide of an audience as possible.

-Kathy

 

Kathy will be in the Cornwall area on February 13th, at the Ingleside Library at 6:30 pm, for a reading, signing, and discussion about her book, “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood.”