THAT Narnia’s creator, CS Lewis, was rejected 800 times by publishers before striking gold, you’d think’d be enough to encourage any undiscovered pen-pushers amongst us to push all the harder.
...Or, alternatively, push the pen aside, wondering how on earth you’d ever begin to garner even a hint of the stature of the great Lewis.
But success and talent comes in many forms, and where the world of fiction is concerned, there can be no substitute for energy, hard work and persistence; pushing the envelope, as well as the pen.
Last winter, Bridgwater Art Centre’s in-house writer, Sinéad Gillespie Boys, saw her debut novel, ‘…but I love you’, launched into the ether by an independent publishers.
Inspired by her time living in Brighton, …but I love you is a “sexy, warm and challenging” story of two women falling for each other amidst the highs and lows of human relationships.
And it was Sinéad, with her knack for the one-woman show format, who kicked off Bridgwater Arts Centre’s first ever TED-style talk on Friday January 31.
As the talk progressed, it became rapidly clear that the author, who grew up amid “the troubles” in Derry, Northern Ireland, and is a former teacher, law, drama school and Brighton Festival graduate, and carer for her profoundly deaf son Oliver, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has steely determination in spades, to fuel her knack for the written and spoken word.
What won the ‘Technology Entertainment Design’ or TED talk movement such a following, is its ability to negotiate a mix of engagement (getting us to think) and entertainment (giving a new slant to an old subject, or introducing old heads to a new one).
Gillespie Boys’ tale – the first in Bridgwater Arts Centre’s own series – was honest, sincere, funny, brilliantly-spun, but also – and even better – it was a real, often touching, relatable story, strewn with nuggets of advice to chew on.
• “Find yourself, if not a mentor, a least a bunch of people who understand what’s going on in your head. You need to know others writers, because we’re all quite mad.” Sinead found the Mendip Writers’ Group. “We’re a bit like the Bloomsbury Group, but none of us are writers yet.”
• Get a monthly subscription to ‘Writing Magazine’, or similar. “It keeps you informed.”
• Enter competitions – “they’re good for discipline and motivation. Take a little break from your manuscript and responding to a brief is really, really, good practise.”
• Be prepared to invest in your work – whether that’s by going on a course, or hiring an agent or an editor
• Marketing! Find your Unique Selling Point then make the most of it.
• SOCIAL MEDIA: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter. “The stuff does matter – no use being blasé about it,” she says.
• Create a “local buzz” around your book. Sinead visited Lionel Ward at Taunton’s Brendon Books. When Lionel asked who she was, Sinead replied: “I’m an Irish woman with a USP she doesn’t know yet!” Speak to the local press and offer to give talks to book groups.
The next BACTalk is on Saturday March 15 with food writer and former Telegraph cookery correspondent Josceline Dimbleby, in conversation with Sinead and ‘foodie’ Fran Bunce. Tickets cost £15 at bridgwaterartscentre.co.uk