This is what the poems in trains look like…
It’s always difficult to gauge the effect your work will have in the market. Some years ago I received a three-quarter page response to a poem I’d written. The editor had read my very personal poem about how challenging it is to accurately and honestly represent a person to someone who has never met them. The editor however interpreted it as me attacking the entire male population! We had some great conversations back and forth after I’d cleared up that confusion. And yes, he published my poem. But it was a powerful lesson…once your work is out there, the audience will bring their own interpretation, based on factors the author cannot imagine. So the author must believe in the writing, because they cannot control the reading and they cannot ‘know’ the reader.
Gauging the effect of having a website or a blog is a bit the same. Even with the statistics data showing where visitors have come from, it’s sometimes surprising who’s popped in. A week before Christmas I was approached by a US blogger, Jessica Kennedy, requesting an interview.
I strolled on over to her blog for a bit of a look-see. Jessica interviews people about their experience in promoting their work. So we emailed a bit, Jessica asking questions, me answering. The result is here if you’d like to have a read.
And already, the interview is impacting on my visitor stats. Thanks Jessica.
My son works in a Williamstown creperie, Breizoz, most Sundays. Although he’s worked there for a while, I’d not quite managed to have him make me a coffee, although the offer has been there. So today, after a break in the (glorious) rain, I determined that today would be the day.
I dropped him off this morning and took Emmi for a walk along the foreshore. There is a picture I’ve been framing in my mind for some time, and I was determined to try to photograph it today. I did, but I’m not sure I’ve got it yet. I’ll keep trying. There’s something about the colours of the boat against the sea/city/sky at dusk which is amazing. The first three photos are a bit dull, the last is I think still too early for the best light.
This is a busy part of Williamstown at the best of times, and more so each weekend. But I’d reckoned without the motor bike ride that happens each year, bringing toys for children. They come from all directions, and end at the Commonwealth Reserve in the heart of Williamstown’s foreshore cafe precinct. Bikes were dribbling past as we walked away from Willy, but the largest, police-escorted contingent approached as Emmi and I turned back towards that promised coffee. It was quite a sight…bike after bike after bike. Scooters mixed with big thumping Harleys, and there was everything in between. Most carried toys, many were decorated with tinsel and Santa hats.
When we arrived back at Breizoz and sat outside waiting for coffee to arrive, the streets were alive. Breakfasting locals were joined by all manner of leather and wet-weather-geared bikers of all ages. The youngest were pre-teen. The oldest included a gent with a large handlebar moustache called ‘Pa’. They roamed the street in search of brunch.
Meanwhile, beneath my seat, Emmi made friends with first a terrier pup, then a pair of pugs. She was unmoved by the bikes or bikers, happy just to be out.
And the coffee was great.
This time of year is always busy. Nuts, even. There are Christmas parties and annual get-togethers and all manner of things. There can even be unexpected work offers (see earlier posts).
Networking is a nebulous thing. It’s intangible and impossible to measure. I’m sure there are many worthy definitions available but in the words from ‘The Sound of Music’ it’s a bit like trying to pin down a cloud.
In my previous job in community health there was a community nurse who was a really strong and articulate advocate of networking, maintaining that it was essential to make the connections with those doing the same thing, in order that opportunities could evolve. She struggled sometimes to convince her employer that these early meetings with people would produce improved health outcomes for the young people she sought to help. But she always delivered the goods. And sometimes she was as surprised as anyone at the entry points.
Networking in the children’s book industry is a bit the same. Attending conferences, annual lunches and even smaller groups can seem expensive and often purely social, but they are all about making connections, being open to opportunity, in whatever shape it may present itself. At the very least, there is time to spend with friends and associates.
Lunch last week, enjoyable on many levels, provided two potential opportunities to follow up and also some links with new people. Lunch yesterday was across town and travelling on the train I discovered I was on the train that featured the Moving Galleries exhibition. We may have had to change carriages and unseat (gently) the gent sitting beneath it, but I was chuffed to see my poem ‘in the flesh’ on the wall. Of all the trains, on all the suburban lines, we happened to get on this one…
It’s all about networking…
I’ve just spent a fairly busy two weeks working with a local electoral commission on a council postal election. But in the middle of that time, I escaped on time to get to the launch of Moving Galleries, which included my poem, Pompeii Dog.
The exhibition launch was held at ArtPlay on the Yarra River just upriver from Federation Square in Melbourne. The light, squarish building is a former railways building that is now home to an art program for children. (It was also the site for the launch of my first picture book ‘Ebi’s Boat’) The selected poems and paintings were suspended from the roof and seemed to float in mid-air. We were able to walk all around them, be surrounded by them which was rather nice.
Each contributor was given a poster-sized copy of their work and a pack of postcards. A great idea as now we each can enjoy the other works in the exhibition.
The poems and art will be affixed to internal train walls for commuters to read over the next six months. I hope someone I know gets to see mine. For those who won’t, here it is…
My poem, ‘Iceberg’ is appearing on the ‘A Poem A Week Project’ website and blog this week. Established by local poets and authors Sherryl Clark and Meredith Costain, the site aims to bring local poetry into the classroom.
Each featured poem includes notes about the inspiration for the poem, a bit about the poet and sometimes poetry-writing tips.
Take a look here