Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Books I Must Read

While I am travelling I always keep extensive journals. It is something I have always done, and it was a habit that stood me in good stead when it came time to write my Vietnam book.
It's amazing what ends up in these journals. Of course, there is the run-of-the-mill observations of scenery, but also lots of complaining and lots of surprising obsession and flirtation.
But most interesting to me are the lists I make. I make lists about places I hope to visit wherever I am, and I also make lists of things I MUST do as soon as I get home. Invariably I get home and don't look at these lists for years, and when I do their content seems bewildering.
Being a confirmed bibliophile and compulsive reader, I also keep a list of books I will read immediately upon my return. Who knows where the content of these lists come from. Something has occurred to me while travelling, and I suddenly remember a gap in my reading. Or I have picked up some bizarre paperback at a book exchange in the backpacker area, and it recommends some odd titles I decide, in the heat of the moment, will be essential to my development when I get back to Australia.
Here is the list I made in my journal in October last year while in Ho Chi Minh City:

Books to Read When I get Home:

Needless to say, I haven't read any of them yet.
I've attempted to read Julian of Norwich for years, but keep drifting off.
I've had the Rimbaud biography on my shelves for years but have never picked it up.
The new Andrew Pham book is disappointing, and I just can't get into it.
I've already read The Four Agreements years ago, and found it quite uninspiring, so heaven knows why I felt the need to re-visit it.

I think that the act of being a tourist is liberating in all kinds of ways, and these lists represent a re-invention a positive conviction that, upon returning, I will be a new and better person.
Alas, it almost always turns out not to be the case...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Problems of Politics

I am aware that in writing about modern-day Vietnam I am engaging on a potentially perilous political journey. Though I rarely engage with questions of politics in my books, the fact is that any mention of Vietnam is likely to draw forth the condemnation of overseas-Vietnamese communities who are still angry about the present-day regime in Vietnam, and think that no-one should go there until democracy is restored.
These communities are present in large numbers in the USA, Canada and Australia, and in some cases wield real political power in their new homes. They have also been the source of some ugly cases of harassment, violence and intimidation.
What I want to say is that my book is a reasonably light-hearted travel piece, in which I barely discuss the war, politics, colonialism, globalisation or any of those other careworn topics that people tend to have firm opinions about. My book is instead about people, and about relationships.
So leave me alone!

The Next Book?

I had to change some of the chapter names again - apparently as soon as this was done the whole thing goes into editing. Quite exciting, and I suppose a landmark moment.
Now I have to think about my next book. Knowing publishers (who like their authors to keep writing the same thing), I will need to do another travel book, and I do have an idea planned. I have actually run the idea by my publisher, and she loves it. The problem is, until my first book is released and proves a financial success (which I am confident about), I seriously doubt the publishing house will give me another advance to do the relatively expensive - and extensive - travel that the new book will require.
But I want to keep writing, and working on a serious project, just to keep the momentum up and keep me in that psychic space of "being a writer."
So for now I am working on a project that I call Spiritual Journeying. It has elements of the travel genre in it, but all the travel is being done in my own city, or even closer to home - my own head. Basically it is a manifesto for the spiritual dilettante, an account of my own, unashamedly syncretic, spiritual journey. I have already written a substantial part of the first chapter, which is on the organised Interfaith movement, but so far have been to shy to show it to my publisher. Mostly because I feel certain that she will reject it and tell me to wait for the next travel piece. But I am still working on it, because I am passionate about it, it excites and interests me, and it seems the perfect thing to be writing about.
Is it the Next Book? I don't know. But it's my new lifeboat, the thing I can point to when people ask me what I am working on right now.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How to Get Publicity

I managed to get the third draft in on Tuesday, which gave me an immense sense of achievement. Fingers crossed that will be the last major revision, and that it can at last go into editing. It's hard not to get a bit exasperated and bored at this point, because I'm tired of seeing those same 60-something thousand words over and over, changed and re-arranged only slightly. But I do need to remain positive about it, even in its most exasperating stage. This state of mind is personally important to me, and will also, I believe, affect the ultimate outcome of the project. My publisher, who is herself a popular author, re-assured me that this is by far the most challenging part of the whole process. After this it is all seamless ease.
I have become rather a convert to Morning Coach, a website and podcast that gives me a bit of good old fashioned motivation, and helps me to maintain some focus on the various projects in my life. I do recommend it.
Now I am also reading a book called How to Get Publicity, in an effort to stay focused on my ultimate goal - producing a bestselling book. Though it's a little outdated by now, the book is still helpful and filled with good ideas. I am busily compiling lists and making action plans that will fall into place once my book is released in March next year. I know from my own personal experience in the industry that a committed, energetic author who is also a tireless self-promoter makes a huge contribution to a book's success. I want to be just such a person.
How to Get Publicity, intended for an amateur audience, outlines a number of strategies for getting media publicity. It also goes a bit into presentation and interview skills, things that will (hopefully!) become increasingly important.
I guess that through making such preparations, and studying such material, I am really keeping my project alive in my own imagination, and keeping the energy up and out there. It is going to be a long, dull time between now and March 2010, so I really need to remain engaged with my book and what it means. And that means working consciously towards improving my chances at media coverage and other forms of attention that will lead to reviews and, ultimately, sales.