This image is thanks to my awesome mom, who wants to be sure that all of you can find me come Sunday.*
I will be selling copies of Fathom Lines from 11am to 6pm at the Word On The Street Festival and would love to see any of you who can make it.
* If you can't make out the street names, I will be south of Wellesley on the east side of Queen's Park, located in the area called Fringe Beat (which kind of sounds like a really bad spoken word poetry event, but is mainly just a group of small independent publishers trying to sell their own stuff).
In honour of Maya Angelou:
Also, in her honour, I wanted to talk about beautiful titles for books, because the title of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, has long been one of my favourites.
Titles are tricky things, especially these days, with so much attention paid to the supposed science of marketing. In many cases, choosing the title of an author's work is a decision made by committee (editors, marketing experts, author input), rather than something the author comes up with on their own. Usually, the book has to be finished before a title can be chosen. All the thematic cards have to be on the table. Fathom Lines was called The Depths for a long time, until I realized the stories were more about the charting of those depths rather than the metaphorical deep waters themselves.
So, I have no idea how these titles came to be, but congratulations to whoever is responsible for putting these particular words together:
I could keep going with this list for a long time, but what about you? What are your favourites?
Okay, so remember way back when I made my resolutions? If not, here's part of my plan: Submit at least 2 short works per month to different literary journals/online journals. What you will read below are the results (so far) of this very humbling project:
I love that you are so sure of this Metazen. Thanks for the weird (and not entirely trustworthy) compliment!
Dear Erin Bedford,
I'm not sure if this is worse or better ... "So close--you just missed it by that much ..."
This is one of those times when I think maybe they just didn't like the piece that much, for whatever reason, and had to come up with something that sounded plausible because I submitted this as a flash fiction piece (under 1,000 words) which doesn't leave a whole lot of room for backstory.
Dear Erin Bedford,
Insert sad faces here.
But wait! I know this seems bad, but really, it's not. The major thing I've learned from publishing Fathom Lines on my own, is that some people don't like the way I write, or the stuff that I choose to write about (the agents and publishers that sent me rejections, for starters), but there are people out there that do. I just have to keep searching for them.
If you know me well, you know that me saying this, and sharing these rejection letters here, is a HUGE deal. Because I personalize almost everything. Not joking---I spent a lot of my life avoiding certain activities because I was afraid that I wouldn't be perfect at them and people wouldn't think I was a quality human being --even things that are supposed to be ridiculously fun when you're a kid. For instance: Musical chairs? Never. It's so obvious when you're not perfect. Bowling? Hated it. Mini-golf? Have you seen the way that windmill spins around? There's no way I'm getting a hole in one. Forget it.
But, I think I'm over it. I'm not going to lie, there will always be a pang when rejection comes my way, (and I will always have a little sarcasm to mutter under my breath at the rejector!) but I'm being a good duck now, letting it all run off my back. People won't be able to snub work that I keep hidden away in the closet, but they won't get a chance to love it either. And if Birdfeast magazine is less than impressed, that's fine. No one will think less of me for that, and if they do, then I can think less of them because they're probably not nice people. Now, I'm looking at it like this: rejection is built into what I've chosen to do with my life. It's part of my job to take it in stride.
So, who's up for some ten-pin?
Does anyone else feel like a really desperate member of the lonely-hearts club when it comes to the weather this year? This is exactly how I feel when I'm outside now, the sun on my face, the leaves and birds and people all out and about: I know Weather was a complete jerk all winter and spring. I know I deserve better, but Weather is here now and so beautiful. I won't complain about anything ever again. I promise. Please don't leave me.
Anyway, this past weekend was beautiful and so productive! That almost never happens!
On Saturday, I was able to get out to Toronto Island for a peek inside the Gibraltar Light as part of Doors Open Toronto:
And on Sunday, I was at a Small Press Literary event at the Gladstone, hawking copies of Fathom Lines. Sales were less than brisk, but the other sellers were such amazing people--gracious to anyone who had a question, generous to their fellow vendors, and so enthusiastic about their work.
As I was sitting there, waiting for customers, I got to thinking about how artistic-types get a bad rap sometimes. Maybe it's the non-conformist clothes or haircuts, or the fact that we tend to be poor so very often, but the general population sometimes takes the view that artists are lazy. Well I tell you -- I did not meet one lazy person yesterday. All of the people I met had jobs, or school programs or families that take up most of their lives. And then, when they have a free minute, they spend it doing something they love in hopes that other people will love it enough to give them a couple of dollars.
Can I say how very weird it is to sit at a table, though, and have random people come up to your life's passion, pick it up, turn it over, put it down again, and walk away? Sure, not everyone is going to love what I love. And I know I've been that customer, too. But I'm going to try harder next time when the creator-seller is sitting right there in front of me. My new rule? Smile. Always smile. I know what the discerning eye feels like now, and it is kind of like when Superman blows things up with his red-hot lasery vision. Your dreams? Poof. My favourite comment was from an older woman who said she thought my book sounded so interesting and the writing looked excellent, but unfortunately she couldn't buy it because she doesn't read anything written in the present tense. Well, we all have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.
Which makes the experience sound much more difficult or less fun that it actually was. I had a great time. I was so nervous to do this, but I would do it again with pleasure. Because being out in the world and being able to talk about this thing that I love to do, to other people who want to know about it, is pretty fantastic.
As part of an author profile I put together at Smashwords, I answered
eight questions about my writing and reading habits. Here they are, for
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Probably "Ferdinand", by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. It introduced me to character complexity!
What are your five favourite fiction books, and why?
In no particular order:
Who are your favorite authors?
Peter Carey, Alice Munro, Michael Crummey, Charlotte Brontë.
When did you first start writing?
As soon as I could hold a pencil, probably. I know there were quite a few stories with poor spelling and even worse illustrations that I read with great pride to my family and friends. I also wrote plays, and by wrote I mean "borrowed very heavily from Grimm's Fairy Tales."
What is your writing process?
Strong coffee, comfortable chair, clean work area, sad music, think, write, edit, repeat.
What's the story behind, Fathom Lines, your latest book?
Lise makes maps of places that used to exist and lives with a man she doesn’t love. Her mother, Vee, pines for the husband she lost so many years ago, and can’t stop thinking of the place she grew up and left behind on purpose.
As the book opens, Vee is a very soon-to-be-retired librarian, mother, and widow. She is smart and no-nonsense, but wasn’t always as reserved as she is now. She worries that her daughter is unhappy and unwilling to do anything about it. Lise works for the Preservation Society and wishes she didn’t. She lives with a guy that she isn’t sure she likes, much less loves. She worries that her mother is having trouble with her memory.
The story is about memories and family secrets, and how both keep us from truly knowing the ones we love best.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a historical novel, based on the experiences of a real man, set in York, Ontario (what is now Toronto) at the turn of the nineteenth century. Murder is involved, and war, and love, of course. Royals, too.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The challenge of finding the best words to express what is often inexplicable.
On Sunday, May 25th, from 10:30-4, I will be selling copies of Fathom Lines at The Gladstone Hotel. Whether you want to buy the book or not, I'd be so happy to see a friendly face, and answer questions about the book or my process of self-publishing. (Really, though, if you do show up, I'll probably twist your arm into buying a copy if you haven't already!) There's a $5 cover for the show, to pay the cost of renting the very beautiful space at the historic Gladstone Hotel with partial proceeds donated to a local literacy charity, but there will be many other wonderful vendors to meet and lots of literary goodies to browse and buy, so the cost is well worth it. Hope to see you there!
Please share this with anyone else who might be interested. Thanks a lot!
As part of a new marketing blitz to begin soon, I have changed the cover of Fathom Lines. Here it is:
I think it reflects the story a bit better than the previous one--some of the setting of the story is represented, as well as a few thematic passages. So, what do you think? Honestly, please! If no one likes it, then this is not a step in the right direction and I would really like to know.
Here's where you get to take a peek at some of the non-glamourous, non-magical stuff that happens behind the curtain.
In order to publicize Fathom Lines, I'm putting together a little marketing package and one aspect of this package will be some representative quotes from the book. Of course, I have my favourite passages, but I'm not exactly unbiased. So, I'm asking readers (or wannabe readers) to help me choose which quotes I should use to market the book, keeping in mind that these pull quotes will be used with photographs, that I can choose four quotes at the most, and that this marketing is targeted for Toronto.
So, tell me what you think! Choose the one that you like best ...
Over at Goodreads, I am giving away 2 paperback copies of Fathom Lines. Open to U.S. and Canadian residents, the giveaway ends tomorrow at midnight.
And if you don't win, and you're in Canada, I've got paperback copies I can mail out that will save you Amazon's terrible shipping costs, so please contact me.
I love maps. If I weren't a writer, and if I could go back to my early twenties and choose something different to do with my life, I would choose mapmaking. But since I don't have a time machine, and I'd hate to give up writing, I did the next best thing. I wrote a main character that makes maps. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called Vicarious Cartography.
The thing is, traditional mapmaking is now a bit of a redundant pursuit--Google maps and GPS and satellites make plotting the boundaries of land onto a piece of paper somewhat unnecessary--so when I wrote Fathom Lines, I knew my character, Lise, had to be a different sort of mapmaker.
Instead of the physical landscape, she focuses on mapping an emotional landscape of Toronto. She gathers memories from random people from all different parts of the city, and then makes a topography of emotion.
But there are real people doing amazing things with maps right now, and thanks to these creative minds, we can find our way in the world differently. Here are a few recent projects that I love the most:
An essay of mine, How I broke up with my book, is in very good company over at the Humber Writer's Blog ... David Mitchell, Timothy Findley, Miriam Toews, Erin Bedford. I am so very lucky!
(The soundtrack for this blog post, by the way, is Sesame Street's "One of these things is not like the others ... " )
I had this big idea. I started thinking it in grade two, just after I had a handle on reading and writing, as I filled page after page of half-scap paper with phonetically-spelled words and finger spaces. I would be an author.
At seven, I had no reservations about that word. I'd never heard of self-aggrandizement. When my teacher sent me to represent my grade at a regional writing conference based on my profound book, I Like Summer Because ..., I was convinced I'd made it. My Dad even laminated and coil-bound this first masterwork; of course I was an author.
I kept writing. My books got longer, more pages stapled together, now on full-scap, not half. I discovered dialogue and story arcs and conclusions that weren't The End. I wasn't very good at any of them yet, but I had a kind and encouraging audience.
In grade eight I won the English award at my public school. I had been wanting to win this award since grade five. I thought if I won it, then people would definitely have to say I was an author. The self-doubt had crept in, apparently, and the idea that I needed evidence if I wanted to call myself an author.
Promptly, I stopped writing stories. Maybe because I had to bear-up now. I knew what pretentious meant, I even knew how to spell it. I discovered I was an excellent writer--essays, exams, letters--everyone said so, and nobody needed any more proof than my wide vocabulary and correct spelling.
Still, I held onto this one big idea. I would be an author. At sixteen, I made a list of fifteen-year goals. #3 Write a novel and have it published. With this in mind, I started to write stories again, in secret, in notebooks that I hid on the top-shelf of my closet. I snuck back to read them later, scratching or tearing out everything I’d written down.
At home, at school, with friends and family, I talked and talked about authors, books, about writing, poetry, song lyrics, any kind of creative writing. I knew I wanted to be in the world, but I didn’t want to go out on any limbs. People might notice me, way out there, teetering on that wobbly branch. They would point, maybe laugh. I might fall.
And then people offered to catch me. They told me to try. I had this big idea and they were maybe sick of hearing about it. I set up a little desk in the corner of my apartment, right out there in the open, and started writing. Less and less was scratched out (or backspaced), fewer pages were torn out (or moved to Recycle Bin). Over time, pages became chapters became a first draft, a second, third. I enrolled at a creative writing school and worked with an Author (she had three real published books and a significant award to her name) who gave me fair and constructive criticism.
Slowly, slowly, all these drafts became a novel. I wrote a book.
Soon, I'll be starting another. Because I still have this big idea. One day, I will be an author.
Erin Bedford, writer.