Saturday, October 21, 2017

SCBWI Gauteng Seminar : Standing Among The Giants

I just got home from the SCBWI Gauteng seminar in Sandton, and I'm still pumped about the event - what I learnt, the people I met, the speakers, everyone worked so well together. I'm happy that I didn't skip the event, despite the fact that I was so nervous. At the event, I felt like I was standing among the giants, yet the authors were also so relatable!
Joan Rankin telling the story of her evolution as a writer in a fairytale format was inspiring. It was great to know that there was no "happy"ending,though the story was ecouraging.
Bontle Senne really touched a cord with me about being represented in the books you read. Like her, I didn't meet characters that looked like me when I was a child, and I'm glad she's part of the solution for that.
Susie Deenien reminded me that the writing process can be hard, but we can find our mojo again.
I knew the work of Joanne MacGregor, as I subscribe to her newsletter. But listening to her was like attending a masterclass for indie/hybrid authors. So much to learn, so many resources she shared, yet the indie element of her writing life didn't distract her from actually writing. She has an impressive body of work.
I wanted to pipe in as Fiona Snyckers was speaking about two of her books - one that touches on abusive relationships and the second one on teen pregnancy. I'm going to buy the one one abusive relationships (it's out already) because I know someone who could really benefit from that book.
All in all, it was a day well-spent and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to do this.

What I have been up to

My talk at the seminar reminded me that I need to follow up with Roundafire Publishers to establish when the first of my children's books is coming out with them. I had ceased publishing for a while, when I was in Phokeng, and now that I'm back in full swing, it behooves me to start lining up my ducks in the row. I also need to schedule the launch of the non-fiction book I did with my friend Christelle Du Toit on job-hunting for young people. I put the launch in the back burner because I did not have the capacity to do the launch the way I felt the ebook deserved. Meanwhile, the writing carries on.
On Friday I also interviewed to ghost-write a non-fiction book. The project would keep me fairly busy in November if I were the incumbent, but I want to build up some Christmas money, so busy suits me at the moment.
I also need to visit my pages on several social media to update them. They probably look so old and dated it's not funny.
Anyhoo, I'm glad I feel like myself again, after a long period of prioritising life issues.

Have a great weekend, and thank you for visiting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Seminar: Children's and Young Adult Books on the 21st October at the Sandton Library

The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Gauteng is planning to host a seminar on Children's Books and Young Adult Books on the 21st October at the Auditorium at the Sandton Library in Gauteng. The seminar is for illustrators and writers - aspiring and published - and features a number of writings about the power of dreams and hard work. It promises to be stimulating, thought-provoking and motivating. Many thanks to Jenny Hatton, the organiser of SCBWI events in Gauteng.

Cost:   Early bird payment by 13th October: R100 for SCBWI members, R200 for non-members
            Payment at the door: R150 for SCBWI members, R300 for non-members
RSVP: to Jenny at

Jenny was also kind enough to invite me to speak at the event, and my topic is "The marketing of self-published books: a tough exercise for a shy person." People who know me in real life are probably aware that I do a very good imitation of a hermit, which makes it hard me to be out there  marketing my works. So I'm going to share some strategies and tactics that I have used. Hopefully, this will help the participants, whether they are self-published or not.

Download the seminar programme here.

The seminar features a lot of people whose work I admire in there, so if you are going to be in Gauteng during that period, do yourself a favour and attend.

Tea and coffee will be available, but participants are asked to bring their own lunch boxes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Aftermath Of A Stressful Project And Lessons Learned

Listening to: Rachel Platten's Fight Song (on a loop)

Source: Pinterest
I'm knackered  - totally, completely wiped by exhaustion. But I'm happy. Or rather, riding the euphoria that comes from relief of knowing a project was successfully executed and I was able to survive until the end, because there were too many moments along the way when I was tempted to quit and couldn't remember my motivations for getting involved in the first place. But I couldn't quit because the reason for the high pressure was because someone just gave up.
And I knew my stress levels and exhaustion were nowhere near my client's and the situation was not of her doing.She hired a writer to develop the technical section of a conference report. The writer attended the sessions, recorded the sessions and on Friday on the day of the copy deadline, he wrote her a two-paragraph email saying "sorry, I couldn't do it. It was too hard - the language too technical and the accents difficult to understand. Please make alternative arrangements." My client was supposed to deliver the report this Monday.
Turned out I would become the "alternative arrangements," - having to find people to transcribe the audios of the two-day workshop and to use the transcriptions to write the technical report.
The task of finding transcriptionists willing to take the job on short notice was rough - I did a lot of begging. I didn't even pretend that I was offering them fair work for fair pay. I said to one friend, "Forgive me please, because I need to ruin your day."Then I proceeded to explain what I needed. My client helped in farming the work out and eventually, I could start the writing process. Which was tough in its own right because the language was very technical, with lots of physics terms and geometry and mechanics.
Let's just say I learnt more than I ever thought I wanted to know about how railways tracks and trains and heavy haul transports transporting coal and ore worldwide work: the challenges, the solutions in use, the research being done, and the technologies and how all these things are maintained. LOL! I could actually empathise with the former writer - it was all very technical, but the difference is that I was enthralled.
So in the end, I developed 18 articles based on the  lectures, with the sessions lasting around 45 minutes each ( around 4000 words of technical text x 18). My poor client had to do quality control in addition to her own job, ensuring that the pieces were edited and proof-read and then inserting them into the main conference report. THAT was supposed to the job she was hiring me for!
Yesterday were did the final push, and it lasted until today around 4am for me, when I decided to take a nap before I finished polishing the last two pieces and sending them to the client before 8am. I went to bed at 8.30 and slept most of the morning away, blissful that I could finally rest.
So what did I learn from this experience:
1. Despite the hassle, I can still empathise with the writer who quit. I used to be like him - a marathon runner, I sarcastically called myself - running when the going got tough, never considering the consequences on other people. Which brings me to the second point-
2. Just because I don't immediately suffer the consequences does not mean there aren't any. Quitting like that leaves someone holding a bag leaking slimy stuff, and someone has to clean up the mess.
3. I am more resilient than I knew, and can survive stressful projects better than I thought I could.
The day I fell & hit the door, injuring my forehead

4. I need my loved ones to help me survive stressful conditions.
Our Star Wars heroes
 It seemed counterproductive to go visit my sister and her family on Sunday, but I took the laptop along and she really helped me. Plus the conversation, the background noise of my young nephews playing and watching an animated movie (How to tame a dragon 2), the arrival of Baby from her job at the resort camp and the fabulous dinner my sister cooked all served as a counterpoint to the stresses of the project. Then there were lots of  phone calls with my friend Neo, who was doing the transcription and who absolutely swore up and down that "The English don't speak English!" (excuse the generalisations, but the regional accents could do your head in.) Neo is fabulous at understanding the Chinglish and heavy Russian accents of some of the professors and was easy-going about my piling work on her.

5. Opportunity does not come in the form that you expect. I do my normal marketing and have made several phone calls to my network of colleagues and clients asking for work in preparation for the December/January holidays. I would never have predicted that a situation that looked so disastrous would actually be an opportunity for me to land well-paying work.

6. Always keep a stocked larder, fridge and freezer to be able to make quick meals.

Good, nourishing food for stressful days
I've just moved into my house, so I was so very unprepared for long working sessions without an opportunity to prepare good nutritious meals. Thankfully, my friend Christelle took me well in hand and repeatedly invited me to her place for meals and to work at her house . But, I am going to take the time to prepare, so next time, I don't have to rely on the kindness of my loved ones
7. Leaving my house and working in the company of others mitigated the stress levels. There is no doubt in my mind that I love working for myself, in my home office. But under stressful conditions, you could go nuts being alone in the house. Having company helped me to put one foot in front of another.

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With the exception of entries specifically credited to individual authors, the content on this blog is copyrighted by Damaria Senne and may not be reprinted without permission.