Almost a year ago, I spoke at the Bangkok Literary Festival about Five Stop Story and the state of the publishing industry. Other speakers included Ken Hom, Stephen Leather and Christopher Moore and I felt a little out of my depth. How would people respond to me, an unpublished writer who had just set up a short story competition?
When I was researching my talk I looked into the success of Amanda Hocking and how she had achieved it. I remember thinking, “that’s amazing, but surely I’m too late to ride the back of that bandwagon?” She had started publishing her books in April 2010. Since then millions of authors have followed her path. I told myself it wouldn’t work today. Additionally, and more importantly, my book wasn’t ready.
After my own talk was over I went to watch Stephen Leather’s talk. He told of how he made his book a bestseller by releasing it on Christmas Day 2010, when loads of people had just been given a Kindle for Christmas. It shot up the charts. Again, I was inspired by his story, but again I felt that that boat was now just a spot on the horizon. I’d missed the opportunity again.
Now, I’m starting to look at self-publishing again and this time my book isn’t so far off. It just needs one more edit from me, a proof-read then a professional edit and I’m good to go. This time I’m not going to let myself believe I’ve missed any boats. There are always more boats. The trick is not to watch the ones that have left but to look to the horizon to spot the ones that are sailing in.
I’ve been a member of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group for nearly a year now, and sadly will soon be leaving, as I’m heading back to London to work. The group is a talented bunch and their feedback on my novels and short stories has been invaluable.
Luckily Anette Pollner, who leads the group, is organising an event, which happens to place just before I leave the country. On 10 April, writers from the group will read from their works in progress at the artspace@newsong on Soi 39/1 Sukhumvit, Bangkok. The readers include Anette, myself, Carol Stephens, Dana MacLean, Lenora Bell, Mariejoy San Buenaventura, Michaela Zimmermann and Tejaswini Apte.
About the Group:
The BWWG meets every second Tuesday 7 PM at Starbucks Soi Lang Suan to workshop their writing in a supportive and creative environment. Current members include several published and international prize winning authors, novelists, essayists, academics, humorists and poets, as well as a few complete beginners. The authors come from different continents, and from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups.
The BWWG has been meeting continuously for 11 years. In 2007 they published the Thai English language bestseller ‘Bangkok Blondes’, and in 2009 they gave a reading at the British Council and published a pamphlet.
I’ve been selected as one of the 100 BT Olympic storytellers who will tell the story of the build up to London 2012. This is a great opportunity, particularly as this year I’m splitting my time between London and Bangkok and so I’ll have a unique perspective on how the games are perceived around the world.
In Thailand, the fact that it’s less than one year until the games hasn’t gone unnoticed. On 27th July, the British Council launched its “English for 2012” campaign to encourage people to practice their English at the same time as learning about London and the Olympics. Students can play free games, watch videos and take part in interactive exercises on the website.
On TV for the last few weeks, there have been continuous adverts on BBC World for “World Class.” This project encourages schools across the globe to “twin” with UK schools to increase understanding between countries, build relationships and share the excitement in the build up to the games.
In Bangkok, the National Olympic Committee of Thailand organised an Olympic Day to mark the 84th birthday of the King. The British Embassy put on an exhibition about London 2012 to share the UK’s plans with a Thai audience.
It will be interesting to see how these initiatives develop. London 2012 is about more than London and Londoners. It’s about the people who come to the UK for the games and the people who watch the games on the TV across the globe. London 2012 is a great opportunity to improve the UK’s image and increase understanding between nations. It will be interesting to see how Thai views of the British change as it gets closer to the games and media coverage in Thailand increases.
I’ve been in Thailand a little while now, so I thought it might be time to share the top 5 things I love about day to day living in Bangkok.
1. The Food
The food is surely some of the best in the world: Pad Thai, loads of fresh seafood, noodles, fish cakes, massaman curry, morning glory…the list goes on. The price is good too; even in a restaurant a curry will only set you back about £2 and you can also get pretty much any kind of Western food for a lower price than in the UK. Plus you can order delivery from almost everywhere, including McDonalds!
2. Walking around in shorts and a t-shirt at night
In the evenings the temperature is perfect. I feel pleasantly warm in the evenings as I walk down the streets, I can eat outside without an outdoor heater and I don’t have to put on a coat, gloves and scarf before heading out in winter.
3. The national anthem at every opportunity
In the cinema everyone stands up at the sound of the first bars of the national anthem. At 6pm at sky-train stations across the city everyone stops what they are doing and stands still wherever they happen to be as the national anthem plays through the speakers. Even when we went to see the New York band the Drums playing live, we stood still for the national anthem before the gig started. Thai national anthem has become a regular part of my life and now its opening bars bring me to a standstill.
4. Table service drinks
No more queuing at the bar, waving notes and desperately trying to catch the barman’s eye. Drinks are almost served to your table. And at gigs bar staff come round with ice buckets of beer to sell to you. So no need to lose your place at the front to quench your thirst.
5. Friendly people
I’m not talking about the guy who tells you the tourist attractions are closed and then offers to take you to a gem shop in his tuk-tuk. I mean more the fact that wherever you go you’re always greeted with a smile, people are unfailingly polite and will do their best to help you out.
Last weekend was the first ever Bangkok Literary festival. Organised by the Neilson Hays library, the day provided a chance to mingle with fellow writers, hear a range of informative talks about all aspects of writing and participate in writing workshops.
I was very fortunate to be asked to speak at the festival. My talk covered two key topics. Firstly, as a new writer, I spoke about the challenges and the opportunities presented by the new publishing landscape. Secondly, I discussed short stories and my view that the short story is very much the medium for fiction in the 21st century. This then gave me the opportunity to tell people about Five Stop Story and its latest short story competition. (This will be the subject of my next blog post, but in the meantime, you can find out more here.)
Before my talk I was pretty nervous – especially when I read through the festival programme and saw the high calibre of the other speakers – including Ken Hom, Stephen Leather and Christopher G Moore. How could I compete with Ken Hom? Before I went into my talk I was wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
But luckily the audience were very receptive and welcoming. My talk went smoothly and people asked well-informed and challenging questions. And I received a bottle of wine for my efforts, which was certainly appreciated!
After my talk, I decided it would be bad form to crack open the wine immediately so I treated myself to a burger and a beer and then went to see Christopher G Moore and Stephen Leather’s talks. Christopher’s talk took the audience through each of his books, providing us with an insight into how life in Bangkok had changed since he started writing. Stephen shared his first-hand experience creating a best-selling e-book – a real bonus for new writers.
All in all, it was a great day out, extremely well organised by Annemarie Hellemans and her team at the Neilson Hays. I’m already looking forward to the next festival!
For a writer, blogging should be easy. You just put down what’s happening to you day to day, your thoughts and feelings, whatever you’re thinking. Simple!
But it’s not that easy. Unlike fiction, it requires you to reflect on your own life. It needs facts and demands honesty. Guides to blogging inform you that your posts should be entertaining and witty. You should keep your reader engaged. Whoever that mystical reader may be.
In short, it’s difficult.
The fictional world is full of drama, choices, difficult decisions – all condensed into handy novels that will fit comfortably into your backpack or briefcase. The real world is full of got up, toast for breakfast, sat at my computer a bit, tried to write, watched TV, had lunch kind of days. The kind of days that Facebook was made for. The kind of days where you don’t really do anything of note.
So why blog at all? This year of my life will be different from previous years – I’ll be splitting my time between London and Bangkok, “working” as an aspiring writer and running short story competitions through Five Stop Story. As one of the first participants in the innovative Brit Writers Awards Publishing Programme, I’m hoping that with hard work I will one day be a published novelist.
Throughout the year I’ll share with you my thoughts on writing, any useful tips and information I find, and stories of my life in Bangkok, the city of smiles.