I have always been a keen writer ever since first learning how to use a pen. Throughout childhood I wrote stories for friends in the format of Role Play Gaming, and as I matured I began writing science fiction and fantasy novels. The main barrier I faced as an aspirational author was courage. Being quite shy and lacking in confidence I had to muster the courage to attempt publishing my work. In the old days, pre-email, I submitted my manuscripts by post with a covering letter. Most publishers, within a few weeks, would respond with a kind letter of rejection. One time I received a very unkind letter from a publisher who explained, at length, how angry he was that I had dared approach his company with my manuscript. It took me many years to recover enough to think about publishing my stories again. By this time email was available and the process had changed. You now submit your work digitally and the publishers no longer provide the courtesy of responding, they just state that if you have not heard from them in six months then you can assume they are not interested. The other noticeable change is the trend that it is mostly celebrities who are accepted by publishing companies now, as it is more of a sure bet than promoting new authors, I guess.
During the years I had given up on being an author, I dedicated my life to my other passion, which is education. I specialized at helping students who had barriers to their learning. Unfortunately my teaching career came to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with cancer on my vocal cords. My treatments were carried out during the Covid years and I was rendered mute and completely isolated. With this experience I learned how much it is our voice that makes us human. The ability to share thoughts quickly and efficiently is the major part of what makes our species what it is. The two main problems with being mute is firstly that people are obviously uncomfortable in your company, so you feel like a monster, and secondly people tend to speak to you with the assumption that your IQ is the same as your shoe size. Feeling very much ostracized from society, I once again considered writing for an occupation.
However, confidence was even more of an issue now. I am fully aware that I am an unusual, unorthodox story-teller and I feared it was unlikely that anyone would accept my writing for publication.
It was the health scare that provided me with the determination to publish at least one of my stories. I had been told that I would only have a few months more in this world if I did not have the operation to remove my voice box, and I opted to take the chance to stay in this world for a while longer. I now breathe like a dolphin through a blow hole in my neck, below where my Adam’s apple used to be. I realized that I did not have an infinite amount of time, in fact I do not have enough time to complete all the works I would want to. With a strong sense of urgency I scoured the internet for publishers and agents who I thought would be most likely to accept my manuscripts, and then waited the obligatory six months for the silent rejections. I consider it a serendipitous moment when I came across the website for the Self-Publishing Partnership. Each page was clear, concise, informative and friendly. They also provided a rough guide as to how much it would cost to publish with their assistance. So, I started saving up and with contributions from family and friends after a year and a bit I had just enough to commit to publishing.
From the moment I first contacted SPP I was extremely impressed by their professionalism, and they accommodated for my individual needs. They were perfectly willing to communicate with me through email only and very quickly the correspondences felt like conversation. They made me feel like I was still a part of humanity, with intelligence and a voice with which to share thoughts. I cannot quite express how invaluable this was to me. They were accommodating in other ways too; I was finicky about nuances, like the placement of words on certain pages and little changes to particular paragraphs. I also challenged the proof reader with an over use of commas and dashes which they patiently waded through and corrected for me. SPP took my idea for a cover and used it for a basis for three proposed alternative covers. I was stunned and amazed at how beautiful each one was in its own way. I spent many hours staring at them before I could decide which one to use, and I still find myself just staring at the cover I did choose from time to time. I can imagine that any sales of the book will probably be more due to the artwork on the cover than content inside! When it came close to being ready for publication, I suddenly became nervous, but the SPP staff I was corresponding with accommodated this too and provided subtle reassurances and positive comments that really helped. Every step of the way they were supportive; if publishing a book could be likened to climbing a mountain, the SPP staff were like a team of Sherpas guiding you to the summit. And they make the process so easy it feels like starting at the top of a slide in a playground with a bundle of scrappy pages and slipping swiftly down to having a fully formed book at the bottom. A book that is available in shops and online.
It is not that I believe my work is so brilliant that it must be published for everyone to see; I would just like my words published because I am the only person who could write them and convey this one particular story. My perspective, imagination, thought process and experience is unique and I wanted to continue contributing to the collective thoughts of humanity. I also do not really expect to sell many books, I am just hoping to raise enough funding to publish another one of my manuscripts. I still have much more I would like to share.
I would like to thank you for reading this brief biography about my path to publishing my first book. If you are someone thinking of publishing yourself, I would say, “do it”. Not necessarily to become rich and famous, but because you are also unique and your contribution will enrichen the collective thoughts of humanity. And if you do decide to share your wisdom and imagination, the Self-Publishing Partnership is a group of amazing people who I cannot recommend highly enough to sail you through the publishing process.
Read more about ‘In the Midst of a Dream” by Marleigh Hillier here