The team at Brisbane Self Publishing Service were delighted to host our inaugural Christmas Party and author networking event on Thursday 29 November 2018 at Site Cafe in Banyo. And what a great night it turned out to be!
Coinciding with our five year anniversary, the evening proved to be a great success with some people travelling from as far away as Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, Toogoolawah in the Brisbane Valley and Lismore in northern NSW to attend our party. Drinks and nibbles flowed, as did engaging conversations between clients and our associated service providers. Everyone was keen to exchange ideas and share personal experiences of their writing and self-publishing journey in a relaxed and informal environment.
‘Meet and Greet’ opportunity
As most of the interaction we have with our clients is by way of email or phone conversations, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet many of our authors face to face for the first time and to finally put a face to an author’s name. It was also good to be able to introduce our ‘behind the scenes’ service providers who have partnered with us to help our author clients achieve their publication goals.
As well as our core service offerings of manuscript appraisals, editing and proofreading, page layout/typesetting and book cover design, we also provide print management, ebook conversion/distribution, audiobook production, website design and book marketing advice. Not everyone has taken advantage of all of these options but it was wonderful to see everyone chatting so openly with one another about their writing and publishing experiences. It was also interesting to find out more about what prompted our clients to take the leap of faith to self-publish their manuscripts; what inspired them to write about their chosen topic; how they got started; and what they’re currently working on.
A Centralised Hub for Local Indie Authors
At Brisbane Self Publishing Service we continually strive to create a personalised and supportive experience for all our clients. So naturally it was gratifying for us to see a large group of published and yet-to-be published authors coming together and enjoying themselves at our first networking event. In addition, the positive feedback we’ve received since the party, confirms that we’re on track with our goal of providing a Brisbane-based hub for indie authors with friendly, professional advice and support on offer. We love what we do and feel privileged that our clients are willing to put their trust in us to help them realise their publishing dreams.
We are looking forward to seeing many self-publishing writers at our next author networking event. Remember to keep an eye on our website ‘Events’ page for more details.
Seeing an author’s unique personality shine through in their book is one of the real pleasures I experience working with self-publishing authors … and Sandy McKean was no exception. Sandy’s travel memoir, Something Happened on the Way to … captures her light-hearted attitude and her infectious passion for life.
In her travel memoir, Sandy takes her readers on a trip down memory lane – sharing fond memories and hilarious anecdotes from her childhood and teenage years, as well as her more recent past. Combining humour with unflinching honesty, Sandy’s anecdotes of her many trips abroad allow her to connect with her audience on an emotional level, while at the same time creating a sense of drama and adventure.
Sandy’s unique approach to promotion has seen her memoir ‘travel the world’ in the most delightful way, with fans snapping shots of it in countries far and wide. It has been gratifying to see Sandy’s engaging writing style inspire others to reflect on their own journeys, with her humorous perspective to light the way.
What Is a Travel Memoir?
Travel writing can take many different forms, including:
- holiday diaries
- blog posts.
Each genre has its own unique style and associated reader expectations, and travel memoirs are no exception. Rather than focusing on a particular destination, successful travel memoirs balance the writer’s personal backstory and description of their travels in a way that takes readers on both an emotional and physical journey to unknown places.
The primary goal of a travel memoir is not necessarily to inspire readers to travel to the places depicted in the book. Instead, a true travel memoir reveals how the writer has grown or been changed by their experiences abroad and encourages readers to reflect on their own life journey.
How to Write a Travel Memoir
Writing a travel memoir is no easy feat, as Sandy McKean would no doubt attest to. However, incorporating the six key aspects outlined below should help you on your own writing journey:
- Decide on a central theme
- Write what comes naturally to you
- Define your author voice
- Wait until your journey is over before writing
- Weave your story like a true storyteller
- Be authentic.
Decide on a Central Theme
Deciding on a central theme will help to create cohesiveness and purpose to your travel memoir. It could be something as straightforward as coping with loss or self discovery, but your story should serve to highlight this throughout the book. Eat, Pray, Love is a well-known and highly successful travel memoir because it effectively highlights the restlessness of women who are questioning their current life choices.
Write What Comes Naturally to You
Unlike fiction, a travel memoir shouldn’t be carefully planned out, or the overall message or conclusion forced. The true essence of the story is sharing the raw and real emotion and the act of reflection and realisation of what the journey ultimately meant. This can’t be artificially manufactured if a travel memoir is to be truly engaging for readers.
Define Your Author Voice
The voice you choose determines how your reader will experience your journey, so it’s important to choose something that’s fitting. You might choose a friendly, conversational, formal or humorous voice or you might choose to be aloof to add to the effect of your story. Once you’ve chosen the right voice, be sure it remains consistent throughout the book.
Wait Until Your Travel Journey Is Over Before Writing
Introspection is the key to a good travel memoir. Yet, you can only properly reflect on your journey after it’s over. Life-changing experiences are also usually spontaneous and unplanned, so planning to write a travel memoir about an upcoming trip could result in a memoir that appears to be forced. Reflecting on a recent trip and your experiences before you begin writing can help you find the deeper meaning that’s key to a well-written travel memoir.
Weave Your Story like a True Storyteller
A travel memoir needs to read like fiction to keep a reader engaged and let them access the deeper essence of your story. This means you need to incorporate the essential elements of storytelling, such as:
- a clearly defined setting
- well-developed characters, including a protagonist and antagonist
- a strong plot
- conflict that creates tension and builds suspense
- a well-considered theme
- a narrative arc.
These elements help you engage your audience and evoke an emotional response, which is the ultimate purpose of every good story.
When writing your travel memoir, it is important to be honest about your experiences. Readers don’t expect you to be perfect; they actually much prefer to read about someone human, who makes mistakes. Rather than trying to make yourself look good, tell your audience about your regrets, embarrassing moments, the way you messed things up, the things you didn’t like or the silly things you said. Keep it real and allow readers access to the depths of your soul so they will be able to experience your inner transformation for themselves.
These days, there is a lot confusion surrounding the genres of memoir and autobiography, with many authors unsure of the actual purpose of these writing styles. People will often say that they are writing their autobiography when they really mean they are writing a memoir. Despite sharing some similar features, there are fundamental differences between a publication that is defined as a memoir and one that is considered to be an autobiography.
According to well-known American author Gore Vidal: ‘Memoir is how one remembers one’s own life while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked’. So before you decide to embark on writing your life story, it is important to have an understanding of the key similarities and differences between memoirs and autobiographies.
Similarities between Memoirs and Autobiographies
Both memoirs and autobiographies are written in the first person and they are true accounts of the author’s life. The author shares personal information with readers, in this way giving their audience genuine insight into the author’s thoughts, motivations and feelings.
Differences between Memoirs and Autobiographies
Memoirs usually focus on one or two central themes and explore one particular area or timeframe of the author’s life in depth. This might include sharing their experiences of overcoming an illness, a near-death experience or some other life-altering event. Memoirs usually cover a brief period of the author’s life, focusing on stories that relate to the main theme. The author may hop back and forth between different timeframes or they may start their memoir at a random point in time, objectively revisiting an extraordinary life event.
Autobiographies, on the other hand, are usually structured chronologically; they are the story of the author’s life from birth until the time of writing. They cover a much broader time span and no one incident is considered to be more important than any other.
Memoirs are more personal than autobiographies. Memoir authors reflect on what they have learned from their experiences and share their innermost thoughts with their readers. The author may offer opinions and question their own beliefs throughout the memoir without ever reaching a definitive answer. The story in a memoir relies on the author’s memories and may not be entirely true – for example, it is not possible to recount conversations exactly as they were spoken at the time.
In contrast, autobiographies include factual material that can be verified by readers. They are often written by celebrities whose fans are interested in the details of their lives and how they became famous. In contrast, anyone who has an interesting message they wish to share with others can write a memoir.
Memoir Writing Tips
Regardless of which genre you decide on, it is important to remember that your writer’s voice must engage the reader from the very first sentence. Your personality should be conveyed through your unique author voice. In memoir writing, using a conversational style helps readers to feel you are speaking to them personally – almost as though you are confiding in them.
On the whole, memoirs have an overarching theme such as triumph over adversity where the author has experienced terrible hardship but through courage and persistence has been able to overcome their problems. When writing a memoir it is important to convey your character flaws as well as those strengths that helped you through your ordeal. This will demonstrate to readers that you are a well-rounded human being who people can relate to.
Memoirs give readers the impression that what they are reading is true as opposed to imaginary (which is the case for fiction). Therefore, your writing must be candid or readers will disengage from your story. Readers can usually detect when a writer is being dishonest. This is usually because there is something uneasy about the writing style which makes them wonder why they don’t believe what they are reading.
Memoir readers want to be simultaneously entertained and enlightened by the subject matter. Always keep your audience in mind and avoid meaningless details or wallowing in self-pity. Long-winded, self-indulgent narrative will cause your readers to lose interest and feel unsympathetic towards you.
There are many reasons why people want to record their personal history. Maybe it’s because they learned an important life lesson that they want to share with others. Or perhaps they want to publish a record of their life for future generations of family to enjoy. Many authors decide to write down their memories as a form of therapy. Whatever the reason, by honing your understanding of the different styles associated with memoirs and autobiographies, you will be well prepared to tell your story.
Over the course of this year, I had the pleasure of working with author and editor, Bronwyn Blake, helping her to achieve her long-held vision for the Gulf Women Project. After spending time with a group of women living in remote regions of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Bronwyn was passionate about curating their life stories for future generations. As a result, she suggested they should publish their life stories in the form of an anthology.
At first, the women thought she was joking; however, Bronwyn gently pointed out the importance of sharing their stories with a wider audience. Bronwyn volunteered her time for the project, spending many hours teaching first-time authors how to write and then editing their stories in order to turn them into an anthology. The book, Gulf Women: Voices from Remote North West Queensland was a mammoth effort and one that will see all book sale profits returned to the Gulf community.
Gulf Women was officially launched in July 2017 in Burketown, Queensland. The book launch was held in the Nijinda Durlga Shire Hall and among the hundreds of supporters were thirty of the fifty-five women who contributed their powerful stories to the project.
Drought, bushfires and floods are regular occurrences in their remote way of life, as are pet crocodiles and snakebites, and these women travelled far and wide (some meeting in-person for the first time at the launch) to share in the joy of seeing their amazing stories published.
Gulf Women is a collection of short stories from a group of rural women writers. However, anthologies can also be collections of poems, plays, songs or even a combination of these different formats. Most commonly, an editor compiles the collection and publishes the content in the form of a book, thereby providing emerging authors with the opportunity to have their work published without having to write an entire book themselves.
Anthologies: A General Overview
Anthologies always have an overarching theme – like the women of the Gulf region. However, the real art of editing an anthology is finding how the many additional themes within each piece of work link together to create smooth transitions and a cohesive body of work, rather than simply being a random collection of many individual stories.
A lot of work goes into editing an anthology, but it can be a rewarding experience. A large proportion of the work associated with producing an anthology revolves around forming relationships with published authors and potential writers. This in turn creates a small community of people who feel connected to the editor and his or her vision for the anthology, and who also share a feeling of accomplishment when they hold the printed book in their hands.
A Collaborative Experience
The collaborative process of sharing life experiences lends power to a good anthology and offers something unique to its readers. In the case of the Gulf women, sharing their stories of their lives and their ability to exist within a harsh environment gives their anthology a strong collective voice. However, it’s not only the writers of an anthology who share something unique. Reading an anthology is a different experience to reading other genres, such as a novel. In reality, the editor of an anthology is similar to a reader of other genres – selecting those stories they like and discarding those that they don’t will complement the collection. The key difference is that they publish their preferences for other people to read.
Some readers are not fond of anthologies because they consider them to be essentially recycled content. Yet, others like this ‘second-hand glimpse’ which forms the essence of an anthology. The editor of an anthology must allocate sufficient time to decide what material to include and the best way to structure the book. It is important that the published book not only contains stories they are personally interested in, but also stories that other people will enjoy reading.
Explore Other Worlds
Anthologies enable readers to explore a world they may not have experienced before by providing insight through the eyes of multiple writers. This may be a place, a culture or simply an experience that many have shared. Instead of offering one viewpoint or one theme, anthologies offer variety to the reader, which often keeps them engaged with the book.
Some readers collect anthologies that they consider to be the best pieces from a given era or critical theory. These can be a time-saving resource for students because it saves them from having to scour countless books to find what they need.
A well-researched and well-produced anthology has the capacity to amaze, enlighten or delight its audience and the ability to completely redefine the future of both reading and writing. With a good editor and some remarkable stories, anthologies can be a powerful communication medium for a group of like-minded writers.