Having missed too many deadlines to count, lost my number one fan to old age and a chest infection and the end result paperback poetry book missing it on so many levels my publisher and I parted company. We called it a day.
I thought I would give it a few weeks until I had time to pick the adventure up again and start over. This time last year I was busy putting the poetry manuscript together. I didn’t expect to be at the same place a year on. The e-book is up and running but the paper version has fallen along the wayside.
A poet friend of mine used a local publisher “For The Right Reasons”. I decided to take my manuscript along and see what they could do. I don’t know whether publishers have egos but I imagined there might be a frosty reception as in “If only you had come to us first…” I’d hovered outside the door on more than one occasion before I scuttled back to the car. I can be very spineless at times.
Richard Burkitt is the man behind the printing side of the charity. He cleared a chair and pulled it close inviting me to sit down. I told him about the church funding the poetry book and about my decision to go with a publisher linked to our church network. I talked about the e-book and handed him the paper version. The front cover is impressive but a book needs more than an impressive front cover. It didn’t take him long to identify the formatting issues. He handed over to the “genius” to look at – the man that puts the books together, and knows what all the machines in the shop do.
“Let’s walk, shall we?”
Richard is a whirlwind of a man. I don’t think he sits down for more than a few minutes. The Printing and Publishing shop is one part of the charity. The charity is set up to help people to come off addictions. Sometimes it is a case of two steps forward and one step back.
We walked a short distance to the For The Right Reasons charity shop. He admitted that there wasn’t a great turnover from the shop as the ladies behind the counter would allow themselves to be haggled down to almost nothing. The shop was more of a drop in centre at times and their customers came for a chat and a listening ear more often than not. He introduced me to the ladies – he called me Alison as I had mentioned I knew Alison who had published a book through him.
Our next destination was the Breathe Chapel. It was a disused, burnt building that had been a regular meeting place for drug addicts. He and his friends had reclaimed the building, repaired and painted it. It’s run by the Methodist Church and has become a quiet space in a busy, run down part of the city. Just recently they had worked with some young men on community service replacing the fence and preparing for landscaping the garden. It was the bookshelf in the chapel that Richard wanted me to see. A copy of my book once printed would be on the shelf so that people who came to the chapel could read the poems and reflect upon them.
He introduced me as Alison, the poet, to all the people working on the garden.
Back at the printing and publishing office we talked a little more. It was sitting there with him that I realised all that I had missed the first time around, dealing with a publisher that I couldn’t visit. He talked about the size of the font, the spacing between the lines, putting things closer to the middle, allowing the poems to spread over two or three pages if necessary. I would be able to see and comment on the book as it went through various incarnations. I could even come in to the office if I wanted and do things on the computer. I could do my own formatting if I wished! I was a partner in all of this. Publishing was something that someone was going to do to me, but work through with me.
There would be nothing published properly until I was happy with the product. I wouldn’t end up with a box of books under the stairs still wrapped in the bubble wrap they arrived in.
While we were talking, one of the men who working in the office had picked up my book and scanned down the contents page.
“God’s Scary Mathematics – got to read that one.” He read it and then looked at the hairs on his arm with saucer sized eyes. “You see that?” He said to another man in the office, “The hairs on my arm are just standing up…that’s some poem!”
The whole experience was so uplifting. I felt so built up and encouraged. Richard and his staff were so enthusiastic about the book. I had thought I would need to convince them that it was worth publishing, but they just embraced the whole adventure.
As I prepared to leave, Richard shook my hand and thanked me for bringing the book and for letting them work with me to get it published!
I floated back to the car, sat in the driver’s seat, clicked the seat belt in and then had a moment of unbridled joy. Anyone watching me might have jumped to the wrong conclusion that I had just injected my veins with heroin!
“So,” said God, when we finished with the high fives, “the next book – I’ve got a working title…”
I didn’t think there would be a first book, but it is most definitely on its way. We even have a book launch date pencilled in for the end of August. In the heavenlies the book is already on the Breathe Chapel bookshelf. God has moved on to the next book.