Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Red Letter Day

I'm still on a bit of a high as I write this.

Today, this afternoon, I saw my books in a shop window for the first time in my life. The experience was so heady, and I was so overwhelmed, I did a very uncool thing and insisted my daughter took a photo of me standing in front of the window. Here it is:

Okay, I tried to look dignified and restrained, but it really was something beyond just euphoric. If I never see this again, I will forever cherish this image.

The reason that all my books were in the window of this shop was that I was giving a talk at the American Book Center in Den Haag and they very kindly promoted not just the books I was talking about (Watery Ways and The Skipper's Child), but my other books as well. The talk centred on the two books with Dutch connections, and I especially hope that given the time of year, The Skipper's Child will gain some interest. It is set at Christmas in 1962 (so it's seasonally topical), and is a kind of 'coming of age' novel in that it tells the story of a 12 year old boy who discovers what it means to be loyal and courageous against some fairly heavy odds; he also learns to stand up for what is just and fair in the face of quite overwhelming opposition. It is a 'period' novel, being set in the early sixties, about a very different way of life on the European waterways, so I hope it will interest enough people to give it a try. I've written another novel since (my Eccentrics, of whom I am very fond), but I still feel Arie Kornet's story is the best of my creative writing so far.

I also talked about Watery Ways, the memoir of my first year on a barge, and the difference between writing fact and fiction. Then we finished up the afternoon with a demonstration of the Express Printing machine they have at ABC. I've featured this in a blog post before, but now I'm going to post a brief film of the machine. I should mention that because they have to be sure the author owns all the rights to the books they print on this machine, I chose to give them African Ways to use as a demo. It's my first book, my first memoir, and the only one I have retained sole rights over. This astonishing machine takes around ten minutes to print, bind, cut and finish a complete book. When it has finished everything it has to do, it delivers a perfect and complete book in a slot on the side of the machine. So, to finish off the afternoon, we held a draw and one of my visitors won a signed copy of African Ways.

There weren't many people at the talk, but those that came were a lovely receptive audience, and I am very happy and pleased to have had the opportunity. Still, even if there'd been no one there at all, just the sight of those books on the stands and in the window, well, it's more than just a feeling of wow! it will be a long time before I ever become blasé about that! Below there are some more photos of the mighty machine, and lastly, the winner of the prize looking (thankfully) pleased to have scooped the prize.

Many thanks to Agnes, Jo, Karin, Lilia, and Esther at ABC for their very kind help and also the wonderful Barry who helped make the afternoon such a special event. I hope it will prove to be worth all the trouble for all of you in eventual sales, and I very much hope I can come back another time to talk about my future writing projects.


  1. Indeed a red letter day, and wonderfully exciting for you Val. To see your books published must be a thrill, and seeing them all in a window display, even better. I have ordered Watery Ways from you as a birthday present to myself!

  2. Hello Val. What a lovely post. I too hope your talk results in sales over an extended period, What a thrill it must have been to see your books in the window. I can imagine your euphoria. I was intrigued by the Express Printing machine. How amazing.

    Arrive in Amsterdam on Dec 4th til the 7th. Won't have a car so probably won't be able to catch up. I don't know the area at all. First visit to The Netherlands.

    Happy Christmas!


  3. One of your best days ever, Val - and well deserved. I hope you bathe in its glory for weeks.

  4. Good for you, Val...

    You should frame that picture :)

    Vanessa xx

  5. Thank you very much for the good wishes all, and Patricia, it's even more rewarding to think you see my book as a present to self!

    Denise, I fear we won't meet up as I am working all the days you are here. I'm very sorry about that, but maybe another time - when you do that planned river cruise!

    Jo, you can say that again. I shall wallow in euphoria for weeks!

    Vanessa, yes, I think I should! That's a good idea! It might never happen again :-)

  6. How wonderful, your excitement really shines through this post and you have a right to be very proud of yourself. Perhaps it's time to ask for your autograph before you become very rich and famous and don't talk to us anymore! (just kidding, I know that rich and famous you would still be your lovely self) x

    1. thank you dear Fran. That's a special thought but one bookshop on one day will not make much difference,and this is as close as I'm likely to get to my fifteen minutes :)

  7. It must be wonderful to see all your books displayed together like that I don't think that happens to many authors. I agree the photo should be framed.

  8. Aww thank you, Anne! And I have more than this to thank you for too. What a surprise you gave me on your own blog too. Lovely you!


  9. Look at your little face!!!! Beaming with pride. And so you should!! Lovely to see your hard work in a shop!!!! I am so pleased for you!!!

  10. I just have to say, posing in front of a window with your books in it is actually very cool. It is a great accomplishment and compliment.

  11. Thank you, CarolStar. On your great day having scaled the dizzy heights to the top 60 of Amazon's best sellers, I wish I'd been standing next to you instead xx

    Thank you too, Ms Palmer of the Chronicles! That's really sweet of you to say so. I will come and visit you too very soon!

  12. Hi Val - that's great news isn't it ... and I don't blame you for getting your daughter to take a photo - why not!

    Fantastic that you were able to give your talk .. and I certainly hope you'll get extra recognition now.

    I've heard of the Express machine before or similar - isn't that fun - and how satisfying to see your book pop out full bound etc ...

    I emailed you a while back - not sure if you got the email .. but re Jenny's book - I saw the new print version from Abe books as Print on Demand ... it's not cheap!

    Cheers and enjoy this Red Letter Day ... Hilary

  13. How exciting! I am constantly being amazed at how the whole publishing scene is changing so very fast. It doesn't seem that long ago that self publishing a book was quite a complex enterprise - and a very expensive one too. Having read about the machine in a previous post, it was good to see it in action.

  14. Sure you should be jingling with happiness, especially with your books on display and after all of the effort of writing them.

    Well done I say !

  15. Congrats on having your book featured in a window display! I just got my first book published, but think I'll have to settle for a picture of me standing next to it in a bookstore. :-)

  16. Jenny thank you. The Possibilities for self publishing are growing daily, and it's a very exciting business.

    Hilary, I don't think I received your email, as I don't remember seeing it, but I'll check back again. I'll answer if I find it, but if not, I'll let you know. Thanks for the news about Jenny's book. I'm curious about it, so I'll take a look at that too.

    Mel, thank you kind sir! It is a very special feeling indeed! After all the effort of writing them, a shop window is the absolute best place to see them :-)

    Kristein, thank you! It takes some getting used to, so I certainly won't take it for granted!

  17. a lovely uplifting post Val, really pleased for you. You write brilliantly and deserve all the praise in the world! I am enjoying 'How to Breed Sheep...' so much, it has me in stitches...

  18. Oh Val! I am so chuffed for you! Well done! And to think... I knew you BEFORE you were a famous writer! Much love to you! xoxxoxo

  19. Jay, thank you! I'm so glad you are enjoying my Eccentrics! I'm looking forward to starting Scarlet ribbons soon! xx

    Stevie, dear, it's lovely to see you here too. Thank you and thanks for your lovely post as well. Maybe we can have a return to Blogland from some of the old crowd. That would be lovely!! xx

  20. Yes it would be lovely Val! xoxo


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