In my late 20s, I took a job working in a government transport department. The main drawcard was that it halved my commute, because the area itself seemed totally foreign – what did I know about cars, roads or drivers, and how could such things possibly be interesting? Yet it turned out to be one of my favourite jobs – with a seemingly endless parade of fascinating, often arcane issues to solve.
One of those arcane issues was how to clean up ‘vanity suburbs’ in the address database. Real estate agents trade heavily on vanity in their advertising, and some residents go on to embrace what are essentially fictional places – areas located on the fringes of more prestigious suburbs that rebrand themselves by association, most often by adding a modifier like ‘north’ or ‘east’ or ‘heights’. Their fictionality is probably what appealed to me as a writer, even if my day job was to figure out how to subdue them into standard conventions.
This was back in 2004, when Amazon existed, but Kindle didn’t. We didn’t have ‘indie publishing’ or ‘print on demand’. In 2004, the idea of ‘vanity publishing’ was still seen by many writers as the last refuge of the truly desperate. I lumped it in with those people who insisted they lived in a fictional suburb as a way to inflate, not only their house prices, but also their ego.
How things change.
This year I turned 40, and in the months before my birthday, I had to face the fact that I would reach the shores of middle age without having finished (let alone published) my current novel. After wallowing in a fair amount of self-pity, I decided I had to make some good come out of turning 40.
So I set myself the challenge of creating something that represented what I had achieved as a writer, instead of dwelling on what I hadn’t.
I chose a ‘top ten’ of my best poems, and approached Summer Pierre, my favourite artist from the Twittersphere, to see if she would illustrate them (if you work full time, and write, and are trying not to go crazy, read her wonderful book ‘The Artist in the Office‘.) Summer said yes, and so was born my first published book – What they will become – a chapbook that you can now find on Amazon in Kindle format or paperback.
Poetry is the least commercial genre you can think of, so this isn’t about making money, or even building a profile. It’s just about producing something I can be really proud of. Maybe that is a form of vanity, but it’s given me what I always wish for when I blow out birthday candles: the experience of holding my very own book in my very own hands.
I hope you enjoy it.