Reflecting on the publication of Russian Doll

It’s a month and a bit since my debut pamphlet, Russian Doll, was published – a good time then, to stop and consider what it’s been like to have this particular collection of poems out in the world.

It’s been good.

And as someone who chooses words very carefully, ‘good’ really is the right word to use. But, of course, ‘good’ is still a rather broad term, so I’ll go into some more detail:

The Zoom launch
I was lucky enough to have my pamphlet chosen for publication by Indigo Dreams Publishing in the same year that the pamphlets of a number of talented poets – Oak Ayling, Victoria Bennett, Claire Booker, Isabelle Kenyon and Terry Quinn – were also due to be published. As well as writing wonderful poetry, these poets also happen to be generous with their time and support, indeed, they were the driving force behind the joint launch of our pamphlets. And I’m so glad they made this happen, for despite my pre-launch nerves, the Zoom event was a success. We had lots of attendees (around 75, I believe) and some really kind comments about our poetry. I genuinely believe that my life has been enriched by getting to know them and their poetry. And if you’d like to watch our joint launch, you can find it here on YouTube:

My poems connecting with readers
Having a reader quote back your poetry to you is something very special indeed. One lady I know said that on reading some of my poetry she felt as though I’d been reading from her diary – things that were personal to her, yet experienced and voiced by me. Yet, isn’t this the job of the poet – to make the personal universal? I believe that it is. So with that comment alone, I feel like I’ve really, properly, toiled in the poetry fields and that I’ve earned that refreshing drink offered me.

Also, my pamphlet has received its first (and very kind) Amazon review – which feels like another real, proper milestone.

My poetry finding new readers
There’s nothing quite as heartening for a writer as a complete stranger buying your book and getting in touch to say that they were moved by your writing. I suppose that’s because we all expect a certain amount of support from friends and family, so to receive it from someone you have no immediate connection to feels as though your writing is most definitely out on its own journey into the world; best of all, it’s meeting with receptive readers on its travels!

Connecting with new writers
Also, another bonus of having Russian Doll out in the world is that I’ve discovered wonderful new writers. I happened to share my poem, ‘Changeling’ (as part of the first ever Friday Feature at the wonderful Poetry Village) with the members of the British Fantasy Society Facebook group. Penny Jones, who’d recently been shortlisted for ‘Best Newcomer’ in the BFS awards, left a positive comment, saying that our writing was on similar themes (her novella Matryoshka, which you can buy from Amazon, was about to be released). I’ve since read two of Penny’s books (which are utterly gripping by the way) and am looking forward to meeting Penny at this year’s FantasyCon (fingers-crossed it happens this year!).  

Since I used to manage my own small press which published poetry, I already knew that poetry pamphlets aren’t exactly bestselling books. If a non-famous poet sells a hundred or two hundred pamphlets over a couple of years they’re doing well. So I think my expectations for initial sales were reasonable. If I sold a dozen (maybe two?) to poetry friends in the first month I’d be pleased. I think I’ve hit that modest goal now so I’m pleased. But I’ll be celebrating when/if I ever go into the black with the pamphlet! (This seems like the appropriate moment to mention that it can be bought from the publisher or direct from me, by emailing me: [email protected])

Further opportunities
As a result of my debut pamphlet being published, I’ve had a number of exciting opportunities come my way, one of them being a Q&A with the very lovely blogger-writer, Tracey Curzon-Manners over on her YouTube channel. Do have a watch if you’d like to know more about the origins of my name, my Russian mum, and how a villanelle ended up being a good poetical form to write about my father’s death. (And, surely, it’s worth a watch just to see if I look this durpy throughout…?!)

Also, I’m super-excited about being a guest reader at Allen Ashley’s upcoming launch for his pamphlet, Echoes from an Expired Earth (Demain Publishing). Allen’s a great guy and a hugely experienced writer, poet and editor, and his poetry always makes me smile, so do come along if you’re at all interested in poetry with a speculative twist – I think it’s going to be a hugely enjoyable event.

Promotional activities/review seeking
I have to admit that promotion is not my strong point. I find it much easier to talk about other people’s books rather than my own. Still… I’m slowly making my way through my long list of ‘promotional things-to-do’, and although I often find myself squirming when writing promotional copy about myself, I have to remind myself that this is simply part of the job description of ‘author’ nowadays. As my dear (departed) dad used to say, if you don’t blow your own horn, then no one else will!

An unexpected bonus
For all our online connectivity, family and friends, at times, the experience of being human is one of disconnectedness; of isolation. After all, there is no one who can actually, literally, be inside your own head and know what it’s like to be you. But words can help. My father-in-law – a former scientist, gardener-extraordinaire and booklover (though he freely admits to not being a poetry reader) – recently emailed me with his thoughts after reading Russian Doll. He gave me some very kind feedback and said that he felt that he knew his daughter-in-law that bit better now. (Which made me cry.) Proof that poetry from the heart can really help bring people that bit closer to one other.

So, all in all, the experience of becoming a published poet is good.


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