Every step along the way of writing and publicising a book is an exercise in self-doubt. First you wonder if what you’re writing is in any way decent. Once you’ve passed that test, the worry then is that any publisher will pick up your work. Then you fret about the reviews and sales. It is an endless crucible of gnawing apprehension.
Perhaps the biggest worry, however, is whether anyone will show up at your book events. Many years ago, I remember reading a book where writers much more storied than I recounted tales of their humiliation at attending book events with only the book shop staff for company.
I’d been pretty lucky so far but, on a dark night in Canberra last month, I feared my luck was about to run out. When I arrived in good time at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre things were looking dim. The bookseller was there, with twenty neatly stacked copies of Beloved Land waiting for punters to buy…but there was a problem: there appeared to be hardly any punters! Suddenly I remembered that the organizer had described previous events as ‘cosy’, a euphemism if ever there was one. As I looked around the small venue, the only other company I had was a plastic fish, perched expectedly on the couch on which I was meant to plonk myself. I began to hope the fish had come armed with lots of questions.
And then, the gods smiled. Over the course of the next ten minutes, about twenty or so people trickled in, many with emotional, personal or professional connections to Timor-Leste. We managed to fill our small venue with good conversation. The bookseller left happy.
My luck was in……and thanks to everyone who made it and prevented me from talking only to the fish.
Lets hope my luck keeps for Ubud, where I’m speaking next. I’m thrilled to be invited to speak at the Ubud Writer’s and Reader’s Festival. I’ll be speaking at four different talks – the organisers are certainly getting their money’s worth out of me – and I’m really looking forward to it.
Here’s some photos of the event in Canberra last month. The photographer is Steve Morris, a mate I used to work with in Dili who has started his own photography business. I’m really pleased with the photos. As is the fish.