From Twitter Tale To Novel

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It’s been a long summer and I’ve been quietly working behind the scenes. You’ll be pleased to know that my collection has been edited, with immensely helpful input from Unbound, and is as a result a much better book. It also has a new title. Gone is the over long full Warhol quote; the book will now be published as Fifteen Minutes. The editing was an interesting process. A lot of the stories had already been professionally edited but, in my experience, things can always be improved on. The copy of my first novel that I take to readings has writing all over it where I’ve added or cut things from the printed text and that was published five years ago! A book is never finished but hopefully this collection is now at its best. I am very happy with the editorial decisions made so far. Sometimes I kept things the way there were, simply out of gut instinct, anyway between us we’ve come up with something I am extremely proud of. I can’t wait for you to read it. People keep asking me when and the answer is ‘soon’. The book has been sent for copy editing, which I am told takes about 3 weeks and then – who knows? But it will be soon and I will keep you informed every step of the way. Even though the book is 100% funded there is still time to support it. If you love short stories and think they should get their due credit in the publishing world please pledge via Unbound you will help raise the profile of the short story and get your name listed in the book as a supporter.

In the meantime, one of the stories has been published in a much redjuced form in a beautiful little book called Tales On Tweet. This is the origin of the story Ruby of the Desert. The full story has also been shortlisted for Huddersfield University’s Grist competition and will appear in their anthology early next year. I’ve also been working on the idea of turning it into a novel. Tales On Tweet is a Twitter account by Indian writer Manoj Pandey. A couple of years ago they asked for 140 character stories, this year they chose a bookfull to be illustrated and published by Harper Collins India. There are stories by Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Teju Cole and lesser mortals like me. It was quite hard to get hold of a copy, the first one didn’t arrive and I had to turn to Amazon Marketplace to get one. The book is gorgeous and wise and each tale is illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, a Japanese Illustrator based in New York. I love my page (even though, or perhaps because, they spelled my name wrong!) I love how it sums up the tale by creating the heat of a diner kitchen and the passage of time through the sheer number of teabags. Does the waitress win the lottery? I think your answer to that says more about your personality than mine.

talesontweet

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How To Crowdfund A Book

We did it! Me as the writer and 203 literature lovers raised enough money to crowdfund a book of short stories that would otherwise not be published. The deadline for In The Futrue Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes from Unbound Publishing was officially June 22nd but we reached 100% on June 18th. You will notice I keep saying ‘we’, this is because, after the inital posting about the campaign, crowdfunding this book has always been a collaborative project. Crowdfunding relies on word of mouth, on the sharing of information, responses to calls for help, suggestions from friends, family and colleagues about how to achieve the goal, from little pep talks about failure to handing out flyers. I honestly could not have done this without the help of my supporters.

It hasn’t been easy. It has probably been the hardest thing I have done since I started this writing lark, mainly because it hasn’t been about writing. Crowdfunding is about marketing, pure and simple.  I have barely written any fiction in the last four months. I have written articles for websites, journals and blogs. I have written countless tweets, Facebook and Linkedin posts but I have written only one short story. It has been hard because I am not a natural marketeer. I’m used to writing about imaginary things every day. At the beginning it was easier, as actually getting funded seemed a bit pie in the sky anyway, a fantasy, raise £3,500? Are you nuts?

There are highs and lows in this process. If it is something you are thinking about doing I offer you a few tips.

Prepare in advance; have the promo video ready to go, write a stack of copy about the project that can be submitted to journals and websites, open a Hootsuite account and learn how to use it. I did none of this until I was already into the project and, as a result of this lack of planning, my campaign became a full time job while I learned what I should have known before I started. You should always have a plan! How many times has that been said this week in Brexit Britain?

Strategically placed personal emails work wonders. You need one mailout at the beginning, one at the middle and one at the end. I used this model for friends and professional contacts. I only got one slightly unhinged complaint (how dare you send a begging letter! I hope the project fails!) most people are happy to ignore what they don’t want to be involved in but a lot of people who intend to support you will need a gentle reminder or two to do so. Don’t be scared, be polite and present them with the opportunity, because that’s what it is, it’s not a begging bowl it’s a request for collabortation.

If you have anything else to give, offer it as a pledge. Someone else at Unbound has offered to stop talking about their project for £3,000! I offered short story appraisals and manuscript mentoring. This was something I could easily do and it proved to be very lucrative. I am forever grateful to the person who pledged for the mentoring because it boosted the project by about 10% in one go. After hundreds of tweets about the short story appraisals 5 were sold and another 10% was raised. I am also very grateful to a Twitter friend who suggested that pushing these options would raise the money faster – see what I mean about collaboration!

Write a press release and send it out locally. I got a short film made about the project by Brighton’s local TV station, Latest TV, as a result of a press release. This meant I had a ready made promo to share and resulted in a large number of pledges. I also used the press release (tailored for individuals) to propose articles in trade journals and short story websites. The take up on article proposals was around 50/50. You need to research who publishes what and pitch accordingly.

Make public appearances. Go to spoken word events. Hand out leaflets in town. Approach the local radio. Do whatever comes your way no matter how small. It is never a waste of time and it may just net you a couple of supporters.

At around 40% I thought I’d never do it but it was a great feeling watching the pie chart on my Unbound page fill and change from green to orange as the last pledges rolled in. In the words of Kate Bush – don’t give up!

Fully Funded!

The Greatest

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It is Saturday morning and I have woken to the news of Muhammad Ali’s death. The TV and radio are full of iconic clips and interviews. My short story collection is fast becoming a book of the dead. Many of the celebrities in it are no longer with us.

There is a story in it about Ali. It was one of the first sucessful stories I ever wrote, unexpectedly runner up in a competition and published in an Australian literary journal. It is about a boxer with Alzheimer’s and the doctor treating him. The doctor remembers being taken to see Cassius Clay fight Henry Cooper in 1963 when he was a little boy. My Dad loved Muhammad Ali and the story is inspired by his own difficult descent into dementia. Even now I can remember watching the Parkinson interview with Ali in the 1970s and my Dad explaining why it was so important. I couldn’t have been any more than six or seven years old. The story is about memory more than anything, but it is also about witnessing an early victory from an individual who would go on to change the world. Ali became the most famous man on the planet and the doctor in my story never forgets seeing him in a moment of transformation – becoming the butterfly.

I did think that the celebrities in my  book were all perfunctory to the main characters but, in some cases, they prove to be a catalyst for change.  Ali, Bowie and Andy Warhol all influence the characters for the better and actually set them onto a path of becoming something else. Celebrity culture is not all bad. It’s funny how you can think you are writing one thing when actually you are writing something else. The influence some people have on the world goes beyond celebrity, they transcend sport or art or music and change humanity for the better.

Earlier this week I was interviewed by The Short Story and the resulting article explains quite a lot about In The Future Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes. Please share with anyone you think might be interested.

If you know anybody who is looking for a creative writing mentor, or anyone who would like to take part in a workshop, I am offering these as pledging options. We are so close!

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Unbound Diary Part 11 – Almost There!

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A lot has happened since I last blogged here. I was stuck around the 45% mark for what seemed like an eternity, thinking that I was never going to get this thing funded. Last week I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, the fab short story writer Safia Moore, who not only pledged to the book but suggested that the pledge options I should be pushing were the ones for large sums, the short story appraisals and mentoring packages. She pointed out that I am the director of a short story prize, have been short-listed in a few myself, and am a tutor! She is of course right on all counts. It’s funny how when you are in the middle of something you can’t see it for what it is. I started pushing these options on social media and so far someone has pledged for £400 of mentoring and four people have pledged for short story appraisals. I suddenly find myself 81 % funded, so thank you Safia for reminding me of what I have to offer!

If you keep getting nowhere when sending out short story submissions, or entering competitions, perhaps you could do with a little help from the director of a prize, who has been published in Riptide and The Manchester Review and short-listed for The Bristol and Fish prizes. I am an experienced tutor, mentor and editor with an MA (dist) in Creative Writing and an acclaimed novel.

On offer as part of crowdfunding for In The Future Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes are:

Short Story Appraisal up to 5,000 words with full edit and notes – £100

Mentoring,  4 face to face sessions (skype, email or phone for those too far away) up to 20,000 words with full edit and notes. This can be part one manuscript or several short stories. £400

2 hour Short Story Workshop for 5 people (South East and possibly Yorkshire) £200

These packages are offered at a much lower price than my usual rate and at a much lower price than most literary consultancies. Not only will they greatly benefit your writing but you will facilitate the publication of a book of short stories that would not otherwise be published.

You could of course just prove all the people who think short stories aren’t worth publishing wrong and pledge £10 in support of the book. You will be a patron of the arts and I am so very grateful that so many of you have already done so.

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Unbound Diary Part 10 – I’m Trying To Prove The Popularity Of The Short Story

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It’s been quite a week. I could see that I was getting towards the deadline for raising funds for my short story collection In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes. It felt like I was stalled at the 40% mark and that I would never get enough support for the project to go ahead. I couldn’t really see what to do but I knew that I didn’t want this opportunity to slip away. In the last few weeks I have done events, sent out emails and press releases, written blog posts and had stories from the book published in journals and still there were only a handful of responses. I was very grateful to each and everyone of those new pledgers but I needed more. I decided it was time to change tactics. Over the last few days I have spent 6 hours a day solidly marketing. I have contacted every journal and short story organisation I could find and asked for their help. To my surprise the answer has  almost always been yes. One editor replied within minutes with the opening line, ‘Hi Erinna – you’ve come to the right place!’ I was so grateful I could have cried. In the next few weeks I have articles coming out on Women Writers, The Short Story, Thresholds and Short Stops as well as guest posts on the blogs of friends and colleagues. The first of these is out today on Laura Wilkinson’s blog and she has cleverly called it In The Future Will Everyone Be Crowdfunding?

Last Friday morning I’d just got in from the school run when I took a phone call from Latest TV , in response to a press release I’d sent out a couple of weeks ago, could they come around in an hour to film me? I looked around my extremely messy house in horror but obviously I agreed. Creatives aren’t meant to be tidy, right? The film was posted on their Youtube channel on Tuesday and it has been an absolute godsend. It really represents what the book is about, how celebrity culture is everywhere and that this is not necessarily a good thing, and that one of the aims of the crowdfunding project is to draw attention to the lack of support given to the short story by UK agents and publishers. (When I write this in any article the editors always tell me I have to say ‘most UK agents and publishers’ but you know what, fuck it, this is my blog, and I want to go on the record as saying that this is true of 99.9999% of all UK agents and publishers!) I have set the film up to post on a loop on Twitter and Facebook with the buy-line ‘I’m trying to prove the popularity of the short story,’ and it’s getting quite a lot of attention as well as bringing me new pledgers. I am going to use the film as the basis for the campaign over the next couple of weeks. As of today I am at 58% and it really feels like I’m going to make it. I still need people to pledge so if you love short stories and think that they should get more attention from publishers please pledge to this collection.

Latest TV video

 

Fifteen minutes flyer

Unbound Diary Part 9 – Reading Aloud

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I’m nearly 9 weeks in to my crowdfunding project for my book of short stories on fame, In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes. I’m going to be doing a few spoken word events in the next few days and. as a director of one (Rattle Tales), I thought I might give a few pointers about how to read to an audience. If you are a writer, at some point, you will have to do this in order to get your work seen. Even when you are a seasoned Booker Prize-winning author you still have to read your work to audiences. It may seem like the antithesis of everything else you do (ie, sitting at a desk writing down weird scenes from your imagination) but it’s just the way it is.

Practice. I use reading aloud as part of the editing process anyway. After I have finished a section of work, I will read it out to myself. I will often stand up to do this or even walk about. This exercise is invaluable for locating the dead pieces of writing, the weasel words, unnecessary punctuation, missed punctation and for providing a flow to your words. I urge you to add this to your writing method. If you are reading a piece at an event always read it out to yourself several times first. Make alterations to the piece that arise from this exercise then read it again. If you can bear it, read it to a couple of people you trust. If you do this enough times you will almost know the piece off by heart.

Eye Contact. If you know the piece off by heart you will be able to make more eye contact with the audience. Look up from you paper occassionally, pause for dramatic effect, address your words to them. I don’t mean stare creepily at one person, in fact if you look at a point just at the top of their heads the audience will get the impression you are looking at them without feeling uncomfortable about it. Smiling helps too and don’t forget to introduce yourself or at least say hello.

The Shakes. All authors get the shakes from time to time. Nobody notices. I have spoken to many first time readers who thought the audience was distracted by their shaking hands or legs. My right leg used to shake uncontrollably when I read. No one ever mentioned it; in fact people said I didn’t seem nervous at all. I have also seen famous authors at big festivals trembling so much their papers rustle. No one minds, they just want to hear the famous author read. If you are uncomfortable with your shaking hands put your pages in a lever file or on a clip-board. Rattle Tales provides a music stand. Sometimes nerves help the piece, I’ve cried at the end of a story and had loads of people come up to me and say what an impact it had because it was heartfelt. Try and keep it together til the last sentence though!

Slow Down. Most people read too fast. Nerves make you speed up, make you want to get it over with. My advice is read it to yourself at your normal pace and then slow it down a notch for the event, relish in the pauses, emphasise the important sentences, take your time over the dialogue. You might want it to be over quickly but the audience want to take it all in. Most spoken word events asks for no more than 2,000 words. This is because after about ten minutes an audiences’ attention wanders no matter how good the tale or the reader. If you are reading an extract bear this in mind, don’t rush to fit longer pieces in.

Acting is for Actors. You are not an actor, well, you might be, but in this case you are a writer. To listen to your story the audience doesn’t need the full Meryl Streep. They don’t want a cast of characters with different accents all competing for attention like a multiple personality disorder. Do appropriate accents by all means but don’t shout as if you are projecting at the Theatre Royal and keep the showing off to a minimum.

I will be putting all this into practice at Exeter Street Hall on Friday May 13th with nine other fabulous Brighton writers who are all members of The Beach Hut Writers. We will be talking about everything from how to get published to how to cope at spoken word events. The genres include, crime, noir, literary fiction, women’s fiction, self help, cookery and diet books and childrens fiction, so there is literally something for everyone.

Writers in the hall

May 26th is the date of Rattle Tales Brighton Fringe show hosted by the fabulous Lonny Pop. We have just finalized the programme and there are some amazing stories on the bill from a huge variety of authors. I will be reading a short story (Sourdough)from In The Future which was the story I read at the first Rattle Tales show five years ago. I don’t expect to be as nervous as I was then. Tickets are available at Brighton Fringe Box Office and they usually go fast!

If you think that short stories deserve a bit more attention from publishers please plegde to my collection because that’s what I’m trying to prove. In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes will only be published by Unbound if I get enough pledges. You don’t have to be from the UK and you don’t have to have a Kindle. There are just 3 weeks left to show your support.

Rattle Tales 2016 Fringe 2

Unbound Diary Part 8 – A Medieval Knight With An I-phone

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As I write I am 44% funded. This means that well over a hundred of you have supported my book. To my new supporters I want to say a massive thank you, you are making this happen. I have until the end of May to reach 198 pledges, it’s time to take it up a notch.

Regular readers will know that I am a Director of the spoken word group Rattle Tales. We have a show coming up at Brighton Fringe Festival and we’re selecting stories for it now. Last night I had a dream that only five people turned up to our show. Our previous Fringe shows have all been sold out, sometimes we’ve had to turn people away, and the show has been a Pick of the Fringe by The Independent newspaper. It’s extremely unlikely that no one will turn up. In my dream not only did no turn up but I forgot my story and when I tried to phone home to get someone to bring it to me my i-phone snapped in two, the venue staff were busy jousting in the back garden and the only person in the bar was a medieval knight dressed in crusader armour – he didn’t know what an i-phone was.

I’ve been trying to analyze this dream all day. I think it’s to do with the event I did recently to an audience of seven. It’s definitely to do with asking people to pledge to my collection and most of them resembling a medieval knight with no knowledge of i-phones when asked. Lots of people have said they are happy to help and will definitely pledge but then don’t. Some people have been very affronted to be asked. In response to a recent mail-out through Rattle Tales one person accused us of begging and hoped the project failed. You can just ignore the request you know, or just say no. I’m not begging. I’m asking you to choose to buy a book in advance, in much the same way as you would choose to buy a book in a book shop – you don’t have to but you might want to. The same mail-out brought me ten new pledgers and for that I am very grateful

I have a few events coming up and I really hope that a. people will come and b. some will pledge to the book. I will be appearing at Exeter Street Hall on May 13th with lots of other Beach Hut Writers, ten in fact, all talking about the when, why and what of writing for a living. I’m also going to talk at Brighton University on May 10th with the author of Belonging,  Umi Sinha, and Vicky Blunden from Myriad Editions and then I will be reading Sourdough (recently published by New London Writers) from In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes at the Rattle Tales show on May 26th. Please come along to any or all – don’t leave me alone with the medieval knight.

For the rest of the week I will be sending out press releases, pitching articles and generally trying to get my book notice in the hope of attracting more pledges. Thanks again to my new supporters – you really are making a difference!

Knight

Unbound Diary Part 7 – Meeting Fellow Unbounders

Week eight already! I didn’t blog last week – I had too much to do. On Monday I met up with four other Unbound authors for an evening of readings and crowdfunding discussion. It was a free event but we suffered Monday night syndrome and only a handful of non-readers turned up. Never stage an event on a Monday.

It didn’t really matter, I mean it would have been nice if it had been packed to the doors but even empty it was a blast. My good friend Lonny Pop did a great job of hosting. There were readings from Unbound authors Rachael de Moravia, James Ellis, Stephen McGowan, Pierre Hollins and me. All the readings were brilliant and it was so nice to meet people undergoing the same terrifying crowdfunding process. James has read for Rattle Tales a few times so I knew him already but I’d only met the others online. Everyone is so talented and all the books deserve to be funded. All are extremely original and diverse, not your usual publications, and that is why Unbound exists.

There were some good tips. Pierre is fully funded and we were all very jealous. He said that he favoured the personal approach, talking to potential pledgers individually and eventually building up an audience. James talked about why he chose Unbound. The contract is good for authors with 50% digital sales but he also pointed out that Unbound have full industry distribution, which means they can get physical books into bookshops. My first novel, Starlings, was published by a tiny (but gutsy) Independent called Revenge Ink and the problem was that, although they had an excellent and original list of authors, they didn’t have access to a widespread distribution network. Distribution seems to be a bit of a closed shop. To get a book stocked nationwide by Waterstones for example, you had to apply well in advance. I got Starlings stocked in some of their stores by going in and talking to individual managers and doing meet the author events. I’ve always regretted that it didn’t get a bit more exposure but then I suppose you could describe it a s ‘cult’!

As well as being 37% funded, the first story in the collection has just been published by New London Writers. Sourdough was the first story I read at Rattle Tales and it was short-listed for the Writers & Artists Yearbook Arvon Award five years ago, since then I have submitted it to every journal, comp, performance night and radio show you can think of all to no avail but then New London Writers said they loved it and couldn’t wait to promote my work! I am so glad Sourdough has finally been published. The moral is never give up and I’m going to live by that in the month I have left to raise funds for In The Future Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes. Please pledge to help create this book.

sourdough

My Unbound Diary Part 6 – Crowdfunding Events, Pledgers and The Radio

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I am half way through! And it’s not been easy I can tell you. I feel like I’ve had to coax each pledge into being. My short story collection In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes is so close to 30% funded. Obviously, I need a lot more pledges to reach 100% in the next 6 weeks. I am banking on momentum. Word of mouth, people wearing down in the face of constant bombarment. I would hate me right now if I wasn’t me. Once again thank you to everyone who has already pledged; I am in awe of you because you are making this book seem possible and when it is funded you will have helped create something new.

I have just started on an all out email campaign. Emailing everyone I know either directly or through Facebook. It’s a bit soul destroying. I can’t shake the feeling that I am begging but my friend and fellow writer Stephanie Lam directed me to Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on crowdfunding (The Art of Asking) and that made me feel a whole lot better. I’m not begging, I am offering people the opportunity to co-create a book that wouldn’t otherwise exist, to be a part of the art.

It’s interesting who pledges and who doesn’t. It’s not what you expect. People you haven’t seen for years reply immediately and say they’ve pledged and ask how you are. People you’d expect to be onboard from the off flat out tell you it’s not their thing. I wonder if the digital aspect is putting some people off. The book will initially be available in digital format only. This isn’t to say you need an e-reader to read it, when the book is published you will get a copy emailed to download onto whatever, laptop, PC or phone you prefer. There will be paper copies I am told, for events and signings and if the book gets enough pledgers it might even get a full press – but that is a long way off. Right now I need to meet my target of 253 more pledges.

One thing which hasn’t surprised me is the community around the Unbound crowdfunding process. There is a Facebook group for shell-shocked Unbound authors to swap tips and give each other encouragement. Most authors are lovely supportive people – and I’ve met a lot of them in the last ten years! I put a post up about doing an event in Brighton and several writers replied and after a few email exchanges it’s going ahead in Brighton on the 18th April. If you are in the area please come along – entry is free. So is the venue, thanks to a tip from City Read’s Sarah Hutchings I managed to book the wonderful Nightingale Room in side the Grand Central Pub right next door to Brighton Station. Unbound authors James Ellis, Stephen McGowan, Rachael de Moravia, Pierre Hollins and me will be reading from our books. My fellow Rattle Taler Lonny Pop will be hosting and there may even be someone from Unbound editorial to answer questions about crowdfunding. I will be on BBC Radio Sussex tonight at 5.50 to talk about The Brighton Prize but always on the look out for new supporters I will be mentioning this event too!

The Nightingale Room at Grand Central

My Unbound Diary Part 5 – Back On Track

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Crowdfunding a book is overwhelming. There is so much marketing to do just to eek out one or two supporters. Unbound (the crowdfunding publisher I have signed to) send you a pledge update once a week so you can see who has pledged and what level they’ve opted for. Everytime someone pledges I want to shout their name from the rooftops. In fact my book In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes is, as the title suggests, about fame and I am going to offer to give top pledgers the star treatment on social media.I will make you famous for a week. This is not necessarily about the amount pledged. Here’s the first:

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Last week I was a bit despondent having only achieved 13% of the required funding in a month. This week I am 26% funded! Over a quarter of the way there! This is a big deal for me; I am beginning to think that it can be done. There is about 8 weeks left to pledge. If I work really hard I can do it but I can’t do it without your help.

Amongst my pledgers this week was my old Creative Writing tutor, the wonderful poet and short story writer, Catherine Smith. When I first started writing Catherine made me feel as though I was actually good at it. She also taught me that adding a bit of poetry can lift prose into something really meaningful and thought-provoking. I write poetically, I can’t help it, I like language to flow, to alliterate, to unfold like a movie in your mind. (These days I don’t like too many similies so I don’t know why I wrote that last bit.) Catherine left me a message on my last blog post:

I loved Starlings and am so glad you are going down this route, Unbound is an excellent model, though I think UK publishers need a kick up the arse to be less prejudiced against publishing short stories, which as we know is a transcendent and exacting form.

Take note UK publishers and thank God for Unbound, who really are enabling many writers outside of the mainstream to get published.

Unbound have a Facebook support group on which shell-shocked writers can exchange experiences and come up with new ways to get pledges. One of the writers, James Ellis, is a Rattle Tales regular and I asked if he wanted to do a funding event in Brighton. Other authors in the group expressed an interest too so I’m going to book a date at The Brunswick Cellar Bar and see what happens.

I have a sort of plan –  when to contact certain people, when to push Facebook/Twitter ect. how to drawn attention to the project. One of the stories (Underneath) was performed by Games of Thrones actor Gethin Anthony and Diana Vickers at US spoken word group Word Theatre’s UK shows a couple of years ago. I contacted Word Theatre to ask if they could help promote and was told there was a video of one of the events. I was lucky enough to see the performance at Latitude Festival and it remains one of the thrills of my writing career. Here’s a short extract:

Please pledge to this book of short stories. There is something in it for everyone. For just £10 you can help bring this book to life.

https://unbound.co.uk/books/fifteen-minutes