Saturday, 26 November 2016

William Boyd review in the Guardian!

I'm thrilled to report that William Boyd has picked 'A Group Photograph' as one of his books of the year in the Guardian - see It means a huge amount to read these words from a writer of his stature, whose work I so admire. He is so obviously fascinated with the human condition, with the choices we have to make, how those choices can have repercussions through the rest of our lives and those of our families, and the possibility that extraordinary things can happen, good and bad, at any time, which can fundamentally change our circumstances and outlook. Personally I have a lot to thank him for because his book 'Any Human Heart' provided an oasis for me during a very difficult time when staying in hostel in Adelaide on my research trip out in Australia. There have been times when I have wondered whether I've been on the right path and that book was one contribution to me realising that life can throw all sorts of things at you whatever you do, so you might as well do something you believe in.

My adventures within the book business have continued. I got suspended by Amazon (again!), this time over an admin error - and can only thank BT for the vast experience of unthinking & incompetent "customer support" when I was running my home computer support business over a decade ago. The only solution is to be regularly insistently persistent. It is frightening though how such a small number of businesses have such power over our lives, and that they don't have the impetus to become better because either they have a virtual monopoly or all their major competition is similarly huge and unwieldy and geared for their own convenience rather than that of their customers.

I've also been having quandaries about the pricing for my book. The reason it is not getting into bookshops (unless people order it in) or into the main Amazon web store (where you get the full Amazon marketing support as opposed to Amazon Marketplace through which I'm currently selling) is that I'm not offering a big enough discount to distributors and book sellers - but if I put the price up to allow for that discount, the book will appear unaffordable to a lot of people - and I don't just want to sell to the well-off, particularly when the likes of Amazon then use their discount to undercut any competition. It's so difficult, because I have quite a stock of books which I want to sell both for myself and to raise money for the International Tree Foundation (see the article on p13 of the latest edition of their Trees Journal  In the end though, I'm not going to change the price just yet. I think I have to play the long game. I have so many things going for me - each good review or piece of publicity adds to the snowball and I have things happening that can only increase visibility. My game plan for next year is to publish my next book (about the experience of doing this whole project) but my immediate focus is on exhibiting.

The first exhibition on the horizon is at the Forum in Norwich for 3 weeks from 13th March. My work is going to be part of a bigger exhibition entitled "Who Do You Think They Are?", which is based on the idea of looking at all those old photographs featuring unnamed people. Luckily I know who the people are in my photograph but I'm going to be showing what sort of thing you can do with old photographs. What I will be showing is an animated photomontage that shows all the photos of these men building up over time, so that you can see those who grow old alongside those who grew not old. I went for a test session last week and seeing it projected at not far off life-size was fantastic.  There's still a lot of work to do, but over the last few months I've cut out my men from the 1250 photographs they're in and after a bit of development work on the style and process, it should be a case of mechanically ploughing through it all.

To finish up, I'd like to tell you the story of something that has had a huge impact on me personally. On my book page on Amazon I was having a look at the list of "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" items. As well as the obvious First World War books  and Good Boy Dog Treats Chewy Twisters with Real Chicken (!) and 'Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness' (which by a bizarre coincidence is illustrated by Pugh the cartoonist and grandson of Mervyn Pugh from my group photograph), there was 'The Blood Sugar Diet' by Michael Mosley. Some of the things in the book description stood out for me (especially as there is a history of Type 2 diabetes in my family), so I decided to buy it - and then I decided to do the diet and the exercise that goes with it - and 5 weeks into it, I have lost 21 pounds in weight (i.e. nearly 10 kilos) and am feeling fitter than I have done in years. Quite honestly, it has been rather a struggle since I finished the chemo three and a half years ago - and this year in particular I've been feeling pretty rubbish a lot of the time. I had pretty well given up hope that I would ever be properly fit again, but now I'm actually getting my teeth into planning another long walk (see for the previous one). Something to look forward to as I'm labouring through the animation...

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