This Writer’s Ritual
Last week, I had the pleasure of surviving my first book launch during a pandemic. I’ve already sent out lots of cheesy thank you posts on my socials, so I’m not going to ramble on about that again here, but I must say, I still feel genuinely grateful.
Lots of people will tell you that going on stage can be or is in most cases quite stressful, at least in the run-up. Now, I’ve been on stage many times, not in front of very large audiences, but a respectable number of times for my age. There was the annual violin concert in my music academy since I was four, the orchestra and jazz ensemble gigs in school later, and eventually even some acting. This meant that I wasn’t even considering getting really stressed about the launch, because usually I don’t actually get very stressed. I don’t have stage fright and I’ve learnt to live with the fact that most performances are not as perfect as you imagine. Somehow, this event, this book launch in lockdown, was different, though. Or so I thought.
Just before we went live, I noticed how much tension I’d been building up as I was setting up my microphone and headphones and double-checking everything and worrying if it would look strange to read from the screen, where I had highlighted dialogue according to speakers and put weird squiggly lines under some sentences to indicate special intonation. Did I practice enough? Should I have read through it like twenty more times? Is the make-up running? Can you hear the boiler in the room? Is the connection going to be OK?
I think at that moment I realised that I wasn’t going to be on stage, but that I was going to have the entire audience basically looking straight at my face as if they were standing right in front of me. It’s much less frightening to picture a crowd in a darkened auditorium when you have a bit of elevated space to yourself. I suppose it’s a bit more like filming, but filming – while being more stressful because every wrinkle is visible – is so much more relaxing when you can do as many takes as you want. Even the outtakes become a treasure in the end (if you collect them in a lovely little vlog at the end to laugh at when you have nothing better to do). So, overall, I would like to raise my hat – like Paddington would do – to all those people who perform or teach via Zoom or any of the other platforms out there. It is tough and it needs getting used to.
The positive part about all this was, though, that it wasn’t nearly as frightening as I thought. Steve Emecz, founder of MX Publishing, did a great job at creating a friendly and casual atmosphere and many of my friends and family joined in the audience, which made me feel so proud and supported. It was great to finally get to talk to people about the book, to see that people were interested and to answer tiny detail questions that I hadn’t expected to be prepared for, but I was. It also showed me that I still know my book inside out and that a lot of research really did go into it, which was so nice to talk to people about.
‘Which actress did you envision for your protagonist Scarlett?’
‘Catherine Steadman, because she’s got the same feline quality as Sherlock. I often imagine my characters as animals.’
Just recalling all those thoughts I had put into the text really helped me reconnect with it – which is now helping with my work editing the sequel.
‘As a publisher, I’m glad to hear there’s going to be a sequel. We love sequels here,’ said Steve Emecz when I mentioned Volume 2.
It reminded me that I had written my undergrad dissertation on Sherlock Holmes on the Screen and that raving about Ronald Howard’s portrayal was probably a good secret tip for all the fans out there who hadn’t forced themselves to watch adaptations until their eyes grew red and their diss’s appendix swelled with film stills.
The book launch just made everything so much more real than it had been before. Of course, I had received a physical copy that made me aware that I had written a book, but as young writers will, that doesn’t necessarily make you sure of yourself or your work. It’s also about what the readers think and about feeling that your book is now out there. Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t been able to celebrate the launch in my college, in the local bookshops and with my friends. And the sad truth is that at no point last year did I feel like I had published a book. For so many years, that was such a monumental dream and now that it happened, I sort of didn’t really notice. I didn’t think a book launch via Zoom could change that, but it did.
It felt like the proper ritual that a writer needs to realise the book has been released. The pandemic also taught me how important rituals were in general, whether to show the significance of certain events or just to show that time is passing – rituals give us an idea of what’s going on in our lives, what our values are and how things should move forward. They give us time off, time to think and time to notice what we need. Don’t skip your farewell party when you move or congregation when you leave uni. Unless there’s a pandemic, of course.
Either way, for all these lessons I am grateful, for people contributing to this ritual and for the warm welcome into the book world. I guess I am just doing this cheesy thanking thing again. I mean it though. It was great to connect.
If you haven’t seen it yet and are now interested in this marvellous writer’s ritual, click here to hop over to MX Publishing’s website and watch the recorded version. Hope you’ll like it.