Their books got here out, however they’ll’t: debut fiction writers on the grief and gratitude of pandemic publishing
Even in the modern era, the biggest problem for first-time writers is making their books widely known. Events such as the Toronto International Festival of Writers – which is taking place this week – are an important place for readers to find new writers, as well as writers to be able to connect with readers.
In the midst of the epidemic, the opportunity to sign books and speakers and views at a festival in real life is about to be discovered. TIFA, like many scams, is still going on but on the internet this year, very different. We were curious about how the first fictional writers would appear at the festival, so we asked them to complete the sentence: “Spreading my appearance during the plague…” What they say is quietly encouraging.
Alex Pugsley, author of “Aubrey McKee” (Biblioasis)
My first impression during the plague is – I must say – an external physical event. Or it intensifies the external consciousness. Because I look forward to leaving my desk, getting out of the house, and going to see a book, a party, a signature, a mosh hole, whatever. This is not happening. But I remind myself that it is a privilege to be able to publish a book, to live in a country where literature is valued, and to live in one of the largest festivals in the world. As we move forward, we will be looking for new lights and new ways of living, and a meeting-of-mind that is a new reading, well, that can get us through this.
Francesca Ekwuyasi, author of “Butter Honey Pig Bread” (Arsenal Pulp Press)
This is my first book, so I have never published a plague! But even the hurricane that 2020 has been, the experiences I have had in launching this book have been a gift. It has been very rewarding to see this dream of writing my first book come true, and to see everyone involved. I’ve been thrilled to see how festivals work to make them available and help tackle the epidemic, and I think that means more people are able to see these stories being created.
Jack Wang, author of “We Two Alone” (Neighborhood House)
My first printing during the plague has been interesting, though. Many of the attractions of book publishing – travel, step-by-step lighting, book printing – have fallen by the wayside, but my work is in the world and is coming to the minds of some people. It is important.
John Elizabeth Stintzi, author of “Missing Reminders” (Arsenal Pulp Press)
My first post during the epidemic has been a storm of sadness and gratitude: grief for what it should be, but appreciation for the place and time that readers who found my work – even though they are worldwide – managed. At the end of the day, I am encouraged to know that my work has contributed to the participation of a small group of people in seemingly endless days.
Marc Herman Lynch, “Arborescent” (Arsenal Pulp Press)
My first seizure during the epidemic made me feel isolated. And that’s fine. Stability is not the same as rejection. Rather, making a loan has meant adjusting my publishing idea. In the past, art went hand in hand with publishing: book, events, reading, people. Now, I have been fired from my job, and this book and characters start to exist. While I have never seen a story as fictional, I believe, I strongly believe that these people live and breathe. All of a sudden, it occurred to me.
Maria Reva, “Good Citizens Are Not Afraid” (Knopf Canada)
My first post during the epidemic reminded me of the futility of trying to be “on time.” It has been a pleasure to see readers and readers link to this book, living in a small town in Soviet Ukraine, where we are still in turmoil. The timeliness of the book has been a bonus – albeit unfortunate, because I would have brought a book with a bright sun – but not something I could have foreseen or controlled.
Marlowe Granados, “The Hour of Joy” (Flying Books)
My first printing during the plague would not have been so obvious if my book had not been about to roam around the city carelessly! I think it was hard for me to figure out how many people were reading this book – unless people sent me my notes (which I appreciate!). From what I’ve heard, people are enjoying the (what it now looks like) modern life of characters, and living a little bit through them. I believe this gives people comfort. On the technical side, I have invested a bit of money in isolation and it has really helped me with my digital appearance. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
Michelle Good, “Five Young Indians” (HarperCollins)
Publishing my first book during the epidemic was probably a wonderful opportunity. Although I miss personal and other celebrations, it seems that people were hungry for new books and the response to my book has been amazing. Also, being my first book, I don’t know anything different. I grab the second one. Maybe I would like this method better.
Natalie Zina Walschots, “Hench” (HarperCollins)
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Establishing my start during the epidemic has meant completely changing all my hopes. All of this would be new to me, however, even my inner thoughts had to be refined. The hardest part about quitting was the idea of travel. I love to travel, and I love going to meetings, and I expect two tons. Instead, like everyone else, I have to move and change. I have received invitations to as many events as possible, and I have had the great opportunity to be part of the many organizations or festivals that are bringing their programs online for the first time. In all of this, I feel privileged to be part of an innovation.
Samantha M. Bailey, “Woman on the Edge” (Simon and Schuster)
My first publication during the plague made me grateful. I am fortunate that “Woman on the Edge” was first launched in Canada in November 2019. My heart aches for my fellow writers who are missing out on the celebrations they have always been passionate about. It was, however, very difficult to watch the global shutter when my book hit the US shelves on March 3. However, the hard-working world quickly settled down, with online events, such as ThrillerFest, Bouchercon, WordFest, the Eden Mills Writers Festival, and the World Festival All Monday of Toronto. We all struggle, but we all grow up well, one word at a time.
The Toronto International Writers Festival takes place from October 22 to November 1 – with all online events for the first time, and all for free. If you missed any event, it is available online for up to 72 hours of live – see all at festivalofauthor.ca.