Thursday, October 11, 2012

Prove that A Conscious Englishman is worth publishing.

 StreetBooks  accepted the novel in principle but fired an author questionnaire at me. It seemed to want me to convince them that the novel would find readers:

'Why does the market need this novel?'     'What makes this novel unique?' 'What will be the primary readership? Secondary readership? Competitors? Related books? Endorsements?'

(I wasn't sure what secondary readership meant -  is it when someone passes a book on to someone else so they didn't actually buy it? Perhaps not.)
Somehow I managed to answer these questions convincingly enough - it is surprising how much you will have picked up in talking to people, reading articles, journals and on radio, around your theme. I was lucky in having been a member of the Edward Thomas Fellowship and Friends of the Dymock poets(links below) for years and knowing what was happening in the ever-growing absorption with Edward Thomas.

Then the hard bit, but  worthwhile - writing three summaries. Of course I had done a one page synopsis before to send to agents, but a summary is different - not telling the plot or even characters in any depth but focussing on what the novel is actually about, its themes.

This was my one sentence version:

This is the story of a man's change from despair to fulfilment through friendship and the inspiration of nature, and of the consequences of that for his family, set in the tranquil rural world of an England gradually learning the meaning of war.

Mmmmmh - would you want to read that? I'm not sure I would. It's accurate in a way, but terribly dour, even for Edward Thomas.

The 500 word summary  was much more like a traditional synopsis and not so difficult.

The real challenge was the 250 word one, a length  likely to be the foundation of the dreaded blurb. I will come to it tomorrow.

Because of the season, Robert Frost's After  Apple-Picking. I heard Gabriel Woolf read this last Sunday at Malvern- the humour and exhaustion came across wonderfully. And that marvellous line on the lingering sense of the ladder-rung on your foot! Exactly.

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
                                                                                  ( pre 1923 so out of copyright)

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