Yes, its been a while since I last updated you on my going's on - so much so that a friend asked me the other day if she'd missed a newsletter (or two) from me! No, had to be my honest answer. So, here's a little update.
Over Christmas, whilst on holiday in the UK, I had a meeting with my publisher. He's an old friend from our days living and studying in Cambridge, so it was lovely to see him anyway, quite apart from the excitement of discussing my book with him.
Craig, Caragh, Leal and myself had been visiting friends in Cambridge, funnily enough, for a few days before heading down to Cornwall to spend Christmas with the family. On the way, we stopped off in Exeter where I was to meet Luke in a coffee shop near the train station. It was tipping with rain and pretty dark by the time we arrived, but the welcome inside was warm and the coffee rich.
First I chatted with the company's marketing and media manager, Ella (find her blog here ), who had various ideas for promoting my book using Facebook, blog posts etc. Although I've used Facebook for ages and have blogged about my years living in South Africa for 12 months or so, I did feel a little overwhelmed at the enormity of what possibly lay ahead. I needed to gain a following, develop a strategy, connect with the outside world, and generally sell 'Brand Anna'.
Next it was Luke's turn to talk. He had my manuscript up on his laptop and asked a few design-related queries, before then going through each section to check any areas where he'd not fully understood my meaning or intention in something I'd written. Once those were dealt with, we moved onto more general topics concerning the eventual publication and launch of the completed book. We discussed paper preferences (not something I've ever thought about before), how the book would be marketed in various locations, suggestions for hosting an event. Luke also mentioned that he would like to be able to include some endorsements - another area to work on once I got home. Later, as we dashed through the rain back to the car, Caragh said I must ask Bear Grylls ...
It was a really great meeting, and made me feel as though I was now part of something so much bigger than just my words on a few pages. It was as though God had opened the door just a little wider, giving me a glimpse of what lay beyond, of what He had in mind when He said 'Write what you see in a book'.
We returned to South Africa at the beginning of January, all ready to get back to school and work. Leal started high school, Caragh moved into her penultimate year of school and Craig waited to hear who the new company CEO would be. And I knuckled down to my own work!
My newly-required social media skills and plans were refined and honed by my friend, designer and mentor Chantal (check out her website here ). She broke everything down into a series of easy steps, and suddenly the process seemed more manageable. I launched the website to a wider audience, started a new blog sharing my book-writing experiences (this one!) and began to learn some of the more basic principles of design and marketing.
In February, I received an email from Luke - my book, in electronic form, was now ready for proof-reading and checking. I eagerly opened the PDF file he sent me and was greeted by the emotional sight of a real book, with headings and photos and footnotes and MY WORDS on the pages!
I made a couple of amendments, sent it back to Luke, and then embarked on a search for endorsements. I contacted several people, and yes, I did try to get hold of Bear Grylls but got an automated reply back. I guess surviving in the harshest of the world's regions does keep a person pretty busy! Many were interested but didn't have the time available to be involved at that stage - I'm grateful they even considered it. Finally three people were able to give me the most wonderful comments; you'll find out what they had to say soon.
The final piece of the puzzle was the cover design. This was being attended to by the publisher's graphic designer, who I haven't had chance to meet. She was given the unenviable task of reading the book and interpreting it for the market-place whilst simultaneously trying to effectively distill something of the character and personality of its author, me. And she did a great job. She has created a striking outer-clothing for the images and impressions God has laid on my heart over the last few years.
Why two covers?
The original cover design depicts the glorious contrast of black and white that is a zebra. They are beautiful, gentle-natured animals who don't just inhabit the larger game parks, but can also often be found in smaller nature reserves where it is possible to walk amongst them as they graze. Each one has unique markings painted by the most creative of artists, able to transform a monochromatic palette into limitless variety. Deep, brown eyes gaze serenely at the passerby, whether they be on foot or in a car, as if un-selfconsciously aware that their striking patterns make them objects of delight.
However, there was a problem. In South Africa, one of the big banks uses a zebra in all their marketing and advertising, Their zebra appears on billboards, in magazines, even on cricket pitches; I didn't think it would work so well on the front of my book, given that it has little to do with the world of finance. I needed an alternative image which would be as striking but less associated with something else.
And so the elephant, for South African readers. A symbol of strength and awe, an animal I am slightly wary of when up close but one which I never grow tired of finding when driving round a game park. An animal with a powerful instinct for family and community protection. And one with perhaps the most distinctive of features!
So now I'm in a bit of a waiting period. Waiting for printers, waiting for couriers, waiting for meetings and invites and events. Whilst I'm working on a few things (like sending out emails and updating blogs), and figuring out what the next steps need to be, I am conscious that I must use this next couple of weeks to 'Be still, and know that He is God'. Its all about Him, not me - His fame, His name. He's the Creator, the Author and the Perfecter. Even as I make my plans and put dates in diaries, I am aware that I need to keep Jesus the focus, to find out from Him why I'm doing what I'm doing, and to keep it simple. He spoke, I acted, now I must allow Him to unfold his plans and purposes for His voice. I really don't want to run ahead of him, or be out of step with him. Its a somewhat daunting moment, standing on the threshold of a cracked-open door, taking a peak at what might be on the other side but knowing that its not yet time, nor am I ready, to walk on through. For now, I tuck in beside Jesus and wait for Him to fling the door wide, and wait to see what the next month has in store!