Sunday Mail column for Sunday 25 April 2010

There are many great things about being a writer.  You get to work from home in your pyjamas and write Very Professional Emails while eating cornflakes and watching The Circle. Then there are the millions of fans.  The big fat royalty cheques. The Oprah interviews. The fame … Oh hang on a second, I appear to be talking about Stephenie Meyer.

But it’s not all glamour. In fact there’s one thing the majority of authors loathe: book signings. This is because unless you are Stephenie Meyer or Bryce Courtenay or have appeared on MasterChef book signings can be deeply humiliating experiences.  Publicists however do not understand this. Publicists envisage huge crowds flocking to you, desperate to buy numerous copies of your book and lavishing you with lots of author-love.  This is because most publicists have at some point worked for Bryce Courtenay who has huge crowds flocking to him of readers wanting to buy lots of copies of his latest book while lavishing him with lots of author-love. A lot of hugging happens at a BC signing. Alas the Not-Bryce-Courtenay author sits there alone with a huge pile of books while shoppers give them a wide berth accompanied by sympathetic glances. Sometimes you will hear a shopper say, “Who is that?” or “Why is she eating all those minties?” (Look I was hungry).  Clearly there’s no hugging. Instead the author tends to look forlorn as they sit there wondering why their therapist won’t answer their text-messages.

I had a particularly humiliating book signing experience a few years ago.  There I was sitting at a little table in the book department with my big pile of books and a bowl of chocolates and my big fake smile. And I sat there alone for forty minutes trying not to look like I was battling a mental illness. Finally, a woman came over to me. “Hello,” I said, trying to keep the neediness from my voice.  “Hello,” she smiled back.  Then she looked down at the table and said, “Can I have one of these?” “Absolutely!” I cried.  And she took a chocolate and walked off.


Speaking of the glamorous life of a published author, the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) has partnered up with Allen & Unwin to unearth the next Harry Potter or Diary of A Wimpy Kid.  Think of it as Literary Idol. Sort of.  Okay, not really. What I’m saying is that if you’re a budding author with a manuscript suitable for children aged 8-13 years – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Up to 10 emerging children’s fiction writers will be selected to work with editors from Allen & Unwin to develop high-quality manuscripts during a week-long intensive program held at Queensland Writers Centre in October. You must have a completed children’s manuscript in order to be eligible. Applications close 21 May. For more details go to > Programs and Projects > National Programs or call the QWC 07 3842 9922.

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About Bec

Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.

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