What I’ve learned since publishing my book

In April this year, my first book was published – The Good Greek Girl, a memoir about my experience of mental illness and rebellion against a traditional Greek upbringing. Having the book published was the culmination of four years of writing plus another year of securing a publisher and navigating the editing and production process. I couldn’t call myself a memoirist if I didn’t reflect on some of my learnings since the book came out.

1. It’s ok to be vulnerable on the page
One of my guiding principles in writing The Good Greek Girl was emotional authenticity and a commitment to truth. I didn’t want to gloss over the uglier or more painful parts of my life as I chronicled my story. I wanted the reader to walk in my shoes and traverse the same pathways as I did. This meant being vulnerable on the page. While I accepted this at an intellectual level, I wasn’t prepared for the reality when my story became public after the book was released. What would my work colleagues in the bureaucracy think or the students I taught at university?
 
I needn’t have feared being judged. Colleagues, students, friends, relatives – even strangers – have all been extremely gracious in their response. As Brene Brown wrote: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” 

 
2. I’ve spent more time talking about being a writer than actually writing
I severely underestimated how much time would be taken up post publication - a mix of promotional activities, author talks and content development for the inevitable author platform including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging. As my publisher keeps telling me, it’s all about the long tail and keeping the book alive in the literary zeitgeist.

Still there comes a time when the authorpeneur has to step aside for the writer to return. That time is now and I’ve committed to reconnecting with my writing process during this last part of the year. Rather than squeeze in writing stints between my author commitments and day job, I’ve changed tack and I'm carving out dedicated writing time in a series of mini writing retreats. This includes a residency in the magic of Varuna, the national writer’s house in the Blue Mountains.
 
3. Small is beautiful
Like most first time authors, I had stars in my eyes about landing a contract with one of the big trade publishing houses when I submitted my manuscript to the indignity of the 'slush pile' as it's called in the trade. 

Since signing with Ventura Press, an independent boutique publisher, I have come to the conclusion that small is beautiful. My relationship with Ventura is not just focussed on a single title and one author among many on an existing list. Instead it has become a partnership that is taking a long term view on my development and career as an author.  The publication of The Good Greek Girl with Ventura is not just the end to one book, it is the beginning of something more enduring.
 
4. The sharing of stories continues
One of my reasons for writing The Good Greek Girl was to give voice to the lived experience of mental illness and the stories shared with me when I came out about my illness. I also wanted to give voice to the experience of Greek culture from a female perspective.

Since the book’s publication, I have been inundated with emails and correspondence from other Greek women of my generation as well as people living with mental illness. They write to tell me they have found their stories reflected in mine and feel a connection with the book. It is a privilege to hear from them.

5. I never tire of seeing my book on the shelves
I’m not too cool for school to admit that I was beside myself the first time I saw The Good Greek Girl in a bookstore. That feeling of elation and sheer glee still continues every time I see a copy on the shelves and it is magnified a hundred-fold when I spy it in a store window. 

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