Archive for March, 2010

Learn from my mistakes when publishing your own book.

March 26, 2010

It is very exciting when your first real book is published and you have a stack of the books in front of you. Now you have time to reflect and you can get down to the publicity.

No one is perfect and the more I try to write, the more I appreciate criticism. I no longer see it as a personal slight, but rather a benefit for someone is taking the time and effort to read what I have written and is trying to help me overcome my mistakes to improve.  In a similar way, while I freely admit I have made mistakes this time, these mistakes are part of the learning process. Hopefully, as I continue my writing career, I will avoid making the same mistakes the next time I publish.

I knew that paying for someone to publish my book would be costly but I thought selling the book would be a doddle – after all I have SO many friends who have been asking about my writing. Then reality strikes.

The cost, for your info on this the 26th March 2010, for my short paperback was about £315 for copy-editing, £210 for the cover design and £400 for the 100 copies I rashly ordered. I estimated the cost would be about £9.23 per book.

Then, I did not take into account the freebies that were expected – 6 books to be sent to the copyright libraries, one to the publisher, the copy-editor, the cover designer, the voluntary publicity  officer, the friends who wanted to read it…. Now I have come to the conclusion that you are very unlikely to cover costs with you first book. However, the NEXT one should be another matter. (I can hear you say “You reckon?”)

Deadlines are another issue. I had created a deadline of about 4 months to have the book copy-edited and published – far too short. I was very lucky to have a copy-editor and publisher who could get the job done in time. Then I let myself down. I was given a first proof copy and being over excited about the whole thing and ever so keen to have the first completed copy in my hand I said everything should be fine, I did not need to read it through again and the books were printed.

The books arrived! How wonderful! How exciting! Then I read through one of the books, and I found, to my horror, there were mistakes, mistakes that had previously been spotted by the copy-editor that I thought I had corrected! I have no idea how it happened – perhaps I thought I had saved my corrections but I hadn’t. I am left with the certainty that next time, I will allow a year for the completion and I will check again and again during the process. However, I know that when I read proper, published books I find mistakes in them too so I hope that my readers will understand.

At the moment there is the problem of publicity. I have emailed my friends and attached the first few pages of the book. They have been very kind and positive. One friend who has just completed an MA in Creative Writing pointed out some errors and clichés. One of the errors he was right about – it was one of those I distinctly remember correcting. Otherwise, I explained that I had deliberately made ‘bad’ choices – like clichés because I wanted to show that I was a cliché kind of person. This is the joy of publishing the book yourself – you can deliberately stray from the narrow path of writing according to a plethora of principles for ‘correct’ writing. Fortunately for me, now, criticism is very welcome and I am determined that next time I will encourage as many different people as possible to read the book before I start the publishing process.

Now comes the embarrassment of trying to sell the idea of the book to possible purchasers. It is difficult trying to talk about your personal ‘baby’ in a way that does not sound like self aggrandisement. I think the best thing would be to get someone else to write your press release and I am very lucky this time for a kind friend has written it for me. Maybe I can use this as a model for the press release for my next book. It reads as follows:

“Lacking foreign language skills didn’t stop Witchford resident Dr
Rosemary Westwell from hopping on an aeroplane, introducing herself to
a stranger in a Spanish pub, and purchasing an apartment with her
credit card.
After realising owning property abroad may require her to have some
local linguistic skills, Rosemary, in her sensational silver years,
decided she was going to master the language – at any cost.
From her experience came Out of a Learner’s Mouth The Trials and
Tribulations of Learning Spanish
her first paperback novel on the
subject.
It is a hilarious account of the real challenges faced by anyone
attempting to negotiate another language – at any age.
Written in diary form, Rosemary documented her experience as part of
her PhD studies at London University.
Rosemary’s determination to acquire a foreign language was partly
driven by her interest in teaching English as a foreign language in the UK.
Despite having five university degrees, and a belief that she could
teach herself anything, Rosemary said learning a second language was a
surprising challenge.
“When I was actually trying to learn this language I was so fickle and
changed so quickly. There were a lot of things I learnt about
myself as a learner and that has helped me teach others,” she said.
“I used to expect far too much from my students in class.
“It certainly changed my attitude to teaching.”
Rosemary will present a seminar at the International Association of
Teachers of English as a Foreign Language conference in Harrogate
April 7 – 11, where she will talk about her experiences and officially
launch the book.
Out of a Learner’s Mouth will be available from April 7
For more information about the book contact Rosemary Westwell on
rjwestwell@hotmail.com”

Now I am proposing to visit relevant bookshops to see if they will stock a copy or two. One local shop has kindly agreed to stock one, (yes, only one) and their reaction was so different to my friends’ – “It won’t sell” was the first reaction. “Why not?” I wanted to ask, for I reckon that it would suit no end of people – learners of Spanish, teachers of a language looking for a light read that gives ideas, people designing courses, anyone thinking of going to a Spanish-speaking country for a holiday, retired people who want to be inspired to learn a new language… no end of people. I try to reassure myself that the Beatles and JK Rowling had similar problems when they started.  I have even put the book on ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) and when I searched for my name (Rosemary Westwell) it came up immediately. I have only just put it on ebay, but you would think that someone at least would have looked at the entry and maybe one or two even bought it – but the list of visitors remains ‘nil’. .

I guess the main thing is to develop a thick skin, believe in what you are doing, accept that everyone is human (including yourself) and get on with it – remaining positive no matter what. After all, as they say, overcoming mistakes can be the making of someone – you agree?

I would be very interested in your comments (and I mean it!)

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I used to think I could write, but …

March 24, 2010

I used to think I could write but after I gave the script of my book ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’ to a copy editor, I am not so sure! Here are some more of my mistakes for you to try. It is set out thus: my original script/ suggested changes by the copy editor;

I am slow in recalling./ I am slow when recalling.;

At the beginning …/First;

I make sure my money is secure. /Checking  my money is secure.;

 I can’t be bothered checking. / I can’t be bothered to check..;

I try to force myself to know what the change should be./ I work out the change.;

… which makes it much more interesting/… which is much more interesting;

Mental blockage…/mental block;

I will concentrate on the listening and vocab. exercises only./ I will just concentrate on the listening and vocab. exercises;

Maybe I am justified in rebelling. / Maybe I am right to rebel.;

If they failed to understand something, a point or exercise …/ If they failed to understand a point or exercise …;

They did not get the feeling that they were failing/ They did feel that they were failing.

.Being a rather uncouth bunch of individuals, to say the least, …/.As we were a rather uncouth bunch of individuals …;

At this stage in my life …/now;

But I cannot see a connection so I …/ But as I cannot see a connection there I…

I could make an intelligent guess./ I am getting better at guessing.

… memories of taking …/ I remember.;

I am associating words with the French. / I associate words with the French.;

While I am watching it, I realize …/ While I watch it, I realize …

Geared for new students … / Geared to new students …

I am just reading vocab. / I can read the vocab.;

I have reached the very first tiny rung in a long uphill struggle. / I have reached the first rung of a long uphill struggle.;

I am motivated about…/ I am motivated towards…;

I cannot think of the words. / I cannot remember the words.;

While teaching last week, during coffee break, …/ During coffee break at teaching last week, …;

As I come out of the lift and head towards …/ Heading towards …   END         

When Isee the corrections, I think ‘of course!’. I wonder how long it will take for me to write without so many errors. As they say, it is ‘practice, practice, practice’ that will win the day.

Will Self’s Deluded, moi? may not give us all the answers

March 23, 2010

Will Self’s Deluded, moi? in the Guardian is an intriguing experiment and a fascinating read but it is not entirely relevant for those of us who have fewer contacts, less money and less time.  

He rattles through his experiences with an air of bravado and a confidence few pf us have ever experienced. He has already spent some time living in France and has enough French to make himself understood. Unlike many of us, he is not starting from scratch.  

Will’s whirlwind experiences show that certain approaches and attitudes lead to success, but there is more to it than a general feeling that something works. I know this because I studied my learning of Spanish for my PhD thesis over two and a half years. My course was no crash course like Will’s but a host of courses and resources and a slow and thorough study of what a learner really thinks and responds to, given the resources and time available. At the end of my study period, I passed a GCSE in Spanish – not nearly up to Will’s proposed standard but my comments certainly shed some light on what can work for the adult learner.

Will begins by referring to his past history. What he learnt previously undoubtedly has an influence on the language he learns now. He praises one-to-one lessons and believes that learning by speaking is an effective method. Both of these I discovered to be effective, too. However, neither my past history nor my one-to-one lessons proved to be the most important influences on my success.

Before I started learning Spanish, using all the means I could (which was not a £1000 course), I had firm beliefs about language learning. What you needed, I believed, was to live in the country and to be immersed in the language. However, I live in the UK, and my time in Spain is limited, so I had to find other means.

As a teacher of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) I firmly believed that it did not matter what language resources you used, what mattered most was how you used them. All you had to do was to adapt the resources to match the students’ needs. However, as a learner I discovered when I analyzed my diary entries, what I was most concerned with was the language resource material! It had to be at the right level and it had to have the right vocabulary before I believed I could learn from it successfully.

I have always believed that the way you teach i.e. the method. matters considerably. This was confirmed in my diary entries. I tried many different methods and the ones I preferred were the ones that associated new vocabulary with something I already knew, using related images and sounds as triggers to help me recall newly learnt vocabulary and most important of all, trying to speak the language constantly, with feedback from a native speaking teacher.

As an EFL and music teacher, I believed that no matter how you felt, if you concentrated well, you could learn. If students arrived for their lesson with a cold or an aversion to learning anything that day, it was up to me to change their mind. I was there to guide and inspire them. They were there to learn and learn they would, even if they got a headache. Yet, as a learner I found that my attitude was another highly significant influence that could not be ignored. At first, I did not like Spanish, I preferred French but I had to learn Spanish to cope with the plumbers and electricians I needed to maintain my flat in Spain. However, gradually I grew to like Spanish and became more motivated to learn it. I was very fussy about the courses I followed and objected to any hidden attitudes within the texts that I did not like. I would not learn from them if they were too depressing, for example.

The fourth important influence I discovered was memory. This is always an important ingredient to learning, but especially so with language learning. Will suggests that vocabulary may not be important, but for me, it is essential. How can you talk about something if you do not know what it is called? Before I had mastered any of the grammar I could get by with a string of vocabulary I had learnt. Lack of correctly conjugated verbs, missing ends to a number of the nouns and adjectives did not necessarily prevent communication. Memorizing as many words as possible became my goal and using free websites. such as studyspanish.com, I gradually increased my vocabulary. Training my memory to contain these words and training myself to recall them were important aspects of my learning.

While we are individuals and are unique with unique language learning requirements, it is very likely that what suited me would suit other learners. I have tried to describe my whole experience and my ideas as they developed in my book Out of the Learner’s Mouth which I will be presenting at the IATEFL Conference in Harrogate this year (2010). I hope it may shed some light on how Spanish can be learnt, no matter how limited your aptitude for language learning may be and that learning is never boring if you make sure the resource material is interesting for you and that you have the courage to change your approach as many times as you need. If you read this book, I also hope that you will be entertained as you share the various characters and situations I encountered while I tried to learn Spanish. All of these were an important part of my language learning experience.

It will be interesting to see if Will Self shares my beliefs as he continues to learn his French.

So you think you can write in English?

March 23, 2010

So you think you can write in English? Well, I though I could until I wrote my book ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’. Conscious that I wanted people to be able to read the book easily, I asked a copy editor to correct my minor mistakes. I was horrified at the number of changes she needed to make! Try these for size: (I know context matters – but still, give it a go… What do you think? What I wrote is followed by how the copy-editor changed my writing.

What I wrote: Their scoring is not fair. I went to the restaurant at night. I have a walk every night. The stresses are not quite right I have to keep looking it up in the dictionary for it is impossible to guess what it means. I want to speak with him I grab my keys to the flat. I need to see the words when I am listening.

How the copy editor changed my writing: Their scoring is UNfair.I went to the restaurant ONE night. I GO ON a walk every night. The stresses DON’T SOUND right. I have to keep looking it up in the dictionary AS it is impossible to guess what it means. I want to speak TO him. I grab THE keys to MY flat. I need to see the words WHILE I am listening

Writing the blurb on your book is not easy

March 18, 2010

Writing the blurb on your book is not as easy as you might think. What are other people really interested in? – mainly themselves, you might answer. How do you relate the book to other people’s interests? People are so varied; their interests are so different. Perhaps the only solution is to write what you are interested in yourself and hope that others feel the same.

Is it safe for you to write without a copy-editor tidying up your language? Probably not, but they are busy people and sometimes it may be worth the risk…

Here is the blurb for my recent book Out of a Learner’s Mouth. The blurb has been tidied up – perhaps it could serve as a model..? (or not! What do you think?)

Out of a Learner’s Mouth

Picking up a stranger in a pub in Spain and buying a flat from him is an unusual way of starting a new relationship with the country and its language. However, this mature lady casts caution aside and gives the stranger her credit card to pay a deposit for her dream flat by the Mediterranean Sea. When the contract is signed and she first enters the building, she is unable to communicate with the electrician who is still fixing the wiring. She realizes she has to learn Spanish.

In a series of amusing anecdotes she records her feelings about the language and the Spanish way of life. She struggles with new vocabulary and with interference from school French. As her exposure to the language increases, her attitude alters; she makes drastic changes to her approach when teaching English as a Foreign Language to students in the UK.  

She describes the new Spanish words she acquires and shares the trials and tribulations that all language learners have with concentration, memory, personality differences and interfering life events. 

A developing awareness of the benefits of image, humour, other language associations and her past learning and teaching experiences give insight into the nature of the process.        

The book is an essential companion for those contemplating learning Spanish, or planning a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, and for those in the language learning, researching, teaching and teacher-training businesses.

The Mystery of the sinking of HMS Dasher

March 8, 2010

The mystery of the sinking of HMS Dasher near Scotland in the Second World War continues. An 86 year-old has been reported to be asking for other witnesses to come forward to help explain why there is so much secrecy about the sinking of the vessel.  He saw a plane go into the ship.  Was it friendly fire? He asks why has there never been any inquiry about the sinking of the ship?

Then there is Operation Mincemeat: the ingenious plan to plant a dead body on the shores of Spain so that the Germans would read the papers on the body and assume that Sicily would not be the main thrust of the Allies’ next attack.

There is no doubt in Ben Macintyre’s mind that the ‘man that never was’ – was a Welsh tramp who killed himself with rat poison. I am reading Ben’s book Operation Mincemeat at present.  In my mind there still remains the mystery of why transport a body all the way to Scotland and why the Spanish pathologists did not suspect that a discoloured body had not died from drowning. Another question still hangs in the air: did they switch bodies, using a naval officer who had drowned when HMS Dasher sank? Will we ever know for certain?