Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day Twenty - Appreciative August

Da Book

If Love Chunks, Sapphire, Mum, Dad, Bloggers and Chocolate have made the list, then I have to get out my horn to blow it about writing 'Work/Life Balance for Dummies.'

The book was originally offered to Bulldog but she turned it down when she realised that the advance wasn't going to allow her to retire in high style and would require a fair amount of research, paraphrasing, distilling down into bite-sized chunks and written in a way that was the opposite of academiwank.

Through having big ears, the ability to beg incessantly and win her over by explaining that if I wrote the book it could be a product of her research coven and something that she could promote as benefiting the wider community and thus gain much more exposure for her own good work and large brain, she was supportive.

Wiley, the publishers, weren't so supportive at first of having the book written by a pleb instead of a professor. I was required to develop a detailed proposal and set out each chapter with sub headings, sub-sub headings and insert boxes that would clearly reveal each and every idea and thought process in every section. In addition, they wanted two draft chapters in their entirety for them to mull over and decide if I had the chops for the job. Even then, the Aussie office weren't sure and sent it off to the Mother Ship - United States - for the final decision. After a month, the green flag was up. I was allowed to do it.

But not at work. No preparation, reading or writing was allowed to be done at during daylight hours because my job - working for Bulldog - was apparently so vital and consumed every moment of my time (when I was scanning istock for photographs to use in our publication materials, learning how to write up our webpages, deciphering financials, buying teabags and sourcing furniture for the office). No printing of documents - even if I was already going to be printing one out for her and needed only press '2' instead of '1' in the 'number of copies' button - was allowed, nor any budget to buy books, toner or paper. And yet fifty percent of the book's royalties were to go straight to Bulldog - sorry, the research coven.

Knowing that this was all unreasonable, I was so thrilled that Bulldog at least in principle supported the idea of my writing a book that gave work/life balance issues and solutions to the masses that I ignored it all, and bided my time until the advance arrived that enabled me to write the book at home for an agreed period of three months.

By writing, of course I meant reading: the latest academic findings, studies, general self-help books, websites, articles, newspaper articles. And interviewing - parents, singles, professionals, part timers, academics, writers, HR professionals, teachers, award-winning employers. Then came the actual writing - 153,000 words, distilled eventually down to a mere 100,000. I used to set my watch timer and book out chunks in my calendar to make sure that I wrote at least two chapters a week. Three months for the entire project was a timeframe set tighter than Madonna's eyelids, but I made it.

This was all done with coffees, massages, meals and support from Love Chunks. A family block of chocolate every day, inhaled a row at a time, gaining a kilo in my arse every week for the thirteen weeks spent welded to my swivel chair. Casual acceptance by Sapphire, "Yeah, Mum's writing a book about balancing life and work and says she gets to do it by not having to wear anything fancier than Crocs. Milly loves it because she gets to sleep inside on her beanbag all day." Any work/life balance of my own was less achievable than a Paris Hilton PhD but I was - and still am - so grateful to have the opportunity to write. a. book.

As some of you already know, returning back to work with Bulldog and her new sidekick Skeletor wasn't the fun-filled joyride shown previously in the tour brochures and I left the coven, never to return again. Changing from twenty years of tertiary study and sensible office jobs to a laptop at home and my own ABN number was at first a bit frightening but then gradually exciting and freeing. Opportunities have arisen and I've had time to seek some more out, but that's for another blog......

In January the book was released to about as much fanfare as any of the Dummies books are. Kind of like some gentle applause by a mime artist wearing felt gloves. Again it really didn't matter because I am so appreciative that I can now write 'author' or 'writer' in the 'occupation' box and can wander into my nearest bookshop, sidle past the 'Self Help/Psychology' shelf, wink at the lone copy of my book sitting there with its black and yellow spine and feel a little glow of satisfaction inside. Then, I leave the store empty handed and hang around in the nearest bus shelter ready to earn extra cash turning tricks for bored commuters.

The book's predicted to sell about 4,000 copies here in Australia and a few more than that when it comes out in the United Kingdom early next year. Not enough for me to buy that brand new Volvo or take Love Chunks and Sapphire to the Bahamas just yet, but more than enough to provide me with some amazing opportunites to do things other than order stationery, format documents and deal with a bloated ego masquerading as a champion of the worker.

I've still got some lingering betrayal, resentment and genuine shock at the unfairness of 'the big bad Bulldog system' to work through, but it seems like a nice little piece of karma when I consider that Bulldog has written three books and they haven't sold what my humble tome is predicted to, even if they're added altogether.

.... and I know that because I used to open her royalty statements and order the 100 copies that she'd buy of the book herself. Karma indeed.


franzy said...

So are you supposed to be revealing Sapphire's real name?
Anyway, congrats on the book.

myninjacockle said...

well done indeed. i find great satisfaction in imagining writing a book, so the actual achievement must be great indeed.

and since you're handing out real names; for the love of god tell us who bulldog really is, i'm at unisa and i gots to know!

Kath Lockett said...

Ooops, no I was supposed to keep using Sapphire... have changed it now but am not sure whether to reveal her real name from now on or stick to Sapphire.....

And if you want to know who Bulldog is (I think Franzy knows), you'll have to email me.... Luckily for you she doesn't deal with students (we even had an outdoor area that I had to signpost 'no students allowed' so that she could work in her office in peace) so you're unlikely to ever have to meet her.

Anonymous said...

yea we americans are the mother ship....... just remember that!!!! lol!!!


Anonymous said...

I'd vote in favour of staying with Sapphire - gives her deniability if ever needed! And if we wish to find the Bulldog we just need to go looking for the "no students" sign then identify the offender from the name on the door! Bels

River said...

I second the vote to keep using Sapphire, it's such a pretty name for a pretty girl. Not that her own name isn't also pretty, I have a niece by that name,she also has blonde hair and blue eyes. If I remember rightly she'd be 26 now. I haven't seen her since she was 11.

Helen said...

Wow, you wrote a book! that's awesome! I'll go past the bookshop and see if I can find it! Heaven only knows I need to learn to balance things! Plus you get to find out if it's available in south africa!