Release of ‘The Cellist, a Bellydancer & Other Distractions’

45 poems written over a 20 year period, here at last. THE CELLIST, A BELLYDANCER & OTHER DISTRACTIONS is officially released. My first poetry collection is available to order in bookstores and online.

Barry Spurr, Literary Editor, Quadrant writes on the back cover:

“Libby Sommer has the true poet’s eye for the deeper meaning that can abide beneath the ordinariness and small details of our daily lives and experiences. And she expresses her insights with the genuine poet’s careful and precise attention to placing the right word in the right place.”

Barry Spurr, Literary Editor, Quadrant

Big thank you again to Stephen Matthews OAM, Ginninderra Press. And much gratitude to everyone who has offered me support, encouragement and kindness over the years.

First Proofs

I’ve corrected the first proofs of my first poetry collection, ‘The Cellist, a Bellydancer & Other Distractions’ and posted them back to my publisher, Ginninderra Press.

So what are first proofs?

According to Wikipedia:

In printing and publishingproofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra-wide margins.

Proof, in the typographical sense, is a term that dates to around 1600.[4] The primary goal of proofing is to create a tool for verification that the job is accurate. All needed or suggested changes are physically marked on paper proofs or electronically marked on electronic proofs by the author, editor, and proofreaders. The compositor, typesetter, or printer receives the edited copies, corrects and re-arranges the type or the pagination, and arranges for the press workers to print the final or published copies.

So now I’m waiting for my publisher to send me final proofs. A proofreader will check the final proofs before I post them back.

Also front and back cover images and information are now being finalised.

Then comes printing of my new book. A very exciting time.

It will be about a month until release of ‘The Cellist, a Bellydancer & Other Distractions’. In the collection there is a poem about a cellist, another about a bellydancer, and one about distraction. 45 poems in total.

I’ll let you know when I’ve got a publication date.

Coping with Rejection as a Writer

If you are a writer, rejections aren’t just inevitable, they are a way of life — no matter who you are. Unfortunately, dealing with rejection is part of becoming successful as a published author.  

It’s really hard to handle rejection, to keep a lid on crippling self-doubt and to keep going.

We can easily play down just how hard it is to write through fear.  Fear is made much louder and much larger by rejection.

Rejection feels like a kick in the gut. We have shared our writing and shared are deepest thoughts and so it hurts like hell when we are told it is not good enough.

Writing, of course, is subjective. It may only be one person’s opinion of our work. So we have to keep putting our writing out there in front of different readers, publishers or agents.

Tell yourself as often as you need that you’re not the first writer and won’t be the last to have had a book, a short story, or a poem turned down.

Here is a list of authors who have been treated almost as badly as you have been. It’s sure to make you feel heaps better. It comes from the American literary publisher Knopf’s Archives at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas:

Jorge Luis Borges

‘utterly untranslatable’

Isaac Bashevis Singer

‘It’s Poland and the rich Jews again.’

Anais Nin

‘There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic.’

Jack Kerouac

‘His frenetic and scrambled prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don’t think so.’

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence

‘for your own sake do not publish this book.’

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

‘an irresponsible holiday story’

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

‘an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.’

Watership Down by Richard Adams

‘older children wouldn’t like it because its language was too difficult.’

On Sylvia Plath

‘There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.’

Crash by J. G Ballard

‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.’

The Deer Park by Norman Mailer

‘This will set publishing back 25 years.’

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

‘Do you realize, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex.’

The Diary of Anne Frank

‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

Lust for Life by Irving Stone

(rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies)

‘ A long, dull novel about an artist.’

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

‘The grand defect of the work, I think, as a work of art is the low-mindedness and vulgarity of the chief actors. There is hardly a “lady” or “gentleman” amongst them.’

Carrie by Stephen King

‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.’

Catch — 22 by Joseph Heller

‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny — possibly even satire — but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

‘You’re welcome to le Carré — he hasn’t got any future.’

Animal Farm by George Orwell

‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde

‘My dear sir,

I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.’

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

‘… overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.’

So remember, ‘For writers, rejection is a way of life.’ – author, Erica Verrillo.

My First Published Short Story in 2000

Libby Sommer with her book The Crystal Ballroom in book store
At Harry Hartog Bookseller

I’m very happy to say that I have been publishing short stories and poems in literary journals for 21 years.

‘Around the World In Fifty Step’ was my first published story. It appeared in Overland Literary Journal Autumn, 2000. Since then, more than 40 have been published.

Have a read of this first one. Hope you enjoy it.

Around the World In Fifty Steps:

  1. Joanna lives in a Sydney suburb with her two sons. It’s 1992 and Australia is in recession.
  2. “I’m sick of licking arse in a service industry,” she says of her marketing business. “And I’m fed up with financial insecurity, the feast or famine of too many projects or not enough and chasing new business and getting clients to pay their bills.”
  3. “I’m thinking of renting the house out and travelling,” she tells her grown up sons after reading “The Pitter Patter of Thirty-Year-Old Feet” in the Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. “You’re ready to leave home are you mum?” said one son.
  5. “Why don’t you just go on a long holiday instead,” said the other.
  6. “I want a new beginning, a change of career, a new home, a community of people, an intimate relationship with a significant other, that sort of thing.”
  7. “You could always get yourself a dog,” suggests a friend.
  8. Her son moves out when she puts his rent up.
  9. “Are you going to wait till he buys a new house for cash before you ask for a decent rent?” her mother had said.
  10. “I’ve decided to go and live with Dad for a change,” says the other son.
  11. “I’ll be away for six to twelve months,” Joanna says as she throws her client files on the rubbish tip.
  12. She spends the spring in Italy. The summer in England, Scotland and Ireland. The autumn walking the gorge country of the Ardeche in France.
  13. In the winter she rents a studio apartment in Villefranche on the French Riviera. The studio belongs to a friend of a friend so she’s able to get it at a good price. She works as a casual deck hand on one of the luxury cruisers in dry dock for maintenance. “The first thing I want you to do,” says her boss when she arrives at work on the first day, “is blitz the tender.” After a backbreaking morning of hard physical work cleaning the small run-about she goes to lunch. She orders a salad nicoise and a coffee and realises her lunch will cost her a morning’s pay.
  14. A young and handsome French man who lives in Paris but comes to Villefranche to visit his grandmother most weekends, pursues her. Joanna comes to realise that French men love and cherish women as much as they appreciate good food.
  15. She shops at the markets, paints and reads and falls in love with the light and the colours of the south of France.
  16. “I’m able to live contentedly alone without a regular job, without a car, without speaking the language,” she writes to her friends back home.
  17. In the summer she moves on again before the tourist masses arrive and the rent goes up.
  18. She gives away to her new friends in Villefranche all the things that won’t now fit in her backpack but keeps her paint brushes and pallet knife.
  19. On the Greek island of Skyros she joins a group of landscape artists led by a famous English painter.
  20. “My purpose in leading this group is to help everyone find their own unique style,” says the woman.
  21. Joanna spends the autumn in London meeting with other artists from the island and the woman becomes her mentor and they meet for a cup of tea every week and talk about the isolation of being an artist as well as many other things.
  22. “It’s important to stop and regenerate before the creative battery runs flat,” she says.
  23. Joanna paints every day and goes out with an English man named Clive.
  24. “Your painting is vivid and alive,” says the famous English artist. “I’ll write you a letter of introduction to my contacts in Australia when you’re ready to exhibit this collection.”
  25. Clive has a strong face with chiselled square cheekbones. Dark brown eyes and dark hair that falls in a square fringe on his forehead. His fingers are long and sensitive for playing the piano.
  26. “What are you doing there?” her mother asks on the phone from across the ocean.
  27. “I’m painting,” says Joanna.
  28.  “But what are you doing?”
  29.   “My mother is like a poisonous gas that can cross from one side of the world to the other,” Joanna says.
  30. Joanna dreams about her sons every night and Clive tells her she cries in her sleep.
  31. She yearns for the bright Australian light and for the sound of the ocean.
  32. She returns to Australia for her eldest son’s wedding.
  33. In Sydney, Joanna supplements her income from the house rental by getting a job as a casual for a clothing company. She unpacks boxes and steampresses the garments. Her back, neck and shoulders ache and she suspects she’s getting RSI from the steampresser.
  34. Clive rings to say he’s coming to visit her.
  35. In preparation for his arrival she moves all her furniture out of storage and rents a small place near the beach hoping that he’ll love it in Australia and decide to stay.
  36. Two weeks before his arrival Clive rings to say he’s not coming and Joanna finds out through a friend that he’s met someone else and is moving in with her.
  37. She tears up his photos and throws his Christmas present at the wall.
  38. Joanna stops painting.
  39. She reflects on the past and all that she’s lost.
  40. I thought when love for you died, I should die. It’s dead. Alone, most strangely, I live on. Rupert Brooke.
  41. Joanna stays in bed most days but still feels so tired that she can only remain vertical for four hours in any twenty-four hour period.
  42. The phone stops ringing.
  43. She rehearses her own death by going to the edge of the cliff.
  44. From the edge she sketches the waves breaking on rocks, the lone seagull on the shore at the water’s edge.
  45. At home she fills in the drawing, blending black charcoal and white pastel reminding herself the darkest hour is before the dawn.
  46. And, after winter spring always comes.
  47. Joanna sells the house where she lived with her children and spends half the money on a home unit overlooking the ocean and the rest of the money on Australian shares.
  48. Her new home faces the east and she can smell the salt from the ocean.
  49. “It takes twenty years to be a successful artist,” echoes in her mind.
  50. On a new canvas she drags the colours of the sunrise across the blank white space.

Copyright © 2000 Libby Sommer

Prose Poem: The Cellist

Have a read of my prose poem, ‘The Cellist’ first published in Quadrant September 2020.

Hope you enjoy it.

The Cellist‘:

I was grudgingly ancient. Not older, wiser and ancient. But easily recognisable as ancient. Skin was the culprit – the human body’s largest organ. I had his mobile number and he had mine, the cellist from the seniors’ dating site. I examined its configuration. Was there a pattern I needed to decode? I hated initiating, but he needed reassurance. It might take him forever to ring. Composing a text, my palms sweated. My heart thumped. Was he okay with texting? I hated my impatience. I hated my unexpected fragility. I sent the text. Yesterday’s meet-up was fun. I’d like to go for a ride on your motorbike sometime, although the helmet will squash my hair.

Then I worried I’d gone too far. My legs wrapped around him on a bike? I sounded like a whore. A desperado. A woman too long without a man. His reply was immediate. Had he been holding the phone in his hand? We can start with a short ride around the block. I’ve got a large helmet. Everyone gets hat hair.

I don’t want you to go on his motorbike, my daughter warned. I’ll go for a ride on his bike, my granddaughter offered. What sort of boat’s he got? A tinnie or a sail boat? asked my grandson. I googled: ‘what to expect when riding pillion’. Hang on. Brace for braking and acceleration by holding on to the rider’s waist. Bikes must lean to corner. Relax. Tyres provide plenty of grip.

We had dinner, exchanged silly jokes, leaned towards each other, went back to my place – and had incredible sex. The sensitivity of a stringed instrumentalist was really something else. If I knew how, I would have burst into song.

Copyright 2020 Libby Sommer

A box of books has arrived

Big news! My new book, LOST IN COPPER PARK has just been released by independent award-winning Ginninderra Press. Just in time for Christmas. Huge thank you to my wonderful publisher Stephen Matthews. The book is available direct from www.ginninderrapress.com.au or print and ebook editions from Amazon, Book Depository and other online booksellers, $27.50 or ask your bookstore to order it in ISBN 978 1 76109 042 4.

Cover image by Russian contemporary artist, Zoya Kriminskaya.

Bring on the celebrations.

World Maternal Mental Health Day

Renoir painting of mother on cane chair outside breastfeeding child
Pierre Auguste Renoir

Wednesday, 6 May 2020 is World Maternal Mental Health Day: raising awareness of maternal mental health issues so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer.

I responded to a call out for submissions of stories, essays and poems that address perinatal depression and anxiety.

I’m delighted to tell you that my short story ‘The New Baby’, first published in Quadrant magazine, has been selected for inclusion in this anthology.

The planned release date for the anthology is May this year, to coincide with World Maternal Mental Health Day.

What a privilege to be part of this important collection of 25 stories, poems and essays that will also be featured as part of PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness) week in November.

Every November PANDA Week provides an opportunity to increase understanding in the community about an illness that is more common and more serious than many people realise.