Tagged: ambrose conway
Potential Welsh writers: Some dismal observations and some encouragement - Ambrose Conway / David Hughes
By , 2018-09-05
I have often been exasperated by the way booksellers classify my books. They tend to work to set parameters and the Reso can easily fit into several categories, so in some book listings it appears as fiction, young adult, in others as general fiction. I've even seen it in a section on social issues, young people!
In truth, all of these are technically correct. Others would be equally appropriate such as : fiction: Wales, fiction: historical (it is disconcerting to realise that what appears to you as your short life to date, is now generally considered as an historical timespan!) fiction:the sixties.
Unfortunately the way a book is classified can also have an impact on sales because readers tend to concentrate on the sections they know and will never find books in other sections, unless by recommendations. This is what makes recommendations so powerful and valuable. Thank you so much to all those people who took the trouble to write something on a website about how they enjoyed the books, it is biggest compliment you can pay to an author and keeps me positive and writing.
A back handed compliment which really frustrates me is the reader who tells me that they enjoyed the book immensely, and that they have passed it round the family and everyone enjoyed it immensely as well! I'm not looking to make my fortune from writing, so few people do, but I would like some recompense for the hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, re-drafting and publishing the books. If you love a book, any book, try and encourage the author a little more by buying a couple of copies for birthday or Christmas presents.
Regarding making my fortune from writing, a few statistics will soon disabuse that notion. If you take all the fiction books published in the UK in a single year it amounts to almost a million. The average number of copies sold per book is 18! That means from JK Rowling, who sells millions, down to me who sells a few less, 18 is the number of copies that the average book sells.
There are few fortunes to be made in publishing your writing - so it is best to write because you enjoy doing so or because you think you have something important to say about humanity. I am in the first camp.
The top selling books tend to come from established writers with agents, big publishing houses and massive marketing budgets. There are also the best sellers from 'celebrities' ghost written for them to give them another income stream and promoted shamelessly on television chat shows. Not that I'm bitter!
For the rest of us, it is rather like the lottery... you have to be in it to win it, but the chance of making a living, let alone a fortune from writing, is very remote indeed. I console myself with the thought that when I die, something will live on beyond me and will consistently fail to provide an income stream for the beneficiaries of my Will.
Having originally gone through a publisher to have a professional endorsement of my writing, I made the decision to self-publish through a company called Lightning Source, part of the Ingram Group. This allowed me to cut costs and to take out the publisher from the trough. Even so, I receive about 1.40 in pounds sterling for every book I sell, the rest is accounted for from set up and production costs.
There is a line of reasoning that suggests you should set the book cost level as low as possible so as to maximise sales. 5 pounds is often seen as a critical price point for fiction books, which is why so many retail at 4.99. However, this assumes that you have a budget to promote your book so that it can compete in the crowded 4.99 market. I don't have a marketing budget. I am in the Catch 22 situation of knowing that to maximise book sales I need to market the book but I can't market the book until I have generated enough sales to justify a marketing budget, which I can't do until... round and round it goes!
That leaves this blog and sites such as Linked In on which to promote the books. The secret here is to segment the market by exploiting the different categories a book will appear in. My books are timebound to the sixties, the seventies and the eighties respectively so I would do well to find niche markets for such writing. Similarly my books have a Welsh setting and there are active Welsh communities overseas to which my writing is recounting their youth, or making a wider cultural connection.
In this context, no-one has been more helpful than Ceri Shaw and the team at Americymru and Eto magazine for bringing my work to a large expatriate community in the United States and Canada. The Welsh appear to be great networkers so that the Americymru connection has led to Australian, New Zealand and South African sales - just leaving the Patagonian market to crack!
There is support for Welsh writers in the form of bursaries and writing camps under the auspices of Literature Wales, but these, quite rightly, focus on writers writing in Wales and debut authors. I wish I had known that when starting out on my debut book!
For the most part this has been a dismal article of trials and tribulations, so I feel I muse end on a positive note. Nothing quite prepares you to have people share their memories with you and tell you that you brought back to life things half-remembered or forgotten.
My favourite reader comment was from a Principal of a Welsh primary school. He could not have pleased me more when he said, 'I see a lot of young Dylan Thomas in your writing.' I assumed he was referring to stylistic qualities and not plagiarism!
Ambrose Conway : Resolution
By , 2011-10-17
Launched 5 th November 2011 (Kindle edition available January 2012)
Kings Hart Books
The final instalment of Ambrose Conways Reso trilogy is set for publication in the beginning of November.
The first book, set in the sixties, The Reso was published in May 2007 and charted the adventures of David as he negotiated the conflicting worlds of the notorious Reso estate in Rhyl, North Wales and the insistent voice inside his head, which sounded eerily like his mothers, trying to steer him clear of trouble. Beyond the Reso , published in 2009 documented Davids teenage years in Rhyl and the traumas and triumphs of adolescence. Resolution moves the action into the eighties, the leaving of Rhyl, life at university and finding a first job as a teacher.
The Reso and Beyond the Reso have formed part of a major regeneration project in Rhyl and Denbighshire focussing on raising achievement and employability among those not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs). The author has worked with BAFTA award winning filmmakers Huw and Lal Davies to develop a community film about growing up in Rhyl. The Reso is now being developed as a text for a multinational learning project linking Kenya, the USA, Greece, Sweden and Argentina.
Resolution follows the hero to University in York and a very different world from the Reso.
Past, present and future blur as some of his most treasured beliefs are subjected to broader scrutiny.
David weathers the first few weeks at university, facing the interminable conversations about A level grades in the Fresher ice-breaking social gathering. He endures the scribbled notes attached to yoghurt pots of communal kitchen living. He develops a singularly unsuccessful signature dish to woo desirable female students, only to find his first date is a vegetarian, and he intends to serve Gammon and Pineapple. The ensuring argument as to whether his quick-witted replacement dish, Pineapple Totale , consisting of pineapple in a jus of pineapple, constitutes a first course or a sweet casts a cloud over the first date.
In the spirit of solidarity David takes part belatedly in the occupation of the university administration building, although he cannot remember the outrageous demands of the administration! which prompted it.
Amongst the class labelled the Slugs , David finds an entrepreneurial business plan as eloquently developed as anything Lord Sugar is capable of producing. All his students require to pull it off is a deceased elephant, a strong constitution and an industrial sized fridge.
Resolution continues the quest for fine detail, beautifully recounted, established in the earlier books and it serves as a portrait of life in the late seventies and early eighties.
Ambrose Conway was born and grew up in Rhyl and has lent heavily on his teaching career from rural Cambridgeshire, suburban Cheshire and inner city Nottingham to develop and test the ideas behind the books on a live and demanding audience. In Resolution, the students have formed the inspiration for the tales of teaching as the lowly life form known as the student teacher, and the painful metamorphosis, through the educational absinthe of its day, Banda machine fluid, to the fully-fledged teacher.
As well as his schools audience, Ambrose has a growing Welsh and international following, his books selling particularly well in Canada, Australia and the USA, thanks in some part to his involvement with Americymru, the Welsh cultural organisation in North America.
An Interview With Ambrose Conway - Author of 'Beyond The Reso'
By , 2011-01-18
Ambrose is a former secondary school teacher and educational consultant from Rhyl in North Wales who has a particular passion for developing positive reading habits among teenage boys who are so often lost to fiction. He has taught in rural, suburban and inner-city schools and has successfully tested out many of the ideas for 'The Reso' and 'Beyond the Reso ' on his unsuspecting students.
AmeriCymru: Hi Ambrose....many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. You have written two books for younger readers , 'The Reso' and 'Beyond The Reso'. Care to tell us a little more about them?
Ambrose: Ive spent much of my adult life teaching in secondary schools and remember a teacher in my High School in Rhyl called John Ambrose, when a Welsh lesson had gone well, reaching for his copy of the Mabinogion and regaling us with a tale or two.
I tried to keep up the tradition in my own teaching and found that telling a tale at the end of the lesson worked well and that many of the boys, who would not normally turn to works of fiction, had magnificent tales to tell. The best was a child who told a tale of his father going lamping (hunting rabbits with a torch and a shotgun) and coming across a strange creature which darted in and out of the light he convinced all of us that there was a strange beast up on the moor!
I decided to try and write a book for those teenagers who dont read books and ended up putting together stories from my own upbringing on the notorious Reso estate in Rhyl.
I was lucky in that I seem to have struck a rich seam with anyone who grew up in Wales in the sixties and seventies so I have a second readership there. People often comment on the depth of detail in the books but I have unlimited storage space in my brain for trivia such as the colour of Standard Fireworks boxes, long-forgotten television programmes, the texture of anti-macassars and foods which have disappeared. Unfortunately, my massive long term memory comes at a cost, so what day it is and where I put the car keys often eludes me. I tell you, Im going to be an asset to the Nursing Home which finally accommodates me!
I know Rhyl fam ilies living in North America who have bought sets of the books to distribute to their families as a sort of testimony to their upbringing Im really pleased to have recorded something that others feel represented their childhood accurately.
I was surprised tha t young people felt that the past that I spoke of seemed much more exciting than their own but I think that might be a generation thing as the stories my parents told me always entranced me.
The Reso deals w ith the Sixties when the hero is in primary school, whilst Beyond the Reso deals with the seventies and the awkwardn ess of adolescence.
The books are also something of a morality tale as I always had too vivid an imagination and ended up chickening out of certain childhoo d rites of passage because I could see all too clearly the consequences. Although Im not a Catholic, my mum had done the Devil on your shoulder number on me and I was always convinced my sins would be found out and I would be called to account. Sorting out personal morality amongst many conflicting views is a key and universal theme of the books.
AmeriCymru: Do you think that today's adolescents face radically different challenges to those of yesteryear? How different is growing up today when compared with the experience of the 1970's generation?
Ambrose: I think every parents generation feels that their children face the most challenging times. Certainly as my boys are now in their twenties, I worry about their future but hope that their relatively happy childhood will sustain them in the current tempestuous times.
However to put this into a realistic context, my parents grew up at the end of the Great Depression and had their early adulthood punctuated by six years of World War so we need to keep some perspective here.
I asked my younger son Owen what were his three key memories of childhood and, as a twenty one year old, he had no hesitation in citing, the Christmas morning when the Manchester United shirt and model railway arrived; the time that all his mates were playing in the local stream and the rope swing broke casting his friend Ben into the water for the third time in four weeks and the summer we spent on a beach holiday in France where the aged owner of our accommodation urinated in the street just before the firework display started. So I suppose things havent changed that much!
AmeriCymru: We learn from your bio that you have a 'particular passion for developing positive reading habits among teenage boys who are so often lost to fiction'. Do you think that computers and computer gaming have played a role in this regrettable development?
Ambrose: I dont think that if there were no computers then these boys would necessarily be picking up a book. I think reading is a cultural and habitual thing which can be difficult to pick up if young children are not read to when very young. Having said that, despite a massive childhood diet, my older son Luke rarely reads fiction, indeed he has his review of Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl on hand in case he is ever asked in an interview what he is reading. It served him well in school and he hopes it will be taken as an example of post-modern irony now! He is heavily into making music and painting and drawing, so I suppose he gets to develop his creative insights there.
I think computers are one of a myriad challenges for time and attention now which reading has to compete with nowadays. Children are in a perpetual state of partial attention is one of the thoughts doing the rounds here. One thing that has changed is that young people today never experience boredom they are bombarded by a constant stream of information and invasive friends on their third generation phones. Bring back boredom I say the horror of a rainy late Sunday afternoon, when all your mates had been called in for Sunday tea of potted meat sandwiches, fruit cocktail and Angel Delight and the weekend was slipping away from you.At that point getting your head into a black and white war film or a good book was really appealing.
Actually, Ive tried to entice some male readers by placing interactive materials on the website: www.thereso.co.uk . I think boys tend to be more visually and image orientated which might explain why they find the prospect of reading less enticing initially. I believe we can blend routes into reading for young people using the best of new technologies but there is no adequate substitute for a book, not even a Kindle in my opinion at the moment. However Im willing to be convinced.
A big issue in the UK at the moment is that these austere times are slashing government spending and one soft target has been libraries some of which are now slated for closure. From my own experience, I cant thank Mr Carnegie enough for establishing the trust fund which built Rhyl library at the bottom of the clock tower of the Town Hall. It was a treasure vault when I discovered it fully when in sixth form. In fact the librarian, who clearly monitored my reading, held back a copy of Lolita for me when she felt my sensitivities has developed sufficiently, and this was a lady who dressed in grey tweed and pearls. I was forever grateful (Having previously failed to find it on the shelves myself!).
AmeriCymru: Any more news on the film project that was in progress a year or so back?
Ambrose: Well, the change of government has put paid to the funding that we had spent an age putting in place for the project. Many aspects of cultural life including film, arts and books are finding themselves in a hostile environment at present.
The idea for the film came about as part of the regeneration of my seaside hometown of Rhyl. Jennie Walker of Rhyl City Strategy, introduced me to the filmmakers Huw and Lal Davies who had previously won a British Academy of Film and Television Award (BAFTA) for their work on Digital Nation a process of training people to use the film technology and then letting them loose to film a slice of their life that they got to edit to a fifteen minute slot for national broadcast on the BBC.
Huw worked the idea up to work with marginalized young people on the Reso and the results were stunning in terms of beauty and authenticity. We were able to obtain funding to train a trial group of young people and we require more funds to complete the project. We have much footage in the bag, and Huw has captured some truly haunting images of the town, its beauty and humour to lace between the stories. Ive recorded a number of readings from the books to act as a back drop. We are working on the mantra of Next Year at Sundance! as the completed film will be more a documentary of a time and place than a commercial action backed blockbuster.. that is not to say that Im not looking for funding for a feature film based on the books.
Being from the south Wales valleys, poor Huw is still coming to terms with the fact that the rivers run north to the sea where he now lives in the Clocaenog Forest, rather than south as they do in the valleys. He notices things like that, which I suppose is what gives him the creative insight for filmmaking. When we first met in a caf in Rhyl he noticed a pile of stones on a wooden ledge two storeys up on a building opposite. It is inconsequential in itself, but the story of how those stones got to be laid there sets the imagination off.
AmeriCymru: Where can our readers purchase your books and what online resources can you suggest?
Ambrose: Im with Kings Hart publishers so one point of purchase is their website http://kingshart.co.uk/ .
Beyond the Reso was produced on a print on demand basis which reduced costs and helped with distribution so they should now be available from any store by order, or from online booksellers. It might be against my commercial interests, but I always try to convince potential buyers to use a bookstore - these guys need and deserve our support and Im afraid it is very much a use it or lose it economy at the moment. Siop Y Mofa, http://www.siopymorfa.com , the Welsh bookshop in Rhyl, has recently shut its doors after bringing all things bright, beautiful and Welsh to the town for almost thirty years. Dafydd Timothy is continuing to trade online, but it is not the same for him, or for us, not having the experience of browsing for gems in the shop.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Ambrose Conway?
Ambrose: Im working on developing the texts for use in schools and talking to contacts about completing the film projects.
Im also working on the third book in the trilogy, Resolution, which should be available ready for Christmas 2011.
Ive the bones of a few ideas ready to go after that, including a political comedy about Wales and nationalism and an exploration of the desperation of middle age which I think is particularly fertile territory.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Ambrose: It has been brilliant finding that there is such a vibrant cultural life for people of Welsh extraction in North America. Ive always felt that the Irish and Scots had stolen a march on us there Im glad AmeriCymru is redressing the balance.
For those immigrants since the beginning of the sixties, I hope they have a chance to have a read of my books and that it brings a sense of hiraeth for the old homeland.