An absolutely fundamental requirement for any writer is to discover their own. identity, their own unique voice. So many aspiring authors out there are focusing solely on becoming the next J.K. Rowling or attempting to mimic the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. What you write must firstly reflect who you are. Who you are will determine what genre or genres you are most comfortable with. What genre you choose will define your audience or readership. Whatever other people think or whatever the current trend might be should not influence or deflect you from being who you really are.
Ceri Shaw left his native Wales to live in America. Having a strong sense of identity led him to create, along with his partner Gaabriel, the website AmeriCymru. I will let Ceri speak for himself as someone who has most emphatically 'to his own self been true'.
It might be a good idea to take a quick tour of AmeriCymru before reading the interview.
Q: What inspired you to get AmeriCymru up and running given all the hard work that it would inevitably entail?
Tough question:) In retrospect I suppose there were three reasons. I had been involved in a small way with web design and site development before AmeriCymru and I relished the challenge of promoting a site with a name that would be unpronounceable and unintelligible to most people here in the States and that bore no discernible relation to the relevant keywords. There was also an element of hireath of course. I realised that I was 6000 miles from home and that a site like this would afford many opportunities to keep up with people, events and ideas back home.
However, the main reason was that I was simply appalled by the lack of knowledge about Wales that I found in the States.. Everyone knows all about Ireland and many take the time to raise a glass, or several , on St Patrick's Day, whether they are of Irish descent or not. The Scots are similarly well served. The movie 'Braveheart' and the network of Scottish Highland Games around the country have done much to give them a positive image.
But general knowledge of Wales didn't go much beyond Dylan Thomas and Lady Di. So we decided to do what we could to change that. I don't know how much of a contribution we've made but certainly our current focus is very similar to yours i.e to to promote the wealth of literary talent that exists in Wales .
Q: Going forward what is your vision for AmeriCymru?
An even tougher question. Our hope for the site is to both increase awareness of Wales and Welsh culture and heritage and to network more people in Wales and around the world, to hook people up with each other and to provide a platform for all things Welsh.We're working on a plan to expand our content over the next year with even more on Welsh writers, poets, musicians and other artists than we've already got and articles on Welsh history and profiling Welsh emigrants outside Wales. We'll be taking a look at what we can do that could be a resource for Welsh societies and groups also what we can do to benefit individuals - education? Community? Genealogy?
We'll also be expanding the online eisteddfod we do. This year's online competitions are open for entries in short story ( http://americymru.net/group/west-coast-eisteddfod-online-short-story-competiti ) and poetry ( http://americymru.net/group/2012-west-coat-eisteddfod-online-poetry-competitio ) until September 30th. Next year we want to increase the prize money and spend a lot more time promoting these competitions. We plan on changing the live event we do but there will still be a West Coast Eisteddfod live event.
In passing I'd just like to encourage any writers of short stories or poetry to take a look at the competition pages linked above. There is still time before the deadline for entries and your participation is welcome. If the rules seem in any way confusing please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Q: Is AmeriCymru open to anyone with an interest in learning more about Wales and its links with America or would you see that as endangering its integrity?
As it says in the Croeso box on the site:- "AmeriCymru is a social network for the Welsh, Welsh ex-pats, persons of Welsh descent and cymruphiles all over the world" I guess membership is open to anyone who likes Wales or some aspect of Welsh culture. Tom Jones fan? You qualify! Having said that we approve all new members prior to admission otherwise we would be overrun by the usual crowd of spammers, viagara salesmen etc.
Q: What aspects of AmeriCymru have been particularly successful and what aspects do you feel need further development?
Well, I would describe myself as a lazy perfectionist. So I look at the site every morning and want to tear it down and totally rebuild it from scratch. Fortunately I am saved from these destructive urges by the realisation that the sheer amount of work involved would be intolerable.
In all seriousness I am not sure that any one aspect of the site is more important or works better than any other. I am, however, a keen believer in exploiting all of the advantages that the various Web 2.0 platforms have to offer . For that reason we exist on a Ning , Blogger and Joomla and have a presence on every social network known to man.
It's very difficult to be heard on the internet and for that reason I think it is essential to explore every possible avenue to get your message across. In terms of future development I think we will continue to proliferate and strengthen the presence we currently have on existing platforms and channels.
Plus We're always looking for what our members and readers want and need. As I said before, we'll be working on expanding our content a lot more and identifying resources out in the world like Welsh societies and groups, places like the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project, heritage museums, travel to Wales and all the wonderful things in Wales like the national museum, coastline, castles etc
Q: As a Welsh author I am secretly pleased that your bookstore only features Welsh authors or works related to Wales because the competition is fierce out there. Do you see this policy as one that will encourage more Welsh writers?
That is certainly our intention and to that end we have further plans that we hope to announce shortly. Watch this space for further announcements.
We also have a number of other ongoing initiatives which can be read on this page :- Writers of Wales
Q: Many people believe they have ‘a book in them’ but have never actually committed themselves to writing it. Given your experience in creating AmeriCymru from scratch what advice would you give to aspiring writers to help them get started?
I confess I am one of the many :) Maybe if AmeriCymru had not consumed my energies for the last four years I would have got around to putting pen to paper by now. One of these days ( and soon ) I must. I would hate to resort to repeating platitudes about the evils of procrastination at this point and I wont, for fear of being labelled a hypocrite.
If my experience with AC is any kind of paradigm or analogy for the creative process then I have to admit I had grave doubts to begin with. I sat in front of my computer screen with the basic site design complete before my eyes and drank a whole sixpack of extra strength lager before I summoned the courage to click 'publish'. I am not recommending my M.O. to anyone but I guess you have to do whatever it takes. The only real problem is doing nothing.
Q: Have you written a book yet? If so can you tell us something about it? If not, what book would you like to write, or have written, and why?
Not yet. The best I can say is:-
The first line of the novel that I will never write is this..."There is nothing that I want to do."
Sorry to be so cryptic :)
Q: Promoting and marketing is vital to success. How do you intend to promote and market AmeriCymru to ensure its continuing development?
I don't think we have an overall promotional or marketing strategy as such. Our goal is to just keep on getting bigger and better. Please feel free to join us and let us know how we're doing. We're always open to new ideas. (Join AmeriCymru HERE)
Last week in GENRE WARS we featured Romance v Historical. One featured book I am currently enjoying is "I Serve" by Roseanne E Lortz. Co-incidentally Roseanne, like Ceri, resides in Oregon and given the subject of her novel she is a definite candidate for AmeriCymru. Come on Roseanne, what are you waiting for?
Croeso Jean Mead.
Jean is the author of 5 traditionally published books. She lives in Wales. When not writing she is sailing Ruby, a Gibsea 372. Jean is also a member of AmeriCymru.
FREYA 800 A.D.
"Stunning first book in a new historical series."
Freya lived more than a thousand years ago at the beginning of the Viking raids on Britain.
Home was a longhouse, one of several in the settlement; a stockade protected the small community from bears and wolves roaming the vast glacial wilderness.Freya's husband,
Olaf, hungered for wealth. He sailed the longship, Odin's Thunder, across the Norse Sea to wreak havoc on the Picts of northern Britain. Freya, haunted by images of her husband's rapine and cruel infidelity, prays to pagan gods for his return.
With the settlement almost deserted, Knut, a man of the mountains with a warped and cruel mind, crossed the threshold of Freya's longhouse, with devastating consequences.
In a dreadful twist of fate, Freya is forced to live in isolation. It takes all her willpower to survive a dark and frozen winter with only Brock, her favourite hound, for company.
When Olaf had been missing for two winter seasons, Freya sailed to the shores of Britain to find him. Betrayal and tragedy lie ahead.
Signed copies available contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WIDOW MAKERS
Jean Mead's novel The Widow Makers is inspiring reading: a classic tale, full of all the ingredients which make for the finest of novels.
Based in the mid-19th century, it tells the story of the young Standish family, who move from the coalfields of Lancashire to the slate quarries of North Wales in search of a better livelihood. Daily life is much like their Welsh neighbours': death comes in the cruellest form to the village, but those who remain thrive, despite desperate poverty, barbaric working conditions and the cruel winter climate. The eldest Standish boy, Tommy is something of a changeling; he desires a different life and ruthlessly goes in pursuit of his dream of the grandeur and riches of the landowners' class.
Mead's exceptional talent as a raconteur lets us share the family's emotional rollercoaster ride, as they lose their eldest son, as he grasps the riches that are so important to him, regardless of the hurt and misery he causes his family and anyone who dares to step in his way. Joe, his father, is a gentle giant of a man and through his eyes we see the beauty and majesty of the Welsh countryside, thus giving this book a greater substance. My only criticism of The Widow Makers was that it ended too soon; I felt bereft! A sequel please
Fan's of Jean Mead's first novel in the Widow Makers series will love this, the second in the saga of the mining Standish family. Set in the mid-19th century, it continues the tale of the family's fortune in the slate quarries of North Wales.
The eldest son Tommy Standish is now the hard and ruthless manager of the Garddryn Quarry, while his father Joe and younger brother Frank are quarrymen. The family find themselves pitted against each other as Joe fights for fairer working conditions and pay for his fellow workers, while Tommy is determined to grind every last bit of sweat and toil out of them to further his own ambitions and wealth.
A nasty character through and through, Tommy treats everyone equally badly - from his depressed and opium addicted wife Henrietta to his young son Edward and his parents, who remind him of his embarrassingly humble upbringing. You find yourself caught up in the struggle of those he is oppressing, hoping that his scheming will be foiled and that someone will stand up to him, as Jean Mead sweeps you along with her vivid descriptions of 19th century life and the harshness and beauty of Snowdonia. A compelling vivid account that leaves you finishing the last page with regret and hoping for more.
| You can visit Jean's Website HERE
Continuing with our Welsh theme here are some more mutual Twitter followers who are also Welsh authors or authors based in Wales.
|Click on each authors image to visit their blog.
Hopefully they will all decide to join AmeriCymru.
Here are some of their excellent books.
Must be honest there was a pretty poor response to Historical v Romantic. The Romantics lead 5-2
This time its Fantasy v Science Fiction
One of our featured books concerns a woman who back in the 60's was the Helen of Troy of her day.
Also a look at an app that will show authors how they can use the power of Twitter to help their book go viral.