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My top tip for lifelong success: get plenty of rest

imageI enjoy reading a ‘self-help’or professional coaching book as much as the next person. Being self-employed for the last few years means that using such resources is pretty much obligatory.

But I always feel there is an important element missing from their advice. Of course, no one ever became a successful business person/entrepreneur, sports star or philanthropist by lounging about all day. However, those people who are motivated enough to read these guides and move up through the ranks in organisations, or set up their own businesses, I suspect, tend to be quite obsessive-compulsive about work to start with. As such, the advice given should take this into account.

I make this generalisation based purely on personal experience. I have published eighteen books in five years, alongside being a full-time mum. I also run numerous social media sites and write blogs to complement the book publishing. To achieve this level of output, there’s no doubt you have to be a tad obsessive about the work process. I don’t tend to observe weekends or holidays as any barrier to running my business.

Having said this, I have learnt the hard way, the importance of incorporating plenty of rest time into the working day. Five years ago, I suffered a bout of physical and nervous exhaustion that was debilitating and horrible. I still feel the effects of it now. So, I am careful about not allowing my compulsive nature to drag me down that road again.

I must stress that it isn’t often easy to put the brakes on. But I now ensure I take regular rest breaks and even naps, if necessary. For a relatively young woman who is used to being fit and active, this often makes me feel lazy, and like a bad role model to my children. In my youth, I used to loathe lying down during the day, I would certainly not have been able to actually sleep. But life has a way of wearing you down. Sleepless nights with babies and young children, jobs which put you under continual pressure and place you in situations that cause nervous anxiety. Additional events such as moving house or jobs, illnesses within the family, can heap on even greater burdens.

Over the years, these pressures build up, especially when holidays with young children are harder work than being at home and there are fewer opportunities to properly re-charge the batteries. The fatigue creeps up on you. Most of us don’t notice the warning signs.

Please take the advice of someone who has temporarily slipped over that edge. You cannot maintain lifelong success without plenty of rest. Reading, watching TV and surfing the web are enjoyable leisure activities, but they aren’t necessarily restful. Sleep is crucial, as is time spent alone, without interruption. These things are harder to enshrine within the working day than you might imagine, but they are essential.

Don’t feel guilty about taking the rest needed to maintain good health. It’s a non-negotiable. Your creativity and productivity will benefit, but most importantly, you will be able to manage the long haul. We are bombarded with images of people being extremely active on social media. I’m going to counter this today by attaching an image of someone doing absolutely nothing, which is just as necessary for our professional and personal wellbeing.

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Is it time to re-examine our attitude to the weather?

imageLike the vast majority of the U.K. this week, my schedule has been disrupted by the unusually cold weather and resultant snow. My daughter is still at home with me, as her secondary school is closed for the third day, whilst my son has returned to his local primary (in the same town).

I know that the headmaster of the secondary school will be subjected to criticism for his decision. But in my opinion, his judgment has been correct. The school has a largely rural catchment area, covering tens of miles. Country roads are impassable to the school buses and the large site itself covered in ice and snow.

Despite the severe and unpredictable nature of the weather this week, I feel there is a strong majority opinion in the country that we must be able to carry on exactly as normal. This means that schools and clubs should continue and the roads made passable by the local council and landowners.

But with public sector budgets cut to the bone and the nature of the weather system unprecedented in its longevity and persistence, I’m not sure we have the right to make this assumption any longer. I work from home as an independent novelist, so you may argue that I am immune to the worst effects of the deterioration of the climate and therefore don’t have a right to judge.

But if these freak weather phenomenon keep happening, we are all set to suffer. Power and food supplies will be disrupted if transport grinds to a halt. So, is it time for a re-think to our approach? I work in the digital world and it feels to me as if some of the answers must lie in a better use of new technology.

Schools (who are not required to provide childcare for parents) could easily devise an online curriculum to be accessed on ‘snow days’. Teachers can be available to answer questions during allotted ‘lessons’. Many businesses could adopt a similar practice with their administrative staff. Meetings could be conducted through Skype.

This would remove a huge pressure from the road systems. Emergency services and police could focus on getting essential goods around the country, rather than digging lone drivers out of drifts. It would also be safer for the workforce and their children.

I can sense that many folk would be uncomfortable with this solution. Perhaps imagining that they would be left entertaining their children at home for weeks on end. But this is not how these bad weather snaps tend to work out. We would be looking at a week, max. In some parts of the USA, these lost days are added onto the end of the summer term or in September, which could be another option for us.

It has to be better than the uncertainty and risk-taking which currently accompanies bad weather. I have seen much being made on social media about how overcoming the awful conditions is a sign of ‘grit’ or ‘resilience’, yet too often this undefinable concept gets confused with irresponsibility and inflicting unnecessary hardship on yourself and others.

Five years ago, I suffered a nervous and physical illness brought on by overwork and stress. I’ve always been a healthy, ‘resilient’ person who turns up for every appointment and never took a sick day off work in ten years. Until I collapsed with an exhaustion I didn’t even fully know I was suffering from! So when I hear about staff being required to undergo an ordeal to overcome the bad conditions and getting praised for their resilience, it makes me sad.

Everyday life is often already tough enough for most people. It is a misplaced idea of strength to try and battle against a weather event. We need to encourage a shift in perspective that reflects a more respectful appreciation of our environment. If we step off the conveyor belt for a few days, our world will not collapse in on us. In fact, we may be buying ourselves an extra few years of productivity down the line.

I am much better now and still work hard (as I did throughout my illness) But a legacy of tiredness remains. I know my limits and have to stick to them. I will be setting out into the cold wind and snow later to pick up my son. The effort will exhaust me for the remainder of the day. I am certainly not the only person who will have had this experience. It doesn’t make us weak or without value to society.

In fact, I always think there is an old-fashioned machismo to the claims I see on social media from headteachers who proudly announce their school is the only one staying open in the area. That they’ve  been out since dawn scraping the paths. These managers need to put aside their desire to meet and complete a personal challenge to consider the wider picture. Should they be encouraging their staff and parents to take to the roads? Is it of benefit to the local area? To the students?

It will undoubtedly take a long time for attitudes to change and it will have to come from employers and headteachers. They need to look beyond their individual institution or company, viewing themselves as part of a wider network. Perhaps the only way to ‘overcome’ these weather events is to accept their power over us and recognise that we will need to adapt to accommodate them as part of our lives.

 

 

Meet the Team

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The Garansay Press has been in operation for just over three years now. We have just published our sixteenth book. So, I thought it was about time to properly introduce the team.

I am Katherine Pathak (far right of picture). I’m the author and head of media and marketing. I write the books, the blogs and the majority of the tweets. If you are communicating with any branch of The Garansay Press, you are likely to be interacting with me. My academic and work mini biog:

University of York, Institute of Education, University of London. Purchasing Assistant, Good Book Guide. Teaching History in several London schools. Full-time author.

Robert Currie (second left). Bob is the finance director at The Garansay Press. He is also a member of the editorial team. Now retired, he still finds himself book-keeping for several organisations and start-ups. Bob is our Mr ‘details’. Also my dad. Mini biog:

RBS manager and securities consultant (retired) Company Secretary (various)

Rakesh Pathak (centre of picture) Rakesh is one of our editorial team. A busy man in his other roles, his conscientious copy editing is invaluable in getting the best out of the final product. Mini biog:

University of Oxford, Institute of Education, University of London. Head of History. Author of IB textbook.

Susan Currie (left of picture) is our resident crime fan and aficionado of the genre. Sue is our most efficient copy editor and is expert at making sure my prose style remains tight and plot focussed. Mini biog:

Dean College of Nursing, Edinburgh. RBS (retired)

To find out more about The Garansay Press and our publications please follow us on Twitter @GaransayPress and like our Facebook pages: Facebook.com/GaransayPress Facebook.com/Katherine.Pathak

 

How important is an author’s name for the reader?

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This was a question that came up at the lunch table on Christmas Day of all times. I write mystery thrillers for adults. There are twelve books in two series altogether. For both of the series I use the same author name. I believe it’s important to do so, particularly when writers these days spend such a large amount of their time creating a positive ‘author brand’.

What raised the issue over Christmas lunch was that I am currently writing a story for my daughter, which may develop into a novel for the pre teens. My 10 year old is an avid reader and I’m constantly sourcing books and magazines for her. It suddenly struck me that I could write one for her myself, whilst she is so receptive to reading and actually wants me to do it.

So the story began its life. The genre is a departure for me, although a couple of my Imogen and Hugh Croft Mysteries would be catagorised as ‘cosy’ and could certainly be read by teenagers. I ripped through all the Agatha Christie books when I was 11 after all!

But then the question arose of what pen name I would use if I were to publish the children’s book. I’d certainly be reluctant to use the name I already do as the departure from the thriller genre would be too confusing, I think. We decided instead that I would probably use my maiden name. As a married woman, it is occasionally quite useful to possess two identities!

But the debate made us consider how important an author’s name is to their popularity as a writer. Obviously, the big name authors will build a loyal following and their name appearing on the cover will literally sell the book.

In addition to this, we all knew of certain people in our lives who would be reluctant to read a book written by a woman and vice versa. Look at the nineteenth century female writers who were forced to use a male pseudonym in order to be published; like the Brontes or Elizabeth Gaskell.

I initially chose to use my married name so that the people I already knew would easily be able to track down my work. The decision was no more complicated than that! But I know that these days a great deal of research goes into deciding what type of author name sells the best in different book categories. I suspect the decisions made by consumers are largely subconscious.

The majority of my favourite crime writers are female, but I couldn’t really tell you why. I also absolutely loved the books of the late Iain Banks so there is no prejudice involved!

I will be fascinated to discover how my children’s book fares with my new nom de plume. There will be no intention to deceive, simply to distinguish the piece from my adult work. But the experiment will be extremely interesting nonetheless.

What future for formal photography?

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With the publishing of Kate Middleton’s photographs of baby Charlotte yesterday in the press, it raises some interesting questions about the future of formal photography.

Kate’s pictures are lovely, capturing moments that only a mum or dad could. So where does this leave the bank of official Royal photographers? A representative of the popular press was interviewed on the radio this morning. He stressed that the growth of amateur photography was a positive trend and should be accepted alongside the work of the professionals.

I found this discussion fascinating as I use both stock prints and my own shots in my publishing work. The growth of Facebook and Instagram has led to an explosion in informal, phone based images. Photography apps also mean that you can edit and professionalise your own shots cheaply and with ease.

I do this myself, partly because of the costs involved but mainly because I enjoy it. For my most recent DCI Dani Bevan novel I used a photograph of my daughter taken from behind, with her leaning against a balustrade overlooking an ornamental garden for the cover. When I had completed the edits and design it was almost unrecognisable from the original. I am a writer and editor by trade, so if I can manipulate a photograph so painlessly then anyone can do it.

So what on earth is the future for photographic studios? I think that in the world of fashion photography and within the glossy magazine culture there is a place for more formal spreads. And fashions change. The informal ‘selfie’ shot is in vogue right now, but it may not always be. There are certain times when I use stock photographs, happily shouldering the cost, because nothing else would do.

But perhaps the evolution of the school photograph is indicative of the future. Gone for our kids are the formal lines and forced smiles. In their place are relaxed groups of children, posed naturally and clearly enjoying themselves. Times have moved on. But do I always purchase these class photos? Actually, I don’t. The mantelpiece is already jammed full.

Also, I kind of think that I could take one just as good myself. And this probably sums up the problems which lie ahead for professional photography.

The Joy of Unwrapping.

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They say that each new generation is different. I’m certain it’s true. But I still expect my children to be just like me. In many respects they are; from the avid reading and telly watching to the mild suspicion of group sports. There are, however, certain new interests and preoccupations my offspring have latched onto that I can’t quite connect with. The attraction of observing other people unwrap parcels is one of them.
My son gets enormous pleasure from watching these little films uploaded to YouTube of Dads and their children unwrapping Lego. What’s the fascination? I’ve got no idea.
I can understand the pleasure derived from unwrapping or unboxing your own birthday or Christmas presents. In fact, this very weekend, I indulged in one of my favourite of all little pastimes – receiving and opening the package which contains the paperback version of my new book. In the writing and publishing world, nothing quite beats it.
But watching someone else demolishing a pile of pressies, I just don’t understand. So I asked my youngest why he enjoys it so much. He told me it’s because he wants to see what’s inside (yes, I asked for that) and to discover if it will turn out to be a set he already has or something new that he may want in the future. Occasionally, they go on to construct the set and he can compare their building methods with his own.
Okay, so I’m starting to appreciate the purpose of the exercise. The opening of the package builds the suspense, like turning over the early pages of a novel, skimming through the publisher’s info and acknowledgments. The anticipation is being established for the main event, when we begin Chapter 1 itself.
This type of activity is also indicative of the visual nature of young people’s lives these days. The digital world is an aesthetic one; where arresting images and fast-moving videos accompany almost every word that’s written. I would stop short at suggesting it is voyeuristic, because I suspect this view is old fashioned. I find it a bit weird and unsettling because it is new to me. But then so is Skype and Facetime.
There are crucial aspects of young people’s lives that are very different from the way ours were. Although getting a chance to watch people just like us around the world doing the exact same things that we do is perhaps not such a bad thing. It shows that there is so much more that unites humanity than divides us – a very important belief to cling on to at this particularly unstable period of time for many parts of the planet.
So I’m keeping an open mind. There is certainly stuff that my son should not be watching through the world wide web, but the innocent and simple joys of unwrapping a parcel, surely a universal human pleasure, probably isn’t one of them.

Professionalise all aspects of the job you’re doing. The end results will be better for it.

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I read a very good blog this week by a fellow writer. He was bemoaning the fact that authors are now required to diversify in order to get their books to a wider audience. It was clear he didn’t want to have to claim that he did anything other than write books. I can certainly sympathise with his view. However, I suspect that I’m one of the people that this particular blogger was complaining about.
These days, I would say my job was not simply being an author, but also a publisher, a digital marketer and someone who has to turn their hand, quite frequently, to graphic design. I also edit and proof-read, alongside my very able team of editors and advisers. So I really can’t say that I’m just a writer, it would be disingenuous. Much of what I do on social media is marketing. It would be misleading to suggest otherwise.
The image of the hapless author, who has their mind almost permanently focussed on plots and characterisation, locked away in their spartan garret, head in the clouds and not fixed on the realities of the business side of writing is really now a thing of the past. Even if your novels are handled by a large publishing company, you will still be required to do your own marketing at the very least.
As time goes on, I find myself increasingly enjoying these other aspects of the job; particularly the cover design and the making of the promotional materials. Why should I pay for a so-called ‘professional’ when I can do the task myself and the more I do, the better I get at it. I think it’s important not to undervalue the new skills we are learning as authors in the digital world. I actually think I could give some traditional publishing companies a run for their money in terms of the editing and design I’ve produced. I see no reason to be coy about the new trade that we author-publishers are budding apprentices of.
If we take these various business roles seriously and treat them as a professional part of our job description then I believe that the end results will be better too. Don’t approach self-publishing as an amateur venture, give your hard work the credit it deserves. I reckon I could join a marketing department in any sector of industry now and have a reasonable amount to offer. I think that authors (and part-time working mums for that matter) have a tendency to trivialise the work they do. This is unwise. Be confident about producing a polished and professional end product and your work will be taken more seriously, which is something that every writer must surely desire.

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