‘Medway Mermaids’ Women’s Writing Group’ has been part of our local community for several years but most Mermaids have never seen their work in print. The Anthology was Natalie’s suggestion. She is always full of bright ideas so this was a chance to put that right.
January 2014 saw our project begin, led by a sub-committee of three. Every member was allocated ten pages to fill with their own work and we set a timetable. Our aim was to have books for sale before Christmas. Back in January that seemed a doddle.
We asked for submissions to be in by the end of April but our writing friends seemed to be having a joint crisis of confidence. We trawled back through our files for those little writing gems and asked for specific pieces we had seen before. Gradually poems, short stories and memoir began to arrive. New members submitted work not seen before and the groups’ confidence that their work was good enough grew.
We spent the next four months editing work and re-formatting other people’s word documents. You may think we all write on the same hymn sheet but we don’t. Bringing these into one format was daunting. Meanwhile we created our cover; a lovely painting by Holly Aird of a scene on our local River Medway. Cover graphics were added and Holly worked on line drawings inspired by some of our poems, stories and lots of ‘Mermaids’. After a straw poll of members our anthology title became ‘Mermaid Tails’.
We knew from the start we would self-publish. Two Mermaids had previous experience using Art’s Council sponsored ‘FeedaRead.com’, so we began the process of transferring our huge wobbly word document to their template. Their website is brilliant and guides potential authors through the process, but every page needs to be set out exactly as it will appear in the book. A Foreword was written for us by bestselling crime writer Elizabeth Haynes, who had once been a Medway Mermaid. End pages were prepared and we also included biographies with every author’s personal story.
On a cold wet Sunday afternoon at the end of November, we held a launch party in a riverside bar, where the river and the road ran together in a sea of endless rain. Undeterred the Medway Mermaids arrived with their friends and families. Members came forward and bravely read their work and between readings we enjoyed songs by two local musicians. Our stunning volume, ‘Mermaid Tails’, resplendent with 100 pieces of work, was admired and has now sold over 100 copies. In the process the Mermaids raised funds for a local Dyslexia support group. Making this book as perfect as possible had required hours of teamwork, but the smiles on the faces of our Mermaids when they saw their work in print, was worth every ounce of effort.