Being an Author in a Small Community, with Elizabeth Macintosh

Posted by Rhiza Edge on 14th Dec 2021

Being an Author in a Small Community, with Elizabeth Macintosh

As an author, the main advantage to living in a small community is that you can always count on support.

When I launched the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection 2 in which I had three stories published, locals supported the event in numerous ways. The venue, the Diprotodon Exhibit at the Coonabarabran Visitor Information Centre (VIC), was provided free by the local council and the staff helped prepare beforehand and on the day. Both primary schools brought Year 6 classes, invited adult guests attended, those who missed an invitation asked to attend (a good problem to have), the bakery delivered food twice because they were only five minutes away and the local newspaper journalist came along. Consequent publicity included photos and articles in two school newsletters, the newspaper and Facebook. The VIC and local gift shop bought bulk copies to sell.

Being able to rely on local media is gold. The Coonabarabran Times has been a huge support. It always published huge articles, sometimes half a page or more, as well as photos connected to book launches. They suggested with each launch that we do a ‘Book Giveaway’ for extra publicity i.e. put a huge display notice free of charge for readers to fill in a coupon and have a chance to win a free book. A photographer attended every function, no matter the time or day. Even though we have moved, the Times still supports me and publishes articles and photos. The most recent of these was the launch of the Rhiza Edge anthology, The Opposite of Disappearing. (More on that later.)

Living in a small town means locals are keen to support charity functions. Last year, I launched Tell ‘em They’re Dreaming. Bedtime Ballads and Tall Tales from the Australian Bush (Share Your Story) as a fundraiser for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). Even though it transpired that there were six other functions on that day, the Mayor instantly agreed to launch the book. It was a little embarrassing when attendees kept asking me to sign the books as, ‘You might be famous one day’. I felt like a fraud and told them so! Over the next few weeks, 75 copies of the book were sold and $1637 raised for charity. Afterwards, the RFS sent me a ‘thank you’ letter which included the words, ‘We will always think of you as “Our Elizabeth Macintosh” …’ I doubt that would happen in the city.

If you live in a small town, there aren’t many authors so everything you do is newsworthy. You’re also invited to speak at local libraries and writers’ festivals because (a) they know you’re an author and (b) they don’t have to pay big travel expenses. It also means you present at the same festival as famous authors, such as Sue Whiting, Zohab Zee Khan and JC Burke. It means you are asked to donate prizes and judge writing competitions.

As an author in a small town, you get a variety of reactions, including surprise (‘Oh, you really can write’) and awe (‘Oh, you’re an author! That’s wonderful!’). Or they could be like the husband of a writer friend who obviously didn’t believe we would have any talent. He read one of my prizewinning stories. ‘Who wrote that?’ he asked. ‘Elizabeth,’ his wife replied. His response was, ‘Oh, I thought it must have been a really good writer.’

Another small issue is that not everyone understands literary terminology. Whenever I have had stories published in anthologies, multiple friends always say, ‘Elizabeth’s written a book!’ or called it, ‘Elizabeth’s book’. Not quite, and explaining the difference doesn’t always work.

Six months ago I moved to Woolgoolga (Woopi) on the NSW North Coast. When I launched The Opposite of Disappearing anthology at the Coramba Hotel, attendees came from small villages and neighbouring towns to offer support and show interest. The venue was chosen because my story, Escape, is set nearby. The launch included music, morning tea, giveaways and readings. A local community newsletter published an article and photo, while the Editor told me it was a ‘wonderful endeavour’. The monthly magazine Woopi News published a half page article and photos in glossy colour. The orange headline, Woopi Author, said it all!