Friday, 16 December 2011

Expat Guest Blog - Cocktails at Naptime: How two writers met in Cyberspace and wrote a book

Once upon a time, two mums who really should have been doing housework wrote a book together. They called it Cocktails at Naptime and some nice Australian publishers called Finch Publishing laughed out loud when they read it on the train home and thought their readers would laugh out loud too on their trains home, possibly startling some fellow passengers along the way.
Here’s their story:
Emma says:
Gillian was like Nanook from the frozen North (Aberdeen) while I was a sunburnt British ex-pat living in East Coast America. How, you may well wonder, did this unlikely duo meet on the blogosphere. I am ashamed to say my chat up was that corny old line, “I really like your blog.” Luckily she was polite enough to reply.
At first I was suspicious. What was the matter with Gillian I wondered? She was not loud and shouty like so many people on the blogosphere. She never posted pictures of her cats or mumsy articles about how to create rainy day activities out of a thousand saved yoghurt pots. She was immature in a certain way like me, a Eurovision Contest fanatic who liked to dress in cheap spandex for non sexual purposes, yet unlike me seemed to run her family like a well organised military machine. Whereas I was domestically challenged, leaving the dirty washing to overflow the baskets like Mount Vesuvius and sometimes (okay a lot) getting my two daughter’s names mixed up.

So in some ways we were chalk and cheese and yet before we even disclosed we were both Capricorns (born a mere two years and 10 days apart) there was a certain indefinable chemistry between us. Well I’m not sure how it happened but we realised that we were having the sort of synchronised and brilliant ideas that could no longer be hidden under a bushel and before long we were telling each other we had to write a book together.
Now why that worked out is a bit of a mystery. Why we understood each other so well despite the fact we’ve never met in person may be partly astrological but it is also deeply geographical. For while I was born in the South and Gillian in the North we both shared the same soggy, damp landmass for many a moon. Essentially our shared heritage involves such cultural reference points as finding the royal family ludicrous, a genetic disposition to enjoy things like fried sausages and eggs without worrying about its cholesterol content, a 70′s childhood involving numerous electricity strikes where we sat in the dark listening to ABBA on a portable radio and an adolescence spent dating weedy pasty men with crooked teeth (tans only briefly becoming a fashion statement in the UK in the 80’s when orangey fake tan made a debut which looked awful unless you were a member of Wham!).
Even though we were psychic twins in many ways including a love of cheesy pop music and the fact that we both speak German it still didn’t take a genius to figure out that writing a book together in cyberspace was going to be about as easy as asking Lindsay Lohan to lay off the sauce. And yet, because we are both goats we dug our hooves in and got on with it, with bits of text flying back and forth until we had amassed something that looked distinctly like a book. And now that this book is done and dusted and filled with marvellous illustrations, we’re hoping there are other mums out there – not necessarily Capricorns – who will enjoy our peculiarly skewed but perceptive views on what really happens after your midwife screams, “Mrs Mum! Take a deep breath and push. You’re crowning!”
Gillian says:
It was October 2008 and I was hatching plans for that year’s over the top Halloween costume (Marie Antoinette, as I remember, complete with a papier mache dead Louis XVI’s severed head in a basket) when an email popped into my inbox from someone I only knew as Emma K in the strange world of blogging.
“Hi Gillian
I always enjoy your blog and believe you are on the ball, so I just wanted to pick your brains. So, I was wondering……”

And that was how Cocktails at Naptime started. We added the Woefully Inept bit later as we realised there was a slight theme emerging when none of us put forward any recipes for anything anyone could feasibly feed our kids or any top household tips on how to get any baby puke cleaned off of anything that would normally require dry cleaning. So, effectively what I’m saying is that the email there is the evidence I need  when my own mother reads this book for the first time and gasps at all the naughty bits so that I can point squarely in Emma’s direction and shout “She started it!”
What strikes me now, over two years on, is that what is even more bizarre than starting this tri-continental book in the first place is that we actually finished it. You see, Emma and I have never met in person. Not even as I write this little epilogue as the book’s about to go into print. Yet, I feel I know Emma pretty damn well as for the past two years we have been writing and sending little funny stories and daft lists about  “Ten Ways to Hide Birthweight with Nothing More than Electrical Tape” to one another, and fretting over what’s funny and what’s not, and what’s too rude and what’s not rude enough and somehow getting a book written between us. Along the way we’ve talked about what’s going on in our lives, made each other laugh frequently and possibly cry with frustration on the odd occasion.
We’ve even had the odd off-peak long distance phone-call where we nervously tried to suss out if one of us was one of those unhinged crazies you meet on the internet, who given half an inch,  will turn up at your bedroom window one evening wielding an axe or start sending you carefully constructed and physically uncanny representations of yourself as a voodoo doll through the post. Turns out we were only as unhinged as each other and that’s why we got on so well. If Emma ever sent me a voodoo doll I’m sure it would have been well meant. I’m certainly currently working on a simply darling one for her.
One thing’s for sure it’s not been the easiest way to write a book I’m guessing, but it certainly has been an incredibly interesting one. At first I was convinced that at one point Emma and I would have to at least meet geographically half way and actually clap eyes on one another to get this book finished. Maybe we could rent a cheap garret in the Faroe Islands halfway across the Atlantic and stay there for a week, with one of us sitting at a laptop typing furiously with fingerless gloves on as the other paced the creaky floor brandishing a half empty wine bottle, dressed in a parka ranting about nipple shields, support pants, colic and the humour therein. After all, isn’t that the kind of thing writers do? It never happened. We each just sat in our respective kitchens thousands of miles from one another and wrote and edited and emailed, and then rewrote and edited and emailed some more without requiring any Faroese hospitality, garrets or otherwise. I still wore fingerless gloves though for that feeling of writerly authenticity — I can’t speak for Emma although I’m guessing, like me, she was in spandex a lot of the time. We both also confess to occasionally brandishing half empty wine bottles.
After all the blood, sweat and emails there came a lovely time when a good while after we had dispatched Cocktails out into the world of publishing and sat expectantly by our letterboxes, we indulged in quite a lot of virtual jumping about hugging one another in cyberspace when we were asked by some nice Australians if they could publish our book. This was indeed an unexpected twist to the already insane geography of this whole project. Let’s get this straight: I live in Aberdeen, Scotland- Emma is English but lives in Baltimore in the United States- and a publisher in Sydney, Australia wants to publish our book? And none of us have ever even been in the same continent as one another at the same time, never mind the same room? Somehow, even in the era of an international web community and the whole “global village” thing, that still seems completely and utterly mental.
The big question for me is; will Emma and I ever meet one day? I really don’t know. But I know I feel like we already have. In fact, I feel like we’ve been sharing a flat for nearly three years. And yeah, that horrendous mess in the living room, yeah that wasn’t me, that was Emma.

The authors are excited to announce that Cocktails at Naptime is now available as an iBook from the Apple iBookstore and can be downloaded to an Apple device such as iPhone or iPad. Cocktails at Naptime is available in English on all Apple iBookstores worldwide, that is in Australia/New Zealand, America, Canada, UK, France, Germany and other EU countries.

It is available for download here:
 Cocktails at Naptime by Emma Kaufmann and Gillian Martin

You can follow them on twitter here:

And read more of their great writing here:

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