Author Gerdette Rooney recently published her first book, Womadic Wanders: Stories of a compulsive traveller, a collection of travel stories from “fifty years travelling and diary-keeping penned in many hostels, doss houses and hammocks”. She spoke with SelfPubAus about her self-publishing journey:

1. How did your writing journey start?

My writing journey started last December [2019] when I was throwing out my 40-year-old Texan Turdbird, purchased at Billybobs Rodeo, Fort Worth, Texas! I wrote a short story called ‘Farewell to my Turdbird’. Coincidentally, that same afternoon,  a member of the SSOA writing group purchased my African mask collection on Gumtree and invited me along to the meetings. The rest is history.

However, if it hadn’t been for Covid grounding me in Sydney in the company of my old diaries, I’d have been off gallivanting with my rucksack to fresh horizons!

2. What have you enjoyed most about the process?

What I’ve enjoyed most was the actual writing and the research for the stories. It was a welcome opportunity to dig out old maps, guide books, photos and my tattered diaries from the past – gathering dust under my bed for many years. Then my mind went on a virtual journey to exciting places, resurrecting memories and faded faces and leaving me incredibly grateful for the exciting ‘womadic’ life I’ve been privileged to lead –  exploring our amazing planet – both the ordinary and the majestic.

3. What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge has been to reveal my work to the wider commercial world of publishers who denigrated my photography, cover design and ideas for MY DREAM. Surely, that is what self-publishing is about – to encourage an emerging new writer. You need a very thick skin in this game and I met many cowboys who tried to lose me in book jargon so that I would be compliant and pay up thinking it all a complicated process. It isn’t.

4. Why did you decide to self-publish?

I decided to self-publish because it is too time-consuming and disheartening to be ‘putting ones work out there’, sending articles off to newspapers and waiting around to get a reply or acknowledgement. The travel pages nowadays tell you where to eat ‘generic posh Western food’, where to sleep on a $500 a night mattress that would give you financial sleep apnoea and how to mingle with your own herd. Few describe the culture or politics of the country adequately, give an idea of the local’s way of life or tell you where to meet them!
I was in a hurry to get my stories down for my nieces and nephews and move on to fresh adventures!

5. What’s the one thing that you would do differently based on your experience? 

I would do my homework better on who publishing companies use for book design and formatting. You may think you are getting an experienced graphic designer, familiar with books and find yourself in a ping pong online game with someone in Pakistan or the Philipinnes. Some of these subcontracted are excellent but it is a mixed bag you could have chosen for yourself in the first place instead of being ripped off at Australian prices. I think the industry should be regulated. It is difficult for an amateur to figure out differences and value for money. Ask other writers about their experiences.
If you have lots of money to self-publish perhaps it doesn’t matter and many authors don’t care as long as the book is in print. But I became extremely interested in the whole process, wanted to understand it. I even completed a $20 Library course on InDesign to get started. Post-Covid, we are all going to have to embrace more technology and it is a rewarding challenge for the ageing brain.

6. What are your future plans?

I am going to take a well-earned rest to escape my head for a while and get out in nature and sunshine instead of looking at screens. No one knows the future of travel but I still have an exciting bucket list to attack when the skies open again. However, I have developed a new appreciation for the ‘staycation’ and what is nearer home – little treasures like a wildlife reserve or spring blossom on our doorstep. Small is beautiful.
And I will continue writing more personal memoirs for close family and friends.
 Womadic Wanders has only delved slightly into the piles of battered diaries so there are plenty more stories awaiting the light of day!
Womadic Wanders: Stories of a compulsive traveller, is available at Glee Books, Glebe NSW as well as on Amazon. You can also contact Gerdette directly to buy a copy, her email is [email protected]