Marlene Hauser

Girl shrugging her shoulders, yellow background

This? That?

Hi Everyone,

Snowing in Oxford this morning and Classic FM is playing Prokofiev’s Sleigh Ride while I stare in disbelief out the kitchen windows. Yes, snow is falling heavily and the Bengal refuses to go out. Spring on the way? So they say. Daffodils and snowdrops all up and at the ready. I do hope your agenda, like mine, is as choc-a-block as we close out the first quarter of 2023 and look at that vast, fertile expanse of the year yet ahead.

As you know, Mine is due out from The Book Guild on May 28, and I am busy with proofing the text and agreeing the final cover design. I find this process interesting as I have never really been known for my decisiveness, unless of course it’s an emergency and someone is actually haemorrhaging. Then I can be resolute like nobody’s business. Otherwise I dither; think, rethink and think again, asking not just the large committee in my head, but literally anyone that comes to mind. Yes, even the odd stranger on the street.

Saying that, one of the great things that comes with maturity – actually, maturity brings many excellent things – is giving up, giving in and surrendering. Writing has also taught me this. Not on the first or second draft of course while I am beavering away on my own, but by the third when the editors kick in. I have learned then to mostly let go, give up and let someone else “win.” If you thought writing was solitary, do think again. It is not. For example, two weeks ago when I was presented with the cover design for Mine that committee I mentioned earlier rose up loud and raucous.

I was actually for the most part pleased with the design, but did it match the idea I had in my head? No. It’s a bit like the film not matching the book: Was David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind like Margaret Mitchell’s original novel? Of course not. It was an adaptation. The publishing house did ask for my ideas early on and I sent them: embroidery, old town Tallinn, mother and baby image. Who knows? It was just an idea in my head.

The embroidery image was important to me as it was a design particular to Estonia, a black background with native wildflowers in bold colours that I love, not unlike the work by Sirje Tüür from Muhu Island off the coast of Estonia. So in all fairness, at my request the designer gave it a quick go, and thanks to today’s technology and imagery from iStock,  Unsplash and Pixabay, to name a few, in about five minutes I had a rough idea. Probably at first glance it was “no-go.”

Cover of the novel Mine
Mine optional cover

However, I dithered, dallied and shilly-shallied, and with the committee undecided, I called on friends and family, professionals and the odd man in the bookshop. Votes fell evenly on both sides. The result? Give up, give in, let the book designer do their thing. As I wrote earlier, one of the benefits of age is surrender. Mellowness can be its own reward?

Now that I actually look at it, having given up the fight, the designer got the book jacket exactly right, especially the sharp embroidery needle threaded neatly across the top. Who knew? Amazing things can come to light when I capitulate. I do hope you like it.

So this March, I offer you this: a free and fiery spring full of freefalling, of letting things go, of seeing just a bit differently.


Hero photo by iStock|Deagreez