Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Penelope Hellyer talking about The Haphazard Gardener



What Have You Had Published?
I’ve published ‘The Haphazard Gardener’ - a biography/memoir with black/white photographs. 353 pages.
It reflects my approach to dealing with a seven acre garden. The Haphazard Gardener is an autobiographical account of my gardening years at Orchards – formerly the home and garden of my parents the late gardening author and journalist Arthur Hellyer and his wife Gay.
A brief biography of Arthur and Gay forms the first part of this book.
Part two, details how I came to take over the responsibility of the garden at Orchards; how Arthur coped with his life after the untimely death of Gay in 1977; how with my own personal issues the garden became neglected once again; and the importance of my friendship with the late Rosemary Verey, who inspired me to take on the garden full time. The development of the garden took a new direction when I met Philip. Together we transformed the garden from a neglected plot to one worthy of the National Gardens Scheme; to being included in the Good Gardens Guide from 1999 until we sold up in 2004. Further chapters include shady planting, a journey through the year, the additional structure that we added to the garden in the form of hedges, walls and seats. There is also a chapter on foes; detailing the worst pests and the challenges we had.
Part three, is a sentimental journey of our time in the garden; the most rewarding time of my life when my ambition to open my own specialist nursery was fulfilled and the garden of the great Arthur Hellyer was made accessible to the general public.
To take on the garden of such a professional amateur should have been a daunting task but it was a pleasure. As the daughter of the late Arthur Hellyer my story is quite unique. I was a working amateur gardener – who turned to writing as ill-health dictated my time to garden was ending. My first article 'Naturally Wild', published in the Hardy Plant Journal – Vol 24 No 2 Autumn 2003. It was an article on Naturalistic Planting with my photographs – needless to say it was about Orchards. My second ‘From Sussex to Como’ appeared in the Spring edition Vol 33 No 1.

How/Where is The Haphazard Gardener published and why did you take this route to publication?
I made the decision to self-publish after several rejections by mainstream publishers. I had several acceptances from other publishers but many wanted to leave out Part One. Which for me was impossible for without chapters about my parents the story could not be told. 
I read more and more about self-publishing along with all the warnings about Vanity publishers. One such publisher accepted the mss with no questions but wanted an extraordinary amount of money to take me on. As a subscriber to Writing Magazine and Writers’ News I was able to read copious amounts of information about self-publishing and knowing that my book might be difficult to place decided that this was certainly the way things were going to go in the future.
The FeedARead advert was in Writing Magazine – as it was Arts Council Funded I decided to take the plunge with them. I’ve been on a huge learning curve ever since.


Where can we read it?
It is published with FeedARead www.feedaread.com. And at www.barnesandnoble.com,
www.thebookdepository.co.uk (where for some reason they charge delivery! The best buy however can be found at Amazon. http://tinyurl.com/cycpevz (this link takes you directly to my Amazon book page).
I am having a mobi file made so that some pages can be read on my book page.

If you have any questions for Penelope please post them as blog comments and she'll answer as many as she can.



17 comments:

  1. Quite a daunting task to take on a seven acre garden!

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    1. I agree, Alex. I'm a keen gardener but couldn't tackle that!

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  2. Hi Alex - in many ways it was; but it was part of me and I knew it like the back of my hand. When I met Philip in 1989 I knew that a dream could be realised - he was just as enthusiastic about the garden, the peace and the tranquility as I was. And the main structure of the mature trees and shrubs was already evident. Mind you I made much more work for us both with my 'obsession' for herbaceous perennials!

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  3. Glad you stuck to your guns and got it published the way you wanted it Penelope. Great interview Patsy.

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    1. Self publishing does give the author complete control and I see why that was important for this project.

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  4. Hi Sue, Thanks for the message. I think self-publishing is a great option. I've had some great feedback so far and sold several more copies now it's available on Kindle.

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  5. What a truly cathartic and emotional book!! I can only imagine how the garden looked like in 2004 after so much love and effort poured into it!! Yay!!! Take care
    x

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    1. It does sound more emotional than the average gardening book, Kitty.

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    2. Hi Kitty & Patsy, Kitty writing the book was a very cathartic experience - I have also described it as a love story with a difference. I am eccentric enough to admit that I was in love with my garden and the plants - especially the ones that I introduced.

      Patsy - Miriam Osler's books are also emotional, yet from these much learning comes. And there are things that can be learnt from my book; but that was not the purpose of writing it. What I hope it does show is that anyone can make a beautiful garden if they want to. But it takes hard work.

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  6. I'll have to read this later - the small print is playing havoc with my varifocals.:-(

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    1. Sorry about the small type - don't know what went wrong there.

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    2. I have the same problem Jacula - copy and paste it into a word doc. then you can make it as large as.

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  7. I think Penelope's reason for self-pubbing is the best I've ever heard, and I think with a memoir, you really should keep editorial control.

    It's a bit late here and when I read the intro and book's subject, I read "seven acre garden" as "severe acne problem." That made me pay attention as I wondered how severe it really was -- and then I chuckled when I realized my silly mistake. lol I got to go to bed soon... :-D

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  8. Hi Lexa - For a moment there I thought I'd made a terrible mistake - though I don't deny some typos may still be found! Fortunately I've never suffered with acne, severe or otherwise. I hope you are well rested now.

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    1. I think there should be a word for that kind of typo reading - maybe there is?

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  9. This sounds like it's just up my street (or garden!) and I think my Dad would love it too...one to go on the pressie list. Thanks Penelope and Patsy!

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  10. It would make a good gift for a garden lover, Maxi.

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Thanks so much for commenting!