Swimming North

A guest post by Kerry Schafer

 Kerry Schafer

Once there was a penguin, Vivian by name, whose brief expedition into the limelight literally changed my life.

Let me explain.

Vivian was one of a group of young male Adelies who got caught up in an oil slick. Some of you are going to want to know the where of this, I’ve just realized. I don’t know. They were penguins, there was a coast and ocean involved. (Ask anybody who knows me about my damaged sense of direction.)

Once the penguins were cleaned up and restored to health, each was given a name, equipped with a transmitter, and turned loose to swim south to the great penguin breeding grounds. Regular progress reports, gleaned from the positions given by their individual transmitters, were posted on a map on a website so interested humans could monitor their journey.

My friend Jamie – who had a gift for finding things like this – brought the website to my attention when he noticed an interesting thing: Vivian, from the beginning, swam a meandering, circuitous route that went every way but South. We made jokes for awhile, about Vivian the ADHD penguin with no attention span and an attraction to shiny fish. But by the end, when the transmitter gave out and Vivian was lost to us forever, he had become, for us, an icon.

Last seen, Vivian had stopped swimming in circles and was headed quite decidedly North.

Against expectation, instinct, and all penguin traditions, this particular little creature chose a completely unexpected course. And, for me, the words Swimming North took on a whole new meaning.

Swimming North means writing the stories that come to me, even when they don’t seem to fit the publishing trends. It means speaking truths that might be unpopular.  It means working to be myself, even when that self seems not to fit well into the culture of the world I live in. And it means doing a Kickstarter for the 3rd book of the Between Trilogy.

The first two books in the trilogy, Between and Wakeworld, were traditionally published by Ace Books (Penguin Random House), but they have declined the option to pick up the third book and complete the series. There are good, sound, business reasons for this. (As in, we didn’t sell enough copies to make enough money for them to consider the third book likely to be worth their time.) But I can’t reconcile myself to this.

As a reader, I can seldom bear to leave a book unfinished. If I set it aside, the story itches at me, crawling beneath my skin. My inner world feels off balance and incomplete. In some ways it feels like a death. Leaving the third book of the Between trilogy incomplete, with all of the characters frozen into literary purgatory, was a thing I couldn’t do. As a writer, I owe it to my characters to finish the story.

And if I’m finishing the story I need to publish the story. A book needs readers. Which leaves me swimming off into the uncharted waters of independent publishing. The Kickstart Nothing campaign was meant to be a way to pay for the costs of producing a quality book for my readers. As it turns out, a kickstarter also turns a solitary venture into a fellowship of sorts. Every time somebody backs the campaign I feel a little less lonely under the big wide sky, as if The Nothing belongs not only to me, but to all of us.

Which is, perhaps, the whole point of writing a book in the first place.


Thank you, Kerry, for blogging here today. I’ve backed THE NOTHING personally, and hope that, if the book interests you, you’ll consider backing it too. Because, like Kerry, I love this series and want to see it finished.  

One thought on “Swimming North

  • October 23, 2014 at 11:51 am

    *waves at Kerry and Susan* Looks like the campaign is going well! Yay. 😀

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