A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
The ‘Mexican fisherman story’ turns out to be a bit of a 21st century classic but it was a new one on me, and 2015 was the year I first heard it. With apologies to those for whom this is tiresomely familiar, the tale goes like this:
There’s a businessman on holiday in Mexico, standing on the pier of a small coastal village watching the boats. A fisherman docks. He has a modest haul, Yellowfin tuna the story goes; three fine looking fish. The businessman compliments the fisherman on the quality of his catch. The Mexican too is happy with the outcomes of his hour on the water.
“Why not stay and catch more?” asks the businessman, an American. No, the Mexican fisherman says. I have enough for my immediate needs. “So what do you do with the rest of your day?” asks our pal on the pier. The fisherman explains; I sleep a little late. Play with my kids. Take a siesta with my wife. In the evening I stroll into the village and play a little guitar with my friends, sip a little wine.
The businessman spies an opportunity, and starts giving advice. “These are beautiful quality fish. If you spend more time fishing, you’ll catch more. Sell them on, and make more money. Then, with the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat – land more fish. Expand to a small fleet of ships and catch still more tuna. You could sell more consistently across the year and avoid seasonality by canning. If you started a cannery, you’d control product, process, and eventually distribution. Sub-contract to other fisherman and run your expanding empire from Mexico City. Even New York.”
“How long will this take?” asks the fisherman. The businessman estimates. 15 years, maybe 20. “And what then?”
“Well,” says our entrepreneurial friend, rubbing his hands together. “Then you sell your company on. Make millions!”
“And then what?”
“This is the best bit. You retire early. You move to a small village where you live the life you want. You sleep late, play with your kids. Take siestas with your wife, stroll into the nearby village each evening. Play a little guitar with your friends. Drink a little wine.”
I didn’t come across this story and immediately quit my job in 2015. Not immediately. But I did quit my job. I’m still part time – for the next few months at least, then I’m on my own. Writing anything I can to keep the wolf from the door. I have a couple of textbooks coming out with an educational publisher this Spring. I have Lifers in April. I’m praying each night I get a deal for book three. I have some modest savings.
So it’s been a hell of a scary year. My hopes for 2016 are pretty simple; survival will do just fine. There’s this old adage – I probably found it on the same self-help site I discovered the fisherman thing – that goes like this: there’s two ways to be rich. One is to earn more money. The other is to want less stuff.
I saw a recent survey which estimated the average UK author’s annual income at £11,000. In 2016, I’m going to have to want seriously less stuff…
Martin Griffin writes sci-fi and fantasy adventures for young readers. His debut novel, THE POISON BOY, won The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition in 2012 and somehow managed to get shortlisted for Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award, the North East Book Award, the Leeds Book Award, the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year, the Kent Themed Book Award and the Branford Boase Award, without winning any of them. A teacher at the time, he wrote using the name Fletcher Moss to keep it secret from his students. He returns to his real name for his second novel, LIFERS, a super-dark contemporary prison-break adventure, his first novel for teen readers. Martin lives in Manchester with his wife and child.