A Year in Fife Park

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A Year in Fife Park

Postby wild_quinine on Sat Apr 24, 2010 7:43 pm

Alright folks, you heard it here first.

I have written a book about a (plausibly) fictional year I spent in Fife Park.

I wrote it for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones was that I was sick of what my 9-5 job had done to me. When I got into the job, I promised myself that it was just a thing I did, and that I wouldn't let myself get sucked into it.

And then obviously I did. I saw it coming, but I never saw it coming. Unlike a lot of people, I realised this before I was quite middle-aged. So for the last few months I've been working to write 'A Year in Fife Park'. It is now finished. (Well, a book is never finished. But it has gone to print.)

The eBook is Creative Commons licensed, and is free to download from http://www.fifepark.com

There's also a very short print run, designed as a gift for Fife Park residents. And, on Monday night, courier snafus notwithstanding, I will be in Fife Park giving physical copies away.

I've been working against a hard deadline, because I want to hand this out whilst there are still people living in
Fife Park... don't know what the situation is with exams, hopefully nobody will mind if I push a few copies through letterboxes, or sign some copies in the parking lot.

The reason I started coming to the Sinner regularly was for that St. Andrews feeling - and every time I needed a pep, I'd come here and you guys would wash the St. Andrews wave all over me again. Hopefully you feel more flattered than used by this. As a thank you, I will happily offer a free, signed print copy to Sinner regulars (for a while - I'd like to keep a few back for friends, family, a couple of websales, etc.)

PM me with a postal address if you're interested, as well as who you would like it to be signed to. I'll cover the postage, if you're in the UK. If not, get in touch anyway, and we'll figure something out.

Any of you still in St. Andrews can always pop over on Monday and grab a copy, too. But don't go telling everyone, because I don't have millions of them or anything. o.o

Thanks for the feedback on the eBook front, also: I've decided to make a bunch of formats available, but the ePub version is the 'official' one. Works wonderfully on a PRS-505 - tested. The others should be fine, but let me know if you run into any trouble!


Quinn Wilde
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A Year in Fife Park - Quinn's Account

Postby wild_quinine on Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:16 pm

Hey Sinnerites.

It’s been a bit over a month, and I thought I’d let you know about how things went with the book drop for ‘A Year in Fife Park’, as well as answering some of the questions that I got asked a few times whilst I was out there.
This will be a huge post, and I reckon I could easily have split it into parts, but I don’t want to spam my jam all over the board. If you’re looking at the top of this post in horror, fear not - I think it’s a pretty interesting read.

Fife Park Book Drop:

So I did it. I went to Fife Park and handed out nearly 200 perfect-bound copies of my novella, ‘A Year in Fife Park’.
At the time I was under the impression that if I didn’t get it over there before the exam season really kicked off, there might never again be a chance to get it into the hands of people who live there. I’ve since been assured that Fife Park will remain open for a bajillion years, in delightfully bribe-worthy contravention of the HMO regs.

Ah well, I’d have been (sort of) sad to see the old place go.

I had originally thought that I would just post copies, but then I realised that I wouldn’t be able to personalise the books if I did that, plus it would be kind of wasteful if people weren’t interested, or houses were empty. So instead, after I got through at about 7pm, I just started going door to door. If there was anyone in, I offered to sign copies for the house. I started at 1 Fife Park and pretty much worked my way up to 49. (I don’t think 31-36 actually exist, which was slightly confusing. Never noticed when I lived there…)

‘Hi,’ I said. ‘My name is Quinn Wilde. I wrote a book about Fife Park, and I’ve come through to give out copies to the people who live here, and sign them for you. Would you like a copy of my book?’

By the third house I’d learned to add ‘It’s free.’

It was quite a lot of fun (for me), and it made me feel like I was being the same old idiot I always used to enjoy being, so mission accomplished I guess.

I think that generally people thought that it was a pretty cool idea, and mostly people were very welcoming, and humoured me with all charm. Some people weren’t interested – fair enough. A lot of people were prepared for some kind of hard sell. Can’t say I blame them. Still others were suspicious, which I guess is not too surprising.

I said to one guy ‘What’s your name?’ and he replied ‘Why do you need that information?’

I said ‘Dude, I don’t need that information, I was just going to sign it to you.’

But, genuinely, no criticism of those who were unwelcoming implied. I understand. Some fruitcake turns up at your door with a book full of expletives, turning him away is the nice thing to do. You should probably have called security.
Seems like nobody did, so thanks.


Permit me, but I just can’t help evangelizing for this band. They are superb. Media Sift (Through Heart Rises) is absolutely one of my favourite songs of all time, and I’m genuinely almost as excited by the chance to introduce you to it as I am to my own work, and I would advise you to pull back the album ‘The Indifferent Universe’ even if you’re not at all interested in my book. It is a thoroughly fantastic work of art. You can get it free from:


The most famous track from the album is probably ‘Unwelcome’, which won the "Best Indie Music Video" at Yahoo! Video Awards 2008.


Questions I got asked (that I feel like answering):

Was it self-published?

Yes. Oddly I couldn’t find an agent who would work for commission on a free book. So, yes, I self published. But I didn’t use one of those crummy ‘be a authoorzz!’ self-publishing packages that you find online. I sent it directly to a printer, with correctly prepared files and instructions on materials, dimensions, etc. This saved on costs, and I know my way around this kind of file prep by now. (Even so I was pretty nervous waiting for it all to be delivered!)
I’m actually very pleased with the finished product. A couple of the local bookstores I approached were genuinely surprised that it was home-spun, so to speak. Smart choices in materials give it a ‘real novel’ feel. :)

Why did I give it away?

Some people think it’s to market sales of the printed novel. It’s not. I couldn’t care less about selling the printed copies. There are 350 total, and there will never be any more, unless someone else prints them. I gave over half of them away in Fife Park, and friends will get most of the rest.

Selling it’s not an issue – the print costs were just for something I wanted to do, wanted to be able to say that I’d done, and I was happy to write them off and fortunate enough to be just about able to do that.
What else was I going to do with the money? Get some ridiculous ITIL Service Management qualification? Go on some kind of trekking holiday? Buy a pair of outrageous headphones? (Sorry Duggeh).

No, fuck it. This book is personal development, leisure, work experience and a vacation from myself all rolled into one uniquely personalised package. Money well spent, in other words.

Actually, most people who asked me why I was giving it away seemed to be thinking about the cost of printing the novella, not the act of giving away the work in perpetuity by licensing it under Creative Commons. From the inside, that is kind of funny.

Some people think that I gave it away because I don’t think it’s worth money. Well, sure, I don’t think I could ask for money, under the circumstances. But if it’s a question of value, that’s beside the point. It’s not free because I don’t value it. It’s free because the difference between what it would be fair to ask for it, and how much I value it, is genuinely incommensurate. It was always meant to be a gift.

But enough of why I didn’t. Here’s why I did.

1. Because I hate my job and I’m genuinely sad all of the time, I’m always tired, and I’m getting older without doing the things I said I would, or living the ways I promised that I would, and this is my release.
This is the difference between doing something and not doing it, which is the step that hardly anybody ever takes. This is me not just writing a book ‘one day’.

2. To make at least something of a name for myself.
I’m very unhappy with copyright law and with the levels of punishment being thrown at people for ‘infringement’, and I’m becoming less and less convinced that there’s a clear moral case to answer when making copies of games, movies, books, music. But I’m of the world, I live in the world, I want to be paid one day.

So I’m looking for ways to be able to live and write - if possible without needing to give 8 hours of my life every day to something completely unrelated to anything other than a basic need for food and shelter. Those eight hours could really make a difference to the next project, or the one after.

This is a small step towards satisfying both angles. When I go for conventional publishing, and get a novel onto shelves with a major publisher behind me, which is almost certain to happen sooner or later, then I want to be able to dictate some terms in the contract, rather than being bent over the boilerplate.

(What terms, precisely, is open to decision. I like the idea of always making the electronic copy free or very cheap, and finding a way to add value to the print version... but I’m starting to think that the print version isn’t so very valuable to people, either. So maybe there is something else that I need to be able to sell, that is valuable. On the other hand, I also like the idea of voluntarily rescinding copyright after a much shorter period than set in law - 10 or 20 years maybe? But I don’t know... )

Any rate – to stand any chance of dictating my own terms, I need to be somebody. So here’s step one. Being able to show that I’ve been places, done things, made a difference, even a small one, I should be able to call a few more of the shots. (Either that, or I guess maybe publishing as we know it will collapse and I’ll find an alternative income stream and be able to legitimately go it alone, which would also be fine.)

3. To test myself against my own principles. I’ve been downloading movies, music, books and games for years. I’m a pretty big spender on the above as well, but it’s not like anyone enforcing copyright law would care.
I’ve always thought that this low-grade infringement wasn’t intrinsically wrong, but maybe rather a bit situationally incorrect. But it’s easy to feel that way when you’re getting free shit from Joe Internet. So I wanted to be sure that I could happily give away several months of my work, and hold up my end. As it turns out, I can - although a large part of that might be stubbornness. Anyway, the feelings were more complex than I expected.

Aftermath / feelings.

Kind of sad that it’s over. It feels a bit like Christmas in Japan. There’s a lot of build up, weeks of preparation, and then it’s just a day like any other, you still go to work, all the decorations comes down the day after, and hardly anybody ever mentions it again.

That said, I did get several really, really nice letters from people who read it. It was nice that different people all liked different bits. Encouragingly, some people loved the bits that I felt less sure about. I really felt like I connected with a bunch of people, and I’d never have predicted which people that would be whilst I was handing the book out. I feel very lucky, right now.

Even though it feels like it is over too quickly, when I sit back and think about it, I am so glad that I did it.
And, yeah, I don’t mind the giving away, it feels like a privilege to see people reading my work. I can imagine that you could feel otherwise, but not until you’ve really got to the stage that you take peoples interest in what you do for granted – and I hope I never will.

I still keep second guessing myself. Should I have publicised it better? Should I have done something on facebook to make it easier to share? Everyone seems to be glued to that, these days. Should I have built it up more in advance? Seems a little self-aggrandizing, maybe.

Ah well. Life goes on.


Oh, the first selection of Audiobook chapters is available now, as well. I’m not a great reader, but I couldn’t afford Stephen Fry. (This whole thing is homegrown. I’d take requests for funny voices in subsequent chapters, but I haven’t mastered my own accent yet.) So it is what it is.

If you’ve got £1000 headphones, this shit won’t do them any favours. But it’s creative commons, so anyone who has a nicer voice and better mic than mine should feel free to do something with it, or contribute a few guest MP3s – whatever tickles your pickle.


For Fife Park, not much. Finish the audiobook. Maybe I’ll do some simple publicity in fresher’s week next year, so the new residents gets a chance to read it. It’s a book with a small interest group, but I think it carries some familiarity and poignancy for those people.

For me? Another book. Something else. I’m working on a script for a graphic novel, set in Edinburgh if there are any artists who would be up for it, and up to it? I’m going to have to go looking for candidates when it’s done anyway – might be a good honours project if anyone has a relevant course?
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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby FieryFairy on Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:29 pm

Have just read your book, and it's like you were living the same FP experience as I did!

Really struck a chord, even though you were there a couple of years before me - just shows nothing really changes there...

Anyway, just wanted to say great job! Made me nostalgic for that year of paper-thin walls, unconfortable chairs, beds, and uncountable crazy goings-ons. :)
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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby Super Jock on Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:11 am

Yup Fife Park really does bring out the crazy in us. I look forward to giving that a read once my summer semester ends. My first half of Fife Park was pretty good, but once it goes bad it can never really be resuscitated in such close quarters.

well done on writing a book!
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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby Archie on Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:03 pm

It was good to read about your book adventure w_q.
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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby wild_quinine on Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:25 pm

Thanks for the kinds words, all.

Yes, I thought it would be interesting to post up how things went with it, I know that's the kind of post or blog I often enjoy reading myself - something with a bit of insight into someone else's pet project. Glad you got something out of it.

FieryFairy wrote:Really struck a chord, even though you were there a couple of years before me - just shows nothing really changes there...

That's one thing I'm really pleased with, about how the book came out. A lot of the people who've written back to me said the same, and there's at least one guy who was there in the 70's - when it was new! - who said that I'd done his experience justice as well, and that really made my day.

I know of at least one other person who said they had plans to write about Fife Park, and since I finished this book I've been informed that Val McDermid already did:

Val McD wrote:
1978: St Andrews, Scotland

Four in the morning, the dead of December. Four bleary outlines wavered in the snow flurries that drifted at the beck and call of the snell north-easterly wind whipping across the North Sea from the Urals. The eight stumbling feet of the self-styled Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy traced the familiar path of their short cut over Hallow Hill to Fife Park, the most modern of the halls of residence attached to St Andrews University, where their perpetually unmade beds yawned a welcome, lolling tongues of sheets and blankets trailing to the floors.

Anyway, more here:
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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby 2005 grad on Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:03 pm

Page 16 and I find myself relating to this book far too much. Also have the horribly similar feelings about the past 5 wasted years.
2005 grad

Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby Gordon on Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:48 pm

Want to thank you for writing this, it was a good read and somehow despite the fact I've never lived in Fife Park I felt I could connect with the characters in some way. The sign of a good book is when you're sad to finish it, I was sad to finish this. In September I'll be going to St Andrews as a fresher, I won't be staying in Fife Park though, got offered a place in Albany Park instead.


Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby munchingfoo on Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:03 pm

I finished your book, it was great. I went to bed at 3AM after finishing it even though I had work at 7AM. I lived in Fife Park for 4 years, and St Andrews for 8, and loved every minute of it.
I'm not a large water-dwelling mammal Where did you get that preposterous hypothesis? Did Steve

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Re: A Year in Fife Park

Postby wild_quinine on Sun Nov 21, 2010 12:46 pm

munchingfoo wrote:I finished your book, it was great. I went to bed at 3AM after finishing it even though I had work at 7AM. I lived in Fife Park for 4 years, and St Andrews for 8, and loved every minute of it.

I'd had a really shitty day at work when you posted this, and reading your comment really took the edge off things. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and moreover - thanks for saying so.
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