New Year! We're off to a flying start in 2002 announcing the inaugural
winners of the IP Picks Awards. David is out and about at the libraries
and Writers Centres across the country. Check the column, he could
be coming to a town near you!
He also previews two forthcoming CD publications from IPD, his own
Sharpened Knife and Chris Mansell's The Fickle Brat
and in our Editorial asks if Literary bookshops could do more for
their healthy commissions.
Another highlight (if I say so myself!) is my interview with our own
journo/poet Phil Brown, author of An
Accident in the Evening.
Theres a special on the IP Picks 2002 winning entries, and we
direct readers to three quality web sites: The Perfect Diary, presspress
Our April issue is filling quickly, so if you would like to contribute
to eNews, please forward your articles/links ASAP. As always,
we welcome letters to the editor and features. If in doubt as to what
weer after, please drop
me a line.
For those of you interested in whos written
what in this issue, SM=me; DR=David Reiter; LF=Lisa Foley.
the Director's Desk
to our first issue of 2002. The new year is shaping up to be our busiest
ever, with an expanded publications list and a number of engagements
in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria for me and other IP authors.
Im especially pleased to announce that the Queensland Government,
through Arts Queensland, has provided us with a grant for a third
successive year. This reinforces our partnership with Arts Queensland
and demonstrates the Governments firm commitment to supporting
independent publishing in this State. We will continue to foster quality
Queensland writing through our innovative publishing program.
Highlights of this years program will include the winners of
our inaugural IP Picks Competition, two
of my own new works my multimedia murder mystery Sharpened
Knife and a Selected & New entitled Kiss
and Tell and Chris Mansells latest collection,
The Fickle Brat, which will be another
multimedia first for us (see the feature below).
Through IP Picks, we hope to showcase not only new poetry but also
the best work in those other endangered literary species short
fiction and novella. This years winners confirm my view that
these genres deserve our support. We hope that you will show your
interest in the usual way, by ordering them and recommending them
to your friends. In the next issue of IP eNews well offer
a package deal on the three winners, so stayed tuned!
Finally, this year marks our fifth anniversary, so we are planning
a special event at Treetop Studio to celebrate next spring. From our
first title in 1997, Hemingway
in Spain, we now have a list of over 30 print and digital titles.
The event will likely coincide with our launch of the IP Picks titles,
so if youre in Brisbane youll want to mark it on your
In the meantime, happy reading!
Dr David Reiter
Were well aware that things
are tough out there for independent bookshops and probably
quite a few chain stores too. What used to be a
common complaint from booksellers about poetry it doesnt
sell! is now commonly attached to literary titles in general.
But is it really true that people are
buying fewer books? Or are they buying fewer high brow
titles in favour of what might be described as narcoleptic
You know the titles I mean. They get
coverage in the media as good beach reads, meaning just
add sugar, stir and sip. Thanks to healthy promotional budgets,
which sometimes includes renting shelf space at eye-level in the
bookshops with clout, they zoom to the top of the charts for a few
crucial weeks before school holidays than sag into the remainders
bin after the back-to-school sales have ended.
In the meantime, independent publishers
find that theres very little room left at the inn for their
stock, and many booksellers genuinely feel that theyre doing
us a favour by even stocking titles that they consign to dim ghettos
of the shop, only to dust off in time to request a returns authorisation.
One very well-known Sydney literary
bookshop, already nine months overdue in their account with us,
took exception to us politely but firmly asking when we could expect
money from stock left with them on a sale-or-return basis.
(For those of you unfamiliar with this
process, if a publisher leaves stock with a bookseller on sale-or-return
it generally means that the bookseller has about six weeks to either
sell or return the stock. Thereafter, the bookseller is either supposed
to pay for the stock or return it. In practice, many shops drag
their heels on paying, so, in effect, the stock remains with them
on consignment, paid for only after its been sold.)
The attitude of that particular bookshop
is that if independent publishers like IP dont like the way
they do business, well, they can take their stock somewhere else.
They still havent paid, so we may very well have to do that.
But why have we fallen out so far?
Booksellers and publishers are supposed to be on the same side.
Could it be that certain booksellers, under the same economic pressures
faced by publishers, have taken the easy way out, gearing themselves
to sell the international bestsellers and blockbusters, and viewing
with angst any title that doesn't arrive in the shop accompanied
by an A3 glitzy poster and a rep with freshly whitened teeth?
Is it too much to ask that they do
a bit more for the 40-45% commission they get on sales? (On average,
publishers only get 10-15% of the cover price.) Its true that
some booksellers see themselves as more than trendy warehouses.
They take seriously the in-house promotion of titles that have merit
beyond the spreadsheet. The staff actually read new titles and post
brief reviews below the stock so that customers can see someones
opinion on the work aside from the snap-frozen syndicated reviews
that often appear in the newspapers.
What about setting aside a section
of the shop as a Foiled-text-Free Zone where customers can browse
a selection of quality literary titles not just Australian!
Ask any independent publisher, and they will tell you that titles
sell much better at events like readings. So why dont some
of these shops sponsor more events with live authors?
Sure they might have to foot the bill
for a cask or two of local wine and maybe a slab of cheese, but
its all about getting more people into the shop and reading
the authors they would enjoy if they only knew about them and could
hear them in person. Not to mention cross-promotion.
And it might just take the bookshop
managers mind off the spreadsheet for a few precious moments!
It is with pleasure we announce the winners
of the inaugural IP Picks Awards.
The awards offer royalty based publication with one of our imprints
in four categories: poetry from a Queensland based author; fiction
up to 80,000 words from a Queensland based author; poetry from an
author resident anywhere in Australia and fiction up to 80,000 words
from an Australian based author. They are unique as they call for
submission of complete manuscripts.
And the winners are (drumroll)...Brett Dionysius
of Queensland for his poetry collection, Bacchanalia.
Lesley Singh of Queensland for her novella
All Storms. Sally
Finn of Victoria for her first novella, Ankle
Deep. Our heartiest congratulations to all of them. We
look forward to publishing their works.
The judges decided not to award in the Australian poetry category,
as they did not receive a manuscript polished enough to publish, though
many showed potential.
It's never too soon for those who would like to join IPs growing
list of established and emerging authors to think about their entries
for the next IP Picks Awards. This year's submission deadline has
been moved up to 30 November. Watch this space for further details!
Now have a look at the comments on and selections from this years
winning entries. They exemplify the high standard we expect for IP's
literary publishing program.
Short Fiction by an
Deep by Sally Finn,
A love triangle with a twist, populated with characters we don't always
like but still want to know. An exciting first book from a highly
talented author with the ability to write prose like this:
Mum has come to plant flowers around her studio.
She works with such intent it is as if focus itself will turn the
soil for the roots to spread in. The building is as good as finished.
Dragma and I will go back to the city. It is impossible for me to
stay here. The world turns in on itself too often, faces are too easily
recognised. It is either to move where the mirror of my life isnt
present in the retinas of others, or to turn my back, as Mum does.
I am too young, too unloved to shut off as Mum can. She has her passion
to go to, I have nothing. I have something to show me that time has
gone and for a week now I have gazed upon it, its large glass, its
strong corners, its mass. I marvel at it. At times disbelieving I
created it. But it is over and Dragma and I are ready to leave. She
is at war with me, mind you, sensing that something is coming up.
Id leave her with Mum, but she is my one weakness. I know I
would miss her more than she would miss me. And there are too many
things Im missing already.
I have been craving milky skin, womens skin, the feel of it.
When I think of sex thats what I hanker for, the joining of
senses through skin. The gliding, the blissful gliding that steals
the conscious mind from the physical, flinging it into weightless
Ankle Deep is a work which stays with you long after you put it down.
It has a questioning nature. The author is concerned with the big
picture beyond the constructs of plot and character. She questions
life, the nature and meaning of it, the undercurrents of relationships
and how we are shaped as people through these relationships and our
Finn knows to keep her hands off her characters and she does not pass
judgement. These are people, not caricatures. People in all their
flawed, pill popping, at times shallow-minded, at times noble and
loving humanity.When they are drawn to desperate and dangerous behaviours,
it is troubling because it reflects a spiritual poverty and emptiness
of purpose that is a very real part of modern life. It is the place
of the fiction author (and literary writers of any genre) to open
a window to experience and she does this admirably.
Fiction by a Queensland Author
Storms by Lesley Singh,
All Storms is an honest tale with a magical
quality that binds the reader to the page from its first moment. A
thoroughly engaging story with believable characters: Bess, a woman
approaching menopause in a stale marriage; her poet husband experiencing
his own mid-life crisis; Leila, a young townie poet with preconceived
judgements of country folk; and Clare, the resident "hippy"
elder with recipes for dyeing wool - potions for revealing something
of the true nature of life beneath the veneer of a settled country
Its metaphysical exploration of life, inventively revealed through
the weaving of jumpers, offers originality to a familiar tale of tangled
love and changing tides.
Singh uses the metaphor to uncover many layers of meaning in a work
which is simple on the surface but offers profound insight:
And so, with her fine collection of blueberry
hues greys, pinkish-browns, soft blues and a rich violet, Bess
laid aside her books and hopped to, knitting herself a coat from wool
shed dyed herself. Her mind fluttered about, alighting here,
alighting there, sometimes growing disturbed because of a strange
sense of harm about. The sense of an invisible hand above her own
busy ones, a hand with nothing better to do than to create trouble,
tugging on loose strands, unravelling everything ever done. Everything
fixed and set.
It was like this: there she was twirling wool over needles,
clickety-click, clickety-click. She might think how different life
was without the boys. (Not boys, Mum, they admonished. Men.) Or she
might rest her work down in her lap and giggle at the memory of Jims
face when he discovered his precious winter blueberries used to dye
wool. (Not pies Bessie? Not pies?) Then her delight would
dissipate. The other hand had come. Shed stop in her tracks,
cover her face, hardly daring to breathe while that hand with its
sharp insistent finger probed, and pulled on loose strands.
A night recalled: rolling sleepily up against Jims body. Rolling.
Feeling about with her hand, the sheet stretching away cool and smooth
under her fingertips. Absence. Still out. How late. Yet she went back
to sleep. When the Landcruiser eventually clattered home, Jim came
in smelling of smoke saying sorry it went on so long but there was
good music at the new poets group at Ma Ma Creek. Good music
then, at three in the morning- yet she melted back to sleep.
Memory: making love. Jim running the tip of his tongue from behind
her earlobe, down along the hairline to the nape of the neck. For
twenty years, her hairline from ear to nape had been unkissed, and
now it was.
She achieves so much in so little space. The work is imbued with a
strong spirit of place. It has a distinctively Australian character,
contrasting city and country attitudes, avoiding more familiar treatments
of this theme. Singh delves beneath the surface of the ordinary to
find the extraordinary and powerful, particularly in the life cycle
of women, such an important element of the work. Polished writing.
A joy to read.
by a Queensland Author
by Brett Dionysius, Annerley, Qld
Strong narrative poems, rich in detail.
Dionysius is a powerful observer of people and the environment. The
collection has a distinctive local flavour in the first half (Kurilpa)
and an expansive vision in the second (Bacchanalia).
There is moving insight into the emotional undercurrents of human
from Always Be a Fin, Circling
self-doubt surfaced one
as he was staring
into the glass
abyss of a
fin, brocaded with spikes
the inlet of his thought
with a sharks
When he tried
to reel it in
about in his hands;
in the air with its
As he wrestled
with it, trying
to hook a finger
under its gill,
a spine skewered
Theres also a fine understanding
of the transformative power of language in poetry:
If it wanted to
this country could
eliminate our history
with a hair-pin trigger
or a signature.
In this country
there are two deaths
for every birth.
for every poem written.
In this country
will kill you.
Here is an author who can turn both a microscopic and a panoramic
lens on his subjects - simultaneously - quite a feat! And the collection
has a refreshingly wide scope. We particularly liked the poems in
the second half with historical and political content. We found many
voices here to be masculine, robust and unafraid.
Dionysius understands the work of the poet and never underestimates
it. This is a collection of significance and substance.
David had a busy October and November
last year, with trips to Melbourne as well as the New South Wales
Central Coast and Sydney.
met with many librarians, showing our list of titles and demonstrating
Gallery, which continues to be a hit on the ordering forms.
For further details
on the events below, please check on the links.
We were especially pleased to be invited to participate in the first
Central Coast Writers Festival
hosted by Margot
Cooper and her able-bodied team. Storm clouds were gathered overhead
but the Gosford crew was not intimidated. Tricia
Dearborn, Chris Mansell, Beatriz
Copello and David gave readings during the day, and he was pleased
to be asked to present two of the Festivals awards.
The session was very well attended, and IP has ample stock of this
new Glass House Books title, so by all means send us an order!
<title>IP eNews </title>
While we have good coverage of public
libraries in Queensland and New South Wales, we have been keen to
increase our contact with Victorian libraries. Davids trip to
Melbourne was seen as a crucial first step, so we arranged meetings
with twelve libraries in the metro area.
He was met with an enthusiastic reception, and is already planning
a return trip in mid-April at the invitation of Yarra-Melbourne
Library, which will be hosting his session on e-publishing
on 18 April.
He plans to catch up with other libraries during that week, so if
you missed him last time, by all means contact us soon to reserve
your date and time.
But all that is in the distant future!
On 20 February, David will be guest speaker at a meeting of the Friends
of Byron Bay Library, where he will talk about IP and read
from some of his work, followed by an informal reading and question/answer
evening (6:30 for 7 p.m.) at the Persephones
Window Café also in Byron.
On 21 February David will give a full-day workshop on e-publishing
at the Byron Beach Resort, including
a demo of his latest multimedia works, for the Northern
Rivers Writers Centre. And he will be a featured reader
at New and Selected
in West End on 31 March. IP has a standing date with this reading
series, so we hope to see those of you there who are within driving
On 9-10 March IP will have a special session at the NSW
Writers Centre Autumn Festival. David will lead another
full-day workshop on e-publishing on Saturday. Tricia Dearborn, Chris
Mansell and David will read from their latest work on Sunday afternoon,
followed by the Sydney launch of Chris The
Back to the Central Coast in early April!
On 8 April, David is scheduled to give a workshop at the Port
MacQuarie Library, followed by an event at the Wyong
Library the next day.
In these events,
David will talk about the state-of-the-art of digital publishing not
only from IPs and a global perspective but also from the point
of view of an author intimately involved in creating work for these
new art forms. If youre even remotely interested in the shape
of things to come, please make an effort to be there!
In the first weekend of May, David and Chris Mansell will appear together
again at the first Shoalhaven
Literary Festival. More details on that in the next issue of IP
[IP eNews seeks to serve as
a forum on issues of common interest in digital publishing and other
related issues, but for that to work the communication has to be more
than one way. This is your chance to be heard on issues that concern
anyone connected to or reliant on the publishing industry. So lets
hear your reactions to this column or for that matter anything
else that appears in IP eNews. Space allowing, well print
what you have to say.]
Print-on-demand. It sounds pretty
good, especially for those hard-to sell titles and for authors who
have run out of space under their bed. But will it ever replace the
good old trade paperback-on-acid-free-paper?
Theres certainly something in it for the companies who provide
a virtual warehouse for titles in suspended animation. And for consumers,
the prospect of having that title you want within minutes rather than
days is attractive. Instant gratification: your book is as accessible
as a bag of chips in a vending machine!
Publishers, wary of venturing capital on unproven authors may opt
to publish them via POD. But is that really any more of a commitment
than a studio that options the work of a promising film scriptwriter?
Both invest some money upfront, but the author may wait a long time
for the next cheque.
In North America, where POD is very much the NOW thing, its
being promoted in the industry as an alternative to e-books for those
people still craving the feel of refined woodchips. Yet, already we
see a two-class system emerging: those who embrace fast food texts
versus those who prefer starched linen and silver service when they
One big mixed goods publisher in Texas distinguishes between their
print publications and the alternative by asserting their titles are
printed on, yes, acid-free paper, by a printer with 90 years experience
in the industry. You can almost smell the quality even before you
read the blurbs!
Will POD titles find their niche in proper bookshops, or only on the
remainder shelves of the big chain stores? After all, its fine
to produce them on demand, but, if they cost more to produce and still
have to be warehoused after they dont sell, that spells a big
disadvantage for publishers. The fact that POD may not be as durable
as their ancestors does not help the equation.
There are, thankfully, still publishers around who are finicky about
quality control as well as the merit of the writing. They know that
poor production will be worse for the imprint than the printer. Until
the standards of POD are raised, these publishers will take the more
conservative route of keeping a firm eye on production.
In Australia, publishers are keeping a watchful eye on developments
in POD. There are companies around who are offering the service, and
no doubt some publishers will be tempted. If POD printers use quality
machinery to fill their orders, all will be well. More than likely
corners will be cut.
And will this be a godsend for literary
authors who choose to self-publish? I doubt it. Aside from the question
of standards about their writing, self-publishers will have only added
the doubt engendered by marginal production standards.
First impressions still count. If POD publishers (or should we call
them distributors?) sacrifice quality to increase their profits, bindings
may fall apart, the trim may be a bit ragged, the type quality may
be inconsistent throughout, and so on.
These may not concern some people, but publishers who pride themselves
on the appearance and durability of their titles should take note.
The economics of POD may appeal, but the long-term reputation of the
publisher is at stake. Do they really want to abdicate their control
of the final product?
Books deserve to have a shelf life longer than a Happy Meal.
want to reward our readers, in the best possible way with good
deals on our titles! Heres the deal for this issue.]
Were pretty excited about our e-books,
and we want you to see why, so, until 31 March,
were offering you a FREE e-book with every paper title.
Order two books and get two free e-books. Order three books or more
and get free postage and handling!
This offer applies to any book and e-book currently listed on our
catalogue, with the exception of The
Gallery, for obvious reasons its multimedia and costs
to much to give away. (But if your heart is set on it, you can pay
Gallery and still get a free e-book.)
This deal is restricted to individuals.
a sign of the burst of multimedia activity at IP that we have three
major projects on the go at once: The Planets,
my fictive memoir; Chris Mansells The
Fickle Brat and my murder-mystery, Sharpened
Planets is or will be the most sophisticated project weve completed
so far because it involves 3D rendering and animation involving, you
guessed it, heavenly bodies as well as more earthly ones. But its
still early days in its development, so well leave a detailed
examination of it until a future issue.
Chris Mansells Brat is another
first for us. Chris is an experienced performance poet as well as
an author for the page. Since IP believes in adding value to our digital
projects, Chris work will be published on CD, but with a difference.
There will be the full text of her collection, similar to our previous
e-books, readable on Windows and Macs, but also a 60 minute anthology,
playable on audio CD players (or on your computers CD player).
On the same CD, youll be able to read a poem and then hear that
selection from the audio anthology. Or listen to the anthology on
your CD player. We believe this hybrid form will prove popular with
individuals and libraries alike.
Sharpened Knife, unlike
my first work of literary multimedia, The
was composed for multimedia production from the outset. Theres
a complete novella occupying more than sixty pages, but thats
only the beginning. The text is accompanied by multimedia elements
such as quicktime movies, Flash animations and hyperlinks that link
to other text levels and external web sites relating sometimes
at a rather steep slant! to the themes on that page of the
Another difference between the two works is that Knife has
been authored in html rather than Acrobat. This was intended to make
it easier to publish the new work on the Web. We also plan to release
it on CD-ROM, with enhanced audio and video, by mid-year.
Once again, the text is central to the work, with the multimedia elements
intended to enhance what is written. But thats the key difference
we see between literary multimedia and other new hybrid
interesting aspect of Knife is its links to external web sites.
Of course the Web is continually evolving and some of those links
may expire. But were hoping readers will accept this as a part
of a work in which they are a dynamic part of the recreation of meaning,
discovering alternative sites that relate to the themes of the work.
If not, we may hear back from them, but thats a constructive
part of interactivity, too!
At this very moment, thanks to the continuing generosity of WebCentral,
were testing the beta versions of both Chris and my new
works, and we hope to have them ready for release very soon, hopefully
in time for some of the several events IP will be attending in the
first half of the year.
to MTC Cronin for her shortlisting in the 2002 John Bray Poetry Award
Competition, for her recent work, Bestseller.
Award winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on 3 March
at the 2002 Adelaide Festival of Arts Writers Week.
We distribute this work through IPS, so, if you want to get your
copy before it becomes a best seller and they run out, we suggest
that you order it now!
crossed for you on the 3rd, Margie!
Other Queensland authors shortlisted include Bronwyn
Lea (Flight Animals) for the same award and Jayne
Fenton Keane (Poems in a Flash) for the Mayne Award
for Multimedia. UQP is well-represented in several categories. Go
[Lisa gets the credit (blame) for discovering this
one, which is strictly in the vein of Henry Fielding!]
The European Commission has announced an agreement whereby English
will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which
was the other contender.
Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had room for
improvement and has therefore accepted a five-year phasing in of "Euro-English".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c".
Sertainly, this will make sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c"
will be dropped in favour of the "k", which should klear
up some konfusion and allow one key less on keyboards.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the
troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f", making
words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted
to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments
will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben
a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible
mes of the silent "e" is disgrasful.
By the fourth yer, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing
"th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords
kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid
to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil
be no mor trubls or difikultis and everivun vil find it ezi to understand
ech ozer. ZE DREM OF EZY SPELING VIL FINALI COM TRU!
[Following the launch of an Accident
in the Evening, the recent poetry collection in IP's Emerging
Authors' Series, author Phil Brown was featured in an article in Queenslands
Courier-Mail newspaper. Of course Phil's work is highly deserving
of it and its great exposure for him and IPs publishing
program, but it was publicity many poets can only dream of.
I asked Phil to wear his journalists hat when we discussed his
work as a poet and a journalist as well as the problematic relationship
between poetry and the media. As you will see, this drew some interesting
and brutally honest responses.]
why do you think you choose poetry to express your creativity?
PB: For practical purposes, poetry has been the form I have
found fits best into a busy working life in journalism. That is, it
can be practised intensely in the middle of things. Initially, however,
I found that I often thought in poetry as an impetuous youth. Inspired
mostly by pop songs (which I consider poetry) I found that works which
summed things up in short textual grabs appealed to me. Pop songs,
pithy Chinese poems and the like seemed like a fine way to express
So I gravitated towards poetry and eventually found that it suited
my romantic and philosophical self. Later, reading the Mersey poets,
Bruce Dawe and others I realised that it could also utilise the vernacular
and convey humour, something I am interested in doing. So it suits
me on a number of levels. Also, I'm lazy and writing a novel just
seems like too much hard work!
You have mentioned before that the skills of
a journalist are complementary with those of a poet, particularly
in the area of editing and this is certainly evidenced in the economy
of your writing . What do you see are significant differences? Is
there a different character to the inspiration for poetry or differences
in the way subjects present themselves?
skills of a journalist are helpful in writing poetry but only if you
are a poet. I don't think you could approach most journalists and
suggest they might write poetry because of their wordsmithing skills.
Journalism and poetry are really very different in so much as one
form requires inspiration and creativity and the other does not. Guess
which is which.
However for a poet already writing, the disciplines involved in daily
journalism can be helpful and the life of journalism can introduce
one to subject matter worthy of poetry. It also tends to make one
less precious about the editing of one's heartfelt verbal ejaculations.
Poetry that is.
In your Courier -Mail interview, you stress your preference
for down to earth relatively accessible poetry. Given
this view, what do you believe poetry offers the reader that other
forms of writing do not?
Whilst I particularly enjoy down to earth expression I don't at all
mind ethereal or metaphysical work. As long as it rings true. What
I abhor is pseudo intellectualism and obfuscation for the sake of
it. Even vernacular poetry, or poetry that is down to earth
can offer a transcendental experience. Poetry in general seems to
have the ability, often, to reach into the heart and mind in a way
which prose cannot. Why and how that is so is a bit of a mystery however.
This experience of otherness, or this ability to evoke the numen in
particular is something which I find attractive about poetry.
How do you see your own work in this context?
And what do you think your poems offer the reader?
I hope my poems offer readers entertainment first and foremost. Whilst
being entertained they may have a small illumination about something
or at least, just a laugh. I also hope that my poems evoke a humanitarian
response and err on the side of the positive, even at their most cynical.
Kris Olssons feature on you and
your poetry is the exception rather than the rule for coverage of
poetry, certainly in that newspaper. Although your work certainly
merits attention, I dont think I'm being cynical to suggest
your profile as a journalist in Brisbane helps explain this higher
exposure. As a journalist yourself, why do you think it is so difficult
to interest the media in poetry?
The daily news media is notoriously shallow and deals mostly with
issues which dysfunctional middle-aged males think the populace should
be interested in. Poetry just doesnt figure, sadly. The
media is also all about angles. I managed to get coverage because
there was an angle that is, Im local and a minor
celebrity. And I know people. Thats how I got them to
read the book. Then someone said something like: I don't usually
like poetry but I liked this. What they really meant was that
they never read poetry because they think it is elite and unfathomable
and a bit sissy.
somehow we need to change that image but how? If I knew how I would
have been on the front page instead of way inside.
Do you see the media as a reflector or a reinforcer
of the common perception that there is little demand for poetry?
Both actually. The media is constantly fulfilling its own prophecies
about the irrelevance of poetry, religion, art and other forms of
spiritual nourishment and it can do so because of the enormous power
it wields. It is convinced that poetry is obscure nonsense, so it
ignores it. It thinks others might think the same so it ignores it
The daily print media is not experimental at all. They try to provide
the same old thing ad nauseum so that they dont offend
anyone or lose any of their already dwindling audience. Of course
they ultimately do offend and continue to lose readers.
Would you still write poems if you knew absolutely
that no-one else would read them?
Probably. In fact I did do that in my late teens. But it would probably
end up being more like a poetic diary or journal than anything else.
On the other hand if I thought no-one would read them ever again and
that I would never have an audience I'd probably stop and just watch
television. It would be a huge relief, actually.
[You can put down that remote control Phil! Judging from the response
to an Accident in the Evening, you have many readers. We look forward
to more down-to-earth, transcendental, entertaining and illuminating
poetry from the pen of Phil Brown, who just cant seem to hide
his poets hat under the more pragmatic garb of the journalist.
In news just to hand, Phils work will be featured on ABC Radio
Nationals Poetica program on 23
February. Hope you can tune in! Phil will also have a reading on 28
Feb at the New
and Selected Reading in West End.]
[For this issue, we invited Howard
Spicer, who directs writersdisplay.com
to write a feature on the services his company offers to authors and
publishers. We have our own feelings about the viability of his approach,
but wed like to hear your views. Have a look at the site and
then let us
know. Well publish your thoughts in our Your Views column.]
As a young boy I went on an expedition with a friend to find gold
in the hills of Victoria. We barely noticed the bitter winds of winter
as they swept down through the gullies to chill our bones. We were
inspired blinded to elements by a vision of finding our fortune.
We had prepared carefully and followed the rules. We have even carried
with us a wooden sluice we called it The Rocker
built to separate the unwanted lighter material from the heavier
gold. And then, having passed the material through our rocker, we
carefully scooped the residue out into our pans to do the final wash
in the freezing waters of the creek. We worked with confidence, energy
and determination and at the end of the first day we had not found
a single speck of gold.
The next day we decided to change our strategy and try other areas
of the creek. By the end of the third day we still had not found anything.
We simply couldnt accept the outcome of our endeavours. Total
failure had not been in our plans! We ruminated over the next few
days on the reasons for our failure the preparations, the strategy,
the location. In the end, we gave up and never again attempted to
The analogy of getting a manuscript through to publication is obvious
the vision, the preparation, the strategy, the determination
and, in the very large majority of cases, the failure. The difficulty
for the writer is summed up in a comment recently received:
I have many works (alas) that are either
summarily rejected or not even read regardless of the proposal formats.
It does indeed become a major pain in the rear to have to sort through
the enormous listings of publishers and then trying to find the correct
editor, etc., which obviously takes a tremendous amount of time and
detracts from my primary function as a writer.
It is, indeed, difficult (and costly) to find the right person who
can channel a work to publication and distribution be it an
assessor, an agent, an editor, a publisher There are, literally,
thousands of people involved and available. Researching and choosing
the right person eventually comes down to a matter of trial and error.
Nevertheless, disappointment is never distant.
I spent approximately $500 on each of
my five books and actively knocked on publishers doors. All
my books have been rejected.
For publishers the search for the gold they seek is equally
daunting. The material they have to sift through is simply overwhelming.
They are besieged by mountains of unsolicited manuscripts and not
all those that they do personally solicit measure up to their expectations.
Publishers need a rocker to filter out the unwanted material.
But then, given the volume involved, it would seem that there needs
to be a rocker for the rocker and, perhaps,
even another rocker!
Many publishers elect to focus solely on writers with a track record
of having been published. Others choose to close their doors and concentrate
solely on the stable of writers at hand. The same goes for agents.
Writersdisplay.com is aware of the validity of the objectives of both
writers and publishers and the problems they face.
Writers need to have their work seen, evaluated, appreciated and,
above all, published. This can become an expensive process with little
result. They also need someone to champion their work and, in the
view of writersdisplay.com that need should not be confined to the
shores of Australia. It has, therefore, embarked on an ambitious program
of actively contacting publishers around the world on a personal basis
and encouraging them to use the site as a source of material. It provides
writers with an opportunity to display a sample of their work and
assists them with guidelines to help them make the most of that opportunity.
Further, it only costs AUD$11.00 per month for a writer to display
his or her work significantly less than the cost of sending
In structuring the site, writersdisplay.com has kept the needs of
publishers in mind. It has therefore, provided rapid and easy appreciation
of works on display. Further, publishers who register with the site,
receive a monthly list of works on display identified by genre. Statistics
indicate that publishers around the world have responded to the invitation.
The process is simple. Those involved in the publishing process can,
at no charge, access a writers biography, scan a 500-word synopsis
and then review a 5000-word sample of the writers work. If they
like what they see, they have the facility to directly contact the
writer. They can then either offer their services such as in
assessment or editing or in direct representation as an agent
or publisher. This is a process that takes only minutes to accomplish
and, in viewing the work, no-one is placed under any obligation to
respond to the writer.
The reaction to the site has, in the main, been extremely positive
and a number of publishers have registered and contacted writers.
Links with other similarly-minded sites are also being established
In essence, writersdisplay.com aims to encourage the writer and make
life easier for the publisher. It also gives publishers an opportunity
to reduce their operating costs.
There have, nevertheless, been some negative reactions. One criticism
has been that the site does not filter out submissions of poor quality.
Writersdisplay.com considers, however, that its role is to encourage
writers rather than assume the position of Quality Controller. Even
so, it occasionally will suggest enhancements of a submission so as
to improve a writers chance of success.
While acknowledging that some submission may not measure up, it is
argued that, in reality, it takes little time for a reader to scan
a work on display and make a qualitative judgment.
Another criticism has been about the lack of censorship. Indeed, one
writer withdrew their submission in protest at anothers work
which contained the F-word. writersdisplay.com considers that freedom
of speech is the paramount right of all authors. People can simply
choose not to read what offends them.
Others feel that there are only a few publishers who actually read
manuscripts directly and, therefore, they would not visit the site.
The number of publishers who have already registered would belie that
view. It is acknowledged that there is a traditional mind-set in publishing.
Some cherish the exclusivity that has accompanied publisher-writer
relations in the past. While writersdisplay.com agrees with that,
it would argue that responsible exclusivity should result only upon
agreement between the writer and the publisher but that the search
and selection of a writer by a publisher should be open for all. The
website does, in a sense, challenge traditional thinking. It becomes,
then, a question of education so that, in time, a paradigm shift in
thinking can take place to the benefit of all.
The future of the internet, as far writers and publishers are concerned,
has a long way to go. In the meantime writersdisplay.com says to writers:
Out there, someone is waiting to read
what you have written
and to publishers:
Out there, someone has written what you
are looking for
[We also feature The Perfect Diary. Its not
too late to purchase your own diary for 2002, get yourself organised
and while youre at it, enjoy some great poetry and artworks.]
This venture is the brainchild of Matthew
Beer of Big
Stick Productions and it truly delivers on its promise to provide
art and writing every day.
Each week, the blurb tells us, youll find
stories, artworks and poems from across the land, useful and fascinating
information on festivals, events and historical happenings, stunningly
beatiful images, inspiring and amusing quotations, phases of the moon
and monthly planners. Theres also information on school and
public holidays, a menstrual chart, Post-It Notes, year planners,
plenty of space for notes and sketches and even a free pen!
Writers and other artists can submit work for consideration but competition
is stiff. Theres no payment, but you get a complimentary copy
of the Diary and discounts if you want to order extra copies for Aunt
Martha and other people who should be reading poetry and viewing
fine art every day. Submission deadline for the next Diary is 14 July
The site stays active year-round and features work from around the
world more lovely wonders than you could shake a stick
at. So thats where Big Stick
[This issue we focus on a new publishing
venture run by South Coast New South Wales author Chris Mansell, whose
latest work The Fickle Brat will be
launched in Sydney in early March]
The irritation, anxiety and frustration
of being a poet in a country which seems to foster publishers who
cant figure out ways to market poetry successfully has, once
again, given rise to a new press, encouraging new talent and old talent
and, for PressPress, one which focuses exclusively on poetry.
is ostensibly a one woman operation but a range of talented people
are helping out. Chris Mansell has set it up and runs it, Colleen
Duncan has done the web design, Bob and Jenny Dickerson have become
patrons by donating a set of Bobs original etchings to support
the press in its initial stages. (Bobs originals are for sale
with Chris publication Stalking the
is an online and on-demand publisher and in order to keep costs as
low as possible much of the very expensive, and not very useful (for
poetry publishing) aspects of publishing will go by the wayside.
The pocket chapbooks (A6, 32pp $7.70; with original etching $117.70)
will not be placed with bookshops (exceptions will be made if the
deal is okay ... highly unlikely) but sell through word or mouth and
readings and the internet ... i.e. pretty much how poetry books are
usually sold in real life. As a consequence of not having to waste
copies, authors royalties (in percentage terms) will be higher than
are normally offered and no one has to have stocks under their beds.
The first couple of titles are available now (a Ken Bolton & John
Jenkins collaboration called Nutters without
Fetters, and Chris Mansells Stalking
the Rainbow) with titles by Jen Saunders, Paul Cliff, Peter
Boyle, Magenta Bliss, Les Wicks and Kaye Aldenhoven (among others)
to follow soon. Les Wicks title will be launched at the Nowra
Poetry Festival (new!) on 3 May this year.