Vol 1, No. 2 ISSN 1442-0023
From the Director's Desk
The big news this issue is IP's publication of two new titles: Facing the Pacific, Michael Sariban's third poetry collection, impressively illustrated by his daughter Helen, an accomplished artist in her own right; and IP's first fiction title, my short story collection Triangles. We returned to Chats Restaurant in Coorparoo for the launch festivities, attended by about 60 people, some of whom had never attended a book launch before and who commented on how pleasant an experience it was. Have a look at Michael and my comments on our specific books, check out the online samples, and by all means send us feedback! You can order these online, as well as other titles we distribute.
With IP's move into fiction, we expect to extend our range of bookshops and hope to find more libraries ordering our titles although this isn't to say they shouldn't be ordering our poetry titles as well. While there's little doubt that the audience for poetry out there is slim, it's unlikely to improve if a healthy selection of titles isn't available for people to browse when they visit their local library or favourite bookshop. We're pleased to welcome two additional Queensland bookshops as partners with us in this venture the American Bookshop on Elizabeth Street in Brisbane's CBD, and Mary Ryan's, which will be stocking our new titles at their stores throughout the city. We invite you to visit them.
I also wanted to mention that I've decided to extend the scope of IP eNews beyond a focus on IP's activities and publications. Australia needs an online forum on electronic publishing of literary work. Starting with this issue, we will begin the dialogue with a description of the aims of the Letters We Never Sent Project, which will be published in three phases on this site and on portable media as well. I encourage people to keep in touch with the progress of the Project, and to comment on it as it evolves, especially on its interactive components. To encourage you to have your say on e-publishing, we'll ask a question in each issue and publish a representative sample of the replies in what will be the Forum section of IP eNews.
Even as this issue goes online, IP is extending its ability to publish work electronically, by adding a state-of-the-art CD "burner" that will allow us to produce copies of work literally on demand. Soon we'll be offering you options for how you want to receive the work we publish in print, on CD-ROM, or in PDF format via email. Of course, this has important implications for authors as well, giving them much more flexibility in how they compose and then package their work. More on that below.
I hope you enjoy the issue, and I encourage you to make it interactive by telling us what you think.
With Facing the Pacific Michael Sariban returns to print after 12 years when his UQP volume A Formula for Glass was released. Like many poets and other authors! Michael has had to juggle his writing with a "day job" as a public servant. Given his meticulous attention to craft and detail in his writing, there has been a steady flow of poems from him over the years but hardly a flood. But we're sure that readers who know Michael's work will be more than pleased by this new volume, as well as the news that he has cut back the hours of his day job to part-time, which will give him more time to devote to his writing. He already has a new project underway, which will have a multimedia element to it, so readers and listeners! have much to look forward to from this very fine poet.
Here are some comments from Michael on what he was trying to achieve in Facing the Pacific.
its title suggests, the physical landscape that Facing
the Pacific inhabits is that of the eastern seaboard, although the
collection takes a more broadly general Australian perspective. This perspective
includes an environmental awareness, as well as touching on issues of prior
occupancy of this land.
book reflects my belief that even at the start of another technology-driven
millenium, some form of physical and aesthetic involvement with the natural
world is vital for spiritual/emotional fulfilment.
more understated than environmental issues is the theme of personal relationships
that surfaces throughout the collection. These are presented in terms of
the questions they raise involvements are hinted at rather than dissected,
with the reader being invited to flesh out possible scenarios.
Facing the Pacific consists mainly of shorter lyrics, but features a number of prose-poems. It offers an original voice reflecting on the interaction of inner and outer worlds.
The short story is another literary mode well worth supporting. Yet few "mainstream" publishers are willing to take a chance on a collection of stories, unless the author is already an icon on the literary scene. While this makes commercial sense if we accept the view that most readers are looking for novels, it actually works against developing the skills of emerging fiction writers. 'Come back to us when you've written a novel,' many publishers say, disregarding the benefits of working in the exacting short story form.
Wouldn't there be more readers of short fiction out there if there were a greater selection of it in the bookshops? That's what IP proposes to find out by publishing more of it. And promoting it as something people might actually want to buy.
Triangles is my first short fiction collection, but those who think of me as a poet may be surprised to learn that I started out as a fiction writer or at least that's how I saw myself when I began to write. My first publication was a short story in The Fiddlehead Review, one of the finer literary magazines in Canada, over twenty years ago. And I've continued writing and publishing short stories in North America and Australia ever since.
The stories in Triangles are a selection from the 50 or so stories I've written over the years. All have been published, some two or three times. I'm very conscious of the form, which seem to me to be more restrictive in some ways than the poem. Editors seem to have more exacting expectations of what a short story should be. So I do find myself sometimes consciously working against what I see as the reader's predisposition which becomes part of the fun.
Many of the stories have a satiric element in them. I suppose that has to do with literary influences. I've always admired the wry humour of authors like John Cheever, Philip Roth, Peter Carey and Morris Lurie. It seems that with satire you can be entertaining as well as literary, which is a comfortable balance for me. And something that should be engaging for readers.
I did have a theme in mind, which helped in making the final cut for the collection. It seems to me that people become unhappy in their relationships, or in their lives, when they fail to keep their dreams in proper perspective. The speaker of one of Theodore Roethke's poems says "To seize, to seize / I know that dream...", and you can feel Roethke's own discontent behind the words.
These stories explore the question of how we find satisfaction with what we've got, without selling out our dreams. Or how we go beyond what we are, or what we've settled for, when our dreams are simply too powerful to resist. Some characters go back to find the original spark they lost along the way; others try to walk on water, only to find that, after a split second of ecstasy, the water gives way. But few of them actually drown it's too bloody wet and dark down there!
If you should see yourself in one or more of the characters, be assured that I DID have you in mind!
There's little doubt that electronic publishing is happening all around us. Only a few years ago, people had their doubts about the revolution as it would apply to writing. Many people still cling to books or "printed versions of texts" as they are becoming known in some circles. They won't give them up, they say, as if technology itself is about to wrest free those tombs that have stood the test of time. There's something infinitely more satisfying in a page-worn book that looks read, where you can measure your progress through it with a real bookmark.
But technology has clearly made in-roads. Who hasn't heard about the success of Amazon.com and the hundreds of millions of electronic dollars in sales it clears every year most of it in real books. But that's just the first stage. You can download an e-book from the Net, paying with e-cash, pop it into your leather-bound e-book reader (several models already available in Oz) and curl up with it on your inflatable sofa on a rainy Sunday afternoon...
Still not convinced?
You're not alone. While much has been made of the promise offered by e-publishing for authors, publishers and even readers, Australians seem to be a bit slow on the take-up. Ask the e-commerce experts and they'll tell you you got to be ready for the explosion in sales when it comes. Position, position, put your faith in that!
The reality is that before it arrives, people will have to be convinced they want to buy what you're offering. In e-version. Off the Net.
What about portable media? Does anyone listen to audio tapes any more? And just as you were getting comfortable with your CD player, the word is that DVD is the thing. All the portable video game players will soon have it, and you can buy a movie on DVD for a mere $29.95.
As a niche publisher, IP would be pleased to see a DVD player on every desk. We'd then be able to produce multimedia works that integrate text, image and sound without the worry of storage that we presently have with CDs. Truth is, we could do it now. If we believed people would buy literary work on DVD.
And many publishers still aren't convinced that CD production is commercially feasible!
Of course, there are a number of important issues here, aside from the availability of CD and DVD players. Do niche publishers have the capacity to compete with music and cinematic producers? So long as literature is restricted to "print versions" it doesn't suffer in comparison with performance art forms that were "multimedia" long before the term was coined. Or will audiences who come looking for literature in multimedia form have different expectations of what they're prepared to accept for $29.95?
And will authors be comfortable in their new role as "creative originators"? As author, you more or less have control over what ultimately gets published in print. But the reality of multimedia publishing is that more people have to get involved in the process if it is to produce professional work. In cinema, an analogy would be trying to persuade 50,000 people to buy your home movie.
Ask any seasoned film script writer about what it means to be a "creative originator". Will this be empowering to authors in their hovel or debilitating?
Have your say about the issues raised here. Let us know if you want your views published. We'll include as many responses as possible in our next issue.
For a North American perspective, bookmark Inkspot ezine's e-publishing site.
Earlier this year, Arts Queensland awarded IP's Director, Dr David Reiter, a Special Initiatives Grant to produce a hypertextual version of his fifth poetry collection, Letters We Never Sent.
The project will be developed by IP in three phases:
Beyond the scope of the Grant will be preparation of a hypermedia version of the work on CD and/or DVD.
The first phase is now available on the IP site and provides some background on the work itself. Briefly, the work is structured around three main voices: Paul Gauguin, during his time on Tahiti, when he "wrote back" to his wife Mette, who remained in France, and to Vincent Van Gogh; a British journalist Ronald Symes, who spent many years in the Cook Islands; and a contemporary speaker, who travels between those islands and others.
Another important structural feature of the work is the "Internet" sections, which contain poems written during the composing of the other sections. Some of the poems have obvious thematic connections to poems in the other sections; others are included simply to show how the poetic consciousness remains open to sources of inspiration even when the poet is focusing on a seemingly unrelated subject.
From a post-modern perspective, the poet's loosening of control over the focus to include material by chance allows for the reader to discover connections that may or may not have been recognised by the poet. Creating a hypertextual version gives the author another chance to establish connections he may not have been aware of in creating the linear version. Certain elements may work associatively. If most of the Internet poems lend themselves to hypertextual arrangement, it may suggest a filtering process was at work even if the poet was unaware of it.
See the next issue of this newsletter for the poet's views on his conversion of the linear text to hypertext. The process may be as interesting as the hypertextual version itself!
Visit the Letters mini-site for samples from the versions as they appear. You'll be able to order full versions of all phases by email for downloading or on portable media (CD or DVD). Email us for further details, or check the mini-site for prices as the versions appear.
Dr Reiter will be touring New South Wales in July and August to promote his latest work, Triangles and Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems. From 26 July-14 August he will be writer-in-residence at Booranga, as the guest of the Wagga Wagga Writers' Centre and Charles Sturt University. Some workshops and readings in Wagga and at other campuses of the University are being planned. For further information, contact David Gilbey.
On 22 August, he will be reading at the Brett Whiteley Gallery from 2 p.m.. The Gallery is at 2 Raper Street, Surrey Hills. For further information, contact Brook Emery on 02 9664 1362.
Dr Reiter plans other stops in Canberra, the Blue Mountains, Newcastle and Armidale, but his itinerary is flexible at this point, so if you'd like to propose a stop along his route, please contact him soon. He is especially interested in offering readings or workshops, and making contact with literary bookshops and authors interested in publishing with Interactive Press or Glass House Books.
After driving back to Brisbane in late August, he'll be returning to Sydney about a week later for the Sydney launch of Triangles at the Spring Writers' Festival. More details on that later.
On about 6 September, he'll be flying to North America for a reading/workshop tour. Stops are planned in Cleveland, Ohio, Seattle, Washington and Hawaii. He's making contact with writers' groups, bookshops and universities having Australian or Post-Colonial literature programs, where he'll spread the word about IP, as well as promote his new work.
Need to recharge those creative batteries? El Kumanand Press, up in tropical North Queensland, has just the answer. Here's a description from David de Vaux, Director of EKP. Check out the photo of de Vaux and Reiter, which is taken on the rustic deck of the retreat. And remember to shut the gate after you; otherwise the cassowary might get in!
Taylors Hill sits on the shoulder of Mt Fisher, one of the highest peaks in Queensland, rising from the Atherton Tableland south west of Cairns. The property consists of sixty acres of dense rain forest, approached via a dairy farm on the Kennedy highway. Half a kilometre of winding forest track brings you to a small glade and the studio itself, which is a one-bedroom, ivy-covered cottage with a timber deck from which you can hear the mountain stream thirty metres down a path.
And that, plus the natural sounds of the forest, is all you will hear not the faintest murmur of a tractor or a chain saw. It is this tranquillity and the absence of human activity which make Taylors Hill an ideal place for uninterrupted writing. Paradoxical as it may sound, here you have accessible seclusion, for this enchanting hideaway is only 15 minutes drive from the Tableland town of Ravenshoe, one hour from the Bruce Highway, or 90 minutes from Cairns airport.
Writers connected with EK Press have been working at Taylors Hill for several years. In 1998 David Reiter, a Brisbane author, spent two weeks working at the studio a residency which was provided by EK Press as part of his North Queensland workshop and reading tour which was sponsored by the Regional Writing Fund and Queensland Writers Centre. At the studio he found his creative energy stimulated and focussed. He completely revised his new collection of short stories, Triangles (just published by Interactive Press), and wrote poetry. Some of these poems have already been published by Ariga Visions, an Israeli ezine and The Poetry Magazine, an ezine from New York City. Many of David de Vauxs poems in his collection, Calling Through Fog, were written in the study by the pot belly stove, and here too he edited two anthologies of short fiction, Spinning the Sun and Scorpion Tails (published by EKP and available for order through IP).
The timber-framed studio was built without power tools over twenty years ago by John Taylor, a much travelled Englishman who, after working as a skipper and diver in the Coral Sea, wanted to create for himself the forest haven at 4000 feet. With water supplied by a clear stream which rises on the property, and no intrusion by power or telephone lines, the integrity of this natural sanctuary has not been compromised. With a gas refrigerator, slow combustion stove for cooking and hot water, and with gas, kerosene and candle lighting, there is a rare sense that modern living does not dictate the conditions at Taylors Hill. At the same time, a mobile phone and laptop computer can have their uses. Since his involvement with El Kumanand, and knowing well the magical effect which the place can have on the solitary artist, John developed the idea of making the studio available to writers who want a period of intense concentration on their work in progress with the whip bird, the tree kangaroo and the occasional cassowary for company.
EKP manages Taylors Hill, and is now inviting writers to contact them to discuss their plans for a retreat when the wet season has passed. Rent is reasonable, the rate per day or week depending on the length of stay. EKP can meet visitors at Cairns airport and will keep in daily contact during the writers stay, delivering groceries or other requirements by arrangement.
Enquiries to EK Press, P.O.Box 57, Ravenshoe, Q. 4872, or contact EKP by email or phone +61 7-4097 6474.