IP eNews 35
the newsletter of Interactive Publications Pty Ltd
Welcome to a full-to-bursting edition of IP eNews!
We’re getting ready for our tenth anniversary celebrations and all our plans are starting to come together. We’ve got a special section of this edition devoted to the details, and we’ll continue keeping you up to date as we find out more.
Don’t forget to check out your IP Deal with this issue —with the cold snap we’ve been having, I think it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book! — or maybe even a CD!
Until next issue,
It took me a couple of decades to manage it, but at last it seems that I’m a ‘controversial’ author. It wasn’t on purpose, but it seems that controversy sometimes finds you when you least expect it.
The occasion was the release of my second children’s book, Real Guns. True, it deals with guns. Jon, a young boy, finds a real gun hidden under his parents’ bed. While he aims it about, pretending he’s a soldier for the right side, his mother startles him from behind and the gun goes off. The only damage is to a mirror that shatters. The incident forces Jon’s father to rethink his perceived need to keep a gun in the house for protection (he’s a returned war vet) and his explanation to his son as to why he keeps a gun in the first place brings them closer together.
It’s an important story, prompting parents to talk to their children about issues that some might think are taboo. You’d think that, with war, terrorism, crime and domestic violence constantly in the news, and monopolising the attention of our youth on television and in video ‘games’, books that speak to issues of safety and respect for firearms would be a valuable addition to our libraries.
Most librarians we’ve contacted agree. But a worrying minority think that having a book like Real Guns in their collection is dangerous. It’s OK for libraries in the United States to have it because the climate in America is different from Australia. After all, we’ve have gun control laws in place ever since Martin Bryant went on a rampage at Port Arthur. And hardly anyone's been shot in Australia since then. Why do our children need to learn respect for guns when they’re unlikely to ever encounter them?
It’s the same kind of logic that attempts to exclude books that deal with domestic violence, drugs and sex from public view. The more we talk about issues like this, they claim, the more likely it is that our children will want to experiment with things that could harm them. The best way to keep guns off the public agenda is not to talk about them. This group prefers to “exclude” rather than “ban”. One librarian said that Real Guns might be all right in primary school libraries but not in her collection. Perhaps she feels that public libraries are not a place for children to be educated about real life issues?
It’s just as well that the Australian Publishers’ Association managed to get Helen Coonan’s conservative forces to back off the legislation that could have seen controversial books being reviewed and rated by the Office of Film and Literary Classification. Or maybe I’m being a bit too hasty: a classification of MA15+ might be just the thing to increase the sales of Real Guns. Imagine a mob of kids huddled around a copy at lunchtime behind their school’s toilet block. It might distract them from their video games for an afternoon…
[Chris Dowding's A Few Drops Short of a Pint won the 2007 IP Picks Best Creative Non-Fiction Award. The book's set in Ireland, and Chris recently returned to make sure his recollection of the taste of real Guinness was spot on. Craig Tuck interviews him.]
CT: Reading the book now, do you identify with the person who left Brisbane with his new wife? Have you changed? How did this journey affect you?
CD: So much has happened since I went to Ireland. It was like a catalyst for getting my life into gear. First and foremost, I have learnt to stand up for myself - if I hadn't met my boss in Ireland, I probably wouldn't have needed to! (Necessity is the mother of all invention.) Before Ireland, I was constantly worried about money and had little as a result. Kerryn and I have bought three properties since we got back from Dublin. I also think our time there was very good for our relationship—we managed it on our own, without our family and we both discovered a lot of strengths.
CT: What motivated you to write this book?
CD: I started writing when I was in primary school. I enjoyed Famous Five books a lot and wrote a (poor) sequel to one of them. But I never took writing seriously until I went to Ireland. Something flicked a switch in my mind there and suddenly I was fascinated by my surroundings. I've never felt like that before. I decided to write down our experiences and email them back to my friends in Australia. I was clear that I didn't want them to be the usual sort of overseas email. I was hoping to inspire more people to travel. I meaning travel in the sense that someone spends a significant time in one place that is not like home.
CT: What did you go through to write this book?
CD: The first step was gathering all the emails together that I'd sent back to Australia — luckily, Mum and Dad, along with some of Kerryn’s relatives had kept copies. I did a few adult education courses about writing and learnt about the process of planning a chapter list, planning the content of each chapter and listing the characters for each chapter. This sort of planning was similar to the things I needed to do as an engineer, so it made sense. I also discovered that it would be necessary to edit the book nine or ten times to have a good chance of being looked at by a publisher. That threw me a bit. Fortunately, I'd been learning about delegation at work; at about the third edit, I sent out the manuscript to some of my friends and family. I think that counted for about five edits in one go! I think it took another 18 months to do two further edits myself, and then I sent it to Lauren Daniels for a professional manuscript assessment.
CT: At the end of the book, it seemed you were unhappy in your profession (engineering). Has writing the book changed your outlook toward your profession?
CD: The reflection that writing and life coaching have given me allowed me to see a worthwhile use for my engineering skills. I used my contacts at work to help form the Tools2Rebuild charity group for the 2004 tsunami victims. After that, I heard that the company I worked for had secured the design contract for a major public transport project in Brisbane. I felt that this project would be a big contribution to the community, and I asked to be posted to it. I guess I've learnt to get involved in things I believe in, instead of just 'blowing with the wind' and doing whatever work I'm given.I'd like to write another book. I've renovated one house, which fellow renovators will know isn't necessarily as quick or simple as it is portrayed by hardware stores and lifestyle TV shows! Kerryn and I moved to my dream house in inner city Brisbane and have now chosen to shake it all up, by moving to the Sunshine Coast to buy into an engineering business. Kerryn and I plan to start a family soon too. Hopefully there'll be something to write about in all of that.
[Sylvia Petter's Back Burning won this year's IP Picks Fiction Award. A bit of a globe-trotter herself, she now lives in Vienna, Austria, but has commented on her book being published by IP as "coming home". Casey Hutton asks her to elaborate.]
CH: What appeals to you about the short story form?
SP: Good short stories resonate; something lingers when you’ve finished reading. Sometimes what lingers makes you ask questions, makes you think, or just affects you in some way. I like stories by William Trevor, Alice Munro, Janette Turner Hospital, Timothy Findley, Edna O’Brien, Nathan Englander, Alex Mindt, Alex Keegan, — I could go on and on.
I was drawn to writing short stories because I thought it would be easy, since they are “short”. I thought I’d be able to manage that sort of writing in the small blocks of time I was able to snatch from my day job and my home life. I found that the small blocks of time were good for getting ideas down and reworking, revising parts of a story. But I also found that I needed many such blocks and that it wasn’t easy. First very basic drafts seem to come out quickly, but then the work starts with endless revisions and eventually letting go. When things go well, stories can become compact and intense, and I like the idea of what’s in the spaces, what isn’t said. I think, in a way, the reader has to work along with the writer to make the story; and in open-ended stories not everyone sees exactly the same thing, so the adventure is endless.
CH: Back Burning begins and ends with motifs of fire. What significance does fire hold for you?
SP: Well, I’m an Aries and that’s a fire sign. Seriously, though, I think that growing up in a bushland area where bushfires are part of the summer holidays, has something to do with it. I remember driving up from Bobbin Head with my parents, how at every turn there’d be a smouldering log, and how, much later, green leaves would be growing from the blackened tree trunks. And then, when you’re in a European winter and you see on TV that there are bushfires near your home town, everything is intensified: the fear of loss, of losing someone, the frustration of being so far away, incapable of doing anything, not knowing what’s really happening. This was particularly acute in the pre-web days of expensive phone calls. Fires wipe things out, but new things can grow. I think fire is hope, in a way. For me, fire is Australia.
CH: Many of the stories in Back Burning focus on relationships between men and women, exploring things like loss and geographical separation. What do you think pulls you towards these themes?
SP: Loss and geographical separation are big issues, I’ve discovered, for an expat like me, specially as I get older. You make a choice to live somewhere else and then wonder if you belong anywhere, even need to. “Home” is the dilemma. Where is it? What is it? Is it it a place or a state of being? I live in Vienna with my husband, and our daughter and my mother live in Sydney. When I’m in Vienna, I miss Sydney, and when I’m in Sydney, I miss Vienna; and it’s not just the people, it’s the places. There’s a sort of recurring super-positioning going on between them, and in that process things sometimes get lost. But they can be found again, can be seen with new eyes.
CH: Travel features strongly. What are your aims in writing about different socio-political contexts and how did living abroad, and your work with the U.N., inform your writing?
SP: I worked for many years for a UN specialized agency in telecommunications and travelled all over the world with my job, speaking three languages. Through writing, I “reclaimed” my mother tongue (which was not my mother’s tongue, btw), but I still see images in other languages. I’ve always been interested in how ordinary folk are affected by the big policy decisions and am fascinated by lives that seem to slip through the cracks in the matrices imposed by the policy makers. Working in a telecommunications policy area got me interested in communication and mis-communication, fields of tension between languages, the sexes and generations, and I often thought, dammit, when decision makers go home and take off their clothes they become part of the ordinary folk in whose name they made the decisions, and why for the most part don’t they seem aware of this? And I had the same feeling, to a larger or smaller extent, no matter what country I was in. “We are the peoples”, as the UN slogan says.
CH: Can you isolate a favourite story in this collection and discuss why?
SP: I’m fond of the title story, “Back Burning”, mainly because it reads well aloud and there are a number of sensual images, as well as the trope of back burning, of course. But from the point of view of how a story can come about, the process involved, I have a soft spot for “The Tschusch”. (“Tschusch” is a derogatory Viennese slang expression for those originally coming from “old” Yugoslavia, foreigners.) I was living in France at the time of writing the story and Jean-Marie Le Pen’s right-wing party was making impact in the polls. It was meant to be a story about France, but I was too close. So I moved it to Austria, running a parallel with right-wing Jörg Haider, and it started doing its own thing as I remembered an election poster in Klagenfurt. I’d lived in Vienna from 1969 to 1972 and a lot of other stuff started coming back. I did a fair bit of research on the 1991 Dubrovnik bombing and tried to use a sort of “ticking-clock” device. I feel that in some way the story is still relevant today.
[Winner of IP Picks Best Poetry this year, As Casey discovered, Mark O'Flynn will also find himself abroad for the next few months, with his residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland.]
CH: One of my favourite poems in this anthology is 'Hunters', about you and your brother hunting rabbits as children. It follows 'The Rabbit' which I assume is about your own children and a pet rabbit. Can you talk about how animals inform your poetry and how they relate, in particular, to the realm of childhood?
MO'F: I don't particularly go out of my way to write about animals as such, however I do find animals as a force of nature to be a potent source of imagery. I write about the environment I inhabit, and for a short while there we had a rabbit. It was interesting at the time and formed its own narrative. Now I have some rather sad horses living at the bottom of the hill which are perversely interesting. When I think about it, animals have always figured somewhere in my poetry, particularly their place in memory, and this I suppose is where childhood comes into it. I have often written about childhood, either from the point of view of my own memory, or else observations of my own children. One of my own family myths has it that my first pet was a guinea pig called Mr Nobody. He died of loneliness. A pity I was too young to remember, but a poignant legend.
The poem about my brother carrying the dead rabbit is simply a vivid image I carry of him, of his sensitivity toward the world which I did not recognise at the time. When someone dies small things assume a greater significance. There is nothing profound about that observation, but I guess I was trying to clutch at a shrinking entrepot of memories before they disappeared.
CH: Some of your poems contain religious references. How does this thread in your writing relate to the title poem 'What Can Be Proven'?
MO'F: I don't really think in terms of religion. I'm not a religious person, however I am interested in asking philosophical questions, and sometimes those questions find expression in a theological context. (I left the pagan, atheistic ones out). The title of the collection is ironic. I'm more interested in doubt, in what cannot be proven, in questions rather than answers, in mystery and confusion.
CH: How has having children informed your writing?
MO'F: Children are greatly inspiring, especially when they're younger. My first two collections had several more poems about my kids—things they said or did. I suppose in a lazy way I was saving myself from having to write them down in a diary by putting them in a poem. It has backfired really because what I have said comes back to bite you. However I do think the cliche is true that children keep you young, seeing the world through their eyes. And when parenting is all fresh and new it's like no one has ever thought these things before. You learn that of course this is not so. It's a common experience, but that does not invalidate what you feel at the time. Again children's behaviour is ephemeral and I am trying to capture some of that to contribute to my future humiliation and embarrassment.
CH: What prompted you to write the series of poems after paintings by the likes of Picasso, Klee, and Ernst?
MO'F: Most of those paintings I saw while travelling and fell in love with them. Much later I wished I had responded more immediately to them. There was so much in them I did not understand. I was exploring what narratives I might be able to attach to their images. They are very personal responses to what I saw in the paintings. It also became a stylistic exercise to find what flexibility I could within a fairly rigorous formal restraint.
CH: How do you think poetry allows you to confront difficult things: 'what can or cannot be proven', change, memory, loss...?
MO'F: As I have said above. Poetry is a great vehicle for capturing memory, sensation, mood, narrative. Often the more difficult the subject the deeper the rewards if you nail it. If you don't you put it away and try again. Who was it said nothing bad happens to writers, it's all good material? I forget. I'd certainly give back all the poems if I could expunge all the difficult things, but that's not life. Distorted and embellished, yes, but faced and confronted. I don't necessarily want things to be proven, I just don't want them to be forgotten.
[These are snippets from reviews recently to hand. For the full review, click on the links.]
Nigel Turvey’s Terania Creek: Rainforest Wars has received two wonderful reviews recently. The first comes from The Australian Forestry History Society where John Dargavel says: “It is a well researched and written book that makes a useful addition to Australian forest history”. The second review comes from the Australian Forestry Book Review and Brian Turner notes that: “In the main, Turvey’s account is balanced and factual, without negating the importance of emotions and feelings in the ‘war’. Importantly for readers of this journal he pays particular attention to the role of foresters and the Forestry Commission and the impact the conflict had on both.”
Andrew Leggett’s Dark Husk of Beauty was reviewed by M/C. Stefanie Petrik says “Leggett has proved with this collection that there is much to learn from the gaps between the pieces of what has been shattered. And in a society that is obsessed with smashing things, it is a necessity to be able to learn to appreciate the things that have been broken.”
Joel Deane’s Another was reviewed by Magdelena Bell of Compulsive Reader. She says: “Joel Deane’s Another is a book that pulls hard and instantly on its reader” and that: “Deane’s exquisite writing contains beauty that transcends its setting, and hope which goes beyond the unhappy ending.”
Basil Eliade’s 3rd i was reviewed by Maggie Ball at Blogcritics Magazine. Maggie says “By spelling the title with the singular pronoun, Eliades begins the book with word play that alerts that reader to the intimate nature of the poetry.” She also pointed out that “at its best, and it is often at its best, this book provides the reader with exactly what the title suggests: a true third eye/i experience – a whole new way of seeing both the world, and ourselves.”
Thylazine has reviewed three of IP’s books recently. Of Michelle Cahill’s Accidental Cage, Liz Hall-Downs says “This is a deft and subtle display of craft, making larger themes and issues emerge from the small and particular.”
Joel Deane’s Subterranean Radio Songs was also reviewed, and Hall-Downs says that “his goal is to communicate the things that matter to him, and this he does well.”.
Finally, Libby Hart’s Fresh News From the Arctic was the other IP book cited by Thylazine and Hall-Downs writes “It is an epic, multi-layered piece full of tone and nuance that left this reviewer a little breathless at the end.”
One of Kathy Kituai’s tankas won the Fiju award – the first created by Wisteria Magazine in the USA. Congratulations, Kathy!
Not sure what a tanka is? An answer is at hand: Kathy's book of tanka, Straggling into Winter, is in press with IP at the moment and will be released in Spring Season. For an interview with Kathy check out eNews 34.
Joel Deane and his wife Kirsten announced the birth of their third child Zoe on June 7th at around 11.30 a.m. The entire family, including brother Noah and sister Sophie are doing well and are rapt with the new arrival.
IP is proud to join with other Australian publishers to support the Indigenous Literary Project. Proceeds from the Project will go to the purchase of books for Indigenous children across Australia.
When you buy IP titles from either the August circular we will be sending out, or on the 5th September (the national day designated by the Project) we will donate 5% of the price to the Project on your behalf. If you ever needed an excuse to buy books, this is certainly a worthy one!
We've been thrilled by the strong show of interest in our newest imprint. Following the release of our first title Real Guns, we've already lined up several others for release in 2008. We'll report on these next issue.
While IP Kidz is open to pitches for all kinds of titles, we are particularly keen to view work that has strong social and environmental themes as well as titles with potential for digital publication.
We also want to spread the word to children's illustrators that IP Kidz is open for business. Qualified illustrators should send us an artistic resume, portfolios or samples of their work and an indication of their areas of interest.
Six IP authors will read at a special IP celebration during the Brisbane Writers Festival. Michelle Cahill, Kristin Hannaford, Bill Collopy, Basil Eliades, Tilly Brasch and Rosemary Huisman are on the bill, to be introduced by David Reiter. The event will showcase the range of talent we've published during the past 10 years in poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Sunday, 16 September, from 4:40 p.m. Not to be missed!
Mark your calendar for IP's 10th Anniversary weekend in November! On Friday the 16th, we'll hold a cocktail soirée where you have the chance to mingle with IP authors from our past and upcoming list at a local restaurant TBA. Short readings, IP title giveaways, signings, gourmet nibblies, premium wine. Bookings essential.
On Saturday afternoon the 17th, from 2 p.m. at the Performance Studio. 4 MBS Classic-FM, 384 Old Cleveland Road, Coorparoo, will be our Gala to End All Galas, with authors from our Spring Season list, as well as other IP authors, performing their work and autographing your selections. More nibblies, premium wine. Bookings essential. Here's your chance to hear the best of our best and be part of an historic podcast!
Will there be an IP Picks 2008 competition? Yes, of course!
We'll soon be updating the Picks Page to include this year's winners and a new entry and conditions form. For those of you who can't wait, everything will be as it was last year: same categories, same opening date (1 October), same closing date (1 December), even the same entry fee ($60). In effect this works out to a reduction in the fee—if you select one of our new releases as your free copy, since our cover prices have had to keep up with the cost of production.
While there's no special category for children's fiction, we do accept fiction for Young Adults. And we're still open to quality science fiction and fantasy entries.
For the sixth straight year, the Australia Council has awarded IP a Presentations and Promotions Grant, amidst stiff competition.
The grant of $5,000 will help with production costs of two of our poetry titles: What Can Be Proven by Mark O'Flynn and With One Brush by Jan Dean. They were winners in the IP Picks Best Poetry and Best First Book awards this year. Both titles are scheduled for release in November.
It's interesting to note that all seven titles we put to OzCo were commended in the grant letter as being worthy of support, but the funding offered was only enough to enable these two titles to wear the coveted kangaroo logo.
Here's hoping that OzCo will have more money next year to fully support those titles it singles out for commendation.
It’s harder than it seems to write a good narrative—to hook a reader and then to keep him reading. Creative writing teachers use one piece of advice almost like a reflex: show, don’t tell! And editors often find themselves using the same phrase to help lift a dull narrative into something more engaging. Invariably, the author on the other end of the advice will nod as if she’s understood what we’re getting at. But has she?
Forget the pretence: what’s the difference between showing and telling, and how can you convert limp telling into strong showing?
At the heart of the matter is how close your narrator is to you, the author. If you are the narrator, that’s your first problem. If you don’t leave some distance between yourself and your narrator, it limits what you can do with the narrative. And you’re much more likely to take the high moral ground and tell the reader what’s important in a scene or about a character, rather than let the scene unfold organically through what we see, or let the character develop his own personality through what he says and does.
The best characters have complexity, inherent contradictions, between what they say they are and what the sum of their actions adds up to. The bottom line reveals their humanity, and the more the reader is allowed to infer by a neutral narrator, the more likely she is to remain involved with the character.
Where the narrator is constantly intervening, telling the reader what he should think about the character or what’s going on in a scene, the more likely the reader will be to put the book down.
The key is to have faith in your story, your scenes and your characters. Once you’ve invented them and set them in motion, you need to let them get on with it. Let them find their own way. Let the story develop as it should—organically. Without you pulling strings.
But wait, I hear you say. If I just let the scene evolve and my characters to gradually reveal themselves, isn’t that a cop-out? Isn’t the author supposed to maintain control over her subject matter? Yes, but… Think of yourself as the captain of a large ship, in charge of a crew, with a secret destination. Everyone has a role to play, tasks to perform, and it’s up to you to apply mid-course corrections if the ship begins stray off course. In the meantime, let them get on with it and allow yourself and your passengers to enjoy the journey.
If you’re still finding it hard to determine if you’re telling or showing, ask yourself these questions:
If you find yourself answering yes, there are things you can do to empower your scenes and your characters by showing:
This advice is directed at fiction writers in the first instance, but authors of certain types of non-fiction should take heed of it, too. Memoirs, biographies, histories, travelogues can all benefit from the use of showing strategies.
Go away and tell no more!
[One of the most exciting things happening at IP is the number of cross-media projects we have on the go. In their upcoming King Hit CD from IP Digital, Matt Ottley and Stephen Oliver have created a fascinating mix of music and spoken word. Casey Hutton interviewed them separately to get their views.]
CH: Do you always write with performance in mind, or does the performative aspect of your work develop later?
SO: Not altogether. When I write I am aware of the aural aspect of the poems, the rhythm, how it sounds in my head. This would naturally translate to so called ‘ spoken word’. The actual recording of poems by [this] author enters another domain, furthering the discipline of verbal and musical expression.
CH: Can you explain the process undertaken with Matt Ottley to extend your poetry through music, and can you discuss the overall mood that you sought to create through voice and music?
SO: I’m like Matt a little woolly on the actual process at this distance. The whole thing was recorded over a three year period between other projects which occupied me and, naturally, Matt. We had to find time to do this; in my recording of the poems which were done in various locales in Sydney and over several intervening months around Byron Bay where Matt was living at the time. From that point, it was pretty much left up to Matt to arrive at the feel and compositional construction of the music for the poems. What, I think, came as a surprise to me was his interpretative abilities in establishing a ‘musical narrative to the selection of poems, taken from various collections, that I recorded. Of course, we discussed the tone and temper of the musical elements for each individual poem. In the end, the whole production came together as a collaborative whole. A monumental effort when I look back at it!
CH: Images of water and land recur in this collection. How does this relate to your experience of living on an island?
SO: Well, I tend to live in cities and the neighbourhoods contained therein. I don’t know whether I have any sense of ‘island’. Water like sleep and dreams is an ever present motif in one’s awareness of elemental shift and change.
CH: Your poetry engages with the current climate of religious and cultural conflict worldwide. What role do you think poetry can play in the midst of these issues?
SO: Poetry as best serves as witness. And in that sense, attempts to give ‘voice’ to all the triumphs and defeats of the spirit engaged in the struggle for clarity of expression.
CH: Your work also reflects an interest in youth issues. Do you think that growing up is particularly difficult for youth today as opposed to other generations?
SO: I think the issues and difficulties that face youth today as more publicized .. Whether there has been an incremental struggle associated with being young today as opposed to any other era I can’t say. Nonetheless, there are greater choices available to youth, as to anyone, in identifying the weaponry of survival. The multitude of selection might make those ‘correct’ selections a little more demanding and therefore difficult to correctly make. If indeed, one can ever make a ‘correct’ choice.
CH: This collection seems to set up oppositions (creation vs destruction, harmony vs disharmony, life vs death). Can you discuss this choice and how it was extended musically?
SO: And this perhaps relates to your previous question. Again, seeing comes down to choice. There is never a correct choice, only the act of choosing. You will note perhaps how the emotions musically are tempered and in many ways, tidal-in-flux, and the inevitable climax which can be seen as an historical recognition of the subject matter, a measured defeat, or perhaps a small triumph of recognition. The dynamics of Matt’s music were firstly derived from the words, the poems; in a collaboration of this nature one must trust in each other’s powers of interpretation. You walk an invisible plank over an abyss. The end result hopefully is complementary and a balancing of tensions. An arrival.
CH: What were your reasons for entitling the collection 'King Hit'?
SO: Simple. This poem was originally called King Hit, and latter became part of a long poem cycle[no 52] called ‘Occupations’ which closes my last book of poems Either Side The Horizon published by Titus Books. Here is that poem which I think explains the title – to which I might add, in street parlance, a ‘king hit’ is to be hit very hard and without warning – I think the recording both poetically and musically as a complementary whole goes some distance to achieving this:
In the dark, unbounded warehouse that
CH: Matt, can you run through the process that you undertook in your collaboration with Stephen Oliver?
MO: I'm not sure how it all began, whether Stephen approached me, or the other way round, but we had been working together on another project prior to King Hit, and King Hit grew out of that collaboration. Stephen sent me a list of poems, and I also suggested a couple from various of his publications. I think one of the first pieces I worked on was "Dear Lady" (one of the Islands of Wilderness poems, and one of the two sung works on the collection), and that's only because I was working with a particular singer at the time whose voice I thought would suit. That was originally scored for piano and voice, and later changed to classical guitar and voice. I sent Stephen a demo of that, and he liked what he heard, so I began working on the other poems.
Apart from that Stephen gave me complete creative freedom. He was truly wonderful to work with. We spoke at length on the phone about individual works, but because we lived in different parts of the country, got to actually see each other and work on things together only rarely. I worked mostly from recordings Stephen sent me a few different readings of each poem so that I could get a feel for the different ways and rhythms with which he would approach his work. I sat at my piano with those recordings playing on loop and improvised on various ideas. Then we had two mammoth recording sessions, one at Byron Bay and the other in Sydney.
CH: Did you find some poems easier to compose for than others, and why?
MO: Because the language and the rhythms of "A Simple Tale" are relatively accessable, I found that particular piece an easy one to work on. Stephen and I have performed that one a few times and each time I play the oud a little differently. The poem lends itself to being improvised to beautifully.
MO: I didn't find any of the other poems particularly difficult to write music to, but the poems that spoke to me most directly, like "Oldest Pine" and "Emblem for Dead Youth", came most quickly. The easiest one to work on was "The Grey Glass Song" because I simply tapped out a rhythm for the percussionist and told him to go for it however he wanted to. The poem about Lorca was a difficult one to write because I wanted to combine the roots of Flamenco, which so influenced Lorca, hence to Arabic oud, the contemporary sporano voice, and a piano somewhere between classical and jazz. All in all that was a difficult combination to pull off. Thankfully Hester Hannah, the soprano is so astute musically, she could bend her pitch so fit with the oud.
CH: The soundscapes that you created for King Hit seem to swing between harmony and disharmony — even between peace and violence. Was this one of your intentions?
MO: What a great question! Are you a musician Casey? Yes very much so. I think I enjoyed working on this project so much because it gave me permission to to swing stylistically from harmony to dissonance with as much freedom as I wanted. This was possible because the one huge and important uniting element of the whole collection, and of course the most important element muscally, is Stephen's voice.
CH: You employ a vast range of musical styles and instruments in this work. Was this in direct response to Stephen's material, or would you describe it more broadly as a personal stylistic choice?
MO: It was most definitely in response to Stephen's poems. I wouldn't regard myself as being a 'world music' composer by any stretch of the imagination, but the poem "Cultural Missappropriation" kind of demanded that. (that poem, by the way, was a difficult one to work on because I wanted the irony of what I wrote to be evident without being overt).
I did also choose combinations of instruments depending on what musicians were available. In Oldest Pine, for example, the cellist I employed can make his cello sound almost like a gamba (Baroque cello-like instrument), so I wrote the solo cello lines to have that kind of flavour to them. I then combined those players with sampled sounds to create the final mix.
CH: This collection engages with the current climate of religious and cultural conflict worldwide. What role do you think poetry and music can play in relation to these issues?
MO: Well, good art will always have currency, even if it's about a specific event. A Simple Tale, for example, is about any kind of imperialism, from the personal to the cultural. Even a poem like "Gaudeamus Igiture", which appears to have no regard to impropiety, and which kind of smacks you in the face, is telling us in rather a shocking way how very true all of those cliches are about how inured we are as a society to such acts of violence. It does so in a startling way, by making a mokery of the telling of the event.
IP is providing post-production support to a Brisbane environmental company, ecospecifier, to produce two DVDs, The Healthy House and Australian Earth Covered Buildings.
ecospecifier's aim is to help building professionals including architects, designers, builders and specifiers, as well as keen homeowners, to shortcut the eco and healthy materials sourcing process.
Its broader aim is to help create a more sustainable physical environment by increasing the use of environmentally preferable and healthy products, materials and design processes.
IP is pleased to be partnering with ecospecifier on its very worthwhile projects. Copies of The Healthy House DVD are available now from IP Sales, with Australian Earth Covered Buildings due by the end of the year.
David was a featured speaker in July at a seminar in Sydney co-hosted by the Australia Council and the Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL). Publishing the Story of the Future is one of a series of seminars OzCo is putting on to raise awareness of developments in the digital world. The Sydney session was aimed particularly at publishers, but reps from he Australian Booksellers Association, CAL, the Australian Society of Authors and a few curious agents also attended. All the major publishing houses were represented, often by senior staff, so obviously the word is out that digital publishing indeed has a future!
Other speakers included Mike Shatzkin who delivered the keynote address and later appeared on the ABC's Bookshow, Elizabeth Weiss, from Allen & Unwin, and cross media researcher and educator Christy Dena. The seminar is now available as a vodcast on the OzCo site. You'll need a broadband account to download the segments.
Ozco will now convene a steering committee of publishers to increase our chances of riding the digital wave rather than being swamped by it.
It's refreshing to see OzCo leading the way into this arena. Now, if they would only provide some new Presentation and Promotions grant money in support of digital publications...
We’ve reached the midway point in our 10th Anniversary celebrations, and anticipation is mounting as we near the big events coming up in Brisbane over the next few months.
We’re delighted to announce a special IP session at the Brisbane Writers Festival on 16th of September from 4:40 p.m. We’ll feature readings by some of our best authors from the early years right up to the present, including Kristin Hannaford (Swelter), Michelle Cahill (The Accidental Cage), Bill Collopy (House of Given), Basil Eliades (3rd i), Rosemary Huisman (The Possibilities of Wind), and Tilly Brasch (No Middle Name). We’ll be giving away copies of classic IP titles, so don’t miss it!
Then, in the third weekend of November, we’ll have a cocktail Soirée on the Friday the 16th at a restaurant to be confirmed, where IP authors past and present will be thick on the ground. Next day will be the Gala to beat all Galas at the Performance Studio, 4MBS Classic-FM, Coorparoo. Vintage IP authors will kick things off with readings leading up to the launch of our Spring Season of titles. We might even invite a Chaser Spruiker to offer some never-to-be-repeated discounts on IP stock!
Be sure to mark those dates in your calendar NOW so you don’t miss out!!
The 10th Anniversary Roadshow kicked off with David and Michael O’Sullivan attending events in and around the ACT. First up was the Southern Regional Library at Goulburn, with several brave souls risking a chilly evening to hear Michael read from his latest IP novel Easter at Tobruk, as well as from his previous one, Secret Writing.
They there was the Canberra launch of Tobruk and David’s picture book Real Guns at Smith’s Bookshop. Among the crowd were upcoming IP poets Hal Judge and Kathy Kituai. The wine flowed as Brendon Kelson, Michael’s former colleague from the Australian War Memorial, gave the launch speech, and sales were brisk, thanks to the helpful staff at Smith’s, where copies of both books are still in stock for our ACT subscribers.
Perhaps David’s youngest audience ever congregated at Erindale Library in south Canberra for a Story Time event where he read Real Guns. The book is certainly pitched at older kids than pre-schoolers, but David was pleased to see how fascinated even the younger kids were by Patrick Murphy’s colourful illustrations. A reporter and photographer from The Canberra Times interviewed him about the controversial aspects of the book, and we were pleased to see a large feature appear in the next issue of the paper.
Then it was on to Yass, Michael’s home town, for a launch hosted by the local library, with Ron Gilchrist performing the honour in front of a packed-out house, after Michael and David had been interviewed on Yass-FM, a community station housed in a most original location—the old waterworks!
Finally, there was an event hosted by Queanbeyan Library and attended by a few city councillors and on to then signings at the local Angus & Robertson Bookshop, which also has stock of their books.
For the next leg of the tour, David and Michael met up in Cairns, where our friends at Arts Nexus hosted a Meet the Publisher and Authors event, followed by a full-day Selling That Book workshop and then several Inside Track consultations between David and prospective IP authors.
The pair also took a hike to Atherton Library on the Tablelands, where attendees from as far away as Mareeba crowded into the library to benefit from David’s advice on the marketing and promotion of books.
After library stops in Innisfail, Tully, Ingham and Townsville, they paused for a few days in Airlie Beach for similar meetings hosted by the Whitsunday Libraries. On one of those days, David taught no less than six classes of Proserpine Grade 8 students how to put together a picture book—in preparation for a future assignment—and even offered a sneak preview of Hemingway in Spain (they were amazed to hear that a book publisher had created a DVD film). Proserpine Library is hoping to bring David back for a writers’ week next year, possibly on one of the Whitsunday islands—what dreadful news for David!
They headed inland from Mackay to Emerald where they met with members of the local writers’ group and had to be billeted since the big Agri show was in town that weekend. Spearheaded by Liz Hansen, the Emerald group too is hoping to bring David back to lead workshops next year.
Then it was on to Yeppoon for a reunion with IP authors Louise Waller and Kristin Hannaford (Swelter) and a jam-packed reading at the Yellow Door Bookshop, followed by an event hosted by the Rockhampton Art Gallery, where Louise, Kristin, Michael and David were joined by CQUP author and academic Steve Mullins for readings and a slideshow from Steve’s Keppel Bay Case Studies book.
Their final stop was in Gladstone for a reading at the library (thanks to Peter and his staff for opening up on a Sunday to accommodate us!) David was pleased to meet up again with Robyn Sheahan-Bright, former Director of the Queensland Writers Centre, who has agreeded to assist our IP Kidz imprint with title selection.
A day after arriving back in Brisbane and seeing Michael off for his flight back home, David flew to Sydney for his talk at the Australia Council seminar Publishing the Story of the Future (see above).
Other than that, hardly anything’s been happening at IP!
QPF Opening Night —Rising Like Mercury
Tickets (purchased via website) : Full Price $20/$18 or Concession $18/$16. Available online or by calling 3872 9000 between 12:00pm & 4:00pm weekdays.
Rising from the smoke of their 50th birthday, Brisbane's longest running poetry/spoken word event, SpeedPoets returns to the Alibi Room (720 Brunswick St.) from 2pm on Sunday August 5th! This month there will be feature sets from the Love Poetry Hate Racism Open Mike Winner Nicola Scholes, and Brisbane singer/songwriter Edward Guglielmino. There will also be the regular madness of open mic, live sounds from the incredible Sheish Money, free zines, giveaways and much, much more. Be there to catch the action from 2pm! Entry is a gold coin...
Just one deal this time, but we're sure you'll agree that it's a good one!
Order ANY title from our online store and receive the fabulous Anniversary CD Rainshadows, which features almost 400 pages of text and multimedia from IP authors from 1997 to the present, for only $11 (one dollar for each anniversary year + one for Peter Costello!)
Not quite good enough to seduce your credit card? OK, if you're quick enough, the first 10 subscribers to order their title online will get Rainshadows FREE.
Just specify YD35 in the Comments field of our order form.