IP eNews 41
the newsletter of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
Happy New Year and welcome to the first issue of IP eNews 2009. I cannot believe how quickly 2008 flew by and that it's already mid-February! Everyone here at IP hopes that your break over the holdays was a relaxing one and that you are all settling well into the new year.
We have lots of exciting things for you this issue. First and foremost we are announcing the winners of our IP Picks competition! So read on to find out about these great new manuscripts; we have an excellent selection this year. The amount of submissons we received as well was astounding!
Along with IP Picks we have some excellet interviews with three of our authors, two of which have books being released this year. David gives us a run down of how the last tour went in Out & About and we also have a great feature from him called Is This the Education System We Had to Have?
There's also some fantastic reviews and updates galore with what's going on at IP.
And last but not least I'd like to welcome the newest member of the team, Jeremy Green.
So settle down with a cuppa and enjoy the first isue of 2009.
The lines are drawn between booksellers on the one hand and publishers and content creators on the other regarding changes being considered by the Productivity Commission that would see a freer flow of books from overseas into Australia. Booksellers argue that cheaper books would increase their sales, while publishers are concerned that the local industry would be undercut by “dumped” cheaper editions. Authors fear that their royalty payments would suffer if more foreign copies sell than domestic ones.
In a very real sense, this whole debate ignores fundamental changes to territorial restrictions and access to content that will go ahead whatever our Productivity Commission decides.
Traditionally, the world was divided up into territories, and contracts could be—and still are— restrictive in terms of where publishers could sell their stock. High profile authors prefer to negotiate a myriad of contracts, covering as many territories as possible, because their royalty payments are higher when dealing with a specific publisher in a specific territory. Lesser known authors generally have to settle for contracts that allow for “world rights”, where publishers are allowed to sell books wherever they can. Other publishers wanting to produce editions of the book have to negotiate rights deals with the original publisher.
The system has worked, more or less effectively, since the 19th Century.
But times have changed. Enter print-on-demand (POD) publishing, global bookshops and e-book readers. With POD, publishers—and authors—can have digital versions of their books available for order anywhere in the world. In theory, territorial restrictions should still apply, but the policing of sales is a nightmare. How does an author or agent in Australia verify that a publisher operating via POD is keeping to contractual arrangements when POD companies use automated systems to fulfill orders and sales are recorded by numbers rather than by purchaser? Google BookSearch lists a variety of sources where people can order books from anywhere in the world, regardless of territorial restrictions. So people can shop around for the cheapest edition of a book and order it online. No protection of boundaries there.
Amazon’s Kindle Reader™ may single-handedly make the territorial system redundant. American publishers are routinely uploading their content to the Kindle at the same time or even before physical editions appear in the marketplace. As the Kindle catches on—and it will, with 200,000 titles already onboard—territorial rights deals will become less precious and even meaningless. People will be able to download e-book versions of bestsellers at a fraction of the original price even before physical books appear in their local bookshops, and weeks or months before a publisher in their country can produce a new edition.
While IP supports the objections raised by publishers and authors here in Australia, it’s a bit like putting up sandcastles against a coming king tide. It may delay the inevitable for a year or two after which booksellers and publishers may well ask for whom the bell is tolling if they haven’t retooled for the dawning digital age.
The latest round of IP Picks has proved to be our best subscribed ever, with an increase of 20% in entries across the four award categories. Queensland and New South Wales led the pack in numbers of entrants, followed by Victoria and Western Australia, the ACT and Tasmania. We have some promotional work to do in South Australia, the Northern Territory and New Zealand where numbers were thin.
Especially popular this year was the Best First Book category, with strong contenders from prose and poetry entrants. The judges remarked on the stronger candidates overall in the prose categories, with poetry attracting its usual number of quality manuscripts.
There were several Young Adult entries, one of which won the Best First Book and a couple more that were short-listed. The judges were pleased by this and hope to see more YA material in future years.
As usual, the prize winners will be offered royalty contracts and several of the Highly Commended and Commended entrants are being considered for publication as well.
On behalf of the judging panel, let me thank everyone who entered the competition this year. and wish you well with your writing projects!
Winner, Best Fiction, A Beginners Guide to Dying in India by Joshua Donellan, QLD
This year's overall winner for the fiction category, A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India, is a captivating and endearing tale that leads the reader on a spiritual journey across continents and through the soul. As the title suggests, the story begins comically, with the protagonist exchanging witticisms with whoever may be around at the time. Mostly himself.
It’s 9:36am and my house is on fire. My name is Levi. Welcome to the ruins of my life.
From this initial sardonic outlook, the reader is hurled across the ocean into a much more poignant situation. Levi's half brother, Jim, is dying and wishes for him to organise his final 'going away party'. As Levi deals with his mounting grief and loss, we experience a change in tone. Although the humour and wit is preserved, we see a much deeper exploration of Levi's emotions and developing acceptance of his own spirituality. This occurs through the fulfilment of his brother's dying wishes, which introduces new friends, dangers, reflections, and of course, the drop-dead gorgeous, goddess-like love interest.
The story is compelling and well-written, and the author's good eye for naturalistic detail provides many cultural insights. The pace modulates to suit the context, slowing to allow the reader time to absorb the dynamic atmosphere, and speeding back up to match the more tense action sequences. The narrative is consistently strong, throwing new challenges at the characters, and forestalling the moment when the reader puts the book down.
I once said that my story is all I have left. Well, I now know that isn’t quite true. What I meant was the story is all that matters. The ebbs and flows, the tribulations and triumphs; these are constant and inconsequential. Nothing is certain, there are no real endings. There is just one great story, one unending song, which flows, shifts and eternally changes.
Josh Donellan is an author, poet, musician, installation artist, teacher and events manager. He was almost devoured by a tiger in the jungles of Malaysia, nearly died of a lung collapse in the Nepalese Himalayas, fended off a pack of rabid dogs with a guitar in the mountains of India and was sexually harassed by a half-naked man whilst standing next to Oscar Wilde’s grave in Paris.
He completed his first novel at the age of seventeen and wrote and independently distributed his second, What Rhymes With Chaos?, via the web last year. In 2008 he was chosen as the only QLD finalist in the National Youth Week Writer’s competition and has had poetry/installation work exhibited at the prestigious Brisbane Powerhouse. He is also one of the head coordinators of the 4C arts collective which raises money for community causes through events that showcase the talents of Brisbane based artists.
He has an unnatural fondness for scrabble and an irrational dislike of frangipanis.
Highly Commended, Best Fiction, Uncut by Rosemary Allan, QLD.
When I had my first camera I would drop to my scruffy teenage knees by a clump of those ferns to capture their alarming fragility. In the lens, isolated from their surroundings, they became filigree cut-outs of the green air. I named our daughter Fern so she would be soft and open and resilient. Not spiky like me.
Alternately fragile and resilient, this story reveals the distinct and complex inner workings of a wife, mother and artist’s mind. As she confronts painful anxieties from both her present and past, she finds refuge in her photography, and the truth it allows her to see.
Before the click of my shutter, time had slammed on its brakes for them. In the cave of my camera they had created their own world of love.
The beauty of Uncut comes from its deep shadows, its pinpoints of light that come through as the story develops, and those moments when you see everything clearly, like an image sharply pulled into focus.
"Although for the most part, dark and anxious, this is a manuscript I couldn't put down, as the words mercilessly drew me in to Gemma's world." - Brooke Butler
‘I love you,’ he’d said, had said a thousand times, flooding my heart with an equal measure of light and disbelief. Fingers smarting, I thought about love. The way it can open you up and close you down.
LOVE – four innocent letters linking the ‘I’ to another, forging a claim, a chain between two people allowing the ‘I’ to do whatever he wants – in the name of love. I love you, open sesame… fling wide the door, your mouth, your legs. And don’t forget your accommodating heart.
Rosemary Allan, a New Zealander by birth, has lived in South East Queensland for twenty five years. She has a background in publishing, notably with Scholastic Publications in London and with the off campus program at Deakin University in Geelong.
In 2005 she was awarded the Booranga Writers Fellowship at Wagga Wagga to work on her first novel Uncut about a female photographer with an unusual eye and a disturbing childhood.
First Commended, Best Fiction, Jackpot by Kathy Sharpe, NSW.
This beautiful country tale depicts the small community of Jackpot – all their little secrets, desires, and grievances, brought to life by nuances in dialogue and narrative. The arguably central character, Alita, is the subtle catalyst through which transformation occurs. She injects life into the town, providing them with a confidant and friend. The setting facilitates a much slower, laid-back pace and a tranquil tone, giving the reader plenty of time to get to know the characters, and empathise with each one of them.
It doesn't take much, in these small pockets of the world to construct a myth. You can feel one lurking there, behind that privet hedge, see one in the lean of that crumbling chimney, or in the way the old man watering his garden looks up as you drive past and nods his head slowly, warily.
Amidst this potential for dream-like stories, we are given the opportunity to closely examine the relationships between the characters, and watch as the strains and tensions eventually result in a climactic finish. As the stories evolve, we find ourselves more intwined in their fates, making the book a favorite source of human truth and beauty.
Silenced, though the light
But from this desolate chamber,
Kathy Sharpe lives in Nowra on the NSW South Coast. For the past 15 years she has worked as a newspaper journalist and editor on country newspapers, and currently works as a group editor for Fairfax Media's regional newspapers in southern NSW.
Creative writing has always bubbled away behind the scenes, and Kathy's stories are often coloured by her experiences of regional communities and their people.
Kathy also has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Canberra, and a Master of Creative Arts from Wollongong University.
Second Commended, Best Fiction, Memento Mori by Daniel King, WA.
All that remains constant is my knowledge that I must cross Dream after Dream, trying to find the place where the Dreams correspond with the real world. I reason that there must be such a place: for the number of permutations of landscape, although vast, is finite; and eventually one of these permutations will be indistinguishabe from the real world. And by Leibniz's Principle of Indiscernibles this will mean such a Dream is the world.
Memento Mori, one of the two commended entries for Best Fiction, is a collection of short stories, at times perplexing and disorientating. But it is always deeply rooted in philosphy, and intellectually and morally stimulating. It focuses heavily on characters, whose actions are infused with meaning, and the complex cognitive processes that they experience. Many of the stories have elements that are subtly disturbing, like a slight shadow in your peripheral vision, or a faint tremor in your stomach. Delirious and provocative, Memento Mori is appreciated best through its subtleties.
Daniel King, who also publishes under the name of David King, was born in Perth, WA. He has a Doctorate in philosophy and has also taught English at university level.
His prose has been published in various journals around the world, most recently in Canada's Rampike. He has twice - in 2006 and 2007 - been awarded "Best Short Story" by Charles Sturt University's FourW magazine. Recently, he has turned his attention to poetry, and has been published in Austria's Poetry Salzburg Review and The London Magazine.
Winner, Best Creative Non-Fiction, Wobbles by Nadine Neumann, NSW.
Wobbles is the story of a young girl turned determined teenager turned remarkable young woman, who is following a dream that is always just out of reach. Nadine Neumann wants to be an Olympic swimmer, she trains every day and gives up a “normal” life, school friends, parties, sleep and at times her pride. But Nadine never gives up on her dream, not even when she is diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and forced to take a break from her beloved sport. From Perth to Germany, India to Sydney, Brisbane to Hong Kong – the reader is invited to follow the trials and tribulations of a remarkable young woman, who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.
“Nadine, you won’t be able to swim like you used to. It would be unrealistic to think your body could cope with that, but you’re pretty fit, so you might be one of the lucky ones. You might see some improvement in three, six months, but you know, most people struggle to get out of the worst of it for years. The research indicates that once you’ve got it, it’s there for good, but people have found ways of managing it with things like meditation, vitamin treatments, you know?...”
Black and white blended into shades of grey and John Konrads came back. He smiled in my memory again, and I learned which angel was good and which was bad. I had revolting days, and times when I seethed at my body’s weakness, but I learned how to manage and accept that it would always be that way – moments of up and periods of down, but always moving forward."
The writing itself is at a remarkable level. The author is not afraid to show the bad along with the good and as such has the reader continuously changing their minds about the girl who never says no.
I called her the name that no girl utters.
The glossy sheen of her skin became a lather and the flawless curve of her cheeks crumpled under the vice of her jaw. Her perfect button nose flattened and flared as her lips became a gash that made her eyes fill with blood. The veins in her neck pulsed to the surface, bringing with them fierce red blotches that spread until her head was a molten rock set to launch. I turned away, satisfied that she’d lay off now.'
The judges were unanimous not only in the decision to judge the book a winner, but also in saying that Wobbles is so well-crafted that even without a love for swimming, the reader will find this memoir to be a real page turner.
Nadine began swimming when she was seven years old and by the time she was eight, she knew she wanted to be an Olympian. She has had great success as a motivational speaker on both the corporate and schools circuits. She graduated with a BA Dip Ed from Macquarie University, Sydney in 2002.
Nadine’s passion for literature developed from an early age and she began writing her first novel, a fantasy story, when she was 12. Wobbles is her first full-length work.
Besides looking after her six-month old son, Nadine is currently writing a novel based on the parallel and intersecting stories of her grandmothers (French/Jewish and German) through WWII, post-war Europe and their migration to Australia.
Highly Commended, Best Creative Non-Fiction, Willow Farrington Bites Back! by Rebecca Bloomer, QLD.
Willow Farrington Bites Back is a fresh view on the life and trials of a young woman battling with anorexia. A favourite among the judges, this memoir’s structure is beautifully envisioned and carried out with a dexterous grasp on the art of story telling. The author's ability is uncanny. Bloomer skillfully draws compassionate, psychological links between a young girl's struggle with an eating disorder in today's Australia with an elderly couple who survived the deprivation of World War II's concentration camps to go on to nurture and grow a magnificent garden of fruit and vegetables. The writing itself is of a high quality, making the judges’ decision an easy one.
Rebecca Bloomer is a Brisbane-based adventuress with a keen interest in... everything! Rebecca’s favourite writing aids are:
Rebecca also has her own website on which you can find out more about her.
First Commended, Best Creative Non-Fiction, Two Years to 'Normal' by Karen Leibovitch, WA.
Two Years to Normal is a well-polished entrant to the competition, the author displaying both a professional handle of the craft as well as an emotionally mature grasp of cancer and the healing process. The judges expressed their delight in the well-constructed characterisation and the author’s ability to write about difficult subject matter with such clarity, humour and reflection. While in some memoirs that wrestle with illness the writing can be overshadowed by the author’s emotions and sense of tragedy, Two Years to Normal allows the readers to join the speaker on her journey and explore the human condition from a general context as well as a personal one. This is not a story only for those facing illness, but a story for anyone who loves life.
Karen Leibovitch was born and raised in London, England and emigrated to Australia in 1993 with her husband, starting a family a couple of years later.
Whilst raising three young children, Karen qualified as a counsellor and ran a small practice from home. Karen’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with oral cancer in November 2004 commencing her journey of ‘Two Years to ‘Normal’.
Karen now lives in Perth and is currently studying Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia.
Second Commended, Best Creative Non-Fiction, Left Unsaid by Margo O'Byrne, WA.
Left Unsaid made quite an impression on the judges. Its refined perspective of childhood suffering and endurance is wrapped in the strong themes of alcoholism, poverty, neglect and abuse which extend beyond family as a searing account of the systems and authorities of its time. This book is an act of resilience in and of itself. The steady determination shown in crafting this narrative from memory, official reports and testimonials is exemplary, voicing a common but often unspoken plight of children in our society. For such hard-hitting material in a memoir, the author has risen to a deep challenge and met it with fierce wisdom and courage.
Margo was born in Brisbane in 1951 and spent her childhood in Queensland, including time living in St Vincent’s Orphanage, Nudgee. She and her brother Micko (Michael) were two of the quarter of a million Australians who grew up in care during the twentieth century. Her manuscript Left Unsaid tells the story of these years and a bond that created a triumph of spirit.
For thirteen years she edited a quarterly journal, Ecoplan News, is a contributing author to Community Voices - Creating Sustainable Spaces, UWA Press, (2006); has published in the Journal of Ecological Management and Restoration and Conservation in Production Environments, Surrey Beatty and Sons (2000).
Winner, Best Poetry, Wings of the Same Bird by Lorraine McGuigan, VIC.
This impressive collection stems from the mythological idea that birds link the human world to the divine or supernatural realms that lie beyond ordinary experience. The poems associate birds with the journey of the human soul after death, representing them as primeval, cosmic, legendary, as messengers of the deities, as symbols of war, death, and misfortune, but also strength, love, and wisdom.
In 'The Weight of Things', Lorraine McGuigan personifies the absurdity of human life by weighing up the value of human life with its burdens. The last stanza makes reference to the mythological figure Sisyphus who was doomed to roll a boulder up a hill in Hades for all eternity. This links to the Sisyphean ideology that life is often measured not by what you have, but what you lose.
A human brain, some boffin said today, weights much
In the poem 'Wildride', readers are quite literally taken along on the wild emotional rollercoaster from diagnosis through to collapse, prognosis, treatment and then the death of the character’s partner.
Lorraine has been published in a variety of publications including Quadrant; Hecate; Poetrix; Antipodes (USA); Social Alternatives; Psychopoetica (UK); Blue Dog and Muse among others.
She has co-judged the Martha Richardson Poetry Medal in 2006 and the Anne Elder Award in 2007.
Since 1994 she has been Managing Editor of Monash University’s Poetry Monash and is also a leader of Monash University poetry workshops. Lorraine is also a Featured Reader at Poetry Festivals.
[photo taken by Rosina Lamberti]
Highly Commended, Best Poetry, stepping over seasons by Ashley Capes, VIC.
Stepping over Seasons skillfully depicts the finer details of life, encapsulating change within people and places as seasons change. In 'Overlook', Capes argues that it’s much easier for great poets to romanticise the world’s most classic cities by poetically ridiculing his own unromantic Aussie home-town.
is it easier?
Asserting that in this digital age, everything can be recorded in some way, 'Late Night' claims there is no longer a need for people to appreciate things "in the moment":
I guess the great lie of our time is capture –
The poem 'Leaking' describes love seeping out of two people with the momentum of a leaking tap.
we’re charcoal pressure
Ashley teaches Media and English in regional Victoria. He was a co-editor of small press print magazine Egg (Poetry) from 2002-2006 and now works on web publications holland1945 and kipple.
His work can be found in a variety of print and online publications in Australia and a few overseas. Somehow throughout University he managed to continue reading, writing and listening to poetry, films and music, especially the haiku of Issa and Basho and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Ashley's first collection of poetry, released in 2008, was pollen and the storm.
First Commended, Best Poetry, You Can Only Get So Close On Google Earth by Ann Shenfield, VIC.
This collection links past events like the atrocities at Auschwitz to the character’s life today – encapsulating that grief is as relentless and timeless as it is universal.
'Raised Signs' cleverly uses font signs on a computer that could be viewed as an analogy for the raised signs of alert during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
I like serif font and signs that are raised
My sister lies flat, like helvetica
In 'A Ball', Shenfield uses a ball as a metaphor linking the parallel worlds of the Palestinians in the Middle East to a fireman falling from the twin towers.
Ann has worked as an animation filmmaker for over fifteen years. Her films have won numerous prizes and have screened at various local and international festivals, including selection to the Official Competition at Berlin in 2000.
Aside from her animation-film career, Ann is an author-illustrator. Her picture book Scribble Sunset, was published in 2008 by Lothian Children’s Books Australia.
Ann is the winner of the Rosemary Dobson Poetry Prize, and was Highly Commended for both the Alec Bolton Poetry Award in 2007, and the Melbourne Poets Union Prize in 2008.
Second Commended, Best Poetry, Apocalypto by Roberta Lowing, NSW.
Apocalypto (meaning ‘new beginning) tells the story of today’s Iraqi War through four perspectives – through Luke, an American Marine, Meetra, a Sunni doctor, Omar, a Shia boy and Margaret T, a White House spokesperson.
Through Omar’s perspective, 'Chocolate' portrays how the innocent Iraqi youth revered the US soldiers as their saviors.
hey kid watch out they shout at me
I eat the chocolate a little bit every hour
We can dream now
bomb bomb someone cries and we let fly
Josh prods the crumpled clothes with his foot
Roberta Lowing recently completed her Master of Letters at Sydney University. Her work has appeared in journals such as Meanjin, Blue Dog and Overland.
She organises the monthly PoetryUnLimitedPress Poetry Readings & Open Microphone Competition in Glebe, Sydney.
Winner, Best First Book, The Secret Stealer by Jessica Webster, NSW.
The Secret Stealer is a creative and well-crafted fantasy story for young adults, and takes the reader on an entertaining ride as it looks at magic curses, good and evil, and the challenges of dealing with the adult world. It is an exceptionally well-written, engrossing, compelling and easy to read novel. Jessica Webster’s characters are believable and fully developed, and the storyline is absorbing and exciting. Humour flows throughout the piece, quirky and always clever, and invests the story with liveliness, originality and charm. A well-realised, skilfully-written story that is non-stop fun and would be thoroughly enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Jessica is 22 years old, and considers herself lucky enough to live in the usually-sunny-but-always-beautiful Wollongong, NSW. She recently graduated from a Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology) at the University of Wollongong and has just commenced Medicine at Wollongong.
Her passions in life include drawing, reading, writing, and playing the viola with quartets and orchestras. Jessica has been short-listed for competitions, including the Somerset National Novella competition. Her influences include Terry Pratchett, William Goldman and David Eddings.
Jessica hopes to express through her writing that the world isn’t black and white; it isn’t even all the shades of grey – it’s full of colour, it’s messy, it’s wild, and, like they say, shouldn’t be taken too seriously, ‘cause you’ll never get out alive!
Highly Commended, Best First Book, Magical Gains by Nicola Sheridan, WA.
A compelling, fresh and original fantasy story that combines magic, fairytales, romance and humour. Set in both Perth and Turkey in an alternate dimension, the story overflows with creativity and originality. Nicola Sheridan manages to articulate both tension and humour masterfully, and creates lively, authentic characters with complex emotions and relationships. ‘Magical Gains’ is visually stimulating and evocative, with almost tangible smells and tastes and a smooth blend of fantasy and reality. Here is an enthralling, engaging story that is a completely different take on fantasy.
Nicola was born in New Zealand, in 1979, to British parents and then moved to Australia later that year. After living in a few different states her family finally settled in Western Australia in 1989.
She studied at University of Western Australia where she completed a Bachelor of Science in 2000, majoring in Archaeology and Anthropology (an interesting Degree, but not the most practical!).
Nicola has always loved writing and believes that there is nothing quite like the satisfaction in creating a new world, making it work and filling it with all things interesting (well to her at least!).
First Commended, Best First Book, Harry Potter Power by Julie-Anne Sykley, QLD.
Harry Potter Power boasts an original concept, and is well-researched and grounded in fact. Sykley, a child psychologist, takes motifs and situations from the popular Harry Potter series and cleverly links them to theories and strategies designed to help children overcome anxiety, anger and depression. She combines a fun and innovative use of well-known Harry Potter icons with more serious advice, reflection material and activities to help children apply this perspective. Practical, thought-provoking and with strong relevance to real world issues, Harry Potter Power is an ideal tool to help children develop resilience and self-esteem.
Dr Julie-Anne Sykley – a psychologist with various academic and written achievements – has worked as a helping professional for about 20 years. From inner city Sydney to the remote Territory outback, Julie-Anne has helped people with mental health problems from many walks of life.
Using ideas from J.K Rowling’s popular Harry Potterbooks, Dr Sykley presents an exciting new self-help book: Harry Potter Power. This book teaches young people (and adults) positive ways to deal with real-life problems like depression, suicide and worry, while empowering people with the best behaviour strategies from the field of psychology.
Second Commended, Best First Book, The Everything Theory by Dianne Gray, ACT.
An exciting and ambitious undertaking with a premise lodged in ancient mythology, archaeology, world religions and indigenous cultures, The Everything Theory is a wild ride. A scientific and anthropological thriller for a thinking audience, the novel seeks to shed light on the ‘true’ origins of mankind. Gray achieves her goals of integrating a suspense thriller narrative with a rich knowledge of culture, anthropology and history, from NASA and astronomy to Gilgamesh, Zoroastrianism and Ankor Wat. The author has a very gutsy and ambitious goal which she achieves with style and grace.
Dianne Gray has won a number of national awards for her short stories and has been published in various anthologies over the past twelve years. The most recent being Scarlet Stiletto – The First Cut (2007), which included Dianne's short story 'Still Life'.
Dianne works full-time and wishes there were more hours in the day so she could spend more time on her writing.
They say that some people favour nuclear power—until a plant is proposed nearby. Satire is like that: people enjoy it, until they suspect it might be about them. They get all defensive and even cranky if there’s an inkling of criticism in the character portrayal.
A case in point is Primary Instinct, my new novel, which was inspired in part by what I know about the Queensland public school system, its administrators, teachers, and students.
To protect the innocent—and guilty—I included a disclaimer at the beginning of the book: “Thanks to the real-life teachers who inspired this, though any resemblance to educators, living or dead, was strictly unintended…” That didn’t stop some “real-life teachers” from seeing themselves in the book—even before they’d read it!
But Primary Instinct is a satiric novel, not a documentary, and it employs all the key elements of contemporary satire: irony, humour and underlying social commentary and criticism. The situations and characters it presents for satire are intended to be representative of universal stories and people. While political satire may target specific people, it is more interested in the moral qualities they represent than their personal history. So, for example, John Howard’s short stature gave satirists a weapon to attack what they saw as his short-sighted policies and world view.
The overriding purpose of satire is not to hold people up to ridicule but to call into question values they represent as a part of the larger society. Via irony, satire often lets its characters undercut these values through what they say and do. For example, in the novel, when an administrator from the Education Department speaks at a farewell for the out-going principal of Bayside School, she spouts platitudes that are received politely by the audience and believed by no one, including the reader. While this character is purely fictitious, we all have known bureaucrats like this, so we can join with the fictional audience to mock her behind her back, rejecting the hypocrisy she represents.
Because satire is more interested in social commentary—in this case calling into question the effectiveness of our public education system—its characters will often seem two-dimensional. This is where literary and visual satire cross-over, in their caricature of character. In cartooning, physical attributes of real life characters are singled out for exaggeration to point to flaws in their character. In literary satire, certain qualities of character are exaggerated to point to personality flaws. But again, authors and cartoonists are more interested in satirizing a class of people than a particular person. Another character in Primary Instinct sleeps out in her car in the school parking lot overnight to defend the school against intruders because she’s afraid to ring the principal to admit she’s misplaced a security key. Here, the novel's aim is to focus on the teacher's misplaced loyalty and inability to speak up for herself rather than depicting the real life experience that might have inspired the scene.
Another important thing to keep in mind when reading or writing satire is that it doesn’t always have to be funny. Authors of comedy often employ satire to suggest underlying serious themes, but some comedy is just intended to be entertaining—a diversion from the cares of everyday life. Satire can be more biting than comic at times, and this sometimes gets people’s back up, even when they are not directly implicated by the work. Satire flirts with the boundaries of fairness in sending up its characters. The more the reader identifies with the characters, the more likely the author will be accused of going too far.
[Anna Bartlett recently caught up with Di Bates, author of upcoming YA title Aussie Kid Heroes.]
AB: ‘Aussie Kid Heroes’ is like a Guinness Book of Records of amazing Australian children. It’s full of incredible, heart-warming and inspiring stories of some of Australia’s youngest heroes. What first made you think of writing it?
DB: As a primary school teacher and as a child who struggled courageously through a very difficult childhood, I have always been aware of and passionate about the achievements of individual children, which rarely seem to get public airing, especially in books for young people.
AB: It must have taken you quite a while to collect all the stories in the book. How long have you been looking out for these types of stories, and what resources did you use to find them?
DB: My research period has been long – about twenty years – during which time I have collected and catalogued stories about children that I’ve read or heard about in the media. I have a filing cabinet full of thousands of stories, mostly in newspaper and magazine clipping form, and computer files as well. In all, I have enough material to fill six books about amazing children, though many of them are not just from Australia but from all over the world. This includes remarkable stories about babies, believe it or not!
AB: One of the things that ‘Aussie Kid Heroes’ does is let children know that they don’t have to be grown up to achieve great things. How important do you think it is for children to realise this?
DB: I think it is absolutely essential for children to have role models in order to achieve, and what better role model can a child have than another kid their own age – or even younger?
AB: There’s such a range of stories covered in ‘Aussie Kid Heroes’ – from children who’ve been exceptionally brave, to children who’ve excelled in sports or the arts, to enterprising and caring children. Was it difficult to decide which stories to put in and which to leave out?
DB: I have a second ‘Aussie Kid Heroes’ manuscript, and I’m hoping that the first book sells so well that young readers can read about all the other fantastic kids whose stories I’ve collected. The children in the second book haven’t really been ‘left out’ – they’re just waiting in the sidelines for an opportunity to have their stories heard!
AB: You’ve written over 100 books, and are a well-known children’s author. What makes ‘Aussie Kid Heroes’ special to you?
DB: I’m passionate about showing kids just how remarkable they are and can be – that, plus the fact that I’ve been collecting material and researching for over two decades, trying to find a publisher astute enough to know that such a book(s) will be popular!
AB: If you had to pick one favourite story out of the whole book, which would it be, and why?
DB: I especially love the story of Margaret May Bridge, known as Mabel, an incredibly brave girl from pioneering days who took charge of a four-horse wagon and drove it 3,000 kilometres across Australia. This was in a time when there were no roads, no towns, and plenty of Aboriginal tribes that resented white people crossing through their lands. What an amazing trek! I cannot imagine how she and her family managed.
It seems to me that if a child is amazing in some way, he or she often grows up to become an adult of achievement. If you look at notable Australians, you will find that when they were children they were successful and/or distinguished themselves in some way. I have just been reading about Dick Smith, one of Australia’s most remarkable businessmen and philanthropists: as a child he was really enterprising, making a profit from the sale of white mice and repairing radios by the age of ten!
Note: I am still collecting stories of Aussie Kid Heroes, so if you know anyone aged 15 years or under who has done something you think is remarkable, please contact me, Dianne (Di) Bates, via my website .
[Emily Brinkworth also had the chance to chat to E.A. Gleeson, whose poetry title in between the dancing was recently released.]
EB: Your poems portray both a male and female voice in them - i.e. you write from a male’s perspective in poems like Dawn Service, Sick Day and Is This All There Is? and from a female’s perspective in poems like Rejection, Woman Cycle, Hair Appointment, Raw Beauty and Waiting Room. How and why did you do this?
AG: I don’t set out to write poems that are gender or age specific and I write more fiction than non-fiction. Many of those poems are presented from a narrator’s point of view. What I am interested in is the emotional truth of my poetry. The details or the persona are not as important to me as getting the experience or the moment right. Sometimes though, I will set myself a personal challenge; eg to write a love poem for someone who has rejected me.
AG: The themes arise as you suggest organically. Individual poems are often triggered by personal experience or discoveries. I marvelled at Graeme Clark’s story of how he made the discovery of the bionic ear; I wanted to capture that. Similarly with Famine Girls; I was so drawn into the stories behind the early records that Janet McCalman discovered when the Women’s Hospital was being demolished that I wanted to tell that story. I want the collection as a whole to mirror the light and shade of life and I want it to be interesting in its scope.
AG: I don’t want the poems to be cluttered, so references are efficient. In the case of the historical poems, I provide the references to locate the poems a bit more easily for the reader who might be coming to this other version of events for the first time. If they want to learn more, it’s easier to do. If they don’t there’s enough information, I hope, for the poem to work as an entity.
AG: I hadn’t intended to at the time of writing this poem but now that I work as a funeral director, I just might.
AG: The poetry of the poem is what matters.
EB: Is there a conscious strategy you adopt to make your poems connect with your readers?
AG: I think the connection is made through the expression of the heart of the experience. If you get this right, readers will not be alienated no matter how remote the subject matters is.
[Anna caught up with Julie-Anne Sykley, author of the upcoming release Harry Potter Power.]
AB: ‘Harry Potter Power’ has a unique premise: it uses the Harry Potter series as a starting point to help children explore and learn to overcome issues such as depression and anxiety. What gave you the idea of using Harry’s world and experiences to help children in our world?
JS: As a psychologist, I admired the Harry Potter books long before we ever heard about the movies. I mean, young people turning off the TV? Learning how to read books? Thanks to J.K. Rowling, children everywhere have improved their literacy skills, language skills, problem-solving skills, and creative powers.
But behind all the fascinating myth, legend, and history in Harry Potter’s world, I noticed the story had real psychological flair. After I analysed the text and story, and researched the meanings of myths and magic creatures, I discovered a world rich in psychological material. In the real world, depression and anxiety are leading health problems, 1 in 5 people suffer mental illness, and many young people are contemplating or committing suicide. Why wouldn’t you want to write a book that helps people to beat depression, anxiety, anger and suicide?
The greatest impetus for my book, however, comes from the deepest, darkest, and worst time of my life. Drawing from the field of psychology and people’s awe-inspiring stories from real life, I really wanted to tell my readers that anyone can triumph over tragedy and free their inner power.
AB: You’ve had a lot of experience as a psychologist, working with prisoners, young people and people with mental illnesses. How has this experience influenced you, and how much of a need do you see for books like ‘Harry Potter Power’?
JS: As a helping professional, I have noticed that all sorts of people can become great heroes in their own lives. To help, heal, and empower people, it’s strategic to bring out the best in people because positive thoughts and behaviours are a person’s most powerful assets.
As for needing books like ‘Harry Potter Power’, we definitely need instructive and inspirational influences to guide us in positive ways – books, songs, movies, nature, and uplifting spiritual systems. After all, everyone desires to be happy. In today’s world, that’s tough: modern life introduces issues like information overload, materialism, increasing obesity, environmental destruction, animal extinction, and terrorism. ‘Harry Potter Power’ strives to help people achieve their healthiest, happiest, and highest selves in the present world... and more.
AB: ‘Harry Potter Power’ is designed to help children develop positive coping strategies. Why do you think it’s so important to teach young people resilience, and strategies to empower themselves?
JS: Not only are mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and suicide on the rise, the modern world is challenging and complex. As information abounds, and with many local and global issues to contemplate, let’s face it: people (especially young people – tomorrow’s leaders) must become smarter, stronger, and more caring decision-makers in order to help the human race and our precious planet survive and (even better) thrive. The notion of resilience and its psychological relatives (eg. personal power, resourcefulness, perceived control) protects people from the negative effects of stress, keeps people healthier, boosts survival skills, and helps people to achieve their desired goals.
AB: ‘Harry Potter Power’ is also a very practical book, and includes tables and activities for children to complete. In your own work, do you find that activities like this help people to apply theories to their own lives?
JS: Information without action is useless. To become competent at anything, we must know and do – and then do it as much as possible! The practical nature of ‘Harry Potter Power’ is also partly due to feedback from reader surveys. Over the seven years it has taken to write this book, I have surveyed 10-50 year olds – students, working class people, professional experts, and readers overseas. One main thing readers liked and wanted to see more of was activities in the book. Action helps people to apply theoretical knowledge, practise new thoughts and behaviours, remember information, and simply have a good time.
AB: One thing I love about ‘Harry Potter Power’ is its positive tone, and the emphasis it places on the fact that we can overcome tragedy, and grow through grief. How important do you think it is for young people to realise that there is hope, even in the face of adversity?
JS: A main feature of depression is a lack of hope. The main trigger for suicide is a lack of hope. If people believe their problem is impossible to solve, they have nothing to live for, and their future looks bleak. That’s when people can start to withdraw from life and block themselves from taking healthy action. They start thinking things like ‘Why bother trying? What’s the use if my situation is completely and utterly hopeless?’
Fortunately, there are positive, optimistic, and hopeful ways to boost people’s feelings of well-being and personal control. This is where Buckbeak – the magic flying hippogriff from Harry’s world – comes in. According to myth, hippogriffs symbolise and offer hope. What better way to explain a psychological concept like hope to readers than to talk about a horse-griffin creature combo with big wings?
JS: Many psychologists love ‘love’. Research on ‘attachment behaviour’, for example, provides compelling evidence that we have a strong intrinsic need to be loved. Other studies, on topics like ‘emotional intelligence’, also show that caring and loving individuals feel and function best. By contrast, unhealthy hatred resounds in antisocial and callous personality traits. As ‘Harry Potter Power’ explains, if you want to feel happier, healthier, and more powerful in life, then you need to guide your thoughts and actions in the most loving way possible; then you will experience the best life possible. Love (in the form of positive thoughts, caring actions, and many other constructive behaviours) equals true personal power.
[With the recent release of his latest novel Primary Instinct, David Reiter sets his sights on Australia's education system and what is as opposed to what might be. This feature is reprinted from the newsletter of the Queensland Teachers' Union.]
Yet another international report shows Australia as a Banana Republic in its poor funding of our schools. The political parties in Queensland suddenly rediscover education as an issue (must be an election in the air).
You’ve seen it all before. Reports gather dust on the shelves. Elections come and go and promises are forgotten. The education system continues to erode, with chronic under-funding, rats in the cupboards, asbestos in the sagging ceilings, the lack of specialist support for disadvantaged students, etc., etc.
How many of you have thought about writing an exposé that would change attitudes – or at least cast an angry spotlight on some of those problem areas crying out for reform?
Well, someone’s beat you to it. The novel’s called Primary Instinct. It shows life in our schools without a political or PR spin. Set in a fictional school that many will find all too real in its depiction of teachers, students, parents and administrators in trying circumstances.
Author Dr David Reiter taught at universities in Canada and Australia, and was Publishing Manager for the BSSSS, before founding Brisbane publishing house IP. He’s openly critical of our education system. “Not much has changed since the ALP took office,” he says, “except perhaps the rhetoric. Teachers remain a professional underclass, and the work they do is often thankless because many people regard education as nothing more than a ticket to material wealth. Too much time is spent enforcing discipline, completing piles of paperwork in the name of ‘accountability’ and trying to keep up with the latest fads in methodology that are imposed from above.”
But Primary Instinct is not a whinge against the system. It entertains as well as it instructs. The blurb says of the main character Cherry: “You put in the hours, get the degree and hope your first job isn’t a five hour drive west of Blackbutt. Cherry knew it wouldn’t all be long summer breaks and the adoration of grateful parents. But nothing prepared her for the ‘challenges’ of teaching at Bayside State School, not to mention what her colleagues would get up to after school hours.”
The ABC has already expressed interest in a TV series in the mode of the recent BBC series Teachers, and Reiter is determined to write a sequel that would give the TV series as much staying power as Kath & Kim.
Have a juicy story of your own? Email it to IP, and we’ll pass it on to Dr Reiter, in the strictest confidence. The best twenty submissions will get a free copy of Primary Instinct as well as the sequel.Just curious about what teachers inspired the novel? Check out the Primary Instinct site. Or sample it on Google.
Goldie Alexander's Lame Duck Protest and Dianne Bates' Aussie Kid Heroes will be hitting the shops in mid-March, with launch events being planned at the moment.
Juliet Williams’ picture book The Giggle Gum Tree, with art work by Elizabeth Botté, is slated for release in early May. Angelo Vlachoulis is well advanced in his illustration of Edel Wignell’s fractured fairy tale Long Live Us. And Doris Unger has just completed her illustrations for Libby Hathorn’s historical piece Roksanna’s Rose.
New titles in the wings are picture books by Matt Ottley, the first in a detective series A-Z PIs by Goldie Alexander, a picture book by Hazel Edwards, and a [picture book / animation project by Robert Moore, in collaboration with Adelaide animation company Monkeystacks.
IP has secured the rights for David Reiter's The Greenhouse Effect from Hachette-Livre, and there are some plans afoot that would see the Project EarthMend Series animated for a feature film. Watch this space!
We were particularly pleased to release Kathy Kituai and Nitya Bernard Parker’s moving Text + Audio CD The Heart Takes Wing, based on Kathy’s tanka diary Straggling into Winter, written as a reflection on the cancer of two people close to her. Most of the production was done in Canberra, with post-production at Treetop Studio. While IP generally produces CDs and DVDs on demand at the Studio, we anticipated a larger demand for this brilliant fusion of the concise Japanese form and Nitya’s world music. You can sample the CD on the iTunes Store and buy it by the track or the entire album.
A new DVD, Australian Earth Covered Building, is due for release shortly. A revised edition of the successful book by a family of award-winning architects—Sydney, Joan and David Baggs—the data DVD provides practical state-of-the-art advice on sustainable architecture in the Australian setting. Various types of buildings are featured from family homes to larger institutional structures. As it happens, the Baggs’ company ecospecifier is just in a neighbouring suburb, so we expect future partnerships between our companies.
On 15-16 March, David will be a featured speaker and workshop leader at the Somerset International Conference for teachers and librarians held on the Gold Coast. Taking a futuristic view, David will talk about Australia’s place in the digital landscape, and how recent developments in publishing will impact on the educational and information resources systems.
A new, higher resolution version of A Simple Tale, the film collaboration between poet and reader Stephen Oliver, musician Matt Ottley—who will also be at the Somerset Conference—and filmmaker Christian Frei, composed and produced by David, is now up on YouTube. For a quick link, go to the King Hit site.
All the debate between publishers and Google at the moment is a bit ho-hum here at IP since we’ve been a partner publisher with Google BookSearch for some time. We see this Google site as an invaluable way of getting the word out about our books to buyers overseas, and it actually saves us space on our own website because we can refer readers to Google if they want more than a brief sample from a work.
Google provides member publishers with stats on unique visits to our titles on BookSearch, which helps us gauge market interest in particular titles. For example, the leading title last week was Primary Instinct, with 30 visits and nearly 900 pages read! That may not vault Primary Instinct into best seller status, but it’s a pretty good result when our overseas promotional campaign hasn’t yet clicked into gear!
You’ll also notice something new on our home page: a search engine hosted by Google. Now you can find our authors and titles on BookSearch right from the home page, but don’t forget to click on our buy link if you like what you see! We plan to extend these handy search engines to other pages on our site over the coming weeks.
On 11 November, Mayor Paul Pisasale launched Barry Levy’s As If! to an enthusiastic reception at the Barry Jones Auditorium in Ipswich. Our thanks to Ipswich Library for providing a venue for the reception and the local media for their coverage. The novel is set mostly in Ipswich but it deals with the pervasive problems of youth homelessness and street violence that go well beyond a single town.
Another Gala Weekend followed, with the launch of Ann Jones’ Picks winning memoir, Put the Billy On, and David’s latest works - the second book in his Project Earthmend Series for junior readers, Global Cooling, as well as his new satiric novel Primary Instinct, that has the local teaching community buzzing!
We then had a Bribie Island event for the new books the next day, which brought together many of Ann’s friends and relations.
David’s first stop on our last tour of 2008 was in Lismore at the Rous Hotel, where a small but enthusiastic crowd attended the launch of Jim Brigginshaw’s Picks winning novel Over My Dead Body. There were a few teachers in the crowd to snap up copies of David’s Primary Instinct, too.
The next evening at Byron Bay David gave a two-hour essentials version of his Retool & Remix: Get a Digital Life workshop. The special effects in his presentation were supplemented by the thunder and lightning of a storm outside, but fortunately the roof of the cultural centre held firm. The taster proved enticing; plans are underway for David to return for the full day version of the workshop, and possibly a Selling That Book! Workshop on the same weekend. Stay tuned!
After a change of pace at the Brett Whiteley Centre, where he read from his poetry, David did offer the full digital workshop at the NSW Writers Centre in Sydney.
Then it was on to Canberra for launches of the CD The Heart Takes Wing by tanka artist Kathy Kituai and musician Nitya Bernard Parker. The first event was held at the Calvary Hospital, which we thought was appropriate since the CD deals with Kathy’s reflections in tanka on how cancer has touched the lives of those close to her, made more poignant by Nitya’s transcendent music. That evening we had yet another successful event with our friends at Smiths Alternative Bookshop, where David also read from Primary Instinct and Global Cooling.
After a few library visits along the way, David arrived in Ballarat for the launch of E A Gleeson’s Picks winning poetry collection in between the dancing. It was held at the Old Colonists’ Club, an historic building, and nearly the whole town of Ballarat turned out! After the dust—and the wine and catered delights—had settled, more than 90 books had sold, so many in fact that we had to recover some copies from the author’s relations to be sure to have enough for the upcoming Melbourne launch. Such a sad situation!
The next day, we had a joint event in Melbourne at The Space, thanks to the VIC Writers Centre, and it was packed out. E A Gleeson, Lia Hills and Lee Knowles performed from their poetry books. David was pleased to meet up with Judith Rodriguez and Tom Shapcott for the first time in several years. Judith, formerly Poetry Series Editor with Penguin Books when they were still publishing poetry, is a long-time supporter of IP. Tom needs no introduction.
After meeting with Melbourne City Library, David pushed off for Gippsland, where he dropped in at Landmark Education Supplies, who provide warehousing for our distributor, the Australia Book Group. He also met with a schools distributor and the library at Bairnsdale before heading north for a meeting at Orange Library and with the new Director of the Central-West Writers Centre, Penny Marr.
His final stop on the tour was at Gilgandra Library, where he offered Retool and Remix to an keen crowd, thanks to the support of Orana Arts, a Dubbo-based regional arts organisation. Orana has already booked him in for a return visit in December to run his Digital Boot Camp workshop, which will lead participants through four digital projects from start to finish, showing how the software makes it all happen.
On Wednesday, 18 February, David will be a guest author at Carindale Library here in Brisbane, talking about the environmental themes of the first two books in the Project Earthmend Series, The Greenhouse Effect and Global Cooling to primary school students.
Hazel Menehira, author of Vocal Enrichment: Path to Enlightenment, has been very active over in New Zealand promoting her new book to various groups at festivals. She met with such a positive reception to her books that we had to ship her more to meet the demand. Well-done, Hazel!
Lia Hills, last year’s winner of the Picks Best Poetry Award for the possibility of flight, has had the US rights for her Text novel The Beginner’s Guide to Living bought by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Needless to say, she had a good Christmas this year!
Sylvia Petter’s still in Europe and finding receptive audiences for her Picks winning short story collection, Back Burning. Read all about it, including her gig with the Leonard Cohen of Vienna, Ernst Molden, on her blog: http://www.mercsworld.blogspot.com/.
Finally, an invitation from Jenni Nixon for you to view her new YouTube video, inspired by her Moo poem from Café Boogie. Definitely Moo-ving!
[These are snippets from full reviews. Click on the link to view the complete review for each title.]
On Stephen Oliver's Harmonic:
With Oliver, you get the real thing – philosophic- poetic power, acute and wry observations, verbal magic and metaphors as fresh as gouts of blood. His language is strong – it’s intoxicatingly and shamelessly masculine, at times reminiscent of the resonances in the voice of Shakespeare.
- Michael Morrissey, Investigate
On Stephen Oliver and Matt Ottley's King Hit:
This is poetry with the impact of a news report...earthy but intellectual, considered and gripping. And with baroque piano figures, rockguitars, driving percussion, cello or exotic oud from Ottley...this is poetry as music in your ear. Not always easy, never pretentiously arch, this is a collection that reveals its many layers slowly - and will take you on many (and diverse) journeys.
On Barry Levy's As If!:
As you might expect, As If! is a read full of grit, and light on hope. It is necessary and illuminating and valuable, not least because it is set in and around Brisbane's back yard.
- Sharon Doyle, The Courier-Mail
The teenagers in the novel jump off the page...Often dark and sometimes cold, bloody and brutal, it is also filled with pathos, love and humanity.
- Josephine Gillespie, The Queensland Times
On Erica Bell's Voyage of the Shuckenoor:
It is a book both confronting and oddly
- Christpher Bantick, Sunday Tasmanian
IP Bushfire Appeal!
IP will be donating books to libraries in the Victorian areas devastated by the recent bushfires, but you can help out, too.
Order ANY title on our list before 1 March, and we'll donate 20% of the cover price to the Red Cross Appeal.
Want to do even more? You can sponsor the donation of a title and direct it to the library of your choice. We'll send it to the library in your name, with the inscription "donated by..."
To ensure your order qualifies, please email it directly to IP Sales, with Bushfire Appeal as your Subject and tell us whether you us to donate 20% of the RRP or to send the book to the library of your choice.