IP eNews 45
the newsletter of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
New Publishing for a New Century
There’s been a cloud of bull-dust stirred lately about digital publishing. Most recently, a senior manager at the Australia Council in an article “Writing for the digital age” in the latest Artery magazine found ‘an air of wait and see in Australian publishing’ that reflects a marketplace where she sees ‘more people on public transport reading books than...game-playing on their phones or laptops’.
Through various seminars OzCo is doing their best to raise awareness about the impact that digital technology is having on the publishing industry and the access of readers to texts, but is it leading the way to ensure that Australia is not left in the shadows of countries that are already seizing the opportunities the new age provides? No, it is not.
The Romance endures: OzCo still believes in the sanctity of the physical book. Innovative publishers like IP still can’t submit proposals for works that are to be first published in digital form. Or perhaps we can, but we know what the answer will be. OzCo has yet to come to grips with print on demand (POD) as a viable and even necessary publishing option. Publishers applying for OzCo grants must commit to minimum initial print runs of copies for prose works even though most literary novels sell on average only 500-600 copies. Publishers like IP who are seeking greener options of printing stock on demand have no chance with OzCo under this outmoded – and often wasteful – system.
OzCo must do more to ensure that Australia has a viable digital publishing industry, or we will be left to choke on the bull-dust. Three years ago, I gave a presentation on what IP was doing in the digital arena at an OzCo/CAL seminar entitled Publishing the Story of the Future. The audience was a Who’s Who of Australian publishing. There was talk afterwards of setting up a steering committee on digital publishing, and I was asked to serve on it. To my knowledge, the committee was never formed. There’s been more talk since then, and the odd guru flown in to let us know what’s happening elsewhere, but no concerted effort to focus the publishing industry’s energy into new publishing approaches.
The Artery article expresses concern for independent publishers who are “struggling” to keep up with digital innovations: “they do not have the necessary in-house expertise or the IT equipment capable of taking on this new level of sophistication”. Wrong again.
IP is at the forefront of digital publishing in Australia, while larger companies, confined by infrastructure, corporate culture and aversion to technological change, continue to sit on their hands. IP has state-of-the-art hardware and software, and the expertise to make an important contribution to what I term New Century Publishing. We are well-connected with major digital companies overseas and are actually making some money from it. IP may have been the first Australian publisher to create Kindle editions of its books, now available in standard size and large print via its partnership with ReadHowYouWant.com. All without a cent of support from OzCo.
The reality is that the driving force in digital publishing and distribution will come from the independent publishing sector in this country, not the multinationals. Those pioneers could do much, much more, if OzCo provided money at the coalface where it’s needed rather than flying in gurus to tell us what’s freely available to browse on the Internet.
Talkfest time is over. IP is not waiting for OzCo to change. We’ve just established the Digital Publishing Centre (DPC) to spur innovation and context creation in Oz.
In a nutshell, the DPC will be a hub for authors, companies and agencies wishing to engage the rapidly expanding digital markets. Authors will be encouraged to work with our assessors and editors to lift their work to publishable standard. Then the DPC will master the work for print via POD as well as eBooks in the emerging standards (pdf, ePub, mobi, etc) and then ensure the author or organisation has access to global markets via digital promotion campaigns.
The DPC will be at the centre of New Century Publishing. We will simplify the supply chain by going directly to retailers and consumers online. We will work as a green enterprise by editing, refining and mastering work digitally, with almost no paper involved (except for the occasional contract!) By relying more heavily on a digital workflow and POD, we will reduce the considerable waste from pulping so common in our industry. And we’ll increase our content creators’ access to global markets by making their work available in territories previously inaccessible to most authors.
We won’t be surprised if some of our first customers are the big publishers themselves!
For more information on the DPC, please go to: <http://ipoz.biz/DPC/DPC.htm>
We’ll see you in cyberspace!
The Big Picture
Maybe it was the worry about the Recession or just an off year for grapes but the judges were a bit disappointed by the overall quality of submissions to the competition this year. We hasten to add that this was NOT true for entries in the Poetry category, which are always strong, perhaps owing to IP's profile as a leading if not the leading, publisher of poetry in Australia, but we did feel that the submissions in the prose categories were not of as high a standard as in previous years.
The overall number of submissions were down from the high of 2009 for a total of 72. Entrants came from all States and Territories except for the Northern Territory, with the percentage breakdown being: New South Wales 35%, Queensland 25%, Victoria 21%, Western Australia 7%, Tasmania 5% and the ACT 3%. New Zealand entries comprised 3% of the total.
Victorian authors won in the Creative Non-fiction and First Book categories, with a Tasmanian taking out Best Poetry, and a New South Wales author winning Best Junior Prose. For High Commended and Commended entries, we had one from Western Australia, two from Queensland and Victoria, and one from New South Wales and New Zealand.
The judges remarked that a number of entries showed promise but would have benefitted from a professional assessment prior to entering the competition. There still seems to be a perception in the writing community that assessment is not a necessary part of the development of a manuscript. The judges noted that in other writing disciplines such as script, assessment is recognised as an essential step in the development of an effective manuscript.
The Results, by Category
This year's Best Fiction entries smacked the judging panel with a historic first: No First Prize. Through the long and short-listing meetings, no winning manuscript emerged and repeatedly, judges were sent away to comb through the Picks pile with IP’s strict criteria in mind.
Best Fiction | Highly Commended
My footsteps follow the curve of the shore, diminishing, at the limit of my vision to a row of dots… an ellipsis.
Author bio: Daniel King, who also writes as "David King", was born in Western Australia and has lived there all his life. He holds degrees in Engineering and English, and a Doctorate in Philosophy. Daniel's first literary publication was in 1986, and since then he has had over fifty stories (and also, in recent years, poetry) published in various Australian and overseas journals.
Best Fiction | Commended
Shifting Colours is a powerful story of family ties, secrets and love, This intriguing novel is foremost about the relationship between Celia and her daughter Miriam and all the struggles and turmoil that come between them. Separated by land and sea, Celia and Miriam’s story begins in South Africa’s violent landscape and then continues in calm, quiet England. As you turn the pages, you are magnetised by the surprises, great details and the captivating writing that takes you into the heart and mind of the characters.
Author bio: Fiona Sussman (nee Stewart) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and immigrated to New Zealand in 1989. A GP by profession, she started writing in earnest in 2005, and in 2009 completed a Masters in Creative Writing through AUT.
Best Creative Non-Fiction | Winner
Author bio: Olwyn Conrau has worked as a journalist, public relations consultant, copywriter, go-go dancer, typist and fruit-picker. She holds a degree in literary studies and has been published in literary anthologies and mainstream print media. The Importance of Being Cool is her first book and she’s currently on the way to finishing her second.
Best Creative Non-Fiction | Commended
Anthony Bianco’s I Hope My God Makes Your Bus Crash and You’re the Only One Who Dies! is a globe-trotting and often irreverent travel memoir that instantly snagged the judges’ attention with its title.
Author bio: The Travel Tart (a.k.a. Anthony Bianco) is a self-proclaimed travel addict who will find any feeble excuse to travel. Anthony discovered he really enjoyed travelling the world when he was sent to a former war zone for work - Kosovo - as his first venture outside of Australiasia.
On the road, Anthony likes risking his life on barely road-worthy forms of transport such as African mini-buses, suicidal Cairo cabs and flatulent camels.
Anthony writes about the funny, offbeat and downright strange aspects of contemporary world travel which can be seen on The Travel Tart website: Offbeat Tales From A Travel Addict -- http://www.thetraveltart.com -- and in 'I Hope That My God Makes Your Bus Crash and You're the Only One Who Dies'.
Best Poetry | Winner
As always the Poetry category was crowded with excellent entries, making the final decisions difficult for the judges.
Lyn Reeves' collection stood out as succinct, imagistic and suggestive as well as multi-layered. One of the judges commented: 'Sometimes the rich sensuality merging with spirit reminds me of Rumi but contemporary. Strong meeting of layered, resonating meaning and sensual imagery.'
The tanka sequence from "Irezumi's Lover" is typical of her sensual verse:
So cool to touch
Reeves is adept at getting into the mind of her charcters, even those from a distant culture, as she does in "Love Letters from a Zulu Girl": "
My eyes are red from weeping,
Best Poetry | Highly Commended
A mix of historic and contemporary social commentary, this collection dares the reader to think about issues that matter. One of the judges commented: "I like the risks this author takes with language and the depth of social commentary. This is poetry with something to say. Unlike many poetry collections that live on the surface of things, here we can penetrate to the sub-text. Also good sense of the dramatic and use of closure."
Consider a Holocaust survivor's view of history, as depicted in the title piece:
we sacrifice everything for our children
while Europe blazed and swallowed up
Author bio: Leah's father was a tailor who learned his craft as a 14 year old boy in Vilna before the outbreak of World War II. He escaped Europe and arrived in Melbourne in 1938. He sewed garments, while his family back in Poland disappeared. Leah was born fifteen years after the end of the war and only learned to sew when she reached medical school - stitching people's injuries back together.
Best Poetry | First Commended
This is a strong collection, notable for its interest in language and experimentation with form, as well as a wry sense of humour as we see in "Journey to the Centre of an Artist":
From a vantage point in your cerebrum
Author bio: Sheryl Persson’s poems have been published in Australia and abroad in journals, e-zines, anthologies and educational publications. As a member of DiVerse, a group of poets who write ‘ekphrasis’ Sheryl reads regularly at galleries and museums. Scarcely Random, a collection of her poems was published in 2007. Sheryl is also the author of four commissioned non-fiction books. Smallpox, Syphilis and Salvation: Medical Breakthroughs that Changed the World was published by Exisle in 2009.
Best Poetry | Second Commended
Well-crafted and accessible, this is poetry under compression where each word and line counts, as in "On a nose-bleed morning":
feeling bad all over
I go out and watch
Author bio: Nicholas Eldridge was born in Melbourne where he currently lives. A graduate of Holmesglen’s Professional Writing & Editing Program, in 2003 he self published the poetry collection Strawberry Pig.
BEST JUNIOR PROSE
We were very excited at the addition of a Junior Prose category this year, and while it didn’t receive a large number of entries we were pleased with the results overall. The judges saw some intriguing premises and good storytelling elements, despite some entries falling well short of publication standard.
Best Junior Prose | Winner
Arlo and the Spindrift Connection is a well-crafted, dynamic adventure story. When Arlo’s friend Kate notices a strange glow coming from the cliffs above the beach the two of them set out on a midnight expedition to discover more.
‘I couldn’t see anything at first,’ Arlo recounts. ‘Then I noticed the tiny gleams of light in the rock, winking on and off, at random, it seemed, like grains of mica catching the light, but brighter, livelier.’
But when they accidentally touch the rock Arlo and Kate are whisked through to another world, which they find inhabited by residents of their own home town who disappeared mysteriously during an earthquake 14 years before. What follows is their attempts to find a way back to their own world, while struggling with strange new laws and customs, trying to blend in in an insular society and battling a corrupt and controlling government.
In Arlo, Blair creates a complex and credible main character with a remarkably strong voice. He is a steady, likeable narrator and injects humour into the telling of the story.
‘I’m called after some folk singer from the sixties,’ he says. ‘Get used to it. I had to.’
Action scenes are tense and compelling, and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion. With polished, good quality writing, Arlo and the Spindrift Connection is an absorbing adventure boasting both depth and humour.
Author bio: Juliet Blair has seen many changes in her native Sydney. (Her school transport was a steam train.) A teacher by vocation, she has taught languages and ESL from Kindergarten to Year 12, while bringing up three boys. She continued to write for many years before seeking publication. Her credits to date include short stories in Woman’s Day and other mass market magazines. Now, in retirement, a new career beckons. It’s never too late!
Best Junior Prose | Commended
The Ruby Bottle is a gentle tale of a young girl who learns to deal with her problems through the help of a djinn she finds when cleaning a dusty old bottle. Amber is immediately established as a likeable main character and the djinn jumps from the page with his strong personality, in this unique take on the age-old genie myth.
‘I’m a djinn, not a genie,’ the djinn tells Amber. ‘That’s why I’m red and not green ... And just so you know, I’m a thinker. I help solve problems. And I don’t grant wishes.’
Through her relationship with the djinn Amber grows and matures, learning new skills and discovering new strengths. The reader feels for Amber as she struggles against adversity, and rejoices with her in her eventual triumphs.
With its engaging main character, evocative descriptions and elements of fantasy, this warm, celebratory tale is an enjoyable read that will appeal to young people.
Author bio: Janet Reid grew up on a dairy farm with hay sheds and pigsties, old abandoned farm machinery and lots of space. It was a haven for hours of story weaving with her sister between milking the cows and feeding the calves and pigs.
She went into teaching and taught in places from the cane fields in Central Queensland to Brisbane before retiring to concentrate on her writing. She lives on the northern outskirts of Brisbane with her husband, two teenage sons and one very 'human' cat called Kelsey.
Best First Book | Winner
The judges had no problem awarding Best First Book to this accomplished verse novel. The text is a memoir/history with strong political commentary. The author is a musician who is crossing over into text. The text is accompanied by a music CD with tracks to be played as the reader moves through the novel, and the music itself is varied in scope and of production standard – just the kind of cross-over project that IP is looking for. Mature in vision and evocative emotionally, this is page-turning verse that should find a wide audience.
The novel can be personal and reflective, as in "Breathe":
I think of Dad
Then to the east,
Or it can be socially aware of the atrocities in East Timor, as in "Another Place":
Up in front of us,
Johnny’s in another place.
Maybe he’s still standing
Wherever he is
a place of vast
Author bio: James Laidler is an emerging writer, poet and spoken word performer from country Victoria. His first verse novel, The taste of apple, comes with a studio-produced CD of spoken word tracks and songs that trace the novel’s main narrative thread. The first chapter of James’ verse novel was accepted for the Australian Poetry Centre’s Monologues Series for 2010 and will be adapted for and performed on stage this year. James’ work has been featured on Writer’s Radio Adelaide, Radio National’s 360 program, Melbourne’s RRR, Cordite Poetry Review and Indie feed, as well as in the literary journals Going Down Swinging and Peril. In 2009, James' short story, The memory of Christmas, placed second in the FAW Shoalhaven literary awards, while his poem, "A Doctor's work", was highly commended in the 2009 CJ Dennis literary Awards. As a performance poet, James also made the Victorian State Final of the Australian Poetry Slam for 2009.
Best First Book | Commended
Author bio: Ben Conquest was born in Sydney, Australia in 1980. He is a writer, teacher and father to his son, Tyler. Ben graduated with Honours in Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2009. Previous to his studies, Ben trained as a dancer with the Australian Ballet School before joining the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2000. Ben danced as a principal with the company to critical acclaim. He left his dancing career in 2005 to pursue his passion for writing. Ben believes he was born to create innovative contemporary fiction that fuses his theatrical experience with current real life issues.
[Anna Bartlett interviews Hazel Edwards on the verge of the release of her first IP Kidz title, Plato the PlatypusPlumber (part-time)]
AB: Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time) is the story of a young boy called Zanzibar and his imaginary friend, Plato the Platypus, who helps solve problems around Zanzibar’s house, teaching him useful skills along the way. Where did the idea for a platypus plumber first come from, and how long ago did you think of it?
HE: Platypus have always fascinated me because they seem to be made from left-over shapes. They’re amphibious, and yet have a duck bill. Their proper name is ornithorhynchus, and that sounds mysterious too. My grandmother, who taught me to read, always used the proper name for the ornithorhynchus. I always had trouble remembering how to spell it, but could say the word.
A plumber has to fix watery problems. I noticed one plumber with a van called Tap Doctor and put that label in my ideas notebook. And since platypus were starting to come back into the urban waterways of Melbourne, I imagined a creek, with ferals on the bike path and old houses needing lots of plumbing help. Something like the real trails beside Melbourne’s Yarra River with the old, rambling houses.
But what if the toolkit contained tools for fixing grumpy people as well as water problems? ‘What if?’ is a great way to create a story with two things which don’t usually go together.
I’m not good on dates, but the first draft of this story was about 13 years ago. Originally it was an idea for a TV series, so Zanzibar’s family had to be worked out in more detail, as a cast. Each of the family had dreams: Mum wanted to travel, Dad was a muso-renovator and Gran had bonsai plants and TV soapies. Zanzibar had his imaginary friend Plato, the Platypus Plumber who could fix all problems.
AB: Plato and Zanzibar have lots of adventures together, but one important aspect of the story is the way it talks about issues like drought and water conservation. What made you think of including these issues, and why did you think it was important to do so?
HE: As an author I’m often invited to rural areas, and drought is a reality in country towns. Water tanks are also being put up in city school yards. I don’t want to ‘teach’ in my stories. I just want readers to see things from someone else’s point of view.
AB: The story also touches on some of the threats to native animals like Plato: feral animals, litter and pollution, for example. Is this a topic that interests you personally?
HE: As a family we have always orienteered in the bush. So we’ve been aware of native animals like wombats, kangaroos and platypus. But orienteers also respect the bush, and leave nothing behind except footprints. Polluting the water causes problems for those who come after you.
Also having been an Antarctic expeditioner, I’m aware of the impact of pollution on the icy environment.
AB: Throughout the story, and with Plato’s help, Zanzibar develops problem-solving skills and resourcefulness. Why do you think it’s important to show children that they can learn to solve problems and work things out for themselves?
HE: Being willing to try new ways of solving problems, even if you get it wrong occasionally, is the only way we learn. It’s ok to do things differently.
AB: Your most well-known book, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake, is also about a child with an imaginary friend. What do you think particularly appeals to kids about stories with imaginary friends in them?
HE: Imaginary friends provide reassurance because they have all the answers. Or you imagine they may have.
AB: Plato is socially relevant, but also fun, and has great potential for use in a classroom, as a starting point for discussing and exploring different environmental issues. What are some ways you imagine it being used in a classroom setting?
HE: The tool kit is an excellent starting place. Invite children to design or make their own tool kits, including the tools. Often their reasons for including the tools show how problems might be tackled.
Some people are tactile, and learn better when they can feel or make things. Others enjoy designing on paper. Children could map the local creek, and indicate the water levels at different times. They could find out about Platypus Watch and micro-tags, or make platypus prints which lead into the library and up to the shelf with the ‘Plato the Platypus Plumber’ book.
Children could research the real Plato, make platypus and feral puppets, map and create a model of the book’s setting or create a wall chart with Platypus words (like monotreme) and their meanings. They could write part of Plato’s diary or Work Log, or else imagine they are a film-maker creating a TV series based on Plato, and think of some of the water emergencies to which he might be called.
Check out my website www.hazeledwards.com for news of what others are doing with this book.
We'd hate to say that former NSW Premier Bob Carr is a poor loser, but he seems to find it hard to take NO for an answer on the issue of Parallel Importation. The ex-Premier strained to find a connection between the recent preview of the iPad and the need of major book chains to have access to supposedly cheaper versions of Australian books being printed overseas. As if the availability of cheaper paperbacks would stem the tide of eBooks about to sweep over Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald acknowledged that Carr sits on the board of Dymocks, one of Australia's largest chain stores, but they failed to discover that Dymocks and other chains such as Angus & Robertson and Borders already import cheap editions via international wholesalers such as Ingrams.
How do we know this is happening? Quite by accident. Anecdotal evidence came to our attention that Borders had ordered in several copies of one of our new releases, A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India. Yet our distributor had logged no such orders. Cross checking to our POD partner Lightning Source, based in the USA and UK, we found several orders placed for the title. Some might have been shipped to American bookshops and libraries but more likely than not, we had found the source for the Borders stock. Lighning Source confirmed that some IP stock had been shipped to Australia via Ingrams International, who have an office in Sydney, though they did not specifically name that title.
Doth Bob Carr protest too much? We think so. And we wonder if this practice is legal, given the Government's decision on Parallel Importation.
[We've heard from Hazel Edwards about her views as author of Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time), but here's another perspective from the point of view of the book's illustrator.]
AB: Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time) is your first picture book. How did you find the whole process? Were there any surprises?
JP: Loved it! Discussing the script with Hazel over coffees was great fun and brought back memories of working together with Mark Sexton waaay back in the day when we used to produce Bug & Stump (our award-winning comic which ran for 9 issues in the mid 90s).
I also enjoyed being able to share the experience with my daughters, Cassandra and Stephanie, both of whom got quite a thrill out of seeing a book being created from scratch.
AB: What was most challenging about illustrating Plato? What was most rewarding?
JP: Finding time to work on the book was quite a struggle. I work full-time as a graphic designer at Advertising Australia, and coupling this with freelance work for Sydney Comedy Festival and Antipodes Lonsdale St Festival, and add for good measure the demands of being a dad…well let’s just say that there were many nights I hit the sack to the sound of the local magpies’ morning chorus.
Interesting aside: Hazel and I had first met 10 years earlier, and Plato was already more than just a concept even then. I made some preliminary sketches of the character then, but the project did not progress past that for the time.
Fast forward to last year. One of our main clients at AA is Intimo Lingerie, where Kim Edwards is our liaison. Kim is Hazel’s daughter, and through this connection the association between Hazel and me was revived, allowing her to call me when she was ready to revisit Plato. Kizmet?
AB: Where do you like to work when you’re illustrating? How much do you work with pencils and paint, and how much do you do digitally?
JP: I’m a big fan of pencils. I draw rather than paint. I found an old wooden box with a sliding lid in which I would keep drawing equipment and pages currently being worked on, and lug it about with me wherever I went. A spare five minutes would find me drawing on top of the box, balanced upon my lap. Lunch breaks at work were spent at local parks or at a café, equipment and papers scattered on my table.
Having roughed out the layout, I’ll scan them and cut and paste until the composition is almost right. Then I change everything to light blue, print it all out, then pencil over that. I repeat this process again and again, each time tightening the pencils and shading until I have a black and white drawing that is ready for colouring.
I then scan in, adjust levels and contrast, and begin colouring using Adobe Photoshop. I wanted a textural feel to this book, so I created a natural texture, which I overlayed onto the coloured art. I also used textures from photos I took around Scotchman’s Creek in Mt Waverley whilst researching creeks and waterways.
AB: The illustrations in Plato have lots of colour and movement to appeal to children. What made you decide on this style?
JP: Finding a style that both Hazel and I were happy with was quite difficult. As mentioned earlier, initial sketches had been done ten years ago. More recently, there were many attempts and trials at creating a look we felt captured the playful, lyrical feel and subject of the story.
Once decided upon, the style was a natural fit for me. The textures helped a great deal to tie the whole book together and the tertiary colours tending to yellows give the book a natural, earthy feel that I think suits it quite well too.
AB: You created the font used in Plato – a child’s handwriting font – specially for the book. Tell us about how you did this. What did it involve?
JP: I initially tried setting the type in existing typefaces, but I felt that the text was an intruder on the page. The illustrations have no clear boundaries, and each blends into the other, so I thought that the type should blend into the art better.
Then it occurred to me that the whole book is written from Plato’s perspective, as a journal basically. And given this, I thought his handwriting should look like that of a child. Luckily I had one handy, so I asked Cassandra – aged 7 – to write out the text for each page.
What began as unbridled enthusiasm quickly turned to horror and despair at the thought of writing so much text. I didn’t want the process to be difficult and negative for her, so I asked her to write some examples of each letter, number, punctuation, etc. Using this, I found a website (yourfont.com) which allowed me to generate an actual font!
Now Cassandra proudly boasts to her friends that she made a book! And I guess in a way, she did. Of course, this does mean that I’m forced to do at least one more book, so that my other daughter Stephanie can make her font.
[Jess Webster was the 2009 IP Picks Best First Book Award winner for her Young Adult fantasy novel The Secret Stealer.]
AB: The Secret Stealer is the story of nine-year-old James and his assorted friends, and their quest to right (at least a few of) the injustices of the world after James’s deepest secret is stolen from him and he finds himself under a magical curse. It’s also your first novel. Was the publishing process what you expected, or not? What surprised you most about it?
JW: In truth I knew very little about the publishing or editing process, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. At first it was disappointing to see small bits and pieces that I liked trimmed off and thrown into the metaphorical green-waste bin, but the way I see it, the product was a lot neater in the end – a bit like a well-kept hedge! Maybe even a hedge sculpture. But let’s not take the metaphor too far.
To be honest, what surprised me most was the discovery that I have a far worse grasp of English grammar than I’d originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, I was a fairly nerdy kid at school, but I don’t believe I heard the phrase ‘non-restrictive clause’ once in those 13 years. Thankfully, however, my editor has a fantastic grasp of grammar.
AB: This manuscript won Best First Book last year in IP Picks, and the judges commented that the plot, themes and characters were very well-realised. How long had you spent writing and working on the story before you entered it in IP Picks?
JW: The Secret Stealer came about as a blending of two completely separate, unfinished short stories I had begun writing as a teenager. The first was about an idiotic magician (Louis d’Arlend) who could do only one thing: steal secrets. The second was about a sweet nine-year-old boy living at a Sydney boarding school (James Winchester IV), who was always getting himself into scrapes due to his tendency to jump to wrong conclusions and (with the very best of intentions) attempt to fix that which had never even been broken.
A couple of years later, whilst I happened to have both stories open on my computer screen, I decided it could be interesting to somehow weave the two concepts together. And The Secret Stealer was born! It took me the better part of 2008 to write it from concept to finish.
AB: What made you decide to enter it in the competition?
JW: All I knew was that I had written a story that had entertained at least four people so far, and I was curious to see if an impartial panel of judges would deem it as good as my friends told me it was. (That, and also I would get a free book called Blood and Guts by Gloria Burley for entering. A very entertaining read!)
AB: The story has a very creative premise – involving magic curses, dark secrets, invisibility and special powers – and the plot is well-crafted. Was it difficult to come up with the different aspects of the story, or did the ideas just fall into place?
JW: Often when I have nothing to do – waiting for traffic lights or standing in an elevator – I find myself wondering: what if? Then I try to come up with a logical answer to an impossible and/or bizarre presenting scenario. This is how most of my stories begin.
I also like to have a very clear picture of my characters and how they’d respond to different situations (even situations that are not in the story), because, the way I see it, if you know your characters well enough, the story basically writes itself. And, providing you’ve come up with some fun, humanly flawed characters, the resulting story should be pretty entertaining.
AB: The Secret Stealer is a fun story, with quirky humour, but at the same time it touches on more serious themes in places, and shows the challenges James faces in dealing with the adult world. Did you find it difficult to balance the humour with the more serious parts of the book?
JW: To be honest, I had not consciously thought about balancing humour with the more serious parts, seeing as how life seems to throw both at us at seemingly random times. What is more important, I think, is how the characters (or we, in life), respond to those situations. Even whilst we suffer our various tragedies, it’s important we keep enough perspective to be able to laugh, even if it’s just at small things, or at ourselves. Humour and tragedy are two things that every life will encounter, and I feel it’s important that stories, as altered representations of life and reality, have elements of both. When James is faced with both challenges and tragedy, it affects him, of course, but he doesn’t let it ruin him. Life throws a spanner in the works, and James does his best to overcome.
AB: The Secret Stealer would appeal to a very wide age group: anyone from about 14 and up. Did it surprise you when you found this out, or were you originally writing it for a wide audience?
JW: Yes, I was quite surprised! Mostly because I write for my own enjoyment; and I was always under the impression that my humour can be a little odd sometimes… I was happy to discover that it appealed at least to my mother and a few close friends, but sometimes I’d find myself wondering if they were just being nice… And even since winning IP Picks, I occasionally still doubt myself, thinking: maybe I just got lucky. But considering that these friends and my mother tend to give honest opinions and very ‘constructive’ criticism, and the fact that I (more often than not) lose at card and board games, I’m not so sure it’s luck after all.
[IP Prose Editor Lauren Daniels gets a few things off her chest about submissions good and bad, so pay attention!]
We're eagerly awaiting the arrival in port of two new kids titles, including our second YA novel. Hazel Edwards and John Petropoulos picture book Plato, the Platypus Plumber (part-time) has already stirred a great deal of interest, with the phone running hot with pre-orders. In our first ever launch in Indonesia, Hazel attended Pasir Ridge, International School,
Meg Baxter, the Early Childhood teacher and her enthusiastic staff had organised a special ‘mud’ cake iced with a replica of the cover as well as ‘muddy’ chocolate milk. SFX of water noises. Charts of platypus facts, and even an story house, surrounded by recycled branches (in the spirit of the story) with an author chair for the ‘first’ reading. To the side was a ‘creek’ with platypus shapes.
For more information on this IP Kidz first, check out the Reading Stack article on the Indonesian launch.
Plato joins a host of IP Kidz books with an environment theme, including:
Lame Duck Protest by Goldie Alexander & Michele Gaudion
The Giggle Gum Tree by Juliet Williams & ELizabeth Botté
Zahara's Rose by Libby Hathorn & Doris Unger
Plato is already available for order in North America and Europe in the paperback edition.
Also about to land in Australia is The Secret Stealer by Jess Webster. Published under our Glass House Books imprint, it is a creative and well-crafted fantasy story for young adults, which takes the reader on an entertaining ride as it looks at curses, good and evil, and the challenges of dealing with the adult world when you're still a kid. An exceptionally well-written, engrossing, compelling and easy to read novel, with characters that are believeable and fully developed.
When she isn't writing, in her spare time Jess Webster is a medical student at the University of Wollongong. The Secret Stealer was the 2009 IP Picks Best First Book Award winner.
Coming up later this year we have two titles by Edel Wignell; Christine's Matilda, being illustrated by Elizabeth Botté, who also illustrated The Giggle Gum Tree, as well as Long Live Us! a fractured fairy tale being illustrated by Peter Alert; a new Mark Carthew / Mike Spoor picture book, Witches Britches, Itches & Twitches; About Face by Robert Moore, a picture book being illustrated by MonkeyStack to complement their animated version; and Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher by first-time author/illustrator Celine Eimann, who pitched her work to David and Anna at last year's CYA Conference in Brisbane.
The other big news for Kidz is that we are working on translations of some of our picture books. Initially these will be Spanish and German translations of Real Guns, The Giggle Gum Tree, Zahara's Rose and Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time). Our Spanish translator is Guadalupe Roseales-Martinez from Translations Linking Services and our German translator is Cindy Ruch, a visiting student from Germany studying at the University of Queensland and also interning at IP. John Petropoulos, illustrator of Plato, has even offered to help prepare a Greek edition of that book!
The plan is to make the translated editions available soon via our print on demand partners Lightning Source and CreateSpace, but also keep an eye open for Spanish and German publishers who might want to publish their own editions of the books.
The recent announcement of the iPad has sent a tidal wave through the publishing world. Rupert Murdock loves the iPad, Stephen Frye wants one, and it's already being billed as a "Kindle-killer", and Bob Carr thinks publishers should be afraid, very afraid.
Do we look worried?
Days before Steve Jobs announced the iPad, IP launched our Digital Publishing Centre. In brief, the DPC will give authors, publishers and companies quick access to digital publication. This can mean:
• sending digital masters to our POD (print on demand) partners to enable short print runs of physical books
• uploading files to Amazon or Apple for their Kindle and iPad
• converting digital files to ePub, mobi or pdf formats for a variety of eBook Readers
The beauty of the DPC model is that quality will not have to be sacrificed. Titles published by the DPC will still have access to IP's full editorial and design services to ensure the highest quality standards are maintained. Once published, DPC titles will be available 24/7 on dozens of sites around the world.
For complete details on the DPC and how you or your organisation can claim your stake in the digital publishing world, check out the DPC site.
Our Summer Tour proved to be our best ever. Sold-out events on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane kicked off the Season, followed by sessions in Dubbo, Ballarat, Melbourne, Bairnsdale, Wollongong and Sydney. For more details, check out Out & About.
In a bold new move, IP Sales is expanding its operations to cover all aspects of distribution for our imprints as well as distribution for select titles published outside IP. There's an old saying that if you want something done right, you'd better do it yourself, and this seems to apply to book distribution. Our experience with external distributors has been less than satisfactory. Our titles were not getting the exposure and promotion they deserved. We are determined that they will, henceforth.
This will require rethinking and updating our methods and strategies for distribution. If Old Century methods aren't working, why shouldn't we try something different?
Like other aspects of the book trade, distribution channels are changing. Fewer and fewer libraries want to meet with individual booksellers, and even bookshops have less and less time to meet with reps. When IP releases a title, within days it becomes accessible to people around the world via dozens of online sites offering it for sale. There are now more efficient ways of spreading the word about our new titles than relying on reps who know little about them. We can promote to Amazon, Google and other sites with enriched promotional detail that gives prospective buyers of our titles immediate access to complete and accurate information.
This new wave approach to distribution will see much more done online, with information being available 24/7 to physical and virtual booksellers and individuals globally.
The expanding market for eBooks will see more direct contact between buyers, authors and publishers, simplifying the supply chain and making books more affordable and accessible than ever before.
New Century Distribution will complement New Century Publishing, and IP Sales will be riding high on that wave.
We are stepping up our efforts to sign deals with foreign publishers that would see editions of our titles in other territories. With the help of Trade Queensland, we are talking to several publishers in India about our children's and adult's list. We have also commissioned Spanish and German editions of some of our picture books, as well as a Spanish edition of David Reiter's Hemingway in Spain, a poetry book now in its second edition with IP. Finally we are about to sign an agreement with an agent that would see us represented in China and Taiwan. Exciting times, indeed!
New Releases from IPS
IPS has been distributing publications by the Australian Society of Friends (Quakers) for some time, and we now have the latest from their James Backhouse Lecture Series, Finding Our Voice: Our truth, community and journey as Australian Young Friends. It's a compendium of views from members of the Young Quakers, defining themselves as a special spiritual community within the larger Quaker movement. PB, 64pp, ISBN 9780980325867; AU$15.95
Also a familiar face – or should we say voice – on the IP list is Bush Poet Extraordinaire Jack Drake. We've been selling his original bush poetry CDs for some time – here and overseas via CD Baby. But now he's decided to compile a CD called Australian Bush Poetry Classics on which he performs the work of some of the traditional names like Banjo Patterson, CJ Dennis and Henry Lawson. His idea is to sell them into schools , complete with a teacher's guide, and we think he's onto something. CD-R, 65min, ISBN 9780957847767, AU$25.
Do you have a new book to promote? Did you know that IP Sales has developed an extensive network of libraries, bookshops and suppliers to schools and libraries? Have a look at the IPS Page to see if we can help.
Our Summer Season kicked off with a very scenic launch of Tracy Woolley's Inspire Your Day : A Little Book of Inspiration at the Mooloolaba Surf Club. The views over the twilight beach were fitting since Tracy's book is a melding of her terrific photography of Australian landscapes juxtaposed with inspirational sayings from some of the world's great thinkers.
Our Summer Gala Weekend in Brisbane kicked off with a two course dinner at the Punjabi Palace in West End, also a fitting setting since one of the books we were launching was Josh Donellan's A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India. Just before the first course arrived, we had readings from Josh and Rebecca Bloomer (Willow Farrington Bites Back) and Tracy talked about her photographs.
We then returned to more familiar turf at the Performance Studio at 4MBS for the Gala Performance, where the other readers were joined by Nadine Neumann (Wobbles: An Olympic Story). Nadine had already mounted launches of her own down in New South Wales at swimming events, and we delighted to have her join us, especially since she's expecting her second child!
David then hit the road for Dubbo, where he gave a talk and served on a panel about publishing sponsored by Orana Arts and MacQuarie Regional Library.
Then it was off to Ballarat for the launch of Lorraine McGuigan's IP Picks 2009 winning poetry collection Wings of the Same Bird. In the audience were EA Gleeson (in between the dancing) and Bruce Oakman, whose collection In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts will be published in our next Season. Ballarat continues to live up to its reputation of being a hotbed of poetry!
In Melbourne, we had two more successful events. The first was a multi-author event at Ross House, where Lorraine was joined by Tracy, Josh, Rebecca and Ashley Capes (Stepping Over Seasons) before an audience of more than 70 people. The following day, Lorraine and Ashley read at Collected Works Bookshop, with the kind support of our friend Kris Hemensley and the best-ever turn-out we've had there.
After a meeting at Bega Library that might result in a future exhibition of Dale Kentwell's artwork from Mum: speaking Latin with a singlet tan, David gave a talk and a reading from Primary Instinct at Wollongong Library. The audience may have been a bit small, but the pastries were delicious!
The Tour ended on a high with another multi-author launch at the NSW Writers' Centre, following David's digital workshops that weekend. Nadine, Tracy, Josh and Rebecca were joined by Libby Hathorn, who introduced her latest picture book, Zahara's Rose, and had some very kind things to say about IP Kidz. Thanks, Libby!
Congratulations to Libby for her awards in the YA category of the Society of Women Authors NSW Biennial Awards for Georgina (first place) and Fire Song and Letters to a Princess (commended).
While we're in congratulatory mode, congratulations too to Melior Simms, whose poem from our Voyagers: Science Fiction from New Zealand anthology has been nominated for an international poetry award, the Rhysling Award. Coverage of Melior's achievement in the Waikato Times continues the good press we've had for this fine book.
Goldie Alexander has been out there actively promoting her latest IP Kidz title, Hedgeburners: an A~Z Mystery. As well as appearing on the ABC's Crime Couch recently, she was stage centre in an article in the Sunday Age about how seniors are getting into Facebook, not only to keep in contact with the grandkids but also to promote their own work. Oldies Rule! Goldie also reports that she won first prize in the Gilgamesh Fables Short Story Competition – well-done!
Nadine Neumann is flexing her Olympic muscle on the promotional trail for her memoir Wobbles, single-handedly selling 300 copies of the book to an alumni event at MacQuarie University and at swimming carnival events. Good on you, Nadine! IP joined in the spirit by donating a percentage of the proceeds to the MS Society.
[These are snippets from full reviews. Click on the link to view the complete review for each title.]
On David Gilbey's Death and the Motorway
“Gilbey is able to let plain detail do its work and so come up with a moving poem. Robert Lowell set the standard for this kind of writing fifty years ago in Life Studies — and it's not nearly as easy as it may seem.”
- Geoff Page, Canberra Times
On Josh Donellan's A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India
“This debut novel from local boy J. M. Donellan is freaking hilarious. It's got all indicators of a great novel, including the ones that shouldn't be. Anecdotal and strange, he uses a language of an American comedian with a sort of British wit.”
- Sarah Werkmeister, FourThousand
On Libby Hathorn's Zahara's Rose:
“What I loved about Zahara's Rose was the reminder that, something now so common to us, must have seemed exquisite when first discovered. Libby describes the perfume as the perfume of paradise, honey, musk, cinnamon. Only sweeter. The Flower of Heaven. And yet, now we take this flower for granted. Let's hope, that when our children of today hear Zahara's story, they will remember to stop and smell the roses.
"The setting for this beautifully illustrated book is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon that overlook the Euphrates River, created by King Nebuchadnezzar for his new bride, Queen Amyritis, to alleviate any longing for her homeland, Persia. This delicate story on the birth of beauty is illustrated in both soft and vibrant watercolour, with pages and cover framed in attractive borders."
– Anastasia Gonis, The Reading Stack
"The warm relationship between grandchild and grandparent provides as welcome an anchor for young readers visiting an unknown land and culture as it does for Zahara."
– Sharon Greenaway, Magpies
On Di Bates Aussie Kid Heroes:
This is a rich, informative collection of modern and older stories that will interest, inspire and move readers deeply about children, known and unknown, who left their mark in some extraordinary and individual way on the world. Full of interesting facts, not a word is wasted within the 118 pages. This is a priceless addition to any bookshelf.
– Anastasia Gonis, The Reading Stack
The Almost January Clearance...
Has your credit card recovered from helping the country out of recession? We think you deserve a bargain for showing good old Aussie Spirit, so we're offering a 2 for 1 special this issue. That's right, dear readers, 2 FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!
Orders must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please only individuals need apply – no library suppliers in disguise!
One more thing: you need to place your order by 28 Feb, OK?
LIST ONE (you buy these)
Zahara's Rose, $26.95
Inspire Your Day, $32.95
The Hitchers of Oz, $32.95
The World Cup Baby, $32.95
Primary Instinct, $30
LIST TWO (you get these for free)
Lame Duck Protest (worth $24.95, even on eBay)
Another (worth $28, or at least $27.95)
Aussie Kid Heroes (worth $24.95 - what price heroism?)
Blood and Guts (worth $30; more if you're scheduled for elective surgery!)
Vocal Enrichment: Path to Enlightenment (worth $25 at half the price)