Ruin
 
the newsletter of Interactive Publications Pty Ltd

 
 

Director's Welcome

DR_Photo

Welcome to our third newsletter of the year, which I hope finds our Southern Hemisphere readers keeping warm!

The last three months have kept us busy, with the start-up of our new Digital Publishing Centre, the focal point for our digital publishing and marketing activities, refining our workflow to be more efficient in sending content to eBook platforms like the Kindle and iPad, and fine-tuning our distribution services through IP Sales in concert with our local and international distribution partners.

We were pleased to see that the Australia Council is once again supporting our publishing program with a grant. Interestingly, this was for a children's picture book, the first IP Kidz title OzCo has supported. To be fair, it was only the second year we applied for funding for a kids' title, but we certainly appreciate the recognition that the grant gives to our newest, but most rapidly growing, imprint.

I've had a busy three months, with a trip to India to meet with publishers and film companies, workshops and talks at the NSW Writers' Centre, the New England Writers' Centre, the South Australia Writers Centre and at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, where I had a month long stint as Established Writer-in-Residence and completed the third junior novel in my Project Earth-Mend Series, Tiger Tames the Min Min, as well as making a start on a new film based on my poetry sequence "The Nullarbor Song Cycle". All this and more is covered in Out & About.

Ten new titles are either being printed at the moment or on their way to press, and in focus we have interesting interviews with several of our new authors: Lyn Reeves (Designs on the Body); Leah Kaminsky (Stitching Through Time); James Laidler & Don Stewart (The Taste of Apple) and Olwyn Conrau (The Importance of Being Cool).

Let me remind those of you interested in learning more about our digital program and the impact that the digital publishing revolution is having on creators and readers alike to subscribe to my eBook Series Your eBook Survival Kit. It's now in its eighth issue of ten and will then be revised based on input and questions from subscribers into a final form and made available as – you guessed it – an eBook! New subscribers automatically receive the previous issues by email.

For more up-to-date info on IP and the world of publishing as we see it, consider following us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this issue and your ideas for future issues.

Cheers!

David

Editorial

The Arts: A Renewable Resource?

Though I'm not the least bit surprised at the indifference showed by the major political parties – even the Greens – in the recent Australian election campaign it does seem that the current policy vacuum deserves filling. There might even be some political points to be scored by the party that does come up with a progressive party to foster more support for the arts here, given the fact that the arts are not only a renewable but a growing resource in our country, despite decades of poor funding by a string of Governments. They're relatively non-polluting, too.

Statistics show that more people subscribe to and attend arts-related events in this country, yet the coverage of them by the media is pathetic – unless the well-worn cliché of some marginal arts project being supported by taxpayers' money can be trotted out. This only serves to reinforce the suspicion that artists too often get a 'free ride' in our society, contributing little value to our social fabric. On the other hand, we have sporting 'heroes' risking life and limb on the playing field, and often ending up a burden on the health system due to injuries that could be avoided if they wore proper protective equipment. They're always good for a headline, though, after a bad boys' night out, so the media love them.

Maybe an exposé of the Secret Life of a Poet will help raise the profile of writers in our community. If there is a direct correlation between the salary packet of sporting heroes and their public behaviour, would artists benefit by being more outrageous in their private lives? Probably not – unless they were caught having it off with a golfer in the rough.

Of all the networks, only the ABC managed a segment about the arts, and the continuing plight of artists in our community, many of whom, if they dare to ply their art full-time, earn far less than the minimum wage. Artists' income is falling further behind the cost of living, which suggests that our society values them even less than nurses and teachers.

While the Australia Council offers some funding support, this is very thin on the round, and even for those few applicants who are successful at getting grants the level of support hasn't kept pace with the CPI. Perhaps OzCo should be working more publicly to increase its funding base in support of artists and arts organisations.

In the political arena, there's space for creativity here. Rather than regarding financially strapped artists as merely 'unemployed' and subjecting them to humiliation of queuing up at Centrelink with people who really aren't interested in working, why isn't there a scheme that rewards proven artists with a means tested guaranteed wage that could be supplemented with their earnings? To enter such a program, artists could be certified by their professional body, e.g. a State writers' centre, and then be eligible for funding (we certainly wouldn't want to leave this certification to arts bureaucrats!)

The cultural fabric of Australia would certainly be the better for it, the dole queue lines at Centrelink would be shorter, and the political party that ran with the policy might just get over the line in the next election. Better hurry – it might not be far away!

— DR

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Focus

Interview 1: James Laidler & Don Stewart

[James Laidler and Don Stewart's The Taste of Apple was the winner of IP Picks 2010 Best First Book. Daniel O'Regan interviews them.]

DO: The obvious question first: Taste of Apple features as one of its central themes the plight of the Timor Leste and its people. Why is  this an issue that you feel strongly about?

JL: The plight of Timor Leste has always been close to my heart. Throughout the 1990s I was actively involved in the East Timorese liberation movement. What drew me to this issue, in particular, was the hidden historical debt Australia owed toJamesL the East Timorese people for their steadfast support of our diggers during the Second World War. It is a history that has been sadly neglected in our country. In my novel, I wished to explore this issue and encourage other Australian to understand its significance.

DO: The Taste of Apple is a verse novel. Ultimately, which aspect of it do you consider stronger: the poetry or the narrative? Do you think either could or should stand on its own?

JL: I think that both the poetry and the narrative are equally important; one reinforcing the other. Clearly, it in not a 'book of poetry' and it was never intended to be so. I consider it more as work of poetic prose. Think of it as a new form of literary expression equivalent to 'impressionism' in painting circles if you must, although this analogy is rather clumsy. Nevertheless, like an impressionist painting, the narrative bombards the senses with imagery, rhythms, and the graceful presence of 'white space'. It is up to the reader to fill in the gaps that a prose novel would normal fill. I believe this bestows a level of dignity upon the reader who is asked to actively engage with the narrative. You cannot read The taste of apple as a passive observer.

DO: Unlike most coming-of-age stories there is no real romantic element in Taste of Apple. Was this a deliberate avoidance?
JL: Yes, it was intentional. Coming-of-age romance can be very cliché. The reality is that for most young teenagers is that they dream of romance, but experience it very rarely. Most young male teenagers feel awkward in themselves and do not getTasteApple into an intimate relationship with someone until they leave school. The main protagonist, Pedro, feels sexual urges and the desire for intimacy like any other teenager, but his experience of relationships with women is one of alienation. Pedro compensates for this his lack of intimacy by indulging in pornography and masturbation. I believe this is a accurate insight into the life of many teenage boys. The narrative, instead of romance, focuses on the importance of friendship. In a society obsessed with sex and self image, I find this a welcome relief.

DO: Music and books are media that are not usually mixed. Why do you think this is?

DS: I'm not really sure but I suspect it's got something to do with the perception DonSpeople have held until fairly recently that books are something to be read - preferably via paper.  The advent of new technologies and new ways of delivering books via electronic media has allowed us all to think a little more laterally about books.  Music, has been an integral part of film from the beginning, so to me it makes perfect sense that music should be part of the reading experience.

DO: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, in this case, the poetry  or the music? Was one written in response to the themes brought about  in the other?

DS: The concept of music being part of the novel came from James and so most of the tracks were given to me as pretty completed poems which I then composed the music for.  A couple of tracks – “Richmond Town” being one,  I’d written the music a couple of years earlier.  Johnny’s song was written lyrically and musically by James and I but came from the context of the story.

DO: This book is a real multi-media affair: How did you go about striking a balance between music, spoken word and background effects (such as newspaper clips) in a way that it'd appeal to the general community?

JL & DS: Even though the book is presented in a multimedia format, it is still fundamentally a verse novel.  The music and audio effects used were chosen because we felt they would enhance the reader’s experience of the novel.  We only chose 13 tracks because that represents an album length of music,  anymore then this would have required much more time (the music took 15 months to produce).  We chose to present poems from various parts of the novel so that the reader has an experience of the music at various places throughout the novel.  The feedback we’ve had so far is that we’ve got the balance about the right.

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Interview 2: Leah Kaminsky

[David Reiter interviewed Leah Kaminsky about her IP Picks 2010 Highly Commended poetry book Stitching Through Things.]

DR: Your poetry crosses cultural boundaries. To what extent can poetry be a vehicle for promoting cultural understanding and even peace?
 
LK: Reading poetry from other cultures can give us a window into the way people, quite different from ourselves, view the world. This is true of literature in general. Conflict can degrade language into a series of cliches and slogans and to me, poetry can be an antidote to this. To read the poetry of the 'other' is to be afforded a chance to glimpse into his soul and to the humanity that unites us. David Grossman writes: " I write, and the world does not close in on me. It does not grow smaller. It moves in the direction of what is open, future, possible....words act like a medicine." Can poetry bring about peace? I think that what poetry can do, is to look beyond the news headlines that bombard us till we reach the point of compassion fatigue. Poetry allows us to see the individual's trauma, tragedy or forebearance, amidst the dry statistics.

DR: You were a presenter at the recent Sydney Jewish Writers Festival. Do you think there is a distinctive Jewish voice in Australian writing?
 
LK: I don't think that Jewish writers have developed in Australia as strongly as their counterparts overseas have. We do not have a Bellow, Ozick, Safran or Foer. We do not have any specific prizes, fellowships or awards for writing on Jewish themes as there are in the US. LeahKThere are some very good writers here who happen to be Jewish, but I don't think that as a whole they engage in depth with particularly Jewish issues. On the other hand writers who came to Melbourne prior to World War II, such as Herz Bergner, Pinchas Goldhar, Judah Waten and Melech Ravitch were distinctively Jewish, not only writing in their mothertongue Yiddish, but grappling with themes of immigration, identity and dispossession. There are many voices today, but I don't think as a whole you could say that Jewish writing in Australia nowadays is distinctive.

DR: You also work as a GP. To what extent does your medical work inform your poetry? Do you find writing as a parallel occupation or just a diversion from your work as a doctor?
 
LK: I started writing poetry well before I became a doctor. I think that being a writer, as well as an avid reader, makes me a better doctor.  I like to think of each patient as a walking poem and if I listen carefully, I will hear the cadence of their words, as well as their silences. I divide my week evenly between medicine and writing; each profession is demanding of similar levels of dedication and hard work.

DR: In the title poem, you say "we sacrifice everything for our children"? Is that as true today as it was historically?
 
LK: When you become a parent, along with the sheer joy, there also comes a sudden realisation that until that point you have never before had so much to lose. Sharon Olds describes this so poignantly in her poetry. Parenting is in many ways a giving over of one's self. As rewarding and rapturous as being a mother is for me, it is also at times plain hard work. My writing is my way of holding onto something that is purely my own space, my personal passion; it is where I go to reflect, unwind, vent and refresh my soul. My parents came to Australia as refugees and worked hard to rebuild their lives, not wanting their children to suffer the same hardships and losses they had experienced in Europe. We live in a privileged society in Australia and the word sacrifice takes on a different level of meaning. But I think, when push comes to shove, if my children were ever seriously threatened, I would act instinctually like a mother cat and scratch anyone's eyes out to protect them from harm.

DR: You write back to William Carlos Williams in one of your poems. Is he an influence on your work? 
 
LK: I was first introduced to the poetry of WCW by a grumpy but brilliant poetry tutor, William Packard, in a class I took at NYU in the late 80s. I had written a long, flowery poem and he looked over my StitchingThingsshoulder, took out his pen and highlighted four lines, crossing out the other sixty! After I stopped sobbing, he introduced me to the powerful simplicity of WCW's poems. Williams was an American doctor-poet. My own poem to him takes the form of a letter, in which I long for the mutual respect and trust in the doctor-patient relationship that was characteristic of the era he was writing in. I work as a general practitioner, which requires me to have a broad-based knowledge of many medical specialties. I read literature and poetry with the same generalist view – widely and eclectically. My influences are as disparate as Yehuda Amichai, Anne Sexton and Sappho.

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In Review

[The reviews that follow are snippets from the full reviews, which generally can be found on the mini-site for the title]

On Newts, Lutes & Bandicoots by Mark Carthew & Mike Spoor:

With 'rhymes and riddles to make you giggle', this interactive book with fully illustrated pages will keep childrenNewts entertained while learning new words and rhymes, solving riddles, and trying to find the hidden word and animals secreted somewhere on the page. There is a riddle on every page with a one-word answer. The answer has to be guessed then found to confirm if it is right or wrong.

– Anatasia Gonis, The Reading Stack

On Stepping Through Seasons by Ashley Capes:

Simply, Stepping Over Seasons is a fantastic collection of short poems that SteppingSeasonswill appeal to both poetry lovers and readers who may have been burned by poetry in the past. Ashley Capes has captured themes such as love, loss, longing, suburban streetscapes, the plight of Outback Australia and the anguish of the writer's life in poems that can be studied for their form or enjoyed for their content.

– Mark William Jackson, Overland

On Memento Mori by Daniel King:

These are just a handful of the fascinating ideas Daniel King plays with in the 21 stories contained in this collection, which provides an excellent sampling fromMementoMori nearly 25 years of writing the form (and which includes the two prize-winners, "Nothing Contemplates Nothing" and "Heaven and/or Hell").

– Murray Ewing, Amazon

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IP Kidz Update

IP Kidz is IP's most rapidly growing imprint, so, two years on, it's a good time to talk about what we're looking for in the way of material for kids, and how it fits into our overall list.

The children's publishing market is highly competitive and more diversified than you might think. Children's publishing is segmented into general trade and educational material in the first instance, and then split further into age groups such as pre-school, lower primary (6-8 years) and upper primary (8-12 years). Children's books can overlap to some extent with young adult (YA) at high school.

Then there are the channels of delivery. Conventional books are still the most common form of publication, but increasingly publishers like IP are looking at digital modes of delivery. Audio content is becoming more common as a standalone work or as a supplement to a text. Many books are also being enhanced with multimedia elements such as animated images and characters, and these titles can be geared for publication online, on smartboards, in enhanced pdfs or flash-based work. Picture books are being adapted to publication on platforms like the Kindle and iPad via specialised applications, and IP is at the forefront of adapting content for those reading devices.

RealGunsSo where does IP Kidz fit into the scheme of things? Firstly, let's talk about theme. IP Kidz is keen on publishing socially responsible material, content with a message. Our first title was Real Guns, which sought to address the issue of gun control, safety around weapons and the problems faced by families reunified with returned war veterans. Not an easy topic! It proved controversial in the marketplace, with opinion being divided as to whether kids need to be subjected to books like that. Obviously we thought – and still think – they do. And our opinion was supported by reviewers and State Departments of Education across Australia.

Other issue-related books included Jason Chen and the Time Banana, which sought to address racial prejudice in our society, as well as Zahara's Rose, which sought to remind us of theZaharaRose culturally rich tradition of countries such as Iran, which are often demonised in the news. Hedgeburners: An A~Z Mystery used true crime events in Melbourne as the basis for fiction where kids played an important role in solving crimes that the regular police had given up on. The celebration of kids' achievements was also reflected in Aussie Kid Heroes.

We have been told that climate-change is a pressing moral issue in society today, and our 'Project Earth-Mend' Series seeks to address those issues in an accessible but entertaining way in The Greenhouse Effect and Global Cooling, as well as in the latest book in the Series to be released this Spring, Tiger Tames the Min-Min. Important environmental themes were also addressed in books like The Giggle Gum Tree and Lame Duck Protest.

Other titles scheduled for early next year continue in the issue-based mode. Christine's Matilda by Edel Wignell explores the influence of a woman on the composition of an iconic Australia song, "Waltzing Matilda". Libby Hathorn's second IP Kidz title, I Love You Book, celebrates the importance of the printed book in our lives, Anne Morgan's The Sky Dreamer considers how children can grieve over the loss of a loved one.

There's no shortage of books out there for kids that simply entertain, and IP Kidz is not particularly interested in titles like that. What we are interested in is books that seek to address issues that kids find important but in ways that don't speak down to them, books that enlighten as well as entertain and reassure kids that the world can be a better place if we all pitch in and do our part at making it so.

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IP Picks '11

Will there be an IP Picks 2011 competition?

Yes, Martha, there will be an IP Picks 2011! Our annual national competition for unpublished manuscripts in five categories will open on 1 October and close on 1 December, so it's high time to start polishing up that project you've been working on.

The categories are Best Poetry, Best Fiction, Best Creative Non-fiction, Best Junior Prose and Best First Book, with guaranteed royalty publication under one of our imprints for the winner in each category. Highly Commended and Commended entrants are also considered but not guaranteed a contract.

Click through to the IP Picks page to review a list of the past winners and to download the conditions and entry form.

And good luck!

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FEATURED ARTISTS

JulietB

Juliet Blair
Arlo and the Vortex Voyage

HazelE

Hazel Edwards
Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time)

LeahK

Leah Kaminsky
Stitching Through Things

DanielK

Daniel King
Memento Mori

DonS

Don Stewart

The Taste of Apple

LynR

Lyn Reeves
Designs on the Body

DavidR

David P Reiter
Tiger Tames the Min Min

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview 3: Juliet Blair

[Juliet Blair is the Winner of IP Picks 2010 Best Junior Prose, for Arlo and the Vortex Voyage. Anna Bartlett discusses the winning novel with her.]

AB: Arlo and the Vortex Voyage is the story of two friends, Arlo and Kate, who are whisked through to another world while climbing the cliffs above the beach. What was your inspiration for writing the story? How did the idea first come to you?

JB: At that time I was a teacher, and was marking NAPLAN state-wide writing assessments in which the 12-13-year-old students had to write a blurb for a book based on the front cover alone. (Choice of three – all new on the market so that fewJulietB would have read them. I still haven't.) One was a sci-fi book by Broderick and Barnes called Stuck in Fast Forward. Again and again I noticed how the students who chose this task liked the idea of young teenagers trapped in an alien environment. That's when I thought, 'I'd like to have a go at that general theme.' So I did. An odd result of this method of inspiration was that the covers of the other two books given as alternative choices featured (i) a fishing boat, and (ii) a crumbling castle on the edge of a cliff. Both of those crept into my story as quite important plot motifs, and I didn't realise till afterwards that they had done so.

AB: You're a grandmother now, but Arlo is your first children's book. How long have you been interested in writing?

JB: I've been interested in writing for 2-3 decades. At first I decided I'd become a romance writer and make my fortune. Yeah, right. Then I wasted long-drawn-out efforts on the crime genre. I don't feel this was entirely a loss of time – I learned a lot, but what I learned included the fact that in neither genre did I really feel comfortable. When I began to try writing for children it gave me a feeling of having come home.

AB: So why write for young people? What excites you about that audience more than a general adult audience?

JB: Children are an exciting audience in that you are not just feeding the appetites of already-formed readers, you are making readers. Also they are responsive, direct and frank, which is great unless they Arlofrankly, directly HATE your book – I'll have to cope with that one when/if I come to it. Another reason for my interest in this field is that in my twenty plus years as an ESL/literacy teacher I read hundreds of children's books, and got to observe firsthand the young readers' frank, direct, etc. responses to them, and I hoped this might give me a good start, or at least a few ideas on what not to do.

AB: Arlo and the Vortex Voyage has lots of action: cliff-climbing, rowing and daring escapes. What did you do to make sure that these scenes would be believable?

JB: You're quite right, of course. My raciest adventure would be something like a gondola ride in Venice – and I wasn't even rowing the gondola! So where do I get off writing about daring physical achievements and hairsbreadth escapes? And what happened to 'write what you know'? I started off with research. Then I realised that Rock Climbing for Dummies didn't exactly cut it, so I consulted the head of a firm that leads adventure tours. But of course our best resource is always 'emotion recollected in tranquillity': the day a pan of oil caught fire and almost totalled the kitchen; the night I returned, after seeing Psycho, to an empty college dorm where the first thing I needed to do was take a shower...

AB: Arlo won the Best Junior Prose category of IP Picks this year – the first year we've included that category. What made you enter the competition?

JB: "Oh, well, before I quit forever, maybe I ought to give it one more try..."

AB: The judges commented that Arlo was a complex and credible narrator with a remarkably strong voice. How did you make him such a realistic 13 year old boy?

JB: 'Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.' Well, no. When writing about Arlo, I was thinking of my youngest son, Hugh, when he was in that formative year of his life. Not that Arlo finished up being very much like Hugh – as Arlo's character became shaped to the demands of the story, the two diverged more and more. But because I was thinking of Hugh, Arlo came to life for me, which is the first step to his coming to life for the reader.

AB: And finally, what would you say is the most important thing you've learnt during the editing of the book?

JB: Humility.

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Interview 4: Lyn Reeves

DR: You're an established poet based in Tasmania. Would you say the interest in Tassie is higher for poetry these days than on the mainland. If so, why?

LR: I'm not sure if there is more interest here than in other states, but Tasmania can certainly boast a large number of well-known and award-winning poets. It's true that there is a supportive network of writers here. Perhaps it's partly because it's a small community and there are more opportunities for connections to be made and sustained. Perhaps it has something to do with island culture and the concentration of writers within a small population – as well as other arts practitioners. There's quite a bit of cross-arts collaboration as a result, and poetry lends itself well to such projects.

DR: Designs on the Body is an intriguing title for a collection. What led you to choose that title?

LR: The collection's main theme is the significance of personal adornment, but its concerns are more far-reaching. It explores relationship, place, belonging and dislocation and celebrates the bodily experience of being in the world. I wanted a title that would imply these layers, one that would hint at other nuances of the words 'designs' and 'body': designs as desire, and intent, as well as craft and pattern; and body encompassing both the human form and the physical bodies of earth and water.

DR: How do you see poetry reflecting the physical dimensions of life?

LR: I think it goes back to when language first began and people started naming the things around them. Words were powerful tools for making the outside world familiar and understandable, for giving some measure of control over the environment. Early poetry related the stories of gods and heroes and was used as invocation, chant and prayer. If poetry is, as Coleridge said, 'the best words in their best order' it is invested with that same primitive magic to be a bridge connecting us to the physical world.

DR: The haiku is one of your favourite poetic forms. Do you find that poems shape themselves into haiku or do you let the form mediate the content?

LR: I've had a long association with haiku in Australia, since I began a haiku section in Famous Reporter in 1994. But, though I love the form, my real passion is for Western lyric poetry, which I find more satisfying to write. The disciplines imposed by haiku – such as brevity, conciseness, concreteness, a resonant image and a connection with the natural world – can feed into the practice of writing other poetry (or what some haiku poets refer to as 'ordinary' poetry). Haiku are like capsules – a single moment of experience compressed into a few words – but Western poetry is made up of rooms where there is space for exploration and reflection.

Each form uses a different mindset – haiku tend to come out of stillness and observation in small, unexpected moments whereas longer poetry takes me on a journey. To use a musical analogy – a haiku is the single chime of a bell, with the sound resonating on the air after it is struck. A poem is an arrangement of varying sounds and tones, a concerto, a jazz riff, a rap, for example; sound is paramount, whereas in haiku the image is the potent element. I have periods of writing one form or the other. Rarely can I apply myself to both forms at the same time.

DR: You acknowledge the advice of several established writers in the fine-tuning of your work. At what stage do you seek advice, and do you always accept it?

LR: There are different levels of advice or LynRfeedback: the workshop for individual poems and the editing and assessment of a collection. At various times I've met regularly with other poets in workshop groups where we share our drafts when they're at a stage we think is ready for publication. I find that it's important not to impose your own voice on another's poem and to 'listen' for their way of speaking. Advice in these situations may be a matter of punctuation, a stronger choice of verb, a rearrangement of stanzas or chopping off the poem's head.

I'm grateful to Deb Westbury who I met years ago at Wollongong for generously offering to read my first collection, Speaking with Ghosts. Later, she looked at the bead poems, giving me valuable feedback on them. I value Deb's advice as an experienced and sensitive editor and a poet whose work I greatly admire. Her approach has helped, not only with individual pieces, but also in showing how to hone my work in general.

Sometimes I readily receive suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I might let a poem sit for quite a while before coming back and evaluating responses in a fresh reading. Then I have to decide if the change makes the poem stronger and more fluent and if it maintains my voice and rhythm. As a younger poet I would accept all changes. I once had the experience of seeking advice from two different poets on a group of poems. The first one took out all my articles and the other put them all back in. I had to then rely on my own ear. I think that as you grow more confident about what you want to say and how you want to say it you can better trust your own sense of how the poem should read, but others can sometimes see things you missed.

Finally, perspective on manuscript length and order of poems is something an objective reader can be much better at than the poet, who may be too close to see it clearly.

DR: Your work is often set in Tasmania, but travels well. How does place influence your writing?

LR: I've always had a strong relationship to the natural world, growing up barefoot and barely clothed on Sydney beaches and living in the wonderfully lush semi-tropical climate of Northern NSW where it's always summer – before moving to Tasmania and discovering the unique landscapes of this island.

It is difficult to avoid some aspect of place in my poems, because for me the physical and sensory details are integral to the emotion or experience the poem is trying to give voice to. As writers we are continually observing and imbibing our surroundings and storing them away. When we come to the page the images are there in our hoard, ready to be used, like the pigments on a painter's palette, to give our writing texture and colour.

Rather than writing about place, I strive to write the poem-as-place, and to communicate that space/place through attention to sensory detail. Through imagery of the known and the familiar, poetry can lead us to the landscape beyond the landscape. It can give us access to deeper dimensions of being, as we attempt to locate ourselves within the varied and enigmatic and profoundly rich territory of our inner and outer worlds.

DR: One of my favourite poems in the collection is the first, "Origin of Beads". Talk about how you work symbolically across art forms to embed meaning in your work.

LR: I look for words and images that are charged with meaning in order to build layers into the poems that I hope will cause it to resonate. The Madonna/Child image of "Origins of Beads" takes us back to the first sensory experiences when the attraction to beads is implanted in us: the bead-like roundness of nipple, breast, eye, are metaphors for the child's entire universe.
Body adornments, particularly beads, are potent with symbolism and cultural DesignsBodysignificance. After gathering loads of stories, mythologies, scientific descriptions, I let the mixture simmer until the most salient and striking aspects emerge, those that will stand in for the whole. It's a bit like building a character profile when writing a script or a novel so the foundation of the story is strong. Then understatement and allusion can do the work of creating a fully rounded picture.

The poem "Momento Mori", for example, began with story of Queen Victoria's grief over the death of Prince Albert. The black stone, jet, was the only jewellery permitted at court and it became fashionable throughout the Empire. The eventual poem doesn't directly mention Queen Victoria, but there are many allusions to the time of her reign. To take one section as an example:

… each bead//is a bereavement: the empty crib,/eroded hills, fields of blood, the burial//of love

The empty crib alludes to the extremely high rate of infant mortality at the time, the eroded hills to the destruction of the Whitby landscape where jet was mined, fields of blood to the outbreak of the American Civil War in the same year that Prince Albert died: the burial of love.

The lines have a universal significance beyond their primary reference and may be part of anyone's personal history. I have used a similar approach in the other poems, trying to find the feature that will be particular to the context and yet contain wider connotations. Of course, in stringing the words and images together, it is necessary to have an ear for the music they create so that the poem sings.

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IP Digital Buzz

Our digital program is continuing to grow on several fronts. IP already has numerous titles in pdf with ContentReserve.com, but we've extended this to include ePub versions of select titles that can now be ordered for portals and devices that aren't pdf-friendly. ePub is a cross-platform format that works on most recent Readers and smart phones as well as computer-based Readers like Adobe Digital Editions.

One advantage of ePub files is that they "flow" into the available space offered by most Readers; however that isn't always the case with certain kinds of content like image files on Readers like the Sony and Adobe Digital Editions. But we've worked with ContentReserve to find a strategy that will work across all Readers, so it's now full steam ahead.

A week is a long time in the ePublishing world! IP is now about to sign with For-side, a Japanese company based in New York City, who specialise in distributing text and audio content to mobile devices, especially 3G phones and PDAs like the Blackberry and the new Android device from Google. We're also entering discussions with Baker & Taylor, who own the rights to the Blio platform, which is shaping up to be stiff competition for the iPad, especially in the area of multimedia titles. This could well be good news for us, since Apple still only accepts ePub files for the iBookstore at present, although they have promised us that a "solution" for multimedia enhanced titles is coming 'soon'.

Our latest IPD title will be The Taste of Apple, and we're really hopeful that this one will "break out" for us, meaning gain recognition in the wider community. The work is a collaboration between singer/songwriter/poet James Laider and musician/producer Don Stewart, both of whom are based in Warrnambool, Victoria. The text element is a verse novel about growing up in Melbourne and then becoming engaged by the independence movement in East Timor, but the text is keyed to spoken word/music compositions on the CD of the same name. You have the choice of purchasing the book plus the standalone Text + Audio CD, or just the CD, which has the full eBook as well as the music anthology, which can play on a portable CD/DVD player. James' work has already been broadcast on the ABC and will be featured at the Melbourne Writers Festival, where the Australian Poetry Centre will present a monologue based on the book.

Our new Digital Publishing Centre is moving into top gear, with the pending publication of several LoveFallsnew titles via print-on-demand (POD) and eBook versions, including a new art / poetry collaboration between artist Glenise Clelland and poet Mocco Wollert and the second edition of a science fiction romance, Elvene, by PP Mealing. We're also putting the finishing touches on several works by children's author Hazel Edwards, who's invited us to resurrect several of her titles that are now out-of-print. We'll be doing that in POD as well as eBook formats.

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Out & About

David was away for five weeks from mid-June. He was a featured speaker at the NSW Writers Centre conference on publishing, where he spoke about all things digital, injecting an air of optimism to counter the concern that many authors – and publishers have about the future of the physical book. He then went on to Adelaide to give an informal evening talk to the South Australian Writers Centre on the same subject, after having a productive meeting with our animation partner MonkeyStack about the Project Earth-mend Series and an upcoming collaborative title About Face by SA author Robert Moore.

Leaving all things five-star behind, David threw his belongings into a relocation van and headed for the Nullarbor for some still and video shoots for his film-in-progress based on his Nullarbor Song Cycle, which was originally published as a two page spread in The Age Monthly, when that paper still published poetry. David reports with some pride that he didn't have to camp overnight in an organised campground a single time during the five days he was out, and that his film crew (a trusty tripod!) never let him down. But he was somewhat disappointed that he didn't encounter anything paranormal in his 2 a.m. jaunts to the "toilet", although he definitely felt a 'presence' at the Eucla Telegraph station as he was recording voice-overs!

David was welcomed by the staff at the KatharineTigerTamesMinMin Susannah Prichard Centre upon his arrival in Perth and almost immediately got down to work on his project for the residency, the third book in his junior novel Project Earth-mend Series, Tiger Tames the Min-Min. After completing his first draft in just over a fortnight, he became a bit more sociable, attending numerous writing group meetings at KSP. He compered the launch of Daniel King's short story MementoMoricollection Memento Mori, filming the event for YouTube and then was guest at a booked-out Literary Dinner at the Centre. The rest of his time was taken up with revisions to Tiger Tames the Min-Min and processing the video and still footage from his Nullarbor trip.

Only a few days after returning to Brisbane – by air this time! – David headed down to Armidale for a short break with the family and two events sponsored by the New England Writers' Centre and Armidale Library. First was a Friday evening demonstration of some of IP's latest digital projects, including his short film based on the work of Sydney artist Dale Kentwell, Mum: speaking Latin with a singlet tan. On Saturday he ran his Retool & Remix: Get a Digital Life workshop, which was packed out and uniformly praised.

Late in July, David headed for the inaugural Whitsundays Writers' Festival, which had been organised by IP author Gloria Burley (Blood and Guts). It was a trial, heading for the Whitsundays in the middle of Winter, but someone had to do it. The only mishap was that David missed the ferry stop at Daydream Island (was he daydreaming??) and had to come back from Airlie Beach – much to the amusement of those attending the welcome cocktail party. But everything else about the festival ran smoothly, and Gloria intends to put it on again next year, so, you should definitely put it on your mid-winter calendar if you weren't there this time!

Bruce Oakman (In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts) heldHawaiianShirts a very successful launch at the Castlemaine Art Gallery on 15 August, complete with music and professional recitals. Sales went so well that we've had to restock him with books to meet the demand. Who says poetry doesn't sell?

Fellow Autumn Season poet Roberta Lowing is planning a mid-October launch for her IP book Ruin to coincide with the release of her Allen & Unwin novel. She'll also have copies available at her Live Poets reading at Don Banks in Sydney in late September. Ruin was first released in time for the Sydney Writers' Festival, where Roberta had a reading.

PlatoHazel Edwards has been as energetic as ever in promoting her first IP Kidz title Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time), the cover of which (illustrated by John Petropoulos) was featured in Pass It On (PIO) this month. After a stint in France – which she took because she could – Hazel has returned to Oz and will be up in Brisbane for a library conference and to hold signings and readings at Carindale Library and Angus & Robertson Carindale and Cannon Hill on 1 October.

Just before this newsletter went to press, David travelled to Sydney to be a featured presenter at the Sydney Jewish Writers' Festival where he read and discussed his poetry with Marcelle Freiman, Darren Stein and Immanuel Suttner, moderated a session on children's writing with Morris Gleitzman and Anna Fienberg, and then discussed his favourite topic, The Digital Future, in a session with Mia Freedman, Anna Maguire and Henry Benjamin. He was pleased to meet fellow presenter and upcoming IP author Leah Kaminsky, whose book Stitching Through Things is now in press.

Another upcoming IP author, James Laidler had his work The Taste of Apple featured in a special session at the Melbourne Writers' Festival. The work consists of a verse novel and a Text + Audio version with musical collaboration between James and Don Stewart, who was also instrumental in producing the work to the mastering state. At the MWF, the Australian Poetry Centre will be presenting a monologue production from a section of the work.

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IP Sales

The dire predictions for the print publishing industry continue to roll in. Red Group Retail, who now own Angus & Robertson in Australia and Whitcoulis and Borders in New Zealand have reported drastically reduced their orders in the months leading up to Christmas, the best time for book sales during the year. As a result, some of the larger publishers are looking at drastically reducing their print runs for titles scheduled for release at that time.

Is this yet another symptom in the decline of the conventional book in favour of the eBook and its digital siblings? Or is it evidence of a growing indifference in the marketplace to reading in general. Only time will tell, but the more optimistic publishers are hoping that it signals a shift in interest to content delivered digitally.

During this transitional period, IP continues to "cover all bets" by maintaining its physical print programs while actively developing its digital programs. We are reducing our average conventional print runs, with the view that we can "top up" our bestsellers with stock from POD. We're also hopeful that, if our conventional print sales decline, we can offset that decline by increased direct POD sales and digital sales.

At this stage we have no plans of going totally digital, but we are developing the workflows that will make this possible if the worst predictions for the industry come true. Fortunately, for independent presses like IP, this is feasible since we run on the smell of proverbial oily rag anyway and do not have the heavy infrastructure that weighs down the larger publishers.

We have already noticed a slight decline in sales to bookshops, perhaps owing to our departure from the Australian Book Group. On the other hand, handing distribution ourselves has resulted in a significant rise in revenue per sale, which has made up for the decline in gross numbers of books dispatched.

It's anyone's guess where the industry will be five years from now, but we expect that IP will still be there to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We'll continue to develop our expertise in the digital arena and to encourage artists to collaborate on cross-arts projects that can be published directly to or adapted for screen viewing. There's no denying that that's where the market is heading, and no amount of wringing of hands and misplaced nostalgia will change that.

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