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Director's Welcome

DR_KSP

As 2011 draws to a close, and we prepare for our last tour of the year, it's a good time to reflect on another year of dramatic change in the publishing industry.

The demise of Borders and Angus & Robertson in Australia has underlined the point that Big is not always Beautiful, and that independent players across the industry may prove more adaptive to change. At the same time, global players such as Amazon and Google continue to flex their muscle in the marketplace, sending shockwaves through our understanding of what it means to be a publisher, agent, distributor and even author.

I can assure you that at IP, our priorities will remain the same: to publish and promote the very best of work from Australian and New Zealand authors and other artists contributing to our titles. While survival is always important, and financial success a goal, we're in the business primarily for cultural and artistic reasons, to support artists with socially important messages in their quest to engage with an intelligent and inquisitive readership.

Looking forward to our 15th year of business, IP remains at the cutting edge of the industry. 2011 saw an important shift in how we were perceived by the key players. Companies like Google, Wheelers, EBSCO, and EBooks.corp approached us to partner with them, probably because they recognize our leadership in the Australian and New Zealand digital marketplace.

Highlights of the last few months included my trip to North America and meeting with the staff of Overdrive, a global force in eBook distribution. Interestingly, Overdrive is located in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and their CEO even attended my high school! I was also pleased to visit the Banff Centre in Canada, where our digital program kicked off at the turn of the new century with the refinement and publication of my work The Gallery and discuss the prospects for my latest work, the film version of My Planets: a fictive memoir.

Another highlight was our recent New Zealand tour where poets Tim Jones and Keith Westwater and I met with consistently large and receptive audiences from Dunedin to Auckland. I'm optimistic that IP can help strengthen the cultural ties between our countries to the benefit of artists on both sides of the Tasman.

Finally, I'm very pleased to announce that five of our IP Kidz picture books have been selected for the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge, including works by Libby Hathorn, Edel Wignell and Céline Eimann. Congratulations to our authors and illustrators, not to mention our excellent Children's Editor Anna Bartlett.

I also want to thank our dedicated staff here at IP, especially Senior Prose Editor Lauren Daniels, who's taken maternity leave after the birth of her second child and continues to be an inspirational ambassador for IP, encouraging a new crop of promising authors, whether or not they publish with us. Lauren's temporary replacement is Sarah Elliott, who will divide her time between working in our digital program and providing editorial supportin the prose area. Josh Brockbank and Sabrina Man have worked very hard in marketing our titles, and Kayla Clibborn and Hannah Schneider have provided excellent editorial support.

From all of us at IP, we wish you the very best over the holiday season, and a healthy and happy 2012. We'll have a terrific range of new titles for you, so keep in touch throughout the year, and above all, keep reading!

Cheers
David

And of course just in time for holiday shopping there are some good subscriber offers in Your Deals.

Enjoy!

– DR

 

Highlights from IP's New Zealand Tour, Oct-Nov, 2011

 

 

Launch of Water Over Stone, Brunswick Heads, New South Wales, 4 November 2011

Editorial

Acquisition By Polling?

Governments are criticized for changing direction in mid-stream when private polling shows that voters are opposed to a particular policy. Really, they can't win either way. If they ignore the polling, the Opposition accuses them of being out of touch with the electorate, even arrogant. If they do respond to public opinion, they are accused of being spineless, devoid of principles. Where's the democracy in this?

Democracy has its downside in areas outside of politics. Take libraries, for instance. Libraries were invented in part to ensure that people had access to books and knowledge irrespective of their economic circumstances. They are also supposed to be repositories for items of cultural significance. Thanks to Legal Deposit requirements, our National and State Libraries continue to fulfill this mandate since books are supplied to them at no cost by publishers who are legally obliged to send in free copies of everything they publish. The only cost to these libraries at the highest level is to house and maintain their collections and make the items available as necessary.

Libraries further down the ladder aren't so lucky. While they may benefit from donations, for the most part they have to purchase titles for their collection. In the face of ever shrinking budgets and pressure on staffing, they have to make some hard choices. Unfortunately, these hard choices hit independent publishers where it hurts most: in the volume of orders coming from libraries.

It used to be that libraries had staff who had the time to meet with publishers and even individual authors. Books were bought on principle, for example, to ensure the widest possible range of Australian talent was represented. Two developments, driven by economic rationalism, are working against principle-driven acquisition by our libraries.

The first is that libraries are increasingly abdicating the responsibility for choosing books to distributors. The argument for this is that distributors can help out overworked staff by choosing books for them on the basis of negotiated profiles resulting in automatic selection of titles that fit the library's particular profile. For example, a library might add an author like Stephen King to their profile, and whenever a new King novel comes out, it would automatically be purchased for the library. Distributors, or 'library suppliers' as they're sometimes called, may choose the bulk of a contracted library's new acquisitions, and even affix labels classifying the book so it can be easily catalogued in the library.

The problem is that few Australian authors are automatically selected in this way. More often, it is the international high profile mass market authors, backed by large promotional budgets, that make it on the shelves. Not good news for independent, niche publishers. Even worse news for self-publishers who think they can achieve wide distribution just by writing an excellent book.

What does all this have to do with polling? An even more worrying trend is that libraries are now monitoring borrowing patterns as a means to decide whether a publisher's titles should be acquired. If a publisher's titles are not borrowed often enough, the rationalists take the view that new titles will experience the same unpopularity and shouldn't be acquired.

Such an approach is bound to favour publishers of block-buster titles by satisfying the bean counters who expect to see runs on the board to justify the library's budget. The argument seems to be if people aren't borrowing the title, it's a waste of taxpayers' money.

None of this has anything to do with preserving our national culture and ensuring the public have free and easy access to the best work being published in Australia. Excellence, unfortunately, is no guarantee of a healthy borrowing profile.

Libraries need to learn the lesson of the chain bookstores, especially failed ones like A&R and Borders in Australia. These companies and their stores, driven by a Top Ten mentality, became almost indistinguishable from each other, housing pretty much the same stock lists, with very slim Australian numbers, and hardly any 'cult' titles like poetry and short fiction.

Is it any wonder that people prefer to browse online, where they can find work that's off the beaten track, and mainstream titles at discounted prices?

The lesson for libraries in this is if they continue to be poll driven by borrowing patterns, people looking for something different, something local, will drift to online sources like Amazon, where they can now 'borrow' an increasingly large selection of titles for hardly any more cost than putting a title on hold – and waiting weeks before receiving the call that it's available for borrowing. Amazon's Lending Library for the Kindle and Barnes and Noble's projected lending option could well make those libraries that maintain poll-driven collections irrelevant.

There's still time for library managers to rethink this approach, but how many will heed the call? Perhaps they're too busy watching reruns of The Librarians?

- DR

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IP Digital Buzz

Once again, a week can be a long time in the digital arena. In just the last few days, Google announced the launch of their Australian eBook site. This means that more than 200 IP titles in pdf and ePub form will be available for download from the Google eBook Store. I've noted that Google is discounting our titles from the suggested RRP, perhaps as a way of attracting more customers to the site. Not sure how long the discounting will last, so this might be a good time to purchase a few eBook bargains!

A major competitor of Google and the other major eBook players is Kobo. Initially a spin-off from Indigo - Canada's brand of Borders - Kobo has amassed some 2.5 million titles in its store and boasts sales increases of 35% annually. Kobo was also brash enough to launch its own generic eBook Reader Touch into the highly competitive marketplace by keeping it cross-platform. Just today (Wednesday, 9 November), Kobo has been 'acquired' by Japanese multi-national Rakuten Inc for US$315 million in cash (no shares in kind for this deal!). Raktuten will maintain Kobo's headquarters in Toronto, but will create a new 'ecosystem' starting with eBook downloads to consumers leveraged through its global partnerships with companies like Buy.com.

Meanwhile, IP continues to expand our global network to include new partners like EBSCO and Wheelers. In his recent trip to North America, David met with senior staff at Overdrive.com, which currently has 85% of the global eBook market for libraries, including libraries in Australia and New Zealand. He also met with staff at Wheelers in New Zealand who are determined to expand their operations beyond Australia and New Zealand.

This is all good news for our authors and artists because it gives them even greater access to the global market, with their titles available almost everywhere you look on eBook sites. It becomes a rather taxing exercise for us since we now have so many outlets we provide content to, each of which seems to have its preferences for uploading mechanisms and spreadsheets for describing what we're uploading. It would be nice if these companies could decide on a master spreadsheet at least for their metadata, but that's not likely to happen.

We're delighted to see the local printing industry picking up its game to become more competitive with offshore printers, especially with short-run jobs. We printed our entire Spring Season list in Australia and are hopeful we'll be able to do more of that in the future, supporting the local industry. As predicted, the arrival of global POD company Lightning Source threw down the gauntlet to the industry here, and some of the companies have responded positively to the challenge.

On the musical and spoken word side, those of you who follow us on Facebook may have noticed that we now have our own Music Store, courtesy of our audio partner CD Baby. You'll find it in the left hand column of the IP page. In the Store, you can sample tracks and make purchases for download, straight from Facebook! Check it out!

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IP Kidz Update

We're very excited about IP Picks 2012, and in particular the joint Young Adult/Junior Prose category. We've already had a number of entries come in for this category, and look forward to seeing many more, and to deciding which manuscript (or manuscripts) we'll be publishing as a result! So if you're interested and have a completed young adult/junior novel or creative non-fiction piece, make sure you get your entry in before the competition closes on 1 December.

Last year's Best Young Adult/Junior Prose winner, The Ruby Bottle, will be going to print soon for a Feb/Mar 2012 release. And on the translation front, the French-English version of The Sky Dreamer is now available, joining our French-English version of Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher, and French translations of both those titles. Céline Eimann, the author of Lyli and illustrator of both books, is busy planning launches and events in Switzerland!

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Just before going to press with this issue, we learned that FIVE of our latest picture books had been accepted for the New South Wales Premier's Reading Challenge – our best result to date.

Sky DreamerThe listed titles are Christina's Matilda by Edel Wignell and Elizabeth Botté, Long Live Us! by Edel and Peter Allert, I Love You Book by Libby Hathorn and Heath McKenzie, The Sky Dreamer by Anne Morgan and Céline Eimann, and Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher by Céline Eimann.

Congratulations to our fine authors and illustrators!

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Out & About

David spent more time OUT then IN these last few months, but we're pleased to report that the Studio kept things moving along well, albeit with input from him via email and the occasional desperate Skype message!

In September, he went back to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio for another round of filming to supplement the resources he already has for the film version of the My Planets: a fictive memoir project. He also visited Overdrive, one of our major eBook partners, which happens to be located in Cleveland, with the founder being a graduate of the same high school David attended. Despite the dire economic circumstances many industries are in at present in the USA, eBooks are growing at a rapid pace, and Overdrive is having to shift to new premises to accommodate its larger workforce.

During the Canadian leg of his trip, he met with senior staff at the Banff Centre for the Arts about a possible residency at the Centre in 2012 during the production phase of the Planets film, and interest was expressed in seeing it take on interactiveThe Gallery form as well, perhaps in an installation where people with experiences in adoption and reunification with their biological family could exchange stories. David was last there in 1999, where he finished his first interactive work, The Gallery.

Only a few weeks after returning to Australia, he was off again on another tour of New Zealand, which is a growing market for us on several fronts. He met with staff at Wheelers, which has just launched a new eBooks site where IP titles will be showcased, as well as Total Library Solutions, which are, as the name suggests, quite active in the library market in New Zealand. But he got the most pleasure from the live touring Men Briefly Explainedwith new IP authors Tim Jones (Men Briefly Explained) and Keith Westwater (Tongues of Ash) to Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Paraparaumu and Auckland, where the threesome were welcomed by large crowds and enthusiastic sales. David presented his latest works Nullarbor Song Cycle and the book and enhanced eBook version of My Planets. He also took the opportunity to continue to spread the word about IP to new audiences there and expects a healthy crop of new authors to be submitting to this year's IP Picks.

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We're pleased to report that IP poet Roberta Lowing was joint winner of the $10,000 Asher Literary Award, where the judgesRuin described it: 'Roberta Lowing's Ruin is a sequence of poems about the Iraq War that is ambitious, sometimes audacious and very moving. Lowing's work gathers momentum as it questions the moral consciousness and crisis of global conflict today."

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Love You BookAnd Libby Hathorn's latest IP Kidz title, I Love You Book, has been shortlisted for the NSW Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards, as well as being among the five IP Kidz titles selected for the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge in the K-2 category. Libby's off shortly to Kathmandu for more cultural work.

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MarkCMark Carthew (Newts, Lutes & Bandicoots) emailed from the UK to tell us that he appeared at Bath Spa University on Nov 9th to address MA / PhD writing students as well as at the University of Roehampton for the IBBY/ NCRCL MA Conference and the NAWE Conference at Northampton. That's one way of keeping warm in the UK this time of year!

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Most recently, David attended the launch of Laura Jan Shore's Water Over Stone where he recorded Laura accompanied by Mark Heazlett on guitar in a very impressive performance of her work, which you can see in his latest YouTube film (above).

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Just after this goes to press, he's off again, driving to Canberra and then Sydney for Gala events featuring Amelia Fielden (Words Flower), Geoff Page (Coda for Shirley), Stuart Cooke (Edge Music) and Laura Jan Shore. And of course his Nullarbor and Planets works. In Canberra, the initial event will be his full-day Retool & Remix: Get a Digital Life workshop on Saturday, 19 November at Gungahlin Library (10am-4pm), the Gala, alsoCoda for Shirley at Gungahlin Library on Sunday, 20 November from 12 noon and finally a solo launch of Geoff Page's Coda for Shirley at the Ivy Cafe, Old Canberra House on Monday, 21 November from 5:45. You can book in for the workshop by emailing us at info@ipoz.biz or booking in on our Facebook events page (search for IP). On Tuesday, 22 November, the Gala Roadshow continues at Newtown Library in Sydney from 6pm. You can book in for that with the Sydney Libraries, via info@ipoz.biz, or by means of the Facebook event for Sydney.

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Finally, just after the closing date for IP Picks submissions on 3 December, David will join Geoff Page and Laura Jan Shore for a Gala Reading at the Byron Community Centre from 5pm, just after the conclusion of yet another Retool & Remix: Get a Digital Life workshop at the Centre, from 10am-4pm.

Can you understand why David might be looking forward to a holiday break - or at least some quiet reading time for IP Picks entries???

<title>IP eNews/<title>

IP Sales

Despite the dire predictions that came after the demise of the A&R and Borders chains, we haven't noticed much of a difference in our bookshop trade. We're still maintaining brisk sales with the independents, and have noticed some sales coming through from independent operators who purchased A&R franchises. At our local Carindale Shopping Centre, there was almost an overnight transition from the big A&R store to a new Dymocks, which interestingly kept on a few of the experienced staff from the A&R operation.

We've lost some stock and revenue due to the A&R / Borders collapse but only a small amount compared to larger publishers having much greater exposure to chain sales. This was compensated in part by increased sales via POD and eBooks, with Overdrive, Apple and Lightning Source's eBook division posting significant sales increases.

Interestingly, we discovered that Whitcoulls and Borders are still very much alive in New Zealand, where many of the chain stores were bought out from the failed Red Group Retail. Whitcoulls in particular seems to be healthy enough, and you'll find a full range of IP titles there, and even downloadable eBook versions for an increasing number of titles.

Nullarbor Song CycleOur New Zealand tour resulted in good crowds at events and healthy sales, which is encouraging, given that most of the titles being sold were poetry. David was encouraged by the positive reception to the CD version of My Planets: a fictive memoir and Nullarbor Song Cycle, both of which sold out on the tour. He's hoping for similar results in our upcoming tour to Canberra and New South Wales.

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We already give our readers quick access to eBook downloads from our site, as well as links to the Kindle and Google sites. Apple have released code that will allow you to find iBookstore versions with a single click from our site, so we'll be planning to add that as an option from the mini-pages of our more popular backlist titles and to all new titles as they are rolled out.

If you've just bought an iPad or Android tablet - or are about to for the holiday season - why not test it out by downloading a few IP eBooks? We're sure they'll look handsome on your iBookstore shelf!

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In Review

[The reviews that follow are snippets from the full reviews, which you can find by clicking on the thumbnail for the title.]

Stuart Cooke – Edge Music

Edge MusicStuart Cooke's first full collection of poems, Edge Music, makes clear that there is still a significant need for contemporary Australian poetry to find original perceptions and expressions of place both local and beyond.

– Bonny Cassidy, The Australian

James Laidler – Taste of Apple

And it all comes together and works superbly. While there are many poems in this novel that could confidently stand alone in an anthology and that are worth spending longer with Taste of Apple(independent of what's happening to Pedro Jones), the intent of a verse novel is that the poems create a unity in the telling of a bigger story – that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – and this, ultimately, is the success of The Taste of Apple.

– Paul Burman, theviewfromhere

Guy Salvidge – Yellowcake Springs

What gives this book its "twist" is an element of greater horror. If H.P. Lovecraft had the horror of human insignificance in an Yellowcake Springsuncaring cosmos, and Ervin Sims' End of The Age (review coming shortly) would highlight a cosmic origin and ending to history where humans have only token influence, this book seems to hammer home how vulnerable and ineffectual humans can be when the tide (or tidal wave) of demographics washes over them.

– russell1200

Edel Wignell / Elizabeth Botté: Christina's Matilda

An unknown & fascinating piece of Aussie history, lusciously Christina's Matildapresented in sepia tones with archival photos as a non fiction, large format hardback for mid to upper primary.

Should be in every school library around Australia.

– Krista Bell, ABC Western Queensland

Tim Jones – Men Briefly Explained

Men Briefly ExplainedJones extracts ache from irony easily. Some of these poems might be anchored in melancholy that some readers might find distracting, but there is prettiness to the sadness that stops you jumping out of the window. Men Briefly Explained is rich stuff.
– Hamish Wyatt, Otago Daily Times

Keith Westwater – Tongues of Ash

Westwater's poems roam around New Zealand and hit on Tongues of Ashthemes of romance, family, love, weather and landscape. The centre of this little book explores his army days at Waiouru and presents his strongest poems.
– Hamish Wyatt, Otago Daily Times

<title>IP eNews/<title>

How to Fracture Fairy Tales

[Edel Wignell, author of two IP Kidz titles (Long Live Us!, a fractured folk tale illustrated by Peter Allert, and Christina's Matilda, illustrated by Elizabeth Botté), talks us through how to fracture folk tales in the following article. Edel wrote an article for teachers explaining how they can help children to fracture folk tales, and it was published in class ideas K-3: Practical Ideas Magazine by Teachers for Teachers (Term 3, 2011). This is a shortened version of the article, but you can see the complete article at http://ipoz.biz/Titles/LLU.htm.]

It's surprising to note that more than 150 fractured folk tales (or fractured fairy tales) have been published in recent years. Not only are they enjoyable for writers to create, they are fun for children to read and dramatise and attempt to write their own.

Folk tale structure

The pattern or structure of British and European folk tales – Long Live Us!honed by storytellers – is satisfying for listeners.
They include several 'good' characters (usually three) and one 'baddie', providing conflict.
There is a problem to solve, and good triumphs over evil.
A sequence of (usually) three events leads to a climax and a fast resolution. (However, some are more complex.)

What are fractured folk tales?

These tales take a well-known story and reshape it by any or all of the following means:
• changing the point of view,
• introducing characters from several tales,
• playing with the title,
• changing the setting – time and place,
• speculating on what may have happened before or what may happen after.

Ways in which folk tales can be fractured

1. Viewpoint of the 'baddie'
Some of the most popular stories have been told from the point of view of the 'baddie'. In folk tales, wolves are usually bad and witches are ugly. But when the baddies are the narrators, the stories are delightfully different from the originals!

Richard Tulloch (2008), Twisted Tales: six fairy tales turned inside out, ill. Terry Tenton, Random House, 978 1 74166 274 0 Pb

Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk are told from an alternative viewpoint.

2. Viewpoint of another character
Emily Gravett (2008) Spells, Macmillan, 978 0 23001492 3 Hb; 978 0 23053136 9 Pb
A frog finds an old book of spells and has an idea: he could become a prince!

3. Change of character or characters
Babette Cole (1987) Prince Cinders, 978 0 14 055525 7 Pb
Prince Cinders takes the Cinderella role, and his three burly brothers are the wicked siblings!

4. Play with a title or change a word in a title
A title change can be a springboard to a new story.

Lauren Child (2002) Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book? Hodder Headline, 0 340 80554 4 Pb
As Herb lies down, he hits his head on a book of fairy tales, and falls asleep. Soon he meets Goldilocks, Cinderella and other characters.

5. Change the setting to a different time or place
Bob Graham (2006) Dimpty Dumpty, Walker Books, 978 1 40631901 9 Pb
In this version of the 'Humpty Dumpty' nursery rhyme, background characters rise to the occasion and share the limelight at the appropriate moment.

6. Expand the story
Characters from one folk tale may interact with those of another. Plots of tales may be completely changed, and may include many surprises.

Hilary Robinson (2004) Mixed Up Fairy Tales, ill. Nick Sharratt, Hodder Children's Books, 978 0 340 97558 2 Hb

Twelve fairy tales are told briefly, with cartoon-style illustrations on the opposite pages. Each is cut into four parallel sections so that the reader can mix and match to create zany variations.

Creative activities linked

Fracturing folk tales provides an excellent opportunity for creativity in many curriculum areas. The article in class ideas K-3 includes suggestions for teachers.

Reference
Internet Database: The Source: Magpie's online subject guide to children's literature, compiled by Dr Kerry White with Rayma Turton and David Turton – an excellent resource for teachers. www.mapgies.net.au

– © Edel Wignell

Your Deal

Deal 1: To celebrate our success in the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge, we're offering discounts when you order two or more of the selected picture books. You'll get 10% off your second title, 20% off your third title, 30% off your fourth title and 40% off your fifth title if you order all five at the same time. Again, these are Christina's Matilda, Long Live Us!, The Sky Dreamer, I Love You Book and Lyli Meets the Stone Muncher. PLUS a holiday bonus of FREE shipping on two or more books.

Deal 2: Treat yourself Holiday Deal! Order any physical IP title as a present and receive the eBook version for free. Or give away the eBook version and keep the physical book yourself. FREE SHIPPING on all physical books under this deal.

Deal 3: Southern Tour Special. Order three New Release titles touring in November for a 10% discount and FREE SHIPPING. Order four for a 20% discount, five for a 30% discount, all six for a 40% discount. The titles are: Coda for Shirley, Edge Music, Water Over Stone, Words Flower, Nullarbor Song Cycle, My Planets: a fictive memoir (physical book) or My Planets: a fictive memoir (enhanced CD).

Order by 15 December from sales@ipoz.biz with Deal 1, Deal 2 or Deal 3 as your Subject. Include your postal address and whether you want to pay by EFT or PayPal.

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         FEATURED ARTISTS

DavidR

David P Reiter

My Planets: a fictive memoir

LauraS

Laura Jan Shore

Water Over Stone

GeoffP

Geoff Page

Coda for Shirley

CelineE

Céline Eimann

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher

KeithW

Keith Westwater

Tongues of Ash

AmeliaF

Amelia Fielden

Words Flower

TimJ

Tim Jones

Men Briefly Explained

StuartC

Stuart Cooke

Edge Music

EdelW

Edel Wignell

Long Live Us!

 

 

 

 

Focus

Focus 1: David P Reiter

[David talks about how My Planets: a fictive memoir, his latest project, fulfills his dream to reconstruct his early years as well as to continue his ground breaking work with digital media.]

My PlanetsMy Planets is certainly my most ambitious project to date. It's a story that began at my birth, when I was given up for adoption by my biological mother. In those days, women who had children 'out of wedlock' were pressured to give them up for adoption, supposedly for the sake of the child.

Like other women in her circumstances, my mother spent the latter months of her pregnancy in a 'home', which was little better than the female factories of the 19th Century. The inmates were regarded as fallen women who had to atone for their sins. So they had to work for their keep, often in demeaning jobs, remaining invisible to the wider society until they had given birth. Is it any wonder that so many women came away from this incarceration psychologically scarred, felling doubly guilty for abandoning their child.

The Planets project became my way of coming to terms with my missing past. In a very real sense, I was a part of a Stolen Generation with no rights to my past. For years I was told I effectively had no past, that all records of my early years and my biological family had been destroyed in a fire. This was a lie. In another version, the records had survived but the originals had been shipped to me in Australia. They never arrived, and no copies had been kept at the home. All they could tell me was that my biological mother had given the social workers the impression that she was quite intelligent, and she was thought to be quite attractive.

From fragments of evidence, I've determined that I was in a Jewish orphanage for the first two years ofDR_KSP my life. I was fostered out briefly, but then taken away from the foster home when it was determined that I was being pampered too much and was scoring low on developmental tests.

Eventually, I was adopted by a self-employed truck driver and his wife. He seemed about eight feet tall to my eyes, and I idolized him. But he had a congenital heart problem, worsened by smoking, and suffered a heart attack one 4th of July (American Independence Day) while we were in a field setting off fireworks. He died the next day, and I was alone again. I say alone because my adoptive mother had a mental disorder that she'd kept mostly in check while he was alive but which steadily worsened after his death.

For years, I had no interest in pursuing my biological roots. I'd formed the view that opening yourself up emotionally led to hurt, so setting up barriers seemed the safest thing to do. Writing became a means of keeping society at arm's length, reshaping it, dealing with it on my own terms.

Even after finding my biological family, my emotional engagement with them has been...careful. I was keen to gather as much evidence about what they knew – and what they thought they knew – about my early life, but I did this as an objective observer, a mediator between often conflicting opinions they offered to show themselves in a positive light, what was real.

That's where the central metaphor of The Planets came in, providing a structure for my reflection, a context for situating elements of the emerging story. As I reconstructed these realities, I could see them playing off against each other, almost contrapuntally, gaining more meaning as they were set against each other from different spatial perspectives. Always interested in the suggestive qualities of music, I decided to add Holst's The Planets Suite as a key element and to use the mythological associations of the individual planets as locales for themes I discovered along the way.

Composing the texts for the work was an organic process, with the content and themes determining their form rather than the other way around. So there are sections of poetry, prose poetry, literary prose and straight documentary.

As this stage, My Planets is a book but also an eBook, with spoken word and musical enhancements. The next step is to make it into a film. I certainly have enough resources at hand, from several trips back to my birthplace and reams of film and audio footage. I've had preliminary discussions with the staff at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, who have expressed interest in collaborating with me on producing an interactive work as well as a film. It's a good place to work and would bring me full circle from my first substantial digital title The Gallery, which I refined in residence there back in 2000.

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Focus 2: Keith Westwater

[Tongues of Ash is Keith Westwater's first book of poetry and was the winner of the Best First Book in IP Picks 2011. A New Zealander, Keith works for the agency involved with assisting the city of Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes of the past few years. Keith is interviewed by Assistant Editor, Kayla Clibborn.]

KC: Your first published poetry collection, Tongues of Ash, has been inspired and driven by your love and appreciation of the New Zealand landscape. What is it about the New Zealand landscape that inspires you?

KW: I think my inspiration is more to do with landscapes per se than specifically the New Zealand landscape (which is the one I happen to be most familiar with and which has great variety of form and ecology anyway). But I also think the notion that the physical beauty of a landscape must be inspirational for a poet is not necessarily true. I drafted one poem for 15 years and I never got it to really 'work' until I stopped trying to describe a particular landscape's 'beauty' in romantic terms and wrote instead about my connectedness and memories associated with that landscape. It was published on its first submission in this form.

Tongues of AshI therefore think my 'inspiration' arises more from the interconnectedness that landscape has with places I know, my memories, and my personal identity than from the landscape on its own. Having said that, if a reader is reminded of the beauty of New Zealand landscape when reading a poem then that is fine by me.

KC: Place is obviously an important part of your creative process. Do you find it takes on its own voice or character in your poetry?

KW: Again, there is a strong connection between place, landscape and memory in the genesis of many of my poems. I have a theory that when we enter a landscape, even if we are just looking at it, the landscape is also entering us. This reciprocity, the entering of the person by the landscape, is akin to the 'terroir' of a wine, that peculiar mix of soil type, climate, aspect, and water availability which is said to provide a wine with its unique character. (Interestingly, 'terroir' broadly means 'a sense of place'.) I think we are all collectors of the terroir of landscapes or places that enter us, whether we are aware that they have done so or not.

When we leave a place that has entered us in this way, it is always with us. Maybe when we return, even in our imagination, we are sampling from the collection of terroir that has accumulated in our memory. In my case, poems (sometimes a bit 'corked'), rather than bottles of wine are the result.

KC: Through your observations as seen in your poems, you have addressed many issues relevant to New Zealand that reflect themes likely to appeal to an international audience e.g., the issue of homelessness in The Bucket Man Poems, where you pay homage to Tinakori Hill resident, Robert Jones. Do you hope to paint a certain picture of New Zealand for your international audience, while encouraging them to consider similar themes and issues in their own homeland?

KW: With The Bucket Man Poems I was interested in reflecting the behaviour of the Bucket Man through the mirror of the mainly 'Christian' society in which he lived. I use Christian references and allusions in the poems to compare the Bucket Man's own charitable acts towards other homeless people with the acts of the non-homeless he came in daily contact with.

In one sense, I am building on a painting by Duncan Smith of the Bucket Man created some years before his death, which portrayed him walking a wet Wellington Street while behind him was a crucifix and a street-lamp 'halo'. Duncan Smith said at the time that he was asking through the painting for people to reflect on what they might say to the Bucket Man if they met him on the street.

In another sense I am trying to draw attention to the paradox of the Bucket Man's homelessness and isolation in an urban environment and also to theKeithW civic community's response to this. (Shortly after the Bucket Man's death, the local City Council proposed banning homeless people from grouping together or from frequenting certain places in the city; there was an immediate public outcry which stopped in their tracks any changes of this nature to the city's bylaws.)

It wasn't my intention in writing the poems to reflect themes to an international audience nor to necessarily paint a 'New Zealand' picture; if, however, a reader 'goes there' with these poems, then that is OK too.

KC: In the final section of the work, Tourists on Safari for Nirvana, you explore and consider your experiences in other countries. The title alludes to the idea of travellers' constant quest for greener pastures; do you think people place too much emphasis on the foreign beauty of overseas destinations, in turn missing out on the beauty of their own home?

KW: These days (younger) tourists seem to be on a constant quest for adventure, new adrenalin-raising activities, or experiences which bring an element of possible danger to them. In this respect it's all a bit Ernest Hemingway-ish. I'm not too sure whether 'beauty' (or much else for that matter) has a look-in any more. I am trying to say this in the poem 'Yunnan Pines, near Shangri-La', which the phrase 'Tourists on safari for nirvana' comes from. The line continues...'or one more bungee/jump; no surely/Shangri-La left long ago/for some other earth'.

KC: What is your reasoning behind the title, Tongues of Ash? Since the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, you have worked as a Training Manager for the Earthquake Commission; is there a relationship between this role and the title of your work? How has your close relationship with the rebuilding of areas devastated by the earthquakes influenced your poetry?

KW: The poems in Tongues of Ash were all written before the first Canterbury earthquake on 4 September 2010 and therefore before I became involved in my current role with the Earthquake Commission. The title of the collection comes from a line in the poem 'Navigation Point on the Desert Road' (The cutting's orange side/speaks millennia in tongues of ash) and refers to the layers of ash that can be seen in road cuttings on the Desert Road, the main road crossing the North Island's volcanic plateau. These layers provide a visible record of the volcanic eruptions which have occurred over long periods of time on the plateau.

Since starting my role with the Earthquake Commission, I have been travelling to Christchurch almost weekly and have experienced many of the aftershocks (including the 6.3 magnitude quakes in February and June of this year). I initially thought that this experience would be a fertile ground for poems, that like liquefaction, they would just bubble to the surface. It has, however, taken about a year for this to start happening for me and I am only now embarking on a series of poems that are to do with the Canterbury earthquakes.

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Focus 3: Stuart Cooke

[Sydney-based poet and academic Stuart Cooke has an interest in South America, where he spends a fair bit of time. His collection Edge Music was High Commended in the IP Picks 2011 Best First Book awards.]

KC: How much influence does the sub-genre eco-poetry have on your work?

SC: It's very difficult for me to think of a poetry that isn't part of this 'sub-genre' because almost all language, I think, is profoundly ecological. There's certainly a large body of eco-poetic theory out there, but the poetry it deals with is very diverse. However, in terms of what we might think of as 'nature poetry', or poetry about non-human environments, I have a selective engagement with much of it.

As a younger writer I was profoundly influenced by poets like Robert Gray and Martin Harrison, whose Edge Musicpoems are remarkable for their often brilliant articulations of what it looks, sounds and/or feels like to be in the world. Others like Michael Farrell and Peter Minter have excited me because they suggest new possibilities for writing about the environment that are yet to be explored by many of the more widely-recognised Australian 'nature poets'. More broadly, Patrick White, David Malouf and even Midnight Oil have made me keenly aware of the historicity of Australian landscapes, and of why we need poetry to evoke this historicity.

KC: You experiment with form and style, (breaking worlds in half, skipping lines) which all leave an impact on the reader.  When you decide to break some of these conventions, do you have a particular goal or type of impact in mind?

SC: Poets should scrutinise not only the meanings of words, but also the syntactical currents running through and between them. Splitting open a word, for example, is a more dramatic version of the line-break: the syntax trembles, producing divergent rhythms and exposing hitherto hidden sounds. A poem needs to dance unpredictably, otherwise it's worn out, or it's just prose. Here, the word 'dance' relates to my interest in the performativity of poetry, something that began in childhood when I discovered Michael Jackson. For me, more than any other musician, Jackson is a breathing nexus of lyric, rhythm and dance; you can see how his bodily movements translate to vocal punctuations, which in turn produce those unforgettable hooks. Jackson showed us, in Puff Daddy's words, "that you could see the beat".

The closer that poetry is to an embodied, musical performance, the more often words need to be broken up or even omitted – many of the world's songpoetry traditions show us this, as do many of Jackson's songs.

KC: There is a certain metamorphism to a lot of your poetry, between people and landscape; 'Broome Song' and 'Broome Beach Art' come to mind. Where does the inspiration for this kind of insight come from?

SC: Part of what makes poetry so special to me is itsStuartC power to propose new, exciting connections between hitherto disparate parts of the world. The poem is flexible enough to allow radically different kinds of existence to share the same space, as opposed to demanding that one 'thing' be more 'real' or more present than another. This fluid understanding of the world is particularly important in much Aboriginal philosophy, where features of the landscape can be all kinds of different things, depending on the context.

Broome in particular interests me because it is like a microcosm of the continent as a whole: to understand how the landscape was produced by Dreaming tracks, then marred with massacre sites, resort hotels and McDonald's, one needs to be able to visualise quite surreal forms of metamorphosis as fundamental to Australian history and ontology.

KC: Is this concentration on the relationship between people and landscape, part of a personal self-discovery of your own?

SC: Certainly. One of my main preoccupations during the writing of this book was about how to come to terms with my position on the edge of an enormous country. Australians spend a lot of time looking out to sea (and buying houses close to it!), instead of thinking about what lies stretched out behind them.

As is clear in the book, however, by 'edge' I'm not referring only to a geographical location. As a non-Aboriginal Australian I live on the periphery of an enormous, unfathomable body of history and culture. I am forever aware of the fact that my presence here, and my family history, is inextricably related to more than two centuries of dispossession of Aboriginal lands and repression of Aboriginal peoples' rights. How to speak and, indeed, how to live with this awareness was a driving question throughout much of Edge Music.

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Focus 4: Guy Salvidge

[Kayla Clibborn interviews Guy Salvidge, author of the diastopian novel Yellowcake Springs, 2011 winner of the IP Picks Best Fiction award.]

KC: Both Yellowcake Springs and your previous novel, The Kingdom of Four Rivers, depict post-apocalyptic, dystopian futures reminiscent of Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984. Have you drawn inspiration
from any particular authors or texts for your work?

GS: I've always written dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. My first story that I can recall writing was called 'The Day After' and it was a gruesome tale about a group of boys hiding in a fallout shelter
after the bomb. One by one, they go up to the surface and never return. I was twelve when I wrote that.  

I certainly read those famous Huxley and Orwell texts, but a novel that influenced me profoundly at
a tender age was Robert Swindells' Brother in the Land ≠ another post-nuclear tale.

As an adult, my major influences include J G
Ballard, William S Burroughs, Harry Crews, Raymond Chandler and Philip K Dick, all of whom can be considered writers of the apocalypse in their varying ways. In researching Yellowcake Springs, I also read a number of factual accounts relating to the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.

KC: You have dedicated this novel to your two children, with the message, "may they never have to live through this". What concerns or fears do you have for our society in the future in terms of themes you have dealt with in the book, such as overpopulation and environmental decay?

GS: We seem to be living on the precipice. I've always felt this way, as though our civilisation can and will be swept away by forces beyond our control.

When I was a child, nuclear war seemed to be the major threat, and so I was always writing about that. By then, the Cold War was over and the nuclear threat was fading. It wasn't until I saw Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 that I realised that
climate change would be the global threat of this era, and that I could write about it in fiction in much the same way that others had written about nuclear war previously.

Overpopulation, both as a practical and a philosophical consideration, is close to the heart of
Yellowcake Springs. One of the ironies of our lives is that the planet would be far better off without us. Having children seems an especially foolish thing to do in these times, and yet I love my children more than anything and feel that they have massively enriched my life.

Here's the crux of the overpopulation problem – no one thinks of his or herself as an unnecessary surplus.

KC: Did you find it challenging to appropriate your factual research and knowledge of the issues facing our society and their potential consequences, into a fictional form?

GS: In truth, I find it more of a challenge NOT to sketch the issues facing our society on a canvas Yellowcake Springscalled 'the future'. My mind is always jumping five or ten steps ahead, considering possibilities that may never eventuate. It should be pointed out, however, that I don't consider Yellowcake Springs to be an exercise in prophecy – merely a warning in the same way that Nineteen Eighty-Four was intended to warn the people of 1950 of the dangers of totalitarianism.

But if you want to write about the possibility of nuclear power being used in Australia, then you have to set your story in the future anyway, due to the long lead time it would take for such projects to be completed. What we call 'the future' is something akin to a bomb testing site, a place where we can play out our desires and fears without being harmed
ourselves. The real challenge for me would be depicting these issues in a contemporary framework.

KC: What made you choose fiction rather than creative non-fiction as a vehicle? Are confronting issues, such as those addressed in Yellowcake
Springs
, more easily absorbed through fiction?

GS: Absolutely. In writing fiction, one creates characters for whom the world around them is normal and mundane, even if for us it might appear nightmarish.

Instead of writing a dry tract about the possible
dangers of nuclear power, foreign takeovers and climate change, all of which are pressing issues here in Western Australia, I much prefer to depict these problems imaginatively. One of the reasons for this is
that fiction writers pose questions, they do not offer solutions.

Thus Yellowcake Springs explores some of these issues in a way that doesn't pretend to have all the answers. If these problems were easily solved, then they would be solved. The Fukushima nuclear crisis, which occurred after Yellowcake Springs was completed, brought the issue of nuclear power to the forefront of public consciousness again. Instead of boring readers with a polemic on the dangers of nuclear power, I chose to imagine a scenario in which this debate had been won decades before.

KC: What do you consider to be the appeal of the
post-apocalyptic/dystopian sub-genre of speculative fiction? Do you think it acts as a reversed form of escapism for the audience i.e., offering an exaggerated view of a possible bleak future – prompting an appreciation for reality, rather than a desire to escape it?

GS: Dystopian fiction is necessarily exaggerated, offering extreme visions that provoke readers into responding emotionally and intellectually.

One of the aims of such writing is to allow readers to engage with the issues of the present time in a different context. This desire to confront the issues of our time means that dystopia fiction is anti-escapist.

Personally, I find that problems like climate change
are so vast and seemingly intractable, especially GuySgiven the squabbling between nations and within them, that eventually they become a kind of
background noise. The desire for escape has a powerful pull on us all, a desire which we satisfy with media, entertainment and gaming.

Yellowcake Springs imagines an even more seductive form of escapism, depicting some of the dangers of disengagement from the political process. Dystopian fiction allows us to re-engage with these problems
in a different way.

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Focus 5: Tim Jones

[Josh Brockbank interviewed Tim Jones, one of two poets who accompanied David on the recent IP tour of New Zealand, about his unapologetically male focused new book, Men Briefly Explained.]

JB: What is it about the father-son relationship that your poetry is trying to unravel/discover?

TJ: I think I'm trying to describe it rather than unravel or discover it. The relationship between fathers and sons has elements of a lot of things – love, emulation, rivalry – much, I suppose, like the relationship between mothers and daughters. I love my Dad very much, and I think the relationship between us is very good now, but it wasn't always easy when I was younger. I think both that love and that tension are in these poems.

JB: A lot of the poetry in Men Briefly Explained seems Men Briefly Explainedto attribute the apathy of married men to stale love and marriage, "Years with a Husband" and "Now What" come to mind. Are these poems designed to serve as a guide for woman, a warning for men, or something deeper?

TJ: "Now What" is actually about a much younger man - me when I was a student, actually; the worst time of my life, when I was depressed without realising it. "Years with a Husband" is one where I (tried to) write from a woman's point of view – I see it as a half-irritated, half-loving poem about a husband who's stuck in his ways. I perceive this danger of 'turning stony' in myself, and it's something I try to avoid. I hope other people will take from these poems what best applies to them!

JB: What kind of feedback did you get from your wife after writing Men Briefly Explained?

TJ: I asked her, and here's what she replied: Her first reaction was to laugh. "Tim never explains anything briefly," was her response. "This is obviously a book of humour." Then, on receiving more information, she said that she was by turns pleased and bemused. She found some sections touching, evocative, occasionally sad, and overall she found the book quite delightful.

I'd just like to stress that these are her own words – but I'm glad she appreciated the humour in these poems!

JB: Do you feel that modern men are losing their masculinity?

TJ: A tricky questions, this. It depends on what you mean by 'masculinity.' Does that mean selfishness, aggression, a propensity to violence, a lack of empathy? If that's what 'masculinity' means, then I think we're better off without it. On the other hand, I do get the sense that many men feel they have lost their previous role (breadwinner etc.) and don't know how to replace it with something meaningful. I'd like to see men, in the widest sense, think of ourselves as carers – for children, for our partners, for other people around us, for the planet.

JB: There is a very strong autobiographical tone to TimJyour poems. How do you respond to the idea that maybe your book is more of a brief explanation of yourself rather than men in general?

TJ: I have joked that the title of the book would be more accurate if you took the 'n' off the first word in the title – and it would be fair criticism to say that "Middle Class, Middle Aged, Heterosexual White Males Briefly Explained" might also be a more accurate title, though that would make for a very small typeface on the cover. Yes, a lot of the poems are autobiographical, but a number are not – "The Outsider", for instance, or "The Wrong Horse". I'm looking around me as well as looking within.

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