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Director's Welcome

DR_KSP

Welcome to our final issue of 2012!

For the past two months, I was overseas, first on tour in New Zealand to showcase work by Karen Zelas (Night's Glass Table), Sugu Pelay (Flaubert's Drum) and Kathy Sutcliffe (Write My Face). After that, I was in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts, to compose and refine the film and interactive website components for the My Planets Reunion Memoir Project, and I want to acknowledge the tremendous support of IP staff Lauren Daniels, Anna Bartlett, TJ Withers, as well as our intern Priscilla Clare, in keeping the Studio working in my absence, and ensuring I had minimal disruption during my residency.

I've provides an overview of the Project below, and encourage you to follow its progress and to provide feedback on its Facebook page, as well as the interactive website that's still under construction.

With eight new titles for our Spring Season, we have events scheduled from now until mid-December, so check out the events in Out & About, and also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest breaking news.

As usual, we have interviews with our new release and upcoming authors. Valerie Volk discusses her Even Grimmer Tales, released in time for the hundreth anniversary of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales. Janet Reid talks about her IP Picks Best Junior Prose winner Granny Rags, Robert Vescio and Cheri Scholten are interviewed about their upcoming picture book No Matter Who We're With, and Margaret Ruckert provides insights about her 2012 IP Picks Best Poetry winner Musefood.

Our Senior Prose Editor, Lauren Daniels explores the reasons for seeking a professional assessment of your work before sending it off for publication, which is especially important in these days where it's so easy to publish, at least online, avoiding the traditional 'gate-keepers'.

I want to highlight our IP Rolling Picks Program, which replaces our IP Picks competition and also provides a process by which authors can send projects to us for possible royalty publication, but also receive developmental support along the way. We're encouraged by the number of authors who have entered the program to date. The good news is that there is no set deadline for submitting to Rolling Picks, and that we now decide on royalty offers twice a year rather than once in March. And now the Rolling Picks program is open to authors with English language projects globally. As always, our key criteria are quality and originality.

Finally, I wish to thank our outstanding interns TJ Withers, Priscilla Clare, and my QUT mentee Ben Goodfellow for their contribution to IP’s press list and dedication to our team.

Treetop Studio will be closing for our Holiday Break on 21 December, re-opening on 7 January. We wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday season and look forward to hearing from you in the New Year.

Cheers
David

Editorial

Do We Need Australian Centre for the Arts?

I was lucky enough to receive grants from the Australia Council and the Cultural Fund of CAL to pursue a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada where I composed and refined the digital media elements of the My Planets Project. This gave me a chance to reflect on the place of arts in Australia.

The Banff Centre has as its motto 'Inspiring Creativity', and its setting in the breath-taking Canadian Rockies certainly provides an inspirational backdrop for creative activities, but you might well ask why I couldn't have pursued the Project back in Australia.

While it's true that Australia has many practitioners in digital arts, there is no focal point here, no single institution like the Banff Centre that brings together creators from across disciplines such as visual arts, dance, writing, music and digital arts. Keeping these disciplines de-centralised perpetuates fragmentation, discourages the cross-fertilisation and collaboration that leads to innovation as well as a cohesive movement that supports the arts as an industry. While at Banff, I made friends with musicians from Montreal, Iceland and New Zealand, attended readings by diverse Canadians and American writers, attended visual arts openings by emerging artists and could have participated in a conference on how projection technology can be used in art galleries (if I'd had the time!) There were performances by spoken word artists and First Nation writers and musicians. Something to do or attend literally every day of the week. All within a single campus – the Banff Arts Centre.

Having a focal point for artist creation and performance might also encourage greater corporate sponsorship in Australia, which lags behind its North American counterparts, at least in the private support of the non-performance arts. The Banff Centre has an outside wall where it lists many donors – individuals as well as corporates – for all to see, and the donations range from thousands to millions of dollars in support. It's easier to attract sponsorships like this to an institution that clearly stands for inspiring the creative arts. The fact that the Banff Centre has been operating successfully for more than sixty years as a non-degree granting institution is testament to the fact that such a model can be economically viable. And, if it can work in Canada, it should work in Australia, which is often compared to Canada as a nation.

It's also interesting to note that the Centre is located in a township of only 8000 people, which strongly supports the Centre not only for its arts programs but also as a magnet to cultural tourists. People enjoy the natural riches of the Banff area during the day and the cultural riches offered by the Centre at night. So it's not necessary to locate such a centre in a population hub to ensure its survival.

It's clear that Australia's boom & bust mentality from our non-renewable resources is becoming less reliable as a source of wealth for our country, so we need to consider developing our cultural capital as a source of national pride and export potential. The arts are certainly a renewable and abundant resource in this country, and it's time that we developed them by establishing an Australian Centre for the Arts where we can develop and showcase our talent and attract the private sponsorship that would sustain our industry without the need to rely so heavily on government hand-outs. We may not have the Rocky Mountains, but Australia has many places of beauty that could be equally inspiring to our artists and those who could support the arts for their own sake.

- DR

IP Digital Buzz

Spin-offs from the My Planets Reunion Memoir will include a standalone film; an interactive website featuring texts, images, audio readings and video clips; an enhanced eBook; and a dedicated Facebook page where people can add their views on the social issues raised by the Project. The film is My Planetsa Kindle (.mobi), ePub and optimised pdf version, and already available for free viewing on YouTube, and in segments by Planet Locale on Vimeo. The Project's online elements will also be free. The only elements that aren't free are the source book, My Planets: a fictive memoir and the enhanced eBook, which will be available as an optimised pdf and as an ePub3 file via the iBookstore. Both the book and the enhanced eBook versions contain the complete texts from the Project, while the website and film feature only selections from the text.

A new edition of David's popular Your eBook Survival Kit eBook is about to go live. A resource book that builds on his workshops Retool & Remix: Get a Digital Life and Digital Projects Bootcamp, the Kit gives you a firm foundation in Plain English on how to break into eBook publishing with Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive, Wheelers and the other key global distributors. David's book tells you how to produce a master from square one that can be streamlined to the most popular eBook formats. The new edition includes YoureBookKitinformation on how to produce Fixed Layout files that will work on the latest Amazon and Apple devices, and tips on how to publish in ePub3 using Apple's new iBooks Author app. If you buy the first edition now, we'll send you a FREE upgrade when the new edition is released (before Christmas). Only $9.99 at the IP Store as a pdf, ePub or .mobi file. Or check out Your Deal to see how you can get the new edition FREE.

Apple, Inc has extended their online bookshops to New Zealand and numerous South American countries, so IP titles will soon be available in 50 iBookstores. Apple also released a new version of its iBooks Author application with new templates, better multimedia features and the ability to create portrait only titles. The same restrictions apply against selling the resulting Fixed Layout files outside of the Apple platform, so we will continue to create generic Fixed Layout titles that will work with our key distributors other than Apple, e.g. Amazon, Kobo & Barnes & Noble.

Prose Picks

November marks the culmination of a busy year for the IP prose department, with the official release of a series of fiction and non-fiction publications.

For 15 November 2012 release, we have quite a roll call of names and titles.

The Terrorist, a novel and psychological exploration of racism and media-fuelled suspicion from Queensland’s award winning author Barry Levy.
Blood, by Tasmanian Peter Kay, a magic realism novel and first prize winner in Fiction for IP Picks 2012.
Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain, winner of Creative Non-Fiction Picks 2012 by Simon Kleinig, takes us to one of Tasmania’s beloved peaks.
SuzukiMemories of Shinichi Suzuki, by second time IP author Lois Shepheard explores both the man and his philosophy of teaching music to children.
• Judith L. McNeil’s compelling autobiographical non-fiction works, No One’s Child and The Girl with the Cardboard Port.

Final touches are being made on IP Picks 2012 awarded work Art from Adversity: A Life with Bipolar by Anne Naylor for March 2013 release.

Editing has commenced on Christian Baines first novel, The Beast Without, which placed in the Fiction and Best First Book categories of IP Picks two years in a row.

Several other authors are working away at revisions as our hopefuls for Rolling Picks selections for March 2013, with a couple of strong contenders for both the Fiction and Non Fiction categories. Remember that since it is now ROLLING Picks, you can submit throughout the year for the two selection deadlines. Check out the Rolling Picks page for further details.

Poetry Snippets

Two new poetry titles headed up our Spring Season events with an opening launch in Sydney on 4 November. Margaret Owen Ruckert (musefood) was joined by Valerie Volk (Even Grimmer Tales) at the Friend in Hand Pub, Glebe.

We've also contracted with Bill Rush from Tasmania for his poetry collection Into the World's Light, and negotiations are well under way for a tri-lingual (Mapuche / Spanish / English) anthology co-edited by Stephen Brock, Jaime Huenún, and Juan Garrido-Salgado.

VoyagersFinally, we're supporting a proposal to CAL for a Cultural Fund grant that would enable us to develop an anthology of speculative / sci-fi poetry along the lines of our successful anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand. The joint Australian / New Zealand editors expect to call for expressions of interest early in the New Year.

IP Kidz Update

Our four IP Kidz titles scheduled for early 2013 release are all Granny Ragsat design stage now, and we’re excited to see them coming together so well. Granny Rags (the winner of Best Young Adult / Junior Prose in IP Picks 2012) now has a wonderful cover illustration by Tom Hermann.

No Matter Who We’re With, by Robert Vescio and Cheri Scholten, and Bringing Down the Wall, by David P Reiter and Sona Babajanyan, will be full-colour 32-page picture books, while The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other eco-tales, by Anne Morgan and Gay McKinnon, will be an 80-page hardback with quirky black & white illustrations.

I Love You Book, by Libby Hathorn and Heath McKenzie, has Love Bookwon 3rd Prize for Junior Fiction in the NSW Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards. Congratulations, Libby and Heath!

David tells us that the fourth book in his Project Earth-mend Series, Tiger Take the Big Apple, is well under way, having received a kick-start in his spare time at Banff. This sequel is set in North America, featuring native wildlife characters like a Bald Eagle named Bill Clinton! But anything's possible in a Series where one of the main characters, the ET / bullfrog, Tark can shape-shift into Elvis Presley and Madonna at will!

In Review

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

Valerie Volk – Even Grimmer Tales

In Even Grimmer Tales, her third book, Valerie Volk takes on an original approach, “transporting and adapting certain of the classic Brothers Grimm tales into a modern context”. Not for the faint-hearted indeed, as the book’s subtitle says, but the task has been achieved with aplomb.

– John Miles, indaily

Karen Zelas – Night's Glass Table

Night's Glass TableAs a part of the Christchurch Writers Festival where her book featured at two events, Karen was interviewed about the book on Radio New Zealand. You can check out the podcast here:

Foci

Focus 1: Valerie Volk

[Interviewed by Lauren Daniels, Valerie gives us her take on the classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, which are, as the sub-title makes clear, 'Not for the Faint-Hearted'.]

LD: Securing a placement in IP Picks 2012, Even Grimmer Tales, draws the beloved Grimm Fairy Tales into contemporary settings through a wonderful balance of prose and poetry. Would you describe your inspiration? What were some of the experiences that drew you into this world?

VV: It’s always seemed to me that the Grimms Tales, which were actually called Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), certainly not what we consider ‘fairy stories’, had many really dark elements. In fact, the first versions of these stories raised so many objections that later versions were somewhat sanitised. I guess that led me to feel, when Poetica, (a writing group I belong to), was set the task of writing a fairy tale in verse, that I was entitled to explore a very black version of one of these traditional stories.

So I wrote ‘Red’, a version of the Red Riding Hood story, in which the wolf becomes a homicidal pedophile, and the little girl, somewhat less innocent than we like to think of her. It was a great success with its audience, and that started me thinking ... what might be done with the other Tales we all know so well? What does our modern world offer in the way of dark experiences that might parallel Grimms Tales? Even Grimmer Tales is the outcome.

LD: There is an apparent love for the fairy tale in this work. What was your research process like?

VV: There were three main lines of research: the first into the stories themselves, their original versions as collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm from many cultures, and the ways these were rewritten over the years. I made some fascinating discoveries there, for instance the fact that in the original Snow White story it was the girl’s own mother, desperately jealous of her daughter’s beauty, who leads her to intended death in the dark forest. This was seen as too shocking a concept, and later versions changed mother to stepmother.

The second field of research was into the deep symbolic significance of these old stories; both they, and fairy tales call on, and give expression to hidden emotions and private terrors. Many researchers in this field have clarified the ways in which so much of our emotional life, our deepest often unacknowledged fears and desires, are explored through the metaphor of these apparently simple tales.

And third, of course, was research into the many varieties of deviance, both sexual and social, that I allied the stories with. So I learned a lot about forms of fetishism, among them anthropophargy (yes, that’s cannibalism), trichophilia (hair fetishism to the world at large), necrophilia (which took me into research into embalming and taxidermy) ... it’s been quite a learning curve!

LD: With the 200th anniversary of the publication of Grimms’ Fairy Tales upon us this year, there have been as many adult devotees of these stories as children. In the French Court ofEven Grimmer Tales the late 17th century, fairy tales were particularly considered as entertainment for adults. Can you discuss how you see Even Grimmer Tales meeting your adult readers? Can you describe this intrinsic appeal?

VV: I think we’re all fascinated by the dark side of human nature. Look at the popularity of today’s television top raters: Criminal minds and forensic detection, the psyche of the murderer and the rapist, the investigation of cold cases ... It may have been covert in the original stories, just as it’s often implicit and hinted at in many of my tales, but as human beings, we are interested in the very things that we reject.

I’m also intrigued by the way in which so many of these old stories are now being re-invented as films and TV series, and not just Disney versions for children. We’ve had a spate of adult films about Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Huntsman, TV series like Ever After, even the Sondheim musical. It certainly suggests the intrinsic appeal is enduring.

LD: In the 20th century, great minds such as Marie-Louise von Franz, Bruno Bettelheim, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes studied and explored fairy tales as beautiful little maps of the psyche and unconscious. Given the current fascination with fantasy literature and psychology, would you tell us how Even Grimmer Tales wrestles with some of the issues and problems that face your adult readers?

VV: That’s a lovely phrase – ‘beautiful little maps of the psyche and unconscious’. But I think that Even Grimmer Tales does not so much ‘wrestle’ with the issues as simply present them from a new perspective: in most cases from within the character’s mind, or sometimes that of a closely connected character. The value in this is that it gives a chance for understanding; it does not suggest condoning the acts of these characters, but by seeing the world from their perspective perhaps finding new ways of handling the problems that so often face people today. I’m a great believer in that classic saying: “You can’t understand a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins”. My version of these tales gives readers the chance to walk in some very uncomfortable moccasins – but maybe to come out with a new comprehension of the causes of the acts we view with repugnance in the daily papers. That’s a first step to dealing with problems.

LD: How do you see this work contributing to the body of literature on the Grimms Brothers? For your readers and fellow lovers of the fairy tales, where will Even Grimmer Tales take them?

VV: I do like Peter Goldsworthy’s back cover comment on the book: “a sequence of funny, dark and sly monologues, each of which offers a highly entertaining modern take on a traditional fairy story”. My hope would be that Even Grimmer Tales makes readers laugh, but laugh a bit uneasily, and at the end echo the closing line of the Epilogue:
“There, but for God’s good grace, go I.”

Focus 2: Janet Reid

[Children's Editor Anna Bartlett interviews Janet Reid about Granny Rags, the novel that won Janet the IP Picks Best Junior Prose Award for the second year in a row.]

AB: Granny Rags is the story of Tim Trickett, who is dared by his classmates to visit the reclusive old lady who lives near the creek. But one visit turns into several, and soon Tim finds himself deep in a mess of buried secrets, crooked business deals and long-harboured grudges… Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

JR: This story actually started with the idea of the old lady, Granny Rags – a recluse who wore old raggy clothes. Why Granny Rags? I know this sounds weird, but I woke up one morning thinking that name and immediately wondered who she was and what her story was. The story grew from there. It goes to show that ideas can start in the strangest ways.
I like to have older characters in my stories. We can learn from older people. In Granny Rags, Mrs Ragdale helps Tim face up to the scarring on his shoulder. I also like to have a bully in my stories. Bullies never really change, but I hope my readers can see that there are ways of coping with them.

AB: Tim is the new boy in a small country town. What made you choose this situation?

JR: Starting at a new school is always daunting for children, so JanetRI wanted to create a situation that children might understand and perhaps relate to. And why the small town? I grew up in a small town. I know how different life is compared to city living. I hope, with Granny Rags, I bring a little of country life to my readers, particularly those who have always lived in the city.

AB: Your first novel, The Ruby Bottle, won Best Young Adult/Junior Prose in IP Picks 2011. How did the writing and revising of Granny Rags compare with that of The Ruby Bottle? Was it easier? Harder? Did you come across the same problems, or were they completely different?

JR: I thought it was going to be easier, but it wasn't really. Writing and revising a book is a lot of hard work. I learnt so much during the editorial process of The Ruby Bottle, and I thought I had sorted out a lot of my weaknesses, but I found there were different problems with Granny Rags. I was glad I had an editor to help me. Hopefully, my next book will be tighter, with less need for revision.

AB: What’s the most useful thing you’ve learnt as a writer since submitting The Ruby Bottle to IP?

JR: I think the most useful thing I have learnt is the importance of working with a good editor. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I tend to go easy on my characters – I don't make enough bad things happen to them. Of course, this means I often don't create enough tension in my stories. Working with an editor means that I am getting specific feedback on my own writing. It has helped me tighten up my writing.

AB: Have you always wanted to write for children? What do you enjoy most about writing for this audience?

JR: I was a school teacher for years, so I guess it followed that I would write for children. I hadn't always intended to write, but when I saw an ad in the paper about a children's Granny Ragswriting course, I enrolled, and was immediately hooked. It was my first small step towards getting published. Over the years I have written for all ages, but it has always been the 8-12 year old group I have come back to. I guess I like that the stories don't necessarily have to be complicated. I think that is important if you want to hook the reluctant reader.

AB: What advice would you give to other aspiring children’s writers?

JR: I would strongly urge anyone who wants to write, whatever the genre, to participate in writing courses, workshops and masterclasses, attend conferences and festivals, and join a writer's group – or form your own. These are all a great way to learn the craft, meet other writers, and network. I also believe it is important to have your writing assessed (manuscript appraisement) as this pinpoints the strengths and weaknesses in your individual writing. But really, my credo is simple: write lots; read lots; and don't give up.


Focus 3: Robert Vescio / Cheri Scholten

[Anna Bartlett interviews Robert Vescio and Cheri Scholten about their new picture book, which deals with how love and stability can be maintained between parents and children even when the parents have split.]

AB: No Matter Who We’re With is a comforting story of two children whose parents are separated. Despite their parents living apart, the children know they are loved unconditionally by each parent. What led you to write this story?

RV: I wrote No Matter Who We’re With following my separation in 2008. Not only was it rough for me on a personal level, with so much upheaval and sadness, but for my children too. So I decided to write a story that would help not only my children, but also other children going through a similar fate to cope with the many changes experienced when parents separate. I couldn’t find any picture books that dealt with this issue so I thought I’d write a picture book about it myself.

AB: The simplicity of the text is very effective in giving a picture of the children’s lives and relationships. Why did you decide that this was the most appropriate way to tell the story?

RV: The story has few words and is told in an easy-to-read narrative that children can read and enjoy on their own. This is RobertVa poignant child’s eye view of living in a split family. The children’s experiences will help other children feel more comfortable, and less scared knowing that they are being spoken to by a child who is going through a similar situation. The children in the book come across as being energetic, and well-adjusted. The parents seem to strike a balance of fun and responsibility and the children help out. But also the children feel slightly uncomfortable as they experience the bumps of having two addresses. Most importantly, the story addresses the fact that the children have a place and home with each parent and of course the same amount of love as always.

AB: Another of the book’s themes is the celebration of childhood pleasures. What was the most fun part of writing this story?

RV: The fun part was drawing on my own real life experiences to share them with other families. The family warmth is the attractive part in the story – this is still a loving family, even if it happens to live in two different houses. This is a book for every boy and girl who knows what it’s like to go back and forth between mum’s house and dad’s house. It will make a great gift, too, and can be shared by grandparents, uncles, aunties, family therapists and teachers.

AB: How did you first become interested in writing for children?

RV: I’m a BIG kid at heart, but it wasn’t until I left fulltime work in 2007, to become a stay-at-home dad, that I began to take No Matter Whowriting seriously. I had a great excuse to spend hours in the children’s section of bookstores. I enjoy spending time with my children, who are an endless source of inspiration. A lot of my creative ideas come from observing my children. There is a lot of humour and I enjoy looking for stories from their every day experiences. I love picture books and the way they express emotions and ideas in simple ways.

[Cheri Scholten's interview follows.]

AB: The illustrations in No Matter Who We’re With are vibrant and imaginative, and immerse the reader in the fun-filled activities the children enjoy with each parent. How did you decide on the style of illustration you would use?

CS: Initially when I read the story, it was quite sad. But I felt that there was a lot of love between the family. I thought it would be great to still show the warmth and love, even during difficult times. The character style, I’ve been developing over the years, illustrating for articles that involved family matters for the publication Sydney’s Child.

AB: What initially drew you to the manuscript?

CheriSCS: I come from a very similar family background. With a lot more families breaking up these days, I find it very important that children who are going through the break-ups, and the people around them learn how to deal with these situations.

AB: Some of the spreads in the book show wonderful creativity and give a great sense of a child’s imagination: there are giant sandcastles, amazing costumes and houses hollowed out of carrot! Talk us through your creative process.

CS: I would still call myself a big kid. Always head up in the clouds thinking of the next adventure. I remember making a whole kingdom out of couch cushions. Kids make up whole worlds with their imaginations, whether it be for fun or as a way to understand better what is happening around them. I saw the story was more from the children’s point of view and I really wanted to show that part in the spreads. We tend to exaggerate our stories and remember things a lot larger than it really was but I think that is the beautiful part about making memories with loved ones. I thought it would be great to show that.

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         FEATURED ARTISTS

 

SimonK

Simon Kleinig

Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain

LoisS

Lois Shepheard

Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki: Son of His Environment

DR_Dalek

David P Reiter

My Planets Reunion Memoir Project

PeterK

Peter Kay

Blood

JanetR

Janet Reid

Granny Rags

BarryL

Barry Levy

The Terrorist

ValerieV

Valerie Volk

Even Grimmer Tales

MargoR

Margaret Owen Ruckert

musefood

RobertV

Robert Vescio

No Matter Who We're With

CheriS

Cheri Scholten

No Matter Who We're With

 

 

 

 

Focus 4: Margaret Owen Ruckert

[Margaret's latest book, musefood, won the 2012 IP Picks Best Poetry Award. Assistant Editor TJ Withers interviewed her for Focus.]

TW: How have your studies and experiences in science affected your writing?

MR: Study in any area flexes the mind muscles, as educationalists tend to say. It strengthens our grasp on reality while also working towards our ‘what ifs’, the possibilities not yet realised. Science enabled me to pursue my love of wildflowers, while also realizing the value of research in the scientific method. You will hear of scientists loving their subject. And while you won’t find a formula for love or truth, they are definitely part of the equation.

TW: Your writing often discusses the roles forced on women by society. Do you consider yourself a feminist?  How do you think the role of women has changed since the time of your mother and grandmother?

MR: I have no reason to believe that we are any less equal. St Paul of the Bible is a controversial figure, inMargoR that a number of his statements read as contradictory. But his statement ‘there is neither male nor female’ (Gal 3:29) challenges all that the physical world tells us. The statement is like a spiritual truth. It uncovers the real.

The role of women is largely shaped by the prevailing cultural norms. My grandmother ran a Post Office shop in England, and after being widowed with two young daughters, came to Australia. Eventually, she found part-time work in the Post Office, but then was retired due to age rules. My mother would have liked to work after marriage, but her Government job ceased on marriage. The women in my life met various life challenges by changing their circumstances to best fit. A kind of evolution.

TW: What is one piece of advice that you give to aspiring writers in your monthly writing workshops at the Hurstville Discovery Writers Group?

MR: One piece of advice? Online? Will my readers believe me? Aspiring writers are most probably already writing, but are they also readers? To aim for the best writing you are capable of, read widely, read wisely. Draw a character sketch and step inside their sandals. There’s a lot to be said for saris and sandals in an Australian summer. And now, I’m off track completely. The right brain has hijacked this interview. I’m musefoodobviously completely overtaken by recent events: the Prime Minister taking a tumble in heels. I’m obsessed by shoes and incensed by ‘heels’. Note to all aspiring writers: if you are also a designer, why not design me a fashionable-looking shoe to walk a kilometre in? You have your first buyer here.

TW: Mark Flanagan once wrote, "The poet, through innovation in both word choice and form, seemingly rends significance from thin air." How have you intended to give significance to the everyday in your poems?

MR: Rhyme, rhythm, figurative language all intrigue us and I employ whatever is needed in my poems. When we listen to word music, the everyday is far away.

TW: Why do you write?

MR: I write to remember. Someone said this, not me. But I can’t remember who. I write to create a collage from sight and sound, to realise, investigate. I write to renew. 

 

My Planets Reunion Memoir Project Update

[In his most ambitious digital project to date, David Reiter undertook an artist-in-residency at the internationally renown Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada with grants from the Australia Council and the Cultural Fund of CAL. We asked him to provide an overview of the Project, its aims and outcomes for eNews.]

The Project, as it's become known, began a decade ago when I was reunited with my biological families.

I was separated from my mother at birth, becoming, in essence, part of the Stolen Generation – or at least the American version of it. In those days, unwed mothers were not only scorned but hidden away in work houses where they were expected to atone for their sins by hard labour. This effect doubled or even trebled the guilt the mothers would feel personally for giving up their flesh and blood, ensuring that even the strongest women would be permanently scarred by their experience.

The children were taken into care 'for their own good', where they would be out of reach from their sinful mothers. In my case, this involved me being placed in a Jewish orphanage for the first 30 months of my life, a period that psychologists agree is crucial in the bonding of children to adults and the development of healthy emotions and relationships. When I finally was adopted at two and half (after being monitored for possible retardation), it was by a self-employed truck driver with a history of rheumatic fever and his wife, who were both in their mid-thirties by then – obviously I was not seen as prime pickings for adoption! My father died when I was eleven and my adoptive mother gradually showed symptoms of psychological disorders that estranged her (and me) from her family.

My PlanetsSmall wonder that I felt ambivalent about searching for my biological family until I was well into adulthood. As it happened, the search for my mother at least went very quickly and the reunion with her was very positive. That was because both of us registered with the same reunion organisation within weeks of each other – quite remarkable after so many years! On my father's side, it was a different story. His wife of 40 years was completely shocked by the revelation, and her oldest child did his best to dismiss it, until the evidence was overwhelming.

But the aspect of the experience I found the most compelling was how the stories family members told after the reunion varied, sometimes radically, reinforcing my view that reality is relative, and people are inclined to reconstruct the past in a way that suits them. This was where the Planets metaphor came to me, in thinking how the 'reality' of an evening sky can vary depending on what planet we're standing on at the time.

I've always been intrigued by cross disciplinary threads, so I was drawn in this case to Gustav Holst's Planets suite, and its astrological links and the interplay of these with the mythology and astronomical elements associated with each planet. I used these to create "locales" for positioning themes related to the exploration of self, family members and their stories.

The text came first, but I gathered hundreds of images, old and new, and video footage, over several trips back to my home city of Cleveland, Ohio and began the process of bringing them together in book form in My Planets: a fictive memoir. I added readings from selected texts which were embedded into an enhanced eBook with colour images (the book, of course, had only had black and white images). Last year, a student from QUT worked with me to create a trailer for the project, which I used as a 'proof of concept' for funding agencies in applying for grants. Also last year, I visited the Banff Centre to discuss the Project with staff from their Digital Media Department and received enthusiastic support (and references) in support of my grant applications.

It all came together with both agencies – the Australia Council and CAL – agreeing to fund the Project, and the Banff Centre offering me a Leighton Studio to DR_ARundertake the Project with their specialist support. Working with a web designer and audio engineer, we created a dedicated website for the Project, which complemented the Facebook page I used as a diary to discuss how I was putting the Project together day by day, providing samples and "teasers" from the multimedia content and encouraging readers to add their own life stories to the journey.

In the Hernandez Studio (a recommissioned fishing boat!) I created the hour long film for the Project, comprised of nine segments – one for each planet, synchronising Holst's music with animated images and text in keeping with each locale's theme, and, in the case of Earth and Pluto, the two planets Holst did not compose a movement for, composing my own soundscape via LogicPro and Appleloops.

I also worked with the Centre staff on testing the various elements – text, performances of the text, video clips – on the website to be sure they would work on smartphones and tablets as well as computers (this process is continuing as I write this).

It all came together the night before I left Banff in an Open Studio screening of segments from the film. The audience – many of them digital media specialists, were very enthusiastic about what they saw, and stayed on after the event (always a good sign!) to discuss 'where to from here'. The day after I got back to Australia, we also had a screening of segments from the film at the Gold Coast Writers Festival.

I'm hopeful that our ABC might be willing to do something with the Project, either on TV or online. I'm also hopeful that some of our "wired" art galleries might also be willing to acquire it for their standing collections. Given the interactive aims of the Facebook site, and the web site, I expect that the story is only beginning, and that it will evolve to encompass many stories from people who have experienced similar things in their life.

If you're interested in following the story as it evolves, please "like" the Facebook page, and visit it now and then to see how things are developing and to add your own impressions to it.

 

The Truth about Assessment: Growing Better Writers

The best writers – the professionals – rely on editors. Name your favourite authors. If you know who they are, they work with editors.

The pros know three main things about editors. They …
• read for a living
• aim to bring out the best in the writing
• understand the rapidly changing publishing industry.

What else do they know?

Assessments are part of the process. In today’s industry, professional writers work with editors long before a contract is in place through assessments. Maybe just one. Maybe several. Assessments cultivate a writer’s overall skill and precision, and the best editors believe that it’s about more than a manuscript. It’s about growing a writer’s career.

Editors don’t fix punctuation. A professional writer wants to be in control of the finesse and subtlety of the finer points of their work, just as a master painter articulates each brush stroke. Pros work with editors for more substantial reasons than the nuts and bolts such as…

Editors have fresh eyes plus experience. They aren’t locked into the work the way the writer is, and can differentiate between an evidence-based observation about the quality of the writing and a subjective LaurenDopinion. Even if a piece is wildly experimental, a good editor can tell whether it’s working or not – and they can explain why through an assessment. Editors catch the common mistakes made by writers and offer solutions without contaminating the sanctity of the creative process.

Editors help writers push their work further. They identify red herrings and cite potential for new, wonderous contours. They note characters who beg for more depth and which plot points depart from the trajectory of the storyline. They see the gun placed on the wall in Act I that didn’t go off in Act III [thank you, Anton Chekhov]. Editors notice the moments when a story approaches a wicked Shakespearean implosion, but instead diminishes into predictable cliché. And they know how to say ‘Consider this…’ without telling an author what to write.

It’s also about good business. Editors help books vault over the critics, and secure sales with an aim to lower the financial risk for publishers. Editors know what reviewers promote and what they leave in tatters, even if writers don’t. They know what distributors are buying, that readers are more educated than ever before, and that today’s good reads can cross the globe within minutes.

And it all starts with an assessment. Good editors and skilled feedback grows good writers. Check out the Rolling Picks page to find out about how we’ve made this vision our practice.

– Lauren Daniels, Senior Prose Editor

 

Out and About

[IP authors Simon Kleinig, Margaret Owen Ruckert, Peter Kay, Barry Levy and Valerie Volk will feature in events in November and December in Sydney, Adelaide and several points in Tasmania. IP's Brisbane Gala is scheduled for 25 November at the Kookabura Café in Paddington]

After a very successful library launch in Adelaide, with guest launcher Peter Goldsworthy doing the honours, Valerie Volk traveled to Sydney to join with Barry Levy and Margaret Owen Ruckert to launch their books at the Friend in Hand Pub in Glebe on Sunday, 4 November.

Events featuring Simon Kleinig's Frenchmans Cap:

• Saturday 10 November, Gleebooks in Sydney from 3:30pm

• Wednesday, 14 November at the Devonport Library, 5:30pm – RSVP: devbooks@bigpond.com

• Friday, 16 November, Petrarch's Bookshop, 6pm – Frenchmans CapRSVP: petlau@bigpond.com

• Friday 23 November, Queenstown Scout's Hall – RSVP: frenchmans.launch@gmail.com or info@ipoz.biz

• 6 December, Fullers Bookshop, Hobart – RSVP: frenchmans.launch@gmail.com or info@ipoz.biz

• Monday, 17 December, at the South Australia Writers Centre, 6pm

Peter Kay's Blood:

• Wednesday, 14 November, The Lark Distillery, 6pm, jointly sponsored by The Lark and the Tasmanian Writers Centre

• a Canberra launch is tentatively scheduled for 23 March at the Co-op Bookshop, University of Canberra, with events in Rockhampton and Darwin contingent on grants. We'll update you closer to the time.

IP Spring Gala:

• Sunday, 25 November, Kookaburra Café, Paddington, from 2pm. Readings by Barry Levy (The Terrorist), No One's ChildValerie Volk (Even Grimmer Tales), Judith L McNeil (The Girl with the Cardboard Port and No One's Child), and Tuttle Family (Shadow Patterns). $35 includes a welcome drink and gourmet finger foods – RSVP by 21 Nov: info@ipoz.biz.

Your Deal

Deal 1: "Like" our Digital Publishing Centre page on Facebook before 1 December for a FREE IP eBook of your choice! That's right, simply go to our Facebook page, check out all the digital news, "like" what you see, and then email us your choice of eBook title, letting us know if you prefer Kindle (.mobi), ePub or optimised pdf version.

Deal 2: Order an IP eBook from the IP Store and receive a FREE copy of the 2nd edition of Your eBook Survival Kit. Most of our titles are available in Kindle (.mobi), ePub and optimised pdf versions, so let us know your preference.

Deal 3: 'Like' the My Planets Reunion Memoir Project on Facebook for a 25% discount from the IP Store on the book or enhanced eBook. Freight is $6.50 for the book; $5 for the enhanced eBook.

Order by 1 December 2012 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 (for Deals 2 or 3) by EFT or PayPal.

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