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Director's Welcome


Still Afloat!

Thanks to all those of you who sent us notes of concern and good wishes during the latest round of flooding in Queensland. IP has the good fortune to be housed in Treetop Studio, which is well above the areas most vulnerable to flooding, though a cyclone coming ashore from Moreton Bay might be a different story!

We were a bit worried about the delivery of our new Season of books in the rain, which we had plenty of on Monday. But we have some shelter near the entrance of our warehouse, and several pairs of hands – including the courier's – made short work of the task.

So I'm pleased to announce our Autumn Season has arrived and is ready for orders ahead of launch events in Brisbane and southern centres:

The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land and other eco-tales by Tasmanians Anne Morgan (text) and Gay McKinnon (illustrations)

No Matter Who We're With is a picture book by Robert Vescio (Sydney) and Cheri Scholten (Melbourne)

Bringing Down the Wall is my second picture book, illustrated by Brisbanite Sona Babajanyan

Granny Rags is the 2012 IP Picks Best Junior Prose winner by Janet Reid, also from Brisbane.

And lest the adults feel left out, we have Art and Adversity: A Life with Bipolar by Sydneysider Anne Naylor.

I was especially pleased to mark the official release of the My Planets Reunion Memoir Project on the Web at http://ipoz.biz/myplanets.

And we were delighted with the reception Simon Kleinig got for his Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain in several places in Australia as well as most recently in London, UK at Australia House.

We farewelled intern Patricia Clare at our annual Christmas lunch and thanked her for all of her hard work over the past months and recently welcomed Michele Beer, an intern from Potsdam University in Germany. She'll be full-time until mid April.

There's never a dull moment at Treetop Studio, and 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year!



Are Publishers Irrelevant?

That friendly giant Amazon is fond of showcasing the success stories of authors who have shrugged off the shackles of traditional publishing and made it into their best seller list as easy as 1-2-3. Amazon, of course, isn't alone in dangling the "self publishing" dream in front of the noses of would-be authors. Companies like Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Book Baby, Lulu and many others have done their best to make the solo publishing process straightforward and attractive.

But do the stats bear them out? For every successful DIY author, how many find their works out there but not selling? In an increasingly expanding marketplace, the path to discovery for authors is getting rockier by the day, especially when they are fed the line that getting "published" is as elementary as dashing off a novel in 24 hours – more than one writers' centre thinks this is a good strategy to encourage authors – and then simply uploading it to a distributor like Smashwords.

It's tempting to avoid some of the hurdles associated with traditional publishing like getting the work peer reviewed and assessed, and then revising, proofreading and planning a promotional campaign. In their haste to burst onto the best seller stage, many authors who shouldn't, ignore the need for reflection, gestation, systematic redrafting and careful, guided, editing and proofreading of their work.

IP, through our Digital Publishing Centre, offers assistance to people who want to publish their own work as an alternative to our regular royalty program. We stress the need to put each manuscript through a development cycle, ensuring that the process isn't short-circuited. Some people resist paying for services like this, as if publishing consultancies should work like a music sharing site, giving away their services.

It's still true that you get what you pay for, and if you launch into self-publishing with that attitude, you're likely to be disappointed – unless the stars magically align and you become one of Amazon's success stories, by chance.

- DR

IP Digital Buzz

The My Planets Reunion Memoir is now live on its dedicated website: http://ipoz.biz/myplanets Many people were involved in the Project over its several years of gestation until the final phases at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada and the fine-tuning at Treetop Studio, thanks to the hard work of our digital intern from QUT, Alexander Artlett. Thanks to all of those who collaborated, and especially to the Australia Council and the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency who funded the 2012 phase, staff and management at the Banff Centre who provided a considerable amount of in-kind support, and Arts Queensland, who provided a grant for the initial phase several years ago.

We're pleased to announce that the Project will be future-proofed by the National Library in its Pandora Archive of significant digital works, but you can experience it NOW for free online, and provide feedback to the creators and other viewers.

The new edition of David's popular Your eBook Survival Kit eBook is also 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.

IP recently signed with Singapore eBook distributor iLovebooks.com, which will give us greater visibility in the growing Asian markets. iLovebooks was already listing many of our titles but are looking forward to more direct links with us.

Prose Picks

The IP Prose Department burst through the gate after the holidays, driven by a strong press list and brilliant collection of authors for 2013.

Simon Kleinig’s Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain sold beautifully at his Australian launches and with support from Bob Brown, former Leader of the Greens. Kleinig’s book has also earned impressive reviews and solid sales in London.

An inspiring synthesis of a memoir with mental health themes and a mixed-media artwork, Art from Adversity: A Life with Bipolar by Anne Naylor is ready for March release. Naylor’s work will be showcased with our poetry and young adult titles at IP’s Autumn Soiree and Gala in Brisbane, 19-21 April 2013.

Christian Baines’ first novel The Beast Without – a bit of sexy vampire speculative fiction set in Sydney… Oxford Street, no less – is in production for mid-year release with the cover art currently being finalised.

Deborah Kay has teamed up with award winning author and three-time IP author Barry Levy, to write her courageous childhood sexual abuse memoir, Sawdust. With generous endorsement from Richard Hoffman, US author of Half the House, it is in the final stages of production.

John Rynn and his carer, John Corrigan, are finalising their last major content edit for their manuscript ‘You Only Love Me for My Mind & Other Bedtime Stories’ – John Rynn’s memoir about growing up in Queensland in the 1950s and 60s with cerebral palsy. Rynn is an accomplished artist, a public speaker and role model for people with disabilities.

A number of hopeful authors are engaging reader’s reports as they aim for Rolling Picks selections for March 2013.

We also welcome Michele Beer, an intern who has come all the way from Germany to work with our IP team! She's hit the ground running and is already busy proofreading titles for our Autumn Season and learning skills in our digital program.

Poetry Snippets

We're applying the final polish to three new poetry titles for our Autumn 2013 Season. Heather Taylor Johnson's Thirsting for Lemonade has already gathered impressive advance reviews from poets Ali Alizadeh and Aidan Coleman as well as American Steve Watkins. Given that her work straddles her time in the USA as well as her life in Australia, it's good to see some reviews from both countries.

Also nearly ready for press is Bill Rush's Into the World's Light, which melds Bill's interest in classical subjects and technique with contemporary material. It's a delight to work with a poet who ensures each word and line in a poem is there for a reason and achieving its desired effect – or at least leading the reader in that direction!

Finally, we have Murray Alfredson's The Gleaming Clouds nearing its final design stage. Adelaide-based Alfredson is quite political in many of his poems and will likely be controversial in some of his views. A number of images will be interspersed in his collection.

Still in development is a cross arts work by Canberra poet Kathy Kituai and well-known Scottish sculptor Fergus Stewart, who Kathy met during a recent stay in the UK. The collection will have an interplay of poems and photos of Fergus's works – in colour, of course – and we're looking forward to it attracting attention from sculptors and their audiences here and in Europe.

IP Kidz Update

Stock of our four new IP Kidz titles have just arrived at the Studio and we're looking forward to launching them over the next few months. Granny Rags (the winner of Best Young Adult / Junior Prose in IP Picks 2012) is an excellent follow-on from Janet Reid's first IP Kidz title, The Ruby Bottle.

No Matter Who We’re With, by Robert Vescio and Cheri Scholten, No Matter Whowill be launched first in Sydney at Robert's children's school on 3rd May, with David also reading from his latest picture book Bringing Down the Wall. Both are full-colour picture books. Also creating much advanceed interest is The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other eco-tales, by Anne Morgan, a collection of short stories in the fractured fairy tale mode but with an environmental twist.

In Review

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

Robert Vescio - No Matter Who We're With

"No Matter Who We’re With is a heart warming story about families. This mum and dad don’t live together now, but the family love goes on, ‘no matter who we’re with.’"
- Sally Odgers, children’s author

"Seen through the eyes of children, this story gives hope to families either separated or divorced who are able to balance the needs and desires of their children. Robert Vescio has certainly got the balance right with this lovely tale."
- Moira Horrocks, children’s book editor

David P Reiter - Bringing Down the Wall

"A sensitively told story about loving relationships, coping with loss and learning to love again. Bringing Down the Wall gently explores the process of loss and healing across the generations, from child to parent to grandparent."

- Margaret Warner, Buzz Words

"Bringing Down the Wall is an honest look at how confusing lifeBringing Down the Wall can be. It’s about forgiveness and acceptance. It’s about courage and frailty but above all it’s about love and family."

- Jackie Hosking, Pass It On

"A beautiful, heart-felt story about how sometimes things get lost in the generation gap. It takes someone very special to build the bridge and mend the hearts. This book is sure to fill a gap in the market and many a family. Lovely."

- Angela Hall, Bug in a Book

Barry Levy - The Terrorist

"Titled The Terrorist, the book was launched in Brisbane late last year and tells the story of a Jewish father confronted by a culturally-proud Arab Muslim exchange student staying in his home."

The Westside News

"The Terrorist is  Barry Levy at his best.  I laughed out aloud at the comic scenes. The paranoid Jewish father imagining the worst, criticising his family and the house guest – all Terroristagainst the background of a horrendous war seen on the television. ... I was driven by the depth in the diversity of arguments and the contrast displayed between family members.  This is indeed a high quality tragicomedy of a family struggling with changing circumstances and their sense of 'Jewishness'."

- Denzil Hersch

Simon Kleinig - Frenchmans Cap

"Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain by Simon Kleinig, renowned author and wilderness enthusiast, brings to life a collection of stories which define the mountain's journey from its geological genesis through colonial times to the modern era. It is a rare insight into not only the mountain itself, but the history and development of a unique area of Tasmania, and the colourful characters that helped shaped these stories.

High Commissioner to the UK, Mike Rann, offered his support for the book, saying it was an "extraordinary series of interwoven stories" and a unique way to tell the history of the Cap by intertwining a colourful procession of characters with the historical and geological details."

- Alex Ivett, The Australian Times

"Simon Kleinig's Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain offers the most complete written history of any Tasmanian mountain. The wait for Story of a Mountain has certainly been worthwhile.Frenchmans Cap Kleinig's meticulous research produced what is both a thorough history and a great read. Kleinig goes well beyond the first ascent to cover all the notable early ascents by different routes, track-cutting and epic rock-climbing on the daunting massif that includes the tallest vertical cliff in Australia. Well worth a read."

- John Cannon, The Mercury: Saturday Magazine

Valerie Volk – Even Grimmer Tales

"Volk is a passionate, dedicated and highly creative poet. These three recent books are a powerful testament to these qualities, and reverberate with her passion, power and poetic force.

Even Grimmer Tales is a fascinating set of twisted poetic adaptations of famous tales from the Brothers Grimm. Valerie Volk reinterprets these famous tales for a modern context, with a sardonic eye for richer, darker ironies and a witty take on each traditional story.

This is a highly polished and deliciously subversive book."

– Paul Grover, Studio

Even Grimmer Tales"On the 200th anniversary of the printing of the Grimm Brothers’ legendary collection of dark tales, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Australian author Valerie Volk’s twisted adaptation on the classic stories takes the ‘grim’ factor to another level. "

- Nina Bertok, The Adelaide Review

"The idea was to take a fairy story – Volk opted for Red Riding Hood – and give it a fresh twist. And twist it she did."

- Deborah Bogle, The Advertiser: SA Weekend

Mike Cahill - Paradise Rediscovered

"With Paradise Rediscovered... Dr. Cahill presents a highly comprehensive reconstruction of the Atlantis culture that he argues may have existed near the Neolithic Black Sea... Comparative studies of ancient religious and mythological texts such as Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh. ... Paradise Rediscovered is presented as 'paradigm-breaking conventional prehistoric research'."

- Atlantisforschung.de (German-English translation)

Robert Moore - About Face

"About Face has a modern, digitally-created look, but is still charming and old-fashioned in its simplicity, harking back to the days of Mr Potato Head, when life was simpler and sweeter."

- Dani Colvin, Sunday Tasmanian

"Young children will enjoy having this book read to them or About Facereading it themselves and will have a giggle at the characters up to mischief. The book could be complemented with songs and rhymes about the face and body and be a useful resource in a unit of work on the senses."

- Margaret Warner, Buzz Words

Peter Kay - Blood

"Blood by Tasmanian-based author Peter Kay, is a compelling and moving work of fiction that is also a remarkable love story."

- Sunday Tasmanian

Margaret Owen Ruckert - Musefood

"Ruckert has a sharp and perceptive eye, and an inventive musefoodmind. She has the reflexes of a caricaturist. Her poems can be humorous, playful, witty, acerbic – and trenchantly challenging. Lyrical moments such as a portrait of her mother’s shorthand skills in ‘mood cumulus’, and water image poems complement the more performative works in this collection."

- Joanne Burns


Focus 1: Anne Naylor

[Interviewed by Michele Beer, Anne talks about how she transcended bipolar disorder to create impressive art works.]

MB: Art from Adversity has been called a courageous memoir. Was it difficult to decide to publish your book, and as a consequence, to expose your story in this way?

AN: It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. It is scary to have a mental illness, daunting to tell people about it and terrifying to publish such a book with my name on the front cover. It's a very personal story about things I don’t normally speak about. People don’t (often) talk about their experience of mental illness. They won’t, or can’t, speak openly or honestly about themselves, about their relatives or even about family members from past generations. It is too painful, too shameful and fear of the possible Art from Adversityconsequences of disclosure is too terrifying. Yes, it is hard to talk about, but I believe the greater challenge and cost to our society is in not talking about it. If no one speaks out, and no one comes out, how do things change?

MB: Apart from writing as a passion and catharsis for yourself, what exactly do you wish to achieve by sharing your experience?

AN: I hope that people reading my book will find it intriguing, uplifting and easy to read. I hope they will be pleasantly surprised to read about a topic they may have expected to be serious, sad, depressing or heavy going. I hope they will view it through the lense of someone they know, because I can guarantee there will be someone they know who is like me, or others in the book. By sharing my experience, I hope to change attitudes and challenge stereotypes. I want to have a positive impact on people and show them mental illness from a different perspective. I want to empower those who have a mental illness and enlighten their families and friends. I want people to know they are not alone, and I want to give them hope.

MB: Attitudes are changing towards mental illness with most people affected by the challenge personally, in the family, or through a beloved friend or spouse. It’s not as taboo as it once was. Despite this social shift, is discussing a mood disorder in social situations still as difficult as you previously had found it to be? What changes have you personally noticed in the ways the media and organisations address mental health problems since you were first diagnosed?

AN: I have been amazed at the changes in the way mental health issues are addressed in our society since my diagnosis, and more so since I have begun to disclose my own mental illness to others after publishing my book. Mental illness is still stigmatised in the media, and in society in general; however, things are definitely changing for the better. In the past I have been embarrassed about disclosing my illness to people outside my family, but now, when I tell people, most are supportive. Many are keen to tell me about their own experiences and those of their loved ones. I am surprised how many people have a mental illness or a family member with a mental illness, and are desperate to talk about it. Everyone has a story.

MB: You explore the more positive aspects of bipolar disorder, especially in relation to your art. After all that you have encountered on this journey, do you wish for a ‘normal’ life without bipolar or do you see this challenge as something that somehow belongs to you and has made you stronger? How would you describe its effects on your creativity for readers?

AN: I wouldn’t wish bipolar on anyone despite the positive aspects of it. I have bipolar and at the same time I am a ‘normal’ person, which creates a level of cognitive dissonance for me. But then, what’s normal? Bipolar disorder is a part of AnneNme but it’s not all of me. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, but it doesn’t define me and it is not the most important thing about me. My bipolar disorder may have given me the gift of artistic creativity, something I would never have had without it, or it may have been the catalyst for latent talent. My early experience of adversity fuelled my writing. Bipolar inspired my art. Both writing and art have an amazing capacity to heal and empower me and I embrace them when I have something important to say that I cannot express any other way.

MB: Although deeply personal, the book often offers a balanced point of view on mental illness. How did you manage to relate to other people’s perspectives, especially when you felt misunderstood or ill-treated? And does this have anything to do with the true journey of the artist?

AN: I often meet other ordinary and extraordinary people who deal with far more than I do. They keep me balanced and they inspire me. Whatever my situation, I make friends with other people like me, with problems like mine and then I have people to support me when things are tough and no one else understands, because sometimes you can feel very isolated. Different. If you have a mental illness, being different is not a good thing, but, for an artist, being distinctive is what people crave. Artistic difference is something to be proud of, and in the art world it is much more important to be different from others than the same as everyone else. We should learn from this and celebrate our differences in all areas of life. The true journey (of a writer or artist or anyone) is learning to accept yourself and your life. It is finding your own, unique voice that will tell you about yourself and how special, how exceptional, you really are. It’s all about keeping everything in perspective.

Focus 2: David P Reiter & Sona Babajanyan

[Michele Beer interviews David Reiter about his second picture book, Bringing Down the Wall and David then interviews the illustrator Sona Babjanyan]

MB: Bringing Down the Wall is a heart-felt, sensitive story about
miscommunication and forgiveness across the generations of a contemporary family. How important is it to you to raise the awareness of children regarding this difficult theme?

DR: Like my first picture book, Real Guns, this one is based on a somewhat traumatic incident from my early life. My adoptive mother had effectively isolated herself – and me – from her family after my father died suddenly when I was only 11. Perhaps she wanted to be alone with her grief and anger and felt that being with family members who had a loving relationship only made things worse. So she picked a fight with Bringing Down the Wallmy grandfather when he chose to remarry several years after my grandmother died. His new wife was very kind and sensitive to the fact that my grandfather would never love her as he had his first wife, but my mother couldn’t accept that. As a result, at the very time when I needed a male figure in my life, I was deprived of my grandfather. This is where true life and fiction diverge, because I didn’t travel to see him on my own. I was too young to know the route and didn’t have any money for taking a bus to get there. He was quite old by then and my wish to see him and help make peace in the family stayed with me, till I finally wrote the story to make the point that children really can make a difference in situations like this.

MB: Forgiveness and reconciliation are seen as some of the most difficult challenges a person can face. Which personal experiences led you to approaching this kind of subject? What inspired you to take on such complex subject matter?

DR: Emotions can so easily get in the way of what is really important in life – the sanctity of love and family unity. We scar so easily, and for petty reasons, and then we add scars to the scars until the vital spirit becomes seemingly inaccessible. When this happens between adults, children are often caught in between and suffer deprivation. These conflicts are found in divorce and separation as well as inter-generational alienation. Adults often take the view that children are best ‘protected’ from feuding parties, but there’s a cost here, too. At a critical point in their emotional development they are cut off from the very people who should be modelling for them. It’s no wonder we have so many emotional problems with children at school and then in later life.

MB: Were there similar stories that inspired you as a child or did the lack of such stories encourage you to focus on this issue?

DR: I can’t think any that directly inspired me, and I have the sense that not many stories have been written with these themes in mind. In this story, as well as in Real Guns, I chose to tackle an issue that is taboo in contemporary society – penetrating the veneer of happy family life and well adjusted relationships to reveal ills that need to be discussed and addressed. When family conflict is allowed to persist andDR_Dalek fester, it affects more than just that immediate relationship. Conflicted children grow up to be conflicted adults, suspicious of relationships and giving themselves up to their emotions. Adults often are too self-absorbed to realise the impact their behaviour has on children. These two stories are intended to heighten their awareness to the need to address problems for the good of the family. Of course that will only happen if the children who read the book share it with their parents!

MB: The story confronts a widespread issue that touches and hinders family relationships across the world. In your story, the one who finally manages to 'bring down the wall' is the youngest in the family circle. Why did you choose a child for that purpose and what do you believe predestines children to step in as mediators within a family circle?

DR: Adults should act like adults, but sometimes, for whatever reason, they act more like children, not accepting responsibility for their actions. It’s ironic then to have a child take the leading role as an agent for change. But there are plenty of examples of that happening across issues in our society. For example, young children seem to be taking a greater role than ever in speaking out about the need to address environmental issues. They can’t understand why adults put material interests and diplomacy ahead of the need to save the planet. For them, the need to do so is compelling and fundamental: if nothing is done, they and their generation will be the ones to pay the ultimate price. Bringing Down the Wall is an allegory of that struggle, showing that children sometimes are better able to cut to the quick, defining what must be done in spite of the apparent hurdles in the way of direct action and reconciliation.

* * *

DR: Sona, what attracted you to Bringing Down the Wall as a project to illustrate?

SB: The boy Joshua tries to make sense out of the complicated adult relationships, and he actually appears to be wiser and more courageous than the adults. This story really spoke to me first of all because of its approach to its young readers, the acknowledgment of and respect for this innocent wisdom of a child. In recent generations we have become so protective of our children. However, I am sure children are able to absorb and handle much more than we might think. We won’t help them by trying to hide the “dark” side of  life from them. The best we can do is to offer them our helping hand to guide them through it, and to be as honest with them as possible. For me this story is the great attempt to help and encourage the kids lost in the strange adult world.

DR: How did you visualise the images from the storyline and story book we provided to you?

SB: The most important and hardest part for me is always trying to get the overall feel of a book. I start with scribbling ideas and characters on the margins of the manuscript. Accidents in my scribbles often suggest ideas and decisions that I hadn’t originally thought of, so I do more and more fast and sloppy sketches based on these new ideas.  This is something like thinking with the pencil in your hand.  It didn’t take me too long to develop Joshua’s character, I “saw” the boy the moment I finished reading the manuscript. This was exactly “my type” of a boy, but it took a while until I visualised the grandfather. 

Once I felt I am quite happy with the characters I took my sketches to Photoshop and started working on my first colour rough, which allowed me to establish the general style of the book.  After getting your approval, I proceeded to the rough storyboard making sure I have a smooth narrative flow and rhythm. From here on, the main process unfolded in Photoshop. I started working on my colour roughs, sometimes on several at a time, to ensure the overall consistency. Your comments and suggestions helped me a lot during the whole process of working on this book.

DR: To what degree do you think your illustrations enlarge on the story contained in the text?

SB: I just told the story from my own perspective and with my own means, trying to make it work with the text as much as possible, creating a holistic artistic creation. I hope my illustrations will help convey the meaning, create an appropriate mood and atmosphere, bring to live the characters, leading to a book that will attract the readers. 

DR: Your illustrations are very intricate and atmospheric. What materials and techniques do you prefer in creating your illustrations?

SB: I love experimenting with different mediums and techniques. How to approach the creative process, what style and what medium to use is often dictated by the project. For Bringing Down the Wall I have chosen a combination of graphite drawings with some photographic elements and patterns, all digitally mastered in Photoshop with the use of the Wacom tablet. 

DR: Which illustration in the book is your favourite, and why?

SB: It is probably the scene where little Joshua visits the cemetery with his mum. I hope I managed to convey some special mood and atmosphere in this illustration. Besides, I think it works as a separate, finished piece.

Top of Page




Anne Therese Naylor

Anne Naylor

Art from Adversity: A Life with Bipolar


David P Reiter

Bringing Down the Wall


Heather Taylor Johnson

Thirsting for Lemonade


Bill Rush

Into the World's Light


Janet Reid

Granny Rags


Simon Kleinig

Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain


Robert Vescio

No Matter Who We're With


Barry Levy

The Terrorist


Valerie Volk

Even Grimmer Tales


Peter Kay






Focus 3: Bill Rush

[David Reiter interviewed Melbourne poet Bill Rush about his upcoming poetry title Into the World's Light.]

DR: Your work often is inspired by classical subjects and forms. Do you think that contemporary poets can learn much by being educated in the work of earlier poets, or is it more important for poetry to be inspired by direct experience?

BR: I am of an age to have been exposed at school to the greats of English poetry, from Chaucer to Arnold. Much of it fell on unappreciative ears but there was enough to give me a feel for the beauty of poetic language. Some of the lines I read then still resonate in my head. As I became interested in writing poetry myself, I learnt BillRa lot from reading more contemporary poets. W.H. Auden with his mastery of form and precise language was an influence for good, as were James Dickey and Elizabeth Jennings. Reading other poets is the best form of education for a poet as long as this doesn’t impede the development of one’s own ‘voice’. Most poems I write, even those with a classical reference, have their genesis in direct experience and observation.

DR: You've published extensively outside as well as in Australia. Do you find overseas journals and magazines open to Australian themes, or do you purposely send them work with a more universal appeal?

BR: In sending poems to overseas outlets I usually choose ones that are likely to have appeal to readers beyond Australia. However, recently I sent away a poem entitled ‘Josephine at Malmaison’ which referred to kangaroos, emus, gums, acacias etc. I thought that was fair enough as Josephine was well known in her time as a collector of exotic fauna and flora from around the world.

DR: In the editing of your work, you've proven to be meticulous about matters such as word choice and syntax. What advice can you give to poets who want to critically assess the fine details of their work?

BR:I once had a poet friend who said his aim was to write a one word poem. He wasn’t totally serious of course but his intention was to aim for something profound and true using the absolute minimum of words. Conciseness Into World's Lightdistinguishes poetry from other forms of creative writing. My advice to all poets after they have the first draft on paper is to set about culling every unnecessary word. Often these prove to be adjectives whose sense is already conveyed by a verb. I have found that sometimes the elimination of a whole verse can result in a stronger poem.

DR: How do you feel this new collection advances your growth as a poet? Where to from here?

BR: Re-reading my previous book, there are some things I would like to change, even delete. I hope I have learnt a few things in the past six years, and that a continuing reader will find this new collection to be more polished. As to where I go from here I am not sure. It is not an uncommon experience for poets to feel inspirationally depleted at this stage so at the moment I am writing prose. The Muse is hanging around somewhere and I am ready to welcome her home again with open arms.

Focus 4: Heather Taylor Johnson

[Adelaide-based Heather Taylor Johnson's latest collection of poetry is Thirsting for Lemonade. She was interviewed by David Reiter.]

DR: This is your second collection with IP. Interestingly, you offered both to IP at once but Letters to My Lover from a Small Mountain Town was published first. In retrospect, do you think that was a good idea, especially since many of the poems in Thirsting for Lemonade predate the ones in Letters? Once both are out, would you advise readers to start with this new book?

HT-J: That’s a dilemma I have been struggling with since we began the process of publishing Thirsting. Sometimes I look at Thirsting and I feel that I made the wrong decision because I feel I have evolved as poet. I’ve read more poetry, I’ve written more poetry; it only makes sense. I also feel I’ve evolved as a TFLmigrant. For years after I left America I was ambivalent toward any feelings of longing and Thirsting is about my struggle to get in touch with that. Then I moved to Colorado for a year with my husband and children and I reconnected with all that I ever loved about America. The things I didn’t love didn’t seem so central anymore. That was the year I wrote Letters to my Lover. And then there is the issue with my motives for the books. When I started writing the poems for Thirsting I had just finished my PhD, still very much in an academic mindset. I was at a conference where I had just heard a paper on the trace of memory. During lunch I slipped away and began writing a list of things that get me home, things that bring me back to America when I look at them or feel them. Like my foosball table, and some beads which hang in my backyard. I feel some of those poems reflect a mild rigidity that might stem from a theoretical process, whereas Letters to my Lover came from a place of inspiration, and there seems to be more freedom in those poems. I’d like to think I am both types of poet, only I might not be practiced enough to bring those two types together in a collection. So in that sense, perhaps it doesn’t matter in which order you read them. Maybe what matters is that I’m writing something now that might meld those two types of poets together and so I’m still evolving.

DR: You've read to audiences here and in the USA. How do they differ in their reaction to your work? Do Americans miss Australian nuances, or do you purposely avoid particularly Australian poems when reading to them?

HT-J: I like a bit of a ramble before I read a poem, so I usually let my American audiences know what a swag is or a hills Heather_TJhoist. This works because I’ve felt my audiences in America were delighted with a narrative. They’re fascinated by Australia and welcome hearing about the culture. So I suppose I read differently to American audiences, too, because I’m searching out poems that can do this.

DR: You show a fondness for both countries in your work. Do you find it easier to relate to American or Australian landscapes in discovering poetic potential in them?

HT-J: Regarding landscape, I cannot quieten myself when I’m in America. If I’m writing poetry there is nature in it: water, mountains and snow are everywhere. I travel around that country and I swear I’m constantly writing in my head, if not almost every day on paper. In Australia I tend to write about nature, too, but it seems to be centred around my house, especially my back yard. So this says a lot about how I relate to the countries separately in terms of how I fit in and what constitutes home. The landscape seems to be either macro or micro, depending on where I am.

DR: You regularly review poetry in online publications. Does that help sensitise you to the critical dimensions of your work? Do you think this makes you more of a target for criticism by others in their review of your work?

HT-J: I’ve slowed way down on reviewing for many reasons, but one of them was that I was suffering from an impostor syndrome. I have an eye and ear for the critical aspects of poetry – I have a Bachelors degree in English Literature and a PhD in Creative Writing – but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am talented enough to hone those techniques in my own writing, and that goes for both poetry and the art form of reviewing. So I often faced moments of ‘well, who do I think I am?’ It’s silly, I suppose, because who I am is someone with a Bachelors degree in English Literature and a PhD in Creative Writing, and a practicing poet, so my voice should matter. It’s all a work in progress for me.

DR: Do you find that your work is more heavily influenced by those poets you read before moving to Australia?

HT-J: My friend and mentor Tom Shapcott once said that my poems were very American sounding. I don’t mind that. I think that my writing has been heavily influenced by African American poets and by the Beat poets, so it’s the pulse of a poem, the musicality it brings, the way it throbs that is essential to me when I write something. I used to think this was a bad thing because I thought it was apparent my poetry emphasised rhythm over technique. And in retrospect, it did. But now it’s my first drafts which mostly do this. I’ve become better at editing and cutting out superfluous small words, which were initially penned in to keep the flow going in my head.

DR: Is culture or gender more important to you as a source of your voice?

HT-J: It’s hard to differentiate because I carry both of them with me. It’s incredibly profound to be a woman and a mother and a lover, just as it is incredibly profound to be caught between two countries, two cultures and two homes. I’m not sure I can write about one without writing about the other. Even when one theme is more prevalent in a poem than the other, the other is still there. The collection I’m working on now is told from the voices of female literary heroines who I’ve placed in modern day Adelaide, like Caddy from The Sound and the Fury and Katherina from The Taming of the Shrew. So even when I’m not writing about my own experiences I am writing about being a woman and a migrant. I’m writing from a place that is deeply embedded in my sense of self. It’s hard to escape.

An eBook by any other name...

Most people have heard about eBooks for the Kindle, but when you ask them what other formats are out there, their eyes get a bit hazy.

That has something to do with the less visible forms of eBooks that live on the ever-panding range of dedicated eBook reading devices, smartphones and tablets these days. The most common formats work almost everywhere except on the Kindle, which still is limited mostly to Amazon-specific .mobi files. These are the familiar pdf and not-so-familiar ePub and Fixed Layout formats.

Our Digital Publishing Centre specialises in producing files that are tailored to the publication rather than the other way around. You've probably heard of services offered by overseas companies like Smashwords, Kobo and Book Baby that will convert your file into an eBook that looks like, well, a "home-brand" eBook, rather than something that more closely approximates what the title looks like in print.

So what are your choices in eBook format, and do you need to convert your precious file into each of them? Opinion is divided on this. Some people point to the dominance of Amazon in the eBook marketplace and say giving them an exclusive listing (as they very much want you to do, for at least the first important 90 days) is the best way to go. There's some argument for accepting this, especially if you write genre fiction, but for more literary forms, this might not be the best choice.

At IP, we prefer to provide as much exposure as we can for our titles, so we routinely create optimised pdfs, ePubs and sometimes Fixed Layout versions of our titles as appropriate. Then we distribute them non-exclusively to online companies like Google, Apple and Kobo, as well as a host of more specialised distributors who sell to the library market. This is what we recommend not only to our royalty authors but also authors who come to us to ask for support with their independently published titles.

It's a lot more work, fine-tuning titles for the specific requirements of our distribution partners, but we've got pretty good at streamlining the process so we don't have to start at Square 1 for each version.

For lots more information on this, and specific guidelines on how to do it, check out Your eBook Survival Kit, recently eBook Kitupdated to include information on Fixed Layout formats that are suited to image-heavy projects like picture books that need to present in spreads as intended by the designer rather than "reflowing" into the available space of the viewing device.

Not everyone is a techie when it comes to eBooks, so our DPC staff are happy to discuss your project and its eBook requirements at any stage. Feel free to email us with any queries or proposals for new or remixed work.

Call for submissions:
New IP anthology

You are invited to submit up to three poems (published or unpublished) for an anthology of Australian speculative poetry. Submissions close on 4th June. The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry will be edited by Tim Jones (New Zealand) and P.S. Cottier (Australia), and will be published by IP. Speculative poetry encompasses science fiction, horror, fantasy and magic realism. Send your work in the BODY of an e-mail to starslikesand@gmail.com. Attachments will not be opened. Previously published works should contain details of first publication and any information about any rights held by publishers. All selected poets will receive a free copy of the anthology. Please go to: http://pscottier.com/2013/02/25/poetry-wanted-for-new-anthology-guidelines/ for further details before submitting. Please note that submissions are welcome from anyone living in Australia, and from expatriates.

Out and About

David wrapped up his residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts with a well attended Open Studio screening of the My Planets Project, widely advertised at the Centre and in the town of Banff.

Since his return to Australia, the My PlanetsNationalLibrary has requested permission to make the project available on its Pandora Archive, which focuses on work of 'cultural significance'. Inclusion of the Project in the archive will "future proof" it, so that future generations will be able to view it, even if web technology changes.

The events featuring Simon Kleinig's Frenchmans Cap since our last issue were so successful that we've already gone into a second printing. The main launch in Frenchmans CapHobart at Fullers Bookshop had Bob Brown launching the book, with several stops elsewhere in Tasmania. Most recently, Simon launched at Australia House in London, UK, to a large audience addressed by Australia's High Commissioner Mike Rann and Queensland Agent-General Ken Smith, who had very kind words about IP.

BloodPeter Kay launched his novel Blood at The Lark, a key Hobart reading venue, with the support of our friends at the Tasmanian Writers Centre. The Co-op Bookstore at the University of Canberra will host a reading in March.

Our Marketing person, TJ Withers is busy organising myriad events here and interstate for our Autumn list. First up will be the Tasmanian launchSmallest Carbon Footprint of The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other eco-tales by Anne Morgan & Gay McKinnon at the Hobart Bookshop on the 11 April from 5:30 pm.

Robert Vescio and David Reiter will read to students at Regina Coeli Primary School, No Matter WhoBeverly Hills, Sydney on Friday morning, 3 May. Robert will read from No Matter Who We're With, while David will read from Bringing Down the Wall.

On Saturday, 4 May, we'll have the Sydney launch of Art from Adversity: A Life with Bipolar by Anne Naylor at the Harold Park Hotel from 2pm. Speakers will include Professor Gin Art from AdversityMalhi, Chair of the Psychiatry Department at Sydney University Medical School, with entertainment by blind singer/songwriter Krystel Keller. Planning is under way for events in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra. Please follow our Facebook page for updates.

IP Autumn Gala:

• TBC, Sunday, 21 April, Kookaburra Café, Paddington, from 2pm. Readings by Anne Naylor (Art from Adversity), Gay McKinnon (The Granny RagsSmallest Carbon Footprint in the Land), Janet Reid (Granny Rags), and David P Reiter (Bringing Down the Wall). RSVP by 17 April: info@ipoz.biz.


Your Deal

Deal 1: "Like" our Digital Publishing Centre page on Facebook before 1 April 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 Janet Reid's Granny Rags online and get a FREE eBook version of her previous IP Kidz book The Ruby Bottle. Most of our titles are available in Kindle (.mobi), ePub and optimised pdf versions, so let us know your preference.

Deal 3: 50% off on the gritty memoirs No One's Child or The Girl with the Cardboard Port. Freight is $6.50 flat to an Australian address, even if you order both books.

Order by 15 March from sales@ipoz.biz with Deal 1, Deal 2 or Deal 3 as your Subject. Include your postal address and how you want to pay (for Deals 2 or 3) – EFT or PayPal.

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