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From the Director’s Desk

Editorial: Wake-up call for bookshops


IP Picks!


A Modest Proposal

Interview: Phil Brown


Focus: presspress

Out & About

Your Say

Your Deal

Vol 4, No. 1— ISSN 1442-0023

From the Editor's Keyboard

SaraHappy New Year! We're off to a flying start in 2002 announcing the inaugural winners of the IP Picks Awards. David is out and about at the libraries and Writers Centres across the country. Check the column, he could be coming to a town near you!

He also previews two forthcoming CD publications from IPD, his own Sharpened Knife and Chris Mansell's The Fickle Brat and in our Editorial asks if Literary bookshops could do more for their healthy commissions.

Another highlight (if I say so myself!) is my interview with our own journo/poet Phil Brown, author of An Accident in the Evening.

There’s a special on the IP Picks 2002 winning entries, and we direct readers to three quality web sites: The Perfect Diary, presspress and

Our April issue is filling quickly, so if you would like to contribute to eNews, please forward your articles/links ASAP. As always, we welcome letters to the editor and features. If in doubt as to what we’er after, please drop me a line.

For those of you interested in who’s written what in this issue, SM=me; DR=David Reiter; LF=Lisa Foley.

Sara Moss

From the Director's Desk

DR in ParkWelcome to our first issue of 2002. The new year is shaping up to be our busiest ever, with an expanded publications list and a number of engagements in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria for me and other IP authors.

I’m especially pleased to announce that the Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland, has provided us with a grant for a third successive year. This reinforces our partnership with Arts Queensland and demonstrates the Government’s firm commitment to supporting independent publishing in this State. We will continue to foster quality Queensland writing through our innovative publishing program.

Highlights of this year’s program will include the winners of our inaugural IP Picks Competition, two of my own new works – my multimedia murder mystery Sharpened Knife and a Selected & New entitled Kiss and Tell – and Chris Mansell’s latest collection, The Fickle Brat, which will be another multimedia first for us (see the feature below).

Through IP Picks, we hope to showcase not only new poetry but also the best work in those other endangered literary species – short fiction and novella. This year’s winners confirm my view that these genres deserve our support. We hope that you will show your interest in the usual way, by ordering them and recommending them to your friends. In the next issue of IP eNews we’ll offer a package deal on the three winners, so stayed tuned!

Finally, this year marks our fifth anniversary, so we are planning a special event at Treetop Studio to celebrate next spring. From our first title in 1997, Hemingway in Spain, we now have a list of over 30 print and digital titles. The event will likely coincide with our launch of the IP Picks titles, so if you’re in Brisbane you’ll want to mark it on your calendar.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Dr David Reiter

We’re well aware that things are tough out there for independent bookshops — and probably quite a few “chain stores” too. What used to be a common complaint from booksellers about poetry — it doesn’t sell! — is now commonly attached to literary titles in general.

But is it really true that people are buying fewer books? Or are they buying fewer “high brow” titles in favour of what might be described as “narcoleptic” reading.

You know the titles I mean. They get coverage in the media as good “beach reads”, meaning just add sugar, stir and sip. Thanks to healthy promotional budgets, which sometimes includes renting shelf space at eye-level in the bookshops with clout, they zoom to the top of the charts for a few crucial weeks before school holidays than sag into the remainders bin after the back-to-school sales have ended.

In the meantime, independent publishers find that there’s very little room left at the inn for their stock, and many booksellers genuinely feel that they’re doing us a favour by even stocking titles that they consign to dim ghettos of the shop, only to dust off in time to request a returns authorisation.

One very well-known Sydney “literary” bookshop, already nine months overdue in their account with us, took exception to us politely but firmly asking when we could expect money from stock left with them on a sale-or-return basis.

(For those of you unfamiliar with this process, if a publisher leaves stock with a bookseller on sale-or-return it generally means that the bookseller has about six weeks to either sell or return the stock. Thereafter, the bookseller is either supposed to pay for the stock or return it. In practice, many shops drag their heels on paying, so, in effect, the stock remains with them on “consignment”, paid for only after it’s been sold.)

The attitude of that particular bookshop is that if independent publishers like IP don’t like the way they do business, well, they can take their stock somewhere else. They still haven’t paid, so we may very well have to do that.

But why have we fallen out so far? Booksellers and publishers are supposed to be on the same side. Could it be that certain booksellers, under the same economic pressures faced by publishers, have taken the easy way out, gearing themselves to sell the international bestsellers and blockbusters, and viewing with angst any title that doesn't arrive in the shop accompanied by an A3 glitzy poster and a rep with freshly whitened teeth?

Is it too much to ask that they do a bit more for the 40-45% commission they get on sales? (On average, publishers only get 10-15% of the cover price.) It’s true that some booksellers see themselves as more than trendy warehouses. They take seriously the in-house promotion of titles that have merit beyond the spreadsheet. The staff actually read new titles and post brief reviews below the stock so that customers can see someone’s opinion on the work aside from the snap-frozen syndicated “reviews” that often appear in the newspapers.

What about setting aside a section of the shop as a Foiled-text-Free Zone where customers can browse a selection of quality literary titles — not just Australian! Ask any independent publisher, and they will tell you that titles sell much better at events like readings. So why don’t some of these shops sponsor more events with live authors?

Sure they might have to foot the bill for a cask or two of local wine and maybe a slab of cheese, but it’s all about getting more people into the shop and reading the authors they would enjoy if they only knew about them and could hear them in person. Not to mention cross-promotion.

And it might just take the bookshop manager’s mind off the spreadsheet for a few precious moments!


<title>IP eNews </title>

It is with pleasure we announce the winners of the inaugural IP Picks Awards.

The awards offer royalty based publication with one of our imprints in four categories: poetry from a Queensland based author; fiction up to 80,000 words from a Queensland based author; poetry from an author resident anywhere in Australia and fiction up to 80,000 words from an Australian based author. They are unique as they call for submission of complete manuscripts.

And the winners are (drumroll)...Brett Dionysius of Queensland for his poetry collection, Bacchanalia. Lesley Singh of Queensland for her novella All Storms. Sally Finn of Victoria for her first novella, Ankle Deep. Our heartiest congratulations to all of them. We look forward to publishing their works.

The judges decided not to award in the Australian poetry category, as they did not receive a manuscript polished enough to publish, though many showed potential.

It's never too soon for those who would like to join IP’s growing list of established and emerging authors to think about their entries for the next IP Picks Awards. This year's submission deadline has been moved up to 30 November. Watch this space for further details!

Now have a look at the comments on and selections from this year’s winning entries. They exemplify the high standard we expect for IP's literary publishing program.

Short Fiction by an Australian Author

Ankle Deep by Sally Finn,
Footscray, VIC

A love triangle with a twist, populated with characters we don't always like but still want to know. An exciting first book from a highly talented author with the ability to write prose like this:

Mum has come to plant flowers around her studio. She works with such intent it is as if focus itself will turn the soil for the roots to spread in. The building is as good as finished. Dragma and I will go back to the city. It is impossible for me to stay here. The world turns in on itself too often, faces are too easily recognised. It is either to move where the mirror of my life isn’t present in the retinas of others, or to turn my back, as Mum does. I am too young, too unloved to shut off as Mum can. She has her passion to go to, I have nothing. I have something to show me that time has gone and for a week now I have gazed upon it, its large glass, its strong corners, its mass. I marvel at it. At times disbelieving I created it. But it is over and Dragma and I are ready to leave. She is at war with me, mind you, sensing that something is coming up. I’d leave her with Mum, but she is my one weakness. I know I would miss her more than she would miss me. And there are too many things I’m missing already.

I have been craving milky skin, women’s skin, the feel of it. When I think of sex that’s what I hanker for, the joining of senses through skin. The gliding, the blissful gliding that steals the conscious mind from the physical, flinging it into weightless space.

Ankle Deep is a work which stays with you long after you put it down. It has a questioning nature. The author is concerned with the big picture beyond the constructs of plot and character. She questions life, the nature and meaning of it, the undercurrents of relationships and how we are shaped as people through these relationships and our past experiences.

Finn knows to keep her hands off her characters and she does not pass judgement. These are people, not caricatures. People in all their flawed, pill popping, at times shallow-minded, at times noble and loving humanity.When they are drawn to desperate and dangerous behaviours, it is troubling because it reflects a spiritual poverty and emptiness of purpose that is a very real part of modern life. It is the place of the fiction author (and literary writers of any genre) to open a window to experience and she does this admirably.

Short Fiction by a Queensland Author

All Storms by Lesley Singh,
Maleny, Qld

All Storms is an honest tale with a magical quality that binds the reader to the page from its first moment. A thoroughly engaging story with believable characters: Bess, a woman approaching menopause in a stale marriage; her poet husband experiencing his own mid-life crisis; Leila, a young townie poet with preconceived judgements of country folk; and Clare, the resident "hippy" elder with recipes for dyeing wool - potions for revealing something of the true nature of life beneath the veneer of a settled country family.

Its metaphysical exploration of life, inventively revealed through the weaving of jumpers, offers originality to a familiar tale of tangled love and changing tides.

Singh uses the metaphor to uncover many layers of meaning in a work which is simple on the surface but offers profound insight:

And so, with her fine collection of blueberry hues — greys, pinkish-browns, soft blues and a rich violet, Bess laid aside her books and hopped to, knitting herself a coat from wool she’d dyed herself. Her mind fluttered about, alighting here, alighting there, sometimes growing disturbed because of a strange sense of harm about. The sense of an invisible hand above her own busy ones, a hand with nothing better to do than to create trouble, tugging on loose strands, unravelling everything ever done. Everything fixed and set.

It was like this: there she was — twirling wool over needles, clickety-click, clickety-click. She might think how different life was without the boys. (Not boys, Mum, they admonished. Men.) Or she might rest her work down in her lap and giggle at the memory of Jim’s face when he discovered his precious winter blueberries used to dye wool. (‘Not pies Bessie? Not pies?’) Then her delight would dissipate. The other hand had come. She’d stop in her tracks, cover her face, hardly daring to breathe while that hand with its sharp insistent finger probed, and pulled on loose strands.

A night recalled: rolling sleepily up against Jim’s body. Rolling. Feeling about with her hand, the sheet stretching away cool and smooth under her fingertips. Absence. Still out. How late. Yet she went back to sleep. When the Landcruiser eventually clattered home, Jim came in smelling of smoke saying sorry it went on so long but there was good music at the new poets’ group at Ma Ma Creek. Good music — then, at three in the morning- yet she melted back to sleep.

Memory: making love. Jim running the tip of his tongue from behind her earlobe, down along the hairline to the nape of the neck. For twenty years, her hairline from ear to nape had been unkissed, and now it was.

She achieves so much in so little space. The work is imbued with a strong spirit of place. It has a distinctively Australian character, contrasting city and country attitudes, avoiding more familiar treatments of this theme. Singh delves beneath the surface of the ordinary to find the extraordinary and powerful, particularly in the life cycle of women, such an important element of the work. Polished writing. A joy to read.

Poetry by a Queensland Author

Bacchanalia by Brett Dionysius, Annerley, Qld

Strong narrative poems, rich in detail. Dionysius is a powerful observer of people and the environment. The collection has a distinctive local flavour in the first half (Kurilpa) and an expansive vision in the second (Bacchanalia).

There is moving insight into the emotional undercurrents of human experience:

from Always Be a Fin, Circling

His self-doubt surfaced one 
as he was staring into the glass
abyss of a Coke machine.
Its dorsal fin, brocaded with spikes
cut through the inlet of his thought
with a shark’s dull arrogance.

When he tried to reel it in
it thrashed about in his hands;
punched holes in the air with its
As he wrestled with it, trying
to hook a finger under its gill,
a spine skewered his palm.

There’s also a fine understanding of the transformative power of language in poetry:

from Fleshpetal

If it wanted to
this country could
eliminate our history
with a hair-pin trigger
or a signature.

In this country
there are two deaths
for every birth.

Three deaths
for every poem written.

In this country
the flowers
will kill you.

Here is an author who can turn both a microscopic and a panoramic lens on his subjects - simultaneously - quite a feat! And the collection has a refreshingly wide scope. We particularly liked the poems in the second half with historical and political content. We found many voices here to be masculine, robust and unafraid.

Dionysius understands the work of the poet and never underestimates it. This is a collection of significance and substance.

— SM
— LF

<title>IP eNews </title>

David had a busy October and November last year, with trips to Melbourne as well as the New South Wales Central Coast and Sydney.

The GalleryHe met with many librarians, showing our list of titles and demonstrating The Gallery, which continues to be a hit on the ordering forms.

For further details on the events below, please check on the links.

We were especially pleased to be invited to participate in the first Central Coast Writers’ Festival hosted by Margot Cooper and her able-bodied team. Storm clouds were gathered overhead but the Gosford crew was not intimidated. Tricia Dearborn, Chris Mansell, Beatriz Copello and David gave readings during the day, and he was pleased to be asked to present two of the Festival’s awards.

The next day, I was delighted to speak at the launch of Beatriz Copello’s latest book, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, at the New South Wales Writers' Centre.

Beatriz Copello The session was very well attended, and IP has ample stock of this new Glass House Books title, so by all means send us an order!

<title>IP eNews </title>

While we have good coverage of public libraries in Queensland and New South Wales, we have been keen to increase our contact with Victorian libraries. David’s trip to Melbourne was seen as a crucial first step, so we arranged meetings with twelve libraries in the metro area.

He was met with an enthusiastic reception, and is already planning a return trip in mid-April at the invitation of Yarra-Melbourne Library, which will be hosting his session on e-publishing on 18 April.

He plans to catch up with other libraries during that week, so if you missed him last time, by all means contact us soon to reserve your date and time.

<title>IP eNews </title>

But all that is in the distant future! On 20 February, David will be guest speaker at a meeting of the Friends of Byron Bay Library, where he will talk about IP and read from some of his work, followed by an informal reading and question/answer evening (6:30 for 7 p.m.) at the Persephone’s Window Café – also in Byron.

On 21 February David will give a full-day workshop on e-publishing at the Byron Beach Resort, including a demo of his latest multimedia works, for the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre. And he will be a featured reader at New and Selected in West End on 31 March. IP has a standing date with this reading series, so we hope to see those of you there who are within driving distance.

On 9-10 March IP will have a special session at the NSW Writers’ Centre Autumn Festival. David will lead another full-day workshop on e-publishing on Saturday. Tricia Dearborn, Chris Mansell and David will read from their latest work on Sunday afternoon, followed by the Sydney launch of Chris’ The Fickle Brat.

<title>IP eNews </title>

Back to the Central Coast in early April! On 8 April, David is scheduled to give a workshop at the Port MacQuarie Library, followed by an event at the Wyong Library the next day.

In these events, David will talk about the state-of-the-art of digital publishing not only from IP’s and a global perspective but also from the point of view of an author intimately involved in creating work for these new art forms. If you’re even remotely interested in the shape of things to come, please make an effort to be there!

In the first weekend of May, David and Chris Mansell will appear together again at the first Shoalhaven Literary Festival. More details on that in the next issue of IP eNews.


<title>IP eNews </title>

[IP eNews seeks to serve as a forum on issues of common interest in digital publishing and other related issues, but for that to work the communication has to be more than one way. This is your chance to be heard on issues that concern anyone connected to or reliant on the publishing industry. So let’s hear your reactions to this column — or for that matter anything else that appears in IP eNews. Space allowing, we’ll print what you have to say.]

Print-on-demand. It sounds pretty good, especially for those hard-to sell titles and for authors who have run out of space under their bed. But will it ever replace the good old trade paperback-on-acid-free-paper?

Maybe not.

There’s certainly something in it for the companies who provide a virtual warehouse for titles in suspended animation. And for consumers, the prospect of having that title you want within minutes rather than days is attractive. Instant gratification: your book is as accessible as a bag of chips in a vending machine!

Publishers, wary of venturing capital on unproven authors may opt to publish them via POD. But is that really any more of a commitment than a studio that options the work of a promising film scriptwriter? Both invest some money upfront, but the author may wait a long time for the next cheque.

In North America, where POD is very much the NOW thing, it’s being promoted in the industry as an alternative to e-books for those people still craving the feel of refined woodchips. Yet, already we see a two-class system emerging: those who embrace fast food texts versus those who prefer starched linen and silver service when they read.

One big mixed goods publisher in Texas distinguishes between their print publications and the alternative by asserting their titles are printed on, yes, acid-free paper, by a printer with 90 years experience in the industry. You can almost smell the quality even before you read the blurbs!

Will POD titles find their niche in proper bookshops, or only on the remainder shelves of the big chain stores? After all, it’s fine to produce them on demand, but, if they cost more to produce and still have to be warehoused after they don’t sell, that spells a big disadvantage for publishers. The fact that POD may not be as durable as their ancestors does not help the equation.

There are, thankfully, still publishers around who are finicky about quality control as well as the merit of the writing. They know that poor production will be worse for the imprint than the printer. Until the standards of POD are raised, these publishers will take the more conservative route of keeping a firm eye on production.

In Australia, publishers are keeping a watchful eye on developments in POD. There are companies around who are offering the service, and no doubt some publishers will be tempted. If POD printers use quality machinery to fill their orders, all will be well. More than likely corners will be cut.

And will this be a godsend for literary authors who choose to self-publish? I doubt it. Aside from the question of standards about their writing, self-publishers will have only added the doubt engendered by marginal production standards.

First impressions still count. If POD publishers (or should we call them distributors?) sacrifice quality to increase their profits, bindings may fall apart, the trim may be a bit ragged, the type quality may be inconsistent throughout, and so on.

These may not concern some people, but publishers who pride themselves on the appearance and durability of their titles should take note. The economics of POD may appeal, but the long-term reputation of the publisher is at stake. Do they really want to abdicate their control of the final product?

Books deserve to have a shelf life longer than a Happy Meal.

— DR

<title>IP eNews </title>

[We want to reward our readers, in the best possible way — with good deals on our titles! Here’s the deal for this issue.]

We’re pretty excited about our e-books, and we want you to see why, so, until 31 March, we’re offering you a FREE e-book with every paper title.

Order two books and get two free e-books. Order three books or more and get free postage and handling!

This offer applies to any book and e-book currently listed on our catalogue, with the exception of The Gallery, for obvious reasons — it’s multimedia and costs to much to give away. (But if your heart is set on it, you can pay for The Gallery and still get a free e-book.)

This deal is restricted to individuals.

It’s a sign of the burst of multimedia activity at IP that we have three major projects on the go at once: The Planets, my fictive memoir; Chris Mansell’s The Fickle Brat and my murder-mystery, Sharpened Knife.

The Planets is or will be the most sophisticated project we’ve completed so far because it involves 3D rendering and animation involving, you guessed it, heavenly bodies as well as more earthly ones. But it’s still early days in its development, so we’ll leave a detailed examination of it until a future issue.

Chris Mansell’s Brat is another first for us. Chris is an experienced performance poet as well as an author for the page. Since IP believes in adding value to our digital projects, Chris’ work will be published on CD, but with a difference. There will be the full text of her collection, similar to our previous e-books, readable on Windows and Macs, but also a 60 minute anthology, playable on audio CD players (or on your computer’s CD player). On the same CD, you’ll be able to read a poem and then hear that selection from the audio anthology. Or listen to the anthology on your CD player. We believe this hybrid form will prove popular with individuals and libraries alike.

Sharpened Knife, unlike my first work of literary multimedia,
The Gallery, was composed for multimedia production from the outset. There’s a complete novella occupying more than sixty pages, but thats only the beginning. The text is accompanied by multimedia elements such as quicktime movies, Flash animations and hyperlinks that link to other text levels and external web sites relating — sometimes at a rather steep slant! — to the themes on that page of the novella.

Another difference between the two works is that Knife has been authored in html rather than Acrobat. This was intended to make it easier to publish the new work on the Web. We also plan to release it on CD-ROM, with enhanced audio and video, by mid-year.

Once again, the text is central to the work, with the multimedia elements intended to enhance what is written. But that’s the key difference we see between “literary multimedia” and other new hybrid forms.

One interesting aspect of Knife is its links to external web sites. Of course the Web is continually evolving and some of those links may expire. But we’re hoping readers will accept this as a part of a work in which they are a dynamic part of the recreation of meaning, discovering alternative sites that relate to the themes of the work. If not, we may hear back from them, but that’s a constructive part of interactivity, too!

At this very moment, thanks to the continuing generosity of WebCentral, we’re testing the beta versions of both Chris’ and my new works, and we hope to have them ready for release very soon, hopefully in time for some of the several events IP will be attending in the first half of the year.

Fingers crossed!

— DR

<title>IP eNews </title>

Congratulations to MTC Cronin for her shortlisting in the 2002 John Bray Poetry Award Competition, for her recent work, Bestseller.

MargieThe Award winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on 3 March at the 2002 Adelaide Festival of Arts WritersWeek.

We distribute this work through IPS, so, if you want to get your copy before it becomes a best seller and they run out, we suggest that you order it now!

Fingers crossed for you on the 3rd, Margie!

Other Queensland authors shortlisted include Bronwyn Lea (Flight Animals) for the same award and Jayne Fenton Keane (Poems in a Flash) for the Mayne Award for Multimedia. UQP is well-represented in several categories. Go Queensland!

<title>IP eNews </title>

[Lisa gets the credit (blame) for discovering this one, which is strictly in the vein of Henry Fielding!]

The European Commission has announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which was the other contender.

Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had room for improvement and has therefore accepted a five-year phasing in of "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k", which should klear up some konfusion and allow one key less on keyboards.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f", making words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e" is disgrasful.

By the fourth yer, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and everivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. ZE DREM OF EZY SPELING VIL FINALI COM TRU!

<title>IP eNews </title>

[Following the launch of an Accident in the Evening, the recent poetry collection in IP's Emerging Authors' Series, author Phil Brown was featured in an article in Queensland’s Courier-Mail newspaper. Of course Phil's work is highly deserving of it and it’s great exposure for him and IP’s publishing program, but it was publicity many poets can only dream of.

I asked Phil to wear his journalist’s hat when we discussed his work as a poet and a journalist as well as the problematic relationship between poetry and the media. As you will see, this drew some intere
sting and brutally honest responses.]

SM: Phil, why do you think you choose poetry to express your creativity?

PB: For practical purposes, poetry has been the form I have found fits best into a busy working life in journalism. That is, it can be practised intensely in the middle of things. Initially, however, I found that I often thought in poetry as an impetuous youth. Inspired mostly by pop songs (which I consider poetry) I found that works which summed things up in short textual grabs appealed to me. Pop songs, pithy Chinese poems and the like seemed like a fine way to express oneself.

So I gravitated towards poetry and eventually found that it suited my romantic and philosophical self. Later, reading the Mersey poets, Bruce Dawe and others I realised that it could also utilise the vernacular and convey humour, something I am interested in doing. So it suits me on a number of levels. Also, I'm lazy and writing a novel just seems like too much hard work!

You have mentioned before that the skills of a journalist are complementary with those of a poet, particularly in the area of editing and this is certainly evidenced in the economy of your writing . What do you see are significant differences? Is there a different character to the inspiration for poetry or differences in the way subjects present themselves?

Phil BrownThe skills of a journalist are helpful in writing poetry but only if you are a poet. I don't think you could approach most journalists and suggest they might write poetry because of their wordsmithing skills. Journalism and poetry are really very different in so much as one form requires inspiration and creativity and the other does not. Guess which is which.

However for a poet already writing, the disciplines involved in daily journalism can be helpful and the life of journalism can introduce one to subject matter worthy of poetry. It also tends to make one less precious about the editing of one's heartfelt verbal ejaculations. Poetry that is.

In your Courier -Mail interview, you stress your preference for “down to earth” relatively accessible poetry. Given this view, what do you believe poetry offers the reader that other forms of writing do not?

Whilst I particularly enjoy down to earth expression I don't at all mind ethereal or metaphysical work. As long as it rings true. What I abhor is pseudo intellectualism and obfuscation for the sake of it. Even vernacular poetry, or poetry that is ‘down to earth can offer a transcendental experience. Poetry in general seems to have the ability, often, to reach into the heart and mind in a way which prose cannot. Why and how that is so is a bit of a mystery however. This experience of otherness, or this ability to evoke the numen in particular is something which I find attractive about poetry.

How do you see your own work in this context? And what do you think your poems offer the reader?

I hope my poems offer readers entertainment first and foremost. Whilst being entertained they may have a small illumination about something or at least, just a laugh. I also hope that my poems evoke a humanitarian response and err on the side of the positive, even at their most cynical.

Kris Olssons feature on you and your poetry is the exception rather than the rule for coverage of poetry, certainly in that newspaper. Although your work certainly merits attention, I dont think I'm being cynical to suggest your profile as a journalist in Brisbane helps explain this higher exposure. As a journalist yourself, why do you think it is so difficult to interest the media in poetry?

The daily news media is notoriously shallow and deals mostly with issues which dysfunctional middle-aged males think the populace should be interested in. Poetry just doesnt figure, sadly. The media is also all about angles. I managed to get coverage because there was an angle – that is, Im local and a minor celebrity. And I know people. Thats how I got them to read the book. Then someone said something like: “I don't usually like poetry but I liked this.” What they really meant was that they never read poetry because they think it is elite and unfathomable and a bit sissy.

Accident in EveningSo somehow we need to change that image but how? If I knew how I would have been on the front page instead of way inside.

Do you see the media as a reflector or a reinforcer of the common perception that there is little demand for poetry?

Both actually. The media is constantly fulfilling its own prophecies about the irrelevance of poetry, religion, art and other forms of spiritual nourishment and it can do so because of the enormous power it wields. It is convinced that poetry is obscure nonsense, so it ignores it. It thinks others might think the same so it ignores it some more.

The daily print media is not experimental at all. They try to provide the same old thing ad nauseum so that they dont offend anyone or lose any of their already dwindling audience. Of course they ultimately do offend and continue to lose readers.

Would you still write poems if you knew absolutely that no-one else would read them?

Probably. In fact I did do that in my late teens. But it would probably end up being more like a poetic diary or journal than anything else. On the other hand if I thought no-one would read them ever again and that I would never have an audience I'd probably stop and just watch television. It would be a huge relief, actually.

[You can put down that remote control Phil! Judging from the response to an Accident in the Evening, you have many readers. We look forward to more down-to-earth, transcendental, entertaining and illuminating poetry from the pen of Phil Brown, who just can’t seem to hide his poet’s hat under the more pragmatic garb of the journalist. In news just to hand, Phil’s work will be featured on ABC Radio National’s Poetica program on 23 February. Hope you can tune in! Phil will also have a reading on 28 Feb at the New and Selected Reading in West End.]

— SM

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[For this issue, we invited Howard Spicer, who directs to write a feature on the services his company offers to authors and publishers. We have our own feelings about the viability of his approach, but we’d like to hear your views. Have a look at the site and then let us know. We’ll publish your thoughts in our Your Views column.]

The Expedition

As a young boy I went on an expedition with a friend to find gold in the hills of Victoria. We barely noticed the bitter winds of winter as they swept down through the gullies to chill our bones. We were inspired — blinded to elements by a vision of finding our fortune. We had prepared carefully and followed the rules. We have even carried with us a wooden sluice — we called it “The Rocker” — built to separate the unwanted lighter material from the heavier gold. And then, having passed the material through our rocker, we carefully scooped the residue out into our pans to do the final wash in the freezing waters of the creek. We worked with confidence, energy and determination and at the end of the first day we had not found a single speck of gold.

The next day we decided to change our strategy and try other areas of the creek. By the end of the third day we still had not found anything. We simply couldn’t accept the outcome of our endeavours. Total failure had not been in our plans! We ruminated over the next few days on the reasons for our failure – the preparations, the strategy, the location. In the end, we gave up and never again attempted to find gold.

The analogy of getting a manuscript through to publication is obvious – the vision, the preparation, the strategy, the determination and, in the very large majority of cases, the failure. The difficulty for the writer is summed up in a comment recently received:

“I have many works (alas) that are either summarily rejected or not even read regardless of the proposal formats. It does indeed become a major pain in the rear to have to sort through the enormous listings of publishers and then trying to find the correct editor, etc., which obviously takes a tremendous amount of time and detracts from my primary function as a writer.”

It is, indeed, difficult (and costly) to find the right person who can channel a work to publication and distribution — be it an assessor, an agent, an editor, a publisher… There are, literally, thousands of people involved and available. Researching and choosing the right person eventually comes down to a matter of trial and error. Nevertheless, disappointment is never distant.

“I spent approximately $500 on each of my five books and actively knocked on publishers’ doors. All my books have been rejected.”

For publishers the search for the “gold” they seek is equally daunting. The material they have to sift through is simply overwhelming. They are besieged by mountains of unsolicited manuscripts and not all those that they do personally solicit measure up to their expectations. Publishers need a “rocker” to filter out the unwanted material. But then, given the volume involved, it would seem that there needs to be a “rocker” for the “rocker” and, perhaps, even another “rocker!”

Many publishers elect to focus solely on writers with a track record of having been published. Others choose to close their doors and concentrate solely on the stable of writers at hand. The same goes for agents. is aware of the validity of the objectives of both writers and publishers and the problems they face.

Writers need to have their work seen, evaluated, appreciated and, above all, published. This can become an expensive process with little result. They also need someone to champion their work and, in the view of that need should not be confined to the shores of Australia. It has, therefore, embarked on an ambitious program of actively contacting publishers around the world on a personal basis and encouraging them to use the site as a source of material. It provides writers with an opportunity to display a sample of their work and assists them with guidelines to help them make the most of that opportunity. Further, it only costs AUD$11.00 per month for a writer to display his or her work – significantly less than the cost of sending a manuscript.

In structuring the site, has kept the needs of publishers in mind. It has therefore, provided rapid and easy appreciation of works on display. Further, publishers who register with the site, receive a monthly list of works on display identified by genre. Statistics indicate that publishers around the world have responded to the invitation.

The process is simple. Those involved in the publishing process can, at no charge, access a writer’s biography, scan a 500-word synopsis and then review a 5000-word sample of the writer’s work. If they like what they see, they have the facility to directly contact the writer. They can then either offer their services — such as in assessment or editing — or in direct representation as an agent or publisher. This is a process that takes only minutes to accomplish and, in viewing the work, no-one is placed under any obligation to respond to the writer.

The reaction to the site has, in the main, been extremely positive and a number of publishers have registered and contacted writers. Links with other similarly-minded sites are also being established world-wide.
In essence, aims to encourage the writer and make life easier for the publisher. It also gives publishers an opportunity to reduce their operating costs.
There have, nevertheless, been some negative reactions. One criticism has been that the site does not filter out submissions of poor quality. considers, however, that its role is to encourage writers rather than assume the position of Quality Controller. Even so, it occasionally will suggest enhancements of a submission so as to improve a writer’s chance of success.

While acknowledging that some submission may not measure up, it is argued that, in reality, it takes little time for a reader to scan a work on display and make a qualitative judgment.

Another criticism has been about the lack of censorship. Indeed, one writer withdrew their submission in protest at another’s work which contained the F-word. considers that freedom of speech is the paramount right of all authors. People can simply choose not to read what offends them.

Others feel that there are only a few publishers who actually read manuscripts directly and, therefore, they would not visit the site. The number of publishers who have already registered would belie that view. It is acknowledged that there is a traditional mind-set in publishing. Some cherish the exclusivity that has accompanied publisher-writer relations in the past. While agrees with that, it would argue that responsible exclusivity should result only upon agreement between the writer and the publisher but that the search and selection of a writer by a publisher should be open for all. The website does, in a sense, challenge traditional thinking. It becomes, then, a question of education so that, in time, a paradigm shift in thinking can take place to the benefit of all.

The future of the internet, as far writers and publishers are concerned, has a long way to go. In the meantime says to writers:

“Out there, someone is waiting to read what you have written…”

and to publishers:

“Out there, someone has written what you are looking for…”

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[We also feature The Perfect Diary. It’s not too late to purchase your own diary for 2002, get yourself organised and while you’re at it, enjoy some great poetry and artworks.]

This venture is the brainchild of Matthew Beer of Big Stick Productions and it truly delivers on its promise to provide ‘art and writing every day.’

‘Each week,’ the blurb tells us, ‘you’ll find stories, artworks and poems from across the land, useful and fascinating information on festivals, events and historical happenings, stunningly beatiful images, inspiring and amusing quotations, phases of the moon and monthly planners. There’s also information on school and public holidays, a menstrual chart, Post-It Notes, year planners, plenty of space for notes and sketches and even a free pen!’


Writers and other artists can submit work for consideration but competition is stiff. There’s no payment, but you get a complimentary copy of the Diary and discounts if you want to order extra copies for Aunt Martha and other people who should be reading poetry and viewing fine art every day. Submission deadline for the next Diary is 14 July 2002.

The site stays active year-round and features work from around the world — ‘more lovely wonders than you could shake a stick at.’ So that’s where Big Stick comes from!

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— SM

[This issue we focus on a new publishing venture run by South Coast New South Wales author Chris Mansell, whose latest work The Fickle Brat will be launched in Sydney in early March]

The irritation, anxiety and frustration of being a poet in a country which seems to foster publishers who can’t figure out ways to market poetry successfully has, once again, given rise to a new press, encouraging new talent and old talent and, for PressPress, one which focuses exclusively on poetry.

PressPress is ostensibly a one woman operation but a range of talented people are helping out. Chris Mansell has set it up and runs it, Colleen Duncan has done the web design, Bob and Jenny Dickerson have become patrons by donating a set of Bob’s original etchings to support the press in its initial stages. (Bob’s originals are for sale with Chris’ publication Stalking the Rainbow).

ChrisMPressPress is an online and on-demand publisher and in order to keep costs as low as possible much of the very expensive, and not very useful (for poetry publishing) aspects of publishing will go by the wayside.

The pocket chapbooks (A6, 32pp $7.70; with original etching $117.70) will not be placed with bookshops (exceptions will be made if the deal is okay ... highly unlikely) but sell through word or mouth and readings and the internet ... i.e. pretty much how poetry books are usually sold in real life. As a consequence of not having to waste copies, authors royalties (in percentage terms) will be higher than are normally offered and no one has to have stocks under their beds.

The first couple of titles are available now (a Ken Bolton & John Jenkins collaboration called Nutters without Fetters, and Chris Mansell’s Stalking the Rainbow) with titles by Jen Saunders, Paul Cliff, Peter Boyle, Magenta Bliss, Les Wicks and Kaye Aldenhoven (among others) to follow soon. Les Wicks’ title will be launched at the Nowra Poetry Festival (new!) on 3 May this year.

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