City of Possibilities
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Director's Welcome


There's no shortage of work to keep warm by at Treetop Studio this winter.

We're about to send seven new titles off to press, including two IP Picks winners: Yellowcake Springs by Guy Salvidge and Water Over Stone by Laura Jan Shore. Other poetry titles due for release in November are Geoff Page's verse novel Coda for Shirley, Stuart Cooke's ground-breaking Edge Music, Keith Westwater's Tongues of Ash and Tim Jones' Men Briefly Explained (yes, that is a poetry title!) We'll also be releasing My Planets: a fictive memoir – the print version of my recently released enhanced CD of the same title.

Speaking of which, IP Picks 2012 opens for entries on 1 October, offering publication for Best Fiction, Best Creative Non-fiction, Best Poetry, Best Children's Prose and Best First Book. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info.

Keith and Tim's books join our expanding list of New Zealand titles, and I'm looking forward to touring with them in New Zealand in mid-October.

eBooks continue to expand in sales internationally, and my Editorial talks about some of the challenges facing our institutions, especially our universities, if they are to be relevant on the digital scene. Our IP Sales column confirms what is being reported overseas; that digital sales figure are on a steep increase, while physical book sales are declining.

Our Prose Editor Lauren Daniels considers whether or not authors should expect to pay for professional assessments of their work. Of course the answer is 'yes', but her article helps explain what authors should expect from a proper assessment and how it remains an important stepping stone from a promising work to one that's ready for publication.

We have an excellent range of interviews for you, including two of our fine illustrators; Elizabeth Botte and Céline Einman, who talk about the influences on their work and how they research before starting to draw. Also featured are children's author Edel Wignell, and poets Geoff Page and Laura Jan Shore.

Out & About features the tour we mounted for Jane Williams' and my new works, with the much appreciated support from the Australia Council.

And of course there are some good subscriber deals on offer in Your Deals.


– DR


Highlights from IP's Poetry Gala 2011, Melbourne, Part 1



Highlights from IP's Poetry Gala 2011, Melbourne, Part 2



Launch of About Face by Robert Moore & MonkeyStack, Adelaide



Are we on the verge of a paperless economy? What role will the publishing industry place in a low carbon future? Will physical books become collectors' items? Will bestseller status be determined more by downloads and hits than purchases from conventional bookshops?

These are some of the issues confronting content creators and readers alike as they consider and reflect on their place in the evolving digital landscape.

Even as recently as a year ago, when I ran workshops on digital composing and publishing, I knew there would be sceptics in the gallery – people who thought (or hoped) that digital would be a passing fad. Years ago, similar views were expressed about the personal computer. How could it possibly replace pen and paper? What dire consequences would there be for creativity when the process was relegated to keystrokes?

Similar to climate change, there's little room for debate now about our digital future. The trends are clear. Physical book sales are slumping. eBook sales are on the increase, following the uptake of multi-purpose digital devices. Authors are engaging with illustrators, with sound artists, with film makers – or learning and applying cross-arts skills themselves. We are on the verge of a artistic renaissance in which conventions will give way to experimentation and exploration.

The challenge for established artists will be in preparedness to re-tool, conceiving content in a more flexible paradigm, adopting different creative pathways. Emerging artists, already comfortable in a screen based landscape, may have to discover, invent, and test "on the fly".

How will the new generation of digital savvy artists learn their craft in an a-conventional environment? Certainly not at institutions tied to narrow disciplines. Universities that do not encourage cross-discipline collaborative learning and invention will be consigned to irrelevance. Until more responsive MFA and PhD programs in multi-arts creativity are built, led by multimedia practitioners, the students will have to find their own way. Paper qualifications will have to give way to virtual ones!

This may not be a time for the faint-hearted or for the lovers of order and a dust-free working environment. But for those who adopt a more flexible and open attitude, it will be an exciting time. Paper clutter will give way to brain wave clutter.

Hang on for an exhilarating ride!

- DR

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IP Digital Buzz

It's been a busy time on the digital front, even more so than usual!

In June, Lightning Source, the POD wing of Ingram International, opened their Australian plant in Melbourne. The Australian plant will not only service the printing requirements of local publishers but also overseas publishers seeking access to the Australian, New Zealand and Asian markets to be serviced by LS-AUS. This will throw down the gauntlet to the local printing industry, and some fur will certainly fly. Stay tuned!

On the eBook front, the landscape is getting a bit crowded. IP has signed with two new partners, eBooks Corporation (eBooks.com) as well as Wheelers, which is leveraging a new eBooks network off its conventional distribution list of 10.5 million print titles. A key point here is that IP is supplying content to these distributors DIRECTLY rather than through a third-party 'aggregator'. This maximises our revenue, and the royalties we're able to pay our content creators.

To cope with this increased workload, we have appointed a new Assistant Editor, Digital Projects, Sarah Elliott, who will work closely with David to ensure we maintain our high production standards. This involves not only converting texts to eBook formats for uploading to our partners but also administering the accounts and making sure the titles are fine-tuned if need be.

More projects are being handled by our Digital Publishing eBookKitCentre, where we offer an attractive mix of POD and eBook publication, as well as editorial and design services, and access to our network of eBook partners.

David's guide, Your eBook Survival Kit, is proving a valuable resource for DPC destined authors as well as participants in his workshops who use the Kit as a refresher for the intensive detail he covers.

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Following release of his new short film, Nullarbor Song Cycle, David set to work on the first two versions of his new work My Planets: a fictive memoir. Planets cuts across genres and disciplines, integrating prose, poetry, images, spoken word, music and video to explore themes of adoption and redefinition of identity through interfaces of astronomy and mythology. The enhanced pdf version has just been released, featuring colour images of key objects in the solar system, midi arrangements from Holst's The Planets Suite, an array of readings from the text, and of course, the text itself. The print version will be released in November, and the full length feature film by mid 2012.

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IP Kidz Update

About Face has now been released, and French translations of Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher and The Sky Dreamer are now available. Also available is a bilingual French-English version ofLyli Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher, which should do well in countries like Canada, France and Switzerland. A French-English version of The Sky Dreamer is underway.

At design stage now is The Ruby Bottle, winner of the IP Picks 2011 Best Junior/Young Adult Prose category. Cover artwork and internal drawings have been completed by Queensland artist Michaela Blassnig. Both The Ruby Bottle and Witches’ Britches, Itches and Twitches, by Mark Carthew and Mike Spoor, will be released in early 2012.

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Out & About

The big news for this issue was an extended tour for two of our new titles: City of Possibilities and Nullarbor Song Cycle as well as successful digital workshops run by David in Canberra and Adelaide.

We've covered the contents of David's Retool and Remix: Get a Digital Life, as well as his Digital Projects Bootcamp, in previous issues so we won't repeat that here, except to say that David refreshed each workshop to reflect updates on theeBook Survival Kit digital scene. The workshop participants were also grateful for the availability of David's eBook Survival Kit, which they'll use as a reminder of the considerable amount of detail covered during the full day sessions.

Jane joined David for readings in both cities. We were grateful to the ACT Writers' Centre and the South Australia Writers Centre for their generous hosting of the workshops and their promotion of them to their members.

A highlight of the Adelaide weekend was the launch of Robert Moore's picture book About Face, which was supported by MonkeyStack, the animation company who illustrated the About Facebook and who are currently working on securing funding for an animated version in the not-too-distant future. David also met with Shane Bevin, the principal at MonkeyStack, to explore possible collaborations between our two companies.

We opened in Melbourne, with another successful event at Ross House (near Melbourne City Library) on Flinders Lane. Joining in with headline acts Jane Williams reading her poetry and David Reiter presenting segments from his latest film, were IP poets Bruce Oakman, Leah Kaminsky, Lorraine McGuigan, Ashley Capes and Anne Gleeson.

Our next stop was in Orange, New South Wales at the Regional Library – a long-time friend of IP – and the Central West Writers Centre. There was some good coverage by the local ABC, the Library's site, and on the Centre's blog, thanks to the quick work by the Centre's Director, Jasmine Vidler.

From there, Jane and David travelled to Wagga, where they shared the stage at Wagga Library with Jim Hayes, well-known for his popular songs, but not quite so well known for his well researched war stories. As usual, David Gilbey (Death and the Motorway) had everything well organised for the event, including a selection of Riverina wines and cheeses from the Charles Sturt University collection – thanks, David!

All good things must come to an end, and so it was in Sydney City of Possibilitiesat Live Poets, a monthly reading at Don Banks Museum in North Sydney. The crowd had been expecting Joanna Featherstone, Director of the Red Room Company, to present a talk on the place of poetry in the new virtual environment, but she was unable to attend. David was happy to answer questions on the issue from the IP perspective.

Once again, we thank the Literature Board of the Australia Council for making the grand tour possible and giving these new works a greater exposure than they might otherwise have had. We thank everyone who attended the events in Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Orange, Wagga and Sydney, and ask them to help us spread the word about IP and our publishing program.

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Mark Carthew and UK illustrator Mike Spoor joined with long list of children's writers and illustrators to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the All Saints Storylines Young Adult and Children's Literature in Perth, WA. Mark and Mike are currently working on their third picture book collaboration, soon to be released by IP Kidz. They spoke to enthralled children at MarkCthe festival about the author /illustrator process for their books Newts, Lutes and Bandicoots and Wicked Wizards and Leaping Lizards as well as many other popular books & series. Mark followed up his WA appearance by entertaining audiences as Reading Ambassador for The Big Read's record-breaking attempt at The Ballarat Library. Base in Victoria, The Big Read involves children and parents across libraries in Geelong, Melbourne and Ballarat trying to break the record for simultaneous shared parent / child reading!

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EA (Anne) Gleeson (In Between the Dancing) will be featured in Words in Winter, a series of poetry events in the Daylesford area, as a part of Australian Poetry's regional touring program. AnneGVenues include the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre for "Lifelines at the Courthouse" and "Holding the Memory", where Anne will be joined by Melbourne poets Terry Jaensch and Andy Jackson. "Lifelines at the Lake" will feature Anne and Andy again, followed by "Gathering the Roses", where Anne will perform with singer Suzette Herft at Gracenotes Cafe. Words in Winter stretches over Saturday and Sunday August 13 & 14. More info about the event can by found from Australian Poetry and the venues.

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Libby Hart's latest poetry book, This Floating World, has just been short-listed for the Victorian Premier's Prize for Poetry. You have a chance to vote for her for People's Choice. Go, Libby!

Her award-winning book from IP was Fresh News from the FreshNewsArctic. As you can imagine, there's been a bit of a run on the remaining copies we have left so if you want one, better get in quick and order one now!

IP Sales

Our end of year financials are complete – sigh of relief! And we're pleased to say that the results were encouraging, with sales up across the board, despite the downturn in consumer confidence. (Maybe people are buying more books than 3D TVs!)

Consistent with trends overseas we're finding dramatic increases in POD and eBook sales, which now account for more than 25% of our total sales. Some of this comes from the larger number of ePub versions of our titles that we're uploading to partners like Overdrive and Lightning Source.

On the other hand, general bookshop sales in Australia are steady or slightly less. The overall trends are certainly down, with more and more people opting to order directly from us online or from our online partners.

We have yet to see the full impact of the collapse of Red Group Retail and their associated Borders and A&R stores in Australia and New Zealand, but few people expect major players to fill the gap left by them. Bookshops – especially chain ones – will continue to be a risky venture. A more important question is what impact the closure will have on the major publishers that depended heavily on the chains to stock their titles. Since IP has generally only supplied to shops like these for special events, we don't have the same exposure as the major publishers.

Meanwhile, we are uploading our new and recent releases to our existing and new online partners, and are optimistic that we will increase sales that way; much more than compensating for the limited sales we had with the chains.

We recently completed the upload of some thirty titles to eBooks.com and MainSpring (Wheelers) in pdf and ePub versions, which we expect to give us much greater access to the libraries and schools market in Australia, New Zealand, and overseas. Both Wheelers and eBooks Corp have public stores, so we will increase our exposure there.

We are continuing to monitor developments with ePub 3, the latest version of the open course eBook format, and David recently had a talk with developers in Sydney about the possibilities of creating apps and even games for some of our kids titles. It's early days on that front, but we're keenly aware of the need to keep our finger on the pulse of what's happening out there.

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In Review

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

Anna Bartlett – A Penny in Time

From the early 1900s through to the 1970s, A Penny in Time shares tales from various times in our country's history. These are stories that will give readers a little insight to life for previous generations - and Yared some stories to tell his naysaying teacher.

A Penny in TimeA gorgeous collection of stories, intertwined by this one young boy, will appeal to teenage boys and girls.

– Megan Blandford, Kids Book Review

These vignettes of Australian life through the decades via the humble penny are reinforced with historical endnotes to provide further useful information about the changes in Australia over a period of sixty years.

– HM, Reading Time

Rather than over-telling each historical story and the central story of Yared, Bartlett leaves much more for the reader to contemplate, investigate and discuss. A thoroughly enjoyable read that embeds well researched history will ensure that A Penny in Time is an essential part of any Australian school library collection.

– Tasmanian History Teachers' Association

Edel Wignell /Peter Allert – Long Live Us!

Combine one greedy Troll, three bears, Goldilocks, three little pigs, a wolf, Princess, Frog Prince, wicked witch and a giant and what do you get? A seriously zany fractured fairytale about Goodies, Baddies, crime and punishment.

Edel and Peter have created a wonderfully fun picture story Long Live USbook by inventing a new adventure for the characters that we know and love. Children will be delighted as they follow their new antics and discover how a story without any Baddies is no story at all.

– Jackie Hosking, PIO

Edel Wignell / Elizabeth Botté: Christina's Matilda

As they become more prevalent, I have finally found a word that I can use for the information book in picture book form: facture. These books are taking the place of conventional Christina Matildanonfiction publishing for children, as it wilts under the assault of Googling, and this is a particularly engaging example.

– Margaret Robson Kett, Magpies

A gem of a book for all ages, especially those beginning to see that history is a demanding and stimulating discipline. Recommended for historians or musicians from 8 to 18 years old. KB

– Kevin Brophy, Reading Time

Céline Einmann – Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher

Undeterred by tales of the dreadful Stone Muncher who lives Lyli Meets Stone-Muncherunder the mountains, little Lyli, with her cat Tyli, seeks a way through the crystal mountains which encircle her city, to see what is on the other side. She meets the unexpectedly shy and lonely Stone Muncher, and together they find a way to help the city and its people to move to new pastures.
– CM, Reading Time

Anne Morgan, Céline Einmann – The Sky Dreamer

From the depressing greys, which initially echo Liam’s mood, we move swiftly to a beautiful varied palette of rainbow colors in mixed media (paint, crayon, Hessian prints) as the artist Sky Dreamerengages from the enchanting cover and endpapers through the dreamlike journey across the universe.
– CM, Reading Time

This is a wonderful book for children dealing with grief, from a talented Tasmanian author.
– Dani Colvin, Sunday Tasmanian

The Sky Dreamer is a comforting children’s picture book that allows children to recognise their emotions and take control of their life after the death of a loved one, just as Liam has done.
– Renee Taprell, The Book Chook

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The Truth About Reader’s Reports

[Prose Editor Lauren Daniel dispels a few myths about paid assessments.]

So you've worked up the nerve to send your manuscript to a publisher. You wait. Finally, you get a reply. 

Often, it’s that standard sentence starting with Unfortunately. The work is rejected. No explanation: Thanks but no, thanks.

Sometimes, you might get this: You’ve got a unique premise…a likable protagonist…but it’s got problems…not ready for publication yet.

The editor likes the work but also rejects it. That annoys you. Isn’t that a contradiction?

The editor also recommends that you purchase a reader’s report to help you edit the work in the direction of the market and address its weaknesses.

Weaknesses? You mean after five years of hard work and sacrifice, it’s not perfect? And you’re telling me that I have to pay for criticism?

Yes, you do need to pay for good advice. I get a lot of confused emails about this, so here goes.

The Truth About Feedback

First, it’s great to get a nibble. As a published writer and editor, I say it’s wonderful to get any feedback at all. Editors don’t need to justify their decisions, so when they encourage you, take note! Even if they only address flaws, take note! Remember, publishing folk devote their lives to reading, selecting, editing and promoting books so freebies are gold. Besides, if you float your work around the industry and get insight from a few, you can look for recurring issues in the criticism and address them.

Secondly, anybody can tell you that your work is perfect (e.g., your mate, your mum). In the business of publishing however, you need the advice of an expert to tell you how to make your work and your overall skills stronger, and you’ll need to pay for it. Editors don’t want to torture you. They want to help you accomplish your goals of a more striking, cohesive manuscript and eventually, publication.

So What Am I Paying For?

Qualified editors have lists of publications behind them, a degree or two in the profession, and a sharpened ability to articulate exactly what’s working (or not) in your draft. If they’re doing what they’re paid to do (rather than being nice to you), they’ll identify pitfalls and where they’re sneaking around in your manuscript. They give evidence-based reasons for their claims, cite pages and provide plot points to support their observations.

It takes time to read your work and compile a targeted report, between eight and sixteen hours. Editors read your work, take notes, then weave the critique together. If they work as I do, they take extra time to let the work steep and include secondary insights.

Skilled editors use an objective, diplomatic approach with your work. They’ll tell you what the problems are but won’t tell you exactly how to fix them out of respect for your creative process. They’ll offer techniques, for example, but won’t tell you how to end your story.

The Aftermath

After reading a good reader’s report, you’re likely to feel inspired, even to know exactly what you need to do.

You might feel disappointed but deep down, you’ll recognise that the editor is trying to help you move things in the right direction. Most of the report should ring true.

Sure, you might question or even dismiss some points. No one says you have to agree to everything, so long as there is clarity, consistency and intent behind your creative decisions…and readers can follow you.

Ultimately, you know you have to find your own creative path with the work and with your creative development. A good editor can guide you to strengthen yourself as a writer and in essence, to be more aware as a craftsperson; to heighten and trust your own instinct.

So, no, they won’t tell you it’s perfect. They’ll do better than that.

– LD

Top of Page







Jane Williams

City of Possibilities


David P Reiter

Nullarbor Song Cycle


Céline Eimann

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher


Robert Moore

About Face


Anna Bartlett

A Penny in Time


Laura Jan Shore

Water Over Stone


Geoff Page

Coda for Shirley


Mark Carthew

Newts, Lutes and Bandicoots


Edel Wignell

Long Live Us!





The Focus Interviews

Focus 1: Edel Wignell

[Anna interviewed Edel Wignell about her sustained search for background material for her picture book Christina’s Matilda.]

AB: Christina’s Matilda tells the story of Christina Macpherson, a young woman who was involved in the creation of the well-known song ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Although the song became famous, Christina herself disappeared from history until the 1970s. How did you come across her?

EW: My first compiling project for children was A Boggle of Bunyips (1981), a collection of myths, legends, poetry, articles and short stories about the monster of Indigenous myth.

While researching, I noticed a wealth of information EdelWabout swagmen, so, as I gathered bunyips, I photocopied swaggie information, for I knew that my next compilation would be A Bluey of Swaggies.

Many swaggies were shearers. The early 1890s was a time of great economic depression and unemployment. Squatters lowered the wages of shearers and, in 1891 and 1894, many shearers went on strike. The Dagworth woolshed (in northern Queensland), owned by Ewan Macpherson (Christina's  father), was involved. Christina was staying there when 'Banjo' Paterson visited.

Christina Macpherson's name disappeared some time after the 'Waltzing Matilda' lyrics were purchased by Inglis & Co, a firm of Sydney merchants, and the tune was arranged by Marie Cowan for use as a singing commercial (1903). By mid-20th century, Christina's name was forgotten and, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, papers and books by academics suggested several origins. However, research by Richard Magoffin, published in Waltzing Matilda: Song of Australia (1983) established Christina Macpherson in her rightful niche in history.

AB: What grabbed you about Christina’s story, and made you decide to retell it?

EW: The last chapter of my compilation, A Bluey of Swaggies (1985), is titled 'The Story of Waltzing Matilda'. ChristinaMatildaI remained intrigued over the years for I constantly heard and read about 'Banjo' Paterson's 'Waltzing Matilda', but the general public didn't know Christina's name. So, in 2002 I decided that the best way to rectify this was to create her own book: a picture-story suitable for all ages - from 10 to 110 years.

AB: As well as tracing the creation of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, Christina’s Matilda paints a picture of life in the late 1800s, complete with bushrangers and shearers’ strikes. How much research was involved?

EW: Very little research was involved in 2002 as I had done it in the early 1980s for A Bluey of Swaggies. Itwas fascinating then – 'more-ish!' I was obsessed and, pre-Internet, spent a huge amount of time in the State Library of Victoria trawling through books and newspapers. I did far too much research – had to stop and get on with the compilation.

In 2002 I checked books published in the intervening twenty years and found eight references to Christina Macpherson: a sentence, a paragraph, even a page in one. A huge, expensive, historical tome included several chapters on the social conditions of the 1890s, the creation of 'Waltzing Matilda' and Christina's part in it. However, the general public does not have access to such books, so I knew that the time had come to create an accessible book.

AB: You were able to get a lot of information from Diana Ballieu, one of Christina’s great-nieces. How did you meet her?

EW: Richard Magoffin stated that Mrs Diana Baillieu of Toorak was Christina Macpherson's great-niece, and he had interviewed her. I knew the name as she was the matriarch of one of Melbourne's well-known families and I often read her letters to The Age newspaper – short, pithy, wise. I phoned and explained, and she invited me to her home to see unpublished historic photographs and documents, then lent these for copying. I also researched Christina's schooling as this aspect of her childhood had not been mentioned in any references.

A warm and wonderful woman, Diana Baillieu (13.2.1915 – 20.4.2008), took a great interest in Christina's Matilda and the search for a publisher. When she died, aged 93, she knew that the manuscript had been accepted for publication, and was thrilled.

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Focus 2: Elizabeth Botté

[Christina's Matilda is the second book Elizabeth Botté has illustrated for IP Kidz. In this interview with Children's Editor Anna Bartlett, she talks about how she prepared for illustrating the book.]

AB: Christina’s Matilda is illustrated in a scrapbook style, with sepia colouring and intricate borders. What made you choose this approach?

EB: The manuscript made me think of old style treasure books and wizards’ ledgers. Sepia seemed the logical choice.

AB: The book also includes lots of old documents, like photographs and sheet music. Did having source material to work from make the job easier or harder?

EB: When presented with the manuscript and all theLizB material, I took note of the era and the style and colouring of all the photographs. Naturally this became the framework for the project and research. I love being creative within a framework, with a direction, so I’d say it made it easier.

AB: How difficult was it to work out which parts of the story needed illustrating and which didn’t, and to fit all the different pieces together?

EB: It all took a lot of sorting through.  There was a time of great focus upon the manuscript, re-reading it, making notes and drawing thumbnail sketches upon it.  It was a matter of sorting out where the photos would go and making sure there were images evenly spread through the text.

AB: When you first saw the manuscript, what stood out to you about Christina’s story?

EB: I loved the historical nature of it all. I get a bit tired of fantasy and fiction – there’s so much fun to be had with reality and fact.

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Focus 3: Céline Einman

[Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher is one of two new IP Pidz picture books illustrated by Céline, but in the case of Lyli, Céline also provided the text. Here, she talks about the inspiration for her fantasy story.]

AB: What was the inspiration for Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher?
CE: I grew up in Switzerland and there we have a saying that if you dig a hole through the planet and throw a stone in, it will arrive in China! My father added that the stone will actually never get to the other side as there is a green beast called the Stone-Muncher who lives in the centre of the earth that will eat it first! When I moved down under, this became a running joke between us. Anytime we’d message each other we would add a post scriptum saying, ‘I hope the message gets to you before the Stone-Muncher eats it.’ At first I wrote and illustrated the story just for him.

AB: Lyli is a very determined girl – in the story she decides she’s going to explore the far side of her planet, despite the fact that no one else has ever been able to reach it. What made you think of her character? Was she based on anyone you know?

CE: My father. He calls me ‘Liline’. So ‘Liline’ became ‘Lyli’ Celineand her character is loosely based on me: a stubborn girl who wanted to see what’s on the other side of the world she lives in, and by doing so finds amazing friendship and so much more…

AB: The main themes of Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher are friendship, and overcoming prejudices. Why are these themes important to you?

CE: As we grow up we all encounter prejudices. It’s an inherent part of human nature. Broadening my horizons, and opening my mind and heart to different people and cultures is certainly an important part of my own life. I had the chance to travel a lot, live abroad and make friends from all sorts of origins and backgrounds. It enriches my life in so many ways, and I want to share that gift through my stories.

AB: The book’s illustrations have lots of interesting and creative details – for example, the Stone-Muncher is made out of newspaper. How did you decide on your approach to the illustrations?

CE: That’s a difficult question to answer… When I read or write a story I have a very visual mind and I automatically ‘see’ the characters and the environment Lyliin my head. I always start by exploring with materials and techniques to express the characters’ uniqueness and the emotion in the scene. For instance, I started to pick certain words in the newspaper that would express the Stone-Muncher’s personality. Even if in the end I painted it over and it’s not readable anymore, this process helped me build up the character. There is always a unique direction that stands out for each project and ultimately looks as close as I imagined it. I guess it’s a very intuitive process.

AB: Your native language is French. Did you first write this story in French or English? Were there difficulties writing in a second language?

CE: The first draft was in English. I find words in the English language are more powerful and concise than French, although I’m not as confident in my choices of words and I may lack subtlety in vocabulary.

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Focus 4: Geoff Page

[David Reiter interviews veteran poet Geoff Page about his interest in the verse novel as a dramatic form in his upcoming release Coda for Shirley.]

DR: Coda for Shirley is a sequel to Lawrie & Shirley, which is subtitled 'The Final Cadenza'. What made you resurrect Shirley for another work?

GP: I guess I'd always wondered what Shirley would do with her and Lawrie's money in her will. Would she leave it to her two troublesome daughters as the world would expect or to her two grandsons directly, thus causing a ruckus analogous to that generated by her original affair with Lawrie? I found that Jane and Sarah were somewhat GeoffPFrankenstinian creations who refused to 'go away'. I was also interested in how much the last chapter of Shirley's life would be changed by her one-year affair with Lawrie. And, perhaps, how Lawrie and Shirley would be remembered after their deaths by her grandson's generation.

DR: Both works have a theatrical component to them, and there's been an interest expressed by a Canberra group to perform at least one of the works. How do you see a verse novel being adapted for stage performance?

GP: The use of verse on stage has a long history vide Shakespeare and the Greeks. I particularly liked the comedic potential of rhyming verse. I enjoyed working on the script for the play from Lawrie & Shirley and there's also a possibility that the final play could include elements of Coda for Shirley, too. Needless to say it will be a very 'verbal' play. It's planned for production at The Street Theatre in Canberra in mid October this year.

DR: You rely on a strong rhyme scheme in Coda. Was this to make the work more accessible, or do you see it as reinforcing its dry humour?

GP: I'm not sure that rhyme makes the work more accessible but I do hope it makes it more humorous. I like the abcb format because it's close enough to be funny but not as 'dense' as aabb or abab.

DR: Do you see the verse novel form as better suited to cross-media adaptation?

GP: Lawrie & Shirley was written in rhyming iambic tetrameters but it was Codaalso presented as a screen play (the first that I know of).  A film producer who attended its launch was kind enough to say it had screen potential but I think I may have been satirising the screenwriting process rather than creating a serious (comedic) screenplay.

DR: What are the challenges for poets in the emerging digital literary landscape?

GP: I'm not very familiar with this medium yet, The internet has meant that almost anyone can publish almost anything but I'm sure publishers such as IP still have an important 'gate-keeping' role to play. The pleasures of reading poetry on paper are real. So too are the possibilities of hearing the poet read a poem while one is presented with the text at the same time. The recent app for Eliot's The Waste Land also shows the huge potential of the digital medium for poetry; a sort of convergence of poetry's oral and written dimensions into a single product superior to the sum of its parts.

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Focus 5: Laura Jan Shore

[David also interviewed IP Picks Best Poetry Award winner Laura Jan Shore about the inspiration she finds in the landscapes of Byron Bay, a coastal community in northern New South Wales.]

DR: Water Over Stone suggests your work is influenced by the natural landscape. Do you see living at Byron Bay as central to your work or have you always been inclined to write poetry about Nature?

LS: Certainly the fecundity of rainforest, vibrancy of the sea and cultivated beauty of the hinterlands has heightened my attunement to the landscape, but I haveLauraS always found my natural environment an inspiration and deep comfort. I walk my poems into being and let the landscape and the rhythm of my steps shape them.

DR: How has your writing changed since you settled in Australia?
LS: I spent my first five years in Australia living alone in the rainforest. I’d stepped away from my busy teaching life in New York, my children were grown, my husband and I separated. Stillness and my own breath became my closest companions. This brought up all the inner demons to be faced and owned. It was a sojourn that honed my writing and my being. Gradually, I built a new community and the busy teaching life re-emerged. Now I live close enough to the sea to hear it call me each dawn and my poetry is my attempt to express my gratitude for living here.

DR: You've been leading creative writing workshops since 1980 and seem to encourage a cross-arts approach in your approach. How does "guided visualization" help inspire the writing of poetry? 

LS: Any process that allows the intellectWOS_FCov to grow quiet and a deeper wisdom to surface results in fresh metaphor and language that can surprise the writer as well as a reader.  How can a poem we might not even understand consciously quicken our heartbeats and shake us to our core?  How can mere words affect us emotionally and biologically?  Meditation, visualization, movement, sounding, deep listening all serve to transport us beyond the ordinary mind and can evoke an expression that connects to and transports others.

DR: You've previously been published by Dangerously Poetic Press. To what degree do you think poetry can or should be dangerous in contemporary society?

LS: Great poetry shakes us from our torpor.  It heightens our sensitivities and deepens our compassion. These are threats to the forces who like the masses subdued and complacent. I'm not talking about a political rant. I mean poetry that connects us in a world that would provoke separateness. Poetry that inspires courage in the face of fear mongers. That kind of poetry endangers the status quo and benefits society.

DR: If you had to recommend one poem in Water Over Stone to a general reader, which would it be and why? 

LS: So much depends on the mood and specific interests of a reader – this must be a trick question! I’d suggest Devolution because it takes the reader into the sensual world of the mudflats and tidal river on a steamy afternoon, to "exchange elements" with the mullet.  The occasional urge to return to our source waters, to de-evolve back to the reptilian brain on a summer Sunday, leaving behind the computers and mobiles and other paraphernalia of this complicated world resonates with all of us.

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