Vol 2, No. 4 ISSN 1442-0023
From the Director's Desk
It's hard to believe that another year is nearly over. And yet if we look how far IP has come in those 12 months, it's staggering to think how much we've fit in to those months.
saw us realise our aim of making a big splash in e-publishing. IP
Digital provides us with a focus for our digital publishing activities,
especially our interests in multimedia works like The
Gallery. We published six digital titles during the year, and 2001 promises
to be even more active.
My southern tour was a qualified success. One of my main reasons for going was to attend the Independent Publishers' Bookfair at the NSW Writers' Centre. Unfortunately, the Fair was poorly attended, and sales were less than brisk. It's a sad comment on the state of literary publishing in this country when such a good opportunity for people to demonstrate their support for independent publishing is met with such apathy. We must all share in the responsibility for injecting new energy into the publishing scene by voting in the only way that counts: buying books. With government grants shrinking, publishers have little incentive to publish new work, regardless of its merit, unless that work sells. The NSW Writers' Centre, to its credit, intends to sponsor another Fair next year, and I hope that the people who should be there make a better show of it. You know who you are. There's no shortage of prospective authors more buyers, please.
With that whinge out of the way, the rest of the trip went well. I met with three authors we expect to publish next year. I also dropped by several libraries along the way and was pleased by the reception I received. However much we are coming to depend on e-commerce to help promote and sell our work, there's no more effective tool than a face-to-face meeting. I was especially pleased that The Gallery was received so well, by shops, as well as libraries and individuals. It outsold the other titles I had on offer, which says something encouraging about the future of 'literary multimedia'.
I led a workshop on e-publishing at the ACT Writers' Centre on 1 November, and I was pleased to see how keen the participants were to learn more about the impact New Media are having on the publishing scene and what the immediate future holds. No one is so bold to predict more than a year or two down the track, but one thing seems certain: authors and publishers who ignore this revolution do so at their peril.
For those of you who are not members of the Queensland Writers' Centre, we have reprinted a feature on New Publishing I contributed to their latest newsletter. Don't be put off by the title, 'Confessions of...' The purpose of the article is to educate, not to soul-search!
While in Canberra, I also met with senior staff at the National Library's Pandora Project. In brief, the Project seeks to archive and provide access to 'networked documentary resources' in this country. This generally means material that is published and available on the Web, not simply digital versions of existing print publications. Prime examples in the literary area include John Tranter's e-mag Jacket. But I was pleased to have them accept The Gallery for inclusion in the database, even though it lives at present only in CD-ROM form. We also agreed to cooperate on future projects, as IP expands its multimedia base.
Aside from that, it will be full steam ahead as we enter 2001. I predict that IP's digital output next year will outnumber its print output. It's no coincidence that more authors are proposing digital publication as a realistic option now. As the market for e-books expands, more people will see the advantages of digital publication as their preferred option. This will be one of the issues I'll address in the workshops I expect to be offer next year, as IP continues to set the pace in the publication of quality literary titles.
All the best over the holiday season from Ben, Sara and me. Keep those emails and especially those orders coming.
The Brisbane Writer's Festival took place over the weekend of the October 18-22, and was a great success, thanks to the excellent organisation and a star-studded lineup. Acclaimed authors like Peter Carey, Rupert Thompson and Michael Leunig were there to discuss their latest works, as well as more local writers including several from the IP stable.
Manfred Jurgensen read some selections from his acclaimed new poetry collection carnal knowledge, which had a profound effect and not just spiritual on those lucky enough to have been in attendance. Manfred has an impressive oéuvre behind him, and this latest work has already been well received by poetry lovers and reviewers alike.
David Reiter also hosted a session on the future of digital publishing in Australia, and demonstrated how IP is leading the way in New Publishing by guiding a tour through The Gallery, IP Digital's intriguing and addictive new multimedia work. The audience were treated to a rich and hypnotic blend of text, motion picture and music capable of inspiring a different kind of poetic reverie. Those attending were full of questions about the possibilities of how the New Media can be used to enhance literary productions.
Another feature of the writer's festival was a panel on 'Triumph of the Ordinary' with Sara Moss, IP's other Assistant Editor. Her talk focussed on how poetry is distinguished by its ability to illuminate everyday experience through the personal vision of poetic consciousness. She makes special reference to her IP collection A Deep Fear of Trains.
is the full text of her discussion reproduced for your private illumination.
late great poet Judith Wright said that poetry illuminates human experience
and her life work certainly bore testament to this. This subject, Triumph
of the Ordinary, illuminating the everyday is perhaps most relevant to poets
Defining the ordinary can be problematic. What is a usual and everyday experience for one is unusual for another, so, as I see it, the topic should not just address the subjects chosen by authors but also the treatment given to those subjects from the perspective of the author.
I write poetry from my own personal experiences and the observed experiences of those around me. I am chiefly an observer. I rarely research for a poem but find inspiration for poetry just in the business of living day to day. The things that interest me are the relationships between people, particularly between men and women and within families. Many of my poems are sourced from my own memories of personal and family history. What interests me is the undercurrents in these relationships or experiences, what is going on beneath the surface.
An example from my collection is a poem about my grandparents called 'Cold Stove Misery':
Ash in a dying grate
they left only memories
In their council house
cold stove misery crept
into every corner.
He sat iron deaf,
sealed by silence,
as she raged
I could have been a scholar
now I'm washing yankie clothes
for pocket money.
He paid for every pain,
knowing his invasions
made their own army
of mouths to feed.
He took her wrath like a statue
his only allowance
an occasional fag,
and a twitch of the jaw,
as if words
struggled for freedom.
In writing poems from personal experience, I am giving voice to the unspoken often-times painful aspects of life. There could be no experience more mundane than eating an orange, yet I begin a sequence of poems about my childhood experience in hospital with this poem:
like flower petals
with a moist promise
even standard hospital white
you can suck
a whole piece dry
down to the bitter rind.
They are preferred
as gifts over grapes
there is so much more
to occupy the time.
Of course, what's important here is what this poem conveys about time spent in hospital, how every hour can seem endless. When someone else reads the poem, who has perhaps experienced this for themselves, it is this they relate to. The ordinary and everyday can be compelling when the reader or listener finds a place for themselves and their own experiences in the words of others.
My book, A Deep Fear of Trains, is a selection of my poetry from a five year period of my life. During this time I was working through the feelings of anxiety and depression that come with being diagnosed and learning to live with a chronic illness. The title poem, which addresses the grief of a mother who has lost her son in a train accident, echoes the loss of my own health.
The subject of loss is a recurring theme in the collection.
Sometimes, it is only with hindsight that I myself trace these undercurrents in my writing. Writing poetry for me is not a consciously therapeutic exercise. I am not blessed with an extraordinary insight into my own experiences or the experiences of others. If I am blessed with anything as an author, it is perhaps a poetic instinct to bring these experiences to light and the will to write about them. The triumph here is that words can be found to express the hitherto unspoken, and, if I write well enough, words which add something to our understanding of what it is to be human.
difference between ordinary writing and writing the ordinary sufficiently
well to illuminate human experience is a crucial one. Whether the subject
is doing the dishes or war, it is the writer's awareness of such things
as self, place and history, and their ability to bring this awareness to
the page or performance, that lift a poem from the ordinary, enhancing the
moment or experience to give the poem a universal appeal. It is this that
provides a shared context with the reader or listener.
I want to say something about history, particularly the history of women
writing poetry. I am aware that the success of my own writing, in terms
of being published and in terms of appearing at this literary festival,
owes something to this history. In the Introduction to an anthology of Australian
women poets published in the mid 80's Susan Hampton and Kate Llewellyn wrote:
Women's poems have been criticised at times for being too subjective, too personal, too domestic. Critical language has a repertoire of syntax, adjectives and metaphors for casting its own light on reality.
A reading of many women poets reveals the struggle to assert their own reality, including the reality of their everyday lives. In the same volume, poet Ania Walwicz is quoted "I have to state my identity. I have to reconstruct the world...this way I make my own experience coherent. I join me to the world."
is also an awareness in their writing, that this assertion, historically
subversive, has struggled for literary validation. Colleen Burke writes
in a poem called 'Call around and see us':
... I sit here alone
of my men friends who criticise
my writing for being too personal
whatever that means
ah I know
and ever since I can remember I
strove to be depersonalised - did you?
and to my male friends I say
I will talk about you me us
I will drag us out of cupboards
expose us because we are personal
dark burning flowers of madness alive
A Deep Fear of Trains negotiates the difficult territory between my own personal experiences and the wider world, and I return to my earlier point about the perspective of the author, because when I turn my attention from directly personal subjects to this world, I still write from a distinctly personal perspective.Genocide is given a personality in 'Mr Violence':
wipes your features
steals your name
of the evidence
scores the pages
with his own history
asks you for a light,
then smokes your children
the black plumes whisper
you fired first...
When writing about my concerns for the environment the Earth speaks to Man:
you will find me
in your own dream
my reed thin cry
your mouth opens wide
but no bass issues...
from another poet Anna Couani. My
map of the world is felt from the inside
I started to write poetry as a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. My everyday thoughts and experiences are offered up to others; that others can relate to my writing is a personal triumph.
[Read in session with Sue Reidy and Patrick Gale, chaired by Venero Armanno, Brisbane Writers' Festival, 22 October 2000.]
[Editor's Note: Director David Reiter recently submitted an article to the Queensland Writer's Centre's Writing Queensland about the precarious state of literary publishing in Australia (and Queensland especially). The piece highlights the importance of 'New' independent publishers like IP for their vision of ways to revive a flagging industry. IP is committed to publishing the work of Australian authors in a variety of formats to give them all the exposure that the new technology can provide, and thus opening up new avenues of interest for Australian literature.]
September, IP celebrated its third anniversary with the opening of its new
Treetop Studio by the Hon. Matt Foley, Minister for the Arts (pictured below,
left). The design of and facilities in the Studio decidedly high
tech put IP at the cutting edge of "New Publishing". Weve
been described as Queenslands foremost niche publisher of print and
digital literary work. And, indeed, 60% of our titles published in the first
two years have been shortlisted for major national awards.?
hasnt come this by chance. Id had more than 20 years prior experience
in the industry as an editor, a writer, and publishing consultant. I set
up one of the first electronic publishing courses in Australia, and founded
Redoubt magazine in 1987. Id dreamt of setting up a publishing
house for years, and I knew what it would take for one to succeed.
houses are businesses. Much as we might prefer it to be otherwise, few can
afford to take on authors who do not have a proven track record. Mainstream
publishers are geared to produce works that sell in the thousands. And they
know that even successful literary titles in this country seldom sell more
than a thousand copies. Gone are the days when they sustained their poetry
and short fiction lists with cookbooks.
Decisions to publish arent taken lightly. Publishers must consider factors other than the merit of the work. It must not be too costly to produce. It must have an audience large enough to guarantee adequate sales. It must be attractive to funding agencies. The author must be a plus in any promotional campaign. The work must do credit to the publisher and the image it wants to project.
literary publishers rely on subsidies. In IPs first two years, this
meant that authors shared the cost of publishing their work. In return they
realised a higher return on sales. In 2000, we received $18,500 from Arts
Queensland in support of A Deep Fear of Trains by Sara Moss, carnal knowledge
by Manfred Jurgensen, and my multimedia work, The Gallery. This made it
possible to dramatically reduce the authors share. But the literary
equation makes it likely that we will continue to depend on subsidies.
who criticise publishers for asking them to share the costs should realise
that even authors lucky enough to be offered a conventional
contract are often being subsidised. Consider my published books of poems.
The Snow in Us (1989) was published by Five Islands Press,
a cooperative that depended on its members contributing time and money in
support of books in the cycle. Changing House (1991) was published
by Jacaranda Press, whose poetry series was subsidised by royalties from
the Macquarie Dictionary. The Cave after Saltwater Tide
(1994) was published by Penguin with the help of the Australia Council (before
Penguin decided that even subsidised poetry publishing is uneconomical).
Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems
(1997) and Letters We Never Sent (2000)
were published by IP, with my time and money. For over 10 years, then, subsidy
has been a part of literary projects. The only question is who provides
Government subsidies shrink, we will have to search for other ways to ensure
that works of merit get up without forcing people to "self-publish".
The notion of cost (and profit) sharing has worked in the theatre industry,
where the players risk their creative energy, time and money on untested
productions that may or may not pay off. And it can work in the publishing
positively, another important strategy that sets IP apart is its dedication
to digital projects and to promoting titles
online. We are setting the pace, certainly in this State, if not nationally.
A third of our titles are available for downloading online or on CD-ROM
at http://www.interpr.com.au/Store/store.htm. Our authors feature in mini-sites
that provide samples of their work, reviews, audio clips and author bios.
We promote globally via email circulars, IP eNews and our links to other
literary sites. We are part of the National Librarys Pandora Project,
which archives digital works of significance. And Ive been invited
to festivals here and overseas to spread the word about how we operate.
is also committed to quality-control. Each work is mentored, even after
it is accepted, to ensure the best possible work is published. This approach
is not for authors who think their work is untouchable when submitted.
expectations of authors after they publish with us are also high. Few literary
books sell in bookshops; most sales come from contact between authors and
readers. So we put a lot of energy into setting up opportunities for our
authors to promote their work. This isnt always easy, but were
IP is a Queensland publisher, and well continue to do all we can to develop excellence among writers in this State. In turn we ask for your support and understanding, even though we must reject far more projects than we can accept. At first glance, our business plan may not be to everyones liking, but the last thing we need is yet another publisher going down.
The Atlantic Monthly, the prestigious literary/cultural magazine from the United States featured in its latest online edition an article on a recent e-publishing forum in New York City. The article was quite revealing about the concerns of 'traditional' publishing houses with respect to the cutting-edge activities of 'New Publishers'. Surprisingly, North American mainstream houses do not seem much more advanced in their readiness to go digital than their Antipodean counterparts. To get a sense of where e-publishing is heading in a different Hemisphere, read the full article.
Three new digital items are released this month: Manfred Jurgensen's carnal knowledge, Sara Moss's A Deep Fear of Trains, and R.D. Morrison's novel, Last Journey. They join digital versions of Facing the Pacific and Old Time Religion (by Michael Sariban and Andrew Leggett, respectively), and of course David Reiter's multimedia tour de force The Gallery (which is already selling in impressive quantities due to rabid public demand).
IP Digital publishes titles as pdf documents, which can be ordered from this site, or purchased as CD-ROMs. For digital versions of existing print titles, we use Adobe Acrobat, which makes the work accessible on most computers. The quality, in terms of the visual page and the artwork contained within, really is superb. And by publishing digitally we can afford to add a bit of colour and interactivity, which are more difficult in books.
It's no wonder we're called Interactive Publications, because our plan from the outset has been to find new and exciting ways to publish the best in contemporary literature, challenging readers as well as authors to see what the New Media has to offer. The medium and the message, far from being incongruous, are perfectly complementary. IP Digital is innovative in demonstrating how the pleasures of poetry can be greatly enhanced by the new technologies.
What better place to savour carnal knowledge than on your laptop? This surprising and sensual collection from Manfred Jurgensen comes alive on the screen, with sexual desire as an ever-moving force of change and enlightenment. A Deep Fear of Trains, which considers the experience of conflict and disillusionment in modern life, similarly benefits from such a treatment. Last Journey, a popular novel from Glass House Books, deals with the passage of time and the wisdom which comes with age whether it is sought or whether it comes unwillingly.
Their presentation in this form gives an opportunity for the largest possible audience to read the work of significant new literary talent from Australia. The ease and convenience with which you can view the work is another great feature. You can jump to favourite poems (or passages) in a split second with just a click of a mouse on the bookmarks in the left frame of your window. You can enlarge or reduce the page for reading comfort, or to explore the detail of the artwork. And you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the digital versions are significantly cheaper than their print relatives especially where postage is concerned and you'll be helping the environment in foregoing the paper option.
We envisage that the digital titles will be especially attractive to libraries, both in Australia and overseas, for their durability and accessibilty. They allow for the development of an impressive archive of the contemporary literary spirit of Australia without the spatial or preservation difficulties associated with books. The interactive potential of the digital media should also be of great interest to educators, both in secondary schools and universities. Students can experience poetry in new ways as a vital and ever-changing thing, dependent for its meaning on their own input and interpretation. We feel that poetry is ideally suited to this kind of presentation.
The best poetry should be savoured and reconsidered, and the digital format is an entirely appropriate medium in which to do this. No more tattered pages!!
These titles are available from many of our bookshop partners. Or we'll be happy to take your order now.
We'll have three new titles coming soon, so be sure to check them out.
There's The Ventriloquist's Child by Clayton Hansen, from the town of Warwick in Southern Queensland. Some of Clayton's best poems strikingly evoke the Australian landscape. He's concerned with connectivity: rendering those invisible correspondences between people and their environment, and how this intimacy registers emotionally. Clayton has published poetry in many different journals here and overseas and recently won Verandah magazine's national short story writing competition. This first title will certainly establish him as a new Australian author of substance.
Next, there's Frankenstein's bathtub by Tricia Dearborn, an important emerging poetic talent from Sydney. Her collection considers the female experience from different perspectives: as a physical entity subject to chemical balances and imbalances, responsive to violence and tenderness, and as a focus for the explorations and interventions of art, science, and technology. Her special blend of the scientific and poetic will appeal to audiences looking for something different on the poetic horizon.
Glass House Books' next title will be Passing Through by Kevin Streat. The book is an earthy and human exploration of life by a world traveller who's "been there, done that", but with a difference. Relationships with friends, lovers and children emerge as celebrated signposts on a sometimes troubled road. The accessibility, humour, and folksy wisdom of this book should have a wide appeal; especially for those who like their poetry direct and hard-hitting.
Not that we're telling all that's in store from IP for next year. You'll just have to come back to IP eNews after the holidays for the next installment!
Speaking of letting things out of the bag, I'd like to wish you all the best over the holiday season on behalf of Sara, David and myself. Christmas is a great time for reading and reflection, so why not buy an armful of IP titles as presents for loved ones, and of course for your own selfish pleasures. Great winter fare with mulled wine by that fireplace for those of you in cooler climes, and even better by the beach at twilight! And it's all just a click away!!