Posted by Charlotte Harper on Dec 9, 2013 in The N00bz
It was pitch black in Verity Lane, and the mid-winter drizzle added to the eeriness. I generally avoid these dark back streets, having narrowly escaped being mugged in one nearby years earlier, but I had books to distribute, and at the other end of this service courtyard stood Smiths Alternative, Canberra’s most bohemian bookshop.
At the time, Smiths was run by Jorian Gardner, the trilby-wearing director of Canberra’s Fringe Festival, and Domenic Mico, a former director of one of the city’s largest arts centres. Their clientele visited Smiths to hear poetry readings, drink coffee and wine and attend gigs. Sometimes, they even bought books and zines.
As is the nature of these things when you’re juggling a six-month-old baby, a three-year-old, a Masters degree, two teaching gigs, a magazine publishing job and your ebook start-up, time was short. I hadn’t managed to forewarn the booksellers of my impending arrival, so I was relieved to spot them as I slipped out of the alley and within sight of Smiths.
‘Hi Jorian,’ I said as he pushed a rack of indie fashion items through the side door. ‘I think you know about my new publishing venture? Would Smiths be interested in taking a couple of copies of [Anna Maguire’s] Crowdfund it!?’
The former radio shock jock filled his partner in. ‘She’s a REAL publisher, Domenic. Publishing books professionally, here. At Gorman House. Of course we’ll take some, Charlotte. We’ll buy them outright. Is a 30 percent discount OK? Email me an invoice.’
Just like that, I had my first retail partnership in my home town.
Posted by Ronnie Scott on Nov 11, 2013 in The N00bz
Hello. My name is Ronnie and this is the story of how I failed to draw a comic. Throughout this process, I tried to illustrate various colours, shapes, and lines. What I ended up illustrating is a trio of clichés: those who can’t do teach; it’s harder to make than to criticise; and scholars tend to be somewhat divorced from their research topics. Please, make yourself comfortable and watch a grown man drown before your eyes.
I sometimes get to work as a comics critic, which I love: it’s Chris Ware who said that comics is the only art form where you have to explain the medium’s history before addressing a single one, so I often get to editorialise and soapbox and opine before digging into the comic at hand—usually a big no. Meanwhile, my doctoral thesis, which I spent four years of my life writing, was basically an attempt to redefine comics as an art of space, rather than an art of time. It was the kind of supernerdy, fine-grained study that only its author could love, but one detail is germane here: I don’t believe my own argument; it’s an opening gambit, a bargaining position, a thesissy point of departure, one that allowed me to get into the guts of why comics is uniquely itself. Comics’ engagement with space and time, how it messes them both up, is different to the dimensional engagement of any other narrative form.
Posted by Emily Stewart on Oct 28, 2013 in The N00bz
At this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival, I gave away my most-loved books along with individual handwritten letters addressed to the reader of each. In a quiet corner of Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent, I displayed the books on a desk and over the course of two days sat down with thirty participants to chat about books and reading, before gifting them a book and a letter to keep. I called it the Dear Reader Project.
I am a passionate reader. I’ve completed an Honours degree in literature, managed a bookshop, and trained as an editor. That is, I’ve had three terrific, tax-deductible reasons to indulge my book-buying habit. But I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the weight of books that surrounds me. I’ve started to wonder about the specific function of books as cultural objects. What is their psychic measure? What do they act as receptacles for? I’ve closely followed and participated in conversations around the death of the book; a conversation that manages to bore and fascinate in equal parts.
I became interested in how we might begin to enact our conversation about books in new ways. In today’s arts climate, numbers mean a lot. Festival organisers silently count their attendees, hoping for increases that will bolster their funding applications. Online, page views and reach stats serve as a similar metric. It’s a logic that Twitter formally encodes: the screen is fed and made active by the exponential growth of ideas.
But despite Twitter and despite festivals, I am lonely as a reader. With Dear Reader I saw an opportunity to investigate literary experiences and attitudes to reading beyond the panel, magazine or interface. One of the most interesting challenges festivals face is the question of how to activate the energy audience members bring with them to an event. What Dear Reader offered was meaningful conversation between passionate readers.
Over the weekend I met and spoke to thirty people. Those numbers at a panel event would be modest, but I had hopes that my installation would offer a depth of engagement and exchange that counted for much more. When I pitched Dear Reader to the festival, I was putting forward a project that was small, intimate, private and entirely offline. As such, it can’t help but be read in juxtaposition to the rhetoric of growth outlined above, and as a counterweight to the question of technology. In this essay, I’m writing towards these two things.
Posted by Elizabeth Lhuede on Oct 8, 2013 in The N00bz
A year ago, in Overland online literary journal, Jane Gleeson-White wrote that 2012 was the Year of Australian Women Writers. She attributed this in part to a reading and reviewing challenge I’d established, along with the newly-created Stella Prize. A year before that, I’d never heard of Gleeson-White, or many other Australian women writers. Nor was I alone. When I’d visited my local library and asked for recommendations of books by Australian women, neither of the two library workers I approached could name one living, female Australian author. I was told to ‘look for the kangaroo on the spine’.
In October 2011, a writer friend on Facebook urged me to check out a ‘stoush’ in the comments section of Tara Moss’s blog. In a wrap-up of a Melbourne Sisters in Crime conference, Moss had quoted the US-based VIDA count: statistics detailing the poor number of reviews of books by women appearing in prominent literary journals. The post attracted the attention of literary reviewer for The Age, Cameron Woodhead, who accused Moss of ‘privileged whining’.
Sure, gender bias in literary reviewing can seem like a First World Problem. But what does it mean when three women in a library have trouble naming any Australian women authors – their contemporaries? It got me thinking. Could the lack of attention given to women writers be symptomatic of a deeper malaise, an inequality which, in Australia, sees women still as primary victims of violence, earning significantly less than men, and underrepresented on corporate boards and, most recently, in ministerial cabinets? Is it an issue of social justice? Or are books by Australian women simply not good enough to deserve reviewers’ attention?
I had good reason to be suspicious of notions of literary meritocracy.
Posted by Benjamin Law on Oct 2, 2013 in The N00bz
Plenty of people would describe what I do as journalism, but I’m going to come clean: I ain’t no journalist. This isn’t coming from some deep, dark reservoir of low self-esteem; it’s just I have never completed a journalism degree, never worked in a newsroom and am usually out to sea when one of my editors queries me on legal aspects of my story. ‘Asking me probably isn’t the best idea,’ I’ll tell them, slowly going grey. ‘And, uh, you guys have lawyers, right?’ Some of the stories I write for magazines—like Good Weekend and The Monthly—are definitely a kind of journalism (I come up with an idea, get on the road, interview people, do background research and spin it into a story) but I feel like a fraud when people describe me as a journalist, which happens often enough.
At university, I studied creative writing. (I know: I’m instinctively wary of any professional qualification with the word ‘creative’ in the title too.) When I started the degree in 2000, the course was almost brand new. My cohort of fewer than 30 students was the third batch to enrol. Being a three year course, this meant not a single person had graduated from the degree yet. We were all a grand experiment, with no idea of what career prospects lay ahead of us, if any. For a long time, we referred to our major as Creative Shiting—a joke I reckon has aged pretty well—and while our course coordinators spun out plenty of original content, we also piggy-backed heavily onto media studies and journalism subjects. As part of our course, we were required to complete three mandatory journalism units: news writing; sub-editing and layout; and feature writing. As a writer with aspirations to work for Rolling Stone, I totally dug the classes. (My fiction-writing buddies loathed them.)
I learned plenty in those journalism units: the inverted pyramid structure; how to properly spell ‘villain’; the difference between a lede and an intro; the importance of reading the daily news; how to use programs like Quark and InDesign; how to pitch a feature; the importance of leading and kerning on the page; and how to deal with fuckwit former newspaper section editors who’d found themselves tutoring newswriting to teenagers at university, and therefore had a major chip on their shoulder. However, we also missed out on a lot of key skills that were considered prerequisites for journalists a generation or two ago. And one of them was shorthand.
Posted by Carmel Bird on Sep 16, 2013 in The N00bz
As I write this continuation to my April essay on my hopes of turning my book Dear Writer into an ebook, I have just received an email from the publisher Spineless Wonders telling me that the book can now be downloaded as an interactive PDF and will shortly be available as an ebook. Not only that, but it will be available in paperback in October 2013.
Clearly a lot of things have happened since April when I wrote: ‘so I think I am going to make an ebook.’ I also wrote that I was ‘working on the revision’ of the text. And at the beginning of my April essay I said: ‘I am learning to make an ebook.’
In my case, what I learned was that I needed to hand over the making of the ebook to Spineless Wonders.
Dear Reader, it happened thus: