Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bloom report quote

"It's never been easier to publish a novel, or harder to sell one - and, hence, never more difficult for publishers to take a risk on unknown authors." Bloom partners www.bloompartners.com.au

crappy sounding English

A billboard ad for a major Melbourne private school reads …"I love the subject choice" next to a photo of a student. Apart from being not very believable, it's crappy sounding English. Surely the idea that is to be conveyed is that the student will love the (large) choice of subjects they have to choose from rather than the particular subjects some administrator has chosen to include in the curriculum. And it sounds pompous.

Many writers (and publishers) frown on the present tense.

Princeton Professor emeritus Robert Fagles's new translation is in the present tense: "I think it's a poem about heroism and empire, about the glory of imperial hopes and the pain of having imperial hopes dashed.... I wanted to convey something about the modern understanding of war, and then about a man, an exile, a common soldier left terribly alone in the field of battle," Fagles says. "Aeneas is like Clint Eastwood, like Gary Cooper, a warrior and a worrier. He changes into the heroic tragic man, duty and endure, endure and duty."

Monday, October 30, 2006


a new saying I heard recently: "don't be part of the crowd, be your own act"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

An independent - criteria by ARIA

"Solo artists and groups are eligible. Album and single recordings are eligible. The nominated recording must be released by either an ARIA Levy II Member or a Member, provided that such member is not part of a multinational corporation.

Recordings for which the production costs are funded either:
(a) by a Levy Member; or
(b) by a local license or distribution deal; or
(c) through an overseas licensing or distribution deal are not eligible.

Distribution in Australia must be undertaken by an independent ARIA member. For the sake of clarity, this excludes Levy Members or any members that are part of a multinational corporation."


It was entertaining watch the ARIA awards. The whole thing was a lot of fun and nicely Australian. A couple of personal thoughts:
The Hill Top Hoods: who thanked the stations who played Australian music becasue they wanted to not because they legislatively had to.
Bernard Fanning: "a creative artist needs self-doubt" statement. Food for thought.
I wondered what the definition of independent was, and how it stacked up against the way it is used in the book trade (both for bookshops and publishers).
Liked the "breakthrough" awards.
Congrats to Eskimo Joe among others: Nice work guys.

Maybe we can have book awards that match the style of these one day.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the bestseller lists

We're in the Neilsen bestseller lists for the first time, well at least the first time in month of publication. Heath's Australian Twelve Days of Xmas is number five on the children's list. 'Course I think it's a little beauty. It's a very entertaining and clever piece of cultural mapping and its very very funny. That boy has such a sense of humour.

Flaubert quote

I like this quote from Flaubert: "style is the lifeblood of thought" - and the idea that playing with language helps us tackle difficult and complex thoughts.

Aboriginal kitsch

From the Sydney Morning Herald: Paul Keating has called the naming of East Darling Harbour as Barangaroo (after Bennelong's wife) as Aboriginal kitsch, with it's unfortunate echo of kangaroo. Rejected alternatives were Cadigal Cove, Eora Bay. The name the place earned in the Great Depression was the Hungry Mile.

KOALA awards

Congratulations to Carole Wilkinson for winning the KOALA older readers award last Friday. I went up to Taronga Park Zoo for the announcement on Friday and stayed for lunch. The spontanous cheer from the audience when Dragonkeeper's win was announced left Carole almost speechless. This book has an extraordinary power to reach out and touch people's hearts. It's a book without pretention and the more powerful for it.

The event was humble (in the better sense of the word) and humbling, It was superbly orchestrated - I've not seen a book event better done, or prepared for. I was impressed when Val Noake started with an acknowledgement that we were on traditional Aboriginal land and paid respect to the elders, past, present and future. That heralded the humility and the inclusiveness of the event. Every school in the auditorium was acknowledged and every school let out an affirming cheer as their name was read out. There were lots of authors and illustratos lining the front row. Matt Dray had flown down from northern Queensland with Dougal. There was a Hall of Fame for the books that had appeared many times on the short list but never actually got over the line for a gong. A neat way of acknowledging those really consistent performers. Felice persuaded the kids to do an exquisie slo-mo of a crowd cheering one of their own on to do a slow mo specky. (Morris Gleitzman was a bit of smart arse about it when he came up next but that's Morris.) It was excellent to catch up with Richard Tulloch. We went to the same school and during a brief stint at Penguin I assisted Mr Biffy's Battle along its way through the publishing process. He's spending half his time in Amsterdam. All up an excellent event.

Friday, October 20, 2006

an interesting juxtapostion of quotes I found on the web

If I were in this business only for the business, I wouldn’t be in this business.
- Samuel Goldwyn

If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers.
- Irvin S. Cobb

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dragon Moon

Georgina (13) has just finished reading the draft of Dragon Moon, the sequel to Dragonkeeper/Garden of the Purple Dragon. We were supposed to cooking together (at her instigation) but I'd realise I was doing all the work and I was alone in the kitchen - she was back in the bedroom reading, "but Dad I'm just at a really good bit." She finished later that afternoon. When I told her this was the last story about Ping, she said, "But that's so sad."

It's a corker of a story.

Macbeth postscript

Somebody to me in conversation that David Stratton had suggested that one of the flaws of Wright's Macbeth was the Worthington was too young to convey a sense of a good man tempted and gone bad. And retrospectively that resonated with me.


I went to see the Geoffrey Wright's Macbeth with my friend Chris. Fabulous production values. Very gritty and sexily grubby as you expected from Geoffrey Wright. And I was delighted by the idea of Macbeth being translated to Melboune. And it was very Melbourne. But for me I didn't enjoy it as much as I was trying to. I was always one step behind the actors figuring out the dialogue and for Shakespeare to work as a production I've got to be in it.

Chris who is in the film industry says that we lack the gravitas as actors. The English can somehow pull it off and who knows what the magic ingredient is. Heritage? Voice projection? (There's just too much shouting in Australian production of Shakespeare for my taste.)

Yet we do fabulous of humor + tragedy - in films like Kenny and Priscilla. We need dry, laconic and ironic


I've started to come across "buy" as an operative word in publishing:

"You have to buy a lot of books in order to have some success. When you have success everyone forgets all the books you bought that didn't work."
Bill Massey, new editorial director of Orion's trade list, in an article in The Bookseller with a line under the heading that reads in part, "Bill Massey is back … and buying for Orion."

And from the Age, a little while ago:
"Heyward said that publishers had 'lost their way' by not buying, editing and selling Australian fiction to the extent they should."


I've just finished Anne Coombs and Susan Varga's Broometime. I started it in Brrome and I've been stringing the reading of it out to stretched out that holiday feeling. Maryann worked on Adland with Anne when Mary was at Reed. I think I may have even done one of the proofreads, anyhow I remember reading it in proofs, and I was looking forward to Broometime but it was pulled off the market almost on release. Anne and Susan had mentioned the names of some Aborigines who had recently died and the Broome Aboriginal community were unhappy. The corrected edition seemed to just leak back on to the market. So the book was handicapped on release.; the publicity knee-capped. So maybe it has never done as well as it should have. I don't know how Anne and Susan resolved the problem with the community. People who are dying and have recently died are still mentioned in the revised edition. Have they changed the names? Used psuedonyms? It's an awkward issue to resolve graceful. It's given me a sense though, in a small way, of how different the Aboriginal approach can be and the challenges of this sort of writing and publishing where communities meet.

racy language

I just came across this lovely piece of racing language: "favourite by the length of the straight".

books, the most senior media

Somebody described books as "the most senior of the media" and it is a phrase that has kept popping back into mind. As a publisher, I like it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Malouf and Oz literature

I'm still chewing thoughtfully on this comment from David Malouf (same source as my last blog):

"There was a period about 15 to 20 years ago when we created the idea of an exciting national literature. Australian readers were encouraged to read a lot of Australian books [was this publicity then?], and they did. They were doing it partly because they saw it as a reflection of their world, but also because they believed in Australia in a new kind of way. I think people lost faith in that. I think there has been a falling off of a kind of patriotic reason for reading Australian books, and that has put a lot of pressure on publishers because they just can't guarantee that there's a reading public out there." And he adds that 20 years ago every university had a course in Australian literature now none do or maybe one.

Sometimes I think this is a loss, sometimes I think it's because our literature has grown up.

Malouf and the literary pages

I generally find the literary pages in the newspapers on the weekend entertaining -even if I sometimes find the review focus a little narrow at times. (My personal beef is the big reviews of expensive hardbacks from lesser known university presses in the US, usually on some political or foreign affairs topic, that I know are being brought in to this country in quantities of less than 100.)

Anyhow I enjoyed the Malouf interview in the Oz. . I very much enjoyed Johnno and I'm looking forward to reading Every Move You Make. Lots of gems from Mr Malouf, some pure, some cracked and smoky. I find him satisfyingly thought provoking.

I liked his:
"Writers are sometimes very wise in their writing and very foolish as people." A neat conundrum that echoed with me. I find writers often wise in their writing and as wise and foolish as the rest of us at other times. Or as Malouf quotes Auden who put it succinctly: "Our writing is in better taste than our lives."

"My own view is that we ought to write books that need to be written. Books ought to demand to be written rather than be a by-product of your idea of yourself as a writer.There is a lot of pressure on writers not to be out of the limelight and I think you have to absolutely resist that." coda - as long as you don't need to make a living from your writing. I'm not sure that all writers have the luxury of being able to retreat to Tuscany. And there's the possibility that may somebody else can suggest a book that demands to be written or guide you in discovering the book that needs to be written. Is writing more collaborative now than the literary model created in the 70s?

He goes on to say that there are two kinds of books: those that: "come into existence because they are like products of nature… and books that you feel absolutely been willed into existence" and there are too many of the latter because publishers are pursueing "non-serious readers, the people who can be almost trapped into reading a book. It's for them that the whole world of publicity and celebrity of writers is created. Really serious readers don't give a stuff of about any of that." A very purist view, echoing the high-handed criticism of "comfort reading" for children. A kind of no pain without gain view of reading. I've never liked neat binary opposites in arguments particularly; there's a whole bunch of interesting stuff to discover in between.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

NZ publishing industry - Montana

"For a society with a comparatively small population base, the range of what is being written is great indeed, and across that range the quality is high." - Lawrence Jones, chair of the judging panel of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards

it may sound a little self-congratulatory on the New Zealanders behalf quoted out of context, but they really do a magnificent job on the other side of the Tasman. (I've always like the slightly wild west-frontier sound of the "Montana" awards. And it seems appropriate that they're named after a wine. Maybe we should change the name of the Miles Franklin?)

advice to an editor

I'm a bit chary about giving advice on how to set out to edit a script, as everybody works differently. The one piece of advice I would give though is to re-read what you've edited - after it is published . You may need a year or two respite, but then have another look. In my experience that's difficult, painful and sharply instructive. I don't do it often enough.