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Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Journal Of Infinite Possibilities: A Book Launch

Lindy Cameron and Kerry Greenwood

I just love Australia's small presses. They publish stuff the bigger presses won't take a chance on and lift wonderful books from their out-of-print status back into print, usually with nicer covers than the originals. Ford Street has done that with some of Isobelle Carmody's books that had been languishing out of print for some time. Ticonderoga did that for Lucy Sussex's The Scarlet Rider, which never sold as well as it deserved when it was published by Tor - and gave it a much, much better cover, using a photo, borrowed from a local library, to which they got the usage rights in exchange for some copies of the book, I think, or something equally simple. Trust me, it's better than the Tor cover, I have both editions.

Yesterday it was the turn of Clan Destine Press, a small publisher run by Lindy Cameron, who is a crime writer and major member of Sisters In Crime. Clan Destine Press was originally set up for crime fiction, but has expanded quite a bit. The launch yesterday, held at the Rising Sun Hotel in South Melbourne, was for the purposes of launching the abovementioned JIP. I ended up buying one, although it was really a sort of diary/journal with lovely illoes, because it was also for playing around with ideas for writing and I think I may be able to use it in class. Too pretty to actually write in(one reason why I hesitated), but I can always photocopy the bits I want to use. There was an adult colouring book which I didn't buy. Sorry, but I think the notion of adults colouring in stuff a bit silly. Okay, it's a soothing activity, but when they're for kids they cost about $2.50 and you buy them at the newsagent. When they're for adults, you pay the price of a novel for something that was designed especially to suck you in, but is, in the end, not really much different from the kids' version, in that you get some coloured pencils and colour. 

They also had, of course, a table selling past publications such as the reprints of Kerry Greenwood's Delphic Women trilogy, Cassandra, Electra and Medea. They're all feminist versions of the Greek myths and when Kerry decides she's going to change the ending of a myth you sort of cheer, because it's the way you would have liked it to end. And when Kerry says, "Jason was an idiot!" you can't help agreeing. 

I'd held off getting these because I did have, somewhere, the original big-press editions - signed, even! I didn't know Kerry personally back then, but when I met her on the stairs at the Melbourne Writers' Festival, she kindly signed my copy of Medea

But there they lay, so much prettier than the big-press editions, I hadn't a clue where those were and there was Kerry at the desk, wearing her witch hat, and I couldn't resist. I bought the lot and started reading Cassandra last night, enjoying it all over again. I didn't buy Out Of The Black Land, her Akhenaten novel, written for Clan Destine, which I already have. (That's another one where she ends it the way she wants it, using the fact that we don't really know what happened to Nefertiti)

Kerry signed the three books for me. She was looking a bit thinner than usual. Kerry is usually a large lady, but she has been very sick over the last year, which has been quieter than usual - no novel under her name has come out, neither Phryne Fisher nor Corinna Chapman. She told me she'd had a stroke. Ouch! Plus there was her mother's death. Than I knew about by accident, from an online search to see if she was writing anything. Jeannie was very close to her family, and she was one of Kerry's researchers. I emailed Kerry a photo I'd taken of her mother at a launch, to show my own Mum, who can't be persuaded to come with me to them. "See? This lady is about your age and she's going!" 

I met some friends there - Chuck McKenzie, that very funny man, who has a book coming out from Clan Destine, told me he is currently working for another shop, and that the year he had to close his own bookshop, two others in the same strip also closed, one of them a Dymock's! 

Alison Goodman was there too. She has had a crime novel published by Clan Destine. Such a nice lady! We caught up. She's now a full time writer, something unusuał in Australia. But she now has publishers outside Australia and that makes a difference. Alison's first school visit was to my school when she had only one book under her belt and was teaching Creative Writing at RMIT. She wanted to get practice, but was too nervous, so I invited her to talk to my book club, which at the time consisted of four Year 12 kids. I got in the local press for that visit. I remember she brought along her planning sheets and showed them to the kids as I squeaked at how elaborate it was. I am a pantser myself, but she is such a plotter, she'd give J.K Rowling a run for her money. (Last year I showed my students a JKR plotting sheet which I found online. I assured them they didn't have to do anything that detailed)

Alison told me she had done a writers' workshop at a school in Sydney and was absolutely in awe of teachers, who have to do this sort of thing every day. That got her on my good side. I am so sick of reading on author blogs smug descriptions of a school visit they did and how wonderful their writers' workshop or whatever it was must be for those poor kids who don't get that from their teachers. You know the kind. I sometimes put in a polite comment pointing out to them that it's all very well for them, who come in for an hour or two, run their workshop under controlled conditions and depart, collecting their fee, but how would they like to have to look after those kids every day and be responsible  for making sure they improved their writing and reading skills and be blamed if the kids failed to improve? Not so easy! (And then there was the one who complained of the stupidity of kids who couldn't respond to his writing prompt of what would you do with a huge sum of money they couldn't even imagine.) 

She also mentioned that she had done one free visit to a disadvantaged school on the request of her publisher, which was nice of them, while she was in Sydney, and spoke of her admiration for the TL there. 

I left after my chat with Alison, promising to buy her latest novel, the Regency one. She's also hoping to do another novel in the universe of Eon/Eona. I told her I'd keep an eye out for that too. 

A highly enjoyable afternoon! 


Unknown said...

It sounds like you know every writer in Australia! I'm sorry to hear about Kerry's troubles and wish her well. One of the reasons I'll never go with the big publishers - you're stuck with their sometimes bad decisions, and covers are crucial. I de-stress by doing artwork, but I can't afford to buy anything. I just enjoy creating the promo ads for my books. Have a lovely weekend! :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

We're a small community, Lexa, so not hard to know each other. Mostly, I know the children's writers, but I know Alison through SF fandom(we were both on the committee of Aussiecon 3, a World SF convention) and Kerry has her email address at the back of her books. And she does book launches, everyone invited.

I've been published by big presses, Allen and Unwin, Random House, Omnibus(part of Scholastic), but the local branches. I remember the lady from Random House, who was a friend of my favourite(small press) publisher saying, "We will never look after you the way he does." And it's true. My best experiences have been with small press.