Mentoring Program

On Saturday 24 May, the first Victorian mentors-to-be in the National Mentoring Program attended a workshop facilitated by Elizabeth Manning Murphy and coordinated by Davina Dadley-Moore. The workshop provided an introduction to the program, and explored what the role of a mentor is (and isn’t). It was an engaging introduction to what I believe will prove to be a very valuable professional development program for editors. Continue Reading

Book launch: Baby and A Backpack

It’s always a pleasure to attend a book launch for a book I have worked on. On Thursday, 8 May, the Brunswick Street Bookstore hosted the book launch of Jane Cornelius’s Baby and a Backpack, which I had the pleasure of proofreading. The effervescent Jane kept the crowd entertained and is doing a great job promoting her story. Baby and Backpack is a very entertaining autobiography – and the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

 

Jane Cornelius at Baby and a Backpack launch

Photography to break down stereotypes

Anyone who has undertaken research for a contemporary publication will understand that stock photo libraries, while being an amazing resource, have their limitations – particularly when you are looking for shots that are contemporary, inclusive and avoid cliches. Yet, photos are incredibly powerful and can do a lot to either reinforce or subvert our expectations about particular social groups. This is particularly relevant when editing or publishing a publication in a field where social diversity and inclusiveness is a priority.

Recently, I have been delighted to stumble on a number of projects that aim to change the way we view certain groups within society – through photography.

Perhaps the most wide-reaching, and certainly the most exciting for publishers, given its accessibility, is the Lean In Collection, a collaboration between Getty Images and Leanin.org to produce a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them. Powerful being the operative word!

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In the more artistic field, Braden Summers’ All Love is Equal project aims to present same-sex couples around the world in classically romantic shots. His stunning images aim to break down cultural stereotypes about same-sex relationships.

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Braden Summers

Finally, young Native American photographer Matika Wilbur has embarked on an enormous project to catalogue real images and stories of Native Americans and combat their misrepresentation in commercial media. Stunning work! It would be wonderful to see an equivalent for Indigenous Australians.

Native American woman

Photographer: Matika Wilbur

Australian Women’s Writers Challenge 2014

This year, I will be participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It was first run in 2013, with the goal of addressing the gender bias in the reviewing of Australian literature. Although my reading usually includes a lot of female authors anyway, I have set myself the modest (achievable!) goal of reading at least six books by Australian women and reviewing at least four.

To find out more about the Challenge, or to sign-up yourself, see the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Best Books of 2013

Many bookshops, newspapers, magazines and literary organisations are putting out their ‘best of’ lists of the year, so I took some time to reflect on the most memorable titles I have read myself this year.

Published in 2013

Madness: A Memoir, Kate Richards

This  was the most original, most harrowing and most thought-provoking book  I read all year. It is courageous, raw and intelligent. Written by a doctor who suffers from delusions and severe depression and anxiety, it is an eye-opening insight into mental illness and should do a lot to break down stereotypes. Although confronting, it is not without hope – life springs from the pages.

Peggy, Anna Walker

My picture book of the year – this is a gorgeously illustrated and adorable account of a chicken on a mission. It has quickly become a Melbourne classic, and the illustrations are clever and delightful for children and adults alike (e.g. a new chicken take on John Bracks’s ‘Collins St, 5pm’.

The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness

I’ve been a huge fan of Patrick Ness’s young adult fiction for some years and I was very excited to see this new adult debut (as well as a chance to meet him on his book tour). A haunting and magical love story, it is also full of some of the most sparkling – and witty – lines I’ve read in years. Bookshelf as mandela is something I will take away forever from it.

Notable mentions:

  • Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
  • Questions of Travel, Michele de Kretser
  • The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
  • More Than This, Patrick Ness

Published earlier than 2013

The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doige

This has become a modern classic, detailing new findings and discoveries about brain plasticity and busting the longheld scientific myth that our brains are ‘fixed’. It is inspiring, fascinating and essential reading.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

A charming love story about two kids dying of cancer. It sounds unlikely but it works! Yes, the children sound more mature than their years, but it also some real raw emotional honesty and is brave and funny and memorable.

Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

This biographical account of Ann’s friendship with her best friend, fellow writer Lucy Grealy, reads like the longest and saddest love letter of all time. It is haunting and raw and doesn’t offer any easy answers. Lucy suffered from terrible facial tumours as a child and as an adult struggled to find the love and acceptance and success she craves. She could be incredibly annoying but her charisma shines through in Ann’s writing – an enormous spirit in a small, scarred body.

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What were your favourite book reads of 2013?

An Amazon moderate

At the Independent Publishers Conference in Melbourne, which I recently attended, there was much discussion about the impact of Amazon – and Book Depository – on the Australian book industry. In particular, Book Depository’s no-shipping policy has meant that it’s often cheaper for people to import books through them than to buy local. After the conference,  Affirm Press announced that they would not be sending their stock to Amazon, saying ‘It is absurd stock to the US or UK in the knowledge that you are doing so solely for it to come back to our shores via Amazon’. Fair point!

However, there were also some voices at the conference who spoke in defence of Amazon – in particular in relation to the valuable role it plays in ebook sales in genre markets such as romance, sci fi and fantasy. Of course, some people view ebook sales in themselves as devaluing the market but I disagree. I believe ebooks will exist alongside, rather than replace, print books, and this is borne out in the statistics that indicate that ebook sales are plateauing rather than demolishing the market.

Amazon is an aggressive player and it’s not about to go away. I was prompted to examine my own views, as I find myself torn: on the one hand, I have immense loyalty to the local industry – after all I make my living in it. Beyond that, I have loved and supported local bookshops all my life and am very sad to see independents in particular suffering. On the other hand, I dislike the kneejerk negativity that seems to be part of a lot of the dialogue about ebooks and the global marketplace. Like it or not, both are here to stay – and I have personally seen how valuable that can be to local authors who are able to self-publish (yes, even through Amazon!) to a global audience. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Supporting local bookstores falls within a bigger ethos for a lot of people – the ‘shop local’ movement. But cheap books can be very alluring, especially for those of us who are big readers on a limited income (likely a great many of the so-called rising or emergent ‘creative class’). Ultimately these are ethical decisions – and like all such decisions end up being balanced with financial realities. However I’ve personally decided that my policy will be as follows:

1. I will buy from local independent bookstores (Readings, Little Bookroom, Hares & Hyenas, etc) as first choice.

2. I will confine Amazon or Book Depository buys to things I can only access through them – e.g. ebooks not available elsewhere or hardcopy works that are not available locally.

3. I will save money another way – by reading from my local library network (libraries – a fantastic community resource – also deserve our support).

How do others navigate these issues?

Brain plasticity

Brain plasticity is a hot-topic at the moment, and a personal fascination of mine. The ABC documentary series ‘Redesign my Brain’ with Todd Sampson is currently bringing some of these ideas to a wider audience. I was lucky enough to work with Tansel Ali, who coached Todd to compete in the World Memory Championships in London in 2012, successfully memorising a deck of randomly shuffled cards. Tansel’s refreshingly straightforward approach to memory training is captured in The Yellow Elephant, which offers simple techniques, tips and exercises for anyone to improve their memory. It was particularly illuminating for me how important visualisation is – a yellow elephant is easier to remember than an elephant.

Episodes of Redesign My Brain are currently available on iView.

The Yellow Elephant can be purchased through SBS or your local bookstore.