Monday, 26 July 2010

The mother called Necessity

On Sunday I attended a film workshop. I was struck by the apparent insecurity of the players in this 'industry'. The number of über-bosses whose approval must be gained for a given idea. The number of tricks to be employed in making a pitch. The variety of pitches to be tried, depending on the opportunity given (toe in the door; two floors in an elevator; the full five minutes). The warning that most of these guys (gals weren't mentioned) have ADHD so speak slowly (counter-intuitive, that one). I went away (with a few ideas but) wondering why everyone doesn't just stay home and make their own movies for Youtube instead.

I also talked with a fellow writer: months were ticking by and she hadn't heard back from the publishers who had her manuscripts. The publishers' lists were shrinking. What was she going to do if no one would take her work any more?

That recalled for me my own surprise last year, when Longacre was sold to Random who no longer required its Dunedin editors (or designer, office or production staff). What do we do when our work's not wanted by the big, market-driven publishing houses?

I said to my fellow writer that we could start doing things for ourselves — that this might be the message of the times. It's uncomfortable to contemplate. Starting from scratch at home. Rustling up our own resources. Figuring out a whole new lifestyle. And finding a way to put work out there.

But actually, the ways have been found and forged and they're open to anyone with an internet connection. They needn't imply a decline in quality. In the case of ebooks, we still have manuscript assessors, editors, proof readers, designers. This is democracy for writers — a multiple choice of outlets, a much greater share of the profits, a global market there for the visiting.

It's stretching and scary but it's also fun, cooperative, and more than a little energising. Not only in the writing but in production, too, we dance to our own tune.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Genesis Chapter Two

'Thus the heavens and the earth were finished . . .' Phew, God did a lot in a single chapter. I'm a slow coach. When the idea of publishing ebooks first occurred to me, I approached friend and colleague Carolyn McCurdie. She was immensely encouraging; heard me out, made sensible contributions; came with me to a digital conference in Christchurch. But nothing was quite fitting into place. It all seemed awkward and too hard.
    Carolyn went off to write a novel (which I'll be eager to read; her debut YA The Unquiet is delicately written and quietly powerful speculative fiction: 'There's only one planet that weaves into its spinning the wild thread of imagination. It touches everything we know.' ) And I went back to work, but keeping my antennae out, waiting for the time to ripen.
    It's certainly riper now, and I've taken July off to attend to editing, copy-writing, calling for stories, nutting out a contract and making lists. My brother, cartoonist and designer Hugh Todd in Sydney is creating the website.
    My greatest challenge will be marketing, especially to the US  where people actually own reading devices (now there's a topic for another day). 'Viral',  'social', 'personal', seem to be the buzzwords for the new methodology.
    I'm learning, I'm running to keep up, and mostly it's fun. I believe in the work I'm going to send out there.
    Some of you have tried and failed to send comments. I think I've fixed the problem so if you're with me still, please try again. Thanks!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


It's two years since I woke one night, as clear-minded as I've ever been, and understood that I would begin in the coming years to publish, promote and sell ebooks. (One day I'll tell you the whole story.) Recently I came across the words of Russian poet and mystic Daniel Andreev that spoke of the kind of writing that draws me, into which I will put my energy, work that bears

          the mark of talent and at least one of the following: a sense of beauty, broad scope, profundity of thought, sharpness of insight, purity of heart, or a joyful spirit  alongside a keen awareness of the world's darker depths.

The website is under construction. The first manuscript is being edited: The Glass Harmonica: A Sensualist's Tale —  a joyous and lyrical novel set between Corsica, Paris, and New England in the late 18th century — by Dorothee Kocks of Utah. We're planning an October launch. I'm currently considering stories from NZ and abroad for the second title Slightly Peculiar Love Stories.

There, I've begun to talk about Rosa Mira Books. Please visit when you can, and let's discuss this burgeoning new world of digital publication. I'll talk about the challenges it brings to me. I'll throw out questions and be as transparent as I can about the steps in the process — often bewildering and sometimes lonely, until recently. Clarity has reappeared, allies are gathering, and now I'm throwing open the door.