Friday, 10 December 2010

Untangling the ebirds

Early this morning I dreamed I found a bird in the cotton bag I was holding. Before I woke, I contemplated where and how best to release it.

It reminded me of an incident. A friend was walking through a vineyard when she came upon a bird (I think it was a long-tailed cuckoo) in a net, entangled almost to the point of strangulation. Her heart hammered as she began the urgent task of turning it this way and that, picking apart the fibres, following the threads, unhitching, unwinding — and the closer it came to freedom, the harder the bird fought with claws and beak (perhaps not a cuckoo; there was a fearsome beak). When she finally released it to the air, some vitality in her also broke loose for the first time.

Is it too great a stretch to compare publishing today with freeing the birds? It's helping me as I negotiate the pernickety back and forth, perfecting the formats for our first manuscript; Jason Darwin of meBooks is patiently sorting through my feedback and making adjustments. It's an image that serves as I work through marketing strategies, backlogged emails and complex signing-up rituals. I don't love these parts of the work but when I feel the life of the bird beating between my hands, I find the persistence I need.

Birds? They might be the writing, the stories — formed and ready for flight, but so many are caught and stymied in the current publishing climate where lists are being cut back and only the most marketable books are being sent forth. 

Each book-bird represents its writer's best impulse toward life. In digital publishing I see my own opportunity to unravel a few exceptional birds each year — via the steady, patient processes of Rosa Mira Books — and throw them up into their native air.

As I face the inevitable resistances and glitches, and pick them apart with patience and hope, it's possible I'm freeing more than just the books.

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