Wednesday 6 May 2015

Out with the old, in with the new (Rosa Mira Books website)

Ratty is sounding (as I am writing) the last post for this blogspot. Rosa Mira Books is moving here, taking the blog with it: a brand new website that's simple for me to manage, and simple for readers to browse.

So without further fanfare: let's go.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Packing a punch, nonviolently — interview with Raymond Huber

This time next week I'll be winging my way to Dunedin for the launch of Raymond Huber's Peace Warriors, a book that packs a nonviolent punch. He wrote it with intermediate-aged children in mind, but in fact it's a though-provoking anecdotal handbook for anyone wanting to zest up their thinking on this salient topic: the making of peace and the ending of violence and war.

Mākaro Press have made a beautiful job of the hard copy publication and Rosa Mira is privileged to be converting their book to digital. I asked Raymond a few questions.

What was the initial inspiration for Peace Warriors? As a child I loved stories about humble heroes (such as Hobbits) facing great evil. The idea for a book of true stories about non-violent resistance came after reading We Will Not Cease by Archibald Baxter. I was amazed I’d never come across this inspiring story when I was a teacher – there were children’s books about war heroes but none about peace heroes. I discovered many exciting stories of peaceful resistance in wartime, during dictatorships, and of people-power movements.

Do you have a favourite story from the book? It’s those electrifying moments when brute force is dumbfounded by love: the Jewish children hidden under the noses of the Nazis; Maori girls stopping the army with skipping ropes; helicopter gunships grounded by Filipino people power; the Chinese man with grocery bags halting a column of tanks.

Peace Warrior Raymond Huber has now and then been mistaken for Tintin. Image by Hugh Todd who was once cartoonist for the ODT.
Did you find common themes in the lives of the people you interviewed or researched? Yes. They were mostly ‘ordinary’ people who took a stand against oppression; they all had a fierce determination to see things through; and they believed, as one said, that ‘it matters what every single one of us does’.

Has working on the book altered the way you see the world? I have more hope for the future when I read about people who’ve stood up to dictators; and see that people-power campaigns have been more successful than military solutions.

What would be the best possible outcome of having your book out in the world? That it would encourage young readers to debate war and peace, and realise that violence is not the greatest human force in the world. That our government would champion non-violent conflict resolution and welcome more refugees here.

Do you want to mention anybody involved in the publishing process? A grant from Quaker Peace and Service Aoteraoa kept the project alive (after several rejections) until Mary McCallum (Mākaro Press) embraced the book.  I’m very grateful to author David Hill for his encouraging endorsement. I love the ‘handbook’ style design by Paul Stewart and the cover by Hugh Todd which expresses the essence of a Peace Warrior. About $1.25 from each sale goes to Oxfam NZ who are active in peace-making and disarmament issues. This donation is an important part of the ‘people power’ spirit of the book, that every small act contributes to change.

Cover image and design by Hugh Todd (yes, my brother)

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Self-publication looks up?

 At the risk of repeating myself, Rosa Mira's new website is millimetres away. It's just a matter of the two busy people responsible (yours truly and sib) coordinating over the last few details.

Meanwhile (I wonder if that's my most frequently used paragraph starter), I read this article called 'Self-publishing matters' about the popularity and destigmatisation of DIY. What do you think? I think that, even so, not every writer wants to go it alone. Many value a publisher's editorial judgment and input, design capabilities, ebook production and marketing know-how ... and that's where Rosa Mira comes in — with traditional publishing values and an innovative, collaborative model.

I'm currently reading a promising manuscript, one author is making small structural changes to hers, and two are waiting for me to pull my editorial hat down hard and get started.

It's always a thrill to see Rosa Mira authors (possibly not how they describe themselves primarily, but I'm entitled) out doing beautiful things in the written world. In April Carolyn McCurdie is going to have her first (ridiculous that her work hasn't been in mass circulation for the last decade) book of poetry Bones in the Octagon published by Mākaro Press. More when I have one in my hand.

Sue Wootton recently won the 2015 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize for her poem 'Luthier'. I happen to know she's just completed her Masters (submitted — that's 'completed', right?) so we might see more of her poetry and fiction out on the streets in the near future.

There's more but my skin is coming of age and I shortly have an appointment with a flask of liquid nitrogen.

Meanwhile, carry on: Writing is its own reward, wrote Henry Miller.

Friday 13 March 2015

Winds and novels

In two days, Cyclone Pam will bear down on New Zealand's east coast bays, islands and promontories. Already the waves south of Whangarei are huge and forceful. As I wrote in my novel Island, "… it [the storm] has no designs on any of these [objects in its path]; it moves according to its intrinsic energies and those devolving upon it from the greater systems of the earth." However, Pam is the greatest weather system currently on earth so perhaps that should read 'evolving'. Whatever, however, it made for an exciting swim just now: should I dive through this looming monster or race to shore before it crashes? 

Distractions! I have manuscripts to edit — several novels, even though I saw myself write recently that they're too unweildy and time-consuming for a solo publisher. Nevertheless, as I also wrote more recently, I've been changing my model and the new one is about sharing — energy, input, skills, marketing and income — with the author. Self-publishing has become respectable, but it's still a hard and lonely road, too often with a product that lacks the quality checks of traditionally published work. Publishing in the new (it might be said chaotic but certainly unpredictable) publishing climate is also a bit lonely and hazardous. Teaming up makes good sense to me, and this particular handful of novelists concurs. (One didn't and has beat a retreat, thriller in hand.) Thanks to those who go on believing that a novel's worth writing, and those who go on reading them.

May all in the cyclone's path find safety.

Friday 6 March 2015

Oh those grants

Hmm, no publishing grant forthcoming this round. I hadn't realised how heavily I was resting one elbow on that presumed ledge. I've been walking a bit lopsided since it fell away yesterday. I'd put a strong case for two strong novels. But then, every applicant believes passionately in what they're doing or they wouldn't have the fortitude to jump through the application hoops. All strength to those who received and even more to those who didn't. Let us carry on regardless!

I'll be asking authors to share more responsibility for ebook production (and receive the same proportion in revenue) or I'll sizzle up in the anxiety of doing all and paying all myself. I think that is the way forward — somewhere between the traditional model of publisher footing all bills and author earning ten percent, and the hard-work, lonely model of self-publication. Collaborating, and having as much fun as possible in the process. More of this will be covered on the new website, to be uncovered shortly, if you believe me.

By the way, it's a year since Pam and Annie's gorgeous, brave journal was published. I'd love you to buy it. That will help in all kinds of ways.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Back on deck

I'm so suggestible. I read an article yesterday by an inveterate blogger who said You must do it every day — in the way others say You must meditate every day — and something magical will happen — promise. Well, it won't be every day but here I go again. Mostly to tell you that I'm excited about the ebooks to be published here this year. I'd thought of flagging novels for being too long and unwieldy but when four cross your path within a few months, each credible, powerful and finely written (and editorially straightforward), that can feel like a gift you shouldn't turn down.

I've told you before that the new website will soon be ready — well, that's truer now than then. I'll be able to run it myself. Two biggish changes: first, I'll be more upfront in offering editorial services (whether or not those services lead to publication here) — I have to keep this show funded.  And the other (same reason) is that the publishing model will be more collaborative, with Rosa Mira and the author sharing (or seeking out) funding for the publication process, and sharing equally, too, in the proceeds. More about that in another blog. More about everything.

For now I need to potter along to the next bay to buy a copy of NZ Listener which I'm told has several of us chipping in about the NZ indie publishing scene, thanks to Tina Shaw. To quote the lead-in: How hard is it to set up your own book publishing business? It’s not impossible – and those doing it may just keep New Zealand’s literary culture alive.

How about that? Sadly, happily, it might be true.

Still house-sitting, elderly homeowners, tiny internet allowance run out, no  room for pic ...

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Peace, good will to all people …

And suddenly it was the end of the year. Many things hadn't happened although quite a few had. A hush had fallen over Rosa Mira Books. A new way of operating had been thought up and was on the point of being discussed here. A new website was being configured, new books considered ... and then Christmas arrived. The rest will have to wait. Hooray for 2015.

Thank you to all Rosa Mira's exceptional authors, readers and enthusiasts. We wouldn't exist without you.

Grateful for all that has come to pass, letting go for now of all that hasn't, let's go and enjoy our loved ones and holidays. Lie back and read heaps. Make some moments more sacred than others. Tread lightly, with bare feet. Treat ourselves kindly and let the fun shine in.

See you in the new year.