When you’re writing, do you sometimes go off at a tangent? Head off in some absolutely fascinating direction, only to discover later that’s not where you wanted to go? Or perhaps you decide the tangent is the new direction, and that what you wrote before is mostly irrelevant. (Maybe life is like that too?)
In this final blog of this MRP series, I’d like to re-introduce the three people I interviewed for the earlier blogs and let them talk about tangents in a different way. Each of them introduces a fascinating spin-off from their main area of work, a spin-off that in its own way tells us something special about writing and publishing in Australia.
Where the Wild Things Are – Fiona Stager
How big a market is there for children’s books in Australia? Big enough to generate a spin-off specialist bookshop alongside an existing one, according to prominent independent bookseller Fiona Stager.
And what better name for a children’s bookshop than one adopted from the title of Maurice Sendak’s highly acclaimed and much-loved (and occasionally controversial) 1963 picture book, Where the Wild Things Are?
If you’re a regular, you’ll recall that my second blog in this series was based on an audio interview with Fiona, co-owner of Avid Reader Bookshop in West End, Brisbane. In this audio extract, she explains how a flourishing children’s ‘corner’ in that bookshop developed into a stand-alone bookshop when the property next door came up for rent.
It augurs well for the future of books and bookshops in Australia that 30 per cent of sales are of children’s books. Of the two passions Fiona mentions – cook books and travel books, I reckon sales of the former might have risen during the covid-19 slowdown as locked-in citizens looked for creative in-home activities. I’ve heard that banana bread was a hot favourite (perhaps literally), but no doubt there were some who pushed the culinary boundaries.
The sales of travel books, especially for overseas destinations, must have surely slumped this year, however, and Fiona was no doubt fortunate she expanded into children’s books instead.
Ambassadors for editing – Karen Lee
If you’ve seen earlier blogs in this series, you may remember that Karen Lee, CEO of the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), told me that if you really want to upset an editor, then suggest to them that what they do is ‘just proofreading’.
To try to address what they see as a major misconception of their contribution to the writing process, IPEd developed an initiative to send out some of its members as ‘ambassadors’ to explain what they do. Karen tells us the origin and purpose of this IPEd ‘spin-off’ in this video clip.
Funded by the Copyright Agency, access to IPEd ambassadors is free, and Karen encouraged writing groups and classes of all kinds to contact the Institute if they were interested in hearing from one of them about the editor’s role.
Postcards from future Queensland – Kim Wilkins
In addition to being a well-published author of fantasy and historical adventure stories for women, Kim Wilkins is Associate Professor in Writing, Publishing, and 21st-Century Book Culture at the University of Queensland (UQ). You might have met her through video clips in the first blog in this series.
In April this year, Kim and a colleague, Dr Helen Marshall, launched an initiative from UQ’s School of Communication and Arts which invited senior high school students to imagine a better world, post covid-19. In this video clip, Kim talks about the project.
You can catch up with the progress of the postcards project and see some of the many postcards Queensland high school students have submitted on the project website.
I suggested to Kim Wilkins that asking students to use their imagination in the postcards project fitted closely with her own use of imagination in writing her fantasy and historical fiction novels. You can see her thoughtful response to that suggestion in the video clip here.
I hope that your own imagination has been sparked by Kim’s comments and also by the insightful inputs from Karen Lee and Fiona Stager in this blog. I’m very thankful to all three of them for their willingness to take part in this series and for their stimulating responses to the questions I posed. What impressed me overall was not only their openness but also the enthusiasm each one showed for their particular contribution to the writing and publishing world.
On a personal note, I want to thank Jay Anderson at Margaret River Press for his assistance in uploading these blogs, and my colleague at Griffith University, Brisbane, Mark Tyler, for advice on video editing.
Through these four blogs I’ve learned a lot about writing, editing, publishing and bookselling and a little bit more about technology. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Please feel free to join me for occasional blogs on my website, here.
You can read, listen to or watch Darryl’s first blog with us, ‘Ditch the hashtag #Amwriting: An interview with author Kim Wilkins’, here. Or read or listen to his second post, ‘If we have a good Christmas, we will all make it: An interview with bookseller Fiona Stager’, here. Or read, listen to or watch his third post with us, ‘It’s not just proofreading: An interview with Karen Lee, CEO of the Institute of Professional Editors’, here.
Darryl Dymock is a published author, researcher and teacher based in Brisbane. He pours his research into academic publications and creative non-fiction books and his imagination into short fiction. You’ll find his books in libraries across Australia, and one of his short stories won the Roly Sussex Prize. In 2019 he was shortlisted for our short story competition and published in the anthology, We’ll stand in that place and other stories. In between writing, researching and teaching, he mentors for the Queensland Writers Centre, and writes an occasional blog which you can find here.