Rumblings and Grumblings

August 5, 2010 at 6:06 am (Uncategorized)

  • Now I’ve reopened that dank, dim cave in my mind marked ‘Manuscript,’ I find myself thinking more and more about this particular project’s potential as an e-book. Conceptually, there are some undeniable advantages to electronic publishing, not the least being managing the MS’s graphic element, the potential for growing the text’s interactivity, and cost effectiveness. There’s not much question that harnessing computer technology would help mitigate some of my MS’s apparent ambition in conventional publishing terms. Now, I don’t currently know enough about e-book technology to know if the capabilities I’m imagining even exist right now or not, but if I’m thinking of them, and I’m a technophobe, then it can’t be long before someone with the know-how starts thinking of them too. There are competing voices in my head about all this, and the traditionalist in me finds the whole thing vaguely abhorrent, but the more radical, adventurous voice is starting to gain some airtime, because as hard as this is for me to admit – and any book lover who aspires to write books knows why it’s hard – it grows more and more difficult for me to deny the theoretical fit between possible e-book apps and what my MS has become. Hmmm.
  • I have always been a klutz, but pregnancy is taking my spillage spectaculars to new lows – or should I say into new nooks and crannies. I’m now routinely spilling cups of coffee, whole jars of sugar, full bottles of water (upended in my bag, natch), my lunch (on Monday I watched fascinated as my lunchtime falafel rye wrap slowly rolled itself off the plate and onto the floor – I mean, how does something inanimate even do that?), and not one but TWO cans of tomato puree while making a bolognese sauce the other night. This was pure slapstick: I knocked one open can straight into the air – puree flying in all directions but mostly all over me – and as I replaced it to the bench, hair dripping, I promptly knocked it over again, and what remained in the can spilled all over the bench, finally dribbling off the side in a most desultory fashion to join the rest of the bloodbath on the kitchen floor. While mopping up the bench spill, cursing and lecturing myself on my staggering stupidity and clumsiness, I knocked over the second full can. Full kitchen carnage ensued. I don’t know about you, but at a certain point I think this becomes an actual talent.
  • I’m loving Making Stories, and plan to finish reading it before I start in on making any actual changes to my MS. As far as that re-entry goes, I’m currently doing the hard yards of really thinking about the book again – people who don’t write have no idea that this kind of thinking constitutes critical and difficult work, but the fact is, it really does. Making Stories is helping me do some of that structural thinking, but so are a couple of films we’ve seen recently. Llew and I have started renting classics on DVD, and the film version of the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who are both fantastic – was particularly interesting to me from a structural and spatial point of view. All About Eve, starring Bette Davis, was great in terms of drawing a seamless narrative arc. Neither story has anything in common with my own, but that’s not the point, it’s more that they both have something to teach me about how narratives function. This is also true of Making Stories – it’s a really fascinating insight into the way ten Australian writers go about the work of constructing a text, which in so many ways is a requirement quite apart from simply writing it.
  • Reading first Patrick White’s letters and now Making Stories is adding to my list of must reads, but I’ve promised myself and Llew that I’ll read everything I already own first. There’s quite an exciting pile of TBRs right under my nose, and I have neither the cash nor the space to add to it right now, let alone the time. But I will say that in addition to wanting to sample PW’s own work, I’m also particularly keen for some Janet Frame, a NZ author PW admired, and Christina Stead’s Letty Fox, Her Luck, which both PW and I think Helen Garner in Making Stories rave about.
  • I am losing my office. So much for a room of one’s own – it’s the very first thing to go in preparation for Baby J. The good news is I am getting a massive wall-to-wall bookcase built down the hall to make way for this imminent loss of my working space, and I’ve always wanted one of those.


  1. Pete said,

    Hmmm … wall-to-wall bookcase unit! Now that I want to see. That’s also exciting about turning your MS into an e-book. And I can relate about those klutz moments (withouth any excuse here). I once managed to throw a full glass of red wine all over a pristine white duvet. Drinking on the bed clearly a mistake. But yours does sound particularly talented. Have you ever considered the circus?

  2. doctordi said,

    Oh, that’s jumping the gun by a long shot, Pete – I’m definitely *not* turning it into an e-book myself, I’m just keeping myself open to the future possibilities of what I believe is a fast-emerging reality, because I think in the case of this particular MS, the fit is good.

    I would still only be interested in exploring e-publishing under the auspices of a respected publishing house – I have zero interest in self-publishing, vanity presses and the like. I just think conventional publishers must be beginning to think about this in future development terms, and I’d like to think that one day my MS will be a compelling enough proposition that someone might see its potential in that context. Someone somewhere will have to start pioneering e-books from within those established houses, and as part of that, they’re going to need new books that are especially suited to the electronic medium.

    The circus can’t afford the insurance – I represent a grave OH& S problem.

  3. litlove said,

    A few weeks ago, I heard an interview online with Stephanie Zia, the founder of Blackbird ebooks. She seemed like a really nice woman, and the company website is here:

    They have literally just started and are looking for material, so it might be worth talking to her, at least. She was very nice and approachable, and was keen to publish the material that mainstream houses have been turning down because it’s unusual and quirky (and not commercial enough).

    Just a thought!

    • litlove said,

      Not to say that your ms is NOT commercial, just to say that in publisher’s minds for the past decade or so, the definition of commercial has become something of a straitjacket.

      • doctordi said,

        Thanks, LL – I had a look at the site, and I’ll definitely keep this in mind – kind of parked up the back in an unused corner for the time being, though, since all is premature while the redraft still hangs over my head!!

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    Oh, Di, I can just picture the acrobatic cans! I drop things myself mainly when stressed. It’s a sign that I need to chill. I think ebooks have barely scratched the surface. It’s taken the local museum 10-15 years to figure out how to use video and computerized displays effectively. They started out with the lamest hyperlinks.

    • doctordi said,

      Acrobatic is the word, Lilian – if only I were a juggler!!

      Yep, I agree. They’ve barely made a start, but I think the rise of the e-book will be fast and furious. I expect we’ll start seeing pretty sophisticated accompanying apps in no time.

  5. Gra said,

    Your spillage story was so funny. I can’t manage to drink a glass of red wine without getting it on me…on the first glass, no less, so I can’t even charge it to inebriation. All About Eve is one of my top 10 favorite movies. I have it on tape and must have watched it hundreds of times – I can even recite some of the dialog by heart. “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night” is probably the best movie line ever written. And although I don’t drink martinis, just watching Margo Channing swishing the olive in her glass makes me want to have one.

    • doctordi said,

      You should have seen my jeans, Graddikins – I was soaked in tomato puree, head to toe. It was really something.

      Yeah, I think I’ll have to watch All About Eve and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf again – and take some notes this time.

      Our classics festival went a bit awry last night – neither of us enjoyed Midnight Cowboy. Maybe it was shocking and experimental at the time of its release, but it hasn’t aged well.

  6. Darkling C said,

    Is it going to be floor-to-ceiling as well? That’s the bookcase of my dreams!

    • doctordi said,

      Me too, C!!! I have *always* wanted a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, and this was probably my big chance, but after much discussion, we decided we really need some cupboard space down below too – so much paper need hiding – and we’ve also opted for a sizable void in the centre, so we can still display an artwork there (we’re totally out of wall space). So it’s more a whole wall unit thing, with the emphasis on book shelves. We also figured that if we do have to eventually rent this place out and move into something larger, it would be the rare prospective tenant with as many books to store as I have, and most will want somewhere to put their TV – so the void won. But I still think it’s going to be cool – and I’ll get my floor-to-ceiling one day, just you wait!

  7. plumbean said,

    i totally understand how watching really well built film can help. all about eve is perfectly balanced and perfectly timed. what they say is so well supported by all that they do not say. genius.

    i hope the run of dropping stuff ends soon. that happens to me too!

    • doctordi said,

      Yes, precisely, Priya – All About Eve is a great example of really functional storytelling. Films are great for writers, I think, because they have such spatial and temporal discipline.

      Oh, I don’t think there’s ANY END EVER to my clumsiness – it has dogged me all my life, but has certainly gone up a few notches in recent weeks!!

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