Nauru Burning: An uprising and its aftermath


Mark Isaacs

After spending the past few months covering the Federal and ACT elections as a journalist, I’m thrilled to be focusing on Editia again this week as we prepare to launch our next title, a short book called Nauru Burning: An uprising and its aftermath, by Sydney author Mark Isaacs (left).

This is what World Vision CEO Tim Costello had to say about it:

“Mark Isaacs’s insight into the events that led up to the riot and fire at the Nauru refugee detention centre, and its aftermath, should concern every Australian. This book is graphic evidence of dark practices directly linked to Australia’s immigration and border protection policies. It is a shameful story that needed to be told.  Mark Isaacs has rightly taken a stand against a policy of secrecy and lack of scrutiny that may have hidden the truth forever.”

You can download our press release about the book here, and share details of the Melbourne launch at Readings Carlton on November 3 on Facebook here. There will be an event at Gleebooks in Sydney on November 9, too.

Mark is available for interview and for public appearances. Please contact me via charper at editia.com to arrange these or to inquire about extract rights and review copies.

I’m so proud to be publishing this title. It is an important book at a critical time for Australia. Our country’s policies on asylum seekers are appalling. I have no doubt we will look back on this period in history with a sense of shame.

I hope that by getting Nauru Burning out there, we can influence ordinary Australians to question the nation’s offshore detention policies and press for change, in turn influencing our political leaders to take a stand rather than allowing these atrocities to continue on their watch.

Nauru Burning books arrive

The long and the short of it


Gorman Arts Centre

Ever since Editia launched five years ago, I’ve been hoping a high net worth, tech savvy entrepreneur who gets journalism and digital publishing would come along and want to invest in a company that was built around the two.

In recent weeks, two such individuals have come into my life, one after the other. They’re energetic, they’re smart, they’re successful and they don’t just care about the place where journalism meet digital publishing, they totally get it, too. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure they’re real.

Unfortunately for Editia, the journalism and digital publishing business they’ve decided to take over is not this one, but the RiotACT, the Canberra news and opinion website of which I am editor in my day job. You may not have heard of it if you’re from outside Canberra, but it has a serious presence in the capital, with around 140,000 unique visitors per month to the website, and more than 16,000 people signed up to its Facebook page.

I took a three month part-time contract with the RiotACT in late September 2015 to earn some regular income. It was immediately clear that this presented a problem for Editia, because it left little time or mental energy for publishing longform works.

Getting back into shortform online journalism felt like coming home. In a few months, it will be 20 years since I first joined smh.com.au as a web producer. The move to digital news was just beginning then. Now it’s almost complete. It’s as exciting to be part of it now as it was then.

But my new employers have talked me into going full-time, and with a young family to look after when I’m not working, my commitment to Editia has had to be scaled back. Over the next few months, we will publish four books that are almost ready for market. After that, we will publish no more than one title a year.

One book we will no longer be publishing by mutual agreement given the time constraints is Canberra author David Dufty’s The Kana Code. ArtsACT had provided funding to Editia for this title, and we had in turn already paid a portion of it to the Canberra author. Editia has returned the remainder of the grant monies to ArtsACT in full. We wish David every success with the title and will be cheering it on from the sidelines in the months ahead.

Given our remaining contracted titles will now take us through till 2018, submissions are currently closed.

We’ve given notice on our beloved office at the fabulous Gorman Arts Centre in Canberra and moved out last month. There is no point having an office if you can’t even find the time to commute to it, but we are already missing the iconic art deco buildings, the leafy courtyards, and, most of all, the passionate artists and administrators we have shared them with these past few years.

Editia pitches for Walkley Innovation Grants and Griffin Accelerator


Walkley Grants for Innovation in Journalism

UPDATE: Editia was one of the six winners of the Walkley Foundation’s 2015 grants for Innovation in Journalism. The prize included a tour of Google’s Sydney HQ and meetings there with key executives with responsibility for media and book content on Google Play, $5000 to go towards the publication of three upcoming journalism-driven book projects and mentoring from judges and sponsors involved in the grants program.

In recent weeks we have made it to the final 20 (of 100+ applicants) and final 16 (of 85 applicants) for the Walkley Innovation Grants and Griffin Accelerator respectively.

We’re still in the running for the Walkley Grants for media startups, with the winner or winners to be announced mid-June. There is $70,000 available and Editia is excited about the potential to use a share of the funding to ramp up its longform journalism list and fine tune its operations in the next financial year. We joined half the longlisted businesses at a two-day workshop in Sydney in late April and made our final pitch to the judges via video before heading home. Cross your fingers for us!

The Griffin Accelerator is a Canberra-based organization that invests in and mentors innovative businesses at Entry 29, an entrepreneurs’ workspace at the Canberra Innovation Network. The successful entrepreneurs spend three months working with the mentors at Entry 29 and give them a 10 per cent stake in their operation for $25,000.

Applications were due on a Friday. The shortlist was announced the following Tuesday. We had to pitch to the 16 investors involved on the Thursday morning, less than two days later, and learnt whether we’d made it through to the due diligence stage on Saturday. It was a once in a lifetime, whirlwind experience, like Shark Tank on steroids. We didn’t make it through to the due diligence stage, but gratefully accepted the invitation of the CEO, Craig Davis, to attend a debrief meeting the following week.
Continue reading

Speech to Australian Digital Alliance copyright forum: How Editia came to be


A much younger Alex on first meeting a Kindle.

A much younger Alex on first meeting a Kindle.

Last Friday I spoke on a panel at the Australian Digital Alliance copyright forum at the National Library of Australia. The brief was to talk about how Editia came to be to provide a snapshot of a publishing organisation working in these rapidly changing times for the industry. Here’s the full text of the speech.

Hello, copyright users and innovators.

I’m here to tell you a little bit about my digital first book publishing business, Editia, so named after the Latin editio, the publishing of a book or announcement.

I’m a sole trader operating at and supported by the Gorman Arts Centre in Braddon, and assisted by a corporate advisory board consisting of a number of digital publishing gurus from within and outside the mainstream book industry.

I launched the business in late 2012, a month after my first son, Seb, turned three, and eight weeks before the second, Alex, was born. Now two, Alex (pictured) recently bought his first ebook on my Kindle without asking my permission, but that’s another story.

I’d spent much of late 2009, 2010 and 2011 glued to Twitter, tracking the digital revolution that transformed the book industry then blogging about it for my ebookish blog.

I wrote some news stories and features about it for Fairfax, my former employer, but was itching to escape and start a business of my own to tap into all this change. As a former literary editor, magazine editor, tech writer and web producer, I had the passion for books and gadgets, the journalistic and editing experience and the coding skills to be able to do just that.

The fact that everything could be done online meant I could run a global publishing business from Canberra, something that would not have been possible five years ago.

I’d always been frustrated by the word limits newspapers and magazines by their nature imposed on feature writers. I’d often had to cut 5000 or 6000 word features in half just to fit arbitrary spaces, and felt frustrated about what was lost.

I’d also read plenty of non-fiction books that seemed to me to have been padded out to fit the conventional length of a trade book. The rise of the Kindle and iPad, of ebook retailers like Kobo, and of digital printing technologies allowing for affordable short print runs and print on demand meant it was now possible to publish longer works of journalism at their natural length, whether that be 5000, 10,000 or 40,000 words.

I decided I’d build a company around this style of writing and commissioned my first book, Crowdfund it!.

The author, digital publishing expert Anna Maguire, planned to write about 15,000 words. The first edition was 25,000. The third, which we published late last year, came it at around 37,000. As an editor with 20 years of experience in the 400 to 2000-word space, that was quite an adjustment.

Next, we published Business and baby on board, a 25,000-word ebook guide to being a mumpreneur for which we signed only digital rights after discovering the project on Pozible, where author Johanna Baker-Dowdell was raising funds to self-publish the print edition.

Scott Bridges forced me to rethink everything (which you have to be prepared to do in this industry at this time) when he pitched his book 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution to me at the Walkley Awards two weeks after Alex was born. The work was as much as ten times longer than the books I’d been expecting to publish, weighing in at a whopping 90,000 words. But in fact, Scott had done exactly what I was talking about earlier: he’d written the book to its natural length. It was a work of longform journalism, and a brilliantly written one at that, so we signed a contract, published the ebook the following year and the print edition a few months later.

I’m so glad Scott chose Editia, because he’s a delight to work with and 18 days went on to gain national and international media attention. Scott was flown to the Berlin Documentary Forum to discuss the book in the middle of last year, and recently took out the Non-Fiction prize in the 2014 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards.

18 days is also the only one of the five shortlisted titles for the ACT Book of the Year to be produced by a Canberra publisher.

We hope it’s a contender for the People’s Choice Award too (you can help it along by voting on the ArtsACT website).

Scott later turned out to be one half of the Twitter sensation of 2014 which led to another Editia title, Kevern write a book: The best of @Rudd2000, and I’ll leave him to talk about that except to say that it has been our most successful book in terms of sales and publicity and helped us to score a print distribution deal with the highly respected NewSouth Books.

I sent their CEO, Kathy Bail, an email a couple of days after the launch with links to the media coverage and they offered me a three-year contract for all titles past and present that very day. I signed it immediately before they could change their minds. They now stock all our books and ordered another print run of Kevern only last week.

I’ve just received my first cheque from them, which would’ve been worthy of celebration in its own right, but arriving as it did on the same day as TWO cheques from Amazon, led to me waving them up and down the corridors of Gorman House and all over Editia’s social media accounts in triumph.

Editia published two books in between 18 days and Kevern. David Dufty’s How to build an android came to Editia via then literary agent Mary Cunnane. It had been published to critical acclaim in the US and UK (yes, reviewed in The Guardian and the New York Times no less) but needed a new Australian publisher. Dufty’s narrative non-fiction work is a cracker story about the roboticists who created an android in the likeness of science fiction author Philip K Dick, toured the US with it, then left its head in an overhead locker on a plane, never to be seen again. We published the ebook edition the day Radio National aired a documentary about robots including an extensive interview with David.

The other title is a joint venture with those innovators and copyright pioneers at if:book Australia, the Institute for the Future of the Book. The essays for The N00bz: New adventures in literature were originally published on the if:book website and examine experiments in writing and publishing. Contributors include Benjamin Law, Sophie Masson, James Bradley and Romy Ash. Each was challenged to try new tools and experiences and observe the effect on their craft. I was like a pig in muck editing this one, and even contributed an essay myself.

Speaking of editing, I have in fact commissioned freelance book editor Sarah Fletcher to edit most of our projects and would ask her to do them all if budgets permitted. When you’re a one-woman show paying for each new book with the profits from the last, publishing can become very DIY.

I tend to be it at all stages of the process: commissioning and acquiring titles; assessing submissions; negotiating contracts and rights deals; managing ISBNs, barcodes and cataloguing in publication applications; briefing a designer (typically the talented Wendy Dawes) for the cover, web banner and any other marketing material; writing cover blurbs, press releases, blog posts, enewsletters and social media posts; creating and implementing marketing and publicity plans; sourcing images; editing the copy; laying out the pages; proofreading; creating the three types of ebook files; distributing those files to retail partners; negotiating contracts with retail and distribution partners; organising and speaking at launch events; negotiating with printers; paying royalties and issuing royalty statements; bookkeeping; tech support; office management; business development; managing the website including its ecommerce functionality and finally order fulfillment (which means being on first name terms with everyone at my local post office).

It’s exhausting and almost enough to make you want to go back to working for someone else. Almost.

So anyway, the greatest challenge has been keeping on top of it all while juggling two small children with limited help from their dad who works long hours in one of those crazy jobs at Parliament House.

The second greatest challenge is that the industry isn’t really ready for organisations like Editia that want to publish books within weeks of commissioning them, when they’re ready to go, rather than several months later to fit in with the media and retail ordering cycles.

This ties in with the reason I shifted my focus to print copies: literary editors are not ebook-ready. They require proof copies of books or at the very least a PDF. If you’re going to the trouble of creating a print-ready PDF, you may as well do a short print run.

Then there’s the battle to get your book noticed among the hordes that are published each day. It’s tough, but I’ve been heartened by the success we’ve had with direct sales from the Editia website. If people want to buy a book, they’ll find it.

I might finish with a quick word about the book I should be working on right now instead of standing here talking to you. Some months ago, the man who must surely be the father of the year ordered two copies of Scott’s Al Jazeera book from our website. I did something I rarely do, and picked up a pen and some writing paper and wrote a personal letter to include with his books.

That man was Juris Greste, and he and the rest of the Greste family, particularly Kylie Greste, have been regular email correspondents ever since. Yesterday, I received my first email from Peter himself, and nearly burst into tears on the street in Manuka.

I’ve been working with the Grestes for some months on a book of messages sent to Peter while he was in prison. It was to be called Free Peter Greste, and all profits were to go to the campaign to bring Peter home.

Now that he’s back in Australia, Peter will be contributing the introduction to the project himself and we’ll be able to add a final chapter of the emails he and the family have received celebrating his newfound freedom. At Peter and Andrew Greste’s suggestion, profits over the book’s first year will go to the Foreign Prisoners Support Service. This Australian-based organization was a great help to the Grestes during Peter’s imprisonment.

I can announce here today that the new title, penned by Peter himself, will be Prison post: Letters of support for Peter Greste. It will be published next month and you can pre-order your copy from the Editia website now.

I am so glad that this somewhat grim project has become a much happier one, though its messages about press freedom remain as important as ever, particularly as Peter’s two colleagues are still caught up in the retrial of their case. We wish them well.

On a less serious note, someone commented to me last week that publishing a book of emails so soon after a book of tweets could lead to Editia becoming the go-to publisher of repurposed digital material. Well, why not?

So, if you’re a food blogger who’s made hipsterfoodies.com’s top ten paleo Instagram accounts listing, or you’re writing a real life romantic comedy based on your Snapchat and Tinder experiences, drop me a line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our ACT Book of the Year People’s Choice tilt: Vote one 18 days!


Charlotte Harper (front) and Scott Bridges (top left) learn of his ACT Writing and Publishing Awards win.

Charlotte Harper (front) and Scott Bridges (top left) learn of his ACT Writing and Publishing Awards win.

Hello, 2015! Here’s hoping you’ll bring as much excitement for Editia as 2014 did. Scott Bridges’ flurry of podium appearances at literary awards (and my resulting flurry of awards-sticker runs to bookshops) here in Canberra late last year were among the highlights. Now you can help us add to his accolades.

At Civic Library on November 19, 2014, ACT Arts Minister Joy Burch announced that Scott’s first title, 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, was one of five books shortlisted for ACT Book of the Year, and the only one of the five to be produced by a Canberra publisher. The judges’ pick will be announced later this month (February 2015), but you can vote for the book in the People’s Choice Award on the artsACT Book of the Year page here until February 20. We’d be ever so grateful if you took a moment to support our bid for this one. 

Around the same time, Scott and I each received an invitation to attend the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards at the Gorman House Arts Centre on December 16. It transpired that 18 days was shortlisted for the Non-Fiction gong at these prestigious awards (run by our neighbours at the ACT Writers Centre). As you can see from the main image featuring the shortlisted authors on stage and me celebrating in the foreground, we won. Check out the judges’ comments:

“Scott Bridges’ book could hardly be more relevant at a time when Al Jazeera’s Australian correspondent in Egypt, Peter Greste, is once again being told his case is ‘under review’. The behind the scenes story of the news agency’s activities during the downfall of President Hosni Mubarek is brilliantly told. Scott Bridges’ narrative takes us into the heart of the political crisis and reveals the drama and the courage involved in bringing the story to air. The publisher, Editia, at Gorman House, has produced a totally professional and splendidly edited work. Scott Bridges is a fine reporter and an outstanding writer. Warmest congratulations on a very fine publication.”

Now you know why I was waving my arms about like that. Hearing kind words like those makes it all worthwhile. Woohoo!

Ben Law joins panel for Sydney launch of The N00bz


Invitation to launch of The N00bzJournalist, columnist and screenwriter Benjamin Law, former bookseller and emerging author Greg Field and speculative fiction writer, publisher and podcaster Keith Stevenson will appear in conversation with if:book Australia’s Simon Groth at the official launch of Editia’s latest print title, The N00bz: New adventures in literature, on Tuesday, August 12, at Better Read than Dead Bookstore in Newtown from 6.30pm (download a PDF of the invitation here).

The N00bz is a collection of writing about writing in which authors experiment with their craft and document their quest to continually improve amidst rapid industrial change. The launch celebrates the second digital and first print editions of the book, including a new n00b adventure from Jennifer Mills and contributions from the talented crew of intrepid tweeters and bloggers who answered our call for a crowd-sourced chapter.

Ben and Greg were among the 12 writers if:book Australia initially invited to submit an essay for the web-based project that would become a book. Keith joined in after we invited Twitter submissions. The number of contributions doubled as you’ll see from the impressive list below of writers involved.

Ben, who is the author of non-fiction books Gaysia and The Family Law, writes in The N00bz about his dabbling with shorthand and explains why he’s not really a journalist. Greg’s first novel, Death on Danger Island, is out on August 13. In his N00bz essay he describes his transition from bookseller to Wattpad author and app developer. Keith Stevenson is a former editor of Aurealis and was joint founder of coeur de lion publishing. His N00bz essay looks at the benefits of providing his latest publication, Dimension6 magazine, to its readers for nix. Simon Groth’s own essay examines a temporary switch from computer to typewriter and how changing his tools impacted on his craft.

The full contributor list consists of a vibrant mix of established and emerging writers:

Romy Ash • Caroline Baum • Carmel Bird • James Bradley • Jodi Cleghorn • Emily Craven • Duncan Felton • Greg Field • Raelke Grimmer • Simon Groth • Charlotte Harper • Sophie Masson • Benjamin Law • Elizabeth Lhuede • Jennifer Mills • Zoe Sadokierski • Ronnie Scott • Lefa Singleton Norton • Jeff Sparrow • Keith Stevenson • Emily Stewart • Sean Williams • Freya Wright Brough

As always with Editia launches, there will be book sales, author signings, refreshments and time to mingle before and after the official formalities. We hope to see you there!

Behind the scenes at Al Jazeera English


18 daysIf you’re one of those media junkies who likes to be first with the news, you need to know that Scott Bridges’ 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution is now available for pre-order from this very website. The official digital publication date is this Saturday, but the first pre-orders “shipped” this afternoon.

You’ll be keen to read it to get to know University of Canberra journalism lecturer and ex-Al Jazeera English director Bridges. He’s a media commentator and non-fiction author to watch. Here at Editia, we feel privileged to be publishing his first book.

If you haven’t already heard about 18 days, here’s the blurb:

“On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. 18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news.”

Sound like it has the makings of a cracker yarn? That’s because it is. Bridges has woven a fast-paced narrative around some of the most significant events of the Arab Spring.

We gain behind-the-scenes insights into the operations of a dedicated television news network both at HQ and on the ground. Forget CNN and BBC World: Al Jazeera is where it’s at, as the recent launch of Al Jazeera America attests.

Anyone who is considering a career in television news or as a foreign correspondent, or who has even a passing interest in the convergence between television and online, needs to read 18 days.

Personally, I’ve been living vicariously through the Al Jazeera English correspondents these past few weeks as they experienced the Egyptian Revolution in the pages of the book. I won’t say I wish I was there, but I am glad that they were, because it’s a story that needed to be told.

I’m looking forward to following future developments on Scott’s blog, too, as Al Jazeera extends its market into the US and beyond.

This is what I’d hoped it’d be all about here at Editia: longform journalism at its best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walkleys, Al Jazeera and Editia’s latest author


Scott Bridges

18 Days author Scott Bridges.

In November last year, a few days after the birth of my second child and in something of a daze as a result, I spoke at the 2012 Walkley Media Conference as part of a panel on entrepreneurial journalism. I was hoping to inspire potential Editia authors in the audience: journalists who had already or would soon come up with narrative longform works that would fit in with our digital first non-fiction list.

On the eve of the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, I’m thrilled to report that that bleary afternoon session last year was absolutely worthwhile: one of the journalists who was in the audience that day has now signed a contract with Editia and we’ll be publishing his book later this year.

Scott Bridges is lecturer in journalism and communications at the University of Canberra. He’s also a former Al Jazeera English director who was on shift when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed after the fall of Tripoli, and is in the early stages of research for his PhD looking at how Al Jazeera’s reach and influence is expanding in the non-Arabic speaking world.

Upon his return to Australia in 2011, Bridges started work on a book about his former employer. He has spent the past 18 months working on 18 Days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution, including two research trips back to Qatar.

“I was inspired to write 18 Days because the story behind AJE’s incredible coverage of the Egyptian Revolution needed to be told,” Bridges says. “Having heard some of the channel’s correspondents’ anecdotes first-hand, and experienced for myself how news and television is put together inside that dusty Doha studio, I thought I’d be able to give readers insight into AJE that other commentators couldn’t. And with the Al Jazeera Network’s current expansion in the USA and other non-Arabic-speaking markets, there is no better time to examine how this unique hybrid of Middle East and West works.”

The book is a fast-paced tale that provides an insider’s view of the Al Jazeera English newsroom pushed to its limits. It will appeal to readers with an interest in the media, current affairs and recent developments in the Middle East.

You can learn more about Scott Bridges and about the book at www.18daysaje.com. You can learn more about Al Jazeera English by watching its Managing Director, Al Anstey, give the keynote address at the 2013 Walkley Media Conference, Storyology, tomorrow (the session will be streamed live from 1.10pm to 2pm here). Follow the conversation via the #storyology hashtag on Twitter too.

Anstey has been a supporter of Bridges’ book from the start.

“Al made himself available for a couple of interviews, approved my access to AJE staff, and most crucially, placed absolutely no conditions on that access,” Bridges says. “Despite my focus on some controversial topics in interviews, Anstey put his case to me as a Managing Director but respected the process as a journalist.”
“His appearance at the Storyology conference gives journalists and media professionals in Australia a chance to hear directly from the head of one of the world’s most interesting news organisations.”

Here’s the official blurb about 18 Days:

This is the story of a plucky newsroom in the middle of an anonymous Middle Eastern desert city that through its coverage of one huge story changed the rules of 24-hour TV news.

On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt came to an end after 18 days of massive and unprecedented street protests. In the course of those few days, a 24-hour news channel unlike any other, Al Jazeera English, emerged in a crowded global news market as the source for reporting on the Egyptian Revolution. While established networks such as CNN and BBC World battled to provide comprehensive first-hand accounts of developments in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, news consumers across the world found superior coverage on Al Jazeera English. The New York Times said AJE “provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else”; The Atlantic argued, “It is no exaggeration to say that Al Jazeera has been the eyes and ears of [the Arab Spring].”

18 Days examines the Doha-based channel’s coming of age and discovers how a network known to many in the West as “Terror TV” was transformed almost overnight into a trusted and indispensable source of news. Drawing on content analysis and interviews with key players inside the organisation, the book goes behind the cameras to tell stories of newsgathering ingenuity, hair-raising moments of danger, and internal tension. It examines the network’s relationship with its Qatari benefactors and charges of editorial bias, along with the legacy of Egypt for Al Jazeera English as the brand expands its footprint into the United States.

 

 

 

We have a winner: Carly Lorente’s ‘Minyma’


Carly Lorente

Editia Prize winner Carly Lorente spent nearly a year in Central Australia.

The winning entry in the inaugural Editia Prize is a 10,000-word snapshot into the lives of women in Central Australia, Minyma, by former social worker and freelance writer Carly Lorente.

While Lorente now lives on the north coast of NSW, the work is based on her experiences during a year spent working for an indigenous women’s council in Central Australia in 2010.

She says that working for indigenous bosses rather than for the Government gave her “a true picture of what was happening”.

The judges described Minyma as the standout entry.

“It was vivid, and very assured,” broadcaster and author Jane Caro said.

“She didn’t over-explain everything. She just gave you the scene and let you draw your own conclusions rather than point out the moral or tell you what to think.”

Former editor of The Australian Malcolm Schmidtke said Minyma was “by far the best written piece”.

“It held me for the full journey,” he said, adding that Lorente’s role as a participant rather than just an observer was integral to the strength of the work.

“She’s actually part of what’s going on all the time,” he said.

Like Caro, University of Canberra Professor of Journalism Matthew Ricketson appreciated the way Lorente showed and didn’t tell. “She saved that for the end, when she opened the shoulders and really said what she thought, but I thought that was quite effective,” he said.

“She feels almost as helpless and muddled as other people clearly do [about the problems women face in indigenous communities], but she also really brings it together in a very pithy and succinct way, how the ten months she’s spent in these communities has been both uplifting and frustrating. She pulls that together really nicely.”

Lorente was thrilled to hear she’d won the inaugural prize and is looking forward to working with an editor ahead of the book’s publication through Editia in coming months.

She knows exactly what she’s going to do with the $2500 advance on royalties she’ll receive as winner: buy a new computer to write on.

“My son broke my laptop two weeks ago … he ripped the back off,” she said, thrilled at the prospect of being able to replace it with a brand new one. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use it to go back to Central Australia!”

  • Read an extract from Minyma and more about Carly Lorente here.
  • Read about the other shortlisted entries, Beyond Biosphere and Ephemera Revisited,  here and here.
  • Read all about the Editia Prize here.

 

 

 

The last of the Editia Prize shortlist …


Today, we announce the third and final shortlisted piece in the 2013 Editia Prize: Ephemera Revisited by writer and academic Anna Soter. Keep an eye out for the announcement of the winner at around 3pm tomorrow!

The following passage is excerpted from Ephemera Revisited with the permission of the author …

The former residents of Wittenoom had all chosen to come to Australia, although they had had no idea when they chose to accept an assisted passage from Europe, that some of them would be transported to this remote region.  Their ship and others like it would drop off a percentage of these adventurers at Fremantle, the major port for Western Australia, and continue dropping off other percentages of these partially indentured migrants at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.  The men, women and children who disembarked at Fremantle were temporarily housed in migrant hostels primarily at Cunderdin until relocated to their final destinations. The men, however, left for those locations immediately, the women and children staying behind in the hostels until housing was available for them.  It was a rough start to a new destiny, but still an exciting one.

One contract was probably much the same as all the others for those who had received free passage in exchange for two years of work wherever that work was located. My father received his on October 25, 1950 from the Commonwealth Employment Office and was told to report to Australian Blue Asbestos in Wittenoom Gorge on October 30. Weekly wages for a regular shift as a labourer (his classification) were to be £9/1/6 out of which 3/- (shillings) were withdrawn for taxes and £2/6/- for board and lodging. As others, he had to make his way to “arrange movement by air to destination” after finding his way from Northam to Perth. The contract wording clearly indicates that my father and others who came in the same capacity were required to remain in Wittenoom for a minimum of two years as allowed under the authorization of the “Commonwealth Employment Service on behalf of the Minister for Immigration,” although it appears that leaving the employment at Wittenoom was possible with application to and approval by the District Employment Officer to do so.”

Had my father and others who were similarly dispatched to Wittenoom known what was already known by some by the time they signed the contract, namely of the devastating and deadly effects of exposure to asbestos fibres to which they would all be exposed at both the mine and mill, some would likely not have signed this contract even at the risk of remaining unemployed and without a clear alternative destination at the time.

It is this troubling question that, for me, is at the heart of the debate surrounding the closure of  Wittenoom. Furthermore, by the time the mines and the mill closed in 1966, significant damage was done, not only to the miners and millworkers but to the residents in the town through exposure to the fibres in the clothes and on the bodies of the men when they returned home, as well as through the spreading of milled, crushed rock (tailings) brought to the town from the mill to reduce dust storms that were common in the area because of large areas of exposed red soil throughout the entire region as well as in the town itself.   And yet, why would those who came during these early years as well as others fight so hard to remain there following the closure of the town?  

About the author

Born in Austria (Europe), Anna Soter grew up in the northwest Australian Pilbara region. She is Professor Emerita in English Education at The Ohio State University where she has taught since 1986.  She also taught high school English and History teacher in Perth and Sydney, between 1968 and 1982. Anna has a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in English from the University of Sydney, Australia, and a BA in English and History from the University of Western Australia. Her teaching, research and scholarship has focused on language and literacy, including the teaching of grammar for literate purposes; cross-cultural discourse, literary theory and its applications to young adult literature; small group discussions as a tool for critical thinking; poetry as a vehicle for linguistic sensitivity and personal growth. Anna continues to read as a featured poet in mid-Ohio venues, writes fiction and creative non-fiction, and creates and conducts workshops on language as energy, and writing and poetry for healing and personal growth. In 2011, she founded The Hospital Poets’ Reading Series, bringing poets to special event readings at different venues on the Ohio State University Medical Campus.