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From little things …

[untitled] issues 1–7
[untitled] issues 1–7
Last Saturday we launched issue seven of [untitled] to a crowd of about fifty people. Not bad for a bleak wintery day in Melbourne. When I stood in front of the room to talk about the back-story of this little anthology, it hit me that we have been doing a pretty special thing. The night before came the news of AS Patric winning the Miles Franklin and I thought, we published him in issue two. Then when I looked at the back covers of each edition, I realised that many of the contributors are now well on their way to an established writing career.

Of course, our little anthology hasn’t been the making of any careers but it has given a little exposure and I would hope some confidence to each person. This writing gig is a tough one. Toughest of all is getting past the gatekeepers who tell us if we are worthy of passing through. Strange when you think about it because writing is subjective, so how can any of the gatekeepers really know what is going to be successful? It’s an educated guess, not a guarantee. Yes, you need to be able to write but I know many good writers who don’t get picked up. Are they not quirky enough? Don’t hang out with the right people? What they write about isn’t on topic?

You could go crazy trying to work it out. This is why we started [untitled] back in 2009: to offer writers a place for simply good stories. They don’t have to be on topic, they don’t have to be literary, being selected isn’t based on who you know.

We had grand plans when we started. Oh how naïve we were! It was going to be a quarterly magazine and was going to take over the literary world! The printing was paid for on my credit card. It soon became biannual when we realised how much reading was involved. By the third year it became an annual as we found it sucked all our resources dry and cost so much to produce – this last issue has taken two and a half years to get out, but some personal issues contributed to that.

There have been times when we’ve wanted to pack it all in. It’s so much work for very little return BUT what about those writers? Each issue probably costs us money BUT what about the writing? Do we do it for arts sake? I think probably yes. As each issue has been close to completion, we’ve said it will be the last. But then it’s here and it looks pretty and there are stories in there and look at the faces of those writers who have been trying to get published.

When we started out many people didn’t think it would last and that we didn’t know what we were doing (that’s true) but we persevered and learned so much and many people have given up their time without pay to make it happen. As the years rolled on, people started to respect what we’ve been doing. It’s indicative of the whole writing industry. You have to pay your dues, show the world that rejections won’t stop you.

While many other journals and writing magazines close shop, we’re still here. Call it stubbornness, whatever. Over seven years, we’ve published seven issues of this little pocketbook and given voice to about sixty writers. It might not have changed the literary landscape but we’ve watered this little seed and it has grown into something that we are proud of.

Blaise, the book chick

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The Reading Experience

Images courtesy of http://macrophotoz.com
Images courtesy of http://macrophotoz.com

I’ve always been an advocate for the printed (real) book and when there was hysteria about the ebook being the demise of the printed book, I couldn’t see it happening.

The reason for this is the reading experience you have with a real book. There’s the smell of the ink and paper for a start. It evokes memories of a lifetime of reading, of being a child discovering stories for the first time. Then there are the printed words on the page that transform into ideas and images inside your brain. It’s magic!

Of course, you can get the essence of a story in an ebook but it feels more like work and the words don’t compute (no pun intended) the same way. In fact, I’ve been told that we miss about 25% of information and errors when reading on a screen.

Then there are places that we read. In bed, in the bath, on trains, at the dinner table. I don’t recommend using an electronic device while in the bath but I can see the usefulness of an ebook when travelling. But the real book doesn’t run out of batteries and can be taken anywhere.

I have talked about the anatomy of the book in the past, but that was from a publishing point of view. Let’s look at the design elements of a book from a reader’s point of view:

Cover design is the most important aspect of the book design and can make a huge difference to someone picking it up or passing it by in a bookshop or an online retailer. The cover design needs to fit the story, the ideal reader and current trends in the market and will create an image (or expectation) for the reader of what the book is about.

White space is integral to the layout of the pages. How wide are the margins and spaces between the headings and text, how much space between the lines? As a reader you may not have thought about this but the space around the words makes it easier on your eyes and more enjoyable to read.

Font choice marries with the overall design of the book. Is it a modern or old-fashioned style? Is the font larger for an older reader?

Paper choice can change the feel of the book in your hands. Stark white paper makes it hard for the reader to look at and makes the book stiff and heavy. There are some paperbacks that use a very creamy, almost yellow paper that is coarse and that also makes it hard to read. A slightly off-white, smooth paper is easy on the eye and smooth to touch while also creating a flexible book that is easy to hold.

The format of the book is another aspect to the whole reading experience. Have you ever read a book that is so big and heavy that your wrists hurt after half an hour? Or do you avoid hard cover books for the same reason? While a hard cover is prestigious (authors are not usually published in hard cover until they are well known and the publisher knows the books will sell), many people wait for the soft cover to be released before they read it. Hard cover books are also more expensive, so this is another factor to waiting.

So when you pick up your next book to read, think about the physical aspects of your experience. Enjoy the pleasure of the whole package and get lost in the magic.

Blaise, the book chick

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