Image of the week

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©Robyn Mundy

Soviet Chic 1981

Honestly, who needs a smart phone? There are many things I love about MV Polar Pioneer, the Russian ice-strengthened ship I work on seasonally in the polar regions. While this stout little vessel has undergone plenty of remodelling to bring it into line with 2016 adventure travel, it still retains relics of its 1980s charm from its cold war days as a hydrographic research and “listening” ship. This vintage phone, used for daily communications throughout the ship, sits on Chief Engineer’s desk and is still going strong. Nazdarovya!

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Fiction, Voice and Vision for Great Nonfiction

A great blog offering tips to writers via Marsha at Writing Companion.

WritingCompanion

TED_Talk_photo_4-330Voice & VisionStephen J. Pyne’s book  about writing nonfiction, starts with the question: Why do we write?

Many unpublished writers dream of garnering fame and fortune. Pyne doesn’t think these aims provide a practical impetus for writing. He suggests that the genuine triggers for writing include our desire to connect with readers by entertaining them, helping them understand a topic, or providing fulfillment.

It’s not enough to come up with a great topic. Many people can think up an idea that could be developed into a book-length manuscript. But few end up with a finished manuscript. Why?

According to Pyne, some simply don’t have time to write. I’d add that some don’t make the time for writing. Others lack the motivation, skills, or knowledge to develop their ideas in terms of a major writing project.

Even writers who succeed in creating a finished manuscript may hit a brick wall when it comes to publication. One can self-publish. But…

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Wildlight – Book of the Week

Wildlight front cover angled copyMy new novel WILDLIGHT is Book of the Week at Coast FM in Auckland, New Zealand. Lovely reviewer Stephanie Jones writes:

Nature is the star of Wildlight, the evocative new novel by Robyn Mundy…Mundy’s prose is redolent with the sights, sounds and scents of sea and sky: clusters of mutton-birds return to nest, the air filling with the rancid smell of their oil; fisherman risk their lives to bring in their catch in violent weather…

Above all, she acknowledges vagary, the element of chance that plays its hand in every existence: “Perhaps we navigate life that way. Perhaps we change course at precisely the wrong moment, blink and miss landfall.” Wildlight beckons to a reader seeking entry to a different world.

Check out the full review by Stephanie Jones. For those in New Zealand, enter the competition to win a copy!

Image of the week: the face of a child

Anna Swain_IMG_4625When I saw Anna Swain’s striking images from her book BURMA, I knew I had met a photographic artist with an extraordinary sensibility. I invited Anna to contribute one of her favourite photographs for Image of the Week. I can see why she chose this one. Anna writes:

Early in the morning at a local village market on the shores of Inle Lake, central Burma, I came across this tiny little person. She was sitting amongst the spices in her mother’s stall, eating a giant bowl of rice. Our eyes met through the lens and this moment was captured. She was undistracted by my presence and continued eating contently. Her beautiful face was painted with Thanaka, the traditional make-up used for sun protection. Life of a market child.

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Anna developed a love of photography from an early age. Two years ago, after a life changing trip to Burma (Myanmar), she published BURMA — Tiffins, Nuns and Turmeric, a photographic journey through a mystical land, capturing the culture and its people. A premium quality hardback production, with almost 300 photographs to feast on. Available online at www.shutterbooks.com.au

The real cost of loaning out a book

Who hasn’t borrowed a book from a friend, or loaned one out? I raise my hand to having done both. Some time back I even heard the host on a national television book show offer to loan a novel to a fellow panellist. That makes it okay. Right?

WELL, NO.

When a reader tells me that they loved my novel WILDLIGHT, I want to cartwheel through the house then pirouette along the street. But the joie de vivre subsides when the reader adds, enthusiastically, that they’ve loaned their copy to a friend.

OH…

Recently a local book club invited me to join their forthcoming meeting, WILDLIGHT being their selected novel. Yeah! I am delighted to attend book club gatherings when I can, and ever grateful to have my book read and discussed. In fact most authors I know are good sorts, eager to contribute to book clubs, appreciating that each member has purchased the novel, or borrowed it from their public library. With this particular invitation the host innocently explained that she hadn’t yet read WILDLIGHT as it wasn’t her turn. Her turn? The club, it seems, shares a copy, passing it down the line, reader by reader.

IN THE SPIRIT OF TOGETHERNESS, IN THE INTERESTS OF ECONOMY, WHY NOT SHARE?

Here’s why.

When an author has a novel accepted by a publisher, the publisher determines how many copies will be printed based on how many copies they believe will sell. The publisher pays the author a royalty in advance, being an amount per book for predicted sales. For authors in Australia, excluding best selling authors, the print run can be as low as 1,000 copies for a small publisher, or up to 5,000 copies for larger publishers. Royalties will be around 10% of the recommended retail price, amounting, all up, to a few thousand dollars. Modest reward for what amounts, in the case of WILDLIGHT, to two years of writing, months of research, and time and effort in promoting the published novel. I am not alone here. A 2015 survey of Australian authors conducted by Macquarie University revealed that the average Aussie author earns less than $13,000 per year from their writing. Call us knuckle-heads for choosing such a profession. The majority of us supplement our choice to write with other income-earning work. The publisher is not the bad guy here. They carry significant financial risk by investing resources into assessing, editing, producing and marketing the book.

If a book sells in excess of the predicted volume, everyone wins. The publisher finally makes a profit (they barely break even on many books), and the author is paid their due royalty for each book sold. Even more importantly for the survival of the author, book sales help protect our future. When the time comes to offer the publisher our next novel, in a commercial climate that for any writer remains forbiddingly unassured, the publisher will reflect on how the previous work performed in determining whether or not to support the new one.

Every time a book is shared, no matter how well intentioned, it means another chink in an author’s armour.

BUT NOVELS ARE EXPENSIVE TO BUY!

Look at it this way: in Australia a new novel retails for $24 – $32. An outlay, for sure, but one that provides hours of reading pleasure, and can be read again, like a favourite bedtime story. A ticket to a new release movie—2 hours of single viewing entertainment—costs around $20, more for ‘gold class’. If I want to purchase Season 2 of Outlander (which I desperately want to see), I’ll need to cough up $38 in return for 5 chapters of time travel. If I head out to a restaurant, or buy a special bottle of wine… you get the picture.

I SIMPLY CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY NEW BOOKS (as one astute tweeter remarked)

Soak up your public library. Libraries are wondrous, welcoming, switched-on places with bright-eyed staff, themselves keen readers. With each copy of an eligible book held at an Australian public library, the author and the publisher each receive a royalty payment from the Australian government. An author will earn around $2 for each book held at a library, while the publisher earns around 0.50 cents for each book (2013 figures). Public Lending Rights, as they are called, compensate authors and publishers for lost income in a public library situation where a single book is utilised by multiple readers. If your library doesn’t have the book you want to read, request they order it. You’re helping reader, writer and publisher when you make use of your library!

MORE PROSELYTISING? I GET IT.

Okay. Okay. Then let me finish with this. I fully understand the temptation to loan out a book to a fellow reader. I have loaned books. I’ve borrowed books. I’ve also purchased many, many books and continue to do so. Speaking for the authors I know, we work long and hard to carve out a small space on the planet. We owe our existence to our wonderful readers, and of course our publishers, bookstores and libraries. When you next read a book that you love, spread the word around (but preferably not the book). Consider taking 30 seconds to rate and even review the book on GOODREADS, the world’s largest, free, website for readers and book recommendations. Most importantly, give yourself a pat on the back for supporting Australian literature.

HAPPY READING!

Light

A tempestuous weather week augured sad news from good friends. Mona’s Amarna: a place of stillness in radiant light, a place to consider how fragile and fleeting our lives really are. A grateful nod for many things, a reminder to be kind, a thank you to artist James Turrell and visionary David Walsh for creating this space beneath the night sky.

Image of the week

©Robyn Mundy_IMG_0287 ThunderstorMaatsuyker Island–2010-12-06_lowres

Storm front off Maatsuyker Island. ©Robyn Mundy

On a day of screaming winds and rain squalls right across this island state of Tasmania, I am reminded of this rain-bearing front approaching Maatsuyker Island. Within minutes Maatsuyker was deluged. During the writing of Wildlight I frequently drew upon my island photographs; this one helped build a scene for a destructive storm that would leave its mark on a fleet of fishing boats as well as those on the island.