Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Tag: librarian (Page 2 of 3)

Becoming a Welsh language expert…

I am not an expert at anything. I am a Jack-of-all-trades kind of girl. Imagine my surprise when an elderly gentleman approached me at the library.

‘I want to learn Welsh,’ he said. ‘One of your colleagues told me you are the library’s Welsh language expert.’

Turns out the man was vision impaired and needed a course that didn’t require him to be able to read or write. I knew just the course and my ‘Welsh language expert status’ was confirmed as surely if it had been listed on my job description along with a degree in library and information studies, eligiblility for ALIA accreditation, and holding a current Victorian driver’s license.

Now, personally, I think the ability to speak Welsh should be an essential requirement for every librarian. But as they haven’t yet achieved this in Wales, I don’t have much chance in suburban Melbourne. It was a shock therefore when on a second business-as-usual afternoon another man sought me out.

‘Hello. I’m looking for Liz Corbett.’

‘Yes. That’s me. How can I help you?’

‘I heard you speak Welsh.’

Heard! Where from? I guessed another of my colleagues had supplied the information.

‘I try, but…my Welsh isn’t fluent.’

Turns Ken James was a local historian with Welsh ancestry who was doing research on Eaglehawk’s Welsh Churches (yes, the hiraeth gets to us all eventually). He had a couple of cemetery inscriptions that needed translating. Would I have a look at them? Now, as my job description does not have ‘an ability to speak Welsh’ as a condition of employment, I am not paid to translate documents. As a librarian I am supposed to direct the borrower to the languages section. But as a person with an interest in Austalian history and Welsh language, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

‘I’ll have a go,’ I said. ‘If I can’t work it out, I know people who can. Why not email me a copy?’

Here is one of the inscriptions Ken James sent to me:

Jones

Serrhog Goffodwrineth / Robert Watkin Jones/ Pantymarch / Anwl Ac Unig Fab / Watkin Jones / Pandy, Llanuwchllyn, Bala / Yr Hwn A Hunodd Yn Yr Iesu / Hydref / 10 February 1884 Yn Zomywydd Oed / “God’s Will Be Done”.


It was school holidays and being a mildly (cough) obsessive person I didn’t want to wait until Welsh classes started back again. I looked up serrhog. It wasn’t in my dictionary. Neither was gofodwrineth. However, language is all about context. I am often telling my Welsh class. Your comprehension will sometimes be situational. So, what was the context here? I looked at English language cemetery inscriptions. They generally started with something like loving remembrance. I looked up remembrance in the English side of my dictionary and came up with: coffadwriaeth, remembrance, and serchog, with means affectionate. The spelling was wrong (possibly the family had no dictionary and may not have had much education in the Welsh language – it wasn’t exactly encouraged – and maybe they were relying on English speaking mason). Anyway, the inscription should have read: Serchog goffadwriaeth. Perfect.


See, being an expert is easy. 🙂


I knew Pantymarch and Llanuwchllyn, Bala were place names. I also knew that there was no letter z in the Welsh alphabet. A little enquiry, confirmed that Robert Watkin Jones had died at the age of twenty. Therefore zomywydd oed was probably 20 blwydd oed – twenty years old – Anwl ac Unig Fab meant: dear and only son.


I paused, thinking about this family far from home who had lost their only son at twenty years of age.


So, much pain, in those few words.


My final challenge with this inscription was the phrase: Yr Hwn A Hunodd Yn Yr Iesu.


Hunodd meant ‘slept’ my dictionary told me, Iesu, I knew, meant Jesus. But why yr hwn? And why yr Iesu? Literally, it seemed to be saying ‘the this and slept in the Jesus.’ Puzzled, I went where any sensible woman in this day and age who needs to know something goes. Facebook.


Fortunately Sion Meredith Director of Cymraeg i Oedolion – Canolbarth Cymru – Welsh for Adults mid-Wales was online. That’s right – a real expert. He confirmed my earlier guesswork and told me the phrase Yr Hwn a Hunodd yn yr Iesu meant: this one slept in Christ. Nice. I sent my results back to Ken James. Imagine my pleasure when a few months later he came back to the library with a signed copy of his book: Eaglehawk’s Welsh churches. He even put my name in the acknowledgements.

 

Announcing the 2015 Reader Survey …. by M. K. Tod

Writers and readers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought along with their backgrounds and attitudes to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both writer and reader.


What do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? What are their attitudes to pricing or their favourite reading blogs? These and other questions have been the subject of two previousreader surveys.

 

ANNOUNCING A 2015 READER SURVEYdesigned to solicit further input on reading habits, historical fiction preferences, favourite authors and, for the first time, favourite historical fiction. THE SURVEY WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MAY 14.

Highlights from previous surveys:

HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.

GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.

AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS HAVING A BIG IMPACTON READING: Social media and online sites play an increasingly significant role for those choosing, purchasing, and talking about fiction.

BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.

GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.

PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.

ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location

VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.


If you are a reader or a writer, please take the survey and share the link [https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7] withfriends and family and on your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, countries, and other demographics will make this year’s survey even more significant. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.


M. K. Tod

The Railwayman’s Wife – a review

I had never heard of the acclaimed author Ashely Hay, prior to reading The railwayman’s wife. An arresting cover image of a veiled woman above a misty seascape, overlaid with a deep, cranberry title, caught my eye durIng library shelving time. I picked the book up. Not unusual, I often finish shelving with a trolley full of maybes. Would this do for Mrs Jones? I wondered. Or Mrs Smith? I read the blurb on the back cover. A historical novel, Australian author, hmm…the book was ticking a number of boxes. Maybe I should read it first?

Yes, why not? I checked it out on my card and took it home.

The railwayman’s wife is set in Hay’s home town of Thirroul, during the years immediately following World War Two. Having survived the war in this idyllic setting, Anikka Lachlan’s life is shattered by a sudden, unexpected loss. Returning to the Thirroul at this time, is Roy McKinnon, a war poet and one time school teacher, who is struggling to come to terms with beauty after the violence and horror of war. As Roy struggles to find his voice. Anikka struggles to rebuild her life. Both find solace in the railway station’s library.

The novel unfolds through the third person viewpoints of Annika, Roy and Annikka’s husband, Mac. In addition to its shifting point-of-view, the narrative also switches between past and present tenses, giving the whole a dreamy reflective feel, that is in keeping with its themes of grief and loss. Not an easy book to write. Or read. But once into the groove, its clear, shining, cut-glass prose, lift the novel out of the ordinary. The railwayman’s wife is a homage to literature and, as such, is strengthened by references to novels and poetic works. When in the course of the novel, Roy McKinnon, writes a poem, I found myself consumed by writerly envy.

Not only can this woman craft can a good sentence she’s a poet too!

Turns out this wasn’t the case. Hay had a go at writing a poem and couldn’t quite pull it off. She went in search of a poet who was willing to write a bespoke poem and found it in the person of Stephen Edgar. Edgar’s poetry immortalises the voice of Roy McKinnon, giving the novel a delicacy that could not have been achieved through prose alone. I was not surprised to learn that since its 2013 publication, The Railwayman’s Wife has been awarded the Colin Roderick Prize. It also won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 NSW Premier’s Prize, was longlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin and Nita B. Kibble awards, and shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the NSW Premier’s Prize.

In addition to writerly envy, I now felt a flush of librarian’s shame.

How had this writer escaped my notice?

As a librarian, I often have people come to the information desk and ask: what’s a ‘good book’? Here’s the catch: one person’s ‘good book’ is another person’s yawn-fest. To what subset of readers would I recommend The railwayman’s wife? It isn’t a plot driven novel. Indeed, there is a section immediately after the set-up where it may have been possible to stop reading. The urgency of the tale picks up once the friendship between Annika and Roy is established. Hay teases her reader with the possibility of a happy ending. Then brings us to a climax that is breathtakingly, shocking. I wouldn’t be recommending it to readers who like a feel-good story. The Railwayman’s wife is literary novel, rich in words, imagery and ideas, suitable for those who like to read prize winners and to members of book groups. It offers the potential for much in-depth discussion.

 

 

Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2105

The statistics compiled in conjunction with Australia’s Stella Prize paints a sobering picture of reviewing patterns in Australia. On average, more books by male authors are reviewed by predominantly male reviewers. Why does this concern me? I am a woman. I write. I am also a librarian. On anecdotal, whom-I-serve-at-the-desk evidence, I encounter more women, than men. These women have longer books lists. They read across a range of genres. Many belong to book groups. But let’s move away from anecdotes.

In my capacity as a Home Library Service Librarian, I select books for housebound members of our community. Of the thirty two housebound individuals serviced through our local branch, five borrowers are men. Twenty seven are women, in case your maths is as bad as mine, that’s eighty five percent. It’s my job to know what is available and to develop and in depth understanding of what my borrowers like to read. One of the ways I do this, is by reading reviews.

So, male or female, what’s the difference? A good review is a good review isn’t it?

Maybe.

Or maybe male reviewers favour books by men? Maybe there are broad gender differences in reading tastes? Maybe, more women read literary fiction than men? Maybe more read romance? Or follow crime series? Maybe, some favour books about relationships? Inner growth over action? Maybe these women want to hear what other women think about the books they are reading?

Enter the Australian Women Writers’ challenge a website established to raise the profile of Australian Women Writers. Elizabeth Lhuede, the site’s founder, realised she was guilty of gender bias in her reading choices. Lhuede read fewer books by women – particularly, Australian women. In 2102, she decided to redress this balance, contacting librarians, booksellers, publishers, book bloggers, authors, teachers and inviting them to examine their reading habits. She asked them to join her in reviewing books by Australian women. By the end of 2012, 1500+ reviews were linked to her blog. In 2103, the number had risen to 1800+ books, reviewed by over two hundred reviewers, only seventeen of whom were men. In 2104, these figures increased.

Now it’s 2015 and I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

  • I am committing to reading four books by Australian women in 2015 and reviewing at least three of them.
  • Four? That’s nothing!
  • I agree.
  • I expect to read more titles but…I have committement issues.
  • Most of these will be historical fiction titles because that’s what I like reading.
  • In addition to the four books by Australian women, I will also read four books by Honno the Welsh Women’s press
  • Why not?
  • I am going to the first ever Historical Novels Society of Australasia conference in March.
  • I’ll be living in Wales for the second half of the year.
  • I’m not saying I won’t read books by men. I mean, McCall Smith might bring out a new title.
  • But basically, I’m going to be exploring books written by women
  • And talking about them
  • So, watch this space

 

The Strays – a very Melbourne novel

Here is how I prepare for holidays – I reserve books. Books others have returned to the library, books recommended, ones I’ve shelved, read reviews about, seen clogging up the trolleys, books I’ve ignored in the pursuit of my own creative endeavours.

For the Melbourne Cup holiday I reserved The Strays by Emily Bitto. I started reading before the holiday officially started. What? You are shocked. There are no rules against pre-reading. I had just finished the latest draft of my manuscript prior to sending it off for what, I hope, will be its final assessment. My head was clear, my husband in Venice, the parish reports sorted and with Melbourne Cup falling on a Tuesday, I had no Welsh lessons to prepare for.

Some serious ‘me’ time was called for.

The Strays topped my reservation list for a number of reasons.

  • It is the author, Emily Bitto’s, debut novel. I have an interst in debut writers.
  • It is the first novel published by the newly established independant publishing house Affirm Press. Ditto, an interst in Melbourne publishers.
  • Bitto had spoken at one of Boroondara libraries’ emerging author talks and I’d been sorry to miss the event.
  • A colleague told me the story stayed with her long after she’d turned its final pages.

The Strays centres around the, fictitious, Trentham family who are at the forefront the 1930’s Melbourne modern art movement. Into their seemingly carefree lives comes Lily, a lonely only child from a conservative middle class family. As Lily’s friendship with the Trentham’s second daughter, Eva, unfolds from early primary school and into adolescence she is a witness to the loyalties, conflicts and inner contradictions of this carelessly neglectful family and the group artists they support. Despite being on the edge of the group, Lily finds herself drawn into the household’s divisions the ultimate the cost of which are borne by the Trentham’s younger daughters.

This is a literary novel. From its opening page, the reader is treated to some stunning prose.

I remember that day, after it all fell apart, when Eva came to me through the misty garden so that her red coat bled into view from white to pale rose to scarlet…

Bitto’s portrait of the Melbourne modern art movement is vivid, her historical detail authentic and engaging, the final unfolding of events, shocking, though well foreshadowed. At times, I felt the friendship between Lily and Eva was subsumed by the vibrant communtiy In which they lived – the ‘first chaste marriage’ between them only sketchily drawn. In retrospect, I think this was deliberate. Lily is as much infatuated by the enigmatic Tentham’s as she is by their daughter Eva. As a non-daughter or, perhaps due to of her inherent conservatism, she escapes the worst of the story’s consequences. Yet her life is driven by the rifts they caused. The novel is not without hope, however. We see it in Lily’s hindsight reflections, her journey towards reconciliation and in the relationship she has with her daughter. Her life decisions are not happily-ever-after but somehow appropriate. They are bound to resonate with all who have yearned for a more than ordinary life.

 

Library lessons – a true story

It was ordinary Friday afternoon in the library service, mum’s and kids, retired couples, a full complement of the regular unfortunates, me busy reserving items, trouble shooting computer problems, helping people download eBooks, finding the latest travel guide. As I said, business as usual, until the lady with the green shopping bag sat down at my desk.

There was nothing distinct about the woman, on first impressions. She was lower middle-aged, had honey brown hair, wore gold hoop earrings. She could have been any one of the women that access our library service. Though, I noticed, as she sat down, that she was a little dishevelled, breathless. As if approaching the information desk had taken some effort.

‘I’ve got these books.’

I nodded, summoning a smile, wondering, if I was about to assess another pile of not-so-useful donations.

‘I’ve had to move,’ she paused, tears welling. ‘A number of times.’

A tear spilled onto her cheek. She dashed it away with the back of her hand. Another followed. And another. She raised a hand to her face. I’m thinking someone has died. It has to be a death, surely? By now her shoulders were also quivering. With a sinking heart, I realised, I was going to have to take the donations, even if they were useless.

I waited. Not knowing how to respond. I mean, this situation wasn’t covered in library training. It wouldn’t be professional to grasp her hand. Or go round the desk and give her a hug. Infact, it would probably freak the poor woman out. Eventually, she drew a shaky breath. Upending the bag, she tipped a pile of children’s books onto my desk.

‘They’re overdue.’ She said. ‘And the fine…I can’t pay.’

A fine? Not what I expected. I’ve had people lie about library fines, make excuses, slip the books back on the shelf, the occasional flare of anger, hissed threats. But this was grief, and heartfelt, and something about it unnerved me. I searched the woman’s face. Seeing worry lines. Sorrow in her tear-glazed eyes. And something else. What was it? ‘Do you have a library card?’

‘Yes, my daughters.’ She handed it over.

I opened up her daughter’s membership record. The fines weren’t small. But I’ve seen worse. I returned the books – Hairy Maclary, Dogger, John Brown, Rose and the midnight cat, Where the wild things are, The Gruffalo, and others – a catalogue of innocence. They were all accounted for. I smiled, going into official librarian mode. ‘Let’s start by updating your address.’

‘No.’ A flicker of fear. ‘I can’t tell you where I live.’

Fear? That was the other emotion. What was going on here? I studied the membership record, looking for inspiration, knowing I should be going through the spiel about getting books back on time being the woman’s responsibility, that having a correct address was part of our process, reminding her that we’d explained all this when she signed up as her daughter’s guarantor. Guarantor? I flicked into the family details tab. Hang on a sec, woman wasn’t the guarantor. ‘There’s a man’s name on your daughter’s record.’

‘Her father.’

‘He joined her?’

‘He came, that day. Made me use his name. But we don’t see him anymore.’

Right, the woman had moved a number of times, she was scared to give me her address, her husband made her use his name. I’m starting to get a prickles-down-the-spine feeling. ‘Technically,’ I said, choosing my next words with care, ‘you are not responsible for these charges.’

‘He’d say it was my fault. I had to keep track of them.’

‘Your name isn’t on the record. Or your address. You have no legal obligation.’

Pressing her lips together, she shook her head. ‘He won’t pay. Ever.’

‘He’ll get a notice, if you leave the charges on his card. Asking him to clear them. But…that won’t be good for you, is that what you’re saying?

‘Yes.’ She said. ‘He would pursue me.’

*

I’m not going to tell you how the interview ended. That is between me, God and the library system. But, no-one – man, woman, or child – should have to live with that kind of fear. By the time the woman left the library, she wasn’t the only one fighting back tears.

 

A writer’s sick leave

You know something is wrong by eleven o’clock Tuesday morning. You are tired….so tired. Why are you so tired? You are finding it difficult to concentrate. You plough on until lunch time, after which you fall into bed. You sleep. Deep. You wake to the inner toll of an alarm bell. You don’t usually sleep in the afternoon – your head aches. You can’t face your manuscript revisions. Small decisions are beyond you. Your husband finds you huddled on the couch in your track pants.

‘What’s wrong?’ He asks.

‘I’m sick.’

‘What about tomorrow night? Should I cancel?’

‘No. I’ll be better by then.’

You open up iBooks. You have an article to write for late early December. This means you have a long To Be Read pile. You flip from writer to reader and start While Beauty Slept.

Being sick is not too bad…as long as you have a good book to read in bed.

Next day finds you feeling no better. You cancel your dinner engagement. You finish reading the first novel (yes, you read fast). You draft a list of questions. You start re-reading Bitter Greens. A mistake. It’s too good. In a fevered flash of horror you realise are wasting your time as a writer. You’ll never be that good. You take two Panadol to ease the pain.

It doesn’t help.

Fortunately, you have a library job. You are needed, like…you have to go to work tomorrow. You have two urgent housebound groups to select for. This is a bad. You generally select a couple of weeks ahead. But some weeks, despite your best efforts you find yourself working close to the wire. This is one of them.

You have to ring in sick.

A third day on the couch. You draft out your second list of questions. You read some interviews. Make notes. Send query emails. Start reading a third novel, The Hand of Fire, by a Judith Starkston. Any guesses what the article is on? You’re sick. But your mind churns. This is called a writer’s sick leave.

Friday morning, you set the alarm. It shrills. Your head pounds. But you have to work. If not, you will have to phone each volunteer and every housebound client, re-schedule the deliveries, be under even more pressure the following week.

You drag yourself out of bed. Toss down cold and flue tablets. Drink copious amounts of coffee. Front up to work, moaning and sweating. You drag yourself through the day, get the selections done. Manange to be polite and helpful on desk. You drive home in a shudder of aching muscles and tumble into bed.

***

Sick Girl – photo courtesy of Culturalweekly.com

 

 

Life in Limbo – while my novel is being assessed

So, the first fortnight was a novelty. I sent my manuscript off to readers. Wrote a review. Re-drafted a short story. Attended a Pitch Perfect session at Writers Victoria. Updated my novel's synopsis. Tried to come up with a stunning hook line. Failed. Multiple times. First drafted a query letter and then…sat twiddling my thumbs. Oh, I know, I'm supposed to write something else. Something new. And I will…next week. But I also need to wind down because I've been pushing myself pretty hard and, once I receive feedback, it's going to start over again. With this in mind, I have called the last two weeks down time.

Down time! So, what have I been up to?

Well, I've done a heap of errands – been to the optometrist and the audiologist, had the dog clipped, booked a dental appointment, taken my mum to buy a fridge, considered new heating options for the house, started making flash cards for next term's Welsh classes and…. What, cleaning, did I hear you say? No, that would involve a personality change. But, I have to say, if this silence goes on too long weird things may start happening.

In the meantime, I've been having fun. What kind of fun? Well, I'm a librarian so, let me tell you, it's been pretty wild. I've been:

  • Reading Kate Mosse's, Citadel
  • Catching up with some out-east friends
  • Having dinner with my lovely daughter
  • Browsing social media
  • Reading a heap of blogs
  • Creating a couple of new Pinterest boards
  • I also started planning our thirtieth wedding anniversary holiday.

Here's how the itinerary is looking so far:

Week one: South Wales with my cousin while Andrew flies around Europe doing the day job

Weekend one: meet our Australian, British migrant friends in North Wales

Week two: a week in London with Andrew working and me staying in his ritzy hotel (yes, I know. Someone has to do it). I'll visit family during this week and, of course, soak up the London atmosphere.

Week three: a holiday in the Cotswolds. We have booked a quaint cottage and made enquiries about bike hire. We intend to spend our time pedalling between pubs, ploughman's lunches and picturesque villages.

Week four: Andrew will head back to work while I attend a Saysomethinginwelsh bootcamp in Tresaith. During this time using the English language will be banned as a random group of Welsh learners seek to exist purely in Cymraeg. It could be a quiet week but I doubt it. Something tells me there will be heaps of silly mistakes, red faces and shared laughter.

Week five: join Andrew for a week in Paris.

Aside from this, my limbo weeks haven't been without feedback. My youngest son, an avid historical fiction reader and one of my assessors sent me a lovely text:

Hello Miss Doubtful. Just started reading your book. First observation. You can write.

Let me tell you all those months carrying him, all those hours in labour, all those nights without sleep, all that post-natal depression, all those winters dosing him up with ventolin we're cancelled out in that one tiny SMS moment.

Two other readers have also finished the manuscript and are staunchly claiming it wasn't boring. One of them, my dear friend Denis who writes fiction, teaches literature and is an all round confidence booster is going to walk me through his recommendations over the weekend. Then, it's simply a matter of finishing Citadel, reading my new book on the history of the Welsh language and…waiting for the other readers to get back to me. I can't beg. That would be unprofessional. But…I do hope it will be soon. Otherwise, I might be might be forced do something radical like Spring cleaning.

Nah, only joking. I have a short story to write and a couple of interviews to complete.

 

Post Manuscript Posting Stress Syndrome

After a spectacular crisis of confidence last Thursday and Friday which I'm now calling Post Manuscript Posting Stress Syndrome (PMPSS), I have recovered my equilibrium. But before outlining the treatment of this acute debilitating illness, let's me first identify its symptoms and causes. And please note: the condition will henceforth be known as Elizabeth Jane Corbett PMPSS syndrome. Which in the event of my abject failure as a novelist will secure my name for posterity.

Symptoms

  • Paranoid checking of email and phone (as if anyone could have read the novel in six hours)
  • Deep aching cavity in your chest that needs lashings of sticky sweet reassurance
  • Waking with ideas for revisions in the early hours of the morning
  • A combustion of shame every time you think of someone reading your manuscript
  • Self doubt to the point of wanting to recall all known copies of said work and shred them
  • Sitting in the corner hugging your teddy bear and moaning

Causes

  • General inability to face normal domestic and administrative tasks
  • Unshakeable conviction that real life is what happens on a page
  • Tendency to get lost or caught up in writing tasks for hours on end (multiple burnt saucepans as evidence)
  • Mis-management of mildly (cough) obsessive tendencies
  • Dis-inclination to act on husband's well intended suggestions that you take a break (yes, Andrew, you were right again)

Treatment

Treatments for this acute, self-inflicted psychosomatic condition vary. But during her research, Elizabeth Jane Corbett, has identified some common therapies.

  • Watch endless YouTube clips. Welsh comedians are particularly effective
  • Indulge in other obsessive interests. Translating arm-long lists of little used Welsh words has proven therapeutic. But, a word of warning, this list should never be mistaken for classroom preparation. Or inflicted on a poor unsuspecting beginners Welsh class. No matter how interesting it may seem to the PMPSS sufferer
  • Take comfort in your day job (unless, of course, you are a librarian in which case exposure to other popular works may exacerbate symptoms)
  • Read a gentle comforting novel (in a genre different to the one under consideration). Alexander McCall Smith's titles are routinely prescribed as they have the added benefit of reminding the PMPSS sufferer that life is essentially about being a decent human being not a multi-published, award-winning, best-selling author (sob)
  • Avoid reading the blogs of other successful writers until the worst of the symptoms have passed
  • Or sending hate mail to any of the above authors
  • Schedule a Dukan celebration meal with sympathetic family members
  • Try not to talk about your manuscript at said celebration meal (this is an extreme therapy and beyond the fortitude of most sufferers)
  • Do not open your manuscript to check anything even when a reader tells you they are up to page a hundred and twenty
  • Let your dog sit on your lap and stare up at you with adoration
  • Then, come Monday morning write something else – a review, some interview questions, a short story, a blog, anything to take you back to the real word of the page.
  • In no circumstances, should the suffer make a delusional attempt to clear their in-tray or get on top of their administration. This will only lead to a reoccurrence of symptoms.

Finally, if you are currently suffering from PMPSS and are having trouble moving from the Teddy bear rocking stage to the YouTube comedy stage here is a clip to get you started.

 

The battle for the eBook: why publishers need libraries

Imagine this scenario:

A busy public library service. Smiling librarian. A middle aged woman woman holding a swag of newspaper clippings. She approaches the information desk: I would like to reserve some books please.'

'Yes, certainly. What shall we start with?'

The woman purses her lips, flicking through her wad of clippings. 'Tim Winton's Eyrie, please?'

The librarian types 'winton' and 'eyrie' into the system. Waits. Scans the screen. 'There are a hundred and thirty five reservations on that title.'

Yes, I thought it would be popular.'

'We've got twenty eight copies. So, it's not as bleak as it sounds.'

What about the eBook? I've just bought an iPad.'

The librarian pauses. Her smile falters. 'We have an eBook collection. But, unfortunately, we aren't allowed to purchase Winton's eBooks for our collection.

Why ever not? He's an Australian author.'

'Yes, but his publisher won't cooperate with libraries.'

Oh, that's a shame. Well put me down on the list please.'

The librarian completes the reservation. The woman makes her next request. She has four or five, on any given week. Sometimes, she comes in with her book club list. After making reservations, she browses the shelves, choosing from an eclectic mix of literary fiction and popular best sellers. She is the fiction writer's bread and butter. The educated, middle aged female reader. She is poised, ready to take on the new eBook frontier but as the librarian correctly pointed out, some publishers will not give libraries access to their eBooks titles – despite their willingness to pay, protect the author's digital rights, and loan the eBooks out to one member at a time.

This is not a new battle. It's as old as public lending. Yet in the rapidly shifting digital environment publishers are floundering and, for some reason, many have a bee in their bonnets about libraries. This is not critical to authors at the moment. As with cassettes, CDs and now downloadable audio books, libraries will continue to buy in a range of formats. But in the foreseeable future authors will begin to suffer. Indeed, even now, I know some authors who have been published exclusively in a digital format. Without their publisher's permission libraries cannot include their eBooks in their collections.

Maybe that's fair? I hear some of you say. Authors deserve to get paid for their work. If people can borrow books, they won't buy them.

That's true to a point. But I'm here to tell you a different side of the story. As a librarian and an author who has publication aspirations, I'm going to tell you why I would want my eBook available in every public library collection in Australia.

  • Libraries buy books. Take the twenty eight copies of Eyrie in the middle aged woman's library service, add in other popular, and not so popular, titles, multiply this by every public library service in Australia and you are talking about some solid buying power.
  • Libraries promote new authors. It is the librarian's job to read new books and promote the works of new and emerging authors – especially local ones.
  • Libraries hold reader related events. This includes author talks (which authors get paid for) along with in-house book talks in which library staff review and make reader recommendations. This is called free publicity.
  • Libraries produce book blogs and write reviews. Most librarians are bookophiles in their private lives. A browser reading a review on Goodreads does not care whether the reviewer borrowed or purchased the title, only how many stars it has been awarded.
  • Librarians often get asked 'what's a good book.' It is therir job to match readers with titles. To this end they read reviews, searching for hidden jewels, and also to keep abreast of what is trending. If a new author can't be in their collection they can't recommend their works to readers.
  • Libraries sell books. Not literally, granted. But book lovers do buy books. What do you think they buy their friends for gifts? And how do they become book lovers in the first place? Or try out new authors? If not at their local library service?
  • Libraries believe in equity of access. This means anyone in Australia should be able to access digital information. This includes the works of popular Australian authors – including those published exclusively in a digital format. To undermine equity of access is to undermine the foundations of our democracy.

So, those are a my reasons. Maybe you can think of others? Connor Tomas O'Brien makes some interesting observations in his article: A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers and the pirate bay. For if the middle-aged, educated female reader is the publisher's dream buyer her children are their nightmare. As the battle is waged over digital rights and equity of access, the kids are picking up their titles free on Pirate Bay. And that's a disaster for libraries, publishers and writers.

 

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