In Conversation with Lynette Washington

To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme is a children’s book of poetry by Kristin Martin and Joanne Knott. It is also the first publication of Lynette Washington’s new South Australia-based Glimmer Press publishing house. In the week before the launch of To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme, I caught up to chat with Lynette about the ins and outs of her huge new venture.

Martin’s manuscript would eventually become To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme, a set of thirty rhyming and another thirty non-rhyming poems aimed at children. The poems are all nature based and are accompanied by the beautiful work of Joanne Knott reading the manuscript, Washington tried to help Martin place the work at more established publishing houses. Impulsively, she promised Martin if no one else would take it, Washington herself would publish the work.

LW: I wasn’t really thinking about what that meant too much! Kristen thought the offer over and came back to Lynette a few days later, wanting to publish with her long-time friend. Well, once I said I’d do it, I had to follow through.

RK: Yeah, well, I suppose publishing someone’s manuscript is not something you can back out lightly.

It’s obvious that Washington loves what she does. It’s clearly a nerve-wracking project but you can hear excitement and passion when she talks about her role as publisher.

LW: Well, you know what it’s like – it means so much to writers to get published and to get acknowledged in that way.  I’ve known Kristen for so long and she’s such a good friend that I knew she would be cool with me finding my way through the process and figuring it out as I went. Although I worked for MidnightSun for years, I was really only involved in certain aspects of the business, so there were parts of publishing that I knew really nothing about. So it was nice to publish my friend’s book as my first book because I knew she’d forgive me any blunders.

RK: It’s kind of like a first pancake, isn’t it? You know how they’re always a bit iffy?

LW: Yeah, that’s so true, you always have to throw out the first pancake.

Given the relatively small size of Adelaide’s publishing community and Glimmer’s infancy, I was curious about the publication’s next steps, beyond To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme.

RK: Is Glimmer primarily interested in children’s books or are you a bit easy either way?

LW: Definitely not just interested in children’s books. I think the next book I publish will be a book for adults, although I don’t know what that will be yet. I’ve also got a particular interest in short stories and stories that really play with genre conventions.

RK: I suppose it makes sense with you being a short story-ist that you would want to publish those things. Short stories are also wonderful to sit and read and just kind of have piece meal.

LW: From your mouth to the world’s ears. I just wish more people thought that because there’s still a bit of reluctance, I think, for the reading public to pick up a short story collection. I would love to see that change. But then, it goes in cycles and there have been eras where short stories have been the preferred norm.

RK: That’s for sure. Charles Dickens seemed to have a good time with it.

LW: Yeah, it worked for him, didn’t it?

Washington’s desire to publish adult fiction next turns us briefly towards MidnightSun, another small SA-based press. Washington worked at the press for a time and some lessons stuck past her tenure at the publishing house.

LW: Anna (Solding) always used to say you publish something that you love and that’s true. When you work for a small publisher you invest a good twelve months or more in a book and unless you really passionately love that book there’s no reason to take it on. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into very little reward financially; there are other rewards of course, but I think you have to fall in love with something in order to take it on. And that’s really what happened with Kristin’s book. It’s so special and I knew that a lot of big publishers would run from something like this; [a project] that’s not going to make anyone lots and lots of money, but should be out there in the world. I guess that’s what I’m looking for: those little projects that should be out there in the world, but maybe other publishers would shy away from.

RK: I think it’s important in Adelaide specifically, because our publishing industry is so small, to have those pushing off places or catch alls for forgotten projects.

LW: Absolutely, and I think little publishing houses are definitely pushing off places for writers. I saw that happen a lot at MidnightSun. A writer would get their first break with them, have some degree of success, and then they’ve got a publication record and when they approached a bigger publisher, they’re more likely to be taken on. It definitely serves that purpose for emerging writers, which is good thing, a really valuable thing.

 

Glimmer Press can be found at their website glimmerpress.com.au, on Facebook as Glimmer Press and on twitter @glimmer_press.

 


Interview by Riana Kinlough

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent
S.J Morgan
Midnight Sun 2018


S.J Morgan’s Heaven Sent is a fun, easy-to-read Young Adult debut. Following Evie, an Australian sixteen-year-old with a crooked spine, the novel examines the complications of separated parents, new love, and mental illness.

This novel is home to some strong, if inconsistent, writing and I ripped through it in a matter of hours. The prologue, in particular, struck me as both vivid and wistful. There are some pacing issues that are distracting – the immediacy with which Evie trusts the boy, Gabriel, who crashed through her bedroom wall one night, feels rushed and a little bit at odds with the girl’s naturally suspicious nature. Additionally, this feels like a book deciding what it wants to be as it goes – the beginning feels like it could be a supernatural romance, but the ending is definitely an action-thriller. Morgan’s writing is capable of being both tight and engaging in either genre, but toying with both is disorientating.

However, Morgan seems to have a thumb at the pulse of the friendships of teenage girls. Evie and her best friend, Paige, demonstrate the simultaneously emotionally manipulative and caring behaviour of teenage girls, who are still determining the best way to navigate the world. Indeed, Morgan is gifted at creating some rich characters. Gabriel’s erratic and earnest attempts at ‘watching over’ Evie create a chilling atmosphere and a creeping sense of concern. Seb, Evie’s mother’s much younger boyfriend, was perfectly cast as a slimy, pathetic loser. Even Evie’s house, broken and tarp-covered, feels like an oppressive character, and the eventual move she and her mother make is a satisfying thematic event.

Evie suffers from scoliosis – a condition that warps the spine into a ‘S’. She is in the final stages of wearing a brace designed to straighten her spine. Scoliosis is an incredibly painful condition and Morgan’s depiction of it feels a little simple and easy. The brace is removed in the first half of the novel and though Evie often complains about having to wear it, there’s no complexity to the physicality of both the condition and the treatment. It feels as though the brace is removed before it can be an imposition, or narrative object.

That said, Morgan has produced a novel with a lot of heart. Heaven Sent will appeal to its teenage demographic, its pacing faults aside. To me, Morgan is an author with a considerable amount of potential and her next work will be something to keep an eye on.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Beneath the Mother Tree

Beneath the Mother Tree
D.M Cameron
Midnight Sun 2018


 

The island is unsettled and Ayla’s Grappa thinks the mythological Irish figure of Far Dorocha is to blame. Mosquito specialist Marise has moved her only son Riley to the secluded island after the death of her husband and his stepfather. Their arrival sends ripples through the place’s normally serene ecosystem, and adds pressure to their already fraught relationship. Ayla, lost in her own way, and Riley form a connection, which is in turn strange and familiar. D.M Cameron’s debut novel, through Midnight Sun, is a dark narrative of love, belief, and twisted family ties.

For the most part this is a narrative about strangers in a small town. Marise and Riley are interlopers to a close-knit community, and Marise in particular struggles to acclimatise to their new life. She is drawn there by a house on the edge of a marsh heavily populated by mosquitos. For Riley, this is the first chance at a ‘normal’ life – his mother is a restricting and at times abusive woman and he was not allowed to go to school or foster relationships with outsiders. When hit with the double blow of Ayla and Riley’s deepening relationship and the local council’s decision to spray Marise’s precious marsh in order to control the insect population, she is forced to use some truly dark techniques to get what she wants.

Irish mythology plays a heavy part in the events of the novel. Grappa, in an almost childish way, believes in the spirits and creatures in the stories he tells Ayla. Ayla too, see-saws on the truth of her grandfather’s stories. When the bad things begin happening on the island – animals behaving strangely, the death of beloved pets through a deadly virus cultivated by Marise in her research – Grappa is convinced the evil Far Dorocha is at work through the scientist. Indeed, Cameron creates an almost magic-realist landscape for her characters – there are many scenes where Marise dreams she is transformed into a cloud of mosquitos, only to wake and find the pet of the islander she’s been having is dead; the titular Mother Tree seems to cast a protective shelter around Ayla.

Along with the Irish mythology, Cameron tries to include some Indigenous history and culture. For me, this was of the book’s biggest problem. Cameron’s fictional island, like most of Australia, contains a deeply colonial history and the site of a mass murder of Indigenous peoples is a reoccurring image and theme. However, this examination of Australia’s colonial violence feels heavy-handed and uneven as the novel only has two Indigenous characters – a teenage girl who studies on the mainland and has no narrative weight, and a wise-woman who also carries no real narrative importance. Given the importance placed on the Aboriginal mythology, it would have been beneficial to have an Indigenous voice to weigh in on the events of the novel. Instead, the weight of this piece of the island’s violent history is mostly carried by Ayla – a white character. Ayla spends much of the novel coming to terms with the massacre but given the lack of Indigenous voice I wasn’t sure what Cameron was trying to achieve with its inclusion.

The character of Marise was one of the novel’s short-comings for me. As the novel’s primary antagonist, she is a ruthless and possessive woman, who will do anything to get what she wants. However, her portrayal at times felt a little too cartoon villain-like. There was a lack of clarity in her machinations that made it hard to understand or empathise with her. Often the menace of an antagonist comes from their internal logic, twisted though it may be, and Marise’s internal logic was a little too murky.

However, Beneath the Mother Tree is also home to some moments of genuine sweetness. The sweetly awkward budding relationship between Ayla and Riley was a treat to read. The same could be said of the relationship between Grappa and his granddaughter. Ayla has a deep love of the Irish folklore and it shapes her entire character. Cameron also managed to capture the insidious, insular nature of small towns with some skill.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

CRUSH- Stories about love

Confession: I do not often read romance but when I do I usually enjoy it.

Crush is an anthology of romance stories which centres around the concept of the word ‘Crush’. The term itself has multiple definitions, these definitions are used to divide the book into four distinct sections:

  1. An intense infatuation
  2. To cease or crumple by pressure
  3. To hug or embrace tightly
  4. A crowd of people pressed together.

In each of these sections are stories which explore the ideas of each definition. In doing this, the reader can choose a story more suited to what they feel like reading at the time.

There is a stigma surrounding romance fiction, which claims it has little to no literary merit. It’s usually dismissed as ‘chick-lit’. The stories collected in Crush demonstrate a wide range of writing styles and genres blended with romance. There is fiction which is clearly for everyone, for the LGBTQ+ community, for people who like experimental writing, and for those who prefer the literary variety. There is a diversity to this anthology which brokers an appeal to a wide audience. Romance is a part of almost everyone’s lives to some degree or another. When it comes to real life we don’t dismiss it. You don’t have to be a certain age or gender to experience it, just as you don’t have to be a certain age or gender to enjoy romance fiction, and you certainly don’t have to be ashamed of showing your support for the local, emerging artists who have contributed to this book.

Crush brings together a variety of talented writers who are both local and international. Quite a few Flinders current and past students are also featured in the anthology. Recent Hons. Graduate Simone Corletto and PhD Candidate Jess M. Miller worked with Amy T. Matthews (chair of the 2016 ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ conference in Adelaide), and Midnight Sun’s Lynette Washington to compile and edit the book. With a wide range of both local and international contributors, Crush is a must read for anyone involved in the Adelaide writing community.

With stories that verge on traditional, literary, and experimental, Crush has something to appeal to everyone. Women loving women, women loving men, men loving women, and men loving men. Relationships beginning and relationships ending. Good dates and bad dates. A wide variety of experiences tied together by the central exploration of love.

I’m not going to try and pick a favourite story in the anthology because they are all fantastic in their own way. Full of passion and wit, they offer both warmth and scepticism where it’s needed most.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, love forms a big part of our lives. The writers of Crush have interrogated this in their stories. We see people just like you and me fumbling through life searching for the thing that will make them feel valid and loved.

This is a potentially perfect book for those of you looking to escape into the world of fiction without the hassle of committing to a full novel. While romance is not normally my cup of tea, Crush provides something for everyone so why pick up a local anthology and read the both online and from local retailers.

As a special treat, selected authors will be sharing their work at The Jade on Thursday 16th November. Come along to The Jade, 142-160 Flinders Street, for a chance to meet Michelle Fairbarn, J. R. Koop, Michelle Oglivy, and C.J. McLean, hear them read, and show your support for local writers.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

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Crush is available in stores now. At the special reading event at The Jade on the 16th of November copies of Crush will be available for the special price of $25. For more information check the Facebook page.