Harper Collins have been dream publishers. Just when I thought I must turn my back on traditional publishing houses, I come across a model one. For example, I’m being consulted about the cover, and for most of a day I’m allowed to discuss with their artist colours, desert scenery, a figure wandering blithely away across a sunlit but forbidding landscape…such matters so vital for a reader to connect with my story, matters like exactly what shade of blue or purple the sky is, because the shade must reflect the turmoil in my heroine’s life, yet look as if there might be joy at the end. Also, I’ve been given the brilliant editor of my choice, Linda Funnell, and inspired by her, I’m practically re-writing the book – I’ve already past tensed most of it, a labour of months, hoping at first I could accomplish the brunt of it by instructing my computer to automatically change a list of eighty-seven common verbs to their past tense form, but soon I found what I’d already suspected, that far more was needed- I had to re-vision the book. Now I’m working on-line with Linda Funnell because she’s in Sydney and I’m being a writer-in-residence in Perth, at the historic house of Matti Furphy, invited there by the Perth Fellowship of Writers. It’s near a lovely beach, and each morning I force myself not to worry about my book and whether my computer might lose it all, and how to do track changes without going crazy, but to think only of the golden sand and the ocean surging over it and ebbing away. Gordon comes to stay with me for a precious fortnight, then Libby joins me, and through the days we work, helping each other keep at it, keep at writing. I’m barely able to manage track changes, and saved all the changes on a memory stick, with an unquestioning assumption that memory sticks were my confidantes forever – but the stick got itself corrupted and I’ve lost a week’s work! “Of course you can’t trust computers!” cries the computer expert I take it to, gazing at me, astounded at my naiveté. “Computers are only machines!” Linda somehow stays patient. It must be terrifying to work with me.
And meanwhile, the Royalties keep having delicious dinners and excited discussions. I’m so old that I remember being a breathless eighteen year old at university, leaning over a laminex table so excitedly that its metal edge got imprinted on my chest, careful not to breathe out the one flickering candle between us all, and trying to think of something intelligent to say about the coming revolution. In those days the way ahead seemed clear; it was imperative to free oneself from the System and grow one’s own food, especially carrots. Carrots seemed to go to the very heart of the change that was needed. It’s hard to explain that to my daughter, hard to recapture the belief in this path to freedom. My daughter looks up disbelievingly from Facebook. “Carrots?” she echoes.
But revolution has come again, this time apparently of its own accord. The revolution for authors to own their means of production. Now we’re thinking that once we’ve e published ourselves, we should help writers like us to publish themselves. We could show them how.
But that’s impossible.