Tag Archives: publishing

The Long Weekend – One year on

2 Aug

Tasmania, it’s apology time.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I launched the Long Weekend in Alice Springs into the world at the inaugural Tasmanian Writers Festival in Hobart in March 2013. It’s been quite a year for this little self-published wonder and I thought I’d do a little write-up of its successes and failures … though, thankfully, I don’t know of many failures … or how a book fails … but anyhow.

Photo - Joshua Santospirito

I’m writing this the day after I opened the second exhibition of original art from the graphic novel here in Wintery HOBART. I probably won’t pull out the original art again, my mind has moved on. But it seems appropriate that I reflect on it all. It occurred to me that whilst I was making this book I was living here in Hobart, but mentally and emotionally I was grappling with a project that forced me to not be present, to not be here in Tasmania. I was in Central Australia. Head still in the dust, barrelling down dirt highways in landcruisers.

I was quite distracted by this work of art.

Then, years later, once I finished the book I had to flog it like crazy; I’d put too much work in: it cannot go unnoticed NOW! And so the book had numerous launches in different spots in 2013, which has helped sales along – Hobart, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The Alice Springs launch was by far the biggest, and funnest, and it was accompanied by the first exhibition at the gallery in Alice Springs – Watch This Space – a well-loved institution. It was launched by lots of interesting, wonderful sods – Dr Anne Noonan (who I used to work with in Central Oz), Pat Grant (comic-maker extraordinaire), Bernard Caleo (Svengali of Melbourne comics and great enthusiast of this book), Penny McDonald (NT Film), Lindsay Arnold (Tassie comic-legend), Jennifer Mills (good mate and wonderful author). To share this book with these people made it extra special.

Because of these launches, and because of the promotion that was part of the successful crowd-funding campaign, the book pretty much sold out of its first print-run of 500 within about two and a half months … which took me completely by surprise, so I got it reprinted again in Hobart (again by Monotone Art printers, who are very nice to work with), this time printing 1000 copies just in time for the book to be reviewed by the Weekend Australian Newspaper in their Review magazine. This helped in getting the book into bookstores across Australia, which seemed to be a better place to sell this book than in comic-stores, though it landed in a few of them too. To date I have offloaded a total of about 1250 copies Australia-wide, which I’m chuffed and proud of … given I self-distributed and posted and emailed and whatnot. I had thought that initial 500 would last me a few years, and they would be sitting under my bed.

Whilst I can honestly say that I have no idea how anyone printing a book in Australia can make any money at all – I am very proud to have printed it locally and going to the effort of keeping everything as local as possible. It certainly isn’t a money-spinner, but that was never the point anyhow.

The most exciting aspect about sending a graphic novel into the world has been the responses to it. I had thought that the only people who’d read this would be comic-obssessed people … and I didn’t know if they would get into it, because of the content … nothing against comic-obssessed people at all, I’m certain they would be able to understand such a book, but the book is a little serious and full-on and I wasn’t certain of how it would fit into the genre-focused world of comics … I wasn’t quite sure who my audience was, because I made this book for me … and not really for anyone else. It turns out – there’s lots of MEs out there. Who knew?

What I found was, most people who read the book – WEREN’T comic-readers … most of the discussions about the book that I encountered were NOT even about the comic-form, they went immediately to the content. This surprised me most, because many readers didn’t even seem to really be aware of the medium at all when they read it. Some of my favourite responses have been from Central Australia, where the people who live this content daily can grasp it with their mind and hearts. As is probably true of any peripheral area, the political discussions on the Eastern seaboard about Central Australia have always lacked any real understanding of the problems faced by those who live there. For this reason, to be acknowledged in the Territory was the best: it meant a lot to both Craig and I when the book was awarded the Non Fiction Book Award at the NT Read awards in Darwin in May of 2014.

I am glad that I decided to put on this exhibition in Hobart though, though the content of the book has absolutely nothing to do with Tasmania – but the book was made, designed and printed in Tassie. I couldn’t have done the work in Central Australia. To live in the desert is to live by the seat of your pants, every day surreal things happen, you get swept along by an unusual force. I didn’t even notice until I left. I needed to move away, the distance to clear my mind and digest all the things I had to sift through to be able to work this comic into existence. So I came to Hobart. It was crucial. But the local Tassie community was also crucial with their support and feedback and enthusiasm. Now I have a month-long exhibition which I can show to the Hobartian mob. I can say to them “This is what I did before I truly lived here emotionally and mentally. Isn’t that nice. It’ll be up for a month,”

BUT this is a line in the sand – after this – you and me – we can start dating properly – we can live together in this creative community of Taswegia”

“Sorry I was so distracted before, I hope you understand”

“I’d like to be more present now”

“Hi Hobart”

Advertisements

Translating comics

15 Feb

On Thursday of this week I’ll be presenting a talk in Hobart at the Tas Writers Centre – Adaptation, comics, cultures.

I’ll be showing some bits and bobs about the process of adapting an academic essay into a long-form comic, the trials, tribulations, headaches and successes. I found this process endlessly fascinating – grappling with this difficult beast involves the mechanics of both mediums involved – prose and comics. I’ll have a chat about the various things that you can and can’t do with both mediums, how emphasis changes and how meanings can shift as you reimagine the same content into a different form.

6:30pm at the meeting room at Salamanca Arts Centre, put on by the Twitch writers group with the assistance of the Tasmanian Writers Centre.

026

Book Design Podcast

24 Dec

Nadine Kessler, book designer of The Long Weekend in Alice Springs (amongst many more books) was interviewed by Paige Turner on the radio the other week – on the Edge Radio BOOKSHOW.

Listen to the interview here.

Nadine on bookshow

Kieran Finnane – 2013 Lofty Award Winner

9 Dec

I’m super pleased that Kieran has been awarded the 2013 Lofty Award in Alice Springs at Watch This Space artist run initiative. She has been an important arts writer in Central Australia, giving the whole scene such a considered and careful focus. Below is the article she wrote about The Long Weekend in Alice Springs in May of 2013 – the original can be read here. You can see here an example of her poetic criticism which is constructive and positive in a manner which is rare in arts writing.

Haunting excursion into Alice’s psyche

<!–

–>

Review by KIERAN FINNANE

The cover of The Long Weekend in Alice Springs suggests that the story between its covers will be road trip. And it is one, of sorts. You won’t find these roads on any map but they will lead you into the byways of this desert place, reaching back through history into stories of origin, reaching out through darkness, real and metaphoric, into stories of now.

The starting points are several, all at once. There’s the meeting of Joshua Santospirito and Craig San Roque, a young man and an older man, one a psychiatric nurse with a drawing gift, the other a psychologist with a lyric gift. There’s a campfire and in its flickering light, a woman in mourning. Her husband has died but her grief goes deeper than this. There’s a book of quite a different order, Jungian explorations of the contemporary world, and a request for San Roque to make a contribution.

So, setting out from the meeting of the two men, for the sake of simplicity in this text, with its limited means of typed words on a screen, destined for a journalism site. These are limits that The Long Weekend is marvellously liberated from, due to its form as a ‘graphic novel’ or ‘comic’ (words that don’t quite rightly describe it); due to Santospirito’s artistry; due to the soaring and delving of San Roque’s mind and pen. 

Santospirito, frustrated and raw from his experience of working in remote mental health, met San Roque, seasoned by long years of the same, but also resilient from a deep nourishment – as we learn from his essay at the end of the book – by Jungian psychoanalysis, thought and practice. San Roque gave Santospirito some of his writings, including an essay, ‘A Long Weekend in Alice Springs’, his contribution to The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society, edited by Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles (Brunner-Routledge, 2004).

There was no sudden illumination that explained everything or showed a way forward but Santospirito found the writings “somehow useful” and began to draw his way into San Roque’s ‘Long Weekend’.

He takes us to the campfire in San Roque’s backyard and in just a few deft black and white images envelopes us in the thickness of this night, the deep well of loss that has brought Manka Maru to this point, by this fire.

He draws ‘Craig’ at his desk, wrestling with the task of writing an Australian perspective for The Cultural Complex, wrestling with the very concept of how a cultural complex operates – easier to detect looking at another culture, harder to detect in your own culture.

Craig’s door opens into the backyard. It’s Friday and Warlpiri family from the bush join Manka Maru. They’ve come in for the footy match; among them, a young man damaged by petrol sniffing, one of many in Craig’s professional care. The visitors interrupt Craig’s concentration but it’s a fruitful interruption: he will find his way into thinking about cultural complexes by describing what happens on this long weekend.

Some of what happens is eventful in a road trip kind of way – like going hunting with the Warlpiri visitors who arrive in increasing number. Some of it is eventful but bleak as Craig, the ‘shrink’, goes about his work, in the court, at the hospital, by the roadside where a man, who believes he is the King of Iraq, is sitting in his car with his three-day dead dog on the back seat. This episode kick starts the deeper journey, a haunting, at times thrilling excursion into our psychological inheritances.

Is the ‘King of Iraq’ a refugee from another time, Craig asks himself. And his mind wanders to the mythical Middle East and the story of Inanna’s grasping, ruthless attempt to bargain with death. (Santospirito’s drawing and mise en scene make the story wonderfully vivid.) The cure for some our ills would be an “assurance of immortality”. It’s part of what Craig knows the King needs. But short of that, what?

Craig remembers his meeting with an old Warlpiri man who told him to mind his own stories. That counsel fell on fertile ground, for Craig / San Roque is deeply in love with story, alive to the unfolding stories around him, to the ancient stories, the ones carried forward in our classical Western culture, the ones from the Aboriginal “dreaming system” (in so far as they have been shared with him). “The human psyche loves processing its own thoughts,” Craig thinks. If we lose the ability to do this, we “fall helplessly out of being.”

This has happened to Teresa to an extreme degree. Craig visits her in the psych ward. She’s trapped in a “cannabis-induced psychosis” but it’s more than the cannabis, more than the petrol that preceded it, and her scarifying life experiences. “Something in the cultural lobe of her brain allows her psychic demise.”

Cultural memory offers resilience in face of the tides of history. Craig picks up a male friend, Amos, to join him on the hunting trip with the Warlpiri women and children. Amos is of middle European and Jewish lineage – a strong bloodline in dispossession. Around the campfire, cooking lizards, Napaltjarri tells the children, black and white, about the travels of Malu (kangaroo) from up North.  Amos and Craig sit to the side – Craig’s still wrestling with his writing task and enlists Amos’ help. They try tracing some travels of their own, the big shifts of people from their lands in Europe. Amos suggests that the Gypsies and the Jews were less vulnerable to the cultural breakdown this caused because they’d “learned to use cultural memory in a special nomadic manner”.

We are introduced to the ancient Arrernte stories of Alice Springs, particularly the wild dog story, inscribed in the local landscape. The dog came through Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), attacked the incumbent male, ravaged the mother and puppies. The Mount Gillen ridge and much of the land on the western side of the river were formed by the activities of the dog. Alice Springs is built on this mythic event, a dogfight and a rape. “Serious dark men might whisper the details.” This is part of the psychological inheritance of those to whom this cultural memory belongs – as well as those in the “overlap”, as Craig describes it, between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures: “Sites do things to people.”

When memory is encoded in sites and song-cycles, as it is in classical Aboriginal culture, and the links to these are broken, depression and malaise follows. This is affecting (to greater or lesser degrees) all who live in contemporary Alice Springs – not just in the shadow of broken Aboriginal songs, but in the shadow of non-Aboriginal people’s own cultural disconnections as well as the contradictions between the Christian and colonising projects that are the foundation of our nation. If I’ve understood it rightly, cultural complexes get people stuck in this brokenness and this contradictory space.

“We can save ourselves with imagination.” It’s the closest thing to a ‘solution’ that can be put between inverted commas. And the book enlists us at every page into acts of imagination through the alchemy of Santospirito’s and San Roque’s gifts. Some of Santospirito’s drawings are exceptional in their emotional power, and the multi-layering through space and time that the comic book form allows makes for rich story-telling. Combine this with San Roque’s poetics, the depth of his thought, and the heart of both men, and you have a book, a travel guide for our place and time. Read it and you’ll never think about the town’s ‘social problems’ in the same away again. Read it and you’ll never look at Alhekulyele (Mount Gillen, the nose of the ancestral dog) in the same way again.

At present, The Long Weekend in Alice Springs is also an exhibition at Watch This Space in George Crescent. It shows the comic book in the making, the drawings that appear in its pages and more, as Santospirito worked on his adaptation. Until June 7.

Books delivered

13 Mar

Here is the boxes in our corridor … where they live now … forever!
Books!-01

Books!-02

Books!-03

Books!-04

Books!-05