Six years ago this month we launched our very first title, Two Trickster Tales from Russia, by Sophie Masson and David Allan. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking too, we were on a steep learning curve and though we had high hopes of course for our fledgling little Press, we also knew big challenges lay ahead in an industry which is a lovely one to be in, but not easy either!
Six years later, we have published 29 books across our three imprints: Christmas Press, Eagle Books and Second Look–we have sold all over Australia, acquired an international rights agent, been shortlisted for literary awards, won a business award, worked with dozens of wonderful authors and illustrators, and achieved a high reputation amongst creators, readers, booksellers, agents, and reviewers. It’s been and continues to be an amazing adventure!
It’s that festive time of the year again–and to all our contributors, readers, friends and supporters the Christmas Press team sends the very best of wishes for a merry Christmas and a very happy and successful New Year! Thank you all for your support throughout 2016, and here’s looking forward to a great 2017!
It’s the official release week for the new edition, in our Second Look imprint, of multi-award winning author Libby Gleeson’s wonderful first novel, Eleanor Elizabeth!
To celebrate, we spoke to the author about the novel and what’s it like seeing it back in print. (Interview cross-posted from the Second Look website)
First of all, Libby, congratulations on the release of the new edition of Eleanor Elizabeth in Second Look! We are so thrilled to be bringing this wonderful novel back to a new generation of readers. In your new introduction to the book, you wrote about how the book came about. How does it feel like, revisiting your first novel?
It’s a strange experience. I feel so proud to see it back in print. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, I didn’t know if it would ever be published and so revisiting it brings back all the pleasures of creating it while at the same time fearing it would never see the light of day.
One of the striking things about this novel is the sense the reader gets of the natural environment, which has a real role to play in the story. How did you build up that vivid background?
I wrote the book while I was living in Europe so I was missing my homeland at the same time as wanting to place my characters there. I spent a lot of time focusing on my own memories of landscape and the difference between where the story starts and where the family moves and lives. The new environment helps shape the main character. It’s almost a character in the story.
Elizabeth’s diary is almost like a kind of time-travel device, plunging Eleanor back into the past. How did you recreate Elizabeth’s world?
I knew enough about rural life in the late nineteenth century – that’s the story of my mother’s family. I had to spend time looking at the kind of language Elizabeth would use. Diaries were a great help – especially Ethel Turner’s, despite it being about twenty years later.
You have gone on to become one of Australia’s most acclaimed and popular authors. What role do you think Eleanor, Elizabeth played in that?
The success of Eleanor, Elizabeth gave me confidence to keep going. I had written it while I was a member of a writing group in London and that group was very demanding in terms of finding the right image and language and sentiment. It encouraged experimentation. I still have that in my head as I write. I think I have also been lucky.
The Second Look edition of Eleanor Elizabeth is available in all good bookshops. ISBN: 9780994234070, RRp $18.99.
Over at the fabulous site Creative Kids Tales, there’s a great new series of interviews, Publishers in Focus, which aims at giving authors and illustrators an insight into publishing houses around the country and how manuscripts get selected for publication. And we’re honoured to be featured on it this week, as one of our directors, Sophie Masson, talks to CKT.
In this great interview, author Duncan Ball talks about his fabulous book, This School is Driving Me Nuts and Other Funny Plays for Kids, launch title for our Second Look imprint, which was published this month.
First of all, Duncan, congratulations on the publication of This School is Driving Me Nuts! We are delighted that it’s the launch title of our Second Look imprint. Can you tell us something about the process you went through, updating and revising the original plays from Comedies for Kids?
Authors rarely get to re-write their work after it’s published. It’s all set in stone once it’s a book. After Comedies for Kids was published I read and re-read the shorter plays out loud in schools. I could see that some of the jokes needed changing because either the kids didn’t get them or they just needed little changes to get bigger laughs. And when I saw some of the plays performed I could see how they could be improved. When Second Look agreed to re-publish the plays I had lots of notes about how to make the plays better and that’s exactly what I did.
You wrote a new play, “The Teeth of a Vampire”, for the new edition. What was that like, going back into the spirit and atmosphere of the collection to create something new?
I really enjoyed it. All I had to do was to re-read the other plays and I was back in the groove again. Writing comedy is very challenging but, when it works, it’s the best.
Plays suitable for children to perform–especially funny plays!–are not easy to find. Why do you think that is?
Kids love to read plays. I discovered this when I was working at the School Magazine at the NSW Department of Education. I think the reason for this is because plays don’t have all the (sometimes boring) description that other writing has. They also like the novelty of having the story all in dialogue. I think that many publishers avoid publishing plays for kids is that they’re afraid that parents won’t buy them. They’re wrong, of course.
What are your top tips for writing plays kids will enjoy?
It’s important to write what you enjoy reading. If you enjoy it there’s a good chance that others will too. When it comes to writing for kids an adult (like me) has to try to become a kid again. When I sit down to write I become the
twelve year old I was many many years ago.
Tell us about some of your favourite anecdotes regarding these plays.
There are so many things that have happened regarding these plays. Here are a couple of them that spring to mind:
Three of these plays were performed by First Nations kids (Cree Indian high school students) in Northern Saskatchewan in Canada. They took their productions to provincial and national competitions and won themselves a number of prizes. I was sent videos of the plays but I wish I could have been there to see the actual performances.
Recently, a woman contacted me to say that when she was in primary school she and her cousin acted out one of the plays, “Yak Attack” for their grandmother. Last month her grandmother was having her 90th birthday and said that she loved the play so much she wanted the women to act it out again—which they did.
We are very excited here at Christmas Press, because not only have we got some fabulous new titles coming up in our core Christmas Press Picture Books list–watch this space!–but we are also debuting two wonderful new imprints this year–Second Look Publishing and Eagle Books.
Second Look Publishing: New editions, in e-book and print on demand format, of classic out of print Australian children’s literature, featuring plays, poetry and fiction. Our launch title(March 2016) is a completely revised edition, with a new play added, of a hilarious collection of plays for children by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Craig Smith, which we’ve retitled This School is Driving Me Nuts and Other Funny Plays for Kids (originally published in 1988 as Comedies for Kids). It will be followed in July/August 2016 by a new illustrated edition of Libby Gleeson’s powerful first novel, Eleanor, Elizabeth. We plan to publish two-three Second Look titles a year.
Eagle Books: A new list also debuting in 2016, this will focus on adventure novels for older readers, by both classic and contemporary authors. The launch title (April 2016) is a magnificent limited edition of the first new English translation in over a hundred years of a great classic adventure novel by the legendary French author Jules Verne. Translated by distinguished translator Stephanie Smee, with illustrations by David Allan, Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff is a major publishing milestone!
Eagle Books will publish 1-2 titles a year.
More details on the Eagle Books and Second Look websites soon!
Interesting interview with Christmas Press co-director, Sophie Masson, on the Ink Ashlings blog. Here’s a small extract:
1. Tell us a bit about Christmas Press and its imprint Eagle books.
Christmas Press is a small children’s publisher, a partnership business between four creators: myself; illustrator and designer David Allan; author and illustrator Fiona McDonald; and writer and editor Beattie Alvarez. We started in 2013 and to date(March 2015) have published 4 books – three picture books featuring retellings of traditional tales – fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends by well-known authors(to date, Ursula Dubosarsky, Kate Forsyth, and myself, with more to come this year) and lavishly illustrated by emerging illustrators – in this case, David and Fiona (though more illustrators will come on board next year). We have also published a Christmas anthology, Once Upon A Christmas, with poems, stories and illustrations by lots of different authors and illustrators.
Christmas Press itself will continue to concentrate on those sorts of books but we have just started a new fiction imprint for young people, Eagle Books, which will concentrate specifically on adventure fiction. And very excitingly our launch title is the first new English translation in over a hundred years of the great Jules Verne classic, Mikhail Strogoff, which will be translated by Stephanie Smee, whose previous translations of the great classics by the Countess de Segur have been bestsellers.
2. What made you interested in setting up a small press?
We felt there was a gap in the market–and that there WAS a market for retellings of traditional stories, the kinds of books we weren’t seeing around but that we’d all grown up on, loved, and been inspired by. And then as Christmas Press developed, we felt there was also an opening for the kinds of very adventure-focussed fiction that Eagle Books will focus on.
First English translation in over a hundred years of Jules Verne adventure classic to launch new fiction imprint
Eagle Books, the brand-new fiction imprint of Christmas Press, are thrilled to announce that our launch title will be the first English translation in over a hundred years of one of the best adventure novels of all time, written by one of the most popular writers of all time: Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff.
First published in French in 1876 as Michel Strogoff, it is a rip-roaring tale of adventure and suspense, painted with romance and humour and set in pre-revolutionary Russia. Suitable for both adult and young readers from 11 and up, it is a book that’s inspired countless film and TV adaptations all over the world.
In France, it’s been a huge success from the word go, and has never been out of print, with most people considering it to be Verne’s best novel. But it has dropped out of sight in English-speaking countries as the original English translation–published well over a century ago!–is rather stodgy and dated for modern tastes.
But in Stephanie Smee’s perfectly-pitched, lively translation of the original 1876 French text, the first such translation in over a hundred years, English-speaking readers can discover for themselves just why this novel has such an enormous following not only in France but all over the world.
Stephanie is a Sydney-based translator who turned in a legal career to combine her true loves of literature and French. She is responsible for introducing the enormously successful works of much-loved French author, the Countess de Ségur, to a whole new generation of English-speaking children, and those translations have been bestsellers. To celebrate this major publishing event, we have just today launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund production of a beautiful collectible limited edition, not available on the general commercial market(commercial hardcover and paperback editions will follow later).
This exclusive collectible edition will be limited to 750 hand-numbered copies, with internal pages of soft cream paper, and each chapter featuring a delicate black and white illustration by artist David Allan. The cover will feature a full colour illustration by David Allan, set into high-quality textured red hardback binding, and the book will feature other special elements, such as coloured end-papers, a satin bookmark, and gold foil detail on front, spine and on book block edges.
This beautiful book will be available to Australian and New Zealand contributors for a pledge of AUD $55, postage included, and to all other international supporters for AUD $75, postage included. There are also many other levels of support, from $10 to $1000, and some truly fantastic perks for contributors, from commemorative bookmarks to playing cards, limited edition prints of the illustrations, authentic 19th century prints featuring Russian scenes, hand-painted book plates, and more.
The campaign will run till May 16, 2015.
We invite you to join us in bringing back this fantastic novel to English-speaking readers!