Topic: Writing from this side of the earth

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An article about producing Tauranga Writers 40th anniversary publication, This Side of the World: Tauranga Writers Celebrating 40 Years. Edited by Sue Emms and Jenny Argante.

Does anyone who hasn’t done it fully understand the hard work involved in putting a book together? I’ve been burning the midnight oil for weeks past working with fellow-writer Sue Emms on This Side of the World: Tauranga Writers Celebrating 40 Years.

The first consideration of any book is purpose. Ask yourself, “What’s this book for?” Ours is stated in the sub-title – a joyful gathering-up of poetry and prose by Tauranga Writers from 1967 to date.

Oh, the pleasure of delving into the past and discovering lost gems. We felt it was essential for a writer’s group – New Zealand’s longest-running - to make publication a prime objective. Our group’s purpose is writing: the purpose of the book to prove it.

Our next two considerations had to be content and format.

Content is what goes into a book. In this instance, 99 carefully-chosen pieces from 51 contributors. Such diversity of writing creates a perfect sampler of Tauranga’s literary history. Though most writers are past or present members, one or two have a more tenuous connection.

Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s musing on ‘The True Voice’ was written as her judge’s report for a story competition. Poet Heather McPherson was published by the Tauranga Moana Press, now defunct; before she went on to co-found Spiral, the nation’s first feminist publisher.

Format meant deciding how to present our book. The cover, designed by Sue, is in soft reds, because This Side of the World salutes our ruby jubilee. What size? A4 was too big; A5 too small. Quarto was the perfect compromise.

How many pages? Anything less than 72 is a floppy booklet. Anything over 200 and binding costs escalate. We ended up with 188.

Print on the page is of prime importance, too. Ours is Arial Narrow, point 9. Clean-looking, and not too tricky for older eyes.

All decisions are easier when you trust your book producer to work with you. We chose Publish Me! the innovative Print-On-Demand (POD) service from Zenith Print, New Plymouth. POD means you can order a minimal print run at minimal unit cost – and reprint as the orders roll in.

We hope our book looks good enough to catch your eye and open your purse. We hope it’s so engrossing you won’t come storming in to demand your money back.

Unlikely, with contributors of the calibre of Jean Bennett, now an award-winning children’s writer; Field Candy, one of the first Kiwi conservationists; and Bronwyn Elsmore, writer of half a dozen books and plays.

Plus a long list of the tried and true: humorist Bill Kearns; the versatile Ruby Corbet; Barbara Murray, now a stalwart of Friends of the Library; the spine-chilling imagination of Rod Thurlow; Verna Dowrick, who founded a writing dynasty; Canadian-in-exile Kay Holmes; gentleman-soldier H.D. Wilson, who found romance in an old folks’ home, and the indomitable Susan Dassler, who died 101 years young.

And a few forgotten voices …

If you want to know exactly who and what you’ll find in This Side of the World, come to our book launch on June 23rdat 6 pm, our 40th birthday, at the Hotel Armitage in Willow Street.

Admission is free. The book costs $29.95.

First published as a Tauranga Writers’ ‘Write Place’ column in The Bay of Plenty Times for Saturday 2nd June 2007

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Writing from this side of the earth