Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hello And Thanks For The Fish

With all the recent discussion about how grim things are in the publishing world and the uncertainty in the market with developing electronic formats, I thought it might be nice to say thanks.

Even though things are challenging, and governments do spend lots on vast sport stadiums, there are people in government at various levels who are working to support the arts. And publishers and editors who go beyond the call of duty for the sheer love of the written word.
I have plenty of writer friends who have received Federal and State government arts grants - either to travel to a conference, attend training or to support the completion of a particular project. I've always recognised this at a distance, and with a vague suspicion.

But earlier this week I attended the launch of the 2009 One Book Many Brisbanes anthology. This is a local Brisbane City Council (Brisbane is the capital of the state of Queensland) initiative that has been running for five years now. I was lucky enough to get a story in the 2009 anthology, and in the first OBMB anthology in 2005. This is how the BCC is supporting the development of local authors, and providing a way of recognising them.

I took the whole family to the launch - and the spread they provided put many a book launch to shame. My kids attacked like locusts and it was funny to see how many thrifty authors made the most of the free coffee, teas, cakes and savoury snacks.

The BCC is so behind this initiative that the Lord Mayor Campbell Newman came himself to launch the book and swan about with the local creative crop (our Lord Mayor has been short listed along with 25 others for the World's Best Mayor - bit of fun trivia).

Here is Campbell Newman, me and the kids (Sandra is taking the photo):

It was nice to actually feel like a valued author. At the time it really struck me how fantastic this whole program was - and how great that our local government was so committed to the development of creativity in Brisbane (BCC are looking to develop creativity across all areas -- science and technology as well).

This is the third time I have met Campbell Newman (one at the prior OBMB, the other at the launch of another Brisbane-based antho). He is a very personable fellow, and with our joint background in engineering (he was a Civil), we tend to gabble on quite easily.

My wife was highly amused to see us rabbiting on about the restoration of the old Brisbane town hall (as was his minder). See photo below:

So thanks BCC! You can read all the stories from the 2009 OBMB (Including Yours Truly's) on-line here:

So what other government programs have helped you? What publishers or editors have gone out of their way to give you a boost?


Sarah A. Hoyt said...

You know, Chris, perhaps it's my background but I think of governments at all levels as I think of the devil, so I'm very grateful to them for staying out of my way ;)

As for editors who've helped me... Well, there was Jim Baen who picked me up when no one would touch me after the unspectacular launch of my career. Without him, all people would ever have seen was my first three books. And there's Toni who took the horrible cover of my first Baen book (As far as we can tell, Jim was having a series of mini-strokes for a while, so that accounts for his choosing it so no, not bitching) and minimized it for the hard cover, then replaced it for the pback. Which accounts for the used pback selling for twice as much as the hc.
If I'm being thankful, I'll also mention my agent, Lucienne. She's my fourth agent, so I know the breed, and I was starting to think all agents give up on the book after it goes out and has two rejections. Lucienne doesn't change her opinions of my work because/when it's rejected, and keeps pushing it LONG after I give up, in fact. This is wonderful, since sometimes I need an auxiliary external self-confidence unit, and Dan can't do anything. So, thanks to Lucienne for extraordinary agenting. Most of my sales wouldn't have happened without it.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dan can't do anything about sales. He does what he can to prop me at conferences and at home.

Da Curly Wolf said...

for some reason the title of this makes me want to find a dolphin and say 'take me too! take me too!'

Anonymous said...

Our very own Sarah bought my first pro-sale story for Something Magic This Way Comes. The "out of the way" part means (to me) that I was even invited to submit...a virtual nobody invited to submit to a closed anthology...wheee! It was on spec, of course, but it was a chance.

Julie Czerneda is always a wonderful helping-hand to new authors. She also invited me to one of those fabled closed anthologies, and then even invited me again after I didn't make the first one (made that one!). A big thanks also to Rob St. Martin who co-edited Ages of Wonder.

There are awesome editors out there who do their job with a measure of compassion. Only sometimes have I run across one who was just a jerk...most aren't.


Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Sarah. I think that is what many authors fear - having been finally picked up and launched having their career tank. Power on!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Da Curly Wolf. Thanks for picking up on the Hitchhikers Guide reference:) After I put that title up a started to worry it would be too obscure.

In this case the dolphins are coming back to Earth because of all the nice fish they can get.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Linda. I recently got my SF short Memories of Mars into Keith Stevenson's Anywhere But Earth Anthology. He emailed me and asked if I had anything to submit. Its a nice feeling to know that someone thinks you have the writing 'juice':)

Dave Freer said...

You know, Chris, South Africa and its kleptocracy and corruption have made me very very wary of government involvement in anything. That said - as when had the discussion on sports players vs author income, I do DO there is a place for government to use public money to provide the growth medium for POPULAR arts (or the popularity of art, writing, music, dance). One Book many Brisbanes is IMO a great eg of doing this constructively. The huge HUGE HUUUUUGE danger is arts funding in any shape is seen as 1)support for a agenda, especially one which could never engender popular support. Typical egs are politically correct platforms of 'social awareness' and narrow little elitist 'arts'. So: for eg back in my old country a music group doing an AIDS play SARAFINA II(which was appallingly bad) got tens of millions, most of which was trousered, Opera - which is expensive and attracts very very small audiences had a generous sponsorship... writing? what? And if there had been it would be carefully tailored to 'literary', politically correct, and impossible to make 'popular'. In sports terms - like building a multi-million dollar stadium for earthworm racing...
2)A wholly indecent amount of the Arts funding in SOuth Africa went... to running the arts department, and paying its staff salaries that they could never have earned as artists/writers/actors/dancers.
3)If you wnated any kind of funding - cronyism was essential, and your proposal had to be politically acceptable, pleasing to eye of the funders (not the public) and... here is the kicker, unable to fund itself. ie. You weren't taking small, successful ventures and growing them (the little AFL club with a grass field and bleachers but 500 adoring local supporters - and help them build a stadium) but failing/failed enterprises 'to stop them being lost'. Now I don't want Scots dancing lost. Or isiskatamaea singing. I think there is value and people who would like an appreciate them - if they can be reached. But funding that just replaces reaching audiences doesn't do that.

Hmm. long diatribe. Anyway : government money should make it possible for artists to reach audiences and make themselves popular and successful. If it can't do that then it's charity and self-serving at that.

People in publishing who have helped me - the babelfish :-) Eric Flint particularly and Toni Weisskopf.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, when I hear about government funding the arts, I tend to go screaming into the night. Part of the reason is I tend to distrust the government when it comes to wisely distributing money for anything. For another, I've seen too much of our "arts" monies go for things that truly do NOT promote or protect the arts. Still, I'd love for there to be some way for it to work. So, I guess I'm sitting here with fingers crossed that someone will finally get a clue.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Dave. I agree on the way arts funding can be used to fit agendas, or support pet arts. I have seen a bit of trend for arts funding proposals to hit the latest PC thinking, but in Aus am happy to consider that a minor element. Must be a lot worse when the whole system is out of kilter!

Hope the fishing has been good:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Amanda. Am I picking up a trend here? I guess the problem with being suspicious of governments is that is so often justified. I guess it is our job to stay alert for this sort of thing - and let people know if we see it.


Anonymous said...

Yaaay, Chris! I'll check the book out when it's available :).


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Wow Chris, I cant' believe that is your little girl.

I remember when she was in the stroller and used to come along to our critiquing sessions.

Anonymous said...

I think the difference is in perspective. Your local government is something that you and your neighbors can do something about. They really are answerable to you.

Once you start talking about the State government, your whole city tends to be only one of many voices, and your major doesn't have the clout to help you, and the representative you elected is under paid and only one voice among many.

The federal government is simply one more step removed from your influence and control. And with every layer of distance and dilution of your voice, they start forgetting that they are _your_ employees.

Here, we are lucky if we have an approachable city government. I envy you yours.

Synova said...

My daughter is starting in a new high school for the arts this fall. It's a state school that the legislature had to pass a law specifically to allow them to have application and selective admission for because otherwise that's illegal for a state funded secondary school.

They don't have a creative writing track but have theater, music, dance and visual arts.

Of all the ways that the state could support the arts I think that this is one of the better ones. Professional artists and performers are employed but mostly its going to encourage students with desire and talent and give them opportunities and introductions and connections... and a three hour lab every afternoon.

They've sort of de-emphasized the idea that the students ought to be planning a career in the arts because, after all, what 13 or 14 year old really knows what they want to do with their lives. My daughter is going to start as a junior, though, and be in the first graduating class and she does know that she wants to be a professional artist.

She's also involved in a cartoonist's guild in town and has been taking life drawing classes that are provided with a grant. Again, I think that if money is going to be spent, spending it on education instead of on the production of "art" that would otherwise not be purchased is the way to go.

I once talked to a glass blower that was supported by a grant from the state of North Dakota. The deal of it was that he constructed an oven on wheels that could be taken all over the state for demonstrations. I'm not sure I necessarily approve but the terms were specifically educational and now he's still got the oven to do art shows and street fairs and what not. And it's a bit hard to get political about a hand blown glass vase.

Propaganda art, big municipal murals and theater productions with messages are entirely inappropriate. Someone with an agenda is welcome to paint the wall of a building, just not welcome to have other citizens pay for it.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...


the problem with teaching the arts is how much good is it doing? I totally agree, say, that a program with rigorous entrance requirements, run by real writers, and preferrably after school (so it places an onus on the student, to ensure he's motivated to be there, i.e. not just seat-filling) could be beneficial, particularly for kids like my two monsters who do NOT have writing parents. But most people who "teach writing" aren't working, money making professionals.

And yes, as busy as I am I have in the past and will again if anyone pings me, spend time teaching/counseling young writers. It's called paying it foward.