Browsing Tag

book launch

Launching in the time of COVID

17 September 2020

Launching a book into the world can be a strange and surreal experience at the best of times, but launching a book into a pandemic just got a whole lot stranger. Authors have been forced to adjust to new technologies and ways of engaging with readers, and reconcile themselves to the fact that events are now all via a screen. So I asked three authors how their recent book releases compare with their previous books — back when we were all naïve and thought pandemics belonged only in novels. Laura Elvery, Elizabeth Tan and Mirandi Riwoe share the best and the worst of their book babies going out during the time of COVID.

Laura Elvery
In the week after Ordinary Matter came out, my sister and I drove to Brisbane bookshops following an itinerary my publicist had organised. I don’t remember doing this for my first book. It was new to head into a shop and try to non-awkwardly introduce myself. It was new to sign piles of books and try to note all the locations of stacks around the shop. And the whole time sanitising, sanitising, sanitising. (Also new was somebody at one of the shops saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you had COVID because then you would have taken down all the bookstores in town?’ INDEED! A good joke!)

Strangely, I felt both a little more armoured than I did with my first book (a thicker skin, no newborn baby strapped to my chest, less time on my hands now to fret) but also less armoured (turns out some people actually knew I’d written a book and were waiting for it). In late February 2018 I was about 38 weeks pregnant. The launch for Trick of the Light was this incredibly fun party with 100 people, and it was, for me, all about making it to the event in one piece. A week or so either side and I’d have to reschedule. Look at photos of me that night and I’m just beaming — I’d made it. One week later my son made it into the world too. I sat up in the hospital bed with a stack of copies that Avid Reader had sent along for signing, my baby asleep beside me.

Continue Reading…

But, look. A book during a pandemic! Could be worse! The good bits: in Brisbane, I can actually go into bookstores and spot Ordinary Matter on a table. I had more people at this Zoom launch than at the one in 2018. My sister-in-law and my little niece sat at their dining table in Copenhagen and watched. My oldest friend in the world, now living in Townsville, could watch. I got messages from writers in other parts of Australia who tuned in. My next-door neighbour could both hear me speaking through our shared apartment wall AND through her laptop. Good times!

More good bits: that I’m published at all. That Ordinary Matter remains a 2020 title and was pushed back only by one month, not a whole year, or not indefinitely. Podcasts and radio interviews. Good reviews coming in. That it’s a privilege to be reviewed at all. That it’s validating to have reviewers mention my second book in the context of the first. That there was a first book at all.

But some disappointing parts remain. I have friends whose books have been delayed, and friends whose livelihoods have suffered. No events at any bookshop, full-stop. No in-person Q&As. After years of writing the damn thing and then receiving early invites to writers’ festivals — no writers’ festivals. That all feels a bit sad. No line of loved ones waiting for their copy to be signed, waiting to grab a hug and a photo and a glass of wine together down the road.

Next time.

Laura Elvery is the author of two short story collections, Trick of the Light and Ordinary Matter, published by UQP in September 2020. She has won several short story prizes in Australia and her work is published in Griffith Review, The Saturday Paper, Meanjin and Overland. Laura has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies. She lives in Brisbane.

Elizabeth Tan
My first book, Rubik, was launched into the world by the exuberant Brooke Davis in April 2017, at Beaufort Street Books in North Perth. While I remember the night of Rubik’s launch with incredible fondness and gratitude, I also remember hanging from tenterhooks of nervousness for the entire month. Will enough people turn up? How much wine should I buy? How am I supposed to act among all these people from various social groups smooshed together, all of whom know a different me? How can I sufficiently convey my appreciation to everyone?

Smart Ovens for Lonely People launch

As the days crept closer to the June 2020 publication date of my second book, Smart Ovens for Lonely People, I worried about enduring all those anxieties again, but without that propelling energy which accompanies the release of a debut.

In late March 2020, when the whole country was locking down, my publisher, Alice Grundy, emailed me to ask if I wanted to delay the release of Smart Ovens. It was impossible for us to know the best decision. Certainly, I could see the benefit of waiting. But I knew it in my heart: it was time for the book to leave my hands.

The last story I wrote for Smart Ovens was ‘Ron Swanson’s Stencilled ’Stache’, whose protagonist is an ASMR YouTube artist. At the time Alice emailed me, virtual literary events were already popping up. I realised I’d been given the strange gift of not having to organise and navigate a big social gathering. ‘A virtual launch wouldn’t be totally out of character for this book,’ I eventually replied to Alice, adding: ‘e.g. an ASMR-themed launch?’

The launches of Rubik and Smart Ovens were incomparably different experiences — I can’t say one was better than the other. Some of my anxieties persisted, or were replaced with new anxieties, especially about the technical aspects of the launch. My partner, Shane, helped me work out the best way to record, edit, subtitle, and broadcast the launch — I couldn’t have done it without him.

One nice thing about the virtual launch was that people outside my hometown could attend and participate — especially Alice, who I’ve met in person only a handful of times. Alice recruited Bram Presser and Jane Rawson to record ASMR videos to contribute to the launch, which they did spectacularly. I also appreciated that friends who missed out on the live broadcast could still watch the launch later.

What I love most about online events is that there’s a tremendous amount of goodwill — nobody expects perfection. It’s clear that everyone is using the tools, props and software that they have on-hand. We have to be resourceful and imaginative like children. On the day of the broadcast of my launch, with the live chat humming, I felt very much like a child putting on a bizarre, gleeful play for my friends. Together, we cultivated a sweet, peculiar kind of intimacy — a perfect fit for Smart Ovens for Lonely People.

Elizabeth Tan is a writer from Perth, Western Australia. Her first book, Rubik, was published in 2017 by Brio. Her second book, Smart Ovens for Lonely People, was shortlisted for the 2020 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. View the Smart Ovens launch: https://youtu.be/zR41sptHI-A.

Mirandi Riwoe
At the very end of February this year, when coronavirus still seemed a distant problem, my husband and I flew to Los Angeles. We stayed in Santa Monica and visited family, rode rental bikes, ate out on the crowded pier, caught Ubers everywhere. By about 5 March, we heard news that a couple of LAX workers had contracted COVID-19 and that people in Australia were hoarding toilet paper. First, I said to my husband, jokingly, ‘I wonder if we should take some toilet paper home with us’, and then, more seriously, ‘I wonder if my book launch will go ahead.’

‘Of course it will,’ he said. ‘It’s on the 27th! Nothing’s going to happen in such a short time.’

Ha.

By the time we arrived back in Australia on the 9th, health warnings and restrictions were kicking off. It’s hard to remember how quickly everything happened, but over the next two weeks, the number of people who could attend my book launch at Avid Reader bookstore shrunk, until only a handful of people, including staff, could be spaced out on their deck. And did I really want to put older people, like my father, at risk? (My mother and two adult children had already had to cancel their air tickets to attend my launch.) Luckily, over the week before my launch the lovely people at Avid Reader practiced Zoom meetings with me a few times, and a couple of days before I was to have my launch, we all decided it was best if we went ahead with a Zoom launch instead. I think I had the first Zoom launch in Australia.

I dressed up — just as I would have if I’d had an in-person launch — in a lace cheongsam, put on my red lippy and perched on my dragon couch in front of my computer clutching a glass of champagne. Of course, I would have preferred to be surrounded by loved ones cheering me on, to hug, to gulp down a little too much wine while signing my book, (I had badges and magnets made up to give away with each book), to eat the cupcakes UQP were going to provide with my book cover iced on top, to go next door to Chop Chop Changs and eat noodles with said loved ones. But there were upsides to the Zoom launch. I get terribly nervous talking in front of a crowd, so speaking to the screen was a little less harrowing. And I got to clutch my daughter’s guinea pigs during question time. The best part of the Zoom event, though, was that so many lovely people who could not have attended the live event ended up coming to my Zoom launch — interstate family, writers and readers, who I love and admire.

Mirandi’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain launch

Missing out on a live launch is such a miniscule thing in the scale of what is happening this year. And I’m so grateful for how supportive readers and other writers have been during this fraught period. Back in March it was very difficult to know what was going to happen. At first I wondered if the release of Stone Sky Gold Mountain should be postponed, but by the time we realised lockdowns and restrictions were going to take place, it was too late. Thankfully, a lot of people have found time to read over the last six months and I hope people continue to find solace in books. There are just so many great novels coming out, despite this pandemic.

Mirandi Riwoe’s novel Stone Sky Gold Mountain won the Queensland Literary Award for Fiction 2020. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella V and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and the Queensland Literary Award for Fiction.

To go in the draw win a book pack of Laura Elvery’s Ordinary Matter, Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People and Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain simply sign up to my newsletter (sign-up box on this page).

Megumi and the Bear Sydney launch

24 July 2013

On a foggy Saturday morning with Canberra due to reach just eight degrees we packed our kids into the car and headed for Sydney and its positively balmy 21 degrees. Some three hours later we rolled into the CBD. My bloke managed to drive up a bus-only road but then scored a street-side park just around the corner from Kinokuniya. A miracle frankly, or, if I was superstitious, a sign that it was going to be a good day. I’m not, but it certainly was.

AAIMG_0357As Allyx from Kinokuniya said when introducing us, it’s not often that you get both the author and illustrator in the same room. Especially given that Craig (once a Sydney-sider) now lives in New Zealand, and I’m down the highway in Canberra.

Craig kicked things off by talking about the back story. If you haven’t heard about Megumi and the Bear’s long and strange road to publication you can read about it in The Canberra Times here. I followed up with a reading of the book (a lovely hush descended over the room).

Continue Reading…

Irma Gold_Megumi and the Bear launchAnd then Craig gave a show and tell that revealed the evolution of the artwork. Craig explained that the original bear (pictured below) was based on his friend, Zimzam, who had a mohawk. When Walker accepted the book for publication they asked Craig to make the bear more realistic. Needless to say Zimzam wasn’t pleased, but Craig was glad Walker made the call. I love our final (terribly sweet) bear but I still feel attached to his endearing teddy-like predecessor who inspired my story.

Then it was time for a tandem book signing. It’s always fun meeting readers and my favourite moment was writing a dedication to a baby born that very morning. I even got to see a snap of the gorgeous little man.

While the parents queued and we signed, the kids got busy with craft, making bear masks and decorating bear biscuits and cupcakes. Most of the kids used the technique my six-year-old self would have employed – cramming on as much icing and as many silver balls as possible. I’m sure my two-year-old son consumed more sugar in that one hour than in his lifetime thus far.

And that’s a wrap! My two older kids declared it ‘the best launch ever’, though truth be told they said that about the Megumi Canberra launch and will probably say it about whatever book launch we go to next. Afterall, what’s not to love about books and food and fun?

Special thanks must go to my bloke who did a damn good job of snapping these pics while wrangling our sugar-high, sleep-deprived toddler. And to all the sponsors who donated items for the launch to help make it such a special occasion: National Library of Australia, The Teddy Bear Shop (Canberra), Walker Books, Kinokuniya Bookstore, and The Art of Teddy Bears.

For lots more photos of all the Sydney launch shenanigans head to my Facebook page.

Megumi and the Bear launch prep

20 July 2013

Tomorrow is another big day for Megumi and the Bear as launch number two hits Sydney town. We’ve got lots of good stuff planned. Fifty teddy bears to give away for starters (thanks to The Art of Teddy Bears) along with this pile of goodie bags. Kids will get to make their own bear mask (a hit at the Canberra launch). I’ll be there to give a reading, and illustrator extraordinaire, Craig Phillips, is over from New Zealand with his original art for a show and tell that I am so looking forward to.

Unlike the Canberra launch, I’ve only done a little baking this time (some cute gingerbread bears for the goodie bags), but the Kinokuniya Bookstore staff are baking lots of bears for the kids to decorate (and eat!) on the day.

So tomorrow we’ll be packing our three excited kids into the car and heading to Sydney. If you’re a local come on down and join us for a jam-packed hour of fun at Kinokuniya from 2pm. Hurrah!

Thanks to all the sponsors: National Library of Australia, The Teddy Bear Shop (Canberra), Walker Books, Kinokuniya Bookstore, and The Art of Teddy Bears.

Megumi and the Bear’s big day

20 June 2013

Organising a kids’ book launch is THE best fun. It’s one step up from a kids’ birthday party and it’s no secret among my friends that I enjoy planning my children’s parties as much as they do. So organising Megumi and the Bear’s big day has been a blast.

Naturally I was hoping for a good turnout but I never dared hope for the kind of crowd that crammed into Paperchain last Saturday. With 65 kids plus their accompanying big people there wasn’t much room to move. It was wild! So often book launches end up being attended mostly by friends and colleagues, so it was wonderful to look around the room and see it filled with unfamiliar faces.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The day before the launch I baked up a Megumi and the Bear-themed storm. My personal favourite? Snowballs, aka cake pops dipped in white chocolate glaze and rolled in coconut. Just because I liked the idea of them, and they tasted pretty good too. Not that I got a look in on the day. The kids swept in and left not a crumb (well maybe a few on the floor). But that’s just as it should be.

Continue Reading…

We kicked off with a book reading — the first time I’ve read Megumi and the Bear to an audience, so that was pretty special. And there’s nothing quite as lovely as a carpet full of wide-eyed kids.

020_Megumi Book Launch

While I signed books (including one for a Megumi who lives in Japan — how brilliant is that?), the kids ate bear cupcakes and biscuits, jelly cups, and those snowballs (thankfully they were only thrown into mouths).

Then the kids hit the craft table, making a bear mask each, and the goodie bags disappeared in a wild flurry. We drew the lucky door prize, and thanks to generosity of Meg at The Teddy Bear Shop we handed out impossibly soft teddy bears with the first 50 book purchases to some very happy kids.

After an hour of loud and raucous fun, everyone left clutching their goodie bags, books and bears, high on sugar and words. And the best bit? All of it. Because picture books are where it all begins, and playing even the teensiest part in fostering a lifelong love of reading is as good as it gets.

Next stop Sydney! If you’re in the area on 20 July at 2 pm come and join us for Megumi mark two. The illustrator Craig Phillips is flying in from New Zealand to be there, and bringing with him some original Megumi art. There’ll be more giveaways and food and craft. In short, it’ll be a beary good time. (Forgive me, I just couldn’t help myself.)

Finally a very BIG thank you to all the organisations that donated items for the goodie bags: Walker Books, National Library of Australia, Sugar Station and The Teddy Bear Shop. And to photographer Ash Peak who took all these gorgeous snaps.

For more photos from the launch head to my Facebook page. And if you still haven’t got your Megumi fill, Kids Book Review’s photo spread of the launch is here.

books and bears

7 June 2013

The Megumi and the Bear Canberra launch is just eight sleeps away and I’m starting to feel that inevitable mixture of nervous excitement. Planning a kids book launch is like planning a kids party—there’s an awful lot to do—but it’s wicked fun. Take last night when Meg from The Teddy Bear Shop dropped off this massive bag of teddy bears. Fifty of the softest little guys, each with their own birth certificate. My kids went goggle-eyed. Thanks to The Teddy Bear Shop’s generosity we get to hand these out at the launch with every book purchase. Now, how cool is that?

Hope to see some of you there with kids attached. It’s on Saturday 15 June, 2 pm at Paperchain Bookstore. They’ll also be goodie bags for all the kids attending, a lucky door prize, lots of yummy food, craft activities, and a book reading. RSVP to Paperchain on info@paperchainbookstore.com.au or 6295 6723. It’s gonna be fun!