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Short story collection
LOST NOTES back in print:
Mar 12: Artist Starves in Garret: Shocker – that was not the headline though it might have been. In an informative article published by the Irish Times on March 1, Gemma Tipton revealed that a recent survey by Visual Arts Ireland yielded interesting, but unfortunately unsurprising, results. In the case of 580 exhibitions surveyed, not only were 43% of artists asked to contribute to exhibition expenditure, but basic production and installation costs incurred by the artists were not covered. In a staggering 77% of instances fees to artists for talks and workshops were NOT paid. Tipton points out that this survey was based on exhibits in publicly funded spaces rather than in private or commercial galleries – which goes to show what little respect the state has for art, despite tiresome clichés trotted out by hypocritical politicians bending our ear about the great Irish creative process; they’d much rather spend public funds topping up already grossly overpaid salaries. However, Tipton also makes the telling point that some of the fault for this scandalous situation rests with the readiness of too many artists to sacrifice being paid for the sake of exposure.
This excellent piece, which is well worth reading, begs the question: are there parallels between the world of the visual arts and that of the writer? Consider that Tipton goes on to say how artists are often told, ‘We aren’t in a position to give you a fee but we would like to show your work.’ Sounds familiar? You bet it does to writers whose work is often taken by magazine publishers with no payment whatsoever. Recently I read another piece which stated that a mere 3% of writers earn enough from their work to make a living. It seems you can apply a similar statistic to the art world. So for every John Grisham or Louis le Brocquy there are thirty-three others trying vainly to eke out an existence. Take the following example from my own writing career: a while back I was offered what seemed a reasonable reading fee to take part in an event about 180 kilometres from where I live. Nearer the date I was informed that no overnight accommodation would be provided, no restaurant vouchers, no travel expenses. The expectation was that it would be acceptable for this writer to sacrifice well over 50% of the fee on hotel, petrol and subsistence for what would effectively be two working days. Imagine a banker, lawyer, or executive saying yes to conditions like that? That experience of mine is due to the fact that many artists and writers shy away from implementing business model terms and conditions to their work simply because the world of commerce is anathema to them. And rightly so – the crass world of business has little in common with the creative world – but that attitude is a double-edged sword which leads to writers and artists being exploited.
Why do we put up with this? It’s partly a cultural problem caused by living in a society (perhaps I should say ‘living in an economy’ because these days life is increasingly about economy rather than society), where we are conditioned to accept ludicrous overpayment to certain elites whereas artists and writers are undervalued. Has it always been thus? Where are the great artistic patrons of former times? Where are the fine publishers of the past, willing to take a chance on the non-commercial, to publish something just because they deem it worthy of seeing the light of day rather than thinking through the pockets of the marketing men and other bean counters that run today’s publishing industry? Where are the grand independent bookshops – why have so many of them closed? Answers, as ever, on the back of a fiver – no, make it a tenner, the world of commerce is intruding and the garret needs a coat of paint. Gemma Tipton’s Irish Times article can be accessed here:
Feb 10: All of this week, starting today Monday, I’m the featured writer – what they brilliantly, and modestly, call the Makin’ It Happen Author – in the BAB (Be a Bestseller) inbox magazine. To view the item you have to register at www.beabestseller.com Thanks to Jennifer Aderhold and Michaela Zanello of BAB for this.
The short story collection LOST NOTES is now in full distribution. Print copies can be ordered from Amazon, Book Depository, Books Express, Alibris, etc. Prices vary but some include free delivery. Print distribution in independent Dublin outlets as follows: Winding Stair Bookshop (Ormond Quay), Books Upstairs on College Green, Connolly Books of Essex Street and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines. And of course it’s available from this site for 10 euro (or 8UK or 14US) including post & packing. Click the Lost Notes page on the menu bar for more details about this offer.
Jan 7: I’m no longer an editor of Albedo One Magazine, having taken the decision last summer to step down following publication of issue 44 towards the end of 2013. I was one of the founders along with John Kenny, Bob Neilson and Philippa (aka Brendan) Ryder at the magazine’s inception in Phillipa’s house in Knocklyon in February 1993, and felt that twenty years at the helm was long enough. I’ve also withdrawn from involvement with the Aeon Award for Short Stories despite being one of the organisers of that competition since its beginnings in late 2003 through to the conclusion of the 8th successful running of the event, also at the end of last year.
This is quite a change. I won’t know myself now with all the free time to devote to my own writing – and therein is the principal reason for my stepping down from both positions. The day-to-day running of the magazine and short story contest – reading submissions, dealing with enquiries, single order sales, back issues, postage and subscription renewals – all this ate into valuable writing time. Not that it was overly stressful or too time-consuming, but opening up emails every morning and dealing with magazine and contest matters had become a definite distraction, an energy-sapping deflection from what I should have been sitting at the PC for: to produce my own work. Also, as regular visitors to this site will know, my focus in recent years has shifted from genre writing to work of a different nature. I needed to clear the decks to dedicate myself more fully to this new direction my writing has taken. I look forward now to spreading my wings in different areas of the literary landscape.
So that’s it – a new year, a fresh start. Happily, it’s an amicable departure so I’m staying on as part of the Tuesday night meetings in town and wish Bob and Frank the best of luck in keeping Albedo One and the Aeon Award on the road for many years to come.