Patrick Allington’s launch speech for We. Are. Family.

Patrick Allington launched Paul Mitchell’s We. Are. Family. with a terrific speech in Adelaide on Friday 9 September 2016. Several people have asked for the speech, so who here it is, in all its glory:

We. Are. Family.

We. Are. Family.

What can I tell you about Paul Mitchell’s We. Are. Family? … What I won’t do is introduce the characters or give you a detailed account of the plot. You should experience those things for yourself. The story unfolds less like a flower opening (despite the arresting cover image) and more like the pulling of sticks, one at a time, from a great pile of wood. And when you read this book, prepare yourself for splinters.

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

I can tell you that We. Are. Family. spans three generations of men and women, boys and girls. The story of the Stevensons — an ordinary mainstream Aussie family name, isn’t it — unfolds in episodes and with time’s natural order disrupted. Over the decades, the Stevensons live in towns and cities, together and apart (or apart, alone, it often seems, even when they’re living under the same roof). They marry, they separate, they go to school, they bicker, they come together, they procreate, they punch each other (or they punch strangers in pubs), they drift, they die, they cheat, they mythologise, they drink tinnies. The story comes together in a disjoined, disrupted fashion — that’s a compliment, not a complaint — and the gaps in the story are themselves ripe with meaning.

Patrick Allington

Patrick Allington

I can tell you that the three G’s — God, George Orwell, and Gary Ablett Snr — inhabit the pages of We. Are. Family. Footy is everywhere in this story — from country grudge matches to the topline Melbourne stuff. On the one hand, to many readers, including me, as well as to many of the book’s characters, AFL is familiar, comforting, central to the universe. But on the other hand, it elevates a certain sort of male bonding, a certain type of team-first ethos, and, especially, a certain sort of ritualised violence. All this is real, acceptable, celebrated, symbolic … in other words, the mass allegiance to AFL has its messy and excluding elements. As for God and George Orwell — and UFOs, for that matter — they can be whatever their believers want them to be.

I can tell you that the mood of We. Are. Family. is that of a thunderstorm permanently about to break. And that as you read, tentacles of dysfunction will twist around your wrist. We. Are. Family. gazes unblinkingly — but compassionately — at a certain sort of Aussie bloke: his attitude to life, his behaviour towards women, his capacity for violence (so casual, so embedded, so deceptively innocent or even childlike (or so we manage to believe), so seemingly natural, like the tides). You may react differently when you read it, but to me, We. Are. Family speaks in an unadorned and eloquent way about mainstream Australia, not least our remarkable ability — an almost literally fantastic ability —to avert our collective gaze. By coincidence, the book I read before We. Are. Family. was Charlotte Wood’s novel about misogyny, The Natural Way of Things. These two novels are very different in tone and approach, but they speak to each other, I think. As with The Natural Way of Things, We. Are. Family will bounce off the walls of your mind, demanding a response, demanding engagement, demanding, I think, something more than merely reading and basking in the warm inner glow of feeling ‘informed’.

The Crowd

The Crowd

I can tell you that despite its raw tone and its challenging themes, We. Are. Family. is a funny book — it doesn’t set out to be comic, but it is devastatingly wry. The humour can be searing — because it’s honest — and yet somehow hopeful and open. This is a world in which everything stops for an AC/DC concert:

‘It wasn’t as if AC/DC needed him to be presentable. But, shit, it was a big occasion for him. Kind of like a wedding. Bigger, really, but he’d never tell Kerryn that. For obvious reasons.’

Shortly after this moment, the story gets very serious indeed — a good example of the novel’s deliberately jarring momentum.

All of what I’ve told you so far reflects my experience of reading We. Are. Family. But none of it — even if I lump all these points together — fully captures what I most liked about this novel, which is the potency of its details, such as,

‘Soon the sky turned rough charcoal like the barbeque when Ron forgot to clean it.’

or

‘He shouldn’t have bothered having a go at fried rice because he never knew how much soy sauce and how many peas.’

or

‘Your father is under a lot of pressure,’ his mum says, and Peter wonders, if UFOs exist, can they see in windows? [74]

We. Are. Family reverberates with details, with specifics.

Paul and editor Lynette Washington

Paul and editor Lynette Washington

A word about MidnightSun. Independent publishing is a hard slog, and so often a thankless task. But if we want the national conversation to actually be a national conversation, we need small independent publishers at least as much as — probably more than — we need Penguin Random House. We need different gatekeepers with different models and priorities. Not least, we need different ideas about what constitutes (that dirty word) ‘excellence’. And we need publishers — more than a few — who do not operate out of, and think differently to, Sydney or Melbourne (much as, of course, we love Sydney and Melbourne people). Diversity doesn’t happen by us waving our arms about and hoping for the best. So I thank MidnightSun for fighting the good fight.

And I thank MidnightSun for publishing this book … We. Are. Family is a novel that has a great deal to say about Australia, not all of it pleasant, but it is not a novel that preaches or condemns. The characters are often in conflict, with themselves or with others. They sometimes seem to crave peace, but just as often they seem to go out of their way to scupper peace. The Sister Sledge song ‘We are family’ has become a celebrated anthem for solidarity. The novel We. Are. Family offers an ambiguous, tense, fractured solidarity … but still a solidarity of sorts. I commend it to you. Buy it, read it, think about it, talk back to it.

Patrick Allington

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Call for submissions – Love anthology

DEADLINE EXTENDED! Submissions now due Friday 2 December 2016!

MidnightSun has teamed up with Flinders University to create a short story anthology in 2017. The theme is ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ because it’s about romantic love, in any of its guises. We would particularly love unusual interpretations of the theme. Word length is max. 3000 words. Submissions will be judged blind, so please don’t put your name on the submission itself.

Please send all submissions as word document attachments to anthology@midnightsunpublishing.com, with ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ in the subject line. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact Lynette Washington at lynette@midnightsunpublishing.com.

Ain't Love Grand Anthology

Ain’t Love Grand Anthology

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Wild Gestures Review

The first review of Lucy Durneen’s short story collection Wild Gestures has appeared in Books+Publishing and we couldn’t possibly be happier:

‘This is an intriguing collection of short stories where things are seldom what they seem and characters are preoccupied by their past actions. Shaped less by plot than by precise and evocative imagery, they are psychologically acute portraits of people dealing with grief or change.’

Wild Gestures cover

Wild Gestures

‘The stories can be bleakly funny; when one character’s heart freezes over, she compares the spread of ice with the spread of cancer, coolly remarking that both seem inevitable if you don’t heed the standard warnings.’

‘There is something vicious at the heart of these stories, something dark which unfurls and unsettles. In UK writer Lucy Durneen, MidnightSun has found someone who revels in the imaginative possibilities of language while simultaneously exploring its inability to adequately express what people mean. Distinguished by its measured yet speculative style, these stories will appeal to readers of Cate Kennedy and Mary Gaitskill.’

4.5 out of 5 stars

Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance writer, copywriter and editor

You can read the entire review here: http://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2016/09/27/74021/wild-gestures-lucy-durneen-midnightsun/

It is the top book with most stars for the month of January!

Keep an eye out for Wild Gestures to kickstart the MidnightSun Year of Stories 2017

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Lucy Durneen

Lucy Durneen

Lucy Durneen

Lucy Durneen lectures in English and Creative Writing in Plymouth, England, and is Assistant Editor of the literary journal Short Fiction. Her short stories, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in World Literature Today, The Manchester Review, The Letters Page, The Lightship Anthology and Litro, amongst other places. She has been shortlisted four times for the Bridport Prize, Highly Commended in the 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Lucy’s short story collection Wild Gestures will be published in January 2017.

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Wild Gestures

Wild Gestures cover

Wild Gestures

by Lucy Durneen

PB 208 | 198 x 129 | ISBN: 9781925227208
$24.99 | Short Stories | Also available as ebook
MidnightSun Publishing | Distributed by NewSouth

A daughter flies into a painting to escape her overprotective mother. An exchange student sees green lights in the sky above South America and fears the worst. Against the backdrop of an Italian bird market, a holidaying teenager makes her first attempt at seduction. And an affair that never happens is deconstructed while tigers pace in a European zoo.

Wild Gestures is the first collection from British writer Lucy Durneen, bringing together stories of loss, desire and opportunities missed, all orbiting the painful knowledge that the things we most long for remain the furthest from reach.

Wild Gestures is due for release in January 2017 but you can buy the book on pre-order now.

Postage is $5 for Australia and $10 for the rest of the world.

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Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell’s wry and moving considerations of society’s undercurrents chronicle an unsettlingly recognisable Australia. His three poetry collections have received national prizes and wide acclaim, and his short story collection Dodging the Bull was included in the 2008 The Age Summer Read program. He is also a playwright, screenwriter and essayist.

Mitchell’s varied oeuvre explores the beauty in the seemingly mundane, the troubled history of Australian masculinity, and finds spirituality in the murky depths of life. He has continued this exploration with his sensitive and rugged first novel, We. Are. Family.

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Z F Kingbolt

Z F Kingbolt

Z F Kingbolt

Z.F. Kingbolt has had a varied career including lawyer, scientist, engineer, journalist, biologist and teacher, so it took a while to discover that writing books was the best thing ever. A slitherphobe, Kingbolt hates snakes and burnt toast, but loves gaming, technology, geology and skateboarding.

MidnightSun Publishing is publishing his/her/their novel Into Torden in November 2016.

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Into Tordon

Into Tordon cover

Into Tordon

by Z.F. Kingbolt

PB 256 | 198 x 129 | ISBN: 9781925227147
$17.99 | Fiction Ages 8-14 | Also available as ebook
MidnightSun Publishing | November 2016
Distributed by NewSouth Books

Only champions dare to enter!

Thirteen-year-old Beth has been waiting for weeks to play in the championship of her favourite online game, Tordon. Now tribes of beastmen roar through her speakers. Game on! She plays to win, until her gaming nemesis Zane challenges her to a real-life risk that has them sucked into a strange world where they must push their skills to the limit just to survive!

Faced with riddles, a multitude of dangerous creatures, exotic cultures and scientific impossibilities, Beth and Zane are forced to take on challenge after challenge if they’re ever to return home.

‘a pacy, exciting read’ Books+Publishing

• The perfect Christmas present for reluctant as well as voracious young readers

• Z.F. Kingbolt is the pseudonym for 9 dedicated writers who are working as one.

Into Tordon is due for release in November 2016 but you can buy the book on pre-order now.

Postage is $5 for Australia and $10 for the rest of the world.

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CBCA Awards

MidnightSun Publishing is extremely honoured and proud that our first picture book, One Step at a Time written by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Sally Heinrich, has been chosen as an Honour Book in this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards.

You can read more about the book and the CBCA Awards in this article from The Advertiser: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/one-step-at-a-time-by-jane-jolly-wins-honour-in-cbca-book-of-the-year-awards/news-story/2293fbd2b04faecd6caaf65690ef2f94

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time has been a wonderful success from its humble beginnings as a crowdfunded project in 2014, to being picked up by Scholastic Standing Orders and going out to school libraries around Australia in 2015 and now being shortlisted and ultimately winning Honour Book in the Picture Book category in 2016.

The happy MidnightSun team – Jane, Sally and publisher Anna – was in Sydney to receive the award.

The CBCA Awards

The CBCA Awards

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Introducing Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell is the latest writer to join the MidnightSun family. Here he is talking about ideas for his novel We. Are. Family. which is due out in September 2016

Ideas –  guest post by Paul Mitchell

My friend D. asked me a question I hadn’t heard for a long time: where do you get your ideas? We were sitting at a Castlemaine pub’s outside table. The night was almost freezing, we were dressed in great coats and beanies, and avoiding the trad jazz playing in the main bar. We were drinking pints of beer that were offering no assistance to our hangovers. We’d spent the previous day drinking in pubs and, when night fell, singing Australian rock anthems with our wives as I strummed guitar. Because, well, D. is from England, he needed schooling, and we hadn’t seen each other for too long.

I don’t take my guitar work seriously, but I’m humbled when someone takes my writing seriously. After D. asked his question, he sat back and gave me room to answer, as if I were being interviewed. Which, I suppose, I was. It’s just that writers, if we’re honest, often fantasise about being interviewed in front of a large audience with its palms open to grasp our tiny hosts of insight.

But there was only D. And he was enough. Because as soon as I began to answer him, I felt embarrassed. I sounded like that worst kind of human being: a wanker. Waffling on and making little sense. Thankfully, I kept my voice down so it’s unlikely the two 30-something women sitting at a nearby table, whom statistics would suggest could be part of my potential audience, would have heard me.

I can’t repeat the nonsense I came out with. That’s why I’m writing this piece. So I’m hopeful D. is scouting the internet right now and has a pint of beer at the ready.

In the past, as crazy as it sounds, I used to get a lot of my ideas for fiction when I experienced the quality of light in a particular environment. ‘In the Shell’, a story from my short fiction collection Dodging the Bull (2007), anthologised a number of times, had its origins in staring too long at a Shell service station on the horizon while driving one night from Geelong to Melbourne. The Shell sign’s orange mixing with the greens and blues emanating from the building itself and drew me into what I can only describe as an ennui-fuelled reverie. That experience produced two characters, Jason and Tony; their lives, their times; their failures and their hopes.

When it comes to my new book, We. Are. Family. (MidnightSun Publishing 2016), the writing and the ideas have a much closer relationship. It’s as if so many of the situations, concepts, images and settings have been born of a previous situation, concept, etc. The work is episodic and cyclic and layered. There are ideas looping around ideas and creating what I hope is a reading experience like no other . . .

. . . whoops, let’s hope no one at a nearby table can hear!

Seriously, though, I wrote the work episodically with strange links and ellipsis because, to me, it reflects the way we experience contemporary life and, especially, contemporary family life.

But back to the ideas.

We. Are. Family.

We. Are. Family.

The ideas in We. Are. Family. often came from personal experiences that I manipulated into fiction. Not the newest trick for a book, but certainly one of the most reliable. For example, I went on a Daintree River cruise looking for crocodiles that wouldn’t show up and extrapolated a passage of writing from that; the words ‘stick with what you know’ wouldn’t get out of my head one day so I started a piece of writing to try to get them out; and my footballer uncle was renowned in my family for knocking out an opposition team’s tough guy, proving to the opposition – and two towns – that his team and his family weren’t going to get pushed around anymore.

To say anything more about the ideas in the book would be to give away too much. But, suffice to say, it’s not the quality of light but the quality – or lack thereof – of family relationships that brought about many of the ideas that became We. Are. Family. Along with my ideas about what it is that makes Australian masculinity interesting, foolish, peculiar, strong yet vulnerable, half-witted and possibly, ever so slowly, transforming into a model better suited to the 21st century, an era in which we are making a concerted effort to end family violence.

The great comedian John Clarke once said a key to being a successful artist was understanding the difference between an idea that is worth making into a feature film and one that’s best just shared with your mum over the phone. He said it in an interview and he probably wasn’t at a cold pub in Castlemaine. But, if he had been, I’d have sat back, sipped my pint and taken notes.

When it comes to ideas, I live by John’s advice. It has saved me a lot of typing time and conversations on the phone with my mum (it’s all right – she gets hold of me via email anyway. And she’s full of ideas so I’m always ready to cut and paste).

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

The Melbourne launch of We. Are. Family. is at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival (Beer Delux, 1pm) on Saturday 27 August 2016.

The Adelaide launch is on Friday 9 September 2016 at the SA Writers’ Centre at 6.30 for 7pm.

Both launches are free and everyone is welcome!

Books will be available in all good bookshops from 1 Sept 2016.

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