From field to field - or "We should publish a book!"
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Date: 31, August 2004

Writing notebook


 

'After all, it's the most accessible form of the arts - all you need is a pen and paper.'


Suzanne Elvidge takes us through the process of writing, editing and publishing a book in a day and a half.

Interested amateurs say that self-publishing is easy, but you need lots of cash and marketing sense. Professionals tell you that 'real' publishing of poetry and short prose is hard and not commercially viable, and you need agents and double-spaced manuscripts and to be prepared to disappear into the slush pile at the mercy of an overworked editorial assistant.

But there has been little middle ground-up to Greenbelt 2004, anyway. Active Media Publishing, in collaboration with Greenbelt Festivals, bucked the trend by producing 'Unbound Freedom' in 36 hours, from submission to hitting the Greenbelt Shop shelves. 'Unbound Freedom' is an almost 'real-time' experiment in writing and publishing a book of creative writings and reflections, featuring contributions from established authors and first-time writers.

Submissions

The 'Between the Lines' team covered the site in fliers, everywhere from the venue to the toilets, and publicised the book in the venue programme. And submissions came flooding in, from neatly printed poems to pieces of prose on the backs of leaflets.

From the opening of the festival on August 27 until the submission deadline of 10 am the next day, the editorial board of Richard Armiger, Suzanne Elvidge, Brian Holmes and Alistair McCollum, were tucked away in the corner of the 'Between the Lines' literary venue, taking submissions from Greenbelt punters, inputting them, and designing and laying out the book.

By 1 pm on Saturday, the book was at the printers, and by 12 noon on Sunday it was on site and ready to be sold, trying to balance the maximum time for submissions with the maximum possible time for sales.

So why do it? Brian Holmes, who came up with the idea, said, "There have always been a few things at Greenbelt on writing, and writing is a very Greenbelt thing to do. After all, it's the most accessible form of the arts - all you need is a pen and paper. But there is very little outlet for this.

Voice

"We wanted to give these people a voice, to be able to write a poem, hand it in, and see it published the next day." Brian got the bug for writing and publishing as a teenager, when he saw some of his poems in print in a Worcester arts magazine. "It's the 'wow, my name is in a book' factor. We also wanted to put the eChurch Active magazine ethos into practice, to show that with easily available technology this kind of thing can be achieved."

For those of you who want technical details, 'Unbound Freedom' was laid out in Adobe InDesign CS on a PC laptop, converted to a press quality pdf and emailed to the printers from the Greenbelt Internet café.

Five hundred copies of the 28-page book were digitally printed and collated in eight hours in a barn on a Cambridgeshire farm by Paul and Ann Gildersleve, and ferried to Greenbelt for the end of the service. Paul and Ann grew their business from a hobby in computing, and print anything from Church magazines to Christmas cards - "all kinds of things for all kinds of people."

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