I was recently invited to the launch of The Rag and Bone Man Press and though I couldn’t make it due to Emerging Writers’ Fest activities, their website had me intrigued. I decided to find out more…
You’ve just launched The Rag and Bone Man Press. What sets you apart from other small press publishers?
The Rag and Bone Man Press heralds a new era of publishing, fuelled by a grassroots passion for championing and promoting undiscovered literary talent. Our three founding members—Hannah Cartmel, Dan Christie and Keira Dickinson—come with experience in the publishing and wider arts industries. We strive to discover new fiction and creative non-fiction, initially for a web platform, with plans to embark upon ebooks and print books in the near future.
One of our main focuses is encouraging writers by hosting literary salons, with themes such as ‘What Would Branwell Bronte Do?’, ‘A Night of Crime’, and ‘Trashy Vampire Fiction’. It’s easy to feel isolated as a writer and to have little or no encouragement, so the salons mix a diverse range of people with wine, food, readings and challenges in a way that celebrates the writerly arts.
Aside from the salons and stories on our website, Rag & Bone is also focused on giving a voice to often unheard communities. One of our largest current projects is the collation of stories surrounding a soup van in Melbourne. This will become a patchwork creative account of the work done by volunteers to improve the lives of people living on the streets or in commission housing.
We recently celebrated our official launch, in the glamorous surrounds of The Butterfly Club in South Melbourne. Nights like this that make us proud of what we’re doing, when people are thrilled by new writing and walk out of the evening enthused and enlightened.
We’re not exclusive, we just want to do something more with quality writing—to inspire, challenge, and encourage others to enjoy.
So a grassroots kind of approach is important to you, as is inclusiveness and giving a voice to different kinds of communities. But the themes and issues you’ll publish on will be pretty broad? How are you sourcing your writers?
The themes and issues we publish are broad. We publish both fiction and non-fiction works across a wide range of genres. Our passion is for good quality writing. We believe that by opening up the range of themes and issues we are willing to publish, we are also opening ourselves to submissions from talented new writers that we might not otherwise have the privilege to read.
The sources from which we select authors are equally broad. Some of our writers are members of the Salon, others have responded to notices we have put up in Melbourne bookstores calling for submissions, and some selections are taken from people who have come simply come across our website and decided to submit one of their works.
Are there other small presses, salons or movements that have inspired you?
Aside from absinthe and the Russian Revolution, we’re inspired mostly by independent presses who advocate for local emerging writers, such as Sleepers Almanac, who have risen from grassroots to oaklike foundations since their launch in 2003. We also love like-minded active writers’ groups, such as the Sydney-based Penguin Plays Rough, who hold monthly events dedicated to short fiction. They draw crowds and top quality writers and speakers to their events, but still manage to maintain that sense of warmth and intimacy you usually find in much smaller and informal groups. We also enjoy the ‘performance’ aspect of writing and sharing stories, especially celebrated by the team at Going Down Swinging, who provide a strong community for spoken word poets in Australia. Writing doesn’t have to be shared straight off the page (or screen)—we encourage glasses of red, vague forms of costume, and a balcony to test a tale. We’ve been known to yell Byron into the waves at St Kilda, and host salons in Oxford’s Eagle & Child pub, home to CS Lewis and Tolkien’s ‘Inklings’.
Will e-publishing and ‘dead tree’ publishing be equally important to you? How will you distribute your publications?
Drawing from the team’s experience working for large publishers such as Penguin, Oxford University Press, John Wiley, Macmillan and Hardie Grant, it’s impossible to ignore the much needed co-existence of print books and electronic publishing today. It’s a strange transitional period where the two mediums play tug of war for sales, as epub and Kindle varieties creep up on the printed book, and publishers begin planning for higher sales of electronic copies. While we are big advocates of the rustic page, we also see the benefits of ebooks and how they are environmentally and cost effective. As we are currently publishing stories on our website, it will be a natural progression to create ebooks, with the hope of printing with local printers for larger works or compilations. In the early stages, the Rag & Bone website provides a place for emerging writers to share their works with the wider world, but we are looking forward to adding accompanying media such as interviews, live readings, author clips and short films to enhance each title. There are limitless opportunities, and we are blessed with a fabulous design and tech team to smooth the process of providing several forms of future distribution.
Well, the best of luck with it all. I have a flask of absinthe here carried all the way from Bohemia if you run out. One last question, where did the name come from?
We believe it was introduced one night in the Royal Botanic Gardens. There never seemed to be an official instatement of it, just a general acceptance after security footage picked up our celebratory clinking of champagne and the words ‘rag and bone’ amidst the Japanese water garden. Originally it was used for the Rag and Bone Man Salon, the creative writing group that started it all. We believe it conjures up an image of a colourful collection of random objects being gathered, our loot growing with each step, just like a rag and bone man of yore.
Rag & Bone’s next Salon will be held at the end of June—they encourage you to contact them if you’re interested! Queries can be sent via The Rag and Bone Man Press website. Submission details are there also. If you want to find out about the Soup Van Project, have a look at the blog.