Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Gift Guide

Looking for Christmas presents or some summer reading for yourself? Look no further! Here are our suggestions for great Christmas gifts and books to read over summer. 

And don’t forget to support your local bookshop this Christmas. You can also buy Black Inc. books on our website

The Happiness Show  
Catherine Deveny 

A smart, funny and heartbreaking novel about love and marriage, sex and friendship, and the messiness of second chances. 

If you’re looking for a novel for your book group, you can find the reading group notes here.  

Buy here.
Benjamin Law 

As the child of migrants, Benjamin Law is curious about how different life might have been had he grown up in Asia instead of Australia. So he sets off to meet his fellow Gaysians and discover what it means to be queer in Asia. 

From Thai ladyboy beauty contestants to celebrity drag queens to sham marriages, Gaysia is a fascinating quest by a leading Australian writer. 

 Buy here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An interview with John Tranter

We interview John Tranter about editing The Best Australian Poems 2012.

What was the selection process like for The Best Australians Poems 2012?

Pretty much like last year: I sorted through the thousand or so entries that Black Inc. sent to me, and chose what I felt were the best: that is, the most interesting, or well written, or dramatic, or thought-provoking poems that I felt a general audience would like. I had to trust my own taste to steer away from poems with a minority appeal. I would hope that as the series develops, the admissions rules will be relaxed: at present, admissions are limited to poems published exactly in the last year. I'd like to see that extended to simply 'recent poems', anything up to a few years old. That way next year's editor - a new and different editor - could publish a poem or two that I may have overlooked from 2011-2012. And I feel sure that there will be more women editors in future years.  It has been pretty much a male thing so far. But that will change. It's a great project, and I feel optimistic about it. The fact that it's open to absolutely everybody, and that the editors regularly change, makes it widely democratic, and perhaps that's why it is so popular.

An interview with Sonya Hartnett

We discuss The Best Australian Stories 2012 with new editor Sonya Hartnett.

What do you look for in a story?

I looked for a short story with teeth. There were a lot of beautiful pieces of writing submitted for the collection, and many of them had fine gentle plots, but I favoured stories that had a sharp and powerful punch, a real bite to them. There were a few exceptions, however: some pieces I included because they were particularly clever or wry or in some other way caught my fancy.

What are some of your favourite or noteworthy pieces in the collection?

It seems unfair to single anyone out - I'm fond of them all. David Astle's 'Oxtales' is strikingly original. Emma Schwarz's 'Sidney' made me cringe, as the author intended. Sean Rabin's 'I Can Hear the Ice Singing' is compellingly weird. But all of them are great - they had to be. Over 800 stories were submitted - only the best made the cut.

Introduction to The Best Australian Essays 2012

Read Ramona Koval's introduction to The Best Australian Essays 2012.

When looking for wisdom, it’s a good idea to range widely.

Writing in the years after the Great Crash of ’29, James Thurber noted that company heads had started to speak double-talk in low, muffled tones ‘because nobody knew what was going to happen and nobody understood what had.’

In contrast, the voices in these essays are strong. The language is direct and there is confidence in its expression. It made me wonder about what had happened in the year to elicit such certainty.

In politics, big moves detonated big responses. While the ‘coup’ against Kevin Rudd still smarts in some quarters of the Labor Party, there were arguments and counter-arguments about why it happened and whether it was inevitable. Two essays approach the nub of the matter from different sides of the fence. There was much analysis of big personalities. David Marr’s essay on the gladiatorial Tony Abbott may well make waves beyond 2012, as did his previous dissection of Rudd, which turned, for a while at least, into a political autopsy.

Catherine Deveny's Five Tips For Writers

First time novelist Catherine Deveny shares her best tips for writing.

1. Don’t let the thought that what you write, think you are going to write or are writing is crap stop you from writing. If we all did that no one would write anything. Or another way of putting it: crap isn’t crap, it’s just another name for fertiliser. As Dr. Seuss says, ‘Everything stinks until it’s finished.’

2. Set yourself low expectations like writing for 30 minutes a day. Most people immediately feel they have failed because they set themselves ridiculously high and unachievable goals. My book The Happiness Show was written in 30-minute increments. And apropos lowering expectations, don’t get all lofty, just write the book you want to read. A good story is a good story. Dont worry if you think someone has ‘done it before’. EVERYTHING has been done before.

3. Do the writing before you fold the washing. Do the writing before the ironing. Do the writing before getting dressed, having a shower or eating breakfast. Do the writing first. Because there is always something you can be doing instead of writing. Do the ironing, washing, eating breakfast, etc, as a reward for completing the writing (see my column on writing here).

4. Perfect is the enemy of good. Be a completionist not a perfectionist. It’s normal to have 17 negative thoughts for every positive thought. ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned.’ Leonardo da Vinci

5. As you’re writing, you can only see as far ahead as the headlights and that’s how it should be. Don’t panic, just keep driving. And know you’ll only be able to see the whole journey when you’re finished. ‘It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ E.L. Doctorow

Catherine Deveny's debut novel The Happiness Show is available now as a print and ebook.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Contributors for The Best Australian Stories, Essays and Poems 2012 announced!

Contributors for The Best Australian Stories, Essays and Poems 2012 have been announced.

We're delighted to announce the contributors for The Best Australian Stories 2012, edited by Sonya Hartnett, The Best Australian Essays 2012, edited by Ramona Koval and The Best Australian Poems 2012 edited by John Tranter.

Contributors include Alex Miller, James Bradley, Romy Ash, Chris Womersley, J.M. Coetzee, Helen Garner, Gillian Mears, Clive James, Nicolas Rothwell, Robert Adamson, Les Murray, Jennifer Maiden and many more. 

To see lists of all the contributors visit

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview with Guy Pearse about Greenwash

We interview Guy Pearse about his new book Greenwash: Big Brands and Carbon Scams.  

What is Greenwash about? 

The book explores whether the climate-friendly revolution being advertised by the world’s biggest brands is real, and exposes the various ways that brands with rising carbon footprints greenwash the truth. I compared climate-friendly marketing from all over the world with the carbon footprints of the products sold by the brands involved.  

What made you decide to write Greenwash? 

I usually do my best to avoid advertising, so to deliberately immerse myself in advertising for years was a nauseating prospect. However, as much advertising as I had managed to miss, it was impossible not to notice the explosion in green marketing. Many people are disillusioned about political inaction and some probably see the greening of big business as the only hope; and there’s a widespread assumption that the clean-energy revolution is inevitable, if not already here. I wanted to see whether these hopes were well founded or misplaced – whether the corporate actions behind the revolution being advertised add up to a shrinking carbon footprint, or are likely to any time soon. After all, so much hinges on the answer, and yet, no one seems to ask the question.  

Interview with Tanya Levin, author of Crimwife

We interview Tanya Levin about her new book Crimwife: An Insider's Account of Love Behind Bars.  

 What is Crimwife about? 

Crimwife is essentially about the experiences of the partners of inmates and criminals. It is a mix of individuals’ stories, including my own, of falling in love with someone on the wrong side of the law. It also answers some of the old questions about these relationships: how they start, what life’s like when you’re in one, and of course, why do women stay with men like these?  

Why did you decide to write Crimwife? 

Visiting my partner in jail was a very different perspective from having worked in a prison as I had done. I suddenly became aware of other people who were impacted by incarceration and the justice system: the inmates’ families. Their partners sacrificed and devoted so much to sustain their men’s survival on the inside, yet they seemed almost invisible, ignored by the usual stories of jail life. Their side of the story needed to be told.

An interview with Chris Feik, editor of The Words That Made Australia

We interview Chris Feik about The Words That Made Australia

What are some of the themes in The Words That Made Australia? 

The idea of the workers’ paradise has been a constant in our history. So have some tormenting questions: Are we a real country? Who are the true Australians? Is immigration a threat or an opportunity? Then there are things that force their way into view against powerful resistance, such as what WEH Stanner called “the great Australian silence” about indigenous dispossession. Or the overwhelming blokiness that Miriam Dixson notes. It took until the ’60s and ’70s for definitive pieces to be written pointing these things out. 

Why this collection? 

When we started work, we found that there were already books of snippets of Australiana, handsome collections of documents and speeches, and home-grown belle-lettres. But there was no book that gathered together the moments when someone had arrived at a new insight (for example, the cultural cringe), or given a state-of-the-nation overview that crystallised things (for example, the lucky country or the end of certainty). Once we realised that was what we wanted, everything fell into place – the book had its raison d’être.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Father's Day Recommendations

We think you should buy your dad a book this Father’s Day. Not just any old book – a Black Inc. book! Here are some excellent options:

The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia
James Boyce

Winner of the 2012 Age Book of the Year.

1835 is a groundbreaking history of the founding of Melbourne. This is Australian non-fiction at its very best – the perfect gift for any father.

“Anyone who calls Melbourne home – in fact anyone who calls Australia home – should read this book.” – Peter Mares

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lily Chan on the story behind Toyo

Lily Chan reflects on how she came to write her first book Toyo, a memoir of her grandmother's extraordinary life.

My grandma has lived with us – the family of Chans – ever since I can remember. As is the tradition with Chinese/Japanese families, the mother often stays with the oldest son (woe begone is the daughter-in-law who marries into this age-old arrangement). My earliest memories often feature her, at some stage – dressing me up, walking me to school – a constant presence. She was a fantastic storyteller of her past. She would recreate an entire episode with this vivacious, natural style, completely absorbed and unselfconscious – as if it was happening right in front of her eyes, and we (her audience; usually the family) did not even exist.

I was fascinated by her. She did not seem to be the typical grandmother, the kindly, amiable, knitting, cake-baking ones with soft hands. She had soft hands, but they were ringed in jewels. She was an empress. She held royal court of her own. We were her subjects, spellbound by her next mood, her impulse or thought.

Benjamin Law on writing Gaysia: Part 3

Benjamin Law discusses the experience of writing his second book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.)

One of the hard things about writing a book like Gaysia is having to condense what I saw in seven countries – and what I learned over hundreds of interviews – into something that has some sort of narrative arc. At first though, I just sort of crammed everything in (I'm lazy), which probably wasn’t the best approach. When you overstuff something too forcefully, it kind of explodes.

When I handed the first draft of Gaysia to my poor publisher and editor Chris Feik, it was comically bloated and messy. From memory, it was over 100,000 words, which is roughly the size of a standard PhD thesis. I’ve never been a writer prone to “writer’s block”, but am pretty susceptible to what I like to call “writer’s diarrhoea”. What can I say? I go a little overboard.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Benjamin Law on writing Gaysia: Part 2

Benjamin Law discusses the experience of writing his second book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East. (Read Part 1 here.)

Because I’m a bit of a moron, I originally envisioned that Gaysia would be this landmark book that would reveal What It Is Like To Be Queer in Asia. Then I guess I got sober and realised that task was impossible. When you think about it, there’s no such thing is a singular, definable queer experience in any country. What you can find though are specific human stories that illuminate bigger truths, which are the kinds of stories I wanted to sniff out for Gaysia.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five reasons why your local bookshop is awesome

1. The staff! Good local bookshops are filled with helpful, book-loving staff. If you want a book recommendation for your eight-year-old niece or your eighty-year-old great aunt, they’ll be there to steer you in the right direction and provide useful, unbiased recommendations. Your local bookstore isn’t going to suggest a book based off algorithms or paid promotions – their feedback is based off a real, genuine understanding of readers and a love of books.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Benjamin Law on writing Gaysia: Part 1

Photo credit: Paul Harris
Benjamin Law discusses the experience of writing his second book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East . Here, in the first of three parts, he reveals how he came up with the idea for the book.

In some ways, Gaysia started out as a joke. Because I’m a double-barrelled minority (gay; Asian), my friends have been calling me a Gaysian for a long time. It’s just easier. (“This is my friend Benjamin; he’s Gaysian.”)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Q&A with Hugh White, author of The China Choice

We interview Hugh White about his new book The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power.

Why do you believe America and China should share power?

Because sharing power between them is the best way - perhaps the only way – to keep Asia peaceful and stable. If America and China do not share power, and instead compete for primacy in Asia, that risks escalating into a new Cold War, or even open conflict. The consequences for everyone would be disastrous.

Interview with Paul Cleary, author of Mine-Field

We interview Paul Cleary about his new book Mine-Field: The Dark Side of Australia's Resources Rush.

What is Mine-Field about?

This book documents the rising power of the resurgent resources sector and the need for the government to play a more vigorous and independent role in protecting people and the public interest, especially prime farm land and water resources. Mine-Field is a book that gets down into the dirt and looks at the way the growing number of mega mining and gas projects operate on the ground. It reveals how governments have become deeply conflicted because they get a direct cut of the revenue, and how regulators often look the other way as companies pollute with impunity. While much of our environmental regulation is focused on flora and fauna, little regard is paid to protecting the people at the coalface. For governments today, the communities living in the shadow of the resources boom are expendable, and so are the land and water resources now being consumed at unprecedented rates by the resources juggernaut. The book outlines far-reaching reform needed to ensure that Australia avoids suffering irreversible damage from the mega mines now proliferating around the country.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10 Australians Who Made Sexual History

Frank Bongiorno is the author of the newly released book The Sex Lives of Australians: A HistoryHere he reveals ten Australians who made sexual history.
Eric Ansell
The London-born Eric Ansell was an employee of Dunlop in Melbourne before striking out on his own as a producer of condoms in a small rented house in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Richmond. It was an astute decision: Ansell became one of Australia’s great manufacturing success stories and is now a major international company.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What We're Reading, Watching and Listening To

In our spare time, when we aren’t hard at work publishing fantastic books like Laura Tingle's new Quarterly Essay and Ryan O'Neill's breakout short story collection, we’re reading books by other publishers, watching lots of great TV, seeing some amazing films and listening to plenty of music. 

In the spirit of sharing our great finds, we present to you the books, TV shows, films and music currently preoccupying our staff. 

If you have any great recommendations of what we should read, watch or listen to next, let us know in the comments.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sneak peek

Here's a quick look at five fantastic books we'll be publishing later this year:

Tony Speaks! The Wisdom of the Abbott

Release date: August 2012 

You’ve seen him wearing speedos, kissing babies, driving a mining truck and chatting to his flock. But who is the real Tony Abbott? As the Bible says, by his words you shall know him. 

In the grand tradition of Bushisms and The Wit of Whitlam, here are the sayings of Tony Abbott, unvarnished and full of revelations – the very best and worst of Australia’s irrepressible mad monk.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ryan O'Neill's Favourite Australian Short Story Collections

In the last few years I’ve been trying to read as many Australian short stories as I can. Below, in no particular order, are some of the best collections I’ve come across so far.

1. Ride a Cock Horse by Gillian Mears (1988) Mears is an exceptionally talented short story writer. This collection leaps about in time to follow the boyhood, young adulthood and old age of Albert, sometimes as the main character, and sometimes as a peripheral one. Towards the end of the book we learn, almost in passing, that Albert has died, and this obliqueness gives added poignancy to his death. Mears is a brilliant practitioner of the ‘linked collection’ or ‘novel in stories,’ a form that continues to be explored in this country through writers such as Patrick Cullen and Gretchen Schirm.

Ryan O'Neill's Five Tips for Writing a Short Story

Last year I spent a lot of time looking for writing tips to use in one of my short stories called, “Seventeen Rules for Writing a Short Story.” One thing I discovered is that just about every writer who has ever lived has some advice to give on writing, and that it’s very rare for any two writers to give the same advice. In fact, most of the time they contradict each other. At the risk of adding to the confusion, I’d like to offer my own suggestions to help in writing a short story. However, it should be borne in mine that any writing tips, whether from Kurt Vonnegut or Dan Brown, may best be taken with a pinch of salt because what worked for them (and me) might not work for you.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Books for Mother's Day

Here are some great Black Inc. books to buy your mum this Mother’s Day (and reasons why she’ll love them!)

Reaching One Thousand
A Story of Love, Motherhood and Autism
By Rachel Robertson

Rachel Robertson’s memoir tells the story of raising her autistic son Ben, and the joys and challenges she faces along the way.

“This is the best kind of memoir – there is a beautiful calm clarity that drew me in, and held me until the end.” – Georgia Blain

Why will my mother love it?

Lovers of well-crafted, literary writing will adore this beautifully-written memoir. It’s a touching and uplifting story about parenting an autistic child – a fascinating and compelling read for every mother.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What We Learnt From Completing Oxfam Trailwalker

Three Black Inc. staff members (and one non-Black completed the Oxfam Trailwalker as a team last weekend. Oxfam Trailwalker is an endurance challenge – teams of 4 attempt to walk or run 100km in under 48 hours, raising money for charity in the process. The 100km bushland trail has checkpoints along the way where you can rest and your support crew can bring you food, warm clothing and supplies.

We walked the 100km track in 35 hours, with no sleep. None of us had done the event before and we made a lot of rookie mistakes. If you are considering doing the event in the future (and you should – it’s a great way to raise money for Oxfam and really challenge yourself) here are our tips:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Interview with Nikki McWatters

Q&A with Nikki McWatters, author of One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars
Can you tell us a little bit about your memoir, One Way or Another?

One Way or Another is the culmination of twenty-five to thirty years of champagne-fuelled storytelling to friends and family. After reminiscing about my teenage years as a rock and roll groupie for the umpteenth time, my husband dared me to turn it into a book. I have always considered it rather spineless to walk away from a dare! Hence, the memoir. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day 2012

In honour of International Women’s Day we asked some of our authors to tell us their favourite book written by a woman:

Anna Krien, author of Into the Woods and Quarterly Essay 45 Us and Them:

Marilynne Robinson's debut novel Housekeeping is, essentially, the opposite of housekeeping. Fog and dust seem to emanate from its pages, and the image of a train moving like an eel to its final resting place in a lake on a moonless night has never left me. A story of women who cannot conform to society's expectations, not because of any radical rebellion, but because their veins and bones and thoughts are so very different to the ladies in the magazines.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Q&A with Rachel Robertson

We interview Rachel Robertson about her first book Reaching One Thousand: A story of love, motherhood and autism.

Can you tell us a little about your memoir Reaching One Thousand?

Reaching One Thousand is a story about an unusual boy, his mother, our everyday life and how I learned to be a parent. My son, Ben, is autistic and so the book is about difference, about learning about autism, and about change. For example, at four years old Ben loved numbers and all he wanted to do was walk around the local streets reading the numbers on the letterboxes. I expected him to play with toys and other kids, to want to do all the things I saw typically developing children do. But he had his own ideas! So the story is about me confronting my own expectations, adapting and rethinking my role as a parent. Some of that was hard, some was fun and most of it interesting, and that’s the story I tell in Reaching One Thousand.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interview with editor & blogger Nikki Lusk

Nikki Lusk is an editor here at Black Inc. In her spare time, she writes the blog The Book Tuner (and also a column on music for Kill Your Darlings.) We chat to her about her blog.

So what is The Book Tuner? 

It’s a blog on which I match books to music, usually one book with one album. My aim is to create the perfect literary ambiance or, alternatively, to expose readers to music that evokes a similar mood to a book they’ve enjoyed. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Q&A with Eric Knight

We interview Eric Knight, author of Reframe: How to solve the world's trickiest problems.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

Reframe is a book about why we struggle with our trickiest political problems and what we can do to solve them. I take my readers through stories from the last decade: the dot com bubble, the war on terror, immigration, climate change, and beyond. In each case, we make the same mistake: we fixate on what's visually compelling and we miss the bigger picture.
In the end, Reframe makes a surprisingly optimistic case for how we can correct political myopia. We are not necessarily irrational. We just focus on the wrong things. Correction is possible.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What We've Been Reading This Summer

Of course we've been reading our own wonderful Black Inc. books over the break, from David Marr's must-read collection Panic to Mungo MacCallum's entertaining and educational guide to Australia's prime ministers The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely. We've also been busily reading manuscripts and advance copies of our forthcoming books (you can see some of them in our January - June catalogue.)

But we're bookish people by nature and we like reading other publishers' books too. So here's what else we've been reading over the summer:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Q&A with Mungo MacCallum

We interview Mungo MacCallum about his new book The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely: Australia's Prime Ministers, which tells the tale of the many men and one woman who’ve had a crack at running the country.

What are three of the most surprising facts or anecdotes you discovered while researching this book?

I like the story about Ben Chifley taking his own onions to a Gundagai café; he knew that otherwise, with rationing, he would be lucky to get them with his favourite steak. But I was intrigued by two others who were ahead of their times. Jim Scullin, beset on all sides as he battled his way through the Great Depression, still found time to set aside land in the Northern Territory to be reserved for Aboriginal Australians. And George Reid, frequently dismissed as a buffoon, turned out to be a lone voice against the harsh laws passed against the Chinese.