There’s being published and then there’s being Published

Day 2 of the Twelve Days of Christmas Writing Challenge.  

While I’m thinking about ‘the artist as writer’ I want to tell you about the first time I came closed to being a published author.

I know that there are degrees of being published, and hierarchies within those degrees. But in the 1960’s the world on on-line publishing was not even the twinkle in the eye of a programmer (who was not yet even the twinkle in someone else’ eyes). Self publishing was for the select wealthy and the photocopy machine had only been on the market since 1959, so home desktop publishing still had years to develop.

I was in grade four when I entered a competition at the town library to write and illustrate an original story. It was called “Berry 330” and it won. First prize was cash and a chance to be published.

It wasn’t published. If it had been this would be a different story I’d be telling today. However, the whole process even then, let me explore the symbiotic relationship between the dual texts of words and pictures. I found a draft copy of Berry 330 in a pile of Things Mothers Keep, and I can see the influence of the books I was reading at the time. Today I will search further to find the actual book.

Even then, the illustrations were an integral part of the story. They added an extra layer of meaning to the words and gave the reader more information about what I wanted to say.

I remember the librarian commenting on the shiny surface of the paintings in the competition. I’d used a new set of watercolour paints and the Gum Arabic was poorly mixed. I even remember buying those paints from the newsagent up West Kempsey. I wonder if those were my first tubes of watercolour?

What beautiful irony that half a century later, my practice is about watercolour, and it is the words that add the extra layer of meaning.

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