A Christmas Message

There’s a cartoon of three Carol Singers gathered in front of a house on Christmas Eve; light pours from an open door illuminating the owner who is admonishing the hapless singers: ‘What? You want me to give you money? Don’t be daft, no one pays for music anymore!’

So, time to sign off for another year; amidst the mandatory mayhem of Michaelmas. I’ve been in Saigon and Hanoi, been in Bundoora and Brunswick, and have been recovering from night after night of student shows, exhibitions, runways, talks, screenings and book launches. It’s exhausting but exhilarating. I bought some applied art, in fact, an applied artefact:  a 4-foot high ceramic object of piled high teapots with white spouts, which are – apparently –  all fully functioning and pour tea. It was created by a wonderful overseas student who travelled here from the US because he knew that RMIT still taught and treasured crafts programs. I’ve been working with a group of post-graduate students on our renowned professional Writing and Editing programs. It’s produced some of Australia’s great writers. [Rosalie Ham of The DressMaker; Graham Simsion of The Rosie Project, and many more] Each year the students work in groups to produce up to a dozen books; six students allocated to each book; they work closely with the author; they edit, they proofread, they design. In fact they undertake the entire production life cycle. They are guided by the formidable program manager, Tracy O’Shaugnessy. What’s more they have their own imprint. Bowen Street Press, but they also work closely with many commercial presses. I also commissioned a graphic designer called Kit, an RMIT alumnus from Vietnam, and together all 8 of us produced a book, 208 pages, 60 colour reproductions.

And so, I hear you say ‘what’s the book about’. Well, you should never ask a writer what a book is about. The playwright Tom Stoppard was once asked the same question by journalists. ‘What’s it about?’ he replied, ‘It’s about to make me a lot of money I hope!’ This book won’t make any money, but it’s better than that: it’s a genuine collaboration between me and the two artist-academics on our ARC Discovery Grant project, and it’s a collaboration between me and the students. They’ve surpassed my expectations – hard-working, intelligent, fastidious and constantly seeking the highest quality. I can’t thank them enough, they embody everything that RMIT does well, and I wish them the very best as they go forth into the world of publishing, and I wish them – as I wish all my readers, Seasonal Salutations and a Happy New Year.

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