Last night I had the fortune to hear writer Simmone Howell talk about her novels, writing processes and her brief spell as a publisher. Vandal Press, co-founded by Howell during her days in RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing course, ran from the late 90s to 2002. Howell described scribbling short stories in one class, working on layout and design in another, before topping it off with a cheap print run.
The reason for this foray into publishing? The founders of Vandal felt that as young writers, the established literary gatekeepers ignored them; the industry was a fortress without a drawbridge.
People tend to frown on self-publishing but for me it was a good thing. At the very least it meant I was doing something. I had a book I could hold in my hand; I could send it off to snooty literary editors to say, Who am I? I can WRITE! After Vandal I started sending stories off willy-nilly. I wrote my way around the world.
At the time, Mark Davis had just published Gangland: Cultural Elites and the New Generationalism, for which he was both hailed and condemned. Davis railed against the conservatism of the cultural gatekeepers – he also launched one of the first Vandal publications.
Listening to Howell, I was reminded of recent conversations with new writers thirsting for some legitimacy, writers frustrated by the perceived inflexibility and insularity of the industry. I asked Howell if she thought that new writers were still marginalised and ignored.
Read the rest at Meanland.