Updated: Jan 13
By Kirsten Krauth
The year started with promise. My novel Almost a Mirror was about to come out in April. Transit Lounge started confirming festival events and book launches around the country. We organised media coverage. But mid way through March the strange news started to filter in. The book industry was starting to go into crisis mode. With COVID, events were being cancelled across the arts industries, bookstores were closing; people were in lockdown. It seemed seven years of creative work and dreams were standing, like my character Jimmy, on the edge of a clifftop, about to fall into the abyss. Despair can be soul destroying but also a good motivator depending on how you use it. After a day wondering how my world could turn itself the right way up, I needed a new project to get me through the uncertainty. I thought about the other writers in the same boat. Was there a way we could share the load to boost each other up? Could we use Facebook to promote in other ways, to build a community? In response, I started the Writers Go Forth. Launch. Promote. Party Facebook Group for writers to talk about their books coming out, to do online launches in their lounge rooms (like I did with my kids!) and to have a sense of celebration in catastrophic times. I hoped readers would join in too. I really didn’t anticipate the interest the group would garner. I imagined about 30 of us chatting and commiserating. Within a few days there were 1,000 folks. It was wonderful to be able to start supporting other writers as they launched into the zoom world. Now as we head towards the end of the year there are 2,283 members. After the initial flurry I handed the reins over to the incredible Claire Halliday who took on the moderator role. It’s been a tough year for all writers who have released books, but especially those in Melbourne and regional Victoria. In a sense though, I’ve been lucky, and I’m grateful to all the readers out there, my friends and family who supported me when things were looking bleak. My novel, possibly due to people reading at home, missing live music, going on trips down 80s memory lane, listening to the Spotify playlist - and most especially the incredible help of local booksellers like Northern Books - became a bestseller. I had so many beautiful online conversations with people who wanted to talk about their own memories, how music has shaped their lives. The novel morphed into a podcast about 80s music (released next year) and working with incredible musicians like Mikelangelo aka Michael Simic, Amanda Brown from the Go Betweens, Paul McDermott, Richard Andrew and even Treehouse series author Andy Griffiths! Who would have thought? I’m proud of the sacrifices writers have made this year. It takes a lot of hard work, energy and passion to publish a book, to invest so much time into a venture where, let’s face it, you’re in general not going to make close to a living wage. And so I heartily encourage booklovers to buy local this Christmas! For those who’ve been in lockdown twice, who have had their plans curtailed to a radius, but most importantly who haven’t been able to sit in a room with readers, to have Q+As in person (this is what I’ve missed most). Here’s a list of some of the local books released this year by writers in lockdown in Victoria including Castlemaine. For more, head to the Writers Go Forth page post for highlights. Indigo Perry - Darkfall Thuy On - Turbulence Imbi Neeme - The Spill Dee White - Beyond Belief Laura Jean McKay - The Animals in that Country Victoria Hannan - Kokomo Chris Flynn - Mammoth Emma Viskic - Darkness for Light Arnold Zable - The Watermill Jennifer McKenzie - Navigable Ink Nonna Knows Best - Jaclyn Krupi Carmel Bird - Field of Poppies Life, Bound - Marian Matta PLUS DON’T MISS: Tara June Winch - The Yield Jessica White - Hearing Maude Ellen Van Neerven - Throat A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing - Jessie Tu Below Deck - Sophie Hardcastle Wolfe Island - Lucy Treloar Kirsten Krauth is an arts journalist and editor, and author of the bestselling novel ‘Almost a Mirror’, shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize. She is recipient of the 2020 Donald Horne Creative and Cultural Fellowship from the University of Canberra and is working on a podcast on the history of Australian 80s songs that will be released in 2021. Her first novel is ‘just_a_girl’ and she has just started as commissioning editor of ‘The Victorian Writer’ magazine for Writers Victoria.