Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Time to Celebrate a New Book, the Old Post and Telegraphy Office, and Newcastle, New South Wales.

Time to celebrate a New Book, the Old Post and Telegraphy Office, and Newcastle, New South Wales.

As the long journey to the publication of my first novel draws to a close, and my book is being prepared for printing, it is time to reflect back on the good things that being here in Newcastle has provided me with over the past years, leading to this last year as a publisher.
For a start there is my house, the old post office, after which the publishing house is named, Postmistress Press. This was by chance, we found out through seeing an article in the local history section of the Newcastle Herald, way back in the mid 1990s, when we first started living here (my ex, now grown up children and myself) that the cottage we had moved into was the first post and telegraphy office in Adamstown, an inner city area of Newcastle.
The house had not been built as a post office, it is a humble weatherboard cottage, of the style of a miner’s cottage, with a verandah on the street, a front door in the centre and two windows on either side, if you are looking at it from the street. When we arrived it was very bare and unprepossessing from the street. We planted three ‘street trees’ that the council was giving to residents then to green the city.  They are now tall trees, which provide shade and foliage on the street, three Echinaceas which have vibrant yellow blossoms. Our neighbours opposite also planted Echinacea trees, with red blossom, and next door have Echinaceas outside the house with red and yellow blossoms, so we have coordinated quite well.
The street which when we moved here was treeless is now an arbour.
I also planted a fern garden on the street level outside the house, with a few red flowering geraniums, and with the strip of grass under the trees, it gives the street more of a garden feel.

I found out by chance, or rather through the Lost Newcastle facebook site, that there was a postmistress here at the old post office for many years. I have photographs of her, and her husband and daughter, and a line up of locals on the front verandah from over one hundred years ago, which I will scan and post – or at least include in a publication soon.

That is the inspiration for the name of the publishing house, or one of them. I was attracted to the concept of ‘postmistress’ as women who worked in telecommunication, post and telegraphy offices in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries were able to work on a more or less equal level with men, especially during times of crisis such as wartime. So telecommunications and telegraphy offices signify an opportunity for women to play a vital role, at least that was how it eventuated in new forms of communication. There are further resonances of female emancipation- from the mistress- and also the resonance of equality in education, a post grad is a Master, why not a Mistress. All these resonances will chime with the themes of the books I publish.

Which brings me to the new publishing house I have set up here. I am using the newest form of publishing, online publishing, to publish my books as both print books, available in shops and on global platforms such as Amazon, Kobo and more, and as eBooks.

I have now spent the last year (and prior to that another year in research) researching and working in the production of the first books.
There have been trials and tribulations that I have recorded here on this blog, and in social media, which I won’t reiterate now.
However the first year, and the worst of the trials seem to have almost been passed, and my first novel Australian Fugue: The Antipode Room, has been published and sent to supporters of my crowdfunding campaign, as a Special Collector’s Edition PDF eBook. 
Now the printed book is in the final stages of production. It will be available on Amazon in the coming two weeks, I hope.
I am also in the process of producing my PhD book, The Writers Fugue: Musicalization, Trauma and Subjectivity in the Literature of Modernity (Thesis 2006) as a printed book, to be available via Amazon and other platforms, as a print book, and as an eBook very soon.
The first Postmistress Press Anthology, with contributions from writers around the world, is in production.

So despite the trouble, trials and tribulations, no less the grinding lack of money (though we hate to mention it) in the past year, and most especially in the past six months, since April when things began to get rather tough, it will soon all be worth it.

This is certainly not for the faint-hearted I have found out. But I hope that it will all come to fruition soon, and may prove to be a sustainable business.

So, despite the difficulties I feel I owe my thanks to the Old Post and Telegraph Office, and to Newcastle, and to the New Enterprise Initiative Scheme, which is designed to help new enterprises start in Australia, for the chance to do this. Even if at times it has felt like being in a grueling and impossibly challenging reality TV show. It was always my strong wish to publish a print book, and that is about to happen, so it will all be worthwhile.

Ruth Skilbeck
Publisher and author
Postmistress Press
The Old Post and Telegraph Office

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Revisited in Newcastle, NSW, 2014.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Revisited in Newcastle, NSW, 2014.
By Ruth Skilbeck
Readers of my blog The Daily Fugue, and facebook friends will know about my trials in Newcastle, NSW, as I have been in the process of establishing, a new publishing enterprise.
When I went to Sydney to interview international artists in the Biennale Boycott (against Transfield, the Australian-based corporation that has taken over management of the Manus Island refugee detention centre, and which was interlinked with the Biennale. The same detention centre in which asylum seekers are murdered) I returned to Newcastle by train late at night. I found two fines, over $1200, on my broken down car which the Council Ranger had assured me I could leave outside my house (the kerbstones next to my house were too high to drive over).
I elected to have my case heard in court, and went to court, I was told that my case would be heard at a later date, which I heard as the 6th August. But then I was sent fines doubling the amount, dated the 5th August.
I have sought to have my court case heard, and have excellent legal advice. I went to the Court last week, and applied to have the offences annulled so my case could be heard, in the name of Justice. This was granted, but I was told that as it was the “end of the month”, it was the 29th August, I could not pay by cash. I had credit cards and was told this would be fine. I gave the details of my debit card (credit card). This was accepted, yet today I was sent in the mail, dated 1st September (one day before I had to lodge my application to annul) a letter saying that my payment had been declined. This was despite the fact that there had been more than enough to pay this on September 1, when the payment was attempted.
I have spoken for hours on the phone tonight with the bank about this.
I have been given a line about some transition in their administration, however I have used my card myself in shops and was sent confirmation about it in the mail.
This is the kind of thing that could make Solzhenitsyn worried.
For, when I initially went to Legal Aid about this matter, I was given information that I could either pay the $2000 fine or (due to “financial hardship”) I could have 2 months MEDICAL TREATMENT. Yes, medical treatment- including whatever psychiatric drugs they chose. You must be joking.
And this is supposed to be the free world.
Wake up.
Meanwhile the Newcastle Lord Mayor and two Liberal MPs have resigned due to being found guilty of corruption, to make profits from this town at the expense of the "passive" populace. Wouldn't they like that.

The same detention centre in which asylum seekers are murdered.

Sad Stories from Newcastle, NSW

Sad Stories from Newcastle, NSW

Today on the train from Newcastle to Adamstown (where I live) there was a man with a bike, and a sight-impaired man with a white stick who was helped on board by the woman I have bought tickets from in the ticket collection office at Broadmeadow Station.
We were the three passengers together. And the train sped us to our destinations. The man with a bike also disembarked at Adamstown. But soon the forces that be behind the scenes (as the Battle of Newcastle rages) will rip up this train line and replace it with a bus terminal. Another hideous terminal like that outside Central Station in Sydney, a garish construction offering nothing but a flimsy roof and a scattering of fast food takeaway shops. Horrible. And this is being projected in place of Newcastle’s historic rail line.
Why, any sane person would ask. Well, as the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) has recently revealed because there is profit to be made in ripping up the rail line, destroying several highly significant rail stations, and preferably – for “them”- installing a new Coal Terminal in a nearby location. The men behind this venture do not live in Newcastle, but stand to profit from it.
To me, as a person on a train, it seems absurd to rip up the train lines and instead install a bus line and train line that will mean changing from the train to bus to “light rail”- what a bore.
I would suggest to those billionaire non-public-transport users attempting to put this into place that they try this themselves.
We do not want “light rail”. We do not want “buses from trains”.
We want a BETTER and FASTER trail line from Sydney to Newcastle.
It is that simple.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Available Soon: Australian Fugue: The Antipode Room by Ruth Skilbeck


What is the significance of the young woman playing a violin, a vision and sound that haunt Ruby? When Ruby and Hugo fly to Australia to collect art and artists for her art gallery, she meets her forgotten lost love, and her previous identity. The consequences lead to a crime that she cannot recall as she writes in jail in Newcastle, NSW where the story begins.

Ruth Skilbeck’s first novel is a fugue mystery. A crime of mistaken and confused identities told by four very different characters whose voices interweave as their stories intersect from London highlife to Coober Pedy near Australia’s Simpson Desert. The narrative is situated in the contemporary artworld and explores themes of desire and loss of awareness of identity.

The narrative style is polyphonic, told in voices of four disconnected lovers, and critical text excerpts weaving an innovative fugal style. Ruth Skilbeck believes fiction reaches back in time to essential truth and this novel is about making art from false and true convictions.

In the end, standing for the truth –and asserting her own perspective, is rewarded and Ruby, a London art gallery director, is freed from the false accusations and conviction that imprisoned her in Newcastle, NSW and for which she will be compensated as the truth, and the travesty of her wrongful conviction becomes known and those who have branded and slandered her will be brought to justice and account.


The novel will be on sale soon*, and information will be posted here.