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Children’s Book Publisher Launched in Regional NSW

A new independent publishing company based in regional NSW was launched last week by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic.
Dr Mark Macleod, senior lecturer in English and convenor of studies in children’s literature in the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Wagga Wagga launched Dirt Lane Press at events in Orange and Sydney.
Writer and publisher Dr Macleod brought to CSU his publishing experience at Random House, Hachette, and the ABC.
Dr Macleod said, “Too often, the study of children’s literature takes little account of the publishing process. At Charles Sturt University, subjects in the children’s literature minor and doctoral research conducted in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences include all stages in the production and consumption of books for children and teens.
“This might appear to be a challenge in regional Australia, away from the capital city publishing houses, but we’ve turned that perspective into an advantage.
“Librarians, educators and retailers in regional Australia think creatively about new ways to bring young readers and the best of books together. Starting a small publishing company for children’s literature based in Orange and Wagga was a natural next step.
“Working online has helped us to overcome the old ‘tyranny of distance’, and ‘tree changing’ has brought some of the best publishing talent in Australia to live in Wiradjuri country. The company president, publishing director, designer, marketing director, and several board members have happily left Sydney behind.”
Dr Macleod said publishing for children, like book publishing generally, took a big hit with the global financial crisis, and some people have been surprised that the recovery in the industry has been led by children’s books.
“It might seem too risky to start a new venture at such a time, but even with low disposable incomes and shrinking budgets, parents and educators want the best in storytelling for young readers, and Dirt Lane Press is an opportunity to provide it,” he said.
Dr Macleod explained that Dirt Lane Press arose when a group of friends with extensive industry experience based outside the capital cities. They formed a not-for-profit company to produce the kind of significant multilayered books that most mainstream publishers would regard as too risky.
“Why not-for-profit? As company president, the voluntary labour of the publishing collective and the low overheads enable Dirt Lane Press to focus on the diversity and high production values that are often absent from the ‘fast-food’ approach to publishing,” Dr Macleod said.
The first book to be launched by Dirt Lane Press is The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear. It was officially launched by Orange resident and illustrator Ms Freya Blackwood, winner of the UK’s prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, who noted that the author, Ms Margrete Lamond, lives in Orange, and first time illustrator, Ms Heather Vallance, lives in nearby Canowindra.
Dr Macleod said readers who know Aesop’s fables or Uncle Remus’s stories of Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit will enjoy the five stories about friendship in The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear.
“Young readers know only too well that friendship can involve sadness, jealousy and uncertainty, as well as laughter and adventure,” Dr Macleod said. “So they will love the fresh retelling of these classic stories from Norway that are lively and funny, with a touch of ‘Scandie-Noir’ about them.”
Dr Macleod acknowledged that they have only been able to launch Dirt Lane Press with the assistance of their members, crowd fund investors, and the generosity of the Orange Regional Arts Foundation and Orange City Council.
“We’re starting small, with just two or three books a year,” he said. “But when you see the quality of the work, I’m confident readers will understand why.”
Dr Macleod noted that although it was important to introduce Dirt Lane Press to the large crowd at Botanica Flora gallery in Orange on Thursday 3 August, it was particularly pleasing that the big city launch for The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear was hosted on Saturday 12 August by the iconic Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft, Sydney, where so many ventures in publishing for children have had their beginning.
Dirt Lane Press can be found on Google, Facebook or Instagram.
This story originally appeared on the Charles Sturt University website.