Exciting, new and independent — Rag & Bone Man Press will be putting on quite the show for you. The Jane Austen Jelly Wrestle is a collaboration between Rag & Bone Man and Death of a Scenester. Watch Virginia Woolf vs. Helen Garner, Jane Austen vs. Sylvia Plath, Haruki Murakami vs. Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway vs. Jonathan Safran Foer contend for the “Most Powerful Male/Female Writer” title in a pit of red jelly. Enough said.
What do you think is Rag & Bone Man’s unique contribution to the independent publishing scene?
Rag & Bone offers a fresh, shiny new home for aspiring writers! We’re fairly unique in that we grew out of a grassroots passion for creating comfortable spaces to air stories unknown to wider markets, and which the writer might have been a bit shy to share. Think of us as the old man with the wheelbarrow, picking up scraps of humour, foul dialogue and rampant prose, and tossing them into a collective literary gallimaufry. There is nothing we won’t look at or encourage, and we want to bring it to the masses. We decided to take our wheelbarrow online, and so our website became a forum for publishing some of these fabulous works. We’ve started with short stories, with the aim to move into larger texts, creating ebooks and printed publications down the track. Our motto is ‘boutique until further notice’, and our writing salons are still held across Melbourne, encouraging writers to scribe ever onwards!
RNBM began as a writing salon which has grown into an online and print publishing press. You also have your own book project – Soup Van Stories. Can you explain a little bit about each of each of these?
The Press began as a creative writing group aptly named ‘The Rag and Bone Man Salon’ in 2008, meeting every three months for wine and creativity. Members generally read out short stories or poems on a topic or idea, such as Vampire Fiction, South-eastern Australian Gothic, or our upcoming subject: ‘What would Branwell Bronte do?’ (Besides sip laudanum). Our aim was never to critique work that was read out, but to encourage members to write and to share their writing in an informal and friendly atmosphere. The founders, Dan Christie, Keira Dickinson, and Hannah Cartmel, are all arts enthusiasts, employed in publishing and theatre ventures, and are welcoming, a little bit silly and intent on innovation when it comes to spreading a good story.
By 2011 we had been running the salons for a few years and lamenting over the wasted talent of our members. We developed the idea to start a publishing house that published new works not only created for the Salon, but also by exciting and undiscovered writers in the wider community. And so, a sheesha, a martini swill, and a handshake later, the curtains of our Press opened officially in late 2011. Since then we have been receiving stories and projects from thrilling hopefuls that we are overjoyed about!
We have also embarked upon a community project, working with one of Melbourne’s soup vans to collate an anthology of stories from a group of ‘vannies’ and ‘streeties’ about life on the streets and in commission housing. What better way to begin Rag & Bone’s journey, than working with the ‘everyman’ to make his/her voice heard?
There is a strong community history imperative with your upcoming project Soup Van Stories. How did the idea for this project come about?
The Soup Van Project fits into Rag & Bone’s desire to publish stories that often go unheard. Rag & Bone co-founder Keira Dickinson began volunteering on the van last year, and there she met an enthusiastic archivist of tales long past, as well as a plethora of volunteers and patrons connected to the van. The people she met inspired her with their humour, life and understanding of true suffering. With the help of The Rag and Bone Man Press, their story will be brought to a wider forum so that others can see what happens in the backstreets of the city. There are so many opportunities like this that Rag & Bone foresees, in working with community groups in the future, where stories exist without a way to express them. We welcome project ideas and proposals along these lines, and hope to work with many more groups who have something to say.
Where do you see yourselves in a few years?
Berlin. Failing that, we hope Rag & Bone will be continuing to source, promote and publish new writing by previously undiscovered authors – online and through print-on-demand and e-book publications. We will also be continuing to encourage creativity in writing and everyday life by enlarging our Salon, holding it at public venues and allowing more creative kiddies to get involved.
We aim to publish writing online and in print that resonates with communities as well as individuals – maintaining our vision of providing literary outlets to people who may feel reluctant to make their voices heard.
What antics can we expect at the launch on 12 May?
A literary feast of gelatinous proportions! We want everyone to be ringside at our ‘Great Jane Austen Jelly Wrestle’ to cheer on their favourite writer for the much-coveted title of ‘World’s Most Powerful Author’. We can’t promise it will be a clean fight, but what we can promise is exceptional entertainment.
The Rag & Bone Man Press Official Launch is on Friday, 25th May at The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank St, South Melbourne. Experience colourful beverages and live readings by Rag and Bone Man Press authors.
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