Paradise Earth released

STOP PRESS, May 12, 2020: From the ashes of Australia’s fires Amy Barker and Stormbird Press win 2020 Independent Publisher Awards Gold

Stormbird Press is thrilled to announce the launch of Paradise Earth, from multi-award-winning author Amy Barker.

The aftershocks from 1996 continued, year after year, often in the life of the individual more devastating than the Port Arthur massacre itself. Yet always the subsequent tragedies could be traced back to that unspeakable Sunday.

From multi-award-winning author Amy Barker comes a new novel about the courage it takes to heal, set on Tasman Peninsula approaching the 25th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre. Paradise Earth is thrumming with the irrepressible spirit of raw wilderness that propels the individual toward the emergent edge, where empowerment, love and compassion enable the self to transcend its limits, move beyond the past, and create a unique future.

As Barker unfolds Paradise Earth, she opens up the innermost workings of the human psyche as each character is forced to come to terms with who they are, and how far they will go for their beliefs. Ruth, a woman in exile from her community, estranged from her family; John, a recreational hunter, teaching his adolescent son to shoot; Marina, a massacre survivor, turned animal rights activist: each is haunted by the legacy of trauma that ripples throughout generations before of a reckoning.

1996 was the year her faith was fossilised, like an insect caught in the blood flow of a giant swamp gum, dead and trapped forever in amber.

Author: Amy Barker
Release date: April 28, 2020
RRP: AU$29.99 (pbk), $9.99 (ebk)
Territory: English language market
Format: Paperback and eBook
Size: 203 x 128 mm
Pages: 324
ISBNs: 978-1-925856-22-4 (pbk) 978-1-925856-23-1 (ebk)

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In the wilderness the boundary between humankind and the divine is but a membrane and if you do not remain vigilant, penetration can occur without you so much as realising it.

Advance Praise for Paradise Earth

A task fraught with dangers: to be an honest and unflinching guide to this most terrible of Australia’s hauntings. Amy Barker reminds me of the young Dostoevsky, how in his novel of a Siberian prison camp he could descend the ladder of humanity step by step because even in the most degraded there must still be the divine spark. Not a safe place for writer or reader—but a novel of blazing and humbling integrity.’—Peter Bishop, writers’ advocate and formerly Creative Director of Varuna, the Writers’ House.

In a masterful follow-up to her award-winning debut novel Omega Park, Amy Barker has created a simple and beautiful tapestry of lives lived in the shadow of the unthinkable violence of the Port Arthur Massacre. Set against the backdrop of the Tasman Peninsula’s raw and rugged natural beauty, and its tragic legacy, Paradise Earth recounts a series of separate but interconnecting stories that explore the vicissitudes and fragility of the human condition. The result is both lyrical and provocative.’—Chris Nyst, Gettin’ Square (winner Lexus If Award for Best Screenplay 2003, nominated for AFI Best Screenplay Award 2003), and Crook as Rookwood (winner Ned Kelly Crime Fiction Award 2009).

Amy Barker

Amy Barker holds degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her debut novel Omega Park won the 2008 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author, was shortlisted for the 2010 FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers) Christina Stead Award for fiction and was Winner of the 2012 IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Ena Noël Award.

Paradise Earth, Amy’s second novel, won the 2013 DJ ‘Dinny’ O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship. Amy has undertaken residencies at the Australian Centre (UOM), Varuna, The Writers’ House, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and Old Melbourne Gaol, which like Port Arthur, is a Pentonville model prison.


 

Let’s tether together around what we love

The Stormbird Press mission is to defend nature and empower communities through the power of story.

Our passion is not commercially driven but comes from a genuine desire to be a conduit between world-class environmental authors and socially conscious readers. Sounds like the perfect formula, doesn’t it? A dream job, even! And it has been, but we would be lying if we said this year has been an easy one.

Bushfires on Kangaroo Island have impacted us

Stormbird Press lives and works out of pristine Kangaroo Island – Australia’s third largest island.

Founders, Margi and Geoff Prideaux have spent decades working to protect the environment in Australia, the Pacific Islands, in Africa, and most recently campaigning on behalf of their community against the planned oil exploration off Kangaroo Island, that will endanger the marine ecosystem, wildlife including Australian sea lions, and the livelihoods of local fishermen. Apart from the immediate impacts of exploration, they have continued to warn of the climate change consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Recently, Australia’s 2019–2020 bushfires, where people were killed and an estimated one billion animals lost, made international news. Margi and Geoff were volunteer firefighters who battled alongside so many others to help protect lives and homes. Fires raged for several months. Sadly, during this time, fire also engulfed and destroyed their home, acres of wildlife refuge, and the Stormbird Press office.

In the aftermath, we worked hard to find solutions (financial, marketing, etc.) to get back on our feet, noting that we have lost a significant amount of time and resources, directly from the fire and due to prolonged firefighting efforts.

Bushfires and climate change

At Stormbird Press, we know there is a clear link between climate change and the recent bushfires that devastated Kangaroo Island. The Climate Council provides clarity about what is to come:

  1. The catastrophic, unprecedented fire conditions currently affecting much of Australia have been aggravated by climate change. Bushfire risk was exacerbated by record breaking drought, very dry fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat.
  2. Bushfire conditions are now more dangerous than in the past. The risks to people and property have increased and fire seasons have lengthened. It is now harder to prepare for worsening conditions.
  3. As seasons overlap and fires become more destructive, governments will be increasingly constrained in their ability to share resources and the costs of tackling fires will increase.
  4. All governments must develop an urgent plan to prepare for the future. There are very few signs this is going to happen.

Stormbird Press has decided we were not waiting for governments to act. We are rebuilding and planning for this climate-changed future. We intend to survive and thrive.

COVID-19

Then, just as we were about to relaunch, the global pandemic swept across to the world. There is little else we need to say about COVID-19. You know the situations as well as we do.

We emerged from the bushfires with one plan and are now pivoting as fast as we can to reset our work in this new COVID-19 world. But we are not daunted. Growing stronger from this adversity is our focus this year. At no point will we stop releasing cutting-edge books for you to read.

If you join our mailing list, in the coming days and months, you will hear more from us. There will be new ways to access our content, new opportunities to engage with our authors, some inside snapshots about who we are, where we work, and what’s happened to Stormbird in the past three months. There will be some existing competitions and new deals on all our books. And, we welcome any ideas from you about how we might work together in this COVID-19 world.

We understand that these are challenging times for us all. Many of you are isolated at home. Others of you are alone in an empty subway train on your way to perform of the essential work so needed by us all.

You need to feel tethered to something. We get it. We feel the same. We are offering Stormbird Press as that tethering point. Together we can stay connected about what we believe in, and what remains important—defending nature, empowering communities, cherishing Earth.

What we are asking from you

Please keep returning to our website and following our progress over the coming days and months. As books come out, please buy them for yourself and your friends. Join our mailing list. Talk to us. Tell us what you want. Share your ideas.

We appreciate you. We need you. Our authors need you. Activist literature shape the hearts and minds of humankind and there is no greater need right now.

In solidarity,
The Stormbird Press team.

Books Inspire Change

Words have incredible power and can impact the direction of a whole society. Whether an epic cli-fi novel to help prevent climate change or a high fantasy novel that draws a line between right and wrong, the truth is―words are a force that inspires change.

‘Write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimetre the way people look at reality, then you can change it.’ ― James Baldwin.

The name James Baldwin, a writer and activist, is sure to be known in most readers’ minds. Baldwin, best known for arguing that emotional connection could help heal America’s racial divide, has a breadth of writings to discover: fiction, essays, plays and poetry. And though many words have been said about him, including those of Carolyn Wedin Sylvander who wrote: ‘One is struck repeatedly by the power of Baldwin’s prose, and by our continuing need, as readers and as citizens, for his steadying apocalyptic vision… one can find a vigorous model for venturing beyond charted areas,’ Baldwin’s voice is of someone who wasn’t afraid to describe who he was, where he’d come from or what he’d seen.

This distinctive style, known for both its eloquence and rhetorical force, inspired readers to confront truths they themselves were often oblivious to, illustrating that words and actions do have an impact on the world and those around us one millimetre at a time.

Baldwin’s powerful and fluid legacy has the remarkable ability to fit whatever category a reader requires. We particularly love his quote: ‘Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. People can cry much easier than they can change. Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind’.

Unfortunately, his writings which provide a blueprint for humankind’s collective welfare, are as necessary today as during his four decade literary career, as we seek to figure out why inequality among people remains.

Donna Mulvenna and Margi Prideaux

Margi and Donna are currently focused on a book, Shock and Awe, to be released by Stormbird Press in early 2020. In the lead up to the book’s release Stormbird Press is posting a series of short essays to whet the appetite for some of the topics they explore in Shock and Awe. The first essay was Anthropomorphism in literature: Can It Benefit Conservation?

 

Anthropomorphism in literature: Can It Benefit Conservation?

While there is much debate about what an ideal human-animal relationship should look like, many writers, poets, conservationists and activists acknowledge—at a time when we are witnessing massive worldwide declines in species and biodiversity—we are not there yet. But can anthropomorphism—the attribution of human characteristics to animals—in literature, benefit wildlife conservation?

As scientists add to the weight of evidence suggesting we have underestimated animal minds, Rick Hodges, author of To Follow Elephants, sincerely hopes so.

Anthropomorphism has been used in the creation stories, myths, and parables of cultures all over the world for thousands of years. In an article for Medium, Rick, himself sites Richard Adams’ Watership Down as being one of his most inspirational reads. The novel’s refugee rabbits who are fleeing their destroyed home, join anthropomorphised characters Nemo, Simba and Bambi in exhibiting different characters, social order, politics and even their own language.

‘Animals don’t behave like men,’ he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.’ ―Richard Adams, Watership Down.

In To Follow Elephants, elephant characters share with their offspring their tale of origin in an almost identical way to the religious tales of an African woman from the same region. As an author Rick tries to keep things ‘real’ while using his creative freedom.

‘I can still remember when Bigwig shouts, “Silflay hraka!” as he launches himself at the enemy,’ says Rick, of a pivotal moment in Watership Down. It was the first time in the book Adams hadn’t provided a footnote, but intrigued readers could work out that silflay meant to feed, and that hraka were droppings.

‘You can invent history or religion in a story, but I limit my creative expression within those facts readers already know,’ adds Rick. ‘For instance, if I’m writing a scene (no pun intended) with horses, I wouldn’t describe them as digging burrows or building log cabins, nor do they speak to humans.’

When portraying animals with human characteristics it is important the wider public develops an accurate understanding of wildlife in order to support conservation efforts. Hodges shows an understanding of this in how he describes the inner world of the elephants. The novel is based entirely on actual elephant behaviour and biology. Rick merely added what the elephants might say to each other if they could communicate with human-like language.

We particularly love the passage when the matriarch elephant in To Follow Elephants tells a youngster she is leading to a place that is part of their origin myth.

‘ “This is the place where we were created,” she told them in the dim light of the cave. “This is where the very first First Grandmother bore her nine daughters and led them out into the world, the ones who were the first mothers to all the elephants. They are the daughters who summoned nine bulls here to create the nine families of elephants that live today, including ours. This is where you came from.” ’―Rick Hodges, To Follow Elephants.

Given the current global conservation crisis, if portraying wildlife as though they have human emotions or characteristics can get people to better relate to them and develop empathy, then we think more authors should portray animals with this fine sense of fascination.

Donna Mulvenna and Margi Prideaux

 

 

Every river tells a story. Every great story reveals a river.

Tales from the River, 2019 Mulvenna D, Prideaux M (eds), Stormbird Press, Parndana

Saturday, September 29, is World Rivers Day

Every river has a story to tell, as do the people who live, work, and travel along them. These are stories of passion, love, adventure, and wonder. Tales from the River: An Anthology of River Literature, captures a collection of these stories from river keepers—scientists, naturalists, activists, and adventurers—who love and care for the world’s rivers.

Like stories, rivers have a beginning, a middle, and an end, starting somewhere, meandering through the landscape, then ending their journey. They carry the story construct through time, bringing to life the lessons of our past and painting pictures of our future,’ says Donna Mulvenna, Tales of the River lead editor. ‘What flows through the pages of Tales from the River is a story that binds us to each other.’

Throughout the anthology, it is evident that rivers possess their own personality, offering boundless opportunity for discovery, and pure unfiltered joy. Author Ron Melchiore writes of a sixth sense telling him he wasn’t alone on his river. He turned to see the big head of a moose swimming towards him, like a submerged iceberg. The cold waters of Saskatchewan have witnessed such communions for millennia.

In Australia, award-winning author Anthony Birch, transports us to his ancestral past, where he watched a water bird gracefully glide across the surface of the water, without making a sound. When he thought back to that first visit to the billabong, what he remembered most clearly was that it was the first time, in the life of an Aboriginal “slum kid” that country had spoken to him.

In Brazil, renowned environmentalist Jose Truda Palazzo Jr. offers glimpses of a private expedition along the Negro river where a family of pink dolphins, circled the sandbank for a long while, their loud poofs and surface antics, including the occasional jump out of the water, amazing the group of river travellers and touching them forever.

Stories such as these remind us that if we experience wild places with the same wonder that we feel love, touching the depths of our souls, we would never stray far from them,’ says Mulvenna, who formed a deep connection with rivers in French Guiana. One vivid memory she has is of watching three young children paddling a traditional pirogue along a river in the Amazon. The eldest child was steering the canoe with a long takari pole, as confidently as a child peddling a little three-wheeled cart in a city park. The river was his world.

Aside from recreation, there is of course a practical need to care for our rivers. Without clean, healthy rivers we lose important wildlife and habitats. But there is also something more spiritual: a joyfulness that comes with being near a body of flowing water, and an innate longing to care for it.

In the foreword to the anthology Erik Solhiem, Executive Director of UN Environment, writes that it is, ‘when people connect personally with an issue, that change happens… Each story conveys a powerful message—that we must save the rivers of this planet. Because it is only when we save our rivers, will we be able to protect what we love.

Rather than serving as a mere backdrop to stories and our lives, the rivers throughout the anthology are integral to the experiences of its authors, with memories of direct encounters lasting a lifetime,’ concludes Mulvenna. ‘Culture, adventure, beauty, love, and the sustenance of people and wildlife: that is what rivers are all about. That is why rivers are so precious.

Download:
Tales of the River Press Pack
Tales of the River cover image
Tales of the River social media meme
, with Micheline Jenner  endorsement
Tales of the River social media meme
, with Callum Roberts  endorsement
Tales of the River social media meme
, with Stuart Orr, WWF  endorsement
Tales of the River social media meme
, with Alyson Hagy endorsement

Buy:
Tales of the River:
 An Anthology of River Literature

For interviews, images, or further information contact:
Margi Prideaux, Stormbird Press
+61 8 8121 5841
production@stormbirdpress.com

Partnering with Moon Willow Press

We are thrilled to announce that Stormbird Press is partnering with Moon Willow Press a fellow independent niche publisher committed to helping sustain forests while celebrating the written word.

Moon Willow Press opened in 2009 and began publishing print titles in 2011. Located in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Moon Willow Press has published fiction, nonfiction, and prose that explore science, nature, and culture. Over the past year, Moon Willow’s owner, Mary Woodbury, has been a treasured advisor to members of the Stormbird team as we chart our similar path.

Moon Willow Press will be transitioning many titles to Stormbird in the coming years, starting in the Southern Hemisphere autumn of 2019. We’ve already had the wonderful opportunity to work with Moon Willow and their authors on the Tales of the River anthology and share a commitment to bringing forward the important subject matter and editorial integrity found at Moon Willow Press. It’s an honour for us to be able to transition some of Moon Willow’s titles to a bigger team of people, and to celebrate that transition with donations to Trees, Water & People, where, for years, Moon Willow Press has been donating a portion of book sales to the planting of native trees in ecologically and economically depressed area.

We are also excited that Stormbird Press team members will have editorial access to the eco-literature project sites Dragonfly.eco and Eco-fiction.com, which together provide an online storytelling portal for writers, academics, publishers, and readers. Their motto is ‘blowing your mind with wild words and worlds‘.

 


 

An Invitation to Environmental Influencers

The thin blue line where we live on Earth is teetering on the edge of an environmental tipping point. Islands of plastic now float in the ocean. Rivers no longer reach the sea. Ice isn’t forming in the Arctic, and the snow-caps on mountains have disappeared. Our planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. There are pockets of hope and success, but the broad environmental indicators confirm we are failing—catastrophically. Billions of dollars of effort and goodwill are invested by civil society every year, yet humanity is still robbing the future. Why? This anthology is a collection of fearless, vital messages to the world’s leaders, from influential conservationists from across the world. In the time of our greatest need, they are essential messages of Truth to Power.

Truth to Power: Essential Messages to the World’s Leaders

Imagine, the UN General Assembly is holding a special meeting, where it’s not the diplomats, but the highest level of political leadership from each country in the room. Their attendance is driven by their concern for environmental decline from the peaks of the Himalayas, to the Mariana Trench, and pole to pole. You are personally invited to speak to this attentive audience, for 20 minutes.

This would be a remarkable meeting, and you recognise it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell them what really needs to be done to turn the world around. You wouldn’t waste the moment on something small. You wouldn’t vacillate about compromise. You would go straight to the heart of what is wrong, speaking with brutal frankness about what desperately needs to be done. If they hear your message, maybe things can really change. So, what will you say?

Sadly, that meeting isn’t scheduled. But it should be—a meeting of brutal frankness, devoid of deals and games.

In the absence of this level of political leadership, Stormbird Press is compiling vital messages of truth from influential conservationists from across the world. These messages, for the world’s leaders, will stand on the wisdom of experience, and years of insight. They will be clear, frank and fearless accounts of our current environmental problems and the road to solutions. In a time of our greatest need, they will be the essential messages of Truth to Power.

Truth to Power will be published by Stormbird Press in late-2019.

If you would like to contribute a chapter, please contact Dr. Margi Prideaux at production@stormbirdpress.com for more details.

Contrbutor Guidelines

You should spell out the problem you feel is the biggest environmental issues of our time. This doesn’t need to be what your organisation has prioritized, or what the media has in its focus. This is your perspective of the most important environmental threat, for you. First, describe the root cause of this problem. This is an opportunity for brutal frankness.

Then, describe what should be done to change the situation. Speak as if the world’s leaders are listening and receptive. Write a manifesto for them to follow. Be bold and brave, and say what you really think should happen.

Your word count should be 2,500-3,000 words (that’s roughly a 20 minute speech). Your essay can take whatever format you like. If you include references, please do so as numbered citations, which we can list for your chapter at the end of the book.

Contributors to Truth to Power will not receive monetary payment, but will be prominently acknowledged and marketed as valued contributors. They will each receive complimentary copies of the book once released, as well as generous discounts on additional copies. Stormbird Press will be pleased to arrange tailored marketing with contributor organisations to maximise the exposure of each contribution.

Distribution

Truth to Power will be professionally produced and available to booksellers across the international English language market (North America, UK, Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand).

Length:  ~60,000 words
Target audience:  Mainstream trade, adult, nonfiction.
Target market:  English-language
Release date:  September 2019