The Cloth of the Mother Goddess

HR -7

This week I had the pleasure of attending a talk at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery by Tara Books, a remarkable collective of writers, artists and designers from India who publish illustrated books for children and adults. They produce limited editions, hand-printed and bound, of works, ranging from religious and mythical subjects to stories of their everyday lives. The books are created through a complex process starting with the artists’ originals, through to screenprinting and then binding the pages into books. While there are some editions printed with the more conventional lithographic process, most are all hand-made, numbered limited editions.

Their visual books span a range of genres: children’s literature, social and art pedagogy, popular culture, photography and art. They are committed to returning the senses back to the physical book in an age busy writing its obituary. They value experimentation: in content, design and production.

Tara Books say, “We also like to enhance the quirky pleasures of reading, for both children and adults—from picture books for all ages to experimental graphic narratives, we have developed new genres of expression.

“The hallmark of our publishing is our engagement with the rich diversity of Indian folk and tribal art. We have brought many of these traditions into the book for the first time, by combining them with contemporary design and fine production, and in the process, have changed the perspective from which stories are usually told. Our books are universally accessible, and for us universality is not global sameness, but a genuine connection with difference.”

Tara are well-known for books made entirely by hand and they have created a range of what may be called ‘crossover’ picture books. Children are drawn to the tactility and graphic richness of the art in these books, while adults value the fine printing, unusual paper and brilliant design.

 While such artists’ books exist in small editions, Tara are able to create them in large numbers, making them affordable and available to the average book buyer. They create this exquisite form of the book—where each page is an individual print—to showcase beautiful artwork. They work with skilled book artisans from India, including handmade paper manufacturers, silkscreen printers and hand binders. The artisans have developed their skills to come up with standards of perfection unimaginable in the trade, winning several international awards.

Recently, Tara have gone on to explore the fascinating field of crossover titles in other forms—for example, the textile book.

This exquisite hand block-printed textile book that takes its inspiration from an ancient tradition of textile art called Mata-Ni-Pachedi. This painstaking work of art and labour is a unique offering that doubles as a book and art object.

Tara’s ongoing dialogue with the incredibly rich and varied forms of indigenous tribal and folk art in India began 15 years ago.

Tara Books adds, “We are privileged that in India, unlike in many parts of the world, these artists are our active contemporaries, ready to engage with us. Many of the artists that we work with come from remote and marginalised communities, but as is evident from the books themselves, their talent, intelligence and imagination are inspiring.

“Whatever direction a particular project takes, there is one basic premise on which our collaboration is based. We would like each artist to be an ‘author’, the active creator of a book. So when we work with an artist from a particular tradition, the book is not ‘about’ this tradition—it is not a documentary. The book is a gallery space which is offered to the artist to tell a story. We work intensively with them, developing the possibilities, pushing the boundaries both for the artist and for the book form. As publishers we play a curator’s role: linking art, story, design and printing and finally the book with its readers.”

At the Fruitmarket talk, Tara Books showed extracts from short films about their process, which you can see at Vimeo. They also highlighted, among other works, a new project, a fold-out book called The Cloth of the Mother Goddess. The images here don’t do it justice, however – the book is a beautiful object, tells a story, has a wonderful tactile quality and is abundant with rich and beautiful imagery.

The books are available from Amazon and elsewhere, but I recommend you seek out gallery bookshops that stock the Tara range, since these are books to be experienced as well as read.

Postings and podcasts elsewhere

borrowedmanI’ve been remiss with the blog lately, but busy(ish) elsewhere. So I thought I might share some of the stuff I’ve been doing with, and for, other people.

First, a couple of things for Adventures in Scifi Publishing. Most recently I reviewed Gene Wolfe’s latest novel, A Borrowed Man. I had mixed feelings about it, but I was also intrigued by the novel and it has seriously made me consider a re-read at some stage, which is not something I do much of as a ruifthen-144dpile. I suppose that tells you something about the book.

Second, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Matthew de Abaitua following my review of his amazing novel, If Then. It was my first time as a solo podcaster for AISFP, and Matthew was an absolutely fascinating guest. I hope you will consider taking time to check out the interview and/or read my review of his novel…and indeed, rushing out to buy If Then.

Finally, my review of the best anthology I’ve read in ages, The Monstrous, edited by Ellen Datlow. If you’re not scared already…you will be.

monstrous

Creative Writing Classes – Winter 2015/16

UPDATE: FIRST CLASS, MONDAY 23 NOVEMBER, 7.30pm-9.30m at The Canal Centre Tearoom, Linlithgow.

I shall be running my first season of classes this winter, for ten sessions initially, with a break for Christmas and New Year. The first class will be on Monday 23 November at the Linlithgow Canal Centre Tearoom, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Cost: £15 (discount for all 10 classes £120 – normally £150).

The classes will be a combination of structured and informal (fun) participatory elements. The objective for this first season is that everyone completes at least one short story of between 2,500 and 5,300 words, which will be published in an ebook, to be made available free through Amazon.

CLASS PROGRAMME

Creating the story
Using The Hero’s Journey structure, you will learn how a story is assembled and the elements that go into making an engaging tale.

Creating Characters
An all important element of great stories is great characters. We will look at how to create complex, multi-dimensional characters with whom to populate your fiction.

Dialogue
Dialogue is not conversation. I’ll say that again: dialogue is not conversation. We will look at the purpose of dialogue, how it differs from conversation, and how to use it to best advantage in your work. And how to write it, naturally.

Point of View (POV)
Understanding point of view in a story and how the POV character draws in the reader. We will also take a look at tenses (and tension!). Third person point of view, first person point of view and second person point of view – present, past and future – yes, you can use any or all of these to great advantage.

Genres
Student choices. We can take a look at some of your favourite genres and see how you might begin tackling them: crime, romance, science fiction, horror and others.

Practicalities
Preparing and formatting manuscripts, editing your work, and submitting your work. Yes, I will be encouraging all of you to submit work to prospective publishers – short stories, poems or otherwise.

On the Night
Please bring along your writing tools – notepad and pencil, laptop or tablet. Laptop users, please ensure you have a fully-charged battery as there are no power points at the venue.

If you have any questions or wish to confirm attendance, please email me.

Thanks for your interest, and I look foward to meeting you on the night. And I hope you will let others know about the classes, too. Please note that there is scope to change the night of the class, subject to everyone’s availability.

A single-celled organism called Larry

Larry, a crew of cosplayers, a stray dog called Max and a bunch of insomniacs all feature in my new novel, out now for Amazon Kindle.

If you’re interested in reviewing, or rating and reviewing on Amazon and/or Goodreads, add a reply here and I will drop you a free copy.

Fcafe-insom-cover5ifty-something, struggling retro clothes shop owner Julie Bellwether has more than her fair share of problems. Not the least of them being insomnia. Still, she has the consolation of meeting kindred spirits in the Cafe Insomnia. Eccentrics, intellectuals, lovers, strangers, all converge here to find companionship, consolation or respite from their sleeplessness. But the Cafe proves to be a catalyst for a series of unstoppable events. Julie, a gamer geek, a homeless young woman, a judgemental best friend, a Rastafarian musical chef, and a unique stray dog called Max all collide in a serio-comic tale with shades of the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Calendar Girls, and perhaps even The Canterbury Tales. $3.10 / £1.99