Author Archives

Aidan Delaney

Forthcoming: Christmas Eve in a Gum Tree

Christmas in fiction – a time when families reunite and love blossoms, when evil is overcome and tragedy is averted. Cruelty and revenge are offset by heroism and forgiveness, and constancy in love is rewarded. But in Australia Christmas stories are also marked by fire and flood, cyclone and drought, and the perils of isolation. Cattle drovers find themselves stuck in a gumtree, a sheep stealer’s son is lost in the bush, and love’s ‘cooee’ is heard as far away as London. All the drama of nature and humanity is vividly recounted in this collection of nineteenth-century Australian Christmas stories.

Christmas Eve in a Gum Tree is the second title in Obiter’s ‘To Be Continued’ series. It collects previously unpublished stories unearthed in an Australian Research Council funded project that has produced a bibliographic index and full-text archive of fiction in Australian newspapers from 1803 to 1955. The stories are contextualised in an introduction by Professor Imelda Whelehan, a scholar of women’s writing, feminism, popular culture and literary adaptations and the current Dean of Higher Research at the Australian National University.

Christmas Eve in a Gum Tree and Other Lost Australian Christmas Stories will be published next month. Further info soon!

You can purchase the first title in the ‘To Be Continued…’ series, How I Pawned My Opals and Other Lost Stories by Catherine Martin, from the shop section of our website.

Forthcoming: Blue in the Red House

Obiter Publishing is excited to announce the forthcoming release of our first ‘Futures’ experimental non-fiction title, Blue in the Red House.

Blue in the Red House is a hybrid memoir/magic realist novella from debut author Sarah Madden, which recreates her experience of being diagnosed with Autism at age 34.

Sarah Madden grew up in New Zealand and has been based in Victoria for the past 5 years, after spending a number of years living in the Middle East. Since landing in Australia, Madden has rediscovered her love of writing and words, and was awarded a Write-ability Fellowship by Writers Victoria in 2014. Madden writes fiction, memoir and poetry, most with a lyrical, slightly magical treatment woven through the threads of the everyday. Madden has been published, as Sarah Widdup, by Underground Writers, The Big Smoke and Hot Chicks with Big Brains.

In Blue in the Red House, readers follow the journey of Ms De Beer who seeks out a doctor to assist with removing her eyes, figuring she no longer needs them. She is surprised to learn the true source of her concerns. Ms De Beer cannot see red. As a result, she has been leaving a trail of heart-blood behind her everywhere she goes.

Reeling from this information, Ms De Beer sets out on a journey to rediscover herself. Along the way she discovers far more of herself than she expects. But piecing all of the parts together and learning to see clearly will be harder than she thought.

Through the journey of Ms De Beer, Madden recreates her own story of being diagnosed as autistic. The story reimagines Madden’s sensory perception of the world around her and her place within it. In fiction, Madden illuminates the truth in ways that strict facts often cannot manage.

Blue in the Red House will be released in November 2018.

A lesson in the limits of form

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the Photo-essay that Never Was

When James Agee and Walker Evans set off for Alabama in 1936, their assignment was to produce a photo-essay for Fortune magazine. It was a simple task. The two would head south. Evans would photograph a series of cotton tenant farming families. Agee would write the prose. The essay would document the plight of the farmers under the New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Act. That essay never came to be.

For the project, Evans was on secondment from the Farm Security Administration where, under the employ of Roy Stryker and working alongside the likes of Dorothea Lange, he helped to establish the strikingly direct tone of American documentary photography. He joined Agee, a drinker who spent most of his relatively short life writing for Time Inc.’s various publications and became well-known for his film reviews. It was intended that Evans’ images and Agee’s words would be distilled into the mass media photo-essay format popularised by Henry Luce’s Time Inc. magazines that included Fortune and Life.

The abject poverty to which Agee and Evans bore witness had a profound effect on Agee. Unable to succinctly recall his experience in the populist format desired by Fortune’s editors, Agee failed to submit his account (although the original has since been found). Instead, the prose that he eventually produced to accompany Evans’s portraits was a book length examination of the minutiae of the lives of three tenant farming families. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was published in 1941. In it, Agee, like Evans, presents with vivid clarity the raw, physical details of his subjects’ lives, portraying the crude reality of their poverty.

Let Is Now Praise Famous Men explores much more than the challenges of The Great Depression and the political plight of sharecroppers under Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative. Through its commitment to documentary evidence, the book provokes larger contemplations about humanity and its fragility.

In writing Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Agee committed to his subjects with integrity and boldly showed fidelity to their experience above responsibility to his commissioning editors. He experimented with form for the sake of content at the very same time that his employer was establishing a common format for middle-class, mass media journalism. As a result, Agee and Evans’ work remains one of the most poignant and affective documentary works of the 20th century.

Obiter Publishing is accepting partial manuscript submissions for experimental non-fiction until 31 March.

Further reading:

Agee, James. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Allred, Jeff. American Modernism and Depression Documentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Baughman, L.. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.

Brinkley, Alan. The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Denby, Davis. ‘A Famous Man: The collected works of James Agee,’ The New Yorker, 9 January 2006.

Graf, Catharina. ‘The birth of the photo essay: The first issues of LIFE and LOOK,’ paper via

Rule, Vera. ‘Dispatches from the Dustbowl,’ The Guardian, 18 August 2001.

Shloss, Carol. In Visible Light: Photography and the American Writer, 1840-1940. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Time-Life Books. Documentary Photography. New York: Time-Life International, 1972.

Exciting diversity in awards longlist

Prizes – lauded, maligned, heralded, disparaged. Many have called them elitist and chastised them for upholding the status quo. Many more have derided them as middlebrow harbingers of impending artistic doom. For authors and publishers though, the lure of prize attention persists.

The Stella Prize is no different, except of course, for its founding premise – to redress the gender imbalance of literary prize culture. And for those of us who love new Australian non-fiction, the 2017 Stella longlist delivers a bumper crop. Amidst the 12 titles longlisted (8 of which are non-fiction), are two of my favourite reads of 2016.

The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette) – The kind of incessant, casual racism that others would glibly label ‘micro-aggressions’ is personified in Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir as an insidious, monstrous element of our cultural psyche. The Hate Race is, for the most part, a relatable and blush-inducing memoir of suburban childhood. With adeptly paced and stridently crafted lyricism though, Beneba Clarke brings racism to the fore, forcing readers to confront the truth of our nation’s discriminatory foundations and prevailing prejudices.

Wasted – Elspeth Muir (Text Publishing) – Writing about grief without wallowing in its depths is a feat few writers accomplish. Yet Elspeth Muir manages, with astonishing prosaic skill and aching self-reflection, to intertwine the story of her brother’s early death with a broad and insightful observation of Australia’s drinking culture. Wasted is an un-indulgent and measured examination of the dangers of alcohol that averts blame in favour of insight and reflection.

These two books, and no doubt others on the longlist, are exemplars of the potential of new Australian non-fiction. Particularly, non-fiction writing from diverse voices. They are inherently Australian stories that confront and transcend popular nationalist narratives. These are the kinds of works that we hope literary prizes continue to foster. The Obiter Publishing team commends The Stella Prize for recognising the talents of these formidable Australian writers and congratulates all of the longlisted authors and their publishers.

Call for submissions: Experimental non-fiction

Calling all researchers and writers willing to push the boundaries of form in order to reach new audiences.

Obiter Publishing is currently seeking submissions for works of creative or experimental non-fiction of between 20,000 and 80,000 words. We are particularly interested in works by researchers and writers whose work makes divergent, resistant, and/or intersectional contributions to public discourse.

What is experimental non-fiction?

Experimental non-fiction is any work that is founded in verifiable fact, research, and/or lived experience and which is presented in a manner that blurs or challenges traditional concepts of form. Such works may involve elements of essay, memoir, investigative journalism, narrative non-fiction, analysis, opinion, prose or poetry so long as they are founded in lived experience or rigorous research.

What are we looking for?

We are seeking works of experimental non-fiction that demonstrate originality, creativity, and depth of research. We are particularly looking for works which present heterodox and dissident ideas, imagine alternate futures, and subvert boundaries of form.

Submissions will be judged on the following criteria:

  • originality of ideas
  • research rigour
  • quality of writing style
  • creativity of form

Who are we looking for?

Obiter is particularly interested in works by writers and researchers who identify as diverse, marginalised, emerging, or outsiders in their field.

How do we publish?

Obiter is a profit-share publisher. That means that we do not pay traditional advances or royalties. Instead, all after-cost profits are shared equally between author and publisher. Obiter is committed to minimising production costs and maximising author profits while ensuring all our titles are high quality, bespoke publications.

Obiter is a digital and print-on-demand publisher. That means all our titles will be published as digital-first and available in hardcopy via print-on-demand distribution services. In some cases, we will produce short print runs for wider distribution.

What do you need to submit?

In order for your work to be considered, you will need to submit the following:

  • A one-page cover letter introducing yourself, your work, your motivations, and your intended audience.
  • A brief (maximum 500 words) author bio or CV outlining your literary, research, and/or publishing achievements to date.
  • A brief (maximum 500 words) synopsis or overview of your work.
  • Two draft chapters (maximum 20,000 words) of your manuscript, including an opening or introductory chapter.

If you think you’ve got what we’re after, then head over to our submissions form. (Submissions that do not adhere to these guidelines will not be responded to.)

When can you submit?

Submissions are currently being accepted. We will endeavour to read and respond to submissions as soon as possible.