11 May 2008

My Totie Wee Press

When I was ten, I came into possession of a funny little tin typewriter with lithographed keys. The type wheel had to be rotated into position then pushed down with considerable force to print each letter on the page. I took it to school and started a newspaper with a couple of my friends. We took turns typing, but soon realised that it was going to be far too labour intensive to be practical. The process was awkward but we eventually managed to create a single page with a few manufactured news items sure to titillate the imaginations of our literate classmates. We laboriously reproduced the original by hand in pencil and sold the copies for a penny a piece. With the profits we purchased a pack of gum from the local sweet shack, Tiger’s Den.

At that time, I was more interested in the process and the collective energy than the need to communicate any particular ideas. The gum was an added bonus. It was forty years before I felt the need to publish again, but I never forgot the importance of that shared experience. Each of the various Fandango publishing endeavours had its own appeal, but my favourite has always been Gator Springs Gazette, during the years when production was a communal effort.

I hoped that I would be able to parlay the Gazette into something that would not only reach a broader audience, but would also provide some income for the contributors. Bonfire was an attempt to unify publishing efforts in an easier to manage and slightly more elegant package. All efforts to do so met with obstacles. Money didn’t flow freely, but the real difficulty was in trying to find an appropriate distribution channel. It’s like the old conundrum of only qualifying for a loan if you don’t need the money. I suppose I was a bit na├»ve in thinking I could balls my way through on my own steam, but while the press was not in a position to get universal exposure, it was getting recognised in some circles as a unique voice and a few really good writers were gaining some well-deserved exposure. I never had a chance to find out how far it might go: personal illness compelled me to give up the day job (my biggest financial resource) and all the work I was doing on Bonfire, Gator Springs Gazette and the planned first Fandango novel. It was a major disappointment to have to abandon all of this work. Additionally, manifestations of the illness made it difficult for me to write and even to read anyone else’s work. This was devastating for me.

I am still not well, but I am able to read, edit and even to write a little again. It is important to keep the light going, but I don’t want to burn myself out. For this reason, Fandango will concentrate on celebrating creativity one work at a time.

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Dave King said...

Wish I'd discovered your blog before now! I came over to have a look-see after reading your kind remarks on mine, and was fascinated by your early publishing experience. As a young teenager I was a n enthusiastic cyclist and, with a few friends, decided to form a cycle club, at which point I thought we should have a magazine. I managed to coax a friendly neighbour in to typing the articles for us and invented a complicated process to copy the typescript using paraffin of all things. The copies got fainter and fainter as they came off the "press", of course, but the process (the details of which are long forgotten, alas) could cope with reproductions as well.
You have stimulated another early(ish) memory that had lain dormant! My thamks for that.

Carrie Berry said...

We had something similar a few years later called a Hectograph. A wikipedia article refers to a school newspaper run on a 'jellygraph' in The Pothunters by P. G. Wodehouse. We mostly used it for posters. You had to use special pencils to draw the original, then transfer it to the surface of the gelatin which was kept in a paper-sized flat tin. You could get quite a few copies from it before it started to fade. Please come again, Dave.