Wednesday 1 June 2011

Slash and burn

I hesitate to use the word 'feast', still struggling as I am with the aftermath of all that fine dining aboard Avalon's Panorama a fortnight ago (plus some remarkably good food on Qantas's business class) - but it's promising to be another of those weeks again, after a long spell of what would have been famine if I didn't, fortunately, have other sources of income (thanks, OH and WGHS).

Yesterday the latest Let's Travel magazine published a story I wrote about Thursday Island, which is in the Torres Strait to the north of Cape York, itself the northernmost point of the Australian mainland. It's a sleepy sort of place these days, though it's had some lively history, mostly in the pearl-fishing days - which is to say, mother-of-pearl fishing, since it was the shells they were after, for buttons mainly (an industry that died instantly with the invention of plastic buttons in the 1960s). Though it looks pretty - palms, turquoise sea, bright flowers - everybody apart from tourists seems to live indoors with the aircon on because it's so very hot; it's the kind of place where people go quietly peculiar, or pickled (the clock behind the bar at the Top Pub has no hands).

Then there was meant to be a Tasmania story in the DomPost today, but it hasn't appeared so clearly the editor saw something shinier when he was putting the issue together. I'm beginning to think that's how editors work: not governed by space and advertising at all, but simple whim. They're flighty creatures with the attention span of a gnat - how else to explain the one who bought a story (for once, thank goodness, coughing up payment on acceptance instead of publication) and then sat on it for two years, claiming she just couldn't fit it in? 

Eventually I asked if I could send it elsewhere, and at least she let me, so now it's coming out in the Listener this week - except they like their stories 900 words and their editor grizzled that it was only 800. And then she cut it to 690! So though I'm looking forward to seeing my work in the Listener again (first time for ages) I'm going to be opening the magazine with trepidation, to see how my poor little story about the Amazon jungle has survived: was it a scalpel she used, or a machete?
Update: Scalpel. Phew!

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