In my unpublished book, Beersheba: the untold story of how three myths, two units, and one charge captured our imagination, I go into a lot more depth about the myths that continue to perpetuated about the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba, but the media coverage about today’s centenary of the charge is getting my goat, so I wanted to summarise my thoughts in this blog post.
First, I’m not surprised Paul Daley has penned an article claiming that the Battle of Beersheba is only getting it’s moment in the sun because of the ‘politics of remembrance’. Although I dispute his premise that Beersheba was ever forgotten — as reviews of his book pointed out, how can an event that’s produced two movies claim to be ‘forgotten’ — I agree with his general point that there are many perspectives on history. And his article does provide a good general overview of the many operational moving parts leading up to the 3rd Battle of Gaza, which the Battle of Beersheba was actually the preliminary operation for.
A glimpse of the myths I explore in my manuscript are:
Myth One: Taking Beersheba was a fluke
In the mythologising of the charge, the ‘vibe’ is that Australians were innate, natural soldiers. Yet, most of those who charged had been at Gallipoli, and some were Boer War veterans. And for those who hadn’t been there or weren’t veterans of earlier conflicts, such as the Reinforcements, there was initial and ongoing training ‘in-country’ for them and their horses, which meant they weren’t expected to simply ‘know’ how to ‘soldier’. And that’s before we go into the debate about whether they were light cavalry, mounted rifles, or mounted infantry.
Myth Two: Taking Beersheba was about the water
You’ve probably heard in the media coverage that the charge was because the horses needed water, that they ‘sniffed it in their nostrils’. Even Daley doesn’t buy this; in his article he summarises the months of preparation that went into ensuring there was water available for the Battle of Beersheba. In fact, due to the lack of water in Beersheba (which they’d anticipated to a degree), operations to attack Gaza were set back a week, as the most of the forces had to retrace their steps many kilometres so as re-water before the bulk of the force could advance from Beersheba to Gaza.
Myth Three: Taking Beersheba helped win the war
This is the biggest myth that continues to be perpetuated, even in the current media coverage. Daley also points out that Beersheba was part of the third attempt to take the city of Gaza. Put simply, from my perspective, if the charge — as part of an entire day of military operations to capture the town of Beersheba — helped win the war … why did it take another year for the Armistice of Mudros to be signed?
* This image of an Ian Coate artwork is doing the rounds again on social media … I only share it here to illustrate how the last line also perpetuates a myth (albeit carefully worded to try and refute claims that it continues the myth) … that ‘never would history see such a full-scale charge again’ … when Wikipedia has a reasonable list of notable charges throughout history, and does include the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba (though it doesn’t include when the US Special Forces took horses into Afghanistan in 2001).
Obviously this is barely a sample of the detail explored in my manuscript, which I’ll be self-publishing in coming months. But if you’re interested in why my book’s not out for today’s commemoration activities, please refer to my other blog posts:
Today’s the Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, which included the Australia Light Horse charge, so where’s my book … Beersheba: the untold story of how three myths, two units, and one charge captured our imagination … you ask?
Last year and early this year, I sent my full draft manuscript to two leading Australian independent publishers, two Australian branches of international major publishing houses, and the unpublished manuscript category of my (then) State-based Literary Awards.
One of the Australian independent publishers said,
‘This looks like an admirable piece of historiography and a significant contribution to the literature on Australia’s experience of WWI, and also our understanding of Chauvel’s life.’
But they couldn’t publish it.
One of the Australian branches of a major international publisher said,
‘You’ve clearly got some very interesting thoughts on this celebrated aspect of Australian history … (however,) your approach isn’t focussed enough on the narrative of the charge and the war to suit our customers … This is not, of course, a comment on the book’s quality or accuracy, just its genre.’
I assume by genre they mean because my book’s a hybrid, that is part biography / my own story / official history. Either way, they wouldn’t publish it.
My plan was to self-publish the book this year in time for today.
The trick as a self-supported person through a full-time day job is that such a project would need to fit in and that work … so when things went ‘off the rails’ at work this year and my health declined, I was then focussed job-hunting which has resulted in an interstate move (from which I’m still unpacking), so I haven’t had the time outside of work to self-publish.
Even though the Centenary is today, given the positive rejections quoted above, and my belief in this book, I will still self-publish … who knows, because of all the media coverage perhaps it’ll reignite interest over coming months so people will still be interested in my book.
I’m looking to do a separate blog post regarding my annoyance at the current media coverage perpetuated the myths relating to the charge’s place within the Battle of Beersheba and Australia’s military history.
Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck with me through this mammoth book journey.
* this cover was produced in 2010 by the small Australian publisher that I was originally contracted to. I’ve hastily updated my surname and subtitle for this blog post, that’s why it’s a mash! Also, this will probably not be the final book cover. What a fun process that will be!
I really have been bad with this blog. Please know though that I’ve promised myself that once the Beersheba book is out, I will find a regular blogging rhythm.
I’ve used a few things to try and motivate myself into focusing on finishing the adult non-fiction, Australian military history book I’ve begun about the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba in World War One, but it seems I’m still struggling.
I promised myself that I won’t work on my first novel until the Beersheba book is published.
I won’t embark on my freelance business idea of delivering workshops, coaching and mentoring.
I won’t do a masters course till the book’s published.
I won’t get my quill tattoo until it’s published.
But it seems the recent, and hopefully the final, motivational trick is that I now need to find a new publisher; and the centenary of World War One is upon us.
So, I thought it was time I tried to bring you along for the journey, hence the post’s title of a ‘journey map’:
- October 2007 — As part of a group project for the RMIT University Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing I was completing, I presented our group’s idea about a book devoted to the charge of Beersheba. The day after, an independent publisher that one of my classmates worked for approached me to turn the idea into reality.
- October 2008 — After a year of discussing the proposal, the contract was signed. I resigned from my job in book publishing and spent three months researching full-time for the Beersheba book in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Armidale and Tamworth.
- January to December 2009 — As my then husband worked full-time as an Army officer, I had the freedom to take time off work to prepare the first draft while in Darwin. I originally thought it would take me three to six months, but it ended up taking the whole year, even though I was working on it full-time. I did have another research trip to Canberra but spent a lot more time using the inter-library loan service of the NT Library.
- February 2010 — My publisher gave feedback that the first draft needed quite a bit of re-working and I agreed.
- April 2010 — My husband and I separated. This threw my world into a tailspin and the last thing I could focus on was anything creative.
- December 2010/January 2011 — Over New Year’s I tried to work on the book, but couldn’t find the voice needed for the second draft.
- July 2011 — I attended the ‘Million Dollar Expert’ program run by Thought Leaders and was reinvigorated with ideas. Using some of the techniques from the course, I restructured the book and decided to ‘own’ that it wouldn’t be strictly an ‘official history’, but not like the books produced by journalists either.
- September 2011 — I attended military history workshops conducted by Dr Peter Stanley and Dr Maria Hill at a major writers’ festival. This helped reinforce, for me, my new approach to the Beersheba book.
- July 2011 to July 2012 — Around the same time I was engaged to freelance publish War in the Valleys : 7th Battalion Battle Group (MRTF–1), Afghanistan, October 2008 to June 2009. This turned out to be quite an involved process, as outlined in my blog post ’10 Steps in Publishing a Book’.
- December 2012/January 2013 — With the freelance project finished, I revisited my Beersheba book to put together a few pages in the new style of writing I’d come up with 18-months earlier.
- February to November 2013 — I worked on snippets every few months but didn’t make much headway as I was waiting for direction from my publisher. By the end of the year though, we’d amiably parted ways.
- December 2013/January 2014 — With the hunt on for a new publisher, I’ve rewritten my proposal and worked out that the unsolicited manuscript process means I need at least the first 50 pages rewritten in the new style.
So, with the centenary of World War One upon us, I’m endeavouring to get the draft sorted so that the timeliness of a publication release isn’t lost. I’ve now also gone public with the process. So, I must get on so that once the book’s published, I’ll be able to do the things I promised myself I wouldn’t do until the book was published. 😉
Why haven’t I been working on my Beersheba manuscript for the past several months?
Well, I took on a freelance project, my second one under Ryter Publishing.
The project has been to publish a high-quality, photographic coffee table book for a Defence client, titled — War in the Valleys : 7th Battalion Battle Group (MRTF–1), Afghanistan, October 2008 to June 2009.
I have prioritised this freelance project over my Beersheba book, thankfully with the blessing of my publisher Andrew Kelly of Red Dog Books (!).
I thought some of you might interested in how a book develops, so I wanted to share what it’s taken to get this book to print.
My main role has been as the project manager, which was being the conduit between the designer, printer and client. I was also the editor.
- Physical specs — A4 (landscape); hardback (paper laminated case); 140 pages; four-colour
- Word length — 44 articles, ranging in length from 120 to 4,500 words; and ranging in style, from informal, light-hearted tone to formal Defence writing — Total manuscript length: 45,000 words; that’s about the same length as my Beersheba book.
- Photos — Some 1,260 photos were whittled down to 106 photos, and the page number for each photo was stipulated. The client put in a huge effort to get this done; over the Christmas break no less!
Step One — Set-up the project
- My tasks — Evaluate project and source suppliers. Receive brief, files and source a designer and printer
- Designer — Extracted the manuscript from the initial design that was prepared
Step Two — Manuscript Development (Structural Edit)
- My tasks — Conduct initial structural edit; Establish style guide; Propose/develop the glossary and acronyms list, organisational chart and new book order
- Designer — Prepared next text design
- Client — For the 7RAR birthday parade, the client was able to take the new text design and book dummies to show the lads that the project was indeed happening!
Step Three —1st page proofs
- My tasks — During Step 2, I Identified that two articles were alike in subject and the client decided that these two articles should be ‘merged’. That was fun ’cause one article was serious in tone, the other light-hearted
- Designer — Prepared 1st page proofs for the manuscript, except the newly merged article and photos
Step Four — Pick photos!
- My tasks — Proofread 1st page proofs. Edited and merged the two articles
- Client — As mentioned in the stats, the client spent the Christmas doing this, which displayed exceptional dedication to project!
Step Five — 2nd page proofs
- My tasks — Proofread 2nd page
- Designer — Insert the selected photos to produce 2nd page proofs
- Client — Chase-up a team photo that was stubbornly not in the main group of photos and was too small for a book print
Step Six — 3rd page proofs
- My tasks — proofread 3rd page proofs — this was my last chance to ensure consistency and pick-up spelling errors. So of course, the corrections was three-times as extensive as what I did for 2nd page proofs. *Groan*
- Designer — Take-in 3rd page proof corrections to produce the final set of proofs
- Client — Let’s include the nominal roll. Superlative idea!
Step Seven — Print-ready files
- My tasks — Give the final set of proofs the once-over
- Designer — Prepare the absolute final, print ready files
… then SEND TO PRINT
- Me — Look over the printer proofs (a.k.a. ozalids) to make sure that nothing’s abruptly dropped off during the printer’s processing of the files
Step Nine — Advances
- Me, Designer, Client — Receive advance of the book from printer. Approve bulk stock delivery. HOORAY!
Step Ten — Bulk Stock Delivery
- The lads receive a high-quality coffee table book that could be sold in the shop if they so chose.
‘There will be no net loss to Arts funding under a government I lead’ is basically what Campbell Newman and the LNP team promised during the recent Queensland state election.
Within two weeks of taking office they have broken that promise.
The awards that gave us stories like Rabbit Proof Fence are no more.
Late yesterday, word spread through social media that the premiere literary awards in Queensland, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, are being axed as part of ‘cost-saving’ measures — (updated) during the National Year of Reading and Aussie Author Month too.
They have not yet mentioned where the approximate $250,000 saving will go.
One pundit helpfully pointed out that this amount of money would pay for 37.5cm (or about a foot) of the Clem7 tunnel.
CEO of Queensland Writers Centre Kate Eltham is leading the push for the savings to be re-invested into emerging writing.
Call me cynical, but I doubt that this will happen.
It feels more like a not-very-stealthy way of gutting government funding for the Arts in Queensland. Something the sector has had severe misgivings about for more than a year now as the prospect of the LNP government became more real.
I was born in Queensland and grew up in the 1980s with an American father who continually pointed out how ‘backwards’ Queensland was.
Yet, in a country school that prioritised all forms of sport over the arts, I received a cultural award named after the politician who became the Police Minister in the aftermath of the Fitzgerald Inquiry and was later a Queensland Premier (albeit for only 73 days), Russell Cooper.
I then went on to achieve an honours degree with a creative writing thesis and have since picked up a book contract in non-fiction; Australian military history no less.
So, my heart drops and my insides are turned out by this announcement.
I see the hope that a state which recently prided itself on competing with the Prime Minister to host the richest literary prize in the country being squashed.
The loss of an award with 14 categories that crossed the writing spectrum — poetry, short and long fiction, non-fiction, history, science, advancing public debate, children’s and young adult, scriptwriting for film, drama and television, for established, new and indigenous writers — is a devastating blow to creative practice and cultural enrichment in Queensland and Australia.
**UPDATE (about no. 17)**
Wrap-up of coverage:
- The Queensland Writers’ Centre has a ‘hot issues page’ listing blogs, news, opinions and responses/proposed solutions coverage: Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.
- I have also used Delicious to build a ‘stack’ of links relating to the topic: Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.
Things you can do:
- Follow the new Queensland Literary Awards Facebook page.
- SIGN THE PETITION — initiated by Sydney Writers Centre
- POLL RESULTS — Do you agree with Campbell Newman’s move to scrap the Queensland Literary Awards? — of 7,441 votes: 68% said no, 32% said yes.
- Email Campbell Newman: mailto:%firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write on Campbell Newman’s Facebook page.
- Join in the comments on the Courier Mail.
** What do you think about Campbell Newman’s economic decision-making so far? **
It’s that time of year: where news outlets produce copious montages and interviews reflecting on the year that has been, while individually we wonder what happened to the new year’s resolution we made more than eleven months ago.
In the spirit of the season, and to help raise the profile of the craft of non-fiction writing generally, let’s review the non-fiction winners of 12 of Australia’s literary and history prizes and awards for 2011.
The list is generally dominated by biographies and autobiographies of historians, architects, sports people, politicians and migrants, as well as stories of communities affected by cultural challenges and tragic events.
So, the non-fiction book award winners for 2011 are (in chronological order of announcements, starting with the most recent) *drum roll*:
Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History (winners announced 1 Dec 11):
– A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W K Hancock by Jim Davidson and Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny and Murder in the Great War by Peter Stanley
– King Brown Country: The betrayal of Papunya by Russell Skelton
Colin Roderick Award (winners announced 26 Oct 11, shortlist): though not strictly a non-fiction award, a non-fiction book won it again this year:
– Worst of Days: Inside the Black Saturday Firestorm by Karen Kissane
Western Australia Premier’s Book Awards (winners announced 30 Sep 11):
– Category: Non-fiction: A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W. K. Hancock by Jim Davidson
– Category: State Library of WA: WA History Award: Vite Italiane: Italian Lives in Western Australia by Dr Susanna Iuliano
– Category: Nettie Palmer Prize for Nonfiction: An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna
Queensland Premier Literary Awards (winners announced 6 Sep 11):
– Category: Non-Fiction Book Award: An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna
– Category: History Book Award – Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland: Northern Voyagers: Australia’s monsoon coast in maritime history by Alan Powell
New South Wales Premier’s History Awards (winners announced 5 Sep 11):
– Category: General History Prize: Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars by Shane White, Stephen Garton, Stephen Robertson and Graham White
The Age Book of the Year (winners announced 25 Aug 11 [Matilda blog]):
– Category: Non-fiction: A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W. K. Hancock by Jim Davidson
The Australian Centre Literary Awards (Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne — winners announced 2 Sep 11):
– Category: Peter Blazey Fellowship: Helen Ennis
– Category: Asher Literary Award: this one’s for a female writer whose work carries an anti-war theme and I’ve included it because of my personal bias towards military history: The Old School by PM Newton (crime novel) and Ruin by Roberta Lowing (poems about Iraq war)
– Category: Ernest Scott Prize for History (winners announced Aug 11): A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa and how it led to the Settlement of Australia by Emma Christopher and A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W K Hancock by Jim Davidson
Australian Book Industry Awards (winners announced 25 Jul 11):
– Category: General Non-Fiction Book of the Year: True Spirit by Jessica Watson
– Category: Biography of the Year: The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (which also won Book of the Year) and How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (winners announced 8 Jul 11):
– Category: Non-fiction: The Hard Light of Day by Rod Moss
NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (winners announced 20 May 11 [ANZ Litlovers Blog]):
– Category: The Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction (which also won Book of the Year): Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs by Margaret Simons
– Category: National Biography Award: Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin by Alasdair McGregor
So, as it’s the Christmas season, do you take into consider whether a book has won an award when buying books?
When someone you know (or think you know) dies, you reflect on the influence they had in your life. So, my first blog post is my response to the passing of Steve Jobs: co-founder of Apple Computer Co. (now Apple Inc.) and founder of Pixar Animation Studios.
I have been a lifelong Apple user, from the IIc onwards. One of my nicknames is actually ‘MacBorn With It’.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I learnt to type on the IIc. Well, I could, but I’m too honest. I originally learnt and practised on the Atari, with its cassette tape drive, that we had before the IIc. I do remember though sitting on my Dad’s lap once while he showed me a game on the IIc and I accidentally knocked his coffee into the keyboard. I learnt my lesson about liquids and computers!
Dad then moved from the IIc to IIe to IIGS. His favourite Apple is still the IIGS, which is what I used to prepare my high school assignments. But it was the computer we had after that, the Macintosh LC575 that I took to university in 1997. At that point, aside from those studying IT, I was the only person in my group of friends who had their own computer.
Then in 2000, I used the pay from my initial Army Reserve officer training to buy an iMac. I bought the Bondi Blue one, rather than the multi-coloured, orange or pink ones, because it was named after the colour of the ocean at Bondi Beach. No, actually that’s a lie (okay, maybe I’m not so honest). I bought Bondi Blue because I disliked the other colours.
I dutifully returned the LC575 to my father, even though he’d already moved on through the MacPerforma to the iMac. I still have from my iMac’s 3.5 disk drive, mouse and keyboard. I’m actually using that keyboard attached to my MacBook to prepare this blog post.
In 2004, my first overseas trip was to Europe and I saw iPod billboard advertisements everywhere. I already knew about the iPod (it was released in 2001) but it was not big in Australia yet. But by the time I bought one a couple of years later, it was an MP3-player phenomenon. That tiny device helped get me through my deployment in Afghanistan.
When the iPhone was released in Australia, it was no surprise to those closest to me that I got one. Sure, it looks like I’m a sheep and following the crowd, but if you know me it’s not surprising that I have a suite of Apple products in my home.
So, what is Steve Jobs’s legacy to computers and phone technology? Sure, we’d still have those things, but would they be as beautiful to look at and use without someone like Jobs pushing the boundaries?
I think his legacy is three-fold —
- prophetic technology vision: compare the c.1987 intro to Knowledge Navigator and 2011′s intro to Siri http://ow.ly/6OP9Z
- ‘outside-the-box’ technological design, both in and outside the machine: here’s a video montage http://ow.ly/6OTo4
- computer-animated feature-length films: here is Jobs’s speech to Stanford students where he recounted three stories, including setting up Pixar and how his accidental love of typography shaped typeface use in personal computers http://ow.ly/6OQRq
Oh! Let’s not forget that since the iMac’s release, using a lowercase ‘i’ as the first letter in product names or for trends is now ubiquitous. Think Hyundai i30 or iLoad, or even the use of ‘iSad’ as a hastag on Twitter for Jobs’s passing.
Other responses to Jobs’s legacy and passing —
- an article by Entrepenur Magazine (@EntMagazine): ’10 Things to Thank Steve Jobs For’ http://ow.ly/6OUi4
- a poignant blog post from screenwriter John August: http://ow.ly/6OTGp
- a tweet that’s wrong, but … (be warned): @PeterGriffin: RIP Steve Jobs – id want to die if i had to watch that release of an iphone 4s
- but my favourite tweet: @NicholeBernier: Prayers tonight from the 5yo, not kidding: “Dear God please have fun tonight with the guy who invented iPhone and iPad.“
How do you feel about Steve Jobs’s passing?
Thanks for reading