All Stations to Waterfall.
Publishers of books that change lives
All Stations to Waterfall.
We live in the era of 24/7 access to information but delayed implementation of our dreams. How often have you said, ‘When we have more money … when the kids have finished school … when we retire.’ Do we really have to wait until we’re about to kick that bucket to find the gumption to follow a dream or would our lives improve if we did it now?
It took a major illness to convince Olympic coach and motivational speaker Mick Miller to do something different. He decided to do a trip of recovery and discovery around Australia – and he didn’t need a fancy motor home or months of planning to do it. Instead he packed up his trusty VolksWagon Beetle The Rocket with a two-man tent, an esky, a sleeping bag, a blender and a few clothes; took a quick look at the map (turned it up the right way), found highway one and drove off.
Of course, life happens, even – especially – on the road. Mick occasionally needed more treatment, the Rocket needed a heap of treatment, and he had to overcome encounters with rain, wind, red dirt storms and giant semi’s. Notwithstanding these challenges, Mick started on his goal to being more present and to live a happier, healthier and more mindful life.
Mick spent fifteen months on the road and recorded his journey along the way. Every couple of weeks he would send a video clip and a bunch of photos to his friend Robyn Ford, who transcribed them into the blog that eventually became Travelling Australia Mick’s Way.
It’s impossible not to get wanderlust browsing through this beautiful hardback tribute to Mick’s journey – 292 pages of magnificent photographs of the iconic Australian landscape peppered with Mick’s thoughtful and often entertaining roadside musings. It’s best enjoyed with your feet propped on the coffee table, and a cuppa and a lamington (or some double chocolate Tim Tams) in hand.
Laura Boon – It’s all write publicity
This year we had some really outstanding entries in our memoir prize and I don’t envy our judges having to make their final decision! Here is a round up of the shortlisted entries:
Tin Gypsy by Alan Sampson: This is a heartfelt account of a father who visits his son who is living and working in the wilds of Canada’s Yukon to try and persuade him to come home to Australia and get a ‘proper’ job. However after being practically drowned in an extreme kayaking adventure, nearly eaten by a bear and beaten up in a bar brawl, he realises his son is the one who is living life to the full.
All Stations to Waterfall by Fay Keegan: A wonderfully clear-eyed and poignant account of how an accident –falling from a train carriage- at a young age shaped Fay Keegan’s life and that of her family’s. Fay’s story is compelling.
A Little Bit Country by Georgina Lawrence: When Georgina and her young family are fed up with the heatwaves sweeping the city they spontaneously decide to move to the outskirts of the Adelaide Hills and buy a tumbled down farm. Without any knowledge of any kind of farming experience they are plunged headfirst into ‘true’ country life. Utterly charming and humorous.
Okotoks Erratic by Vicki Laveau-Harvie: When her elderly mother is hospitalised, Vicki is summoned to her parents’ home in America to care for her father. What she discovers when she arrives is a power play that has been going on between her parents that has dramatic and possibly fatal ramifications for all involved. An intensely gripping, black humoured drama.
A Woman of Strange Substance by Sacha Jones: This is the follow up to The Grass Was Always Browner which was published by Finch a few years ago. It follows Sacha to London where she continues to pursue her dreams if becoming a prima ballerina but is thwarted by the many distractions of London’s patisseries. Charming and funny.
Coming Home to Squabbling Ground by Jenifer Severn: A painful childhood with a remote and complicated father shapes Jennifer’s life in ways that she doesn’t even realise. Her attempts at reconciliation later in life lead her to contemplate her life from a completely new angle. A thoughtful and considered examination of family relationships.
The judges have finished their shortlist ahead of time and I am delighted to announce that we have six shortlisted authors. They are:
- Alan Sampson with Tin Gypsy
- Georgina Lawrence with A Little Bit Country
- Fay Keegan with All Stations to Waterfall
- Vicki Laveau-Harvie with Okotoks Erratic
- Sacha Jones with A Woman of Strange Substance
- Jennifer Severn with Coming Home to Squabbling Ground
Congratulations to our shortlisted authors! I don’t envy the judges in making their final decision!
Finch is happy to announce a Good Reads Giveaway!
10 signed copies of How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate are being given away. So enter now or if you just can’t wait grab a copy at bookstores it is out today. Don’t forget if you are a Good Reads member – post a review and tell us what you think.
Mick Miller had an incredible career as a high performance coach for some of Australia’s top athletes, including Olympians, Rugby League teams and America’s Cup campaigns. He was used to living a life on four-year Olympic cycles, with constant demands on his time and resources, high pressure to reach KPIs, high stress and even higher expectations. He was constantly pushing, pushing, pushing! ‘I was looking after everybody else, but not really looking after myself,’ said Mick.
He swam every morning at Newport Beach. One day he swam over a clump of seaweed at the northern end of the beach and observe how it just drifted with the current of the ocean – it just went with the flow. Mick thought about how amazing it would be to live life like that, to just go with the flow. When he got out of the water he felt a lump on his neck, a swollen gland that he hadn’t noticed before. Three weeks and two operations later he was given the diagnosis of neck and throat cancer. One of the doctors told Mick, ‘Mate, we are going to have to nearly kill you to make you better. I had put to everything on hold, including the mortgage, closed my business and embarked on the first day of the rest of my life.’
Mick was convinced that he would be able to cruise through the treatment, pretend everything was normal and not tell anyone he had cancer, for reasons he is still not quite sure why. He quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be quite that simple. Treatment started well, but the wheels began to fall off about halfway through. Paula Macleod, the Head and Neck Cancer Care Coordinator at Royal North Shore Hospital, asked him one day: ‘Mick, why do you keep trying to crash through the brick wall when there is a door there that you can easily open?’ Mick knew then that he just had to surrender, ‘go with the flow’ like that seaweed at the beach and ask for some help.
Mick soon realised that, just like in the sporting arena, a team approach is vital and that in the hospital he had an amazing team around him for support consisting of nurses, dieticians, medical and radiation oncologists, and surgeons. ‘My recovery really was a team effort and every single person contributed in some way or another. From the dedicated team at the hospital, my sister Laura, special friend Robbie, my friends who organised rosters, drove me to treatment, cooked meals and had me to stay in their homes. Friends who would call or text, hold my hand, laugh at my jokes, inspire me and encourage my dreams or simply those who had me in their thoughts. It was important to surround myself with the right people, with the right energy – an incredible bunch of people who helped guide me through the whole experience.”
After leaving hospital, Mick decided to make a few changes in his life, treat each day as a gift and go with the flow. Post-treatment and some 25kg lighter, he took a holistic approach to healing with regular appointments with a psychologist, nutritionist, acupuncturist, naturopath, massage therapist and physiotherapist, truly investing in himself and his recovery.
He also decided to embark on a journey of recovery and discovery, circumnavigating Australia in his 1968 sky blue VW Beetle fondly named The Rocket, raising funds and awareness for post-cancer recovery. His travels led to world acclaim through his blog, ‘Travelling Australia Mick’s Way’ and then the publication of his inspirational book with the same title. A portion from the sale of each copy of Travelling Australia Mick’s Way is donated to help cancer patients and their families post cancer treatment via The Tomorrow Trust, which helps to bring some normality back into the lives of cancer patients and their families.
Today Mick is a much sought after public speaker, performance coach and freelance radio commentator. Mick is passionate about giving back and helping other cancer patients and their families, often touching base with new cancer patients referred to him for a chat by Paula Macleod.
‘Life is different now, I consciously choose not to brand anything good or bad, it is just different and everything that I have experienced is exactly that: an experience. All these experiences have helped shape me to become who I am today and have given me a much clearer perspective on life: no fears, no expectations, no rush – just going with the flow.’
Finch celebrated 25 years in Publishing with a Birthday Bash on October 6th which included long time authors Steve Biddulph and Andrew Fuller giving heartfelt speeches acknowledging their long affiliation with Finch and Rex. Peter Berner also delivered his wonderful brand of humour, along with many other past and present authors, editors and collaborators.
In 2001 The Sun-Herald magazine ran a front cover story: Why modern men need Rex Finch. Open the pages and the article begins… ”Among Bookshop shelves groaning with guides to good parenting and healthy relationships, one publisher stands alone.” Not bad for a business started in his front room. 16 years on from that front page and 25 years since the start of Finch Publishing, Rex Finch reflects on what has been a wild ride in Australian Publishing.
In 1992, after nearly 20 years working in publishing, the only way I would have set up my own business was if I lost my position as Publisher at Doubleday. And, lo and behold, that’s what happened. I set up in late 1992 in the front room at home – with a lovely little family but no spare money.
So for two years I produced books for other publishers and a range of self-publishing authors. My then wife Vicki managed the bookkeeping in the evenings after work.
The concept behind the business was that it would be a backlist nonfiction publishing house with a narrow band of categories: parenting, child care, health, relationships and social issues. These were the genres I felt most comfortable with in those days. They were also reasonably reliable in terms of sales and I believed we had a distinctive Australian voice, especially in contrast with the UK and the US.
During that time, I had signed up Steve Biddulph who had an excitingly different manuscript, ‘A Handbook of Men’s Liberation’ – which we published in 1994 as Manhood. At that time the market was focused on books for women – and so this book was seen as a ‘brave’ proposition. However, Manhood received good reviews and reports from the trade indicated that women were buying it 9:1 over men. They knew only too well the struggles that many men in their lives were having. As testament to that, we sold 40,000 copies in the first 18 months, and then changed the cover and sold another 40,000 copies in the following 9 months. It was during that second phase that retailers saw a significant change – men buying multiple copies for friends.
Finch Publishing operated out of the front room at home for the first 7 years, and only published another two books in the two years following Manhood. Everything was freelanced. However, once we began work on Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys we were dealing with tight schedules, first-class freelancers (editing, design, printing and publicity) and the need to fund a big printrun. In September 1997 we released Raising Boys to a public that had been promoted to for up to a year at Steve’s national talks. It literally took off, and we received widespread publicity. At one point we were reprinting monthly in 20,000 copy batches at a time.
Both Manhood (1994) and Raising Boys (1997) went on to become constant sellers across the decades. By late 1999 we realised we needed staff – and so we moved out of the front room and found ourselves an office and a strong publishing program.
Fast forward to 2008: we had a developed a strong list of 75 titles and a small 4-person team in-house. There was much humour and chat and a never-ending bucket load of work. All good fun though. Over the years it seemed our best mix was always a marketing and publicity person, an editorial manager, a bookkeeper and myself (commissioning, foreign rights and carrying boxes down to the post office before closing!).
Our list still reflected the core genres – but by then they had grown and become specialised: childcare, parenting, women’s health, men’s health, teenage health, relationships & society and social ecology (this last one was a synthesis of all my interests).
The business in 2017 (25 years down the track) is a slimmer operation, with reduced retail sales, fewer foreign rights, and a strong focus on digital media. We’ve had to accommodate regularly to changes in the book market, and move adroitly in tight times. However, the biggest achievement is that we still get excited by new books for our list and we have an office full of laughter to balance the hard work. Our team of part-time staff works well together and we continue to build a list we are proud of.
In my role as Publishing Manager of Finch I do not always have time to edit or proof read most of our books. They are sent to freelancers once I have read through the initial manuscript and decided on a course of action. Does this manuscript need rewriting or is it fine to send straight to an editor? Does it need trimming for length or expanding some sections? Is the writing quality good enough? Does the author actually make sense? However, sometimes I find myself taking in author’s and proof reader corrections and become hooked on a particular idea or theme of a manuscript that wasn’t immediately clear to me before. Such was the case when I was doing some work on a manuscript called Unlocking Your Child’s Genius by Andrew Fuller.
Now, I am no genius! And this book isn’t for genius children either. But in one chapter, which covers the process of having to make difficult decisions, I found myself thinking…wait, this is not just for kids, this is a really invaluable chapter for anyone of any age! As I got further into it, and saw all the underlying processes that go into making decisions, I began to wonder how I had managed to get through my life without this advice. In fact after re-reading the rest of the book I began to wonder how I had made it through life at all!
Another valuable chapter for me was ‘Practising to Improve’, which included information on the art of deliberate practice. This applied mainly to sports, but could be used in any endeavour. Deliberate practice is identifying a skill that needs improvement and working on improving that skill. This sounds quite basic but how many times do you find yourself just doing the things you are good at and kind of ‘forgetting’ or not wanting to practice the things you are not so good at? For me, a lot! In my chosen sport of dressage riding, deliberate practice has become a very big part of my training. It was also fascinating to learn about mirror neurons and the way we can actually improve our own skills just by watching someone else do something. I thought this happened to me only because I was a ‘visual’ learner, but to find out there is actually a process in the brain that ‘mirrors’ activity was amazing. (Maybe everyone already knew this…but I didn’t.)
All in all I felt somewhat humbled by also invigorated by reading this book for ‘children’. I suppose the biggest lesson of all is that we never stop learning!