Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dear Lord Pearson

Last week a form letter arrived in my letterbox. It came from the Auckland-based New Zealand branch of Pearson Education, the giant international publisher which states on its website that it is "the world's leading education company. From pre-school to high school, early learning to professional certification, our curriculum materials, multimedia learning tools and testing programmes help to educate millions of people worldwide - more than any other private enterprise."
        The letter confirmed that Pearson's education business in New Zealand - that is, its substantial local education publishing operation - will close at the end of August. It ended, "For further information, please contact [name of unfortunate staffer given this task] at [email address]."
         I used to work as an editor for this company, back in the days when it was no longer Longman Paul, just Longman. But I never wrote books for it, and the letter was not addressed to me. Here's what I wrote in reply:

Dear ... Lord Pearson [I didn't write that, but I wanted to]
Thank you for your information about Pearson closing down its New Zealand education business. I already knew this, but it is very sad news, both for Pearson's talented and loyal staff, and for New Zealand education. Evidently Pearson no longer sees the production of specific resources for New Zealand
schools as worth doing.
        My husband, Harvey McQueen, was a pioneer in creating anthologies of New Zealand poetry for New Zealand schools and had a very long association with Pearson and its predecessors, right back to the days of Longman Paul (though there was, of course, no mention of this in the form letter addressed to him,
and headed "Media External Stakeholder Statement").
         Harvey died on 25 December 2010. Your royalties department knows this, because it has since been paying his royalties to me as his widow. I would prefer not to receive any more letters addressed to Harvey years after his death. As I'm sure you will appreciate, this is distressing. Could you therefore please ensure that this information is clearly recorded in every list of authors kept by Pearson, so that it does not happen again.

Yours sincerely
Anne Else

In fact, except for the occasional royalty statement, I don't expect to hear from Pearson ever again. But after writing this letter, I felt better.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Into the future

My e-book memoir, The Colour of Food, published by Awa Press, is being launched this Sunday by Lois Daish, but it's already available online (see below). It feels very odd to be putting out a new book which Harvey will never read, even though a goodly portion of it is about living with him. If he had lived, of course, it would be a very different book.
     As it happens, I am reading Julian Barnes' Levels of Life, which is about the sudden death of his wife (they too had been together for 30 years). She was "the heart of my life and the life of my heart". His account of his experience after she died rings so true for me.
      It's available in print, but I'm reading it on my iPad. Like many readers now, I move between print and e-books, though I still tend to depend on conventional print reviews (often read online), as well as friends' recommendations, to decide what to look for. I think it will be that way for a long time.
       So now I hope lots of people will discover my book, and when they do, tell other people about it - especially, of course, online. Reviewing it for Amazon, etc is a huge help too (I am brazenly assuming you will like it). Here's how to get it:

For Kindle, you can find it on Amazon here. Or else go to Amazon and put this in the search box:

For Kobo, you can find it here. Or else go to Unity Books Online, find their ebook section and search for Anne Else.

And here's how it begins:
To start with
I’m three, and I’m sitting in the sun on the grass beside the narrow strip of garden in our long skinny backyard. Before Mum sees me I reach out for a handful of rich dark soil and fill my mouth with its crunchy, crumbly, satisfying warmth.Now I’m four, watching Mum as she cuts a neat square plug out of an apple. She hides sugar in the hole for me to find and puts back the plug, the cut-lines invisible in the green skin.