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Featured Member: Barbara Larson, Publisher, Longacre Press

By July 16, 2010April 11th, 2014No Comments

Barbara Larson, Longacre PressThe first book I remember reading was Alice in Wonderland, a beautiful hardback edition with the original illustrations. I remember the shape and heft, the lovely illustrations, the subtle dustjacket and the print on the page. My name was neatly printed on the half title. The book was mine, and Alice and her companions gave me a world apart.

Many years later and half an ocean away, my introduction to publishing was through illustration. I was offered the job of supplying ‘decorative’ drawings for a book about the history of the car in New Zealand. I’d never before drawn a car but that was something the publisher didn’t need to know. My task introduced me to the world of car lovers: the proud owner of a 1962 Cadillac convertible, a bloke who kept his magnificent Morris Minor up on blocks, another who thought heaven lurked behind the wheel of his custom-made truck. Not one cared that the book was a diatribe against cars. And I was hooked. Instead of working in isolation, here I was, involved in a world I knew nothing about.

The car drawings were nothing remarkable in themselves, but that didn’t stop me from I’m sure it was a publisher who wrote the wishful expression, ‘May you live an interesting life.’ I open my computer every day with anticipation.telling the publisher what I thought of their book and cover designs. I was talking through a hole in my head, but they didn’t need to know that either. John McIndoe offered me a part-time job as an editorial assistant.

I read manuscripts – screeds of badly written, depressing stories as well as collections of verse – and if I started them, I finished them, hoping against hope they’d get better. I wrote rejection letters by the truckload, feeling terrible about each and every one, until I learned to encourage the talented, and not waste time on the mediocre or worse. My real love in those early days was spending time at the light table: we used bromides that were glued onto grids with beeswax. I designed title pages and pasted up books. And I proofread: Owen Marshall’s early short stories, Hone Tuwhare’s Selected Poems, AK Grant’s hilarious piss-takes, along with Cilla McQueen’s poetry and the dark genius of Michael Henderson. It was a rich and happy time. It was a wonderful apprenticeship.

Later I became the managing editor of McIndoe Publishing and worked with Paula Boock – I looked forward to every day. And then one day we up-staked and moved down the road to set up our own publishing house, Longacre Press, with the assistance of Lynsey Ferrari.

They were heady days; we had no idea what we were getting into. Our lawyer thought we were crazy, our accountant wasn’t so kind. We learned more from our mistakes than from success but after two years could finally pay ourselves a salary of sorts. We started a young adult fiction list, we honoured the regional, and we admired the irreverent, the challenging and the individual southern voice. We still do.

It’s a privilege to work with the intelligent and passionate community of people one encounters in this industry. I’m sure it was a publisher who wrote the wishful expression, ‘May you live an interesting life.’ I open my computer every day with anticipation.