The Penguin Plays Rough Book of Short Stories

March 23rd 2011

Photo by Lucy Parakhina.


When Penguin Plays Rough was kicked out of its Newtown home last year, the future of the rambunctious live fiction night looked grim. A new location was luckily found in a cavernous Twin-Peaksian St Peters warehouse, but the threat of losing the event triggered a desire to immortalise the Penguin spirit. We talked to founder Pip Smith about The Penguin Plays Rough Book of Short Stories, and capturing the unpredictable live energy of the event on 100% recycled, lovingly assembled paper.

What inspired the decision to turn a short story night into a hard cover anthology?

We got evicted and I didn't want this thing that had been created by so many people to vanish into thin air. I realised that as renters our longevity was always subject to the whims of our landlords or real estate agents, so I applied for the Write In Your Face grant (an initiative of the Australia Council, and Express Media in Melbourne), and thought that if PPR died from homelessness, at least there would be some kind of record of the nights. And we got it!

What can readers expect to find within its covers?

23 stories, by "writers", comedians, musicians, artists, and a variety of other peope who know how to hold a pen and tell a good (invariably strange or funny) story. We've got stories by PPR veteran Luke Carman, 2004 SOYA award winner Felicity Castagna, comedian Nick Sun, theatre-makers Eddie Sharp and Kenzie Larsen, comedian/ theatre-maker Claudia O'Doherty, comedian DeAnne Smith, writer Sam Twyford Moore, musician Aidan Roberts (Belles Will Ring, The Maple Trail), and others! Also you can expect to find each story lovingly illustrated by a variety of different artists.

Judging by the PPR Facebook and WordPress, the anthology being released is more than a humble collection of short stories. Can you give a run-down of what else is included in the purchase?

If you're one of the first 300 to by the book, it'll come with a dustjacket that folds out to be an A2 illustration of all the stories together in one place. Also, the book will come with a download code, so that you can hear the book as a series of MP3s, or so you can download the book as an app for iPhone or iPad. The book also comes with a hard cover and is printed on recycled paper.

Releasing it with such a comprehensive package seems awfully generous. Why not stop with just a book?

With electronic publishing being as accessible and affordable as it is, you have to have a damn good reason to pump another disposable object out into the world. Large publishing houses have to print on shoestring budgets, because they have such huge overheads, but as an independent publisher, and with the support of the Australia Council, we're not backed into the corner in the same way; we can afford to care a little bit more about the actual, physical product we're making. Having good stories isn't enough – you can publish good stories on a blog. These days a book needs to be worth keeping; it needs to be durable, ethical and beautiful. But it also needs to be portable and versatile. Basically we stole the idea of printing a book with a download code from the Fleet Foxes vinyl, which was a beautiful object with incredible artwork, but the record company knew that while a vinyl is beautiful, it's no longer practical, so they released it with an MP3 download code, too.

If you want to receive the book with a hand screen


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