Sleepers – Word Wizards From Oz
Sleepers is an independent Australian publishing house formed in 2003, who have gained a reputation for quality writing, and quality events, specifically their Sleepers Salon nights. Coming to the other side of the world to do a show is surely a daunting task, but founder member Louise Swinn tells me she has “No experience whatsoever,” of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “or of Edinburgh at all! It's just like in the new film Burke and Hare, isn't it? I expect my experience to be like that of the Simon Pegg character.” Without that awkward business with the corpses and the murdering, one would hope, with that kind of thing being frowned upon at most book festivals.
Anyway, what is Sleepers about? It’s about publishing good writing, obviously, but it’s also about encouraging collaboration. There’s an intriguing, and rather admirable, passage on their website stating one of their aims as being to 'create an interweaving network in which writers can collaborate with artists from other disciplines to redefine the accepted notions of literature.' I ask Louise to elaborate on this, and she tells me “Writers love to collaborate, because writing is otherwise such a solitary endeavour, so we try to encourage all kinds of artists to mingle at our Salons, and poets and illustrators and short story writers all appear together in our annual anthology, the Sleepers Almanac.” Obviously, to find out more in depth about that publication, you’ll have to come to the event, but Louise stresses that getting writers and other artists to collaborate is a key part of Sleepers’ ethos “It's something we'd like more of – collaboration can produce such surprising results, and it can be fascinating seeing the world through a different artist's viewpoint.”
Bearing all this in mind, what kind of event will Sleepers Publishing put on? “The night is going to be a shebang of authors and their influences, be they musical, literary or culinary.” There will also be “Some trivia; perhaps some audience participation if you're lucky (or unlucky); and there’s the hope that we get some dirt on authors Kalinda Ashton, Steven Amsterdam and hopefully some more of the Australian crew.” Ashton and Amsterdam are the authors of the much acclaimed novels The Danger Game, and Things We Didn’t See Coming respectively. The rest of the Australian crew are yet to be confirmed – it’s almost as if it’s hard to organise a trip to the other side of the world.
Louise Swinn, though, isn’t worried that all this travel could be a wasted journey, far from it. “Australians love to travel,” she tells me. “If you offer us a free drink and all we have to do is fly for a couple of days to get it, that's an offer we can't refuse.” A fine, positive, national attitude. Apart from the drinking though, what risk is there of disappointment in journeying so far? Louise is, again, positive: “I guess it would depend what my expectations are, and I like to keep them low. If there's a hovel I can kip in, some watery porridge once a day, and a room full of readers and writers to make passes at – well, isn't that about all we ever need?” Good point. It’s probably fair to say Australian writing isn’t something most Unbound attendees will be overly familiar with, but that’s more to do with lack of availability than reticence. It looks like a safe bet to say that for anyone who’s interested in writing from down under, or just good writing or a good night out, will find Sleepers’ event on Saturday 20 August a great place to be.