Reporting from: Chennai, India
Local Contact: Nina McConigley
I worked at Tara Books (www.tarabooks.com). Tara is a small independent book publisher in India that specializes in beautiful handmade books. It’s a collective run by artists and writers, and they publish amazing books with work by established writers as well as tribal artists.
I did a little bit of everything at Tara, from publicity, to working with artists and writers, to helping put on art exhibits. In such a small office, everyone works to make the books successful while supporting the artists.
It’s such a cliché to say everything in India is an inspiration, but it’s true! I felt very inspired by the people and artists I worked with. People who were doing their art because it was something they felt they had to do. I met several artists from the Gonds—a tribe from Madhya Pradesh. For the Gonds, everyone in the village is an artist. They all draw on the walls, the floors—they surround themselves with art. From young children to the old, everyone is an artist. I love that. I think so many of us don’t think we have an artistic side.
I also was inspired by everyday life in Chennai—the sounds, the food, the colors. There wasn’t a day where something didn’t surprise me. I wrote a lot in India, and, in addition to all of the inspiration, I think it was also because my life was simpler there. I didn’t have Internet or a TV at home, and so spent my evenings writing, walking, and reading. I wish I could be so disciplined now!
I realized how hard it is when you are a small independent publisher. Anyone who has held a Tara Book in their hands knows how special they are. But figuring out how to get the books into people’s hands is a challenge when you are a small press with a limited budget for publicity.
I am hopeful that through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, small presses can spread the word more and more. I have discovered lots of small presses through Twitter. But I still am frustrated that many small houses and independent books are overlooked not because of their quality, but because there isn’t a huge amount of publicity or a budget to showcase them. Again, I love that the web can be a way to share lesser-known works. And I am always hopeful that there are readers and people out in the world that love books, and love them as works of art in and of themselves.
Christine Mason Miller is a writer and mixed-media artist who loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Her latest book, Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, is now available at bookstores everywhere. Visit her at www.christinemasonmiller.com.