Contracts for bookseller

By Rhonda Dredge

Getting a publishing contract is like winning a lottery for a writer. To get two at once is enough to make you feel like a millionaire.

Anna Macdonald has a book of essays coming out next month and a novella next year.

She has signed the contracts with Splice and can relax in a rare moment of sunlight.

Anna has worked for eight years at The Paperback on Bourke St and she’s known for her ability to match reader with title.

Now the book whisperer is being recognised for her own ability to put words to landscape, particularly Melbourne’s CBD.

“Walking as a way of being in a place is important to me,” she said. 

Her book of essays Between the Word and the World tracks her extended walks, observations and thoughts about the CBD and part of her novella The Weight of Water is set at the bookshop.

“In terms of a sense of the city, I know how much memory is invested in this particular area. So many people came in as kids to the bookshop.”

The Paperback building is one of the oldest shopfronts in Melbourne, she said, with original walls in Liverpool and Crossley streets from 1847.

Even though she has a history degree, Anna has not written a literal account of the city. She likes books that include digressions, curiosity and attention to detail.

She is primarily a literary critic, writing online reviews for Splice, a publishing company based in London.

Her work is influenced by European writers such as Sebold and deals with the way an interior monologue connects a character to a place.

Writers are shy about describing or interpreting their own work. That job is up to the reader. 

Anna includes first-person grounded responses to the novels she reviews, a method perfected by Janet Malcolm in The New Yorker.

It is easier, however, to get her to comment on the craft of writing than it is for her to reveal any back stories about herself or her work.

“Writing … I think it’s part of my personality. If I don’t have time on my own to think … writing for me is a way of finding out what I think about something.”

“For me, there’s fun when something works. When words come together in a mysterious way … I don’t understand how that came together.”

The novella moves between contemporary Melbourne and London and London of 1919 and that’s all she’s revealing.

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