Mr Middleton’s Teleporter: How do you do?

Last week, I introduced you to Mr Middleton.  I have provided an excerpt for you below, from my interview journals with Mr Middleton, from when I first came across him. It was on a meandering walk I took, through Paddington, not long after I had moved to Sydney.  Not knowing my way around, and with thoughts of what documentary I might try my hand at next (at the time, I fancied myself a documentary maker, having made a couple of TV-length attempts, none of which had been broadcast), I had decided to try and find the next subject for a documentary simply by roaming the streets.

 The first few attempts were dismal; I interviewed some perfectly pleasant, utterly boring Sydney-siders, one a cafe owner, one a cosmetics shop proprietor.  Then I came across Mr Middleton exiting his house on his way to the grocery store.  

Journal excerpt

…His plainness, the total anonymity of his suit, made me think, oddly, of Einstein and his wardrobe full of the same suits, one for each day of the week, to avoid wasting his mental energy on menial tasks such as deciding what to wear each day.  Mr Middleton was either going to be the most interesting person I had met so far, or the least.  Either way, it was worth the attempt.

As I got close, I am sure I heard him mutter under his breath something about a “teleporter.”  Better and better.  I cornered him for a couple of questions, as he stood outside his gate, nervously fidgeting with his coat the while.  I did manage to get from him that he was a scientist of some kind, and I thought I would slip the teleporter into conversation as if I knew about it already, a technique which I had used in interviews in the past and which generally seemed to achieve greater disclosure.

Q: Where were you born?

MM: Sydney.

Q: What made you want to get into science?

MM:  I don’t know what you mean.  Science is everything.  How can one get into it when one is never out of it?  

Q:  What first prompted you to try to invent a teleporter?

MM: You know about that?  No one is supposed to know about that yet.  It’s not ready for other people to know about it.  Have you told “Physics Today?”  I beg of y0u, don’t breathe a word to the toadies at that magazine.  Not yet.  They wouldn’t know true science if it poked them in the eye.

Q: How will your teleporter work, once it is ready?

MM: I can’t say.  There’s a combination of expectation energy…but no, I can’t say.  Not before it’s ready.  They’ll just think I am mad again.  This will show them, my theories are not mad at all!

Q: What do you do for a living?

MM:  I work at a television factory, doing quality control.  But my real work is in my laboratory.  No one has ever understood, but I’m sure, if I could only work out how matter can be transformed and reconfigured rather than transported…we could save so much time…there could be instantaneous travel.  But no, that’s enough.  What was I saying?  Nothing, nothing.  Very well.  Get on now.

Q: Do you have any family?

MM:  That’s enough.  I’m very busy.  Please don’t come back, as I won’t have time.  Good-bye.

I’m afraid that’s all Mr Middleton had time for.  He did not tell me when he expects the teleporter will be ready; in fact, he seemed to want to not speak of it.  He did not let me into his laboratory, but I am hopeful for next time.  I will definitely be back.  Mr Middleton, this funny little man, is on to something.  Mad man or genius; either way, good talent….

To be continued.


Introducing Mr Middleton

May I introduce to you Mr Middleton.


Mr Middleton

Mr Middleton



Mr Middleton.  Say hello.

MM: Oh, uhmm.  Yes, but the impersonality co-efficient.  If it was to the power of z, then proportionally it might make no difference to the material transfer.  Where’s that glass?  

Doesn’t look like we are going to get his attention, but at least now you’ve met him.  He’s like that.  I’m the only friend he has, and that’s because he doesn’t know I exist.

Mr Middleton will be making future visits to this blog, and will be setting up his own site soon enough. Won’t you, Mr Middleton?

MM:  What’s that?  No, can’t do it.  Got to work at the sub-atomic level for it to be of any use at all.

Let’s take that as a yes.  Mr Middleton.  Mr Middleton!  Do put away that bottle, there’s a good man.  (Doesn’t understand a PR opportunity when it is staring him in the face.  Might be best to close off now.)

Next week, I’ll tell you more about Mr Middleton, including his likes, dislikes, and how he came to be in the teleporter business. I’ll also be introducing you to Mr Richards.  You might find Mr Richards a little more, ehem, communicative than Mr Middleton, although I will keep trying.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 11

Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney. 

I met Hoang back at Berkelouw’s two weeks later, to see the character drawings and the first of the scenes.  We had agreed to do this to check that we were on the right track.  

Hoang brought his wife, Cat, with him this time, and I brought Y (my fiance).  Cat was the girl with the beautiful hair whom I had met at the Paddington markets.  She and Hoang seemed a perfectly matched pair, complementing each other’s creative and business strengths and weaknesses, the type of couple you always hope will like you and, more importantly, that you will some day be like.

Hoang was excited.  I was excited.  Y and Cat were supportively boisterous.  

Hoang drew out from his satchel…

the perfect Mr Middleton.  He had the alcoholic red nose, the disconsolate slouch, and the round belly of middle-age that I had imagined without actually  imagining it quite as perfectly as this!

Mr Middleton was closely followed by Mr Richards.  Again, perfect.  Hoang had achieved his angularity, his moonish dissatisfaction, his quiet desperation, and made him look likeable at the same time.

The crowning glory…the first scene, to go with the opening words:

Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney, in a country called Australia, built like an old-fashioned beehive across a flurry of sprawling, sparkling, rudely alive water.  Tall buildings sprouted out of the city’s conical centre, around which clustered thousands of winding roads and terraced houses.  Homes jostled with offices and buildings inside of which people lifted weights squeezed next to places where they put them down again.  All around, streets spread like lines of hardened honey for hundreds of miles, people buzzing to and fro, some filled with music, others with rage, others with forgotten shopping lists that in turn concealed memories of loved ones, of regret; all of them keeping the veins of the city alive.  

It was glorious.  Hoang had given so many little details which revealed themselves only on closer inspection, and had taken the essence of the scene and the entire story and captured it.  He got it, and he had translated it into a look, feel and masterful illustration.

I almost wept into my LSD.

“So you like them?” Hoang asked, grinning.  

We spent the next twenty minutes being excited together, before agreeing to come and see him at his home and office in the Blue Mountains in two weeks time to see the final two drawings for the pitch package.  

Hoang had already made me see the possible wonder of the book.  Now we just had to show these pictures to the publisher and give them a moment of wistfulness in their days, and see how they responded.  

To be continued.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 10

In which I am asked the question, what does a teleporter actually look like?

It was 10.06 pm when the phone rang, about three days since the events of my last self-publishing post.


“Yep, Hoang, how’s it going?”  Trepidation..he’s going to say it’s too hard..

“Good, good.  I was just wondering, if you can tell me because I can’t really find it in the story: what does the teleporter look like?”

“Look like?”  

“Yeah, look like.”

“Umm…”  I racked my brain for a memory.  Surely I had imagined what the teleporter would look like…”Um,” I improvised.  “I guess it might look sort of like, there is something coming from the ceiling…actually Hoang, what do you think it would look like?”

Nice save.  

“Well, it could look all industrial, so with like, red lights and big metal doors and things.”

“Oh yeah, that sounds cool.”

“Or, it could be more minimalist, like, just a light from the ceiling, with a few hooks.”

“Oh, yeah, that too.”

“So which do you prefer?”

I paused.  The thing was, both sounded cool.  But I had never really pictured the teleporter before.  I kicked myself for this oversight.

“Can I call you back?  I just need to think about it for a bit.”

“No worries!”

I lay on the bed (my favourite thinking position, after he baththub) and tried to imagine the teleporter.  Both of Hoang’s options sounded good, and I wanted to give him full latitude as the visual creative on this project.  This situation demonstrated to me how much of a word person I was, and not an image person.  It also made me feel like a bit of a nob, really.  Not knowing what the third word in the title of the book even looked like?  Dear oh dear, Jackie, I berated myself (in somewhat harsher thought-words).  

I thought, and I thought.  I eventually put the (metaphorical) baseball bat that I was whacking myself with down, and let myself realise something that had been nagging at me.  

The story was not about the teleporter.  It was about the experience of being teleported.  I had spent ages and ages, imagining what it would feel like to be teleported.  What it would do to a person.  How they would lose part of themselves in the process of becoming what the person at the other end of the journey “expected” of them (the teleporter, as everyone knows, works on the principle of expectation energy.  The downside, or upside, depending on your proclivities, is that you become what the person who is waiting for you expects.)

I hesitantly explained myself to my betrothed, who immediately made me feel like I wasn’t an avisual loser.  “You wrote about what mattered to you,” he encouraged me.  

“So, I was thinking, do you think you could illustrate Mr Middleton being teleported, rather than the teleporter itself?”  I had called Hoang back and now waited to hear his response.

“Yeah, I think so, absolutely.  Can you explain to me what it feels like to be teleported?”

This, I could do.  “It’s like, your whole body disintegrates, and you are a million atoms but you are none of them, and you could be tugged in a hundred directions, but the person expecting you applies their expectation energy which gathers you into the person they expect.  But before that moment, you are ego-less whilst still having self, distributed across all the different particles which are all the particles of the Universe.”

“OK…I think I have an idea.”

To be continued.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 9

In which I drink an LSD which changes my life forever.

In Part 8, I had just managed to locate the brother of the artist, Hoang Nguyen, who had done the picture I had fallen in love with.  I gave the man my manuscript and all I had to do was wait, and pray, and try not to pick off the entirety of the skin around my fingers (gross, I know).  

I had resigned myself to having to wait the full week before making a follow-up phone call to see how Hoang had reacted to the story.

I got a phone call on the Wednesday, just three days later.

“Yeah, look, I really like the story.”

Double take.  Swallow.  “Really?”  

“Yeah!  You have a crazy imagination, you know that?  Some of the stuff in this is unreal.  But I think what you write about is really similar to the message that we try to give people, about living a sustainable life in touch with the environment, and making joy and family and community first.”

I nodded, a bad habit I had had since I was five years old when I used to answer the phone and nod or shake my head without speaking.  

“I think it’s such a coincidence,  you know, because we were just thinking about doing a book too.”

“That’s great!”  I said. Finally, vocalising.  Progress! “So, how about we meet up after the markets this weekend and talk about our next steps?”

“OK, I will be at the Rocks markets until quite late, so say, 7.00?”

“That’s fine.  Can we make it Berkelouw’s?  It’s a book store with a cafe on Oxford St, not far from where the book is set.”

“OK sounds good.  See you there!”

“Great, see you Hoang!”

WOOHOO!  He liked the story, he liked the story….I did my little kitchen dance, which involves a bit of foot swinging in the air and jigging my arms around.  Then I called my affianced, who was suitably excited for me.

Saturday rolled around.  My fiance parked the car on a side street and reclined the seat to have a little nap while he waited for me.  I hopped it to Berkelouw’s.  As I walked, Hoang  called to say he was running a bit late from the markets, so I had time to order myself an LSD at the cafe.  “LSD” to the uninitiated is a “latte soy dandelion,” and is way better than it sounds.  It is creamy, and delicious.  I have espoused its virtues elsewhere so that’s enough for now.  All coffee drinkers, shame on you for sniggering.  

As I was sipping my LSD and pretending to leaf through a book about Sicilian tiles, a young, sprightly man approached.  He was Australian Vietnamese and it was impossible to tell how old he might be, given he had a shaved head and no lines on his face except for big smile ones as he barrelled over to my chair and shook my hand.

“Jackie!  I’m Hoang.”

“Great to meet you,” I said, because it was.

We chatted, and it became pretty clear pretty quickly that this was going to be awesome. We seemed to agree on everything: the proposed style of pictures, the key messages and moral of the story.  Most of all, Hoang agreed 1000% with the prerogatives for a creative life.  He told me how he had started off his business when he had moved back to Sydney from Alice Springs with his wife.  He had previously worked at an ad agency, then moved to Alice and done massage for several years (which was something else he connected with in the story, when the antagonist, Mr Richards, travels to Alice to find himself). Theythen returned to Sydney but weren’t sure what to do next, when his very smart wife suggested he print off some of the pictures he had done, which were saved on his computer.  They set up a market stall and made enough money to do it again.  And again. And again.  

Pretty soon, they found themselves doing what they had always dreamed of doing: making an income from their creative pursuits, with very strong ethics of environmental sustainability, inspiration, spirituality, and whimsy.  

I was getting more and more excited throughout this conversation.  I had never found a perfect creative collaborator before, but I thought that this might be It.  

We agreed that Hoang would create two character illustrations, one for Mr Middleton and one for Mr Richards, and three pictures from key scenes: the beginning, something from the middle when all the World goes crazy with teleporting, and one for the end, when Mr Middleton has the transformative experience of teleporting for the first time himself. He also agreed to do them within a month, which was amazing, so that we could get the pitch to the publisher before they lost interest.

Soon my affianced came looking for me.  He met Hoang and noted that things must have gone well because he “Could hear my laugh from the front door.”

Things had gone very well indeed.  Now all we needed was for Hoang to be visited by his muse, five times, if we asked very nicely, in the next four weeks.

To be continued.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 8

In the last post about my quest for self-publication, I recounted my trip to Paddington markets to find the man who had done the drawing which now hangs in my study, who I knew in my heart was the person to illustrate Mr Middleton.  

It was 3.30 pm and my friend D and I had just discovered that the artist was working at the Surry Hills festival at a stall selling his prints.  We dashed off to grab the next bus.  

Surry Hills was aswarm with too many groovy people.  I looked down at my comfortable shoes and tried to look defiantly nonchalant next to the red-booted, high-booted, platform-booted around me.  D, noticing my anxious face and dwindling blood sugar, led me without further ado to the foodstalls serving Thai noodles and Japanese balls of rice.  That girl knows the right thing to take me out of my worries.  Soon, fed and refreshed, I was ready to seek the artist and be my charming, relaxed self.  

We sauntered towards the area where the bands were playing, scanning the stalls nearby in as non-stalkerish a fashion as possible.  There he was!  The stall was perched on the edge of the line of wares, and was doing a roaring trade.  They seemed somewhat inundated with funky young things, palming their way through the boxes of prints and treating themselves to the artist’s personal version of whimsy, just as I had done.  

“Why don’t you go over?” D asked as I stood, staring from about 50 metres away.  

“Oh, he looks too busy.  How about we wait awhile and listen to some music, and then go over?”

D nodded, because she is an understanding saint, and we took a seat on a patch of vacant grass.  A band playing plugged in electric guitars was on stage, but they weren’t obnoxiously rock, instead creating a lovely, late afternoon relaxed vibe with their slightly reggae beats.  I bobbed my head obediently to the music, D genuinely enjoying it as she reclined next to me, kicking off her flip-flops.  Occasionally I would look over and notice with a mix of relief and increasing anxiety that the traffic to the stall had not slowed down.  What if they pack up and leave while I am sitting here, pretending to have fun?  I thought.  But the idea of going over and standing around awkwardly was too much for me.  I stayed put.   

After about 20 minutes of becoming increasing cognitive dissonance between what I actually felt and how I wanted to look like I felt, I stood up.  

“I think I better go over now, before they leave.”  D hopped up obligingly and came with me for moral support.

When we got to the stall, there were only two or three people looking through the pictures, and the stall-holders were indeed starting to pack up.  

“Um, hello?”  I mustered my introverted self into a posture of courage.  “I’m Jackie.  I think your brother might have called to let you know we were coming?”

“Oh yeah, Jackie.”  The artist, an Australian-Vietnamese man who could have been any age between 20 and 30, held out his hand.  I shook it.  

“I’m Hoang, and this is my brother Hieu,” a smaller fellow with a big, friendly grin waved.  I smiled back and started to relax.  These guys were genuine, nice people, not too cool for a conversation.  They didn’t look at my comfortable shoes once.  I had a good feeling about this.

“Yeah, I’ve got a story I was wondering if you would be interested in taking a look at.  I have the interest of publisher X, and I want to present them with an illustrated version to see if they will go for it.  I bought one of your pictures and I really love your work.  I think it would really go well with the story.”

“OK, yeah, I’ll take a look at it.”  Hoang held out his hand and I handed over the masterpiece, which now looked ridiculously small, and I felt ridiculously self-important, all of a sudden, asking someone to illustrate my story, as if I had some sort of right to do that sort of thing.

“Thanks!” I said.  “I mean, there is nothing certain with the publisher, but if you like the story,we’ll take it from there.”

 “Yeah no worries.  Yeah I was approached at another time by another lady who wrote a story, but it just wasn’t the right time, you know?  But now, we’ve been thinking about doing a story, so it’s funny that you should have come up right now, you know?  It’s almost like it all fits together.” 

“Yes!  I know what you mean!” I felt exactly the same way.  “It was like that when I bought your picture, and then only a couple of weeks later this opportunity came up, and I was wondering, who can I get to illustrate this?  And then I saw your picture!”  I nodded vigorously, then tried to slow my neck down and calm my excitement.  You’re an author, Jackie, not a crazy lady,  I told myself.  

“Ok cool,” Hoang said.”I’ll read the story, and then maybe we can talk about it in a week’s time?”

“OK.  Maybe we can meet after your markets close next weekend?”

“Sounds good.  I’ll be in touch.”

“Great!  And if you have any questions about the story at all, just give me a call.  My number is on the front there.” I pointed at the manuscript, which so far had only been read by me, my fiance, the editor and my friend who had given it to her.  It was a funny moment, handing it over wilfully to a stranger.  Almost like it was a real book, and I was a real author, and it was going to take on a life of its own, and this was the first step in it becoming something beyond my reach or control…

OK, I was over-thinking things again.  D and I left them to it, me smiling and waving as we departed.  I owed D a drink.  It was time to go and get it.  I had the whole of the next week in which to worry and wonder, but mostly, I felt pretty good, as if this was really meant to be…then of course my brow furrowed in concern.  Hopefully, when he actually read the story, he would like it and not, for example, decide I was an odd-ball who was too old to believe in the power of fairy-tales. 

To be continued.

To see Hoang’s work, go to  It’s pretty ace stuff.  You won’t regret the click.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 7

I took a detour in Part 6 of this journey, talking about an alternate reality game which we are trying to make to emulate the world of Mr Middleton. But I still haven’t told you about how I finally found the illustrator of my dreams…

In Part 5, I at last realised that the answer to my prayers had been right in front of me the whole time – I had to find the artist who had drawn the print I had bought at the Paddington markets.

My mission was this: go to the Paddington markets, and try to find the same stall. This was not as easy as it sounds. Market stall holders change all the time, and the markets themselves are a riot of colour and confusion, each laneway lined with noise and objects and distractions, to the point where you could easily spend half a day, walking up and down, never finding the place you had last been just ten minutes ago, every again.

I geared up. Saturday arrived. I donned comfortable walking shoes. I limited the amount of discretionary spending money in my wallet to $20. I checked and re-checked that I had my ten-trip bus pass. On my way out the door, I slathered a dollop of sunscreen on my permanently sun-damaged nose (a product of a childhood spent in Queensland, back in the days when the local radio station would broadcast at twenty minutes intervals a little dinging sound to remind sunbathing girls to turn over for an even tan). Then, halfway down the stairs, I ran back up again, grabbed the copy of the story from my desk, and ran back down, the door slamming shut behind me and echoing down the stairwell.

My friend D met me at the North Bondi bus stop. She was dressed in summery singlet and jeans and on her feet, carefree flipflops in place of sensible shoes. I wondered if she understood the situation. But then I remembered that it was of utmost importance to the gods of destiny that I had to act carefree and open to grace. I wished I had worn flipflops too.

We chatted on the bus, D skilfully keeping me relaxed, as if this was just a regular, girly excursion to the markets. “They have that delicious thai food, yum,” D chatted. “Maybe we can buy a stick of fishballs.” I nodded. Fishballs as a reward. That was good motivation.

Finally, the bus pulled up. I made a bee-line through the sauntering, loitering crowds, past the faces of relaxed and happy Sydney-siders doing what they love best – shopping outdoors. D’s flipflops flipflopped behind me, trying to keep up.

Down one alley, past the red handbags, the smell of incompletely treated leather…past the jewelry shop where we had considered and dismissed gifts for jLo only six weeks ago…past the shop full of mirrors, past the shiatsu, past the plants, past the hand-made lamp shades….

And there they were! Neat and clean frames of professional quality, and in them, those lovely, wistful faces…elephants, and lovers, and my solemn little man, my apple-offering pixie…

OK, now Jackie, I told myself Be cool.

“Hello, I bought a print here about six weeks ago…”

“I remember. Cherry blossom, wasn’t it?”

The young Australian-Vietnamese fellow remembered me! And the girl with the beautiful long dark hair who worked with him smiled encouragingly! These people were nice! They didn’t think I was crazy!

Yet, I cautioned myself. Take-it-easy…

“Yes, that’s right,” I smiled. “I was just wondering. I have written a story, it’s a fairy-tale really, and major publisher X is interested. I would like to present it as an illustrated book. Do you think you might be interested in taking a look at the story?”

The young fellow did not shake his head dismissively, or pull away. He…nodded! “Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “My brother does the illustrations, but it’s funny, we were just thinking of branching into books. People are always asking us for them. He’s over at the Surry Hills Festival today, but I can call him and let him know you dropeed by?”

I turned to D. “Or maybe, we can go to the Fesitval? I asked her.

D agreed immediately. Turned out she wanted to go the Festival all along, couldn’t think of anything better to do than trek another forty minutes across Sydney to catch the tail end of the Festival festivities. Bless her.

“I’ll tell him you’re coming,” he said, pulling out his phone.

“Thanks!” I called, trotting back down the laneway. It was already 3.30 pm, getting close to closing time, and we had a bus to catch.

To be continued.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 6

A jump forward in time to the present.  Today I spent a rainy Sunday in, helping to write an application for a funding grant to develop an alternate reality game (ARG) based on Mr Middleton, which takes the teleporter metaphor and makes it into real life.  Without the atomic disintegration, but with the mental leap intact.  This is all very cryptic, isn’t it?  It’s because I am trying not to do my own spoiler!   

I really hope that the team gets the money to do the ARG.  It would be a lot of fun, as well as helping to promote the story, as well as giving people a chance to experience what it would be like to be inside the story-world of Mr M, and effectively teleported (but like I said, without the atomic disintegration)…  basically the game idea is…

hang on.  To explain the game, I’ll need to explain a bit about the story.  I don’t think I have done that yet!

“Mr Middleton’s Teleporter” is the tale of Mr Middleton, an ageing alcoholic who, having spent his life wishing he were a real scientist, finally cracks the secret to building a teleporter.  He creates a network of teleporters all around the World which can transport a person in an instant to the other side of the globe. 

How the teleporter works: Say you need to get to Baghdad for a meeting.  A colleague you have met once before is waiting for you there.  She is expecting you.  You step into the teleporter and, hey presto!  You are in Baghdad, in the meeting room.  How does it work?  The teleporter uses the “expectation energy” of the person waiting for you.  The only problem is, that you become the person they expected – you become their idea of you.

The ARG team (a group of enthusiastic youngsters, along with me and the illustrator and some help from my betrothed) want to develop an ARG which focuses on the idea of “who you really are” and what your friends really think of you.

So the game would go something like this:

  1. I write questions for my friend, “Tim.”
  2. My questions for Tim are about him.  Eg “Where did you first see X-Men?”  “Do you prefer jocks or boxers?” “What is your dream job?”
  3. Tim has to answer the questions.  But to get them right, he has to guess what I think the answers are.  Tim has to essentially guess what I think of him.
  4. The game will thus reveal a) how well I know Tim, and b) how well Tim knows what my perception of him is.
  5. The game can then be passed on from friend to friend, or from friend to a group of friends and so on.

The ARG team want to make this game for the online world of Facebook and email and so on, as well as holding it in real life.  

In real life, it would run something like this:

All available participants would come together at a central location in Sydney. At the central location, each participant receives the first of five questions, written for them by their friend (as per the online ARG).  Once they give the “correct” answer, they will receive a riddle leading them to the next location.  Again, at the next location, they will receive their next question, and so on until the final location, they meet the friend who designed the game for them.  There will be prizes for the first three to complete the game unaided, and booby prizes for those who had to seek assistance (eg by breaking into an emergency “answers” envelope) to get to the final destination. 

The idea is that you will feel like you are sort of being “teleported;” as in, you “change” each time you answer a clue correctly, according to what you friend thinks of you rather than perhaps what you think the truth is.  You are being, effectively “teleported” from location to location, by being transformed, at every step of the way, by your friend’s perceptions of you. 

To make things fun, at each location clues will be handed out by actors dressed up as characters from the story of Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, and the riddles which lead to the next location will refer to Mr Middleton themes.  I reckon it would also be fun to throw in a few curve balls from Mr Middleton too – disrupt the game occasionally, bending the rules.

Anyhow.  I am very curious to hear what people think about this idea.  Whaddya reckon?  Is it rubbish?  Or maybe you have heard of other good ARGs or other cool ways to bring stories to life or ways to reach the masses with a humble little self-published fairy-tale…Or maybe you have a cool idea?

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 5

In Part 4, I recounted my phone call with Shaun Tan, asking if he might be interested in illustrating my book, Mr Middleton’s Teleporter.  He politely told me that he couldn’t do it, which led my fiance to suggest that we advertise in order to find an illustrator in time for my deadline with the interested publisher.    

Where do you advertise for an illustrator to do something for nothing but the possibility of hard work and glory?

Where else but ArtsHub.

Accordingly, we purchased an ad on ArtsHub, calling for “illustrators with a sense of whimsy, similar to the styles of E.H Shepard, Shaun Tan and Michael Blake” to send examples of their work to “mmillustrations.”

I hoped for maybe a dozen responses, enough to choose from and hopefully one that would fit the bill.

I received thirty-five responses.

That’s a lot of responses for an unpaid job with only the whiff of potential work.  There were a lot of artists out there, looking for a foot in the door, and here was I, in a position to crack it open for long enough to give them a chance to lunge through.

There was a real range of stuff out there.  There was frou-frou, and a little bit of country (stuffed bear still lifes were remarkably popular).  There was Goth, and there was fairy.  There was manga and there was watercolour.  

There was nothing I liked.

I am a bad, fussy and ungrateful person, I told myself, scanning the submissions, looking for something that had a clue to the kind of feeling I was hoping for.  Stomp on that silly feeling, I scolded.  Choose from this banquet! Look at the colour, the audacity, the sheer volume!  Be amazed!

It was nearly midnight, three weeks almost to the day since I told the publisher I would go away and think about whether I would submit a collection of stories or an illustrated stand-alone work for consideration.  I sat at the computer and half-heartedly opened two of my other short story files.  Not bad, I thought, scanning the lines of natural realism and semi-autobiography.  I re-opened the Mr Middleton file and glumly closed the others.  They were too different in style.  A collection would never work.

But neither would the pictures!  I argued it back and forth.  Finally, exhausted, I collapsed into bed.  The room in my then-apartment in North Bondi didn’t have curtains, so I used to always sleep on my side, one arm flung up to cover my eyes from the moonlight.  I turned over and took one last, heavy-lidded glance at a framed print I had bought about six weeks ago at the Paddington markets.  I had bought it for my friend, jLo, for her 3oth birthday.  It was a milestone gift, along with a non-trashy piece of jewelry, which I and a couple of other girlfriends had pooled our money to buy for her: nice jewelry and art, meaning, you have arrived.  I had liked the picture so much that I had bought myself another in the series.  It had a black background, with a swirl of white butterflies clustering on the branches of a dark grey oaktree.  A little, solemn looking fellow stood in the sky, to the left of the tree, holding the one thing of colour against the darkness: a tiny red apple.  He held the red globe out to the tree and its swathe of butterflies as if it were an offering to the night, or the light, or both.  

Since buying the picture, I had taken to looking at it when I wrote, just for a moment now and then.  My breathing would deepen, and I would remember in my gut and the smoothing of my forehead that this was all about saying thank you.

In bed, past midnight, I closed my eyes.  I knew exactly what I needed to do.  This picture, which had been right in front of me, was the answer.  I would find the artist, and I would ask him to illustrate Mr Middleton.  I would ask him to bring Mr Middleton’s world to life, and all I had to offer in exchange would be my gratitude.  Maybe, together with his, that would be enough.

To be continued.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 4

I left my last blog post about Mr Middleton, staring incredulously at my fiance who had just suggested that I call the esteemed Shaun Tan about illustrating my book.  Like, as if he was a regular person, and not some kind of illustrating savant.  

My betrothed convinced me to at least try and get his phone number.  He promised to coach me through a phone call if it came to that.  Fairly convinced I would not get his number, and would be able to simply mumble my way through an apologetic message to a remote assistant to a literary manager, I agreed.

Damn my husband-elect and his wiley ways!  It turned out that he remembered I might have a friend whom I work with who might have Mr Tan’s number, or email address, because of her work in the arts.  Not my publisher-illustrator friend, but another one whom I can’t find a link for on the Internet, otherwise there would be a link here.  She is a bit anti-web anyway, so is probably glad I haven’t dobbed her in online. 

She had his number.  She had his email.  She had his goddamn mobile.  Stop being so helpful, I wanted to say.  “Thanks,” I said.

I now had a scrap of paper containing unavoidable details.  My fiance looked at me.  ‘That’s great!” he enthused.  “Now, don’t panic.  I do this all the time.  Let’s rehearse the phone call.”

“OK.” I said in a small voice.

“OK.”  He was determined to pretend that getting Shaun Tan’s number was a good thing.  And it was!  But the thing was, I was now completely petrified.  Petrified that what I wanted was sort of, maybe, within reach, but that he might say no.

My fiance, bless him, got me to go through with him what it was that I thought I might want to ask.  We started here:

“Hi, I have a story, well, nothing flash, but anyway, and a publisher is sort of interested, though no guarantees, well they probably won’t even publish it, it’s a long shot at best, but anyway, so I am looking for an illustrator and you probably won’t want to do it, but anyway, I just thought I’d ask, sorry for presuming you probably have a million really cool projects on and anyway, is this a good time to call, it probably isn’t, well, good-bye, thanks for your time.”

and, after some gentle coaching from my one and only, we got here:

“Hi Shaun, I have a fairy-tale for grown-ups that I am looking for an illustrator for.  A major publisher is interested.  I love your work, and so I was wondering if you would be interested in seeing the story and considering working on it with me?”

A deep breath.  A last minute trip to the loo.  A fiance who left the room so I could embarrass myself in front of no one in real life (the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t really exist).

One ring.  Two.  He won’t answer, he won’t answer…a heart in a throat…


“Hello, Shaun Tan?” (of course it was Shaun Tan.  I was just stalling.  Get to the point!)

“Speaking.”  He didn’t sound annoyed yet…I took courage.

“Shaun, my name is Jackie and I am looking for an illustrator for a story.  Publisher _____ is interested but wants some sample drawings to go with it.  I was wondering, as I love your work and think your style would suit the story [on, the presumption!], if you might be interested in seeing the story?”

“Oh, sure, look, I am not really illustrating any work other than my own any more.  But if you send me the story, I can send it to other illustrators I know.  I’m working on an animation at the moment.  God it takes so much time and work!”

“Oh sure, of course.  That would be great, thanks!  What’s your email address?”  (I already had it, but not to seem like a stalker…)

“It’s ______.  OK, good luck.”

“Yeah – you too.  Thanks.”

Click.  The end.  he had been, nice!  He had been, chatty!  He had not been pissed off, or imposed upon and he didn’t treat me like a crazy person for even presuming!  

“You can come back out!”  I called to my fiance.  

“Well, how was it?”

“It was…good.”  I pondered.  “He can’t do it, but he was really…nice.”

Maybe, I was thinking.  Just maybe, I had a chance of becoming, an actual, writer….maybe a writer was just someone like me, who had crazy ideas which turned out not so crazy once they were in print and a few other people had said, hey, I like this!  

“So what do I do now?”

“Now?”  He looked at the computer and then back at me, like the answer was obvious, which to him, I guess it was.

“Now, you advertise.”

To be continued.