Despite retiring to the picturesque Coromandel, former university lecturer, Ian Meredith, has turned over a (somewhat) new leaf. After many years teaching (including a decade at the Auckland College of Education – now part of the University of Auckland), Ian and his wife, Dorothy (also a teacher) established Aries Publishing, which publishes educational and children’s books.
– Is there really a future in publishing books?
To (mis)quote Mark Twain, I think: “The report of the death of the printed word is an exaggeration”!
– What types of books do you publish?
I have a couple of titles specifically for children and one aimed at children, parents and teachers. The rest are related to education in some way.
– Overall, how successful has the business been?
Aries has been reasonably successful. We don’t make much money, but, essentially, I’m a one man band. One of our latest, Dictionary of Physical Education and Sports Studies, looks particularly promising. And, another, I’ve Got Something to Say – Leading Young Writers to Authorship by Gail Loane with Sally Muir, has been picked up by large, overseas publisher, Routledge. It’s sold more than 7000 copies in New Zealand, and we’re on our third reprint, which is pretty good.
– Your involvement with publishing began in magazines. Why the switch to books?
I began in publishing in the late ‘60s, selling advertising, but it wasn’t until much later that I began the Directory of Residential Camps and Education Today. I also started publishing Education Today and Good Teachermagazines shortly before moving to the Coromandel.
The constant deadlines with magazines were too demanding. Books were a more appealing prospect; I can now indulge myself by publishing titles which really interest me.
– How important is it for Kiwi kids to grow up reading, New Zealand-grown stories in particular?
If we don’t tell our own stories, no one will! We must read our own stories. This is not to say that we shouldn’t read more broadly, if we don’t we may become too inward looking. The importance of reading cannot be overemphasised, not just for learning but also for pleasure.
– What’s your favourite children’s book?
Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary series is particularly impressive. These books are unashamedly Kiwi and couldn’t be set anywhere else. Children love the language and wonderful illustrations they offer. I’m yet to write the great children’s story myself, but I intend to give it a go!
When and why did you move to the Coromandel?
We’ve had land near Whitianga since the early 1980s, and we moved here permanently in about 2003. One afternoon, I was driving home from Auckland and it was taking a particularly long time – about an hour and a quarter each way on a good day. It seemed stupid to sit on my backside doing nothing productive for so long. When I arrived home, I said to Dorothy, ‘I’m going to resign at the end of the year and move to Whitianga; what are you going to do?’
– Do you miss teaching?
I haven’t taught since the move, although Dorothy did so at Coromandel Area School for a time. I certainly miss a lot of aspects (some not at all!) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
– If you could be Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage for one day, what would you do first and why?
I would ensure heritage buildings are better protected. I’d also provide more money for adult education (evening classes) in schools so people with latent talent, but little money, could benefit from a grounding in arts and culture. I know there are some around the country, but this miserable government has all but turned the tap off on such programmes.
– If you could invite any three writers to dinner, who and why?
British author and journalist, Simon Winchester. He’s just a phenomenal writer!
James Belich [historian, university lecturer and author] – he changed the way we view the New Zealand Wars. There is a real need for our history to be compulsory in schools. If more were more aware of our history (particularly the colonial period) the country would be better off.
Finally, I’d invite Annabel Langbein. She’s probably the most prolific author in the country today and publishes her own work, which is loaded with great ideas and recipes. If she would cook as well, I wouldn’t actually worry about inviting the other two!