Medieval Guilds

Only guild members were allowed to trade in the city. They could not work at night or undercharge. By these methods the guild kept production down and prices up. Members who failed to maintain high standards of workmanship were fined or expelled from their guild.

Women rarely became full guild members. Some guilds (for instance the barbers and the dyers) accepted women, and widows were allowed to practise their husbands’ trades, but most guilds tried to exclude them altogether. Women, nevertheless, worked as butchers, ironmongers, shoemakers, hot-food sellers, bookbinders, embroiderers and goldsmiths. Domestic activities such as silkmaking, spinning and brewing were exclusively female occupations.

Many guilds provided a welfare system. The Guild of Mercers (dealers in cloth) in London charged 6d. (6 pennies) a week and used the money to help poor members. Wealthy guilds started schools, ran retirement homes, paid for the funerals of poor guild members and arranged entertainments on holy days.

In some towns leading merchants formed an association called a merchant guild. The guild had a royal charter and took charge of the government of the town.

Collaborative Writing

What follows are thoughts that have been whirling around in my head lately, and after much consideration I have decided to put those thoughts here so that writers thinking about entering a collaborative project have something to think about.

Obviously, I’m part of a collaborative work. My writing partner lives on the other side of the world and I’ve never actually met him but he was a part of my online writing group. He approached me about writing a fantasy novel together but it was not something I jumped into without thought.

The positive side – the story might be written, refined, and accepted for publication. This might be my foot in the door for my own work.

The negative side – he could pull a swifty and get the work published without me knowing. If I found out about anything like this, a lengthy court case would follow because I honestly could not rest otherwise.

There is a risk involved when writing with someone else. I’m usually not a risk taker but on this occasion the benefits lured me. Publication is my dream and I really didn’t want to kick myself in later years for not giving this a go.

However, there are other things to collaborative writing that I never considered. For instance, I have no control over the amount of time between chapters. This is very frustrating. It wouldn’t be so bad if the other person kept me informed (I’m a person who needs to know what’s happening) but he doesn’t. I send emails and he doesn’t reply. This is making me angry.

In 2003, I sent off a chapter and didn’t hear from him for 12 months. That’s right, 12 months. He then contacted me and said he’d been offered a contract for three of his own books and had to meet rewriting deadlines so our project was put on the back burner. That’s fine but why didn’t he let me know? Why did he leave me hanging for 12 months?

Six months ago we picked up where we left off. Again, communications have not been satisfactory and the chapters are taking too long to get to me. Now, I haven’t heard from him in over two months and again, my emails are not being answered.

My reaction to this:
I’m sick of the lack of communication and the long delay between chapters. I’m sick of receiving chapters so far apart that they mean nothing to me and I have to reread the manuscript to get back into the flow. This wouldn’t happen if he got his chapters back to me in a timely fashion. I’m finding the whole process stressful, and I don’t need stress in my life. Because of this, I am thinking of pulling out but what would happen then? The manuscript is three quarters of the way through, we were working steadily to the climax and the finale. If I gave this away now, then that puts an end to a great story. Or would it? What if he finishes it and gets it published without giving me the credit I deserve?

These are the thoughts whirling around in my mind. Doomed if I do, doomed if I don’t. I can’t make him write the chapters; and, getting angry is not good for my well being. I’m finding that my emails to him are starting to get curt and abrupt, which only makes things worse. My next email will probably spill over into nasty!

Do I cut my loses or do I struggle on? It wasn’t meant to be like this, and if you’re thinking of doing a collaborative piece, I’d be very careful. Don’t rush into anything, and set up rules beforehand. Better still…don’t do it!!!

Chatting with an Agent

I won’t go into details about how this came about but yesterday I chatted with an agent about writing, what is expected in the industry and what an unpublished author should be aware of.

The agent was Brian Cook, a well known figure in the Australian publishing world.

Word count has always been an issue for me and I wanted to “know” what was really expected in the industry. He said that a lot of people say a story takes as many pages as a story takes, but if you’re an unpublished author then this is not really the case. For unpublished authors the rules change, and economics come into affect instead. Publishers won’t invest a lot of money into an unknown so an unpublished author should tell their story in 80,000 to 100,000 words. 80,000 to 90,000 for young adult (age 12 to 15) manuscripts and 80,000 to 100,000 for adult (age 16 and over) manuscripts. He said for each 1,000 words you go over the 100,000 words you lessen your chances of getting published. The publisher might stretch to 120,000 words but your story “better be bloody good”.

The ages for young adult and adult was a surprise to me. I told him that I was aiming for 16 and 17 year olds and had been saying that was the young adult market. He told me I was wrong and that I was an adult writer if I wrote for that age. This was a shock.

Also, at this stage I must mention that word count is NOT based on what Word or OpenOffice tells you you’ve written. It is based on the proper way to work out word count. See this previous post for how this is done.

Anyway, once you’ve been published the rules change and you have a higher limit to play with – especially in the fantasy and SF genres.

He went on to say that every single word must have punch, must have a reason. If there isn’t a reason, delete it.

I asked him how an unpublished author should handle trilogies in their proposal. He said that it’s unlikely that the publisher would contract all three books up front. Most of the time they contract the first two books with the third book as an option. Sometimes they will only contract the first book and wait and see how things go.

However, the publisher doesn’t want to risk investing in a new author unless they know there are more books in the planning stages. I told him that in my trilogy all three books are stand alone, although there is a thread that will link them. I asked if I should mention this when submitting my manuscript.

He said that I definitely should because it shows that I have plans for future writing but it means the publisher doesn’t have to contract more than one book, which will go in my favour. Any trilogy where the reader has to read all three books to reach a satisfactory conclusion will be difficult to place (unless you are already published).

Then we went on to talk about our CV and what should be included on there. He said anything that shows you are an active writer should be noted (even if you haven’t been paid). However, he said to be careful about which internet publications you note down. Naturally, high profile ezines should be mentioned but if you only submit to a shabby ezine that has no credability then don’t mention it (this is commen sense, of course).

Actually, most of what was said is common sense, and all is subject to an exception if you have a fabulously great manuscript, but none of us know if we fall into that category (we’d like to believe we do, but do we really).

If you are unpublished, and you’re writing an epic, maybe you should think about starting another story which is shorter and can be your first novel. Get a name for yourself before you try to sell something that the publishers won’t want – not because you can’t write, but because they don’t want to take a chance on you.

This was my chat with an agent. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.

5 chapters to go

The weekend was productive because I managed to get through four chapters in total. This means that I’ve not only gone past the three quarter mark, I’ve only got five chapters to go. Hopefully I’ll be finished by the end of the month.

April is the first workshop for the 2005 anthology so if I do manage to get the rewrite finished, I’ll be able to focus 100% on what has to be done with the workshop. That will suit me just great.

Getting back to my manuscript–the next five chapters were edited only a few months ago, so I don’t expect these chapters to be difficult. Then, I will send the whole thing off to the editor and see what comes back. 🙂

Bubonic Plague in Australia

Some people believe the plague ended in the seventeenth century, but this is not so. There have been many outbreaks around the world right up to the present time.

In mid-January 1900 bubonic plague made its first recorded appearance in Australia, being officially declared in Adelaide on the 15th of the month and in Sydney four days later. The Adelaide outbreak subsequently came to very little. In the case of Sydney, however, the disease, introduced by infected rats aboard overseas vessels berthed at Darling Harbour, quickly invaded the nearby dockside streets and within a few months had spread to encompass much of the city.

The death toll was nothing like European outbreaks. Yet it must be remembered that although Australia is a large country, the population was small. Between February and August 1900 some 300 persons were struck down by the infection, of whom more than 100 died. Probably the toll was much higher due to misdiagnosis and the fact that many cases went unreported.

Sutton Forest Butchery. No. 761 George Street, Sydney, 1900 - photo courtesy of State Library of NSW
Sutton Forest Butchery. No. 761 George Street, Sydney, 1900 – photo courtesy of State Library of NSW
Johnstone's Lane, Sydney (NSW) - photo courtesy of State Records NSW
Johnstone’s Lane, Sydney (NSW), 1900 – photo courtesy of State Records NSW

Like all plague outbreaks, the epidemic caused a degree of human tragedy and suffering out of all proportion to the numbers of cases and deaths actually involved. More than 1750 people were uprooted from their homes and forcibly quarantined at North Head. Many homes and outbuildings were demolished, fences knocked down, sanitary conveniences destroyed, chattels removed and people virtually turned out on to the streets. Whole districts of Sydney were cordoned off, quarantined and invaded by an army of “sanitary inspectors” and public cleansing teams.

Exeter Place, taken during Cleansing Operations, Quarantine Area, Sydney, 1900 - photo courtesy of State Library of NSW
Exeter Place, taken during Cleansing Operations, Quarantine Area, Sydney, 1900 – photo courtesy of State Library of NSW
Professional ratcatchers, Sydney, 1900 - photo courtesy of State Library of NSW
Professional ratcatchers, Sydney, 1900 – photo courtesy of State Library of NSW

Curfews were imposed upon infected zones of the city and people’s right of movement were severely restricted. Organised teams were engaged to collect and kill rats (and in some cases domestic dogs and cats). Popular cures and home remedies became vogue. Especially blood purifiers, bile beans, Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills and uncontaminated dairy products. One senior government minister went as far as to urge people to burn barrels of pitch and tar in the streets to purify the air.

The outbreak of 1900 highlighted the inadequacies of Sydney’s sanitary and housing situations, and also demonstrated that the public authorities were unable to cooperate and act decisively in times of crises.

There were twelve outbreaks of bubonic plague between 1900 and 1925. In total 1371 cases were reported and there were 535 deaths. The 1920’s saw most cases reported in Queensland.

There has been no further outbreak of the plague in Australia since 1925.

**Reference: Plague in Sydney: The Anatomy of an Epidemic by Peter Curson & Kevin McCracken

Want more photos?

Visit Library of NSW. Click on “Context” located in the darker grey navigation bar (the second one, not the top one). Then click on the volume you wish to view. Now click on “Images” located in the navigation bar. Each volume has about 65 photos to view. And believe me, they are worth looking at.