Happy International Women’s Day! This is Melissa, co-founder of Exploring Eden Media. In this blog, I’m shining a spotlight on some of our amazing female authors and creative contributors, plus how I ended up co-owning this kick-arse little publishing house.
Women in the workplace, since 1942
It’s been 81 years since women entered the workforce in large numbers, when the war in 1942 saw huge shortages of staff in jobs that were traditionally held by men. With the labour shortages, women were called upon to fulfil jobs that they were previously discouraged from doing. Prior to the war, there was a general public attitude that women should ‘only do jobs that men didn’t want to do’, which was partly a product of the Great Depression, when many men were out of work.
Today we’re in an era of prosperity and, as women, we’re benefiting from the many triumphs that women before us have fought – and died – for. Sure, we may still be behind where we could be in terms of equal opportunities, but I’m definitely grateful for how far we’ve come. I love my job and I’m stoked to work with so many great folks, including my hard-working (male) business partner, Brendan.
What inspired my own love for books
My personal love for literature started quite young. Actually, it pretty much all comes down to a single author – Enid Blyton. This woman published so many books that people didn’t believe she was writing all of them. Since the 1930s, she has sold over 600 million books, which have been translated into 90 languages.
In my pre-teen years, a stack of National Geographic mags that I found at a garage sale led me to an interest in travel writing.
How I came to be the co-owner of a publishing house
I was travelling Australia in an old caravan in 2015 when the editors for a few magazines and newspapers reached out to see if I would write articles for them. Before that, I had dropped out of a journalism degree to travel the world. I then ran an expedition company, while studying graphic design.
The editor of one of those magazines ended up travelling through the same neighbourhood that I was in, so we met and I chatted with him (Brendan) about an idea for publishing a regional travel guide. After that guide was a success, we published more books … and here we are today!
While those two paragraphs might reduce many years of work into a simple story, the fact is, Brendan was slugging away as the editor (and owner of) various outdoor magazines for almost 20 years, and I always had dreams of becoming a published writer. I was ‘Dux’ for English (top of the class in high school) and I dreamt of earning a living with my writing, but it just took longer than expected!
Proud publishing mumma moment
Myself and my husband, Todd, welcomed our baby girl Piper Pearl into the world in 2021. There have been many ‘wow’ moments with her, but as a book publisher, one highlight was when she said her second word, which was ‘book’. Her first word was ‘dadda’. 🙂
Some of the inspiring women that we’ve worked with
We currently have seven books in our catalogue. Three have been authored by men, four have been authored by women. And we have another cookbook manuscript coming in soon, from a female author. I’d love to take this opportunity to shine a light on the women authors, and also a few other leading ladies who have helped bring our books to life.
As the author of our second travel guide, Catherine was our first female author. A travel journalist since 1995, and a uni graduate in two degrees (journalism and business), Catherine is now a full-time digital nomad with her family on their sailing boat SV Wild One. As I write this, they are sailing around the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. We are extremely jealous of her instagram uploads (follow her here). Catherine has subsequently co-authored our third travel guide, and is just about to release her sailing cookbook The Hunter & The Gatherer. She’s one adventurous mumma! Read about her daughter, Maya, being the youngest Australian to reach Everest Base Camp here.
Ash was our first female cookbook author, and what I love about The Small Kitchen Cook is her holistic approach to her tiny kitchen. Food is about more than eating and cooking – it is about ‘togetherness’ and also reducing waste. For Ash, she especially cherishes mum-life, as it was a hard road for her to become a mother, which she’s previously chatted with me about here. Her cookbook incorporates her family into many recipes. They are an adventurous little clan, often roadtripping and organising big gatherings for folks who live in vans and tiny homes (her partner, Jared, admins the popular @vanlifediaries instagram and facebook platforms).
On this International Women’s Day, we’re also taking the opportunity to announce our partnership with a new author. Her book will be our next release! Can you guess what it’s about? A Māori by heritage, Kirianna grew up on the north island of Aotearoa (New Zealand), became an international flight attendant and then met her husband, Lockie, who she now travels the world with, together with their three kids. Lots of people travel, but the interesting part is the way they travel – in a 60 year old VW Kombi. Vehicle breakdowns are one of the many challenges that come with travelling in a vehicle that belongs in a museum, however Kirianna approaches life with a very positive and fearless attitude. We’re excited to tell you more info about Kirianna’s book soon!
My sister-in-law, Taminga, is an Indigenous Bunuba/Kija woman, a wonder mumma and a rapidly ascending name in Australia’s Indigenous art scene. We’re stoked to have her artwork featured across the back cover of the latest release of 100 Things To See In The Kimberley, plus throughout that book. Taminga is the mother of six children, including newborn Miri (cousin to our baby, Piper), plus an amazing horserider and a prolific artist. Every time I chat with Scotty, she has a new commissioned artwork on the go! Check out Taminga’s art here.
The women of Fire To Fork
As the old saying goes, “behind every great man, there is a great woman”. Harry Fisher, the author of our best-selling cookbook, Fire To Fork, will be the first person to tell you that his leading ladies have been extremely instrumental in his success. His clever and catchy brand name was thought up by his sister (she also created his logo and branding), his mum (Georgie) is a chef and has influenced many of the recipes in Harry’s book, and his wife, Sam, is an outdoor enthusiast herself, together with being a mum. Check out Sam’s fun instagram account, Ladies and the Camp, here.
Grace is the Godmother of my baby girl, and she is also one of the most motivated ladies I know. A year ago, she decided she wanted to learn to surf. She rips now. Professionally, Grace is a very talented photographer (she captured the now iconic front cover image of Fire To Fork) and she’s the co-owner of one of the best cafes on the Central Coast, Flour & Co. With all of this on her plate, she’s one busy lady! Check out more of Grace’s work here.
Angela is the wife of Exploring Eden co-owner, Brendan, and Ange is definitely part of the glue that helps to hold this publishing house together! She’s been behind the scenes helping with our accounts and other aspects of our business, plus supporting Brendan in looking after their family while he’s running around the countryside writing articles … all the while, working full-time herself. Angela loves photography, drawing and painting, and I especially love her gorgeous artworks of whales.
Our lady graphic designers – Casey and Cass
Great graphic designers are a dime a dozen, and we’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple of ladies who’ve really brought our authors’ words and pictures to life! Casey Schuurman, former illustrator at Frankie Magazine, is responsible for The Small Kitchen Cook and The Hunter & The Gatherer – two very different book designs, but equally as fun to look at. Cass Whitehead is the second half of design duo Always Studios, together with her hubby Trent, and together they designed Fire To Fork. We’re forever grateful to these ladies for pouring in so much effort and love, which have helped make these books so great!