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Actual Work

Actual Work, In the news

How many pears can you buy with exposure?

July 17, 2013

Do you know what I use to feed my children?

No, not air! You’re so silly. I use money. I take the money to the supermarket, and I give the machine with the gentle woman’s voice the money and in return, I am allowed to take my groceries home without being arrested.

Today, an online women’s editorial-style site announced that it would pay its contributors. Evidently the whole notion of paying someone for a service they provide was so staggering to this website that it warranted a whole announcement. Worse still, the announcement came with a kind of reluctance, a justification as to why previously it had not been deemed necessary to pay writers.

That part of the announcement has been removed now, but it read:

“Many of you will be aware that newspapers and magazines have traditionally not paid writers of opinion content. Consequently, Mamamia has always followed that same rule.”

That’s right. There is evidently a rule that magazines and newspapers not traditionally pay writers of opinion content. Which, of course, is not only not what this particular site comprises, but also mostly bollocks.

The revised announcement refers to this enormous, profitable website as a “start up”. Apparently start ups are exempt from paying for services rendered, which is also news to me, and probably to you.

What goads me about this whole stupid mess is not the fact that they are “only” paying $50–other comparable sites also pay this sort of figure for feature writing, though it’s still well below what’s standard from most media outlets–but the fact that they seem so sore about it. Rather than saying, “Hey, now we’re in a position to pay our contributors, and we’re really excited about it because they are awesome and maybe now they can buy some groceries instead of just scooping dirt from the side of the road,” they post the rubbish I’ve quoted above. As though writers are somehow putting the publishers out by asking that they be paid in return for providing good work.

I have written for Mamamia. For free. My first piece there was the second thing I had ever pitched in my life, and I was grateful for the exposure and especially grateful to this lady for taking a chance on me. There was value in it for me, in that it gave me something for my CV and helped me generate paid writing work. I know many other writers who have done the same. And then never written for the site again. Creating a community of loyal contributors who really want to be part of a buzzing, thriving, engaging site like this relies on rewarding the contributors. Exposure is only a reward for as long as it takes until you no longer need the exposure. The end result is a kind of revolving-door site on which writers can cut their teeth but develop no real long-term relationship with, as a contributor or as a reader. If the by-lines are constantly changing, and if the content is always coming from first-time writers (some of which are excellent, by the by), with whom are the readers supposed to establish a rapport?

Loyal contributors are good for the publisher, not just the contributor.

Participating in that kind of portfolio building exacerbates the problem. It’s easy to say “don’t work for free”, because sometimes exposure is better than nothing. But if no one works for free, publishers will have no choice but to pay for content. If they have to pay for content, they will have to build business models that take into account paying for services. Perhaps they won’t generate as much profit. Maybe they need to rethink their revenue models and income streams. Maybe there actually isn’t money to be made by forcing new media pegs into old media holes.

Today, more than once, I’ve heard the argument that at least they are providing a platform while old media dies out. But there is no value to writers in the mere existence of new media outlets. What’s that old adage? You can’t put money on your Debit Mastercard with exposure alone.

Actual Work

Here’s Looking At You(r) Kid (for JustB)

February 4, 2013

Obviously I post a lot of things on my blog about people I care for. As a parent, I often struggle to find the balance between saying too much, and sitting alone in my office with no one and getting everything about raising any kind of successful child completely and totally wrong.

Yes I do.

This week I wrote a piece for the beautiful JustB about how much we should share about our children. My basic sentiment is “lots, but make sure they’re okay with it”. Then I thought, maybe my kids aren’t okay with it, but they’re scared of me because I’m a big bully. And then I thought, maybe they are okay with it, but I should know better and tell them that it’s not okay. And then I thought, maybe they’re okay with it now, but maybe they won’t be okay with it later.

So you see, I have some insecurities when it comes to doing things at any time ever.

In writing this piece, I was forced to think about what I do online. Maybe I do share too much. Maybe in my well-meaning journey to find out how to help Georgia, I am being unkind. Maybe I should think more and post less.

Have a read, if you like, and tell me what you think.

Actual Work, NaNoWriMo, Parenthood, Womanhood, Writing

So in summary …

November 18, 2012

Sometimes life calls for a summary post. It’s not always easy to make the words come out in the right order, especially if you’ve been giving them to NaNoWriMo instead.


Six months ago we went to Georgia’s teacher in desperation, to have a go at figuring out why she’s lonely and sad. Last week we got the results of the school’s monitoring and subsequent assessment. Now we have a list of new people to go and see and ask the same questions to. In the meantime, Lily outstrips her in all social and creative endeavours, whilst Georgia’s various neuroses seem to be overwhelming her (and me).

Lady troubles

I have some. Now I’m going through the rigmarole of specialists and blood tests and ultrasounds and I don’t recommend it very much at all.


I’ve slowed to a halt on NaNo, but I have 18,000 words I didn’t have before, and now I’m investing that energy into a 10 month intensive first drafting course. Hopefully this time next year I will have something of substance. I think you’ll like my main character. She’s insane.

Sam Simmons on Ramsay Street

I finally launched this! It took a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, and this is the first episode in a series of ten. They get more hilarious and absurd as they go on. I think you’ll like* it.

Now that you’re up to date, go and see what amazing things Eden is doing in India and then make this creme brulee cheesecake because I did and it is like a spiritual awakening disguised as a cake.

Actual Work, Beautiful Things, Family, Mentals, Ranting

A bit of manual stimulation

October 22, 2012

Apparently I found it necessary to buy a typewriter. The good news is that I managed to get it out of its case and on to my desk, whereafter I typed some words and lost my finger between the keys quite often (see Fig. 1).

I’ve been led to believe that typewriters need names. This one is an Adler Contessa in very bright orange and so far I’ve called it “Whose idea was this?” and “Is it possible that the novelty has worn off before I’ve even opened it?”, but I may settle on Clarice.

The purchase of said typewriter is my first superficial step in a move toward a more southern part of this fine land. Not Tasmania – though I would like that very much – but the Mornington Peninsula. Just the top bit. Last week I took myself for a wee journey down there and looked at trees and houses that might have been literal castles and the ocean was right there so I breathed quite heavily.

It is such a nice part of Victoria, what with the village atmosphere but the freeway just around the corner. I have this thought (delusion?) that I will sit in my brand new study with Clarice and overlook my children who have run so far into my 3/4 acre block that I can no longer see them and have they been bitten by a snake? who knows, this is the country! and let’s all have a barbecue.

What I really like about the above image is that you can see where I made a mistake in ‘loud’. I do so much deleting and rewriting while I’m blogging that it’s kind of organic to see the mistake right there on the page.

Today I finished working on a piece I’ve been writing about women and mental health, and the way those with low- to mid-level illnesses can get lost in all the fuss. I spoke to some wonderful women and my word if they didn’t make me feel even more like crying openly in front of everyone. Mental illness happens to some pretty great people.

Writing 2000 words about it was draining. By the end I just wanted to set fire to it and stamp my feet until someone transplanted my brain with one that works properly. Instead, I made a lasagne and watched Rum Diary, which helped me to feel both More Normal and also In Good Company.

Then this lady said to me, “Often the more talented, the more dogged.” and so I went and painted the Mona Lisa because Christ am I dogged.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Clarice and I are going to bed.

Actual Work

Something I write sometimes

October 16, 2012

JustB is one of the most beautiful, delightful websites in the world. It may therefore come as a surprise to you to learn that I write a fortnightly column for them wherein they let me whine about things that are annoying in my room, society and the broader universe. Every other week I have a little tongue in cheek complaint about one thing or another and occasionally two or more things.

This fortnight I’m going on about the way the weather doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind – is it winter? spring? six? What even is this place?

And you know, if you ‘like’ my stories, and especially if you comment on them, JustB will love me and let me keep venting my spleen around them.

Want to read it? Thanks you rock! Stop it! Mother Nature!

Actual Work, Beautiful Things

My Love Project

August 19, 2012

I was compelled to work on a love project by the most encouraging and delightful woman on earth, Bernadette Jiwa.

The publication that will eventually become Bide Magazine had been milling around in my brain for years. When I was a little kid I created a newspaper and gave my brother a dollar to distribute it to all the people in the neighbourhood. I was lucky that my dad had a photocopier. My overheads were low.

It would be fair to say that bloody good writing brings me more pleasure than almost anything else. (Yes, apart from that.) But I can’t always read a whole book. Or I can’t find one I like at that specific moment. Or someone recommended one to me and I’ve read it but now I can’t face them because I hated it. But there are few magazines that will fill that gap – the beautiful writing without the days-long commitment.

That isn’t to say that I think other magazines don’t have their particular place in my shelves. Lord knows I have ruddy hundreds of them, spanning life, beauty, food, parenting, culture, writing and music. Some days all I want is an afternoon with a Cosmo and I’m okay with that. It’s like eating lasagne. A lot of bloat, but ultimately it hits the spot.

What I want to do with Bide is create a mag that just has wonderful writing from start to finish. It talks to the things that people think about, in their brains. It’s kind of many different inner monologues mashed into one magazine.

So, what I’ve come up with is a quarterly digital magazine that has content from different brains. Some are established writers, while others are emerging writers, but all are exceptional. The idea is that you open it on your computer or other device, or download and print the PDF, and then sit down and really read it. You don’t skim over it or speed read it because it’s worthwhile. It’s bloody good writing.

The exceptional Kelly Exeter is designing and finishing the look and it looks amazing.

Subscriptions cost $10 a year (4 issues).

Subscribers will receive a unique username and password to gain access to the download area. Four times a year, this download area will have a new issue of Bide in it. The rest of the time, I’m going to chuck in bits of my own writing, some giveaways, things I think are lovely and other stuff. So it’s like a little box of goodness all year round, but not something you feel like you have to go and look at every single day.

And that’s Bide. If you subscribe, I will be thrilled. If you share the link with other people, I will be thrilled.

The first issue will hit subscribers on September 28, and features pieces from Kerri Sackville, Jo Thornely, Ben Pobjie, Bianca Wordley, Robyn Box, Victoria Birch, Lindy Alexander, Emma Swift, Magda Wozniak, Nicole Carrington-Sima and others.

If you’re a business, we have some introductory advertising options available. Sponsor the whole mag for $800 or grab a one-page ad for $150.

Actual Work

Where I say thank you whilst crying

August 18, 2012

Yesterday my Pozible project ended.

If you click through, you’ll see that an incredible amount was pledged. $3,851 worth of backing, well, me.

The target was $6,000, so I didn’t quite get the project funded, but that doesn’t make the support demonstrated any less amazing.

I wanted to offer my sincerest thanks to those 72 people who thought that what I wanted to achieve was worth putting actual dollars into. Especially Rose Wintergreen, Sam Quigley and Sarah Moran, who believed in my goal more than I did.

As the project due to a close with no obvious sign that it would be funded, I was surprised by my actual crying at the computer. Not because I was disappointed, but because I was pretty much completely overwhelmed by how many people actually gave a shit.

In a last minute effort that I left too last minute, more than a thousand dollars was pledged. Neil ruddy Gaiman tweeted a link to my project – it had already closed, but I still did an ugly dance about it.

So thank you for your support. I believe in the importance of this story and will continue to write it, just a bit more slowly. This project may not have given me the funds to take time off to dedicate to writing, but it has given me a serious boost to my motivation and the general smugness required to put words down.

Actual Work, In the news

What can we learn from The Circle?

July 30, 2012

Television networks have a mixed relationship with social media.

On the one hand, social media has buoyed television. In the olden days, event television was something we shared with our family or our mates. They would physically come to our houses and we would sit around the idiot box and share our opinions with each other. From time to time, we would grab the corded phone and watch Hey Hey together in real time, and while the ads were on we’d talk about whether Red Symons could possibly really be that angry all the time. Early social media / event television.

These days, social media is the driving force behind event television. Social media can be partly to blame for the perpetuation of shows like The Shire and Being Lara Bingle and, sadface, Masterchef. While the latter seemed close to an axing at the start of its 2012 run, and was then significantly squished so as not to come up against the Olympics, it ended on a ratings high of around 2.2 million during the finale.

On Saturday morning, miserable people Australia-wide climbed reluctantly from bed, pushed from their warm slumber by the knowledge that their friends on the internet would be waiting for them. Together, they (we!) watched the London 2012 opening ceremony. For the first time, Twitter was part of that ceremony. The ratings in Australia were not spectacular (though combined with the afternoon repeat, and considering the 5:30am live telecast, they were beyond acceptable), but worldwide ratings were smashed to bits. Social media perpetuated the trend to switch on and be part of the conversation. And as NBC soon found out, it’s fairly important to be on the right side of that conversation.

Which might be why, on the other hand, the networks rarely listen to social media audiences. This is never more evident than when they make changes to programming that contradict what viewers are saying in their very public – and easily monitored – social media networks. As in, “don’t put The Shire on the telly, we won’t watch it!” and “We like The Circle, it’s got strong, smart women on it!”

How is it that networks can be so demonstrably supported by the parts of their audience that use social media to have open conversations about what’s on the box, yet so dismissive of that same audience when it comes to decision making? That instead of monitoring the social landscape before heading to the boardroom (“People say the Sunrise hosts make them want to vomit in their cereal, let’s see what we can do about it?”) they seem to abjectly ignore it in favour of traditional research methods (“Three-quarters of our focus group of four people said they like the Breakfast hosts”).

Today, Channel 10 announced the canning of its morning show, The Circle. It’s not a show for everyone, that’s true. But it is a panel of smart women saying smart things about important subjects. Remember Beauty and the Beast? It’s a bit like that, but without misogyny. It’s topical and relevant and not idiotic. And it’s locally produced and, in this TV watcher’s opinion, much better than the offerings on the other stations.

In the wake of the announcement, Twitter users went ballistic. “Why is The Circle being axed, but Breakfast is not?” they cried, bewildered as to where they, as viewers, went wrong and why the TV had gone topsy turvy. “And why is The Shire still on?”

There is no question that network television is about driving advertising dollars. And I’m not suggesting that all programming decisions should be based on the opinions of a few thousand social media users. But the time has definitely come to stop treating viewers like passive idiots and to consider wider sentiment when making these kinds of choices. The alternatives to watching television are many, and the audience doesn’t need much of an excuse to go elsewhere.

Actual Work

Mean Girls: not just a movie

July 29, 2012

I have some strong feelings about bullying, especially the kind of psychological torment that seems more common in young girls. With that in mind, I took my anger forth and found out a little more about what Australian schools think, and what they’re trying to do to combat this kind of behaviour.

“The weird thing about hanging out with Regina was that I could hate her, and at the same time, I still wanted her to like me,” says Lindsay Lohan in the cult classic (and, some would argue, her best ever role), Mean Girls. It’s a good laugh, sure, but with clique behaviour rife in groups of girls as young as three, will we be able to cut the next generation of Mean Girls off at the pass?

You can read the rest of this article over at Essential Kids.