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Actual Work

Actual Work, In the news

How many pears can you buy with exposure?

July 17, 2013 | 17 Comments

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.

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Actual Work

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

February 4, 2013 | 2 Comments

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.

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Actual Work, NaNoWriMo, Parenthood, Womanhood, Writing

So in summary …

November 18, 2012 | 6 Comments

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.

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Actual Work, Beautiful Things, Family, Mentals, Ranting

A bit of manual stimulation

October 22, 2012 | 21 Comments

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.

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Actual Work

Something I write sometimes

October 16, 2012 | Leave a Comment

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!

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