Tuesday, 26 August 2014

#mwf14 Blog-to-book Update 1.

After blogging on every thing that caught my fancy over the past two years - from arts and culture, to social media, politics, and back in time to a shared history and the stories that keep my family alive - a secret wish has come true.

Looking back now at my occasional brain snaps that were never posted, I know now how the final three Survivors feel when they walk down memory lane to read the spikes named for fallen cast members. I'm glad they never made it. (And if you are not a fan of the best mind game show on tv, please note, the players face elimination, not extermination.)

#MWF14 Blurb blog-to-book challenge

Day 1 – Receive the news. Ask Garry to repeat it, just in case I had misheard that I am a Joint Winner of the Melbourne Writers Festival ~ Blurb Blog-to-book challenge.

Day 2 – Tell everyone and bask in their congratulations as we all get our head around what it actually means. Make up a list of people I can count on for honest feedback and ask them ‘what do you want to see in my blog book?’ Pull out all the posts that were popular. Work on an 'Introduction'.

Day 3 – Remember Germaine Greer’s keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival 2012, and wonder were I sit on the 'vanity self publishing scale'. Decide to be even more ruthless in culling dodgy blog posts. Decide on a book size, and imagine how it feels in the hands. Study the price lists, decide I've missed my calling as a romance writer, and snuff out the idea of an author’s photo on the back cover.

Day 4 – Take some me time to take screen shot pictures of myself from the Melbourne Writers Festival website. Tally a collection of blog posts and realize I have 30,000 words more than I need. Play around with a structure for the book - chronological or by subject matter? Write some connectors and watch the word count blow out again.

Day 5 – Reread my blog post selection for the fifth day in a row and ask myself repeatedly, ‘but what is the book about?’ Choices are stripped back, tight and snappy, or a swampy ramble.  Have a test run at the 'Blurb make your own blog book'. Perk up, till I realize I’m going to need a bigger book. Pull out half a dozen books from my shelves and compare layouts, fonts and chapter headings and decide the less frippery the better.

Day 6 – Wonder why I have a blog in the first place. Talk it over with my mentor. Watch Q&A and note that half of the Melbourne Writers Festival panel have a book. Wonder again, ‘what am I trying to say?’ Doggedly continue writing the all encompassing narrative, deep into the night. Fall asleep under a brick sized edition of Hitch-22, in the hope my humble blog will be magically transformed over night.

Day 7 – Wake up thinking about Huckleberry Finn, not the character but the book version I once owned, with large print and black ink sketches. Think how happy I would be on a raft. Wonder how many pages I would need for my blog book to support me in a flood. Realise if I match the expense in making the book, with what went in to producing the blog, I could have had a large colour photo of myself front and back, and impregnated the pages with more gold leaf than the Book of Kells.

I wonder if it is possible to take it too far, when you sit down to kill your darlings.

I knew why I wanted to start blogging two years ago, but somewhere about half way, my reasons changed.

I’ve always been the kid playing in the corner by myself, the one who roamed to find a better place.

Once you start putting work out there, and people actually read you – not pretend to read you, or murmur they’ve been busy but they will get to it on the weekend – but actually read and respond to your work, something happens.

You want to do better. You want people to get you. You tell yourself it’s the spontaneous feedback that you can trust. If they tell you they laughed, or cried you learn about yourself, because you write of darkness and decay and they tell you it’s funny. You write what makes you laugh and they cry. In a deceitful world, they become the only ones you can trust.

A blog about nothing, or something or everything, is still just words on the internet amongst millions of other words. A person could be lost in there. Quite happily for me, of course, floating in the nothingness with my darlings. It saves me from thinking about how many years I could have been writing, but never got the chance. 

For many writers, who spend most of our time alone, dreaming of how we can touch down from time to time, our darlings are all we have. They may have been the combination of words and time and emotions that once felt so right together, but now they don’t fit in.

Parts of the writer don’t fit in to the world they created.

It’s not advisable to edit your own work but self publishers with limited means don’t have many other options. I can ask a favour and have my apostrophes checked for accuracy, but when it comes to content, I need to trust my instincts.

Going by page hits, I’m relieved to see that my fiction has always received the highest volume of traffic. With my eye on completing my first manuscript, I take that as a positive sign.

Positive? I am fiercely relieved!

Of the remainder, less so but still popular, comment on writing, social media, racial discrimination, and my travels across Aboriginal communities are neck and neck for page hits.

Writers write about writing about writing about writing.

Social media changes constantly and comparing two years ago to today, makes the subtle increments now appear quite obvious.
Aboriginal people are 2.7% of the population and it would be an even smaller representation on Twitter and in the blogosphere.

That’s a few people who need to cast a mighty, big shadow.

There used to be a heap of hoops and hurdles to circumvent in order to talk in public. Now anything goes. 

We had beauty once.

Some will tell you it’s a failing to chase a media presence, until they concede they want to do exactly that, themselves.
And I wouldn’t be the first to notice the difference between ethical journalism and the other kind. Or that Aboriginal youth are still forced into roles and servitude by the determination of the repressed to project a confected state of Aboriginal life.

If there was a Treaty movement, there would be a Treaty movement.

If you didn’t know what to look for, there’s much that would go under the radar, beyond the more frequent public promotions of accounts of ‘my life living with racism’ and social justice issues.

And just like that a person is dragged back into the Twitter world.

The blog to book project is an opportunity to put in to practice everything that I told myself I needed to read – on writing, editing and publishing - over two years on Twitter. And I’ve been so well schooled in killing my darlings, I feel a blood lust coming on.

What will be left? I trust it will be similar to the sheep found recently wandering the countryside in Tasmania, having evaded the shearing shed for six years. A good trim will clear the vision and have it be far more sprightly on it’s feet.

Stay tuned...more to come.

And feedback is always welcome - in fact if you ever had the urge, now is the time!



  1. A huge task in a short time for you Siv. I love reading your fiction as it makes me feel things I didn't expect and when I read again makes me feel different things. Be as ruthless as you need to be but be kind to yourself in equal measure. Your vision is within you and will appear as you need it. This will be a fabulous record of where you have been, where you are now and open doors to where you will be going. Nothing is ever perfect except in it's imperfections. So look forward to the result of your labours.

    1. Thank you Leonie. One thing I have found lately as when I reread some of my favourite writers advice on writing, the quotes resonate differently now. Before they seemed like aspirations, some level to unlock, but when they say (and many do) that 'a writer must write' I see they meant is an observation rather than a direction. In fact you can't stop writing, even if you wanted to. I didnt study creative writing, and really enjoy the instinctiveness of it. So far so good, even when I get confused why, I still do it. It is a different state of mind. If a person tried to please everyone with what they write, they would produce nothing on the page so the kindness to oneself is in writing regardless of how it comes out. Yes - that's how the blog has unfolded. Writing the narrative the spans two years has been really interesting. The blog is a journal of the environment I was in and my response to it. I dawdled to join social media and see now the things I was worried were never a problem. There were other challenges I hadn't anticipated and also that have faded from view. I am trying to cover all of that because I am convinced the emergence of individual Aboriginal people on social media has been a significant time. Media in general has been mostly out of reach of Aboriginal people. We have the media we trust, and then there are those who masquerade as Indigenous media, who have never done us any favours but was impossible to get out from under their racist, paternalistic agenda. There have been a lot of myths perpetuated by advocates who have conspired to make Aboriginal people look inaccessible so they could maintain their dominance and secure their income. These days, that is all it is about. Contrarian media makes money, so their agenda is entirely cynical.