Bringing disparate bits together (or: Return of the Blog)

“I think I’ll go and write a novella. brb.”

That’s how I signed off my previous post here, 9-odd months ago. As far as last lines go, I think it has a certain charm. If I had to end my blog there, I guess I’d be okay with it. Although, I wonder if a blog ever truly ends, or just sits there waiting, not like the finality of a novel’s last lines, but with its own literary quality, a kind of time-stamped acronym-tinged wit, update pending…

But I’m not talking about novels or blogs as such (and although I am fond of that last post, I’m quite eager to actually be back updating and continuing this thing) — no,  I’m talking about that novella, or an equivalent body of works, wordcount-wise. Yeah? How did I go? Did a novella-length work (or works) gestate and emerge, gloriously imperfect but formed and real and true?

Well, no. I got to about 10,000 words that weekend, which is still a pretty jolly good effort if you ask me. Other co-participants did better, some did worse, we all received a few nice little prizes, we interconnected with one another, and some participants had their words published. All in all, not bad at all! For my part, beyond that original blog post, a few good (if unfinished and unevenly formed) pieces emerged from the process, so I think I’ll get more out of it eventually, maybe even a novella! But not yet. Still, I had a good enough time, and in other gains, I think I re-learned some old lessons: sectioning off time for writing and nothing else, even for a 25-minute Pomodoro at a time, is a good way to go; I still don’t write very well to music except for light background noise, although there are some lyric-free, droney, repetitive, unintrusive and/or otherwise special exceptions; and I don’t think I really want to do any more of those frantic wordvomit sessions like Rabbit Hole or NaNoWriMo — I’m more interested in working at my own pace, with my own lone effort of writing and editing (and publishing!), without really focussing on wordcount. Having said that, maybe it could be otherwise.

I remember now (as I look back over old notes, trying to recall and tie so many disparate bits together) how Rjurik Davidson discussed his experiences (post-24-Hour Book Project, orchestrated by the increasingly interesting if:book) of writing as part of a group and bashing out thousands of words in a short time-period. Maybe it’s true, as he suggests, that all these habits and ideas we have about ourselves as writers are a lot more malleable than we realise. Context, digital media, collaborations, (self-)editing, time-constraints — maybe they all can help to bust up myths we tell ourselves about our preferred writing habits, practices, identities even? Sure, sometimes these are matters of necessity, sanity and circumstances. But that’s not always the case. I guess it’s good to be flexible and adaptable, experiment, keep moving and trying new things. Go with what works, but don’t rely on one way of working. Changing ways can be hard, but maybe that’s just the exercise of mental muscles, all that ol’ brain elasticity. It’s also a question of whether you fit writing into your life, or plan your life around your writing. Priorities. And other recurring word and themes. I’m babbling. Basically, it was interesting and worthwhile and it allllll gets me thinkin’.

But that was that, so enough of that.

Still, it has been 9 months. 2013 has begun in earnest. April arrives again, and with it, thoughts of impending winter, hibernation and hunkering down like a hermit to write, despite frozen fingers, with renewed hopes of wriggling out of those old habits, routines, boundaries and categories. It has been a while between posts. There has been a veritable mass-spawning of other happenings in this 9 months, as you’d expect. Life tends to be fecund with happenings. Life is also, for me (lately? or always), fecund with lists, so here’s a pair:

A List of 10 Things, or Groups of Things, That Have Been Some of the Good Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Incheon, London, Halesworth, Okehampton, Paris, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Perth, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Narranderra and Canberra again: we travelled a lot and it was up and down, this way and that and wonderful.
  2. Being part of Scissors Paper Pen as we continue to make lit happen with stellar people: At Arms Length, WORDLABs, Something Elses, Papercuts and more and more to come. Rad.
  3. YOU ARE HERE 2013 WAS EXCELLENT AND I WANT TO GUSH ABOUT IT.
  4. A good friend’s bucks weekend! Weddings, engagements, births, couplings, friends, family. People at their best. People.
  5. Won the first poetry slam I entered. Had things published. Enrolled in a short story course. Wrote.
  6. Went to TiNA and it was pretty darn good.
  7. The King is Dead, Jens Lekman live, Berbarian Sound Studio, Looper, Ngapartji Ngapartji, Corinbank, Darren Hanlon live, The Secret River, Cloud Atlas, Breaking Bad, Life of Pi, board games and poetry and stories and morrrre. So many good things.
  8. Still employed. Still going well.
  9. Started planning a wedding with the woman I love.
  10. Christmas. New Year. Birthdays. Lunar New Year. Small gatherings. Kitchen wins and tasty meals. Plans. I saw Prime Possum in person in the library. I’m healthy and well. I’m ridiculously fortunate, really.

A List of 10 Things, of Groups of Things, that have Been Some of the Bad Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Speeding tickets, parking tickets. 
  2. Arguments and discomfort.
  3. Getting sick. People I know being sick. (Distant) people dying.
  4. People at, or near, their worst.
  5. Not enough. Rejection. Failure. Loss. Distance.
  6. Kitchen disasters, clumsiness, carelessness.
  7. Leaks from upstairs.
  8. Busyness/privileged whining.
  9. [Insert all the fucked up shit happening in the world here]
  10. And what’s up with my nose? I sneeze too much.

More lists? More lists.

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Things To Do At The Emerging Writers Festival (When You’re In Canberra)

I attended the Emerging Writers Festival in person two years in a row when I lived in Melbourne, in 2009 and 2010.  I volunteered, helped with sitting-behind-zine-fair-table duties and largely just participated enthusiastically. It’s a valuable, wonderful, recommended time for anyone passionate about writing in any of its forms and offshoots.

But for this year’s fest, as in 2011, I’m several hundred kilometres away, in Canberra. This is fine, I love Canberra (in a complicated way). But I would still like to be at the fest. Maybe you’re the same. Maybe you’re even further away, or tantalisingly close, but otherwise engaged.

Not to worry! Because the EWF is awesome, they’ve thought of plenty of opportunities for participation, engagement and development, using this internet thing that everyone’s talking about.

The EWF itself is already up-and-running, May 24 to June 3, but in the middle, kicking off and on and on between May 28 and June 1 there’s EWFDigital, a program specifically made for the online space. Take note: this is rad, and Festival Director Lisa Dempster has put together some really interesting thoughts on literary participation in an online space, so you know they’re taking it seriously, and it’s not just a sidenote. This year, there’s something called Stories in Your Stream, online panel discussions, TwitterFest, online exhibitions, an interactive keynote and probably stacks more.

Watch this space, I guess. [EDIT: The afternoon after I wrote this post, EWFDigital was properly launched. This all feels a bit premature now. All I can say is: go. Get amongst it!]

For now, it’s probably even worthwhile delving 20 pages or so into the EWF Blog archives to check out last year’s EWFDigital programming.

Speaking of which: the EWF Blog. It brings together posts from a variety of bloggers, from the aforementioned festival director to a wide variety of EWF attendees and participants. EWF attendees and participants are awesome. They write summaries and reflections regarding festival events, experiences and even the after-parties. Keep an eye out.

Then there’s EWF’s Twitter profile, and the #ewf12 hashtag that will be flooding people’s feeds. These will lead you to further goodness and good people.

And I’m keenly awaiting the arrival into my earholes of I Heard You Like Rereading Books?. It shall be a wondrous fusion of JoMad and The Rereaders, recorded live in front of an EWF audience, for our later listening pleasure.

And I may just have written one of the upcoming reviews of self-published books for the NSW Writers Centre’s blog, as the Emerging Writers Festival joins them for 366 Days of Writing.

Oh, that’s right, AND I’m participating in the Online Team (AKA Team Awesome) for The Rabbit Hole. We’re each gonna be aiming to write 30,000 words in 3 days next weekend. Meh, no biggies (ie I AM QUIVERING). More on my plans for that soon, hopefully. For now, follow #rabbithole I guess!

And there’s probably more! Who knows what else is in store for a digital attendee of EWF? At the very least, do the festival proud and write like you’re possessed by a writing fever that can only be cured by writing writing writing. Like the hokey pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

I think it’s important to recognise, and embrace, both the limitations and the possibilites of digital participation in a festival, and with literature generally. Really, nothing beats attending a good festival in person, but then there are some things you can only do in an online space. Ideally, experience both, if you can. But if, like me, you’re a writer (or an emerging writer, or whatever writing-inclined label you wanna give yerself) who can’t get anywhere near Melbourne’s CBD over the next few days, why not participate online?

See you at the fest.

Balance

As I return to blogging with renewed gusto and a shiny new design (though with a few adjustments pending), I wanted to nut out a few things I’ve been mulling over lately regarding balance.

This year, (beyond recently recovering from [thankfully not catastrophic] computer meltdown, getting a cold, travelling around a lot – life happening, basically) I’ve had times where I had no job whatsoever, times where I was working volunteer roles I could throw myself into with varying levels of vigour, and periods where I was either working casually or swamped by working two jobs at once.

But now, I’m settled into one good, fairly steady, part-time job at the National Library of Australia. Which is awesome. It’s my first real, kinda grown-up job. Like, I get my own desk and everything. But thankfully I’m doing a lot of stuff that isn’t just deskwork too. Anyway, both my finances and my schedule have become a whole lot more regular, so that’s good!

So now, I’ve got four days a week where, from roughly 9 to 5, I (mostly) work at this job. But for the times when I am not at work, it’s almost as if the idea of “this time is mine” has been brought into starker relief.

As I’m sure many people know, after a day of work, it’s easy to just get home, blob on the couch, eat dinner in front of the TV, fart about on the internet, collapse into bed, repeat. I used to be a bit scathing of this kind of behavior, but I totally get the impulse. The full 9-5 can drain you, and I’m only just  breaking out of that lazy blob pattern.

So this brings me to what I’m pondering on. It begins with that old chestnut of ‘work/life balance’. I recently read an article by Damon Young  that talked about this, and he clarified the point that really, you’ve got be mindful of this balance, and you’ve got to realise it’s kind of a question of value.  It’s like “This is my time, so what do I want to do with it?”  It’s not like being at Uni, where you could always be studying, preparing more for a test or whatever. It’s not a casual job where you could be called up any day. And it’s not like unemployment, where you need to spend ages seeking and applying and preparing for jobs. Now, I’ve got my practicalities of money situation pretty sorted. I like my job. I’m not overworked. I don’t really take work home with me. So like I said, this time is mine. It’s a kind of freedom, a serious privilege, and it’s a weird, new feeling. After a year or two of post-study job-seeking flux, it feels like that part of my life is sorted and balanced for now.

Then there’s the rest of my life (the parts that aren’t work) to balance. For example, I need a good night’s sleep (I really do). I need quality time with my girlfriend and time for all the domestic practicalities. I want to write and I want to read. Those parts are easy. I know I value them (or value being on top of them, when it comes to the domesticals) but the more I think, the more I realise there’s so much more that I’m trying to balance, prioritise and find the right time for. Some seems almost essential, some desirable, some a luxury, some I’m not sure.  Let’s see what else there is: music, interwebbernauting, hanging with friends, TV, movies, video games, going for a walk, travelling, volunteering, baking a pie,  something else, anything else. I can’t do everything. So what do I want to make part of my daily/regular practice and what do I want to reduce or cut out entirely?

In my spare hours at work, beyond the realisation that a Word document can be well-disguised as important business (rather than a wobbly blog post),  I’ve realised I’m able to browse the interwebs, in the slow times, when there’s no other work waiting for me, and nobody minds.

One series of interlinked info holes I recently burrowed down into during my work hours was Samuel Cooney‘s slighty old (in internet time), but rather good bunch of guest posts on the Southerly Journal blog, including this post, which in turn links to a David Sedaris essay in the New Yorker. Here’s a quote at the core of all this that caught me. Imagine a four-burner stove:

” One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.’ The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two. “

I’d recommend checking out the links I posted for further pontification on those matters. But there’s an interesting thought here. What do I have to sacrifice for such a solitary pursuit as writing, or any work I value and pursue? Can you just turn down the other burners a little bit, rather than turning them off completely? Can you alternate? I tend to alternate in neglecting my friends and family, sometimes both. So there is a definite hermit scribe tendency there already. Still, I want to say this analogy is flawed and that you can balance everything and have it all. But really, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, on this note, I have amazed myself lately by becoming a morning person for the sake of cultivating a writing habit. My routine’s not perfect, but I am rising early, sitting down and writing most mornings, without too much distraction, for a good hour at least, before work, or longer on weekends.

I’m still trying to read more books. That’s what has really suffered lately. I read a good amount and variety of stuff online, from tweets to longform essays. But I know I need to carve out a book reading habit amongst it all too. And that the o-so-hard (and privileged) but necessary choice is: less TV and less farting around online in the evenings. I want those things too, but I value book reading more. So the next step is making my life reflect my values.

And that could get me into even broader questions of life, ethics and deep deep meanings,  but I need to get ready to go to Newcastle today, so I’m going to leave it at that. But I’m pretty sure my time with TiNA will be valuable and that I’ll have plenty to write about upon my return. Imma gonna give this blog the love it’s always deserved.

PS: Just after I finished writing this, someone else’s blog post, in a similar vein, came up in my newsfeed. Nice.

Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam

This is just a little post to letcha all know that my new fiction blogging project has kicked off. It’s called Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam, or SuFaJ for short.

Basically, I scan and upload pictures of found ephemera that I pick up on my wanderings around town and I write things inspired by said found ephemera. Ephemera is my favourite word of the day.

You can check out my first story ‘The Girl with Hexadecimal Hair’, and the piece of paper with some words on it that inspired it, here.

In June, I plan to write a piece a week for SuFaJ, as one of my goals for National Young Writers Month. It’s already June 10 though, so I gotta get onto the next one soon! And if you read it and want to give feedback of any sort, or submit your own guest post to SuFaJ, please do! More details on the aforementioned website!

Other than that, I’ve been doing pretty well with my other two goals: writing for a focussed hour every day (in fact, I’ve been getting up most mornings and writing for a good two hours before doing much else! crazy!) and being an awesome NYWM Ambassador!

Anyway, hope you enjoy the story/are going well with NYWM/are having a frabjous day!

NaYoWriMo-a-go-go!

Yep, National Young Writers’ Month is up and happening, online and off.

We have badges (see, I’ve already put mine on).

I have a piece up on the NYWM blog that I like to call ‘Why I (Don’t) Write’.

And we have heaps of other good stuff goin’ on, on the blog, on the forum, on Twitter and on Facebook. Not to mention we ambassadors and our impending travels around our respective states and territories, and the workshops, and who knows what else.

One way to find out: get amongst!

Anyway, I hope to still make time to keep blogging here over the next two months, but I may be overly engaged with NYWM, along with my other online writing project (and one of my NYWM goals), SuFaJ, which I hope to reveal soon.

Acronyms and excitement all around!

EWF update: Disco discourse, Quarter-hour launches, Bootcamps, Bon Scott and more!

The Emerging Writer’s Festival has been zooming along like a runaway locomotive, with plenty of events whooshing past and a weekend cornucopia rapidly approaching. Let’s see if I can make sense of the blur that has been my past five or six days.

Sunday’s Page Parlour was a jolly good time for all.  I browsed the tables thrice and then again, sat in on an interview with the wonderful Mandy Ord, got prodded with Ronnie’s attention-grabbing prodding stick and finally settled my spending at three rad-looking indie publications: Red Leaves, Caught in the Breeze and Flinch, which may all result in reviews one day. I was too tuckered out for the 48 Hour Play Generator that night, but if the reports are anything to go by, I really did miss out.

Meanwhile, there’s been a storm of TwitterFESTing, #ewfchat hashtagging, digital launches, online conversations and more, all as part of the online side of the festival. Check out all the EWFonline happenings here, or plough through the ever-growing hashtag archive on Twitter.

Back in the land of face-to-face, for four nights, four publications got their 15 Minutes of Fame.  Thuy Lin wrote a great summation of the first round on Monday. Jodie at Voiceworks/Virgule did too, but remember: it’s not a competition.

That being said, let me claim a FIRST on Tuesday night. But in an effort to rein in my logorrhoea, I’ve restricted myself to 15 words for each 15 minutes of fame-r.

1. My Pilgrim’s Heart by Stephanie Dale: ‘Journey through marriage and other foreign lands’.  Mullumbimby.  All humanity vibrating in Istanbul. Unlearning expectations.

2.  The Nine Flaws of Affection by Peter Farrar: Laconic. Carveresque. Drought. ANZAC. Comas. Wounds. Violence. Aftermath. First-person. Affection’s flipside. Kill those darlings.

3. Ondine by Ebony McKenna: Fantasy. Girl meets scruffy, black, Scottish ferret/boy at Psychic Summer Camp. Magic and love.

4. Offset journal: an unfamiliar journal, with DVD! Victoria University’s poems, songs, artworks, stories. Multimedia first publishings wonders.

Good stuff! Unfortunately, I didn’t get along to Wednesday or Thursday’s series of quarter-hour launches. Lose. Who else went along? Still, the two I did attend exceeded expectations. Even the publications I suspected might be a bit naff ended up surprising me and they all became books I’d happily snaffle.

Ooh, also on Tuesday night, I got along to You Can’t Stop the Musing, Craig Schuftan’s Disco Lecture. Working as a funny critique and defense of disco, his basic argument (full of wit and disco backing tunes) was, sure, disco is repetitive, stupid and artificial. But we like to dance to repetitive music and disco has mass popular appeal, so people can sneak into it what they want to say to a large group of people. Disco connects us to our bodies and our internal rhythms. Its stupidity challenges the mind/body dualism that forms the core of Western thought. And it may be artificial, but this can be a positive for oppressed sectors of society, such as gay people, who’ve been told their whole lives that their desires are ‘unnatural’; it’s basically challenging biologicial determinism. His lecture really did give me a greater appreciation of Saturday Night Fever, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and disco in general, old and new. Craig says his goal is to increase happiness in the world in this way, so that when we hear these songs on the radio, we derive greater enjoyment from them. Works for me!

On Wednesday night, I went along to the city library to try my hand at the Creative Writing Bootcamp in person, rather than the digital edition/s. Voicework’s Maddie Crofts ably guided a huge crowd of people in a variety of great exercises that I reckon I’ll re-use in the future.

After that, I went off to the Willow Bar for The Last Hurrah, which is somewhat-EWF-related, in that it was night of readings culminating in the launch of A.S Patric’s Music for Broken Instruments, which also received a digital launch at EWFonline. I was delighted to be kidnapped by the poems and stories of the Black Riders.

Thursday saw me attending my first Lunchbox/Soapbox at the Wheeler Centre, where Torpedo‘s Chris Flynn argued that, while past decades have had Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Inspector Rex, K9 and the like, this decade needs its own heroic hound if we’re to have any hope . Pretty much one the most unique speeches I’ve seen. Great stuff.

Then that night, another Creative Writing Bootcamp, this time with Komninos. This one took a while to get started, but it too built up to some great approaches to generating stories and ideas.

Then it was time for Wordstock. This year’s theme was AC/DC. Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan, but I’d be lying if I said that night didn’t make them a little more respect-worthy. Clem Bastow dressing up as Bon Scott, visible package and all; Emilie Zoey Baker’s nostalgic bogan tribute; two ukelele tunes (one about circumcision, the other about reality TV);  Sean M. Whelan poetically applying the Schrödinger’s cat concept to Bon Scott’s life/death; Vachel Spirason again wowing us, with a construction worker’s flamenco/breakdance/aerobic  routine ; neo-feminist responses to Acca-Dacca traditions; awkward karaoke renditions; and Ben Pobje’s concluding ode to riding free and punching babies in the face.

After all of that, Friday’s lack of EWF programming was a chance to get my bearings, gather my resources, take a few breaths, make a few plans and ready myself for the weekend rush.

And now the Town Hall weekend approaches. How hectic is this program? I’m going to have a hard time choosing which panel I want to go to almost every hour. And I’ll have to pop out at some point to check out the zine bus and all the DIY wonders it holds.

Finally, before I forget, Bookseller and Publisher’s blog Fancy Goods has a wrap-up of the festival thus far. Meanwhile, their past editor, Miss LiteraryMinded/Angela Meyer has also done a wrap-up of her own.

Righo then, see you at the festival, or maybe on the other side!

Willy Lit Fest Part 1: Being Frankie and Talking Blogs

Last weekend I ventured along to the Williamstown Literary Festival and checked out a couple of panels:  Let’s Be frankie, Literary Blogging and From the Quill to the Kindle. All in all, it was good stuff, and it was nice to experience a different part of Melbourne, one that’s more like a coastal town, with the sea breeze, fish n chips and hordes of seagulls, along with some good literary company.

Thuy Linh Nguyen has already written about her experiences going to two of these panels, and Lisa Dempster has expanded on some of the stuff covered in her blogging panel, which I’ll get to later. But first, Let’s Be frankie.

I was drawn to this one because, while I don’t mind the odd look through a frankie mag if I see one,  I really wanted to see Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law. The former, still jetlagged from an extended holiday in volcano-wracked Iceland, I’ve long been a fan of, thanks to First Tuesday Bookclub, JJJ Breakfast, her blog and her numerous other writings.  The latter I recently became a fan of, upon reading his hilarious story about murdering cockroaches en masse in the latest Brow. And I’m really looking forward to his first book, The Family Law. PLUS he just did an interview with Virgule, the newish Voiceworks blog. Check it.

So with Susan Bird as chair, and plenty of  audience interlocution, their casual discussion covered all kinds of things, from freelancing to Twitter to Ben’s mum’s vagina.

Ben, who often writes somewhat ‘personal’ stuff about his partner, parents and siblings, mentioned that family is such an interesting subject for writing because it’s one of the basic social units, like a microcosm of society. It’s true, your family shapes who you are and how you relate to people. Plus everyone’s got one, so it’s always at least somewhat relatable.

They discussed how important it is to run your material past the people you’re writing about if you think there’s the slightest chance they might have issues with it. Plus, it really helps to flesh out your work and get a new perspective on it.

They went on to discuss that, sure it can be good to be honest and lay everything on the table when you write, but have you really thought about the consequences of putting what you’re writing out into the world? Have you considered your audience and the context and how it could be received? Some boundaries are important. Sure, external censorship is something to take a stand against, but it’s interesting to think about how important self-censorship can be, for good or ill. And all of this applies not just to stories, articles and essays, but to blog posts, status updates and even microblogging/tweets (hello Catherine Deveny). They also touched on the idea of ‘the illusion of intimacy’, which I’ll get to later.

Ben discussed the life of a freelancer. He always strives to find something interesting in any dull freelance gig he takes on, and noted how easy it is to get overloaded, because you always think every assignment is going to be your last. He also recommended that, when you’re writing, you should keep a template of ‘good writing’ close by (or perhaps at the back of your mind), so that you’ve got something to aim for, no matter how high you’re aiming.

Marieke mentioned how handy she found News Ltd. lawyers, as dull as they might sound, and how they kept her out of trouble 99% of the time when she wrote for the Green Guide. Still, she was a little surprised that the people she’s writing about actually read her columns and sometimes take offense. It was similar back when she was writing her blog. She saw it as a place to vent, and didn’t really consider any potential offense, defamation or other trouble she could face. It’s funny, I guess when you’re a lone blogger, most people aren’t going to bother taking you to court, whereas a huge organisation like The Age with a reputation, stakeholders and circulation necessitates the team of lawyers.

She also discussed how it’s easier writing about crap TV, because writing about programmes you love just turns into celebratory, masturbatory drivel. Finally, she compared her scriptwriting to her blogging, and discussed how writing for TV doesn’t get much personal response when the finished product finally emerges, whereas writing online has the benefit of immediacy and instant feedback.

*

Speaking of writing online, the next day, satisfied but eager for more, I went along to the Literary Blogging panel, with Lisa Dempster and Angela Meyer (aka Ms LiteraryMinded), both of whom have blogs I follow and enjoy reading, so I was interested to hear their thoughts. There were plenty of questions from the small but engaged crowd and it gave me a lot to think about.

They both agreed that blogging can help you find your voice, build your style and help you grow as a unique writer. Lisa reckoned writing her book Neon Pilgrim was easier because she’d been blogging for so long. She didn’t have to struggle to find a writing voice; she already had that part mostly sorted.

They said that blogging is a discipline to stick to, and that you have to want to stick to it, then it builds its own momentum, just like other forms of writing I guess. But it’s unique in that it’s a good way to test ideas and see what others are thinking. You can admit that your ideas aren’t fully formed and open them up for discussion.

Angela says she still questions her role when she’s blogging: is she a reviewer? A cultural commentator? ‘Just a blogger’? Or, simply, a writer? It’s part of the necessary constant process of self-reflexivity.

And again, they touched on this idea of self-censorship. They wondered about ‘stepping on toes’, especially in such a tight community like that of Australian literary bloggers. You want to be honest, but there is always a degree of self-censorship. The question is where to draw the line. Personally, I want to be able to critique art, literature, media and the world around me, but at the same time, it can be damn hard to really call out perceived major flaws in something, or someone’s work, especially if they’re just starting out or you know them personally. So do you tone down your critique, not put up a review, or be bold, harsh but fair, and give an open opportunity for anyone to reply, refute and defend?

They also discussed this ‘illusion of intimacy’ idea that Ben and Marieke touched on. Sometimes these writers have been accused of being not just honest, but ‘oversharers’. But the fact is, people often don’t know about all the stuff that they’re not sharing. It can seem like they’re telling readers everything about their life and readers might feel that they know everything about them. But like all art, blogging is a constructed representation, and while you may be getting an honest picture and feel you know all about the author, you only know about them from what they give you. Three quarters of their life, or more, might not even be hinted at.

Is this ‘illusion’ a bad thing? Not really. Unless you want to go, warts and all, publishing the minutiae of your life, while alienating everyone you know and possibly facing legal action, it’s hard to have it otherwise. The boundary has to lie somewhere. In the end, of course, it has to be a personal decision. As long as you strive to be honest and fair in what you do reveal, and seriously consider what to publish and what to hold back, then it’s all good.

When asked about whether one should try to blend a large variety of topics in one blog , Lisa replied that cross-over is fine. The blog is your blog, so its topic is always going to be you and your interests. Other people have cross-over interests too, and if your blog is good enough, people will keep coming back for the stuff that they’re interested in, and won’t mind the odd uninteresting post.

There were a couple of other tidbits to think about:

  • A blog evolves over time and has its own narrative. So in a sense, a blog is a story.
  • Before the rise of Facebook and Twitter, people used online ‘handles’ more often. But now with such sites we’re commonly going by our real names online, or our real names are not so hidden anymore. Interesting point.
  • How is blogging perceived? How do you perceive it? Is it for your ‘best’ work? Does it really distract you from other writing? Or is it just a part of the broader spectrum of writing?
  • Finally, they mentioned two interesting things I’d never really heard of: blog tours, where someone hops along onto various blogs from all over the place, providing guest posts on each. Then there’s blog carnivals, where various bloggers all riff on a chosen topic, and they can engage with each others ideas on that topic.

Essentially, this panel built on what I already knew about blogging, gave me a lot to consider and gave me a good kick in the rear to blog more. All in all, blogging is experimental: it’s an experiment for each individual and also because the internet is a medium in flux, all of this stuff is still changing and being negotiated.

Speaking of emergent mediums: eBooks!

But that final panel will have to wait for Part 2, in the next day or two. This time I’m not going to go away for a week or so; I’m going to get some of that momentum happening with this blogging thing.