Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Melbourne Writers Festival

I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival last weekend. I wanted to revel in writing and books. I wanted to learn more about writing and publishing, and I wanted to be reassured that I was on the right track with my writing. I also went to two sessions specifically to use them as sources for articles to write for Divine.  
I saw some authors soar and some perform aerobatics, but some just engaged the autopilot, while others failed to take off, and one smacked into the ground. The first session I went to had me thinking I was intellectually out of my depth, but the other sessions reassured me that I am not that ignorant after all. 

The Sessions

The sessions I went to were:

·         The Future of the Novel
·         On The Spectrum
·         Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard
·         Healing Words
·         First Flight
·         Fred Watson’s Guide to the Universe.

The Future of the Novel was not a discussion about ebooks and Amazon destroying the publishing industry. It was about the influence of social media on novel writing. One of the two panellists was American novelist Teju Cole, whose intellect daunted me at the start, but when his ideas were teased out a bit more, I began to see his twitterverse. 

On the Spectrum was a discussion about Asperger’s Syndrome in writing. The two writers on the panel were Graeme Simsion who wrote the novel The Rosie Project, which has a main character with Asperger’s, and Jo Case whose book Boomer and Me (which I have nearly finished reading) is about bringing up her son who has Asperger’s. Simsion proved to be a wonderful performer and read a very funny section of his book. This session was the best I saw over the weekend and it was free, unlike the other five. 

Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard lived up to its name with one of the writers dying so horribly that you just wanted to look away. But Max Barry read a very good section from his book Lexicon, which he admitted was not a comedy, more a thriller. I would have rushed out to buy it had not I already visited Monitaur that morning and purchased it. 

Healing Words was another session I went to because of my writing for Divine. The panellists left me thinking about the various ways reading and writing can help people cope with health concerns. 

First Flight featured three first time authors. They did readings from their books and talked a bit about their pathway to being published. Yet again, who you know played a big role in getting published. 

Fred Watson is an Australian astronomer who has just written his own Guide to the Universe. In a dazzling slide show I learnt much current astronomical knowledge. 

What I Learnt 

If there is one thing I will take away from the weekend it is that if I ever am doing readings of my work I will choose a section that doesn’t need ten minutes of backgrounding. I would also try to find a section with humour in it, as laughter shows the audience is engaged with what is being read.
I plan to write more detailed posts on the various panels in coming weeks.

I spotted Jason Steger from The Age and The Book Club, but I felt unworthy to speak to him. 

The Venue 

I found Federation Square to be a very sparse and soulless venue, its lack of crowds seemed to emphasis a lack of enthusiasm for books and writing in Melbourne, unlike the very crowded Malthouse Theatre complex that I attended last time I went to the festival. Federation Square also lacked sign posting, but had plenty of people to ask where to go.
Overall, I learnt a bit about writing, and I was regularly reassured that I was on the right track. I also have an article to write after seeing the Asperger’s panel. But the best thing about the festival was the many ideas that had my brain turning concepts into patterns.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Writing Careers?

Writing : Illustration of a Spiral Notebook Mascot raising up a Pencil Stock Photo
Last week I had an interview for a copy writing position. The job basically involved writing 30 minute commercials based on briefs of information received from sales reps. I won’t tell you where, until I start. They have offered me a couple of weeks unpaid trial. I figure I can use that time to learn everything I can about copyrighting and find out if I am any good at it. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to show how creative and productive I can be.

Interestingly, the manager who interviewed me referred to this blog. So it is just as well I have been taking it more seriously over the past months. I have been doing a fair bit of research for articles, then trying to write them in an appropriate tone for the subject matter. I have been searching for topics that are relevant and starting to trend, but are not overdone, like the posts I wrote on Kickstarter and Klout. I have also tried to ensure that fewer typos appear. So my efforts in writing this blog seem to be paying off.                                                      


Those who follow me on Facebook might remember me mentioning an article I was writing about the use of medical cannabis for the Divine website. I spent a lot of time researching it as there was a heap of recent information around. I also contacted a scientist who was doing research into its medical use as well as the Victorian Health Department to get the Victorian Government’s viewpoint.

I discussed the article with the Divine editor to ensure her that I would be writing an article that was even handed and would not be advocating an opinion on whether cannabis should be allowed for medical use. I wrote what I considered to be an article full of facts and totally opinion-less and submitted it. Unfortunately the article was knocked back by senior management.

I was extremely disappointed. I was disappointed to have something I had spent so much time researching and writing canned. I was also disappointed that I did not have the chance to inform people about the use of medical cannabis. There are a lot of people in pain out there, who traditional medicines have failed. I know about some of these people from my membership of two Facebook groups devoted to Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

I was also disappointed for the Divine website. I think an article on a controversial subject such as medical cannabis could have driven a lot of traffic to the website. But there’s the thing, I knew it was controversial, so I was not surprised when it was knocked back.

I intend to find another home for the article. It was very Victorian-centric, so I have rewritten it to suit Australian-wide markets. As a result, it is a much better article now.

I have told my fellow members of the Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis sites read the recent NSW Report into the use of medical cannabis. In my opinion, which is not even hinted at in the article, anyone who reads that report, and its many submissions, could only conclude that the medical use of cannabis should be legalised. The report recommended that cannabis be legalised for those with terminal illnesses.

I have written and submitted another article to Divine. This one required no research because it was about my personal experiences. Next weekend I plan to go to the Victorian Writers Festival where a couple of sessions will hopeful turn into more articles for Divine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Much Klout do You Have?

A couple of months ago I saw a message somewhere that said that employers were now taking the Klout scores of potential employees into account before employing them. Klout score? WTF? The message - probably written by a Klout employee - went on to say that companies were refusing to hire people with Klout scores of less than 35. Really, and I thought it was a conspiracy from the alien lead cabal that was stopping me getting my dream job.

So I immediately logged onto and registered. Besides my name, Klout wanted details of my Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts. If I had an Instagram or Foursquare account I could have also entered those details. They also allowed me to connect other accounts such as Blogger, which I did, and Wordpress, which I didn’t. But while researching this post I discovered that Blogger and Wordpress accounts have no influence on a Klout score. So why did Klout want them? Is Klout part of the NSA’s PRISM? 

So What Does Klout Do? 

According to the Klout website, Klout digs deep into social media to understand how people influence each other, so that everyone can discover and be recognized for how they influence the world. 

My initial Klout score was 46, way higher than 35, so it must be the alien cabal after all. According to the website Barrack Obama has a Klout of 99. Justin Bieber had a Klout of 92. So wow my Klout of 46 was just under half of Barrack’s. Did that mean I should be Prime Minister of a much smaller pretend middle power like Australia?

No, because the higher your Klout Score the tougher it becomes to increase. Damn. But I still reckon I would make a much better PM than Tony Abbott. And so would about 23,000,000 other Australians I hear you shout. 

So how is a Klout score calculated?

According to the website Klout measures multiple pieces of data from several social networks, and also real world data from places like Bing and Wikipedia. Then we apply them to our Klout Score algorithm, and then show the resulting number on your profile. 

When I looked at my Klout activity that was affecting my score, a lot of it was from Farmville. So maybe Barrack and Justin spend a lot more time than me playing Farmville.  I also thought a Klout score would be so easy to rig, just play a lot of games on Facebook.

But no, according to the website: posting a thousand times and getting zero responses is not as influential as posting once and getting a thousand responses. It isn’t about how much someone talks, but about how many people listen and respond. 

Win Free Perks. 

If you are judged to be a big Klout, you get to win stuff, like I won 50 business cards. Problem is I have to pay for them to be mailed out to Australia. But someone supposedly won a Sony NEX 3N and Sony Action Cam, plus lunch with the team who built the amazing products.

Sarcasm aside, I was thinking that publishers might start requiring Klout scores to be submitted along with manuscripts. I have read that they already want potential writers to have active blogs and lots of twitter followers, so I figure that a Klout score, or some version of it, will be wanted in the future. Currently my Klout score is 50 – must be playing Farmville more - surely my score is good enough to be Mayor of Wangaratta.