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{Thu 22 July 2021}   Too long without a story

Too long without a story

A white quill pen is poised as if to write a story, but no hand holds it.

There’s writing and there’s writing

Ah, the power (and responsibility) of the quill! I pick it up gingerly again after too many years. Why “quill”? And why now?

Naturally, I only type these days, and quite a bit faster than I did after a five-day touch-typing course at the London Keyboard Training Centre so many, many years ago! But the quill reminds me of Shakespeare and other creative writers I admire. The difficulty of writing with a quill makes careful contemplation more likely before committing ink to paper. Also, there is a sensation of art-making in the physical calligraphic act.

Perhaps my fed-up-ness has finally reached boiling point? I don’t know. In 2013 I posted my Pyrenean poem. Today I realised that despite reading and writing every day of the eight years since, this was almost all wage-work. Nothing that I wanted to share with anyone except the target audience (and often not even then, I confess).

All I know is that I’m starving internally due to neglecting the types of writing that give me the greatest pleasure, use my true talents, and might be key to making meaning in my life.

Fascinated by story and storytellers

During all these years, my fascination with story has never left. Communicating for businesses and business people involves hearing and telling stories… of quest, discovery, failure and success.

And since completing my MA in Creative Writing and New Media in 2009, I have hung around the edges of story in fiction as well as non-fiction, playing a part in facilitating the journeys of friends and clients who stuck stubbornly with the craft and produced books and poems worthy of audience.

Often, the vulnerable, courageous truths in and behind these stories demanded more will than I had while battling the awful personal impacts of Brexit, the pandemic, and my inner demons. To cope, I’ve left some good books superficially-scanned or half-read, or tried to control them by analysing them minutely. Anything to avoid more challenge.

But even these reactions of mine fascinated me… they proved beyond doubt that stories are the opposite of Nothing; their rich, mysterious power creates, terrifies, inspires, feeds, and unifies.

Read the rest of this entry »


{Fri 4 June 2010}   Living in a Digital Economy
Living in a Digital Economy

On Wednesday I attended a great talk hosted by Amplified Leicester at the Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre, Leicester. John Stobart of Harvey Ingram LLP gave an excellent presentation titled “Legal Aspects of Online Business and the Digital Economy Act 2010”. I’ve written this up in more detail on my business blog at http://get-it-write.com, but just wanted to review here my feelings about it.

Of course I feel, as a content creator as well as a content consumer, that I want my copyright to be respected. Although it’s unlikely at this stage that any of my articles, poems, etc. will generate millions of dollars for anyone, including myself, I think I share with most artists, writers or even idea-generators who haven’t yet implemented or will never implement their ideas in concrete form, the desire for at least the bare minimum of recognition by people correctly attributing to me any work or ideas of mine when they publish them in any form.

But I don’t think that the way to enforce copyright is by introducing legislation which penalizes everybody who uses a particular internet connection just because some other user may have used it illegally. This creates fear and uncertainty and will likely hamper creativity. Rather, I think we need a massive education campaign to teach what copyright is, and which emphasizes both respect for original sources by users AND a more generous attitude on the part of copyright holders so that the wonderful creativity which new media has spawned and facilitated is not choked off. Creative Commons is the way to go!

I think my view is shared by most people who work online for a living, even when their income depends on their being paid for their creativity. After the talk on Wednesday, I had the pleasure of lunching with Jayne Childs of Creative Coffee Club Leicester and George Ballentyne of the Leicester Council of Faiths. Like others at the talk, they were more concerned about the potential for heavy-handed abuse of the DEA’s provisions than they were excited about the powers it gives to copyright holders. Copyright is already well-protected in UK law.

Notes

Here is the text of the Digital Economy Act 2010, which is now law.

You may still be able to influence some aspects of its implementation via the current Ofcom consultation on how “to give effect to measures introduced in the Digital Economy Act 2010 (“DEA”) aimed at reducing online copyright infringement. Specifically (they) are seeking views on a code of practice called “the Online Copyright Infringement Initial Obligations Code”. This consultation period ends on Friday 30th July.

For general information apart from the Act itself, the Wikipedia entry is a starting point with its selection of links to external sources.

John Stobart is a partner at Harvey Ingram LLP and specialises in Corporate Finance & Transactions. See http://www.harveyingram.com/biographies/john-stobart.aspx.

George Ballentyne is the Equality & Diversity Officer for the Leicester Council of Faiths. He blogs at http://equalitydiversityofficer.blogspot.com/ and his latest post is about the John Stobart presentation mentioned above.

Jayne Childs is the Project Coordinator for Creative Coffee Club Leicester which is based at Phoenix Square in Leicester. This is the place to meet like-minded creatives in Leicester, or meet them online at www.creativecoffeeleicester.com.



{Mon 23 November 2009}   What is Transliteracy?

What is Transliteracy?

Well, theoretically, I should know the answer to this question as this is what I studied in my MA over the past year. I have now graduated (with distinction) with an MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University… but I’m still asking!

The term was introduced to the UK by Professor Sue Thomas and she and some other new media gurus have worked long and hard to refine the following definition:

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

Prof. Sue Thomas

It’s a good definition that covers a lot, but its implications and ramifications lead to further questions. See my post on Transliteracy.com for some of these.

I ended the post with a link to a video about a fascinating artwork that future generations may hold to be a significant transliterate artefact.

I’d love to discuss all this, so please feel free to comment either here on TiaTalk or on Transliteracy.com.



Overcoming barriers to making an online living

My MA project is well under way. Submission date is 1st September, so I will be pretty busy with that for the next six weeks or so. After that, I intend to get back to earning again! The full time year of study has been a wonderful privilege, but I’m tired of not being able to afford things that were an easy part of my life a year ago. A lot of people have had to adjust to a leaner life due to the credit crunch rather than to study choices, but we’re in the same boat in the sense of not being able to look to an employer for income. If I want to make some money, I need to do it on my own, and I want to do it all online.

The topic of how creative writers can monetize content on the web interests all those on my course. There are several barriers to overcome if you want to make money on the web as a writer. For word count reasons, I’ve decided not to include these five main barriers in my dissertation text, preferring to concentrate on guiding writers to think about solutions, but these are what I address.

Barrier 1: Competition from free content on the web.
Anxiety about the future of print media is widespread. Authors, publishers, journalists and editors across the world are scrambling to understand the import of the global access to information and entertainment that the Internet is bringing to increasingly technologically sophisticated audiences. They are desperate to find or develop monetization models that will still pay skilled professionals. Jolyon O’Connell, in weekly news digest, The Week (30 May 2009, Issue 717, 5), summarised as follows:

The Guardian’s Ian Jack thinks the game is nearly up for professional writers. “We are in the twilight years of a certain kind of paid employment,” he writes, “the business of inking words on paper… The fact is that generations are now growing up with the idea that words should be read electronically for free – a new human right…” Because of the internet, writers may end up as poorly remunerated as they were in Shakespeare’s day. Shakespeare, after all, only made money because his plays had paying audiences. … It was in the 19th century, when the British middle class expanded rapidly, that writing became a potentially lucrative job, with Walter Scott sometimes earning £20,000 a year, Dickens making a fortune for Chapman & Hall and the word of God enabling William Collins to buy a country house and a steam yacht by selling 300 000 bibles a year.

But now we can all be authors, and publish ourselves on the web: it just doesn’t make money. As Jack says, the age of the gifted amateur is “surely about to return…”

Yes, but that’s not bad, is Chris Anderson’s conclusion in his new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. High quality free stuff is actually good for business; you just need to think creatively about how to persuade people to pay for other high quality stuff that appears alongside it.

Barrier 2: Time constraints

Conceptualising and writing may take the same time as for print publication, but implementing and testing new media content, especially bearing in mind global audiences and different platforms, takes longer. Even presuming you are commissioned, or have a definite target market willing to pay for the product, can you charge enough to justify the time spent? Making time is an important survival skill for the online world, but even with time management and automation of processes, writers making their living in new media (and this may eventually be all writers) cannot rely exclusively on any model of income where earnings are directly related to time spent on work, because those earnings will always be capped by the number of writing or creating hours one can squeeze out of any 24-hour period. You need to sell some things that are not time-dependent.

Barrier 3: The technology
As mentioned above, technology has a time cost, but it also costs money and effort. Hardware and much software, plus time and expertise for learning, implementation and testing across multiple platforms, must be included in the writer’s time and money budgets. The learning never ends: the creative writer who wants to stay at the cutting edge needs to master the latest tools as they come out. On the other hand, posts like the Institute for The Future (IFTF)’s Hello? Most Americans not superempowered IT people (which quotes an Accenture report) and The Mobile Difference report from Pew Internet indicate that most of the potential online audience will not be familiar with the latest tools. Therefore, writers must make decisions about the use of tools depending on their intended audience. If the audience is unlikely to be familiar with a tool, then either it must be abandoned or persuasion and facilitation may be required to help them use it.

Barrier 4: Lack of vision
Despite our excitement at the possibilities unfolding before us, many of us still lack “digital imagination” (a term suggested by Chris Meade of The Institute for the Future of the Book). Publishers and writers accustomed to old print media just cannot see how it could work, financially speaking. There are too many opportunities and we feel overwhelmed by them; we feel we will never master the necessary e-literacy; our concerns about privacy and over-exposure hamper our experimentation. We do not yet have enough case studies comparing online and offline working for us to be clear about which approaches will be both effective and financially lucrative. The only alternative is to look at what others are doing, make some educated guesses and try out various models for ourselves.

Barrier 5: Lack of business nous
Despite the digital medium, in most respects online business is like any other business. Even if none of the other barriers apply to you, a lack of business sense, of the ability to market and sell a product at the right price while keeping an eye on the bottom line, and to keep customers coming back for more and referring others, might scupper your chances of success.

In the mean time, the antidote is to understand that while the media change, the same principles apply online as offline. Writers care more about getting their story out to people, than which form of print they use … why not extend this attitude to the screen? When considering the form your writing takes, why not think of it as choosing packaging for your ideas that is appropriate to the medium? Why not assume that social media provide new ways of doing the same networking done at cocktail parties? To win friends and influence people (and to sell your work to gatekeepers, peers, sponsors, and customers) you still need to convey genuine interest in others. You can stay human while using different media.



{Thu 7 May 2009}   Watercolour E-Poem
Watercolour

So… it took a while, but this poem is now more than text! To experience it you’ll need Adobe Flash Player, preferably v9 or v10, and to turn on your sound.

Click the image to view the poem full screen:

gold-watercolour-on-black

The [Respond] button at the end of the poem will bring you back here to comment or offer a poem of your own.

Alternatively, why not respond by creating your own version of Watercolour? Grab the word cloud below, go to http://www.wordle.net, paste it in and have a blast! If you like the result, supply a link to the Wordle version in your comment.

Notes:

  1. Wordle gives greater weight to words that occur more often. If you want some words to appear bigger than others, copy and repeat those words a few times in the word cloud, e.g. repeating “jazz jazz jazz” and “pizzazz pizzazz pizzazz” and “imagine imagine imagine imagine imagine” could produce a Wordle like this: Watercolour imagine jazz pizzazz.
  2. Wordle strips out common words like “of” and “the” unless you change settings via the Language menu.

Word cloud for Wordling:

Watercolour primaries pounce on the primitive page usurping space with bizarre pizzazz opposing waves squall and break brim-brilliant crests crash create a jazz of chaos interference drags a screaming thread of blue through careless orange splotches tia azulay raging red gobbles new green panicking through cooling pools of sulphur a purple pulse breathes whirls of fire willing them to swirl against caking air to savage expectations flay the fair and even strokes of intent with edges of the depths fan water into flame with split-atomic spatterings of aquamarine and shame shatterings of line design all reason Oh Image imagine Imagination’s breathing Ruwach



{Sun 11 January 2009}   Story and Story of Story

Story and Story of Story

After submitting work to an Online Workshop for the Methods module of the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media (MACWNM) at De Montfort University, students were asked to write a critical commentary describing their creative process in making the work and in responding to feedback on that work. Throughout the Methods module, several models and tools helped us understand the creative process while engaging in it. I was fascinated by the two different kinds of writing, storytelling and commentary, arising from one starting point. I determined to learn to do both well.

This response attempts to showcase this learning.

Fruit and Veggie Stall by Monique Jansen
Fruit and Veggie Stall by Monique Jansen


{Thu 2 October 2008}   A Fish Does What A Fish Must Do

A Fish Does What A Fish Must Do

Well, at last the long silence is broken… After some hectic months of much travelling and visiting, some ill-health and some hosting of guests, I’ve started the MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University in Leicester and I am now required to write again (regularly, eek!).

This little poem is my offering for our first Creative Exercise which involved responding to a picture of a small, ugly fish balanced in the palm of a hand…. a fish out of water, presumably chosen as an image to reflect the anxieties of most students new to a course. I expect that this poem will change and tighten up a bit—it’s unusual for me to post such a fresh work for public view—but I wanted to make the statement that I’m back in the blogosphere.

A Fish Does What a Fish Must Do

This fish brings water with it;
Poised, vicious and delicate,
It rests lightly on the hand,
Fin repurposed into stand.
Not flapping-frantic-fitful,
But cool as primeval chill,
Awaiting opportunity:
Body taut, eyes alert to see
And seize translucent breath;
Its vast life or tiny death,
Suckled in swim or gagged by air,
Potentials beyond this now-where.
The moment balances with the fin:
Before and after stretch out thin
From here where nerves intensely
Immobilise magnificently.
There is no thought of why or how,
Instinct is all — its soul is now.

31 July 2009 – And here’s the image itself (don’t know why I didn’t add this before, as it was made available under a Creative Commons licence. From http://www.flickr.com/photos/16866037@N00/1386243643/
Creative Commons License: Some Rights Reserved http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_GB

Lizardfish by Jennifurr-Jinx UpoadedToFlickr15Sept07


{Fri 5 December 2008}   Who needs New Media?

Who needs New Media?

I haven’t blogged for a month, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, studying the vast amount of course material for my wonderful new MA and writing bits and pieces for creative and critical exercises. I’m doing the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University in Leicester.  The experience has been really positive so far, with hugely experienced course leaders (Sue Thomas and Kate Pullinger) and a really talented and intelligent bunch of fellow students. The last two weeks have been a bit of a strain, though, because DMU has just announced that they intend to close the course due to the credit crunch. They say (but can we believe them now?) that those of us currently doing the course will be able to complete it.

Even in this dire economy, it’s hard to believe that they would contemplate axing this one – a true flagship programme for educating people for the online world (where there are more and more unconventional opportunities to make money when normal jobs fail).  As an online course, it also must surely be one of the courses with the fewest overheads and therefore the least expensive to run and to promote.

As Course Rep for my year, I’ve spent a lot of what should have been study time collating and representing to the university administration students’ expressions of dismay at their betrayal and questions about our academic future. Of course, I don’t mind doing this, as I really believe in the course, but I hope all the effort will prove fruitful and they’ll decide to revive it. Well, if they don’t, someone else must, because the electronic universe won’t tolerate that vacuum, but boo hoo! then for those of us who were silly enough to give our precious credit crunch cash to DMU!

If you’re interested in the future of new media education,  you might want to see what some experienced voices have to say about this closure at Chris Meade’s bookfutures blog. Chris is a director of The Institute for the Future of the Book in London. In two articles (so far), Chris speaks of his own surprise at the closure announcement, and heavyweights like Howard Rheingold who has taught on the course have joined in to label it incredibly shortsighted.

Sigh… we’ll see. In the mean time, at least I’m writing again, after such a long dry season. See my next posts for a couple of the creative writing exercises that have turned out okay, I think, or at least offer potential for further development.



{Wed 16 December 2009}   When Orality met Literacy…
When Orality met Literacy…

I’m trying hard to articulate for my new business site (still under construction) what exactly it is I do for a living. My clients will be glad that this whimsical meditation probably will not end up on my Home page, but, for some reason, this is what filled that space today!

One day, young Taran was hunting lizards and rats in the desert with some friends. They trod softly and whispered as they walked, so as not to startle their prey. With practised ease, they stalked and circled, wasting no motion as they whirled their slings and released precise, stony death upon their unsuspecting lunch. The sandy crags were abundant with surprising life and by midday their belts were bulging with enough fresh meat to feed their entire tribe that night. With time on their hands, they ran eagerly to where they knew they could find water and shade, to sit and sing until the sun retreated from its ravaging.

As they approached the glistening desert lake, Taran spotted a woman sitting in the shade of the only tree at the oasis. Their tree. Their oasis. Her silverine hair rippled in the breeze as she bent forward. She was making strange marks in the sand near her feet. He confronted her:

“Who are you?”
She smiled, “I am Shanaya. I am a writer.”
“What is a writer?”
“A writer is one who writes. As I am doing here… writing.”
“What is writing?”
“Ah. Writing is …. the rendering on a surface of symbols representing sounds or words.”
“Hmmm. That’s… interesting… I suppose. What is writing for?”
“Writing is for communicating!”
“Communicating what? To whom?”
“Anything! Everything! To anyone! Or even to a machine!”
Taran did not know what a machine was, but he tried to make sense of what she said. “So if I make some marks on a surface to represent some sounds or words, I’ll be communicating?”
Shanaya smiled mysteriously. “Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that!”

She went on to explain about sentences, paragraphs, spelling, grammar, punctuation, reading, target audiences, lexicons, assumed knowledge, style, translation, record-keeping, letter-writing, creative writing, technical writing, analytical writing, history, plays, poetry, novels, short stories, newspapers, film, TV, computer programming, e-mail, blogging, online networking, texting, e-poetry, hypertext writing, video games, multimedia stories, cross-media narratives, Alternate Reality Games and transliteracy.

It was a long day.



{Sat 6 December 2008}   Dawn-Noon-Midnight Quilt

Dawn-Noon-Midnight Quilt

Based on the Noon Quilt by trAce

One creative writing exercise we were set for our course (the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media), a few weeks ago, was to experiment with the Noon Quilt idea.

Prof. Sue Thomas, who sets the exercises, told us that this was originally a trAce writing project which assembled 100-word patches from writers around the world to create “a quilt of noon-time impressions”. Apparently, trAce was later commissioned by the British Council to make two similar quilts—The Dawn Quilt for South Asia and The Road Quilt for Russia and Eastern Europe. Our exercise was: “Look out of a window on three occasions during the week, at Dawn, Noon, and Midnight, and describe exactly what you can see. If you find a story there, feel free to tell it. “

Timing my patches

Living in London, I’m never usually up at either dawn or midnight, (or I don’t notice when I am because there’s usually not much clue from the sky!) but for the sake of this exercise I made a special effort, even going so far as to get the exact rising and setting times for the Sun from http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=136.

I found that doing it all in one day made for stronger links between the patches;a sense of a continuous narrative.

So this was the day:

Date: 4 Dec 2008
Sunrise:
07:48  Sunset: 15:53
Length of day: 8h 04m 53s  Difference from the day before: − 1m 46s
Solar noon: 11:51  Altitude: 16.2°  Distance (10E6 km): 147.428

Patch impressions

07:48

Through rain-spotted glass I see, no, feel, a grey sky. I see the white-rimmed eyes of human habitation staring across grim gardens. Here and there, a few glow with manufactured morning warmth. The sun is a secret. Inexplicably, the cloudy canvas lightens slightly. Stark winter trees stand against the grey, shivering in the meaningless wind. The flesh sags from my cheekbones as I imagine the cold wetness of the bark. I look back to the rows of neighbouring windows, but now all are dark and empty. The people inside have also become secrets.

11:51

The rain-spots have dried into dusty acid traces on the window panes. Beyond them, the dawn-dark trees are now shades of green, an eerie moss climbing high over their bare limbs. The day is undecided. Bemused grey clouds scud eastward in ragged retreat, like an army desperate for refuge. Between their broken ranks, blue sky flashes. Sunlight reaches through to caress our creamy walls, but will not stay to be touched. Cayenne chrysanthemums leap with the wind, but the evergreen jasmine next to them clings to the wall, stubbornly still.

23:59

All is still now. With little light behind it to highlight imperfections, the glass seems clear now. Peering through it, I see a calm sky, its starless blackness softened by the urban glow that horizons our silent mews. Nightlights gently bathe the courtyard’s high cream walls and peaceful plants. Some shadows linger, but they do not dart about or threaten. That invisible city beyond our nestling house seems benevolent tonight. It has vanquished the rain. The secret people have lit some lights again. Their warm windows tell me of throbbing hearts and Christmas hearths. Tonight, I can sleep.



et cetera
:)