Tell us a bit about yourself (education, career, hobbies/personal interest, etc.)
- Did an English Language and Literature honours degree so I can officially read Beowulf in its original Anglo Saxon.
- Did a Diploma of Education and have taught in high school, TAFE and university.
- Did a Graduate Certificate in Enterprise Management in an Engineering department, quite different style to my very humanities focus.
- Did a PhD in digital storytelling based on virtual world scenarios I’ve developed at Deakin.
I have a great interest in all sorts of creative ways to engage in story making. My career has included freelancing as a writer and editor full time for about fifteen years, developing about 12 texts in communications, running an arts business plus developing resources for training across making helicopters through to making beer through to sorting letters automatically and setting up traffic management systems for the railways.
I also write poetry and have done a lot of acting over the years, plus set up as a small print publisher to support poets with printing small books for selling at readings (CP Publishing).
What is your involvement with Verandah?
I was introduced to Verandah by Judith Rodriguez, who was a leader in writing at Deakin when I arrived in 2000. She more or less told me I should look after the project with another colleague who also had publishing experience. We have seen it grow in so many different directions since then, greatly encouraged by Judith.
What are the steps that you took that lead you into being involved with the publishing community?
When I was teaching in TAFE, I first undertook a year’s mentoring at Viking O’Neill publishers, which was bought out by Penguin when I was there. Then I introduced publishing at TAFE as a study program, while developing and maintaining the curriculum and resources for the Diploma of Writing and Editing over 12 years. This involved lots of meetings with industry people – publishers, editors, booksellers, distributors, printers and so on. I ran the program in TAFE until a former TAFE colleague suggested I start developing writing units at Deakin, which I’ve done – about four undergrad and four postgrad, eight subjects and a full Masters coursework program in Creative Enterprise.
What are your favourite parts about the publishing world?
Seeing the final product – nothing beats the excitement of the birth of a book.
What are your least favourite parts about the publishing world?
Trying to persuade others to buy/believe in that book – distribution is always difficult.
What do you think are the important to-do lists that an emerging writer should do to start their career in the industry?
Write every day even if it’s crap – the engine needs to run smoothly and has to be given a regular workout.
Some writers try to commit to writing 500w a day, others might aim for 5,000w.
Set up a workspace that has stimulus for your writing and get into a routine.
Work out some career goals – I use 6 months, 2 years, 5 years. Include stuff you really want to do (travel – remember that?) as well stuff you dream might be possible.
Network with other writers – I have found other people to work with, to exchange ideas with.
Do you have any tips to cope with common writing problems such as writer’s block/lack of motivation/etc?
I usually change my location, particularly to different libraries. Once I make the effort to go there, I feel obliged to do some writing. I also work well in cafes, where I can observe people then that triggers other ideas. I have a list of creative activities that I use as starters if neither of the above work – a journal with creative ideas, or random thoughts from what I’ve read, or simply some creative writing exercises (e.g. start with ‘I believe in …’).
In the current climate, especially throughout the pandemic, digital realms are thriving more than traditional means to publish our work. How do you think this will affect the writing and literary industry?
People will always want hard copies of books, but more readers are taking up kindle etc as the technology improves. It’s about mobility and access, and cost for digital publishing. No one will turn down the option of receiving a hard copy of their book from their publisher and getting friends to buy it! Harry Potter still would have been a hard copy sensation – I can’t see it only being digital.
Where do you look for inspiration when starting a project?
The people around me who have either suggested the project, or are interested in working with me on it. I like to share projects for both practical and creative reasons.
Are there any projects that you are currently working on?
- The edit and publication of a novel written (but not finished) by my father – I have to provide the ending! And I’ll look around for possible publishers.
- A digital representation of poetry about sensory responses to the four elements (collaboration with a sound artist)
- Children’s stories – I write stories for my grandchildren, and these will get longer as they grow older. I self-publish them so the children have them as permanent copies.
- Research papers across creative nonfiction/memoir/essays and digital storytelling.