CreativeMornings Sheffield podcast – 02: Ben and Mat Lyon / Lyon & Lyon

Episode two of the CreativeMornings Sheffield podcast features a talk and interview with Ben and Mat from ace design agency, Lyon & Lyon. The theme was ‘beyond’ and it’s all about ideas, including how we get them and what to do with them. I found it really interesting. You will too.

Then what?

CreativeMornings Sheffield, Printed By Us, March 2017

CreativeMornings is a monthly event that tales place in cities all over the world. Creative folk get up early and gather at a lovely venue to drink coffee, eat too much pastry and hear a talk by someone marvellous.

CreativeMornings comes to Sheffield

Sheffield, my home city, now has its own CreativeMornings. Set up by the ace Penny Lee, it’s only been going for a few months and already folks snaffle tickets up sharpish.

You can look out for a CreativeMornings Sheffield podcast that I’m working on and plan to launch later this month. For now, check out the video above, which I hastily put together following a last-minute decision to take some footage on my phone at the last event.

It’s rough around the edges, but was good fun to do. Lesson for next time: take more footage!

Printed By Us

To give you a little more information about the talk, the speaker was Mark Musgrave, who with the help of my old pals at Yoomee, has created a great project called Printed By Us.

Here’s what it’s all about:

We run screen printing workshops for people in Sheffield who may have experienced homelessness and other complex issues. We collaborate with local artists to create unique artwork, then: We hand screen print artwork. We sell the prints. We run more workshops.

It’s a smashing idea and so far, it seems to be working.

It was amazing to hear from James, who has previously been homeless and said that his life had improved significantly because of Printed By Us. James even did a live screen print on the day – everyone got to take home a ‘Just Take The Next Step’ print, designed by Rich Wells.

Take a look at the Printed By Us website and consider buying a print, if you can afford it.

Fact or fiction: autobiographical novels with Édouard Louis

This episode of the Guardian Books podcast featuring Édouard Louis had me absolutely hooked.

I hadn’t heard anything about Édouard Louis before, but two things struck me about his interview. First, the eloquence and clarity with which he talks about his childhood and the impact it had. Second, the way he was able to separate his own story from the writing. Such a difficult thing to do.

Here’s more information about Louis and the context of the interview:

Édouard Louis received huge acclaim in France at the age of 21 for his debut book, The End of Eddy, an autobiographical novel about a gay child who grows up surrounded by poverty and homophobia in a post-industrial French town. Despite France’s long history of autofiction, Louis’s book sparked a hunt for the truth, with French media descending on his home town in Picardy to talk with locals and try to determine what was real.

I highly recommend you give the episode a listen. It’s not often I hear an author talk about their work and feel compelled to go and buy it. This morning, I bought The End of Eddy and can’t wait to get stuck in.

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders

George Saunders is one of those authors I’ve heard other people rave about for years but never read myself. After rewatching his brilliant advice on storytelling, I decided to give him a go.

Drawn in by the amazing cover and title, I chose a single short story aimed at both young readers and adults: The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip.

I loved this book. It’s a kind of fable or morality story about a three-house village besieged by gappers – ball-like creatures that have a serious thing for goats.

This is the opening. It’s a brilliant opening.

Ever had a burr in your sock? A gapper’s like that, only bigger, about the size of a baseball, bright orange, with multiple eyes like the eyes on a potato. and gappers love goats. When a gapper gets near a goat it gives off a continual high-pitched happy shriek of pleasure that makes it impossible for the goat to sleep, and the goats get skinny and stop giving milk. And in towns that survive by selling goat milk, if there’s no goat milk, there’s no money, and if there’s no money, there’s no food or housing or clothing, and so, in gapper-infested towns, since nobody likes the idea of starving naked outdoors, it is necessary at all costs to keep the gappers off the goats. Such a town was Frip.

What a set up, right?

The story revolves around the three families of Frip who need to get rid of the gappers. That job falls to their respective children, who must brush the goats each night then throw the gappers into the sea. The gappers just come back though, which makes the children’s lives a misery.

It’s weird and haunting and also sort of beautiful.

When the gappers decide it’s more efficient to visit just one of the houses, the other two families rejoice and refuse to help. What results is a tale of kindness and community, but also a look at how humans treat each other in times of need. Which is, quite often, rather badly.

I should say that The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is brilliantly illustrated by Lane Smith, who also worked with Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss. The illustrations really work well and bring the story to life.

I read it through in about half an hour and can’t recommend it enough. I’m looking forward to a little more George Saunders later in the year.

Shelflife Club

This week I launched Shelflife Club, a membership scheme for writers, readers and other creative types.

It’s an extension of the Shelflife newsletter and a chance for subscribers (or anyone, really) to support the work that goes into putting it together. And get some cool stuff in return.

That cool stuff includes:

  • Shelflife Quotebook – a regularly-updated directory of quotes from and links to great articles from around the web.
  • Shelflife Feedly Collection – access to the roughly 50 blogs and websites that I subscribe to via Feedly.
  • Members-only podcast – a one-man show where I talk about writing, publishing, books and whatnot.
  • Shelflife Goody Bag – a mystery bag of literary tricks that includes audio stories, reading lists, templates and more.

If any of that takes your fancy or if you just want to support my writing, Shelflife Club costs $2 a month or $20 for a year.

And if you aren’t yet subscribed to the newsletter, you can do that too for absolutely nothing. It’s full of great stuff for creative folk, especially writers.

Art is theft

This is a gorgeous short film by Daniel Cordero. It outlines the idea that creativity comes from the artists and art that inspire us – that we 'steal' it to make something new.

Creation is not inspired by one man, woman or one thing. We are influenced by our daily fair, diverse artists etc. I have admired various influential artists in my life, such as Picasso, Dali and Warhol. With this film, I attempted to convey an approach to the creative process and express how all artists, at any level, "steal" the art and the very soul of other artists, while forming their "original" pieces.

Of course, this is the key theme in Austin Kleon's ace book, Steal Like an Artist, which I generally reread every few months and dip into more often than that.

The $100 Startup

I’m trying to make sure I read more in 2017. One way of doing that is to share some short thoughts about the books I get through here on the site. Let’s get cracking.

The $100 Startup is both a book and the kind of thing that sounds really rather appealing. Lots of people want to start their own business and the internet has given us a way of doing it on the cheap. All you need is a product that people want and the ability to sell it to them.

That’s the theory, anyway. The $100 Startup is full of case studies to prove it. Too many case studies, in fact. Every chapter is packed with real examples that describe (in detail, lots of detail) how other people have turned a good idea into a full-time business.

After a while, the case studies become a pain. I found myself wanting the book to cut to the chase and offer some practical advice. Because when it does, The $100 Startup is really quite interesting and useful. The section on launching a product was particularly handy, as was the bits on finance.

So yes, there is useful stuff in here, but like most of these ‘anyone can do it’ books, most of it could be said in a handful of blog posts. In fact, if you’ve already read around the subject of setting up a business around a simple idea that costs very little, I’m not sure there is much new for you.

And as it turns out, the best bits are free on The $100 Startup’s very own website too.

Virginia Woolf on why writing isn't a craft

This is the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf. She’s reciting the opening of an essay on how to read literature, but there’s some incredible stuff on writing too. It’s a fascinating insight.

I quite liked this pointed section:

“Think what it would mean if you could teach, or if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper you pick up would tell the truth, or would create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For though at this moment at least a hundred professors are lecturing the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit. Still, do we write better, do we read better, than 400 years ago, when we were unlectured, uncriticised, untaught?”

With all the fuss over the merits (or otherwise) of post-graduate writing courses, this could have been written and spoken today. Zing!

How to build a fictional world

This is a great TED-Ed video by Kate Messner. And this is the important bit:

“Just like real life, fictional worlds operate consistently within a spectrum of physical and societal rules. That’s what makes these worlds believable, comprehensible and worth exploring.”

It doesn’t really matter what you write, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, erotica or good old literary fiction. The world you create can be anywhere. It can feature whoever and whatever you want, but it must be consistent. It must have its own logic. It must be true to itself.

How Ricky Gervais learned to write

There are two things I like about this clip of Ricky Gervais talking about the writing advice he received at school.

First, the larking about at the start and suggestion that no one writer’s process is any more interesting or important than any other’s. Second, that there is truth in the everyday – the boring:

“Being honest is what counts. Trying to make the ordinary extraordinary. It’s your job as a creator or director to make an audience as excited and fascinated about a subject as you are. And real life does that.”

You might also want to take a look at Gervais talking about his approach to comedy.

George Saunders on the mystery of storytelling

So if I’m going to start sharing the good stuff with you here on the site, it’s going to have to be the good stuff. And it doesn’t get much better than this video of George Saunders talking about storytelling and the writing process.

This resonates with me:

“My experience is to have some idea of what the story is, and sometimes it’s just the tiniest kernel of something you enjoyed writing. Then, once you put it on the page and rewrite it and rewrite it, it’s actually your own discontent with that in some slow, mysterious way, urges it to higher ground. And often it’ll do so in ways that surprise you.”

Discontent is the word. Perfect.

As a writer, you edit and work at something until you reach a point where you are… content. Not delighted or cock-a-hoop, necessarily. But content that the words are in order. That you’ve done what you can for the story.

If you watch the video on Vimeo, you’ll find links to some extra clips that are also worth your time. Saunders talks about writing tricks and having a quality ‘needle’ and again, it rings completely true to me.

Some goals for 2017

I do tend to give myself goals at the start of each year, but I don’t often write them down and I’ve never shared then publicly before. But then this year does feel different, somehow. I don’t know why.

Work

I’ve spent the last year doing content strategy and managing some ace projects at Yoomee, a Sheffield digital agency. I’ve produced websites and apps, ran all manner of workshops and learnt an awful lot about project management along the way.

However, my contract with Yoomee is to cover maternity leave and that ends pretty soon. I’m currently on the hunt for new opportunities and have started ramping up my freelance work again, which I do via my own budding content agency, Very Meta.

It’s a strange thing to not know exactly what I’ll be doing work-wise over the coming months, but it’s exciting too.

If you or someone you know needs an experienced copywriter or content professional, feel free to send them my way. Or if you have a super interesting project you’re working on that might use my help, just email iain@verymeta.com and tell me about it.

Writing

I’m a novelist too, remember? Remember!

If you’ve followed me for any time, you probably know that having three children in four years (plus a full-time job – see above) has somewhat affected my ability to quickly pen a second novel. I’ve come to accept it and I try to reflect on this excellent quote from Jessica Hische on a daily basis. Sometimes hourly.

“I think I'd be able to forgive myself for a few years of not being the most productive designer, but I couldn’t forgive myself for a few years of not being the best parent.”

But at some point the work must be done. There has been a lot of thought and planning gone into this second novel already. Words have been written, of course. But most of all, I now have a real sense of what I want the novel to say and do. I understand its tone. I just need to write.

So what’s the goal? I will try and be realistic and say I aim to have a first draft complete, as a minimum, by December.

Internetting

We recorded the last episode of the Write for Your Life podcast at the start of 2016. Soon after, I redesigned, renamed and relaunched my newsletter: Shelflife. It was the only thing I consistently published throughout the year.

Shelflife gets consistently excellent open rates and the response to the new format has been overwhelmingly positive. That said, I do very little to try and get new people to subscribe. I plan to do something about that in 2017.

Primarily, that means I’m going to start sharing here on my website. I don’t currently have time for 2000-word think-pieces, but there is no reason why I can’t share more of what I read and watch online with you. My plan is to post regularly for the next three months and see how it goes.

So much – like, everything – depends on what I’ll be doing for a living, but a new podcast with Donna Sørensen is also on the cards. We have the idea. We have the will. We just need to create the time and make a pilot.

I know what you’re thinking. If I am to write a novel, how will I do all this other stuff too? Truth is, I’ve tried giving up the other stuff and it hasn’t worked. In fact, my slow retreat from the internet has made me feel more and more disconnected from the whole idea of being an author.

It’s up to me to work better.

Reading

Finally, I thought I should talk about my reading. I’ve always been a slow and slightly picky reader, but the last couple of years have been particularly bad for me in terms of the number of books read. Can I blame having children again?

The good news is, I have already started dealing with this. In November, I started tracking my reading. I decided to read at least 25 pages a day and I’m using an app called Momentum for extra motivation.

25 pages may not seem like many, I know. But I’m finding it a very doable number. I’ve missed just a handful of days, mainly over Christmas, and that daily progress has helped me fly through a few books. As a technique, it’s working and that’s what matters.

Again, being realistic, I’d like to read around 30 books in 2017.

Anything else?

Yes, just one more thing and I touched on it when I wrote about the US election results. This year, I aim to change how much I use technology to read the news. 2016 was brutal, but it was also addictive.

I’m not going to live in a hut somewhere, but I do want to significantly reduce how much noise I let into my brain. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for you, either. So let’s switch off and make stuff instead.

Minimum viable podcast – how I showed my work and tested an idea

Have you ever spent months, maybe years, either thinking about or working on an idea that you’ve been completely unsure of? Where you frequently move between, ‘This is brilliant,’ and ‘What on Earth am I doing?’

That was me for far too long, so I decided to do something about it. I had an idea for a podcast that I liked, but I wasn’t sure if anyone else would. Inspired by the concept of building a minimum viable product, I decided to show my work and test the idea with real, actual people.

My brilliant or possibly not brilliant idea

Here is the idea in a nutshell.

Leisure Club is a fictional podcast set in a local, erm, leisure club. It’s narrated by a somewhat irritable communications officer, who reports a mixture of mundane and slightly sinister news and nonsense. Episodes last no more than 10 minutes. There are recurring characters and ongoing storylines. It features darkness, warmth and silly jokes.

Watch out Ira Glass. I’m coming to get you.

The idea came about when I tried a little free writing on my lunch break. I started with a sentence and went with the flow.

I wrote two or three paragraphs and thought that they were slightly silly in a way that I sort of liked. I wrote some more later that week then pecked at it in spare moments over the next few months.

I don’t remember why, but I ended up mentioning the idea on the Write for Your Life podcast. No details, just that I’d written something a little different and that I thought it might work as a fictional podcast.

I decided to work what I'd got into a cohesive script, record the audio quickly and find some suitable sound effects to give it some background noise. I went with a looped sound of children playing in a swimming pool.

Initial feedback

With a rough first cut, I decided to share my work with a handful of family and friends. The feedback was generally good.

Everyone said they'd laughed in the right places and most thought it could work well in the format. The consensus also said that episodes should be shorter, tighter and have more varied background sounds.

So, pretty good, right? I was certainly pleased, but with an already busy schedule and a novel to work on, I ended up putting the project on the back-burner again.

To make those kinds of changes, especially the added sounds, would take time. That was the one thing I didn't have, especially to spend on a project that could come to nothing.

One of the most difficult things about having limited time for non-actual-job projects is knowing how to spend it. In a commitment-free world, I'd have invested my time and energy, launched Leisure Club and waited to see what happened.

However, with children to work around and a full-time job, that notion felt like a luxury.

But, but, but… what if?

My interest in the project was reignited when the Write for Your Life podcast came to an end, which also coincided with me starting a new job at Yoomee.

Was the idea of a fictional podcast set in a leisure club really such an unusual, unmarketable idea?

There are some great fictional podcasts out there that have taken a specific, narrow idea and had great success. There's Welcome to Night Vale, of course, but also Hello From the Magic Tavern, which I love.

What if there was an audience for Leisure Club?

In fact, what if there were enough people – and there need not be many – who would not only enjoy listening, but be willing to support the project financially through Patreon?

I have a need to make money. Family. Security. But also because it's very difficult to make a living out of writing literary fiction. Stories about people and everyday life don't tend to sell in their millions. It does happen, but not very often.

I’m not going to self-publish my novels, but perhaps I could experiment to try and make income from my other fiction without having an impact on my longer work.

Patreon is great for this. I could see scope for Leisure Club rewards, like deleted scenes, original scripts and listener-suggested characters. And there would be plenty of ways to expand the Leisure Club world via a fictional Twitter feed, Facebook page or website.

As you can probably tell, I found myself thinking about Leisure Club a lot. I’d been writing new material too, whenever an idea came to me. It was time for a second opinion.

Creating a minimum viable podcast

You might have heard of the term, minimum viable product (MVP). Here’s a pretty good definition:

Building a minimum viable product is a strategy for avoiding the development of products that customers do not want. The idea is to rapidly build a minimum set of features that is enough to deploy the product and test key assumptions about customers’ interactions with the product. 

In my day job at Yoomee, I’d been getting used to the idea of building an MVP and it had got me thinking about writing fiction.

It takes so long to plan, structure and write a short story, let alone a novel or, in this case, a script for a fictional podcast. More often than not, those projects stall or end up beneath a pile of rejection letters.

Why don’t we test our ideas earlier? Not with friends and family or even a handful of beta readers, but with real people?

Instead of dilly-dallying any further, I started thinking about what an MVP (with the P now for podcast) might sound like for Leisure Club. What was the minimum I could put together that would allow me to test the viability of the idea?

Not much, I reasoned. In just a couple of hours, I rewrote the original script into something shorter and tighter, rerecorded the narration and replaced the background noise with looped music.

After more than a year of tinkering, my minimum viable podcast was assembled in no time at all. And here it is.

You can read what people made of it below, but feel free to stop and listen now if you want to form your own opinion first.

What did I want to know?

I needed volunteer listeners, so I decided to ask my trusty newsletter subscribers. They’re a good mix of know-who-I-am and no-vested-interest. They are also the people most likely to pay for something I’ve written.

But what feedback did I want? How should they send it?

In my excitement, I almost forgot to think about these questions, but I’m very pleased that I did. Because rather than send out an MP3 and ask volunteers to email me their thoughts, I put together a very short survey using the excellent Typeform.

It meant that the feedback I received was specific and far more helpful than it might have been. It also allowed my kind participants to focus their thoughts and not worry about writing an essay. It was better for me, better for them.

And before I show you the results, it’s worth noting that 20 people signed up to take part, but only 12 actually completed the survey. The paranoid writer in me assumes that the other eight hated what they heard. But they could have just been busy. I’ll never know.

The hard stats

My first question wasn’t really a question. I simply presented a five-star rating system and asked them to be honest. Here’s how it went.

Next I asked if they would be likely to subscribe and listen to the show. A pretty impressive 83% said that they would.

I’d had that previous feedback saying the episode was too long, so I asked if this new version seemed like about the right duration. Again, a pretty encouraging 75% said yes.

Finally, I broached the thorny topic of paying cold hard cash to support the show should it become a real project. A surprising 42% of people who responded said that they would.

What people said

So with bare statistics alone, you’d think that this minimum viable podcast was a success, right? I should have rushed to my microphone to get started. But something held me back.

Although those percentages were high on the last three questions, the 3.42 overall rating bothered me. It’s not terrible, especially for something so rough around the edges, but what was stopping my very kind volunteer listeners from scoring it more highly?

Thankfully, I gave them the chance to provide more feedback, if they had any. Let me share some of that now, starting with the positives.

“I really enjoyed it. There was a very British feel to it, especially in the disparate topics that were reported and the random way they were ordered. I chuckled out loud several times.”

“Lovely calm music. Narration done really well, suits the subject. Subject is bizarre and “Night Vale"-ish which is a good point, in my opinion. Duration for it is just right.”

“Love the concept and direction of the show. Well done!”

“As it got into a flow there is a nice comedic rhythm to some of the announcements. What I liked about your narration was the 'deadpan' delivery style of some of the funniest moments. I'm sat listening to it on the bus thinking I know a few people that would enjoy this.”

“I really liked the content and your voice. Overall it was funny and I'd like to listen to more.”

And I have to say, a couple of volunteers were not shy with their criticism either. As with all negative feedback, it was tough to hear and occasionally rather brutal. However, it was also very important for me to know that perhaps this project wouldn’t be for everyone.

Here are some choice words:

“I didn't find the material funny. Delivery rather dry and uninspired. Sadly, this didn't work for me. But keep at it.”

“I didn't find it funny and got the feeling that it was supposed to be. I'm not sure that any part of the project had saleable qualities to be honest.”

In between all this, my volunteers made a number of suggestions about how the show could be better. They were really fascinating to read and a couple of things kept coming up that, deep down, I think I already knew. Here is a selection of those comments.

“Oh, one thought I did have was whether the background music could be replaced with the subtle sounds of a leisure centre.”

“It's almost worth thinking about recording a whole load in one go after say 8–10 episodes, and offering that in advance for a modest charge, giving you time to see if it's worth recording a load more again.”

“I would try to more clearly mark different segments or news items with some sort of tune. I might also consider making it sound more 'amateur', as if in-script-Iain is really improvising.”

“What I would have thought is that we would be following someone or have something to look forward to the next episode, a hint or a mystery…”

“Production quality is great. I expected to hear more atmosphere/background. (Splashing, sports, showers etc?) Maybe fade some sound effects in briefly before some of the sections to break things up and add some extra depth?”

“For it to feel more real for the Leisure Club would your character be older and perhaps need an older voice?”

“I think that you could switch the delivery up a bit. Maybe have the music change in certain points (not too much) to indicate different sections of the report.”

The upshot is that many people said that they would support it, listen to it and that's great. But also, no one gave it five stars. Most people said that it needed changes that I knew would make it more complex and time consuming to produce.

So what next?

It’s a few months since I created and collected feedback on my minimum viable podcast. It was an incredibly useful exercise and I’m glad I exposed my work to a potential audience at an early stage. As an interesting learning experience, I recommend it to any writer.

What do I do with Leisure Club now? At first, I thought the answer was nothing at all. And that still may be the case, but I am also tempted to follow my volunteers’ advice and record a season, put it out into the world and see what happens.

In reality, I think that creating a minimum viable podcast taught me two things. First, that as with all writing projects, I wouldn’t be able to wing it and get away with it. To make Leisure Club worth doing, I would have to invest time in its production that I don’t necessarily have.

The second thing I’ve perhaps learned is that people do like my writing and are willing to support me.

I was pretty surprised and delighted that so many of my volunteers said they would consider giving me their cold hard cash. That’s an amazing thing to find out, even if Leisure Club might not be the right project for that at the moment.

For now, Leisure Club is returned to the back burner and that feels right. I could have just gone for it. I could have stopped working on my novel and focused on this to try and turn it into a part-time living.

But I didn't. I showed my work, learnt a lot and I think I've saved myself a lot of time and energy.

Empathise

A few days before the EU referendum vote, someone close to me said that they were probably going to vote Leave. I was flabbergasted.

First, I could see no logical reason for it. They were intelligent, comfortably middle class, apparently liberal-minded and entirely unaffected by immigration. There was no protest to be had. When pressed, they spoke of ‘tradition’ and ‘British values’. I was lost for words.

That person changed their mind at the last minute and voted Remain. But my eyes had been opened. It made me realise that far more people (and types of people) than I thought possible simply did not think like me. As the reality of Brexit emerged, I saw that England specifically was and is at least half full of people who lack empathy.

I’m being generous when I say that the Brexit vote had undertones of racism and xenophobia. The US election and Trump in particular has taken those things to the next level, made them very public and thrown in a deeply repulsive dose of misogyny and homophobia too.

It has been and will always be disgusting. Truly deplorable.

I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by the US election over the last couple of months. I’ve watched a lot of Youtube. I’ve read a lot of think pieces. Even before the result, I thought about how happy I was that my children are not yet old enough to understand what’s happened. I don’t know how I’d be able to explain.

Trump is terrifying, no doubt. Even more scary for me, as we saw in the UK only a few months ago, is how many people seem to care so little about other human beings. How completely unable they are to even try to understand or put themselves in the shoes of people who are not like them.

So, what now? I’m not sure. Some people in the US will be heavily affected and rightfully afraid. I’d say we’re more than a little anxious over here too. If you feel politicised and ready to speak up and campaign, that’s a constructive use of any anger or energy you currently feel. I have friends who’ve been inspired to take similar action.

I’m trying to do two things. First, to vastly reduce the amount of rolling news I allow into my life. I’d like to find a way to stay well-informed, but without letting the relentless bullshit impact my mind and mood. I need to let less in and put more out.

Which leads me to point two. Writing, music and all forms of art are built on the idea that it is good and right to explore the other. To try and see then show the world through other people’s eyes. I’m not really sure what else to do right now but hold on tight to that notion. And to do the following.

Read, listen, watch, create, share. Empathise.

Everything Burned

The EU referendum and the absolute carnage it has created in the UK has been on everyone’s minds. It’s impossible to escape.

I’ve wanted to write about the situation, but found it very difficult to articulate how I feel. I’m just so angry, dumbfounded that a group of incompetent politicians, born into wealth and blinded by ego, have waltzed our country into so much economic uncertainty. It’s truly unforgivable.

There are so many blog posts and opinion pieces on what has happened. So instead I’ve written a story.

I published it in the latest issue of Shelflife – my weekly newsletter.

You can read it here too.

You can find out more about Shelflife right here.

Every fortnight, I send a collection of interesting links from around the web, some thoughts of my own and short, original fiction. It's completely free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Shelflife – a newsletter

Newsletters have been all the rage for a couple of years. I’m not saying I’m some sort of pioneer (I am), but I’ve had my own newsletter for quite some time. In the last few months, I’ve been taking it a bit more seriously.

What’s in a name?

Last October, I moved the newsletter to Goodbits, which is great for compiling and annotating links. But I recently switched back to Mailchimp because, frankly, I couldn’t justify the $19 monthly fee.

I took the opportunity to do a little rebranding too. For a long time, I called my newsletter The Broome Cupboard, which was kind of silly, even though it helped remind people who was sending the emails. It was time to call the newsletter something that better reflects what it actually contains.

And that is:

  • original microstories and my own experiences of being an author
  • images of other authors’ writing spaces
  • links to articles about writing, reading and creativity.

My newsletter is for authors and readers and anyone interested in writing, publishing and putting their work out there. And now it is called Shelflife, which sums things up nicely and gives a gentle nod to the practical challenges of being a writer.

Ask the audience

The switch to Shelflife was more than just a name change. I took the chance to invite subscribers to answer a survey that would help me find out exactly what they wanted from the newsletter.

People had signed up over several years and I really wasn’t clear about what people were looking for from me. It turned out I was on the right track in terms of content and very little has changed in that regard.

However, I had been finding it tough to keep up with the weekly schedule, so I also asked my subscribers how often they wanted to receive the emails. Turned out that most people also found it difficult to open, read and explore what I was sending on a weekly basis.

That’s why I now send Shelflife out every two weeks instead. It’s been much better for me and I think the overall quality of the emails has improved. Certainly, I’ve seen no negative impact on the newsletter’s open and click rates.

Subscribe for free

I’ve sent out four issues of Shelflife so far and I’d love you to subscribe for free and give it a shot. If you’ve been following me online for a while, it’s definitely the best place for you to keep up with what I’m doing.

You can sign up and read previous issues on my special Shelflife page.

#159: Red Horses

In the last ever episode of the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna talk about our feelings as the show is ending, as well as potential book titles for equally potential erotic novels. We also fill in a few gaps in both our writing stories.

Visit the page for episode 159 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

A huge, ginormous thank you for listening to the show over the years. Watch this space for what's next.

#158: Plough Your Own Furrow

So this is it. The first of our two final episodes of the Write for Your Life podcast. We discuss our decision to end the show at length and touch on some of the reasons behind it. We also answer a range of listeners' questions that sees us cover my pre-Christmas 'writing retreat', our long-term writing aims and the concept of writing 'greatness'. Pop your headphones on. Listen up.

Visit the page for episode 158 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.