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I Have This Little Daughter: In Praise of Charlie and Lola

This morning I asked my daughter to close her eyes and imagine flowers. This should not be too difficult as she tells me that flowers – along with butterflies, lovehearts and secrets – are among the things she likes best. So I run through imagining sunflowers, then roses then irises. Her nose scrunches up and she says “But Dad I only close my eyes to see TV programs.”
This chimes a parental alarm bell. Does TV possess any empty moment in her head? Has she already lost the mental blank canvas that can be filled with dreams, self-created illusions and those made-up stories we used to do in the bath? Her mind buzzes with televisual static so much that there are no ellipses of what could be. Into this comes Charlie and Lola.

For the uninitiated, this British brother-sister duo live in an urban apartment that is rendered magical by creator Lauren Child’s artwork and imagination. My daughter and I have developed a ritual of watching their adventures snuggled in bed before dinner at the end…
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Do/don't Read the Comments - Searching for Digital Collaboration

There's been an odd devolution on the web from procrastination to poisonous. For some the Trumps and trolls are all too much so there's been lots of quitting Twitter, sending Facebook dark or adopting a kittens-only policy on Instagram. Artists and writers have to be selective in their intellectual diet so a few years ago I wrote an article called "The Distraction Engine: Digital Detox for Writers" looking at ways to moderate the harmful intake of web and social.

Recently while talking about her book The Natural Way of Things at the National Library of Australia (full talk online), Charlotte Wood talked about her decision to leave social: 
So I was on Twitter for ages and I loved it... but I was completely addicted to it then and I was just never off it... when you’re writing a book you do need to be private, you know you need to be quiet or I need to be quiet. So I went off Twitter for nine months when I was writing this book. Wood recently returned to a social sabba…

Some books of 2015

These are not The Books of 2015 (note: important use of caps that usually singles out "of the year" lists). Instead its some books that I've read over the last year - some weren't published this year and it's just a way to draw a line under a year of nosing into pages.

Earlier this year I wrote for Meanjin's What I'm Reading that I was looking forward to Peter Carey's Amnesia - mainly because it wasn't one of his heavy history books. Don't get me wrong, he's written good books based on history but Parrot and Olivier left me cold and Chemistry of Tears could have just been set in the modern and cut in half. So this romp into cyber-sabotage sounded fresh and fun. At times it was. Having Melbourne hacker Gaby release a worm that threw open the gates of Australia's prisons and detention centres was a bold premise and then chasing the story back to that event should work. From Assange to zeitgeist, it's a book that chimes with our survei…

Lazy (old) eyes

One of my favourite resources for writing for the web is Michael Agger’s Lazy Eyes article for Slate. Written in 2009, much of the content is still relevant for digital writers as Agger observes the techniques that are required to sustain limited attention spans. For those playing along at home, these techniques include using bullets, shorter sentences and subheads. Moreover the article acts as a junction box of links to excellent resources including the man Agger calls “a cross between EB White and the Terminator”: Jakob Nielsen.

Review: The n00bz: New Adventures in Literature

It's easy for writers to find themselves in ruts. They get known for a particular genre, hit their style or fluke their way into a readership and lose the need to experiment. If there was a verb for this phenomenon it could be: to Grisham. The n00bz: New Adventures in Literature wants to disrupt the writerly rut, the tendency to Grisham, by pushing out of their comfort zone.
The challenge was to take-on an experiment with another part of publishing or culture. So we have fictioner and critic James Bradley attempting a comic based on his superhero short story, if:book Australia manager Simon Groth tapping away at retro typewriter and Benjamin Law confessing he has no journalist cred until he can learn old fashioned shorthand. 
But not just writers are experimenting with former bookseller Greg Field picking up after his bookstore closes and finding a new life online. His Star Wars analogy of modern publishing makes his opinion clear in casting Darth Bezos but the Force is strong in…