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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…

Five lessons from Hardcopy AUS

Over the last couple of months I've been part of the Hardcopy Professional Development program for writers offered by the ACT Writers Centre. The format broke into two long weekends - editorial and Intro2Industry. The latter wrapped up on Sunday after three intense and well-programmed days that brought agents, experts and literary shaman to the ACT.

Okay so there were no actual shaman but the list of svengalis was impressive. Probably the best part was the range: from traditional dead tree publishers to the digital experimentation of IF: Book Australia. Over the entire program opinions varied (fiction books, apparently, must be at least 70,000 words, 60,000 words, okay 50k but that's really as low as publishers will go - unless it's a digital book) but there were a lot of great insights.

So the only way to summarise a busy program is with a listicle right? Here's the top five things I got out of the program:
1) The Book is a zombie that refuses to die So the book has …

In Other Words: Blokesploitation

It began with retrosexuals – the flipside of the latte-sipping meterosexual dandy, who’d rather a Big M and could tell people exactly where they could stuff their zucchini flowers. They were rough diamonds from a time before gourmet grub and when manscaping meant burying a bloke in your backyard.
Back in 2007 popular culture cottoned on to the Aussie man exemplified by Kenny, the waste management bloke with a heart of gold. The return of the flannie and competitions for hot tradies all made the yob on-trend again. But mostly blokesploitation appeared on lifestyle shows so no episode of Better Homes & Gardens was complete without a loveable chippy showing the requisite builder’s crack. 
In Other Words is a regular on the Big Issue's Ointment page.