Stories by the digital fireside

Published June 9, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

I have not written a post since . . .  a really long time.  Just like all good habits writing every day is easy to fall out of, and really really difficult to get back in to.  Last week I tried to pick it up again and this is as far as I got:

One of the most poingent comments from the recent Forest For the Trees Seminar (#SWF2012, @writersNSW) was that “Social media is putting writers across the campfire from readers”.

This simple comment has immense ramifications and beautifully expresses the crossroads at which modern readers, authors and other industry professionals find themselves.

Being completely rusty, I hit publish instead of draft, then hasitly deleted it – hence the 404 some readers may have seen.

So I’m trying again.  But this time I really need some inspiration.  I was going to do a warm up post called “What Would Kate Do?” along similar lines to my first ever post “I Got the Moves Like Kate Forsyth” when I realised this is at the heart of what I wanted to talk about in the original post.

I am the kind of person who really thrives on inspiration, and am an avid reader.  I can remember so clearly the day that my childhood author hero, Road Dahl, died.  I was late to school, as usual and everyone else had heard the news, too.  When I got to class everyone asked if I was late because I was so sad he had died. Much as I love his storytelling the reason I was late (almost every day) was just that my mum’s never been much of a “morning person”.

As a run of the mill school kid from Armidale, NSW, I had no inclination that I might ever meet Mr Dahl, so the fact that this was now confirmed came as nothing new.  Let’s face it, even in 1989 there would have been enough good books around to keep me fairly well entertained for the rest of my life.

But consider the stament above.  The situation for authors and their adoring fans has changed dramtically. Across the virtual fireside from the artists, the fans now have a greater opportunity to interact with their heroes.  And in my case, be inspired by the writer, not just the filtered and edited, published work. The stories of the writers themselves are often quite amazing, and it’s incredible to be able to “follow” them via Twitter etc in real time rather than reading stuffy old biographies (actually, I quite like a good bio).

I also love this image of “by the fireside” because I love to point out to ludites and Twit-ophobes that good storytelling has existed since the days of cavemen, it is merely the vessel that has changed.  It is sincerely comforting to picture the community as a fireside conversation rather than the cool and remote myth of antisocial geeks who one rules the digital realm.

This is a comforting thought as we sit pondering the future.  Granny might think the future is here but as far as e-books are concerened it’s just “dark grey on light grey”.

I’d like to think this new-old relationship has benefits for the authors aswell.  In 2009 Mal Peet jokingly told the audience at the CBCA NSW International Connections dinner that he became an author so he could sit in his room all day and not have to talk to anyone, and yet on that day alone he had had 6 different speaking engagements. Perhaps the new environement is demanding more of our authors, but it also gives.  Melana Marchetta said that inspiration for the “voice” of Froi (Finnikin of the Rock) came from a message left on her website from a teenage fan (paraphrased because it’s almost midnight and my dog eared copy of that CBCA News and Views is not where it should be) “Don’t know if you give a shit, but I just cried my eyes out reading your book.”

I always imagined the aim of writing an amazing novel was not just  for the author to make a Rowling-like fortune, but really to improve the life of each individual reader, eve if it is just by making them giggle at a phrase like  “brain fart” (Loathing Lola, by William Kostakis).

At the “Forest For the Trees” there was a lot of conjecture about the digital (bloody) revolution and how different book publishing is from music publishing.  While authors may not be able to put their stuff on-line for free and “live off ticket and T-shirt sales” I believe there must be a future for our storytellers, and by the fireside, behloden to their audience, interacting with their audience, is perhaps the key.  From anaedotal conversations I have had with authors I think they are perhaps paying their bills largely through appearance fees.  At that same CBCA NSW Interational Connections dinner, we had flyers which promote the fact that CBCA NSW members receive a 10% discount from associated bookshops.  Mal Peet also urged the crowd to buy books, citing that the authors would also get 10% of the sales.

OK, that’s me back on the wagon.  TTFN


5 comments on “Stories by the digital fireside

  • You are right about thriving on inspiration. I think that is why I go to the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival every year. The inspiration I get from meeting and mingling with the authors who inspire me charges my batteries for months.


  • Fantastic post and well worth the wait! One of things I really enjoy about Twitter is the community of people that I have discovered – you included! When people talk about social media being isolating I think about the enjoyment I gain from Twitter interactions with writers and bookish and digital types. I’m drawn to social interactions by know it must be difficult for those writers who really prefer not to. I liked Joel Naoum’s advise that if a writer really doesn’t enjoy it don’t do it as it will show through. Thanks for the post.

  • There was so much more I wanted to say and a great quote from Joel Naoum about the vast array of social media there is to choose from these days, and how authors can make it work in different ways. I think one of the beautiful differences about social media and traditional socialisation is that on Twitter et al is that people do really proclaim their interests upfront (ie in their profiles, or in About for blogs) and that’s a great starting point for building social networks in both the online and traditional sense.

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