Month: February 2015
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The rise of the blogosphere (is that the official term now?) has enabled countless individuals to establish an online presence and a platform for public discourse. There’s a blog for everything and everyone, with numerous writers of all stages of development contributing to a vast and evolving network of content.
This is great. It allows everyone to be heard and to find an audience. But it hardly needs to be said that the internet is a pretty negative and hostile place a lot of the time. The phrase ‘don’t feed the trolls’ is now a common warning – born from the fact that hordes of users just want to watch people get irrationally angry. We love seeing anger and outrage. We love being angry and outraged. It’s cathartic if nothing else.
Most writers know the impact of criticism. Especially anyone involved in workshops. We weigh our words so that we provide constructive feedback while pointing out the flaws in someone else’s writing. Most writers know how devastating a badly-worded comment can be to the recipient.
But outside of the workshop environment, the claws come out. A writer who can practice this diplomacy can still be guilty of the same pointless savagery in a public field.
I don’t want or need to point fingers or provide links. Just think about the reactions to modern fads in publishing and other creative disciplines. Fifty Shades of Grey. Twilight. The Da Vinci Code (yeah, remember that one?). The public discourse goes beyond satire or actual criticism and turns into a feeding frenzy over a popular piece of work that’s perceived to be irredeemably flawed. We take joy in it. The brutality becomes a fashionable statement. The work itself can lose its own identity. The work’s flaws become the identity.
That isn’t to say that the criticism is invalid. Everything cited above carries its own issues and shortcomings. As does all writing, in varying degrees.
Anyone who’s seen the animated film Ratatouille knows the critic’s monologue. It’s pretty apt for such a brief discourse on the status of a critic – both professional and amateur – and pointing out the responsibility held by anyone who seeks to appraise the work of another. A responsibility that has evaporated with the expansion of the blogosphere.
In the meantime, let me just wind back the heavy-handed social commentary so I can actually get to the point of all this lip-flapping. I wanted to bring this up because the way we perceive and apply ourselves to the creative work of others is important. Especially as creators ourselves.
A good writer is capable of seeing the virtues and shortcomings of someone else’s work in equal measure. In my opinion, part of the evolution in becoming a good writer involves knowing how to approach everything you consume as a blank slate – something to learn from. It might be how to pull off something remarkable, or how developmental or thematic flaws may manifest in an otherwise perfectly marketable and successful work of writing.
I think most writers know this. But the constant vigilance in applying this principle is important. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, to take one example, is widely acknowledged as being consistently flawed in its narrative. You might even say it’s a bad book. (Note that I have neither read Fifty Shades of Grey nor seen the film.) But as a produced work that has found a worldwide market, it still has more value than most of the mud being slung its way. I don’t defend its content, but I do defend its existence.
By all means, be passionate in your convictions about whether something works or not. But know what you’re doing when you vocalise those convictions, and how you do so, specially if you’re placing it in the shark-filled waters of the internet. Know the responsibility you carry when you become a commenter on the efforts of others. Not just to protect their egos. But also for self-development as a writer – as someone actively participating in the exact same network that hosts all these pariahs of publishing.
It’s one thing to condemn a book like Fifty Shades of Grey for being popular when it supposedly doesn’t deserve it. It’s a bigger thing, for your own craft, to consider why it’s popular and what can be learned from it – and how the approach can be refined to avoid the same pitfalls. That’s part of what it means to develop as an active writer.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen
February 12, 2015
Regular readers of this blog or our newsletter will know our spiel: Open Mic Night is a great way to see how your material connects with a live audience, to meet and chat with like-minded people, and simply to promote yourself and your work. It’s also a great developmental tool – as a writer, you will be required to read publically at some point in your career. You might get a book deal, and need to read at the launch. Or to give a reading at a bookstore or library. Public reading is the little brother to writing.
And all that’s true.
What’s more, very simply, Open Mic Night is fun. Take all the facets of professional development out of it, and Open Mic Night is an entertaining night out, offering something for everybody, whether it’s a poem to be moved by, or a story to laugh at. Diversity is one of Open Mic Night’s strongest features.
Perhaps most importantly, since Busybird has been running our Open Mic Night – since midway through 2013 – we’ve developed a sense of community. There are regulars who attend unfailingly, revelling in the delight of sharing their work with others and chatting, whilst new attendees are always surprised about the welcoming, supportive, and nurturing environment.
This year, we’re taking the nurturing one step further.
This year, Open Mic Night is going to be a little bit different.
Previously, there’d been three staples of Open Mic Night.
Firstly, you haven’t been required to book. That remains exactly the same. You don’t have to book. Just show up. It’s that easy. Most people actually like to show up a bit earlier, and chat with others. If you want to read or sing or perform, you just have to put your name down on the running sheet for the night – a warning: putting your name down last on the running sheet does not mean you will be called up last. The order is actually randomised by our emcee for the night, Blaise.
Secondly, we provide refreshments – there’s always something to drink, and nibblies. This is also staying the same. There’ll always be something to satiate your thirst, or satisfy your hunger.
Thirdly and finally, to attend Open Mic Night we’ve requested a gold coin donation. This is where we’re going to do things a little bit differently. Now, we’ll be charging a $5.00 entry fee. Part of this will cover operational expenses for the night (providing the drinks and nibblies, etc.).
But part of it will be pooled in a fund for the Busybird Creative Fellowship.
The Fellowship is intended to help a fledgling artist – a writer who’s had less than three publications, or an artist wishing to exhibit for the first time – improve on their craft through mentoring, use of Busybird facilities, free entry to our in-house workshops, discounted publishing services, and a cash prize of $500.
This is our means of trying to give back to the writing community, and to help somebody develop their craft through our experiences and skills and resources.
Applications for the Busybird Creative Fellowship will open Thursday 1 October and close Friday 30 October 2015. The Busybird Creative Fellowship has a page on our website here and a Facebook page here. We also have a Facebook event for Open Mic Night here.
At $5.00 for entry night, Busybird’s Open Mic Night still provides an entertaining and cheap night, so we hope to see you all there!