From the MWF program: Before Shirley Marr or Steph Bowe’s books had even been released, they’d both built massive communities on the Internet, sharing their work and ideas with people all over the world. They talk today about the new space for creativity that the Internet affords us, and share their tips for finding-and sharing-the best new writing on the internet.
Once again, I was in the Festival Club for this session (which was quite full, as obviously it's a topic a lot of people are interested in). In a very fitting manner, I found myself sitting with two incredibly lovely blog-girls, Kate and Claire - who I'd conversed with in blog-land, but had never meet in face-time - so that was pretty awesome. We had a nice chat - we talked about what sessions we'd been to so far, admired Shirley Marr's shoes and declared our love for Steph Bowe (and her outfit). Anyway, onto the panel:
- The session was chaired by James West and I have to say that all three participants seemed really comfortable with each other and had this great banter going on.
- James started the session with asking about the differences in writing for an online audience and a traditional audience. Both Shirley and Steph now have published novels and garnered audiences online. James also bought up the fact that (statistically speaking) Australians are the most enthusiastic social networkers
- He then asked both women about the first time they used the internet. Steph couldn't remember, having grown up with a computer and spent a lot of time writing on word-processing software (rather than on pen and paper). Shirley remembered exactly when she first used the internet - at the age of 18, when she went to uni!
- Steph and Shirley then discussed how and why they started blogging. Steph started her blog in April 2009 as a way of being able to communicate with other readers and writers and asked her mum's permission first! Shirley is a newer blogger and she said writing on it feels "not natural". She started it to coincide with the release of Fury and as a way of helping facilitate people knowing about her writing.
- Can I just say that Steph Bowe is wise beyond her years! She is incredibly well-spoken and everyone I have spoken to have commented on how mature she comes across. She also has a wicked sense of humour.
- The issue of trolling and negative online experiences (bad comments etc) came up and both authors had some experience in this area.
- Shirley uses her online persona to generate publicity about her book and allows her, as an author, to reach a wider potential audience. She spoke about the way in which blogs can work as a powerful marketing tool.
- James posed the question of how much should you put out there and asked about online indentities. The idea of trying to work out your boundaries and work out what you are willing to share (would you be happy for your grandma to see your Facebook page?). Shirley spoke about the way putting the personal online it can humanises an author. Though at the same time, she doesn't want to come across as an "over-age emo". Another important tip - never post drunk!!! (Friends don't let friends drunk-dial/drunk-text/drunk-tweet).
- There was also some discussion about ebook readers. Shirley stated that despite having a Kindle she doesn't connect to it, but made the excellent point that she'd rather have someone buy her book on the Kindle than not buy it at all. Steph also made the comment that the two (physical books and ebooks) can certainly co-exist.
- Steph Bowe talked briefly about how having an online presence helped her to get her agent (Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown) and in turn, gain publishing deals both in the US and Australia.
- Also, because I found it amusing, during the Q&A section, an audience member stated that she "launched the Internet in Australia" and then went on a bit of a rant about Rupert Murdoch charging for the news etc etc and then asked Steph and Shirley how much money they made from their blogs, which I thought was quite rude.