Becoming N00b

the noobzThe collected essays from if:book’s project The N00bz is now available and ready as a single downloadable volume for your reading pleasure. But why stop at reading?

Would you like to be one of The N00bz?

To coincide with its publication, if:book and publisher Editia are offering emerging writers the chance to be published alongside Romy Ash, Carmel Bird, James Bradley, Sean Williams, and Benjamin Law.

Submit a tweet or blog post about your own literary experiment and let us know about it via Twitter using the hashtag #TheN00bz (don’t forget the zeroes).

If you submit by midnight on 7 July, your work may be selected for inclusion in the print edition (and second digital edition) of The N00bz to be launched in August.

Editia has more information and some handy suggestions for experiments you can try at home. 

You can also read our official announcement of the competition over at Books + Publishing.  

About the book

Change your tools for storytelling, change your routine, learn a new form, engage with parts of the wider industry you have never had to previously. See what happens and report back. This was the challenge taken up by contributors to The N00bz: New adventures in literature, a joint project between if:book Australia and digital first publisher Editia.

The book is a collection of writing about writing that documents pure curiosity and the quest to continually improve amidst rapid and constant industrial change. The results are by turns insightful and amusing if, just occasionally, a bit harrowing.

Sean Williams deprived himself of sleep and observed its effect on his creativity. Sophie Masson established her own independent press. Emily Stewart gave away her library. Greg Field closed his bookshop and joined Wattpad. Romy Ash tackled Twitter storytelling. James Bradley tried his hand at creating a graphic novel. Carmel Bird digitized a title from her backlist. Benjamin Law braved the squiggly world of shorthand. And Jeff Sparrow wrote something that’s definitely not a book.

Setting up your own press, leaving your previous career behind, and giving away your books are not experiences that can be undone as easily as Command-z. But the intention of The N00bz was to encourage writers to step outside their typical routines and find new perspectives … perspectives that stay with you long after you finish reading these essays, even if you don’t end up encoding your own ebooks.

So get your n00b on and in the meantime pick up a virtual copy of The N00bz from the following digital emporiums:



Willow Patterns: The Complete 24-Hour Book

willow patternsTwo years ago today, one of if:book’s most ambitious projects to date took a book from concept to print within a single twenty-four hour period. The race around the clock produced a collection of interdependent stories about a library, a flood, missing children, and a vase. It was called Willow Pattern.

Because the book had been written online using the platform Pressbooks, we were able to collect every change made to the stories in progress. Every save, whether made consciously by the writer or surreptitiously by the system, was captured and stored in a database.

Last year, we cracked open that database and made it free to browse, search and download the data. We explored the numbers behind the book’s creation, drawing stories from graphs and making connections between the book’s content and it evolution. We then invited a group of poets and students to conceive and create ‘remixes’: artistic responses that relied less on the book as a finished product and more on it as a process, a series of alphanumeric strings to be pulled apart and reordered.

Through it all though was a desire to represent the project beyond a 150-page paperback or a searchable collection of fragments. We wanted to capture the epic scale of the project and provide a sense of the undertaking in something tactile, something visceral.

We wanted to produce the database in print.

And so, today, we present Willow Patterns: The Complete 24-Hour Book. This collection reproduces every version of every story from the 24-Hour Book project and lays them out in ink and paper and in chronological order.

Continue Reading →


A Layer of Frission

Recently, I had the extraordinary privilege of helping to deliver Memory Makes Us, an experimental live writing event at Wordstorm festival in Darwin, the regional capital of Australia’s remote Top End. Three authors wrote live to the web, fuelled by contributions from the public submitted via typewriter or post-it note at Wordstorm, or via Twitter or the website

It’s a project conceived for if:book Australia by literary technologist extraordinaire, Simon Groth, in collaboration with the brilliant author, Kate Pullinger. As CEO of QWC, I support and manage if:book, an R&D digital publishing unit founded by the visionary Kate Eltham. Yeah, I freaking love my day job.

But I’m also a writer, and I was deeply impressed by the courage and agility of the three authors writing and publishing live to the web, crafting narrative from crowdsourced memories, serene and focused in the sweltering humidity of Darwin. Maria Munkara, Levin Diatschenko, and Kamarra Bell-Wykes were champions, and the original works they produced are each unique and powerful. Read them here.

The contemporary evolution of the relationship between readers and writers shifts from from symbiosis to synthesis, a change that both anchors and heightens narrative interest. Contributing my own memories to the project added a striking layer of frisson.

Suddenly, I had skin in the game.

Tiles in the Mosaic

Levin created a sophisticated, magical realist, episodic narrative – a cosy, feisty conversation the likes of which you could envision in the back room of a pub in Lord of the Rings. Levin used contributions to inspire his characters.

See Levin discuss the project here.

My contributed memory to Levin’s theme of Family Tree:

Dad’s moustache: A toothbrush moustache that started out glossy black, fading over the decades to silver, with ochre hints of tobacco.

This memory fuelled the final line in Levin’s piece:

With that, he shuffled out of the bar and slammed the door behind him. I do not know if his mustache went grey.

Maria wove a delicate, deep poem around her theme of Recurring Dreams. Ranging from crowdsourced experiences of both joy and nightmare, to resonances of a psyche formed in Australia’s Stolen Generation, Maria approached her piece with the optimism, grace, and intellect she brings to all her work.

See Maria discuss the project here.

My contributions to Maria’s theme both appear, seamless and intact, in her piece:

A speed boat passes me by
I am on an island
with only crabs and thirst for company
the speed boat passes by again
My parents wave
but they do not stop

A labrador pup
malnourished and swimming upstream
Is it me?

Kamarra’s experience as a playwright are evident in the striking call-and-response structure of her piece. Riffing off contributed memories and entwining her own, Kamarra’s clear authorial voice creates a compelling throughline across a kaleidoscope of scenes and characters.

See Kamarra discuss the project here.

My submitted memory to Kamarra’s theme of Smell:

Rotten mangoes fallen on my running path
makes me think of zombies and hospitals.

Kamarra fed this post-it note glimpse of memory into the wild machine of her imagination to create a detailed and touching scene between a boy, his brother and their mother.


The rights and licensing of work for Memory Makes Us were complex to get right, but are simple in effect. The authors and contributors own their work outright and are free to publish and remix it as they wish. if:book Australia has a non-exclusive licence to publish and remix it, too.

Last night I realised, along with the flush of pride and the thrill of narrative interest, that the inclusion of my memories in these authors’ beautiful works may make it tricky should I ever wish to re-use my own words—it may look like plagiarism. So it is both as an act of honour to these authors’ incredible creativity, and by way of documenting the provenance of my own contributions, that I reproduce them here.

Come Play with Us

It’s my belief that authors have always been fuelled by the contributions of those around us. Web-enabled writing allows us to capture and investigate this creative process in ways that have great potential for audience development for literary works.

Memory Makes Us will appear in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth later this year. I warmly invite you to participate in this experiment, readers and writers both. Keep an eye on the website or the twitter hashtag #memorymakesus for more info.


Reposted and edited from the original published 31 May


Remix Your Face

ifbook podcastIt’s not that the May episode of the if:book Podcast is delayed. It’s just that we have renamed today the 36th of May.

This month’s guest is Michela Ledwidge from the amazing Mod Productions discussing remix literature and the extraordinary ACO Virtual, an interactive installation featuring the Australian Chamber Orchestra that allows you to become the conductor you always wanted to be.

Links to the stuff we discuss in situ:

And cool stuff we found on the internet:

What is this? Suddenly if:book’s all hoity toity and we’re not wasting ten minutes discussing the music?

Well, the featured artist this month takes its cue from ACO Virtual with an artist you may have heard of—Johann Sebastian Bach—and the first Allegro movement from his Concerto No.2 in C for 2 Cembalos. It’s kind of chamber music.

This concerto, scored for two harpsichords, two violins, viola and continuo, and lasting around 19 minutes, is probably the only Harpsichord Concerto by Bach that originated as a harpsichord work. The first version was for two instruments unaccompanied (BWV. 1061a,in the manner of Italian Concerto, BWV. 971) and the addition of the orchestral parts may not have been by Bach himself. In fact, the strings only appear to augment cadences.

The recording and description comes to us via the good people at Musopen, a non-profit providing recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.

And the reason we never quite got around to talking about it? Well, we already waited until the 36th May. How much longer did you want to wait?



Podcast Feed // iTunes



Memory Makes Us Live

MMUApplause and thank you to our amazing authors at Memory Makes Us, if:book Australia’s live writing event at Browns Mart Theatre in Darwin as part of the writers’ festival Wordstorm 2014.

Take a bow Marie Munkara, Levin Diatschenko, and Kamarra Bell-Wykes who wrote entirely new work based on memories provided by the public.

Check out the web site, follow the #memorymakesus tag on Twitter, watch interviews with the authors, and photos of the event.



Geeking Out Over the App Store

ifbook podcast

Our guest is Vincenzo Pignatelli from Queensland-based childen’s book/app publisher Blue Quoll and the brains behind the bestselling Mr Wolf and the Ginger Cupcakes.

Featured artist is Blind Willie Johnson playing the officially (if incorrectly) transcribed Mother’s Children Have A Hard Time. Full of pain and loneliness, it’s not exactly the Wiggles. Emily has a hard time understanding Blind Willie’s unique vocalisations.

Not too many links for this episode, but here are a few:

Some Cool Stuff Vincenzo Found On The Internet:

Vincenzo didn’t get a chance to mention this during the podcast, but he will be holding a workshop organised by the ASA on the 26th of July 2014 in Brisbane. It’s a full day workshop about learning all you need to know to have chance at becoming successful on the AppStore, from evaluating your app concept, developing a business model and the options you have when it comes to developing and marketing your app. It will be invaluable to anyone interested in creating and publishing an app on the AppStore.

Finally, we mentioned last month that every podcast is an adventure in audio engineering and this month is no different. We’ll get those microphones right one of these days.



Podcast Feed // iTunes



Memory Makes Us in Darwin

Families, dreams, and distinctive scents will weave the tales of Memory Makes Us in beautiful Darwin during Wordstorm 2014.

Memory Makes Us, a live writing experiment presented by if:book Australia is returning in 2014 with three events held throughout Australia this year. In the project, a group of writers create new work live in person and online taking their inspiration from your contributions.

Three great writers are featured in Darwin:

Date: Friday, 30 May
Location: Browns Mart Theatre
12 Smith Street

Share your memories with the project and inspire our intrepid writers. The Memory Makes Us web site allows you to post your memories and browse through other contributions.


Share your memory now




Loading Memories


We are busy preparing for this year’s Memory Makes Us. We are mere weeks away from the call out for your memories, so keep an eye on the site for details.

Kate Pullinger’s wonderful Memory Makes Us story has now faded away entirely while we build a whole new space for our writers to work in for this year. Her work lives on though in a gallery of photos taken from the event from 9 July last year.

By the way, doesn’t the theme of ‘memory’ just keep on giving in the form of pun-tastic post titles?


The Sweet, Sweet Tears

ifbook podcastA bumper episode of the the if:book Podcast for March with our guest Andrew Duval. Get comfortable because we couldn’t bear to cut this one down. Just as well this is not radio.

Featured artist is Charles D’Almaine playing Imitation of bagpipes and Scotch airs on the violin. Sourced and remastered from Edison Gold Moulded Record 7377 and our friends at the Internet Archive. No bagpipes were harmed in the making of this record.

Emily attempts to goad Simon into ranting about Hugh Howey’s reports on the Author Earnings web site, but he’s distracted by memories of Happy Days. Somehow they still launch into a discussion that makes sense.

Our guest is the rather awesome Andrew Duval of Liquid Interactive: the brains behind the Writelike web-based learning platform.

Some links to the stuff we discuss:

Because we we distracted by interesting discussion, we didn’t quite get to Cool Stuff We Found On The Internet. Next month. Promise.

Also, it’s worth noting that every podcast is an adventure in audio engineering. In other words, we’ll give Emily her own microphone next time.



Podcast Feed // iTunes


This is the future of the book, but not the one you were expecting.