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.
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. Simon Groth used a typewriter exclusively for a month. 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.
The project challenged writers to try something new, to become a n00b, and report back on what happened. The results are by turns insightful and amusing if, just occasionally, a bit harrowing.
Each N00bz essay was originally published to the if:book web site from 2013. The collected essays were published in 2014 along with additional material from the ‘new n00bz’, short pieces of n00bness from writers around Australia.
Romy Ash’s first novel Floundering (Text Publishing) was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, the Prime Minister’s Award, the Commonwealth Book Prize, the Dobbie Award and longlisted for the Stella Prize in 2013. She has been anthologised in Best Australian Stories, Best Australian Essays and Voracious: The Best New Australian Food Writing. She has written for The Griffith Review, The Big Issue and Kinfolk amongst others. She writes the blog Trotski & Ash. On Twitter, she’s @romyash and her website is at romyash.com.
A former TV presenter, producer and broadcaster, Caroline Baum is Editorial Director of Booktopia, Australia’s largest online bookseller. She reads between 15 and 20 books a month for the Buzz monthly newsletter and to film exclusive author interviews. Caroline was a contributor to My Mother, My Father, an anthology of writing on losing a parent, published by Allen & Unwin in 2013. Her website is carolinebaum.com.au.
Carmel Bird’s classic text on how to write, Dear Writer, is used in writing schools in many countries. It complements her Writing the Story of Your Life, and both books underscore Carmel’s many works of fiction. Her website is carmelbird.com.
James Bradley is a writer and critic. His books include three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and The Resurrectionist, all of which have won or been shortlisted for major Australian and international literary awards, a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, and The Penguin Book of the Ocean. In 2012 he won the Pascall Prize for Australia’s Critic of the Year. He blogs at cityoftongues.com. The images in James’s essay are published with permission of designer, illustrator and writer Zoë Sadokierski, who has won multiple Australian Book Design Awards for her work. Zoë lectures in the School of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is co-founder of the Page Screen Studio, and writes a column on book culture and reading in a digital age for The Conversation.
Greg Field owned and managed an independent bookstore of the “dead tree” variety for more than a decade. Recently, he’s changed direction and founded app development company Lazy Dad Studios. He’s also writing the first in a series of murder mysteries: Death on Dangar Island. Greg is @GregPField on Twitter.
Simon Groth is a writer and editor of fiction and non. His books include Concentrate and Off The Record: 25 Years of Music Street Press. His first two novels were shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and his short fiction has been published in Australia and the United States. As manager of if:book Australia, Simon writes and speaks regularly on the future of the book and took the role of lead writer for the 24-Hour Book. On Twitter, he’s @simongroth and his website is simongroth.com.
Charlotte Harper is founder and publisher of Editia, a Canberra-based digital first start-up focused on short non-fiction and longform journalism. She is a former Fairfax journalist, a Walkley Award-winning web producer and ex-literary editor of The South China Morning Post. Charlotte wrote about the digital transformation of the book industry between 2010 and 2012 for Fairfax Media, Bookseller + Publisher and various blogs and is the author of Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia, 1999).
Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of more than fifty novels and many short pieces. The most recent are Scarlet in the Snow and The Crystal Heart (Random House). For years, Sophie has used digital media as part of her creative work, with some novels featuring interactive internet elements such as characters’ blogs, band pages and websites. Sixteen Press is a natural extension of her interest in digital media. On Twitter, she’s @SophieMasson1, her website is at sophiemasson.org, and she’s also on Facebook.
Benjamin Law contributes frequently to frankie, Good Weekend, Qweekend and The Monthly. He’s the author of The Family Law, which was shortlisted for the Australian Bookseller Industry Awards (ABIA) Book of the Year, and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East. On Twitter, he’s @mrbenjaminlaw and his website is benjamin-law.com.
Elizabeth Lhuede is a creative writing tutor with TAFE (Oten) and was formerly a tutor and researcher at Macquarie University. She is currently writing a psychological thriller and her work is represented by literary agent Virginia Lloyd. Elizabeth created the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2012, the National Year of Reading.
Ronnie Scott is a frequent contributor to The Believer, Meanjin, The Australian, and ABC Radio National, and editor of The Best of The Lifted Brow (Hunter Publishing, 2013). Visit him at www.ronalddavidscott.com.
Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland literary journal. He’s the author of Money Shot: A Journey into Porn and Censorship, Killing: Misadventures in Violence and Communism: A Love Story; the co-editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He writes regularly for various publications on politics and culture. On Twitter, he’s @Jeff_Sparrow.
Emily Stewart is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Seizure, Rabbit and Cordite Poetry Review. In 2013, the Emerging Writers’ Festival hosted her installation Dear Reader, for which she gave away all her favourite books. Later that year, she travelled to the Philippines with a cohort of 20 Australian artists to collaborate with the Manila-based theatre group Sipat Lawin Ensemble on a crowd-sourced play about love. Her website is emilyvalentinestewart.com, and on Twitter she’s @StewEmily.
Sean Williams is an award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over thirty-five novels, eighty short stories, and the odd odd poem. He lives in Adelaide with his family. On Twitter, he’s @adelaidesean, his website is seanwilliams.com and he’s also on Facebook. The photographs illustrating his essay are published with the permission of nomadic geek artist Fee Plumley (technoevangelist.net), who was a fellow subject in the sleep deprivation study and is @feesable on Twitter.