Friday, April 11, 2014

Tackling the Post-Publication Blues

As a publisher, or rather, a publishing facilitator, there is no thrill greater than handing a first-time author the first proof of their first book. (Yes, I know, there's probably at least one redundant 'first' in there, but I was having too much fun to consider leaving one out!) It's a wonderful moment - a bit like delivering a baby. If all goes well, then it's only a matter of days before that book is then unleashed on the world, along with ebooks, the author's Amazon and Smashwords profiles, and a proliferation of posts from both of us on social media.

Friends and family congratulate, good friends and close family buy, and then ... very little.

Giving birth to your first book is a recipe for post-publication depression. You have spent ages shaping it, crafting it, considering covers and fonts and page colours, all the while answering your friends and family, 'How's the book going?' 'When's the book coming out?' 'How're you going with your bestseller?'

Finally the big day arrives, the announcements are made, there may be a small party (or not, if you read my post on book launches here!), and then when all the hoopla is over, you go home and life returns to normal. Except you're not the immediate bestselling author you hoped to be.

And it is just like having a baby, and not dissimilar to post-natal depression (PND). You're back to your routine life, all the excitement which has been building for months and months is suddenly over, and you're left holding responsibility for something which, no matter how much you tried to anticipate, isn't quite as easy to nurture as you'd expected.

So what do you do? Don't throw yourself off a cliff - your job has only just started!

First, please don't ever expect to be a bestselling author in the first week, month or even year of your first book. Maybe one in 1,000 achieves a modicum of success in the first year with their first book, which means you are probably going to be one of the 999 who don't.

Second, don't give up. It doesn't mean your book is bad (although it very well may be a stinker, but who's going to know until people start reading it), it just means that people don't yet know about it. If you believe in your book, then make sure to keep working to market it - and marketing isn't the same as trying to get sales. Marketing simply means raising awareness. You can do this with targeted Facebook ads, having links to where it can be purchased on your website (I know one author who took something like six months to fix his website up to mention his book!), making sure you enter writing competitions where you can include a reference to your book and your website (shameless self promotion here, see narratorCENTRAL), and do whatever you can to promote the book without forking out large sums of money.

Third, keep writing. One lesson we stress to all our authors is that people don't buy books, they buy authors. There is a reason we have one entire shelf dedicated to John Grisham in our house - my husband buys everything he releases. Yes, from time to time we will buy a book 'on spec', but generally only non fiction. When it comes to fiction, we both have favourite authors and they're the ones we turn to first for our entertainment. I mean, when was the last time you forked out full freight for a movie when you didn't know one single actor in it? Or even the director? My point exactly.

If you want to be a writer, be a writer and write. Write on social media. Write on blogs. Write on websites. Write for others. But write, write and write. And as time passes and you release your next book and your next, your writing will improve, and as people discover each book, they each become a free advertisement for all your other books. Dan Brown is evidence of this - his first three books languished until the release of Da Vinci Code. And he was published traditionally - not self published.

Serve your apprenticeship and the rest will follow. After all, no plumber's apprentice got his ticket after digging just one drain. It takes several years of experience, supervision, and sheer bloody hard work to become a plumber, so why would you expect overnight success as an author?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The book launch is dead. Long live discoverability

In 'the old days' (think last decade), publishers would organise a book launch to help announce the release of a new book. They would put their marketing campaign into action at the same time, stock the bookshops around the country, and then wait for sales to take off. If sales took off, then more orders would come in, and everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, not every book launched follows that formula!

As a 'publishing facilitator', I meet many first-time writers who are self publishing and who want to have a book launch after publishing their book. My first question is, 'Why?' All I can think about is the horror of the planning, the invites, the catering, the entertainment ... the list goes on. And for what purpose? You are unlikely to sell enough books to cover the cost of the launch, so why would you bother?

I once read a column by Mark Dapin about how he managed to sell 42 copies of his new book at his book launch, but six of them were to the same man who happened to spill a glass of red wine on them. So in essence, he sold 36 books at his launch - and Dapin is someone with a profile! With all due respect (or none at all): how many books do you think you're likely to sell at your book launch?

These days, a big push into marketing your book on release isn't so important. What is important, however, is releasing a book which will:

  1. deliver the reader what they're expecting or looking for, in a quality manner
  2. encourage the reader to spread the word
  3. be easily found and purchased online.

The pressure to make an 'instant success' of your book is no longer there. 'Sleeper successes' are now totally allowable - particularly for ebooks and print on demand (PoD books). The keyword now is 'discoverability' - making sure that your book can be discovered by the people most likely to be interested in reading it.

So what if you really, really want a book launch? Again, my question would be, 'Why?' Be honest with yourself: what are you hoping to achieve? Unless you already have a high public profile and the money to throw at a book launch, you're unlikely to sell many books, so what's the point? If you wish to simply celebrate the fact that you've finished and published your first book, then sure, go for it. But expect it to be an expensive party!

Personally, I think you'd be better off plunging the party money into online ads to draw attention to your book. Spread that money out over six to twelve months and see how it works in getting you sales. Because at the end of the day, if no one wants to buy your book, then what are you celebrating with your launch?

This blog post was inspired by a guest post from Mark Coker (of Smashwords) here:
http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/2011/11/29/rethinking-book-marketing-why-discovery-matters-more/

For some ideas about marketing your book as inexpensively as possible, have a look at our 'marketing a self-published book' page on our IndieMosh site: http://www.indiemosh.com.au/market-my-self-published-book

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is the difference between a traditional publisher and a self publishing facilitator?

With the boom in the availability of ebooks and print on demand production, it’s important to understand just what it is you’re being offered if you sign up for a self publishing package. While it’s important to know what you’re paying for, it’s also important to understand what’s not included in your self publishing package. And the best way to help you work out what to look for is to highlight the differences between traditional publishing and self publishing:

  • Traditional publishers or publishing houses take all the (financial) risk while the self publisher has to put his money where his mouth is and pay for the development of his own book. 
  • Traditional publishers take care of the book’s development and creation (in consultation with the author), while the self publisher has to consider undertaking (or outsourcing) the many tasks involved himself. These tasks will include editing, proofreading, book layout and formatting, cover design, assigning an ISBN, legal deposit registration or Library of Congress registration, and more.
  • Traditional publishers have a supply chain or distribution network which helps them get your print book into bookshops while the self publisher will usually find this a very expensive, time-consuming and, ultimately, unworthwhile process.
  • Traditional publishers will pay the author approximately 10% (starting point, often for the first 2,000 copies) of the RRP (recommended retail price) for each print book sold, and varying percentages for each ebook sold, but often limited to 25%. The self publisher will receive a much higher proportion of sales revenue from each book sold, (sometimes as much as 89% of the RRP for ebooks), depending on where and how it is sold.
  • If a traditional publisher is really keen to have a particular book on their list, they may pay the author an advance. The self publisher receives no income until a certain level of sales are made.
  • Traditional publishers will have connections and a marketing plan for your book, although it will still be up to the author to actually ‘sell’ his book. The self publisher needs to work out their own marketing plan and execute it.

Self publishing delivers a great freedom for many writers. They can write what they want, the way they want, and bring it to market more quickly than a traditional publisher might. However, having a traditional publisher who understands the market place, how to develop your book so it has the best chance of selling, and where and how to place your book, can often mean the difference between three sales and three thousand – or more!

But getting a publisher to take your book on is often just not possible, and these days it’s getting harder. Don’t be mad at the publishers, though. They’re in business, and to stay in business, they need to make a profit. If they feel your book isn’t likely to make them a profit, then they will decline it, no matter how interesting, original or well written it may be.

So if you find that you’re forced to walk the self publishing path, walk it with pride, and with knowledge. Find out everything you can about self publishing – with the internet and the huge volume of information available these days, you have no excuses for not being well informed! And then sally forth and stand behind your book.

If your book is successful and starts bringing you a little income, develop another and then another, and enjoy your new income stream.

For more information, visit our IndieMosh site for Australian self publishers: http://www.indiemosh.com.au/

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A clean sweep

I don't believe in New Year resolutions. So much so that when I'm asked what mine are, my response is generally, 'I resolve not to make any New Year resolutions'!

But you know what? There's something about a new year, about the hanging of that fresh, new calendar, that seems to surreptitiously encourage us to make changes to our life. And this year, my change has been a big one. I'm throwing out all my art stuff, bar my watercolours, my acrylics and my quality painting paper. That's right - no more tissue paper collage, no more card making, no more valiant yet valueless attempts at screen printing or paper making, no more saving chocolate wrappers for that never-to-be-finished mosaic of the Amazon river, no more aluminium embossing, no more ... name another shiny new toy in the art and craft field! In fact, over the 10 years since I took up painting, the only area I haven't had a go at has been oil painting.

So much to play with, and so little horizontal space to play on!

Over the last 24 hours I have been pulling my art cupboards and collection to bits, sorting, stacking, and getting ready for the mother of all crafty and artistic garage sales. And weirdly, I haven't regretted the decision for a moment. Sure, I wavered a little over the packet of virginal Origami papers, and the aluminium embossing sheet had me a little indecisive, too, but on the whole, it was a lot easier than I thought.

So you're probably asking, 'Why?' The truth is, I'm not 100% sure, but I think it started with downsizing at our office - I had to bring an awful lot of stuff home to make way for some more people to fit in - and it filled our garage while we considered what we would do with it all. But the freedom at the office - now that we've also downsized our offerings to building websites and self publishing Australian writers - gave me more energy there.

And then I happened to find an old neighbour on Facebook, one who had moved away probably 10 or more years ago. And what did I find? Steve and his wife are downsizing their lives to go travelling. Luckily for me, he's blogging about it, and the first post which inspired me was 'Operation Ditch Everything' here: http://noknownaddress.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/operation-ditch-everything/ followed by 'It's all got to fit in there' where he talks about how he is 'finding the jettisoning of all this stuff quite liberating'. And he's right - once your mind comes around to the idea of freeing yourself of all that 'stuff', the weight just lifts!

My husband has taken this opportunity to repaint the lounge room, which has given us the chance to rearrange furniture as well. And with the new space I have created by emptying one cupboard, one table and the underneath of a table (nothing like a table that serves as storage!), we now have a 'new' buffet for our dining room. We have taken our board games out of the hard-to-reach cupboard at the back of the lounge room and brought them through to the dining room where they are more likely to be played with family and friends. We now have a new workspace in the lounge - if someone doesn't want to watch the TV, they now have a table to use for a computer or a jigsaw or to paint on, without having to be isolated in the dining room. Already we can see benefits to the way we use the spaces in our house.

It's going to hurt a bit, but we will all benefit. No longer will the family have to remember to save every piece of hard foil from inside a coffee jar or the twist ties from freezer bags (no, I didn't yet have a plan for those, but I couldn't throw them out), or every piece of plastic sheeting around flowers from the florist, or every piece of tissue paper or small box or ... yes, it was becoming a disease. I was probably just one collection short of being officially classified as a hoarder!

But no more. It's a new year. I have a new plan, a new lounge room to relax in, more time to relax in it, and less stress from the piles of accumulated 'things' just sitting there, waiting for me to play with them.

So thank you Steve, and Happy New Year everybody. What are you doing in 2014 that you didn't resolve to do?!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ten things this atheist believes about Christmas

As the years have passed, I have found myself getting more and more resentful at Christmas time, and it’s not all about my atheism. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Rather than ramble in incoherent paragraphs, I find it useful to dot-point my thoughts to help clarify my thinking, so here goes:

1. I believe that the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas is to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the Christians probably adopted and adapted a Pagan festival or two way, way back, but today, and for many hundreds of years, Christmas (the modern form of ‘Christ’s Mass’) is about celebrating Jesus’ birth.

2. I believe that the ‘modern meaning’ of Christmas is about retailer expectations. This year, the first report on ABC news about retailer expectations was in November – roughly six weeks out from Christmas. I’ve been hearing it said since I was a little girl that we are losing the true meaning of Christmas, but I now believe we are there. The latest retailer expectation update was on the news again last night – four days out from Christmas Day. Yet not a word was mentioned about Jesus’ birth.

3. I believe that the public holiday which the western world, and, in fact, many other parts of the world, celebrates these days is an excuse, and for some, an obligation, to spend ridiculous sums of money on stuff we don’t need, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, eat excessive amounts of food, and coerce people we normally wouldn’t spend time with into feeling guilty if they don’t wish to spend time with us at Christmas.

4. I believe that the public holiday we observe as Boxing Day is now 180 degrees opposite to what it is meant to be. In the past it has been, at different periods of time: a day when those with status, economic security, food etc, honoured those without; in the Middle Ages, masters would give boxes of food or gifts to their servants; and in later years, ordinary people would box up their Christmas Day leftovers for the poor and less fortunate. Today it is about breaking retail records in the post-Christmas day sales.

5. I believe that the recorded rate of Christianity has declined over the last 100 years, even in ‘traditionally Christian’ western countries, and will most likely continue to decline as western populations uphold religious freedom in the ‘separation of church from state’.

6. I believe it’s time we returned Christmas to the Christians. I know my unionist father will be starting to roll in his grave right now, after all the unions fought for us, but seriously, why do I get a paid day off (public holiday) because someone I never knew in a country far, far away was born 2,000 years ago? I mean, it’s all very nice, and I’m sure Jesus was a lovely bloke, but why do I, an atheist, deserve a public holiday? I don’t get a public holiday for Eid al-Fitr or Rosh Hashana or even Woolgoolga Curryfest, so why should I get one for Christmas? And, conversely, should I choose or be required to work, why should I be compensated with double time payment of my salary?

7. I believe that we should eliminate the Christmas and Boxing Day public holidays from our national calendars. In compensation, we should have:
   a. one extra day off for celebrating the start of a New Year. This would be classified as a national public holiday and standard penalty rates should apply for those required to work
   b. a system whereby all employees should be allowed to nominate for one paid religious holiday per year. And if you have no religion, or don’t align yourself sufficiently with any one religion, then you may have one paid day off anywhere in the year that suits you (and which is agreeable with your employer), to compensate. If we truly believe in freedom of religion in our democracies, then we either offer no public holidays for religious festivals, or allow everybody one day for the festival of their choice.

8. I believe that we need to stop basing our western economies on the end of year splurge which accompanies the Christmas gift-buying orgy, and start focusing on a more even, sustainable spread of sensible spending throughout the year based on need, not on excess. This for both spiritual reasons as well as stabilising our economies.

9. I believe that the expression ‘Christmas is for the kids’ is ringing true more frequently these days, and yet what are we teaching them? We’re not teaching them about Jesus and love for our fellow man. We are teaching them about one gluttonous day of the year where they get paid to take two days off, expect lots from other people, and for what reason? We are feeding a sense of entitlement into our younger generations through this non-authentic celebration of Christmas.

10. I believe that this blog post will upset lots of different people for lots of different reasons, but the simple messages are:
   a. We should be returning Christmas to the Christians.
   b. We should be practising true equality and freedom of religion and non-religion in our western democracies.
   c. We should be less gluttonous and more circumspect about our Christmas spending, and a little less selfish and a little more honest about when and where we have our paid public holidays during the year.

Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful, happy and financially stable 2014.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

When old and discarded becomes the new sexy ...

You know that feeling you get when you’re aware something good’s coming, and then you find out that it’s getting so close that soon you’ll be able to touch it? Got it now. Over a book. Yep, that’s right, a book. And not just any book … a book about reusing, recycling and upcycling ....

RETRASH the book: dirty, sexy, recycling
Now, I know I’ve just lost half my readership, but seriously, this book is going to be soooooo sexy - I can’t wait to handle it. As a woman who has saved more than 87 Milo tins, dozens of (now sadly empty) Johnnie Walker bottles, the best cores from EFTPOS tapes and other rolled products I can find, door keys, car keys and any other type of keyed opener, hundreds of unwanted CDs and DVDs, the silver foil inside lids from coffee tins and, naturally, Milo tins, and countless other ‘groupable’ items just so that I can, one day, make very clever or usable works of art from them, the release of the book RETRASH is going to send me into paroxisms of … well, I’ll leave that to your dirty little imaginations!

Let’s just say that if I wasn’t working as a publisher and editor, I’d want to be earning my keep as one of the artists in the RETRASH community – they are so inspirational. Their desire to save crap from filling holes in the ground and making it worth using again in a different, and sometimes much more beautiful, form, inspires me no end.

My friend Nathan :D
So how do I know all this when the book hasn’t even been released yet? Well, my dirty little secret is that I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked for a bit of a helping hand with the editing process along the way. Probably because I'm also lucky enough to know Nathan Devine, the man behind the whole RETRASH community. And as a part of the editing process, I got to check out many of the contributing artists’ websites and see their works, and read about what they do and what inspires them, and, well, let’s just say it was hard to focus on the job at hand!

For instance, look at what Wim Delvoye does with old tyres:


Isn't that beautiful? He also has the most awesome website at http://www.wimdelvoye.be/ - I could have played there for ages!

Next time you're travelling through Germany, consider spending a night at Das Parkhotel, where the rooms are made from repurposed concrete pipes:


I don't know if Das Parkhotel decorate their walls with art, but if they did, then they could do worse than using Mark Langan's works. Mark has inspired me to do things with some of the many pieces of cardboard I've squirreled away over the years. I knew there was a reason I kept it all!


The beauty of the RETRASH community is that the contributors come from all over the world, and they range from the highly artistic, to the highly industrial, to the downright sensible. Not everything needs great swathes of talent or expensive machinery to make. Check out this great way of reusing the clips from a dead three-ring binder by Upcycle Us:


Yep, I'm all motivated and excited again, simply from writing this blog post!

If you're interested in the book, the community, and the ideas, you can pre-order your copy of the book now via the RETRASH Kickstarter campaign. It will be full-colour and printed (naturally) on 100% recycled papers.

If you're not so keen on the book, but wish to support the philosophy, then a $5 donation to the Kickstarter campaign will be certainly be appreciated.

If you're feeling particularly motivated, then grab 10 copies to give away to inspire others, or buy a slightly less expensive marketing package - great for businesses who are looking for ways to exercise their environmentally friendly reach.

Or if you're feeling really generous - or guilty (and yes, I'm talking to those corporates out there who DON'T have any environmentally friendly products!) - pick up the tab to send a couple of your best clients to the RETRASH book launch.

Or just watch Nathan talk for a minute or two. Or just listen to the backing track:


As you have probably noticed, I don't generally plug products on this site, but sometimes you come across something you believe in, and I believe in this - passionately.

So grab your dirty, sexy money and take a step towards making a difference in this increasingly unsexy, dirty world.

Now, please excuse me, I have a cupboard full of broken watches, clocks and calculators I wish to go play with ...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reconciliation: Not until black is the new white

I have a young Aboriginal friend who recently experienced difficulty hailing a taxi. Admittedly it was night time, but he managed to ask the fourth driver refusing to take him what the problem was. The answer? 'You're black.'

While I was astounded that in this day and age one could still experience so much difficulty getting a taxi simply due to their skin colour, what astounded me even more was that my friend was able to get a cabbie to actually admit to it!

The cabbie didn’t say ‘You’re pissed’ or ‘You look like you’re going to rip me off’, he said ‘You’re black’. End of story.

Which left me thinking: How the hell can we ever get 'reconciled' when those attitudes continue to exist? It left me examining my own attitudes and experiences about things and to see what options we might have. And I can come up with only one: We need to redefine what it means to be 'Australian'.

Following on from my young friend's taxi-hailing experiences, I asked a couple of other young people I know, one aged 18, the other 22, what they were taught about our Indigenous people and their culture as part of their secondary schooling. Their answers appalled me. It would appear that Indigenous history starts pretty much with the arrival of The First Fleet and its effect on our Aboriginal people, and that it is not mandatory to teach our young people Indigenous cultural activities such as Dreamtime storytelling, dot painting, food gathering etc.

What is an Australian?

How on earth can we expect our dwindling Indigenous population to keep their culture alive when we don't even teach it in schools? And if I am an Australian and I don't know these things, then what does that make my Aboriginal friends? Are they Australian too? Or are they something else? Or are they just more Australian than me? Or am I more Australian than them? I mean, I was born here, too, even if my parents weren't.

If I go on a coach tour of Europe, I will be taken to restaurants where I will see Spanish flamenco dancing, or Swiss horn blowing, or Germans dancing in lederhosen. These are culturally historic activities for the countries I am visiting. If I take a coach tour of Australia, what do I see? I may be taken to a corroboree, or a bush tucker feast, but if I'm being told that these activities are Australian culture, then what about the other things I get shown, such as surfing, barbecuing, backyard cricket, Aussie Rules Football matches and RSL clubs? Aren't they Australian culture, too?

The thing is, we can say that both sets of activities are Australian culture. What differentiates them, though, is that some of the activities are particular to our Indigenous folk, whereas the others are particular to our post-European settlement population. So where is the reconciliation?

The 'mind-virus of radical non-discrimination'

Coincidentally, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 October 2013 (yesterday), Paul Sheehan quotes from an email he received from a man called Malcolm Pollack, who was discussing the sense of unease about the pressures on the American middle class. One of the things Mr Pollack discusses as part of his explanation of the 'mind-virus of radical non-discrimination' is:

Socialism, at least in the milder Scandinavian forms, can work well enough but only if there is the social cohesion that naturally arises in a people who are joined together by history, folklore, language, music, literature, ritual and the natural kinship that arises from a broad commonality of ancestry. There are, indeed, sound evolutionary reasons for this. Absent that, though, there will be trouble.

Which is my point exactly. We do not have a natural kinship with our Indigenous brethren which arises from a broad commonality of ancestry. We are not joined, but separated, by our history, folklore, language, music, literature and ritual. Except, of course, where our Indigenous brethren have embraced our (white European) history, folklore, language, music, literature and ritual!

Educating the black out

From where I sit, as a white Australian, it seems to me that it's our Indigenous folk that are having to do all the reconciling. They have to go to our schools, and learn the things we teach them. If they're really good, then when they do their HSC, our universities will throw ATAR bonus points and all sorts of scholarships at them, which is an insult as it suggests that they must be too stupid to get into university under their own steam. And then there's the other side of this Machiavellian bonus points system: it helps the universities meet their government quotas for Indigenous enrolment!

So we patronise them with our white people's policies and give them white people's brownie points to encourage them to go to white people's universities where they can learn all sorts of things to help them make it in the white man's world.

Yep, that's what reconciliation seems to be to me - we can't breed the black out anymore, that's not nice, so we'll just educate the black out instead.

Winding the clock back

We need to wind the clock back 250 years and start thinking differently. We can't be unbuilding our buildings and roads etc, but we can start rebuilding our culture, with an education that allows all children in Australian schools to learn a definition of 'Australian' that helps us reconcile with our Indigenous people, rather than the other way around.

In Year 6, when I was 12, we had a wonderful teacher, Miss Annette Stilsby, who taught us all sorts of things about Aboriginal culture. She brought in coolamons, rhythm sticks, woomeras, told us Dreamtime stories, and talked about how to hunt for bush tucker. As a youngster, this, to me, was what it meant to be Australian. While I considered myself Australian, because I was born here, I knew that my parents hadn't done these things growing up, (they were English). However, I never for a moment considered that these weren't 'normal Australian' activities - they were, to me, just 'true Australian' activities. We had a Namitjira print on our lounge room wall, and I was a first-generation Australian descended from migrants - simple. The Aboriginal kids up the street were simply that - the Aboriginal kids up the street. We all went to the same school and there were no issues. I was Australian, they were simply more Australian.

I realise now how my unique experiences as a 12 year old have made it hard for me to understand where the problems are - because I just didn't see them. They really didn't exist for me and my friends because of the way we were taught.

So that's my theory - mandatory teaching of Aboriginal culture in all primary schools as a starting point. A redefining that 'Australian' culture starts with Aboriginal culture at its base, and the other stuff, the stuff that the white man brought, simply sits on top of it.

To be Australian

In my version of the world, to be Australian, you need to know how to find a witchetty grub. You may not be able to do it well, or to depend on it for survival, but you do need to be taught it. You need to know how to carve rhythm sticks and woomeras and how to spot the right trees to carve them from. You need to know how to draw and do dot paintings explaining what's happening in your community. You need to understand the painting and the dancing and the story telling of the corroboree. And to be truly Australian, you will have, as one of your ancestors, not a convict from the First Fleet, but someone who walked this land before the First Fleet was even considered.

Now, before you start the argument that dot painting, corroborees, etc belong to - and should belong only to - the Aborigines, consider this: If you watch international football - rugby league or union - every New Zealand team performs a haka - even the white players. The Maoris have shared their culture with their European invaders. They still own their culture - I can't imagine many groups of all-white guys doing a haka around the barbie on a Sunday afternoon - but this Maori dance has become a symbol of New Zealand, the country, as opposed to a symbol of New Zealand's Indigenous people.

If we truly want reconciliation, then we need to take a step back and start incorporating Indigenous culture into all Australian lives, and right from the very start, rather than expecting our Indigenous people to retain their own culture, but live alongside us in our white world.

And if a white person makes his name as a dot painter, so what? So long as the buying public understand that he is a European dot painter, not a traditional one, then where's the harm? If it helps promote Australian Aboriginal culture and makes it more widely known, acceptable and understandable, then where's the problem? If the alternative is that fewer and fewer people know how to do it and it eventually dies out ... well, take your pick. And besides, if Albert Namatjira was 'allowed' to paint conventional European-style water colours, wouldn't it be a way of reversing the 'whitening' of our Aboriginal people, by 'blackening' our non-Indigenous?

Start with the young minds

In short, my recommendation would be mandatory Indigenous education in primary schools across the country in all ways of life relevant to the Aboriginal people in general, and more specifically the Aboriginal people of the school's local area (e.g. in our area, the Darug and Gundungurra peoples). Teach all our school children that 'this is what it means to be truly Australian'.

And who knows? One day we might have a fast food restaurant chain rivalling McDonald's by serving emu egg omelettes and roo burgers! Wouldn't that be a brilliant reconciliation of the traditional with the modern?

It won't happen. Feel free to tell me I'm dreamin'. Because even if it did happen, it would take two generations to really kick in. And many, many people with a helluva lot more vision than me to get the ball rolling.

But what if? What if black did become the new white? If it did, then maybe the whole idea of saying 'sorry' and calling for reconciliation was really meaningful after all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Twelve Ultimate Dinner Party Guests

For years, the man of the house and I have played that game where you talk about who you would invite to dinner, if you had the chance. Today we actually got to the point of writing our choices down in separate lists, discussing who we'd invite and, more importantly, why.

It was an interesting discussion, and today's lists were a bit different to what they were when we were younger. For instance, we had a combined effort once, and at that table, among others, we had Morecambe and Wise, Billy Connolly and, I think, Michael Palin. We were clearly after an evening's unpaid jollity!

Today we are much older and a little wiser (I hope!) and so here are our separate lists, and why:

Jenny Mosher's Ultimate Dinner Party Guest List, September 2013

I decided I only wanted currently living people at my dinner party. I also decided I would prefer to be entertained by stimulating conversation rather than side-splitting laughter, and that I didn't want anyone monopolising the conversation, so I've really thought hard about the sort of people I think would fit the bill. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. David Bowie

I first heard Bowie in a radio interview when I was 17, and was blown away by how nicely spoken, intelligent and articulate he was. He pretty much made it onto the list that day - even though the list didn't even exist at that point! 

My Aunt Olive used to chat over the garden fence with Bowie's mother, back in the 1970s, so I've always felt connected to him. (I bet it didn't work in reverse, though :D) However, he rode the fame wave at a very exciting time in modern music, and contributed greatly to modern society via his music, so it would be interesting to hear more about what that sort of life was like and how it compares with what he's doing now.

2. George Clooney

Yes, okay, he's a bit of alright, but more importantly, like Bowie, Clooney's intelligent and articulate, plus he cares. He has a deep seated interest in the world around us and in the rights and wrong in society and I think some of his views would help stimulate conversation at the table. 

As well as that, he's had a very interesting career both in front of and behind the camera and, like Bowie, his perspective on his experiences in the modern movie industry would be great to hear first hand.

3 and 4. Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
 

Like most people in the world, I am somewhat fascinated by the British Royal family. Not from a royalist point of view, but from a humanitarian one. 

I have read that Camilla is great fun and what little I've seen and read of her, she appears to be quite down to earth, so I think it would be interesting to meet her on her own terms, as someone I've never met before and know little about.

With Prince Charles, I would love to talk with him about his organic farming practices and what he's trying to achieve at the Duchy (if that's how you phrase it), and also talk with him about how he managed to recover from the public beating he took after Diana's death to be able to raise his boys the way he did. They seem to have a relaxed, comfortable relationship with Charles and Camilla, and that can't have been easy to achieve, so I have always been fascinated by what he did as a parent to make that happen, and how Camilla helped.

I am also interested in the work of the Prince's Trust, and would like to find out more about what Charles wants for it and how it all started.

5. Will.I.Am 

Yep, that's right - Will.I.Am. I knew he was with the Black Eyed Peas, and that was all I knew. Then one evening I tuned in to watch Graham Norton, and he was a guest of Norton's, along with Miriam Margolyes. I sat glued to the TV for the next hour as I watched Margolyes and Will.I.Am develop the most amazing regard for each other, and I for him.

This young man is a cut above the rest. Again, intelligent, articulate and caring - there's a theme developing here! His work with underprivileged children in urban areas 

I also noticed, researching his website just now, that he has already met Prince Charles and just donated his salary from his 2012 work on Britain's 'The Voice'to the Prince's Trust - so it would be nice to bring them both back together under more leisurely circumstances and talk about how we can help the children of tomorrow.

6. Michael Palin

How can you have a dinner party without inviting 'The World's Nicest Man'? And possibly one of the world's funniest. And most well-travelled. And he's a bit of alright, too, for a not-quite-silver fox, if you ask me :D  

Again: intelligent, articulate, modest ... and funny.



Wayne Mosher's Ultimate Dinner Party Guest List, September 2013

Wayne decided he wanted a group of people at the table that he really, really admires, and wanted to talk to for different reasons. Wayne's wanted list is dead and alive, and here it is, again in no particular order:

1. Captain James Cook

Wayne says Cook is the one human being he admires more than anybody else. 

In his three explorations, he covered more of the planet than any person had covered up to that date, and he did it all in boats that we wouldn't even consider boarding these days - and definitely not without the benefit of today's mod cons such as radar, radio etc.



2. Jack Nicklaus

In Wayne's humble opinion, Nicklaus is the best sportsman that ever lived, with the possible exception of dinner guest No. 5! 

Nicklaus won 18 majors, came second in nearly as many again, and set a new level for dignity and sportsmanship in a sporting arena. He is a class act, and a helluva golfer.


3. Spencer Tracy

Greatest actor that ever lived - simple. A complex man, a huge talent, and a personality that always set him at odds with that talent. One helluva an interesting guy, and a massive link to the Golden Years of Hollywood.








4. Eric Morecambe

Leading candidate for the funniest man that ever lived. Wayne was brought up on this guy, and loved everything he and Ernie (Wise) did together. He feels they were really the best comedy duo of the lot.


5. Muhammad Ali

The best of the best. Back in the days, when the World Heavyweight Championship meant something, he was the absolute king of them all. 

He fought Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman and so many other worthy opponents, beating them all. An amazing athlete, with an intellect second to none in sport. Everything he said was accompanied by a twinkle in the eye that said 'You know I'm kidding, don't you?' And if that twinkle was missing ... watch out!


6. Neil Young

Wayne bought Young's first album in 1968 and has bought just about every one ever since. 

Young is, quite simply, Wayne's favourite muso, not only for his musicianship and songwriting abilities, but for his incredible determination to do whatever he wants to do and 'fuck the record companies'.

So they're our picks. What would yours be, we wonder?

Bon appetit :D




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Six Aussie lead singers no longer with us

All we've had for the past seven months in this country has been politics, so I figured it was a good day to go back to happier times. In this post we look at six lead singers who helped change the musical landscape of this country and then met with an untimely demise. And while the post is called 'Six Aussie lead singers ...' I do have to acknowledge that more than half of them were 'adopted' by us, as is our way :D

These are the men I remember - I am sure there have been others over the years. We've recently lost Chrissy Amphlett, various other lead singers and members of many other bands, but in this post I wanted to pay tribute to those lead singers from my time as a 'growing girl'.

So pour yourself a Ben Ean, a Palfrey Pearl or a KB and step back in time ...

1. Graeme 'Shirley' Strachan

Lead singer of Skyhooks

Born: 2 January 1952 in Malvern, Victoria
Died: 29 August 2001 (aged 49) in Maroochydore, Queensland

Shirley was a real surfer boy - complete with beach-bleached blonde curls. He burst onto our screens as the lead singer of Skyhooks and once we understood why he was called Shirley (it turned out to be his nickname and not the legacy of some very cruel parents!), we embraced him and his interestingly-dressed band wholeheartedly. It didn't hurt that one of their early singles was 'You Just Like Me Coz I'm Good In Bed' - covered later in concert by John Mellencamp, among others.

Image of Shirley courtesy of
 http://www.ozziemusicman.com/2009/01/post-43-shirley-missing-you.html

Shirley was killed in a helicopter accident in Maroochydore, Queensland. He had his fixed wing pilot's licence and was in training for his chopper licence when he died.

His ashes were scattered in the sea by his wife, Sue, following a beachside funeral.

2. Steve Gilpin

Lead singer of Mi-Sex

Born: 28 April 1949 in Wellington, New Zealand
Died: 6 January 1992 (aged 42) in Southport Hospital, on Queensland's Gold Coast

Steve Gilpin was one of the sexiest men I had seen in rock 'n roll, and was even better in real life with Mi-Sex at the Comb and Cutter Hotel, Blacktown, around 1979-80 (and affectionately, or rather, disparagingly known as the 'Kerb and Gutter Hotel' by us locals).

Mi-Sex hit the charts big time with 'Computer Games' and I really couldn't name another song they did! But Gilpin was sexy and that was all I really cared about. :D

Image of Steve Gilpin courtesy of
 http://www.australianmusicdatabase.com/people/steve-gilpin

Sadly, he died all too young following a car accident on his way home to Mullumbimby. He received head injuries in the accident in November 1991 and spent several weeks in a coma before passing away in Southport Hospital just after New Year in January 1992. It must have been an awful time for his family.

He is buried on his property.

3. Ronald Belford 'Bon' Scott

Lead singer of AC/DC

Born: 9 July 1946 in Forfar, Angus, Scotland
Died: 19 February 1980 (aged 33) in East Dulwich, London

Who can forget singing 'It's a long way to the shop if you want a toilet roll ...'? Or the more drunken, late-night version: 'It's a long way to the Cross if you want to (blank) a moll ...'?

One of the 'nicer' photos of Bon Scott, courtesy of
 http://www.last.fm/music/Bon+Scott/+images/25807627

Apparently, Bon was not the first lead singer of AC/DC - that honour went to a fellow named Dave Evans. Whatever happened to? Bon was also not the last - he was successfully replaced by Brian Johnson following his death after a big night out in London. Original thought was that he had choked on his vomit, which hasn't been totally ruled out, but his death certificate refers to 'death by misadventure' and 'acute alcohol poisoning'.

Sadly, he died alone in a car parked outside 67 Overhill Road, East Dulwich, London (for all the pilgrims). His friend had sat him in the car to sleep off his alcohol intake from that evening, but when he returned the next day, Bon was lifeless and pronounced DOA at hospital.

He was cremated and his ashes brought home to Fremantle Cemetery, Western Australia. His gravestone is now on the National Trust list of heritage places and his gravesite is reportedly one of the most visited graves in Australia.

Bon Scott's memorial in Fremantle (not his gravesite),complete with scultped high-waisted jeans, real Levi's buttons and a real microphone use by Bon when performing. Image courtesy of
 http://www.smh.com.au/travel/bon-in-bronze-and-other-hits-20100107-lw6g.html

4. Marc Hunter

Lead singer of Dragon

Born: 7 September 1953 (he would have been 60 today - happy birthday, Marc!) in Taumarunui, New Zealand
Died: 17 July 1998 (aged 44) in Kiama, NSW

It must be something about those Kiwi men, but I thought Marc Hunter was pretty damned hot, too! That kick at the beginning of 'April Sun in Cuba' got me every time. Check it out here:


Following a heroin addiction in his younger days, Marc was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. Despite undergoing various forms of traditional and alternative treatment, he passed away in Kiama in July 1998.

Marc in healthier days, courtesy of
 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/dragon-singer-marc-hunter-an-aussie-heartbreaking-machine/story-e6frf96f-1226193542554

He left behind is wife, fashion designer Wendy Heather and (from what I can tell) three children: two from his marriage to Wendy and one from a prior relationship.

5.Michael Hutchence

Lead singer of INXS

Born: 22 January 1960 in Lane Cove, Sydney
Died: 22 November 1997 (aged 37) in Sydney

While I liked INXS's music, I wasn't personally a big INXS or Michael Hutchence fan. However, as the years have passed I've come to better understand and appreciate his magic and his resemblance to Jim Morrison.

Michael Hutchence - or is it Jim Morrison? - courtesy of
 http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/michael-hutchence-biopic-two-worlds-colliding-in-the-works/

Despite initial suggestions that he had died from a sexual exercise involving a belt around his neck and a fire door, the evidence from those who spoke with him in the hours leading up to his death and other evidence supplied led Coroner Derek Hand to rule Michael's death a suicide.

Michael left behind a string of broken hearted ex-girlfriends and a devastated Paula Yates, mother of his only (that I'm aware of) child Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

6. Ted Mulry

Lead singer of the Ted Mulry Gang (aka TMG)

Born: 2 September 1947 in Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died: 1 September 2001 (the day before his 54th birthday) somewhere in Australia

Who can forget 'Jump in my Car'? Such a great song even The Hoff did a cover version! And then there was 'Dark Town Strutter's Ball' - a rocked up remake of a song first published in 1917. Refresh your memory here, of Ted, the band, disco balls, mullets, and too-tight high-waisted flares:


Ted was one of your good old, straightforward, no mess rock and rollers. Out the front, solid guitar, solid band, solid songs. I saw TMG live at the Hordern Pavilion as a 14 year old - my first rock concert (along with Sherbet and John Paul Young - those were the days!). I then saw JPY, TMG and a few others live on the floating barge moored off Milsons Point at what was probably an Australia Day concert in the mid-to-late 1970s. TMG was one of those value-for-money working class bands.


Ted announced that he had terminal brain cancer in early 2001 and sadly passed away the day before his birthday, later that year.

Thank you for the music, Gents. You made this little girl's teen years happy ones.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I can't vote for Tony Abbott or the Liberal Party in 2013

Cards on the table - I'm a swinging voter. Every time we go to the polls, whether it's local, state or federal, I make a decision about who I'm going to vote for. Every time. I count myself lucky to live in a country where we are obliged to vote - don't do it and you get fined - which means that our election costs are kept down as it's more about the policies and less about the hoop-la and the 'sell' - the money spent trying to get people to the polls. So I do appreciate our electoral/voting system.

But this time around, I almost wish I didn't have to make a decision. Sometimes, when I feel like I'm having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea, it's very tempting to just waste my vote. I think I may have done it once, many years ago, and the guilt got me, so I'm unlikely to ever do it again, but gee, give me something worth voting on, people!

I mean seriously - the Labor Party have been a joke this last three years with their factional in-fighting and the way they eat their own, so why on earth would I trust them with running my country?

And the Liberal Party? Well, if they'd delivered any actual policies that were backed up by any realistic costings in time for the electorate to actually consider them, they might have had a hope. But they've held off, and held off, and so I don't feel they have a clue, so on that basis again, why on earth would I trust them with running my country?

The way things are going at the moment, I will be voting along very personal, micro-topic lines. The big picture is too messy, and too fraught with 'lies, damned lies, and statistics'. As a voter, I really don't have the time and energy to decide what's truth and what's twisted fact.

But there's one thing I am satisfied about, and that's the fact that we need the Labor Party's proposed NBN. The Coalition's model will just not cut it.

By 'rest of the world' standards, we have a very small population. We exist in the middle of a vast ocean many, many trading kilometres away from our nearest partners. We have spent decades destroying this vast brown land grazing animals which should never have been introduced to it and raping the countryside to extract minerals and resources to sell and ship to our distant trading partners. We have spent years subsiding an ailing motor vehicle industry when the logical thing to do would have been cut off the gangrenous arm decades ago and look for other ways to compete on the world stage. In effect, we have not lived sustainably, nor have we lived with foresight or imagination, and if we continue in this manner, we will soon have to pay the piper.

But if there's one thing we can do to bring our country into the 21st century and help our people keep apace with the rest of the world, it's to roll out a quality, 'tomorrow-standard' broadband system at taxpayer expense. Why at taxpayer expense? Because it will benefit the whole country by creating job opportunities for those rolling it out, it will enable businesses of all sizes across the country to communicate with surety and develop their businesses in a more competitive manner (more employment), it will bring better medical assistance to rural and remote areas, and it will help us make our own, individual, sustainable mark on the rest of the world.

If you follow this blog, you will know that in March this year our office was without its broadband connection for 18 days. It nearly crippled us. We had to involve the Telecommunications Ombudsman and our local federal member, Louise Markus, to get the issue properly fixed. Now Louise is a Liberal Party member, and her office did a wonderful job cutting through the red tape for us, spending their time making phone calls and hassling people so that we could get back to work while we waited for our reconnection. But the point is, our local member (whichever party they work for) has more important work to do than make sure that one small business gets the service it pays for!

When I look at the Liberal Party's national broadband proposal, I want to cry with frustration over the sheer stupidity of it. A nation-changing project like this should not be based on overall cost, but on value for money. Let's look at it this way:

I need a new pair of boots and I have $55 saved up. I do have a pair of boots which may or may not last another winter or two, but they are on their way out, so I go shopping and find I can buy:

a. a pair of vinyl boots which will last two winters, and protect my feet from general moisture but not rain, for $50. If the soles aren't thick enough or the heels high enough to keep my feet dry when I step in puddles, I will have to wear them like that or throw them out.
or

b. a pair of leather boots which will last five years and keep all forms of water out for $75. If the soles aren't thick enough or the heels high enough to keep my feet dry when I step in puddles, the local cobbler (yes, they do still exist!) can upgrade them for me.

What would you do?

I know what I'd do. I'd wait a couple more weeks and scrape up the extra $20 - it will extend the length of my investment 2.5 times (costing me $15 per year over five years, instead of $25 per year over two years), keep my feet dry and warm for five winters in a row, which in turn means I will be less likely to catch any winter colds or flu, so with better winter health, I will be more productive for the next five winters.

Make sense?

If so, then voting for the Labor Party's NBN over the Coalition's NBN should be a no-brainer for you.

The Labor Party's NBN replaces the old copper wiring before it starts breaking down and fully wears out, is fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), meaning long-lasting, easily upgraded, optic fibre all the way to your house or business. It will last much longer, be more reliable, quieter and sustainable than all existing broadband options. It is currently estimated to cost around $37.4 billion and be completed in 2021, with a download speed of 100Mbps download. (For those outside FTTH range, a satellite alternative will be provided.)

The Coalition's NBN using the exiting copper wiring which will need replacing sooner rather than later, is fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), which means it only goes as far as those noisy green boxes you see dotted around the streets. To get it to your house or business, you will have to pay from the node onwards, and the signal will deteriorate the further away from the node you are as it has to pass along the existing copper wires. It is currently estimated to cost around $20.4 billion and be completed in 2019, with a download speed of 25Mbps download.

So how will you be making your decision this time around? Based on what we have now and a small step for Aussie-kind? Or will you be looking to the future and voting for a big leap?

Me? I'll be voting for the big leap. Even if I didn't use the internet myself, I can see that the investment in a world-class broadband system for this country is probably the one most imaginative, sustainable and clever idea anyone has had for us as a nation for a long time.

With thanks to:
for the above NBN facts and figures.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Use MS Word to save money on editing costs - the dash issue

This is the first in a series of articles on how to use MS Word to self edit your document.

If you develop documents for business, or are writing a book or other document which you hope to publish one day, you can save money on editing and proofreading costs by delivering a higher quality document in the first place.

You might be thinking, ‘They’re going to have to read every word anyway, so what does it matter if I don’t have it as polished as possible?’ If your pockets are deep and you don’t care how much it’s going to cost, then it doesn’t matter. But if you’re a mere mortal like the rest of us, then every little comma, incorrect dash, missing question mark will ensure that the editor or proofreader takes that little bit longer … costing you that little bit more. So save yourself a few bob, and develop some best practice self editing techniques. Once into the habit, you will start seeing little issues like these in all sorts of places …

Part one – using spaced en dashes

If you’ve ever typed a document in Word and tried to put a ‘spaced hyphen’ between two words (where you have a word, a space, a hyphen, another space, then the next word - like that) and noticed that after you type the second word, the hyphen suddenly turns into a longer dash – like that, that’s Word doing it’s auto correct thing and giving you a ‘spaced en dash’ between your words.

There are three basic types of dash:
1. The hyphen is the small dash on the keyboard up near the numbers. It is the lower-case symbol which shares the key with the underscore. (The underscore is activated when pressed in conjunction with the Shift key and separates words_like that.) The hyphen is usually used to connect two words to make a compound word, such as twenty-one, or to indicate word-wrapping of a split word at the end of a para-
graph, like that.

2. The en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen and is generally used in place of parentheses (or brackets, like these) or commas, to indicate a slightly separate – but connected – thought or piece of information. The en dash is used with a single space either side, unless referring to a range of dates or other numbers, in which case it is generally used unspaced, as in 1963–72.

3. The em dash is longer than the en dash again and is used to indicate a more serious break in the narrativethe sort of break that’s not enough for a separate sentence, but too much for an en dashand it’s used unspaced, like that. (These dashes are actually a bit longer than an em dash, but I couldn't get Blogger to show them at the right size.)

Now, if you’re writing a university paper, something technical, or have been commissioned by a research institute etc, you will need to check with their style guide to see what sort of dashes apply under what circumstances. However, if you’re writing a straightforward business document or a fiction or non-fiction work which you're aiming to publish, then spaced en dashes will do the job for you most of the time. And for those occasions where someone would suggest that a particular sentence should really take unspaced em dashes, don’t worry about it – the general populace can barely tell the difference, and will hardly notice, either, so aim for consistency throughout your manuscript and it will most likely do just fine.

Tidying your manuscript

You will possibly find that, as you’ve typed, most spaced dashes will have converted automatically to spaced en dashes, rather than spaced hyphens. However, if you’ve gone back and edited a passage and inserted a spaced dash, that probably won’t have converted. This is one of Word’s little foibles – if every word you type is the last word in the document as you type it, then the spaced hyphens or short dashes will automatically convert to en dashes. But if words already exist after the space where you insert the dash, they stay as short dashes. To pick these up and correct them, we need to use Word’s ‘Find and Replace’ function.

On your tool bar or menu bar at the top, click the 'Home' tab if you're not already on that sub-menu, and then at the far right hand side (in Word 2007 and 2010) you will usually find an option called ‘Find’. Underneath it is the option ‘Replace’. Either one of these will do – they both bring up a floating dialogue box. If you can’t see these options, then Ctr+F should bring up the same floating dialogue box (press the Control or Ctrl button and while holding that down, press the ‘f’ key).


There are three tabs for the options here: ‘Find’, ‘Replace’ and ‘Go To’. Click on the ‘Replace’ tab to open up the ‘Find and Replace’ option:


Ensure your cursor is in the ‘Find what:’ box, and type a space (using the space bar) then a short dash/hyphen, then another space. You won’t be able to see the spaces, so make sure you only press the space bar once on either side of the dash!

Then move your cursor to the ‘Replace with:’ box and press the space bar once. To create an ‘en’ dash, click on the ‘More’ button at the bottom of the dialogue box, then click on ‘Special’ at the very bottom of the expanded dialogue box, to bring up the list of Special items you can search for:


When the ‘Specials’ list pops up (or down, depending on your screen size and the location of your dialogue box), go to ‘En Dash’ in the middle and click on it. This will return a symbol like this in your ‘Replace with:’ box:


After the = sign, make sure that you press your space bar once so that you have a single space either side of the ‘en dash’ symbols.

Now click the word ‘Less’ just under ‘Replace with:’ to shrink the dialogue box back to its smallest size, and change the ‘Less’ option to the ‘More’ option:


If the dialogue box is sitting over your document, point at the coloured bar at the top, in the area to the left of the question mark/search icon, left click and then drag the entire box out of the way.

The next step now is to click ‘Find Next’ at the bottom right hand side of the box, to find the first spaced hyphen in your document. Once this is found, it will be highlighted like this:



To now replace it with a spaced en dash, click ‘Replace’ at the bottom of your floating dialogue box. The hyphen will become an en dash, and the highlight will move to the next spaced hyphen:



Now all you need to do is position your cursor over the ‘Replace’ part of the floating dialogue box, and click ‘Replace’ each time you find a spaced hyphen you wish to replace.

If you find a spaced hyphen which, for some reason, you would prefer to leave, then choose ‘Find Next’ on your floating dialogue box, rather than ‘Replace’.

If you’re particularly confident, you may, after a few successful replacements, decide to choose ‘Replace All’. However, before you do that, it’s always wise to save your document with a new file name or version number so that if you end up replacing a load of short spaced dashes or hyphens that you should have kept, for whatever reason, you will have your original document to go back to.

Once you receive a message that ‘Word has finished searching the document’ and/or a count of how many replacements have been made, go through the process one more time, just to ensure that all have been captured. Word does have a habit of telling you that it’s finished even if some instances are still to be discovered.

Tidying unevenly spaced dashes

Once you’ve been through and replaced the spaced hyphens or short dashes, the next step is to look for those which haven’t been evenly spaced. Some people make a habit of typing the dash immediately after the last word- like that, with a single space after.

In your floating ‘Find and Replace’ dialogue box, remove the space from before the dash in the ‘Find What:’ box:



Do NOT delete the space after it. And make no changes to the ‘Replace with:’ box.

Now press ‘Find Next’ and repeat the search and replace process. However, do this manually, one item at a time, in case you inadvertently insert a spaced en dash between two words which you meant to hyphenate! If you find such an instance, click anywhere on the page of your document to free your cursor/mouse from the Find/Replace function, and then click a second time in the word with the issue, then manually remove the space after the hyphen to bring the two words together. Then go back to your floating dialogue box and click ‘Find Next’ and continue your search.

Once this process is complete, go back to your ‘Find What:’ box, re-insert the space before the dash and delete the space after the dash, so that you are searching for formatting where you’ve inserted the space after a word, but placed the next word immediately after the dash. Again, perform this search manually and make sure that you actually want a spaced en dash, and not a hyphenated word.

It sounds like a pain, but once you get used to identifying the different sizes of dash and how to fix them, you will notice them everywhere. And your proofreader will thank you!

PS If you want to manually insert an en dash anywhere in a document, just press Ctrl+Num-Lock - which means the Control button, and while holding that down, hold down the Num-Lock button and while holding these down, then press the minus button on your numeric keypad. If you’re using a laptop, it’s easier to go to Insert, then choose Symbol from the Insert menu, followed by ‘More Symbols’ then ‘Special Characters’ – the En Dash should be near the top.

Next time we will look at quotation or speech marks - single quotes, double quotes, straight quotes and curly quotes. Bet you never knew you had so many options!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Jew? I don’t care, so why do you?

Today I published my 'maiden speech' at medium.com, a new space for longer works of a non-creative writing form. As it really falls under my byline of 'opinionated blogging' I figured it was probably worth repeating here in its entirety. Enjoy. Or not.

Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Jew? 

I don’t care, so why do you?

South Coast Fishermen
(c) J Mosher 2011
Acrylic on canvas

One of my mother’s guiding expressions for a happy life was, 'Never talk about sex, politics or religion.'

As a teenager, the sex part of that list got ignored fairly quickly - it’s pretty much the basis for 75% of teenage conversations, one way or another. As for politics, I never quite understood how people could say one meaningless thing today, contradict themselves two years later, then spend a small fortune trying to get elected on the basis of their revised commitment. Too illogical for me.

But religion - well, I’ve been pretty circumspect for the most part about keeping my mouth shut on that topic, unless chatting with close friends whose views I know and understand - no matter what those views may be. Which makes me curious about a strange phenomenon I’ve noticed over the last few years: the 'Of course, I’m a Christian' introduction from people I’ve only just met.

I thought it was me for a while, but a not-very-scientifically based survey of a few close friends reveals I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. And I find it rather curious, when I’m not being annoyed about it.

What seems to happen is that I meet someone new, either in my line of work, or just socially, and after the initial exchange of pleasantries, this new person finds a way to slip into the early conversation something about how they’re a Christian. Now it might be a quick comment about, 'That happened to one of my friends from church just last week!' or maybe, 'Well, when I was at church last Sunday …' right down to the exceedingly unsubtle, 'Well, of course, I’m a Christian you know.' (True story!)

No, I didn’t know. And my question is: Why do I need to know? What difference does it make?

Do you expect me to think more of you because you’re a Christian? Do you think it makes you a better person, because I will tell you right now - it doesn’t necessarily follow. I’ve known extremely honest, law-abiding atheists, as well as thieving, lying Christians, and vice versa. What you do makes you a better person, not what you believe in. There are good and bad apples in every bunch, so don’t think you’re going to score brownie points with me by labeling yourself before I can!

Perhaps you tell me your theology as a way of sussing out mine? Is it perhaps that my theology is more important to you than you think yours is to me, so you want to get in first, open the door, let me know that it’s safe to admit my label?

Or is it because my Jewish-sounding name might mean I actually am Jewish and you want to gently let me know that we might not be playing on the same team? Well, thank you for your respect. I think.

Or is it because my Jewish-sounding name combined with my melanin-deprived Irish-Catholic heritage appearance has you confused, so you’re opening the door with your label so that I might offer you mine, so that you can figure out where to place me in your mud-map of the world?

And if any of the above is true, why does it matter? As a client or as a social contact, do you really think I am going to treat you better or worse, knowing that you’re a Christian? Trust me - it makes no difference. How you treat me is how I’m going to respond to you. End of story.

I don’t care who you are. Lie to me, and you’re out. Treat me badly, use me, manipulate me, and you’re out. As a client, don’t pay your bills and you’re out. Make life hard for me or my staff and you’re out. I don’t care what religion you do or don’t follow. It is irrelevant and entirely your business.

Funnily enough, I don’t recall ever meeting anyone who insisted on slipping their theology into the conversation where that theology was not Christianity. I can’t recall anyone ever saying, 'Of course, I’m Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/Catholic you know.'

So next time I’m walking in the park, please don’t latch onto me and slip in your breathless comment about teaching at a local Christian school. Just tell me you’re a school teacher - that’s all I need to know. And then as we politely admire the houses we pass as I try to work out how get away from you, please don’t waste breath telling me how that fellow in that house there has a lovely nativity scene each Christmas. You don’t know me. What if that offends me? And even if it doesn’t offend me, what makes you think I care?

What I do care about is how you are teaching the children in your class. What challenges do you face as a 21st century educator? How do you motivate the children when they don’t want to learn? Now that’s something worth talking about.

What you believe in is your business. What I believe in is mine. If time should pass and we get to know each other on a more personal level, then maybe one day we can share our theological positions (which may or may not be the same) in a respectful, intelligent manner.

But until then, please have a little dignity, not just for my sake, but also your own. Take your time to get to know someone as a person, and judge them on their actions and the way they treat you, before you start judging them based on their theology. I’m sure the world would be a better place for it.

Opinionated blogging: it's at the top of the page.