Transliteracy in action: Digital Livings

Digital_livings

How new media writers do, could and will make their way in the world

Written and researched for De Montfort University by Chris Meade of if:book

Read the report Download DigLivingswebversion

Read the full text of the responses from new media writers:

MICHAEL AVATAR * CATHERINE BYRON * ANDY CAMPBELL * JOHN CAYLEY * ALISTAIR GENTRY * PETER HOWARD * CHRIS JOSEPH * DONNA LEISHMAN * PAULINE MASUREL * ANDREW OLDHAM * EDWARD PICOT * KATE PULLINGER * LAWRENCE UPTON * TIM WRIGHT * CHRISTINE WILKS

MICHAEL ATAVAR

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing? 

Date: 1998
Reason: I started working with online technology, making ‘* * * * [four stars]’.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?

I suggest building a relationship with books. It’s the best training for any kind of writing career.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing? (a previous survey by trAce elicited an amazing range of names, from Digital Artist to Cybermancer).

‘Artist’ feels appropriate.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?

A variety of sources.
I work as a consultant, particularly addressing issues around creativity. Also as a mentor and workshop leader. Plus I continue to develop my art practice.

http://www.atavar.com
http://www.e-says.com
http://www.creativepractice.com
http://www.michaelatavar.com
Latest work ‘dusk’ http://www.atavar.com/dusk/
‘dusk’ was shown at the Hayward Gallery, V&A and Artsadmin.

What’s your working situation?
(for instance are you freelance  / run small company / work with a small team / work in education / work for a major company) or a combination?
I work out of Oval House, in London. Plus I have a freelance practice.
This year I’ve been to Brazil as part of the Artists Links programme, supported by the British Council.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
I work with the unconscious, using methodologies of chance and process to make performances both in real time and in the online environment.
The different elements run in parallel – new media work developing into performances, essay writing, visual art.
It’s all part of the same process.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
I sell ideas.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
I like the projects best that I made for free.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Nothing.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
I’m working towards a performance show in 2009 in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?

Read my new book ‘How To Be An Artist’. It’s all in there. The website will be active this year http://www.how-to-be-an-artist.com

CATHERINE BYRON

Dear Chris
So good to discover from Sue that you are involved with her and Kate’s MA, and are the UK director of IFFB – and then to hear from you direct.
I was inspired by your approach from our meeting back at the start of the 90s, when you hosted me and a handful of other early LDOs in Birmingham Library. Imagination services indeed! And then your brilliant Poetry Places project…
But I have failed to complete and email my Q-aire, and thought I should explain why – tho it may be of no interest re your research.
Trying to answer your questions has confirmed the realisation that has been forming since last November when I left my halftime teaching/research post (held since 1994) at Nott Trent U: my impending move to the (minimally wired) far southwest of Donegal will mean that I also leave the ‘poetry world’ and – more significant for your research – any attempts to earn money from my writing. So I see my involvement in online writing as historic, not active.

What I earned directly from my online writing were two commissions (a Poetry Places one for Renderers and a Hidrazone one for Gloryhole, the latter a collaboration with Simon Mills). I also was the beneficiary of support in kind from trAce, both directly (training) and indirectly (Writers For the Future). My most significant financial and artistic reward was an AHRC Creative Fellowship 2003-2006, in which the online part of my creative research was a key component.

Now, having left that whole research/creative nexus, I am going to revisit my 70s self, and explore the current possibilities of hands-on self sufficiency on land – and sea.

I hope this explains my non-submission of a reply to the Q-aire in a more helpful way than simply silence.

On Feb 4, 2008 4:49 PM, Chris Meade <chris@futureofthebook.org> wrote:

Hi Catherine,
Good to hear from you and thanks for the kind remarks.
One thing on our minds is how poetry runs on an inadequate business model in which everyone feels broke and exploited whereas much web activity is accepted as happily voluntary. If you wanted to make any farewell statements re. livings etc to digitalpoetryland please feel free, otherwise.. enjoy your new life!
All best
Chris

 

Well, I guess that my experience re poetry’s ‘inadequate business model’ has been that the ‘creative research’ path that I was able to take as a poet working within the uni system did foster the two ‘new media’ pieces that I am still pleased with, Renderers and Gloryhole. But that, outside that sheltered (creatively as well as financially) space, any writing that I do in Donegal will be the sort I started out doing: pen on paper, and purely(!) for itself. No business model at all. And broke, but not exploited.

But I also guess that this is not a scenario that is relevant to the online community, so – as with my recent resignations from NTU and from the Lumb Bank Management cttee – I am just slipping away from my digital life without any leaving do or to-do.

(Oh, but I did have the most wonderful three years on that AHRC fellowship, thanks in good part to my connections with trAce. I got to play again. I suspect, though, that anything of real worth that I may write from that lovely re-creative period won’t come through for ages yet. Long gestation needed.)

All good wishes – Catherine

ANDY CAMPBELL

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing? 
Date: Around 1993
Reason: An interest in computers and fiction writing from an early age, and a desire to try and mix the two together. 

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills? 
I’ve always had a consistent interest generally in the concept of publishing writing electronically, and have continued to develop IT and writing skills at a steady pace. However, 1999 working for Route Publishing was a big boost – and 2000 working with Martyn Bedford on The Virtual Disappearance of Miriam. Collaborating on Inside: A Journal of Dreams with Judi Alston in 2002, presenting it at the Sorbonne, and in 2006 starting work on The Flat – which changed the direction of Dreaming Methods for the better.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how? 
I am self-taught over the years in Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver and various other new media tools. I have specific skills in visual design and web-based programming – again these have just evolved from playing around with software, either with a commercial end product in mind, or just out of creative desire. 

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing? 
Fiction writing obviously; also an ability to work quickly and intensely even in tough or noisy or chaotic environments through extensive experience working with young people in community settings. Experience with digital/video cameras, learning now to edit and compress video and work with the results in Flash. Extensive travel abroad working in different cultures has given me more confidence and a wider artistic vision.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I’m not sure. “Web artist” is the term I use most when trying to describe this aspect of what I do. But then often the response is “so what do you do?” If I can’t be bothered, I fall back on “web designer” and then there’s an “ah, right” and a vague nod.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
I earn money developing websites, web applications, multimedia interfaces, editing films/doing film effects and producing print design work. All of my income is related to working with new media. I have recently earned money through Dreaming Methods by doing a talk and virtual lecture at DeMontfort, selling an article about “digital writing” to a magazine, and producing a new Dreaming Methods piece for an online exhibition of “video/net.art”. 

What’s your working situation?
I am co-director of arts/media One to One Productions along with my wife. We are the only employees of the company, although sometimes we hire freelancers for some jobs. http://www.onetooneproductions.com&nbsp;

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work? 
Yes it has, both from a technical point of view, and from the point of view of discovering the potential of what you can do with new media artistically. It’s also helped me to hone down and sharpen up my writing.

How do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing? 
I work on Dreaming Methods projects continuously without any drive from financial gain. I try to keep the work fresh and new and the website itself uptodate. This sometimes attracts individuals who wish to collaborate, but there is rarely any money involved, and I rarely agree to collaborations.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
If you mean projects by other people, I like Inanimate Alice because it’s one of the few examples of a piece of digital fiction that keeps an easy-to-follow written element whilst maintaining excellent production standards, a good atmosphere and an intriguing storyline. It’s also released in episodes which I think is a suitable approach to this kind of work.

If you mean my own projects, I think Dim O’Gauble, due to its heavy use of text combined with rich and complex visuals and a fluid interface. I’m also pleased with the atmosphere the piece evokes and the general quality of the writing. 

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work? 
Finding the time to do it without any allocated time or money. And sometimes trying to tackle so many different aspects of new media by myself, although I’d prefer to do this in most instances than collaborate, which I sometimes find even more difficult unless I have a very specific role. Trying to find good examples of similar work on the web can be depressing. The ratio of research/theory documents to actual quality work in the field is embarrassing.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To keep making it and staying true to my artistic vision for it – whether that means financial success or otherwise. To make it slightly more accessible, but not to dumb-down for the sake of producing an easy reading experience for those without the patience or intrigue to try “something new”. To continue to learn new skills through it and increase the quality of the written element. 

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media? 
I would say that it’s probably not realistic at the moment to consider it a career option in itself. It isn’t even regarded as an “artform”, more of an “emerging artform”, which means the “boundaries” of it, as it were, haven’t yet been defined – or so the general populous of the internet seems to believe. There are also some forthcoming major moves in the publishing industry that I think are yet to come – new e-book formats, screen-reading software and so on, which I think may have to happen before “new media writers” (or “new types of authors” as I’ve heard on telly and radio recently) can seriously consider the possibility of a career. 

JOHN CAYLEY

6

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: 1978
Reason: I was sent an acrostic letter by a friend and realised that such processes could be programmed — on recently-but-only-just-affordable personal computers — and turned to the exploration of generative, process-modulated literature.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
1994: the ‘advent’/popularisation of the www.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
Programming and multimedia development skills, in a haphazard, pragmatic way, over time.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
A certain competence/expertise with language/poetics/linguistic analysis and the studies of other transcultural writing practices, especially Chinese (subject of my university training).

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I am: a literal artist, a poet, a writer of and in digital media, a writer of and in programmable media, a writer of and in networked media.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?

I am a (five-year) Visiting Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, Graduate Program in Literary Arts. I have a brief to teach and develop research and the curriculum for what I now call ‘writing digital media’ (and what has been called ‘electronic writing’ at Brown). So, nearly all my income is related to my work in new media. Until the beginning of this academic year, very little of my income was so related, maybe 5 percent.

What’s your working situation?
Work in (higher) education.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Yes, especially in small and specialist publishing and bookselling.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
I make things and hope they may be presented/installed. I will look for academic and art practice grants, and possibly private patronage.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects.
[No time for this; go to: http://programmatology.shadoof.net/?impose ]

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Programmed, planned, endlessly recurring and recursive *platform obsolescence*.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To make as many and as beautiful literal cultural objects as I can.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Remember: There is no such thing as immateriality. Programmable machines are expensive and difficult to produce; not everyone has one and, if everyone did have one, the world would be (will be) a very different place. One of the reasons that many people now have programmable machines is that this allows them to become consumers who manufacture their own commodities while paying a ‘premium’ to the ‘owners’ or ‘insurers’ of the ‘rights’ to do so; the economy so generated has a potential to be far less equitable and far more exploitative than anything society has so far experienced.

ALISTAIR GENTRY

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: When I first started using the internet in the early 90s.
Reason: Outrage! Most of the stuff online at that time was badly
written, incoherent, pretentious, naïve, badly designed, shoddily
programmed, had horrible and/or wantonly obscure interfaces, and so
on. Also, for obvious reasons, very USA-centric. I wasn’t thinking of
myself specifically, but I thought that surely there were people in
the world who could do better. Luckily, I was proved right, although
not on the scale I’d hoped for. Unfortunately the majority of “new
media writing” and online art projects throughout the internet bubble
of the 90s and beyond, right up to the present, continued to suffer
from all of the failings listed above.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your
interest and skills?

Finding out that you have a readership beyond your friends and family
is an obvious milestone for any writer. Luckily I did that quite
early on, established and maintained primarily via a method that no
previous generation of writers had access to- email and the internet.
Other than that, I can’t break it down. I’m a better writer than I
was then, and hopefully I’ll be better still in another ten years.
This just comes from keeping writing. Over the years I’ve met or
corresponded with an amazing number of people who’ve taken three
years to write a story (in which nothing happens and nothing of any
import is said) and somehow think they’re going to be professional
writers. Seeing so many lose their way before they’ve even gone
anywhere has been instructive and reinforced my determination. Being
a writer isn’t something you are, it’s something you do. If you don’t
write, you’re not a writer. Like anything that’s worth doing, you
need to keep writing and thinking about writing to succeed and improve.

Publishing is a separate issue. Getting your work seen, and really
listening to what people think of it, is undeniably important. You
don’t have to publish everything you write; in fact, knowing when
what you’ve written is good enough to share is an essential skill in
itself. Sadly, I think this latter skill has dropped off again with
the rise of blogging and commenting, which is a return to the early
days of the IRCs in the 90s and its users’ egocentric compulsion to
share every detail of their lives and every asinine thought that pops
into their heads despite general indifference. Probably only one in
ten bloggers are actually interesting writers or have anything
worthwhile to say… see “90% of everything is crap” below.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
I’ve taught myself virtually everything: software, using the
internet, HTML, programming, camera and editing or whatever else I
needed to carry out the projects and ideas I wanted to do. Being of
the generation who grew up alongside computers, ubiquitous
electronics and video games, and personally always being very
interested in and comfortable with them, my understanding and use of
digital media and devices have always been relatively free of
difficulty or anxiety. Using them is as natural to me as a pen and
paper, although not always as practical or necessary. I think that’s
where I’ve always differed from a lot of people who had high profiles
in “new media.” It may just be because I’m significantly younger than
most of the first wave, and have done what I do now throughout my
adult life. I don’t think something’s inherently interesting, novel
or subversive just because it’s interactive or in a digital format,
and I’ve never bought into the whole utopian/neo-Gnostic, body-hating
culture of the internet either.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Tenacity. A sense of humour. Speaking my mind and standing up for
myself, while at the same time attempting to treat all people
equally, with respect and consideration. A good editorial,
professional eye and instinct for what’s successful and what isn’t in
other peoples’ work, and the honesty to try looking at my own work in
the same way.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
Artist and writer, or writer and artist, or writer, or artist. It
depends on the context and who I’m describing myself to. Anything
beyond that is pretentious, adolescent and attention-seeking. If
you’re primarily a designer or a programmer with more of an interest
in aesthetics or experience, and no particular skills in narrative,
character, prose or poetry, call yourself a designer or a programmer.
Your work is clearly authored, but you’re not a writer. Whoever
called themselves a Cybermancer should have their computer
confiscated and their phone line ripped out, if they were even semi-
serious. Probably they should lay off the dope for a while, as well.
I think both “digital” and especially “new media” are increasingly
redundant terms. At this stage it’s more useful and relevant to point
out when something’s analogue (i.e. non-digital and/or traditionally,
physically constructed). “Digital” at least makes sense as a useful,
factually correct label. The so-called “new media” can only really be
called new in the context of the entirety of art history. Painting,
drawing, sculpture, dance, drama and storytelling have been around as
long as humans have. On a 30,000-year scale photography, film and
digital work are products of late-industrial Europe and therefore
very new and experimental in that sense. But realistic three-point
perspective painting, the novel and Noh theatre are actually quite
new media in that gigantic context, too. In terms of real human
lifespans, even works based on programming, autonomous machinery or
computer graphics have existed (albeit primitively) since before I
was born and can hardly be called new. It’s like calling a Ford
Prefect a “new carriage.”

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income
is related to your work in new media?

I think of myself 50/50 as an artist and writer. I haven’t been
earning much money from writing recently, though, because the other
work I’ve been doing has been taking up most of my time, I’ve been
travelling or living abroad and I just haven’t written much. Most of
my work in recent years has been as a film maker and/or working for
galleries. I spent a year as artist in residence at the Genomics
Policy and Research Forum, University of Edinburgh, where I worked on
an animated video installation and a book at the same time.
I’ve always been a firm believer in Theodore Sturgeon’s “90% of
everything is crap” rule. There’s also the (unintentionally) cognate
Pareto Principle: that 80% of effects stem from 20% of causes.
Roughly 20% of car owners are responsible for 80% of all insurance
claims for road accidents in developed countries, for example.
Experience has shown me that in both the arts and publishing about
10-20% of self-described artists or writers actually make something
like a living from art or writing. There’s also an obvious 20:80 or
10:90 subdivision within what I’ll reluctantly call the elite- for
lack of a better word. A few make a lot of money and get very high
profile, lucrative commissions. The rest do OK. The others are people
with jobs in either related or unrelated areas who sometimes get the
odd thing published/commissioned. Although I frequently just scrape
by, and although now and again I’ve really and literally been down to
my last penny, I’ve not had a conventional day job for about ten years.
There’s probably a maximum of 150 professional artists in Britain who
get commissions, exhibitions or residencies with any regularity and
at this point I think I know about two dozen of them personally, or
I’ve at least met them often enough that we recognise each other. At
the apex are household names/fashion items like Tracey Emin, Damien
Hirst, Anthony Gormley, and so on who make ridiculous amounts of
money internationally and with whom I am not competing in any
meaningful way because they exist in a completely different sphere.
The same is true in publishing. For every minnow like me there are
probably a thousand amateurs, semi-pros, occasionals or aspirings,
and for every twenty or thirty minnows only one millionaire Rowling
Whale or Amis Shark.

What’s your working situation?
For the overwhelming majority of the time, I’ve been freelance.
Occasionally short-term contracts.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
I’m not sure. It’s my job, or one of my jobs, not really an interest.
The question seems a bit vague.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field
of new media writing?

I don’t generate as much work for myself as I could or should.
Generating freelance work or commissions is a full time job in
itself, and I don’t always have space in my head to keep up with it
and chase people up about things when I’m actually working. I often
have worrying gaps in employment. I do have an agent for my writing,
but most things I do these days are projects that I’ve either drummed
up and worked out myself or arise from people approaching me directly.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Undoubtedly Pulp.Net, which has been running for five years,
publishing three new stories every month, running workshops,
advocating for writers and promoting writers who are under-
represented in publishing. The latter is actually quite easy since it
includes virtually everybody who isn’t a white, fortysomething
Oxbridge graduate from the home counties. I was one of the founding
board members of what eventually became a registered charity, and
I’ve worked on the site as an editor, workshop leader, reader of
submissions and general adviser since then. I’m proud of the quality
control, professional relationships and editorial support for all
writers without exception, some of whom had relatively little
experience or none at all; I’m proud that we have always paid writers
for their work and made it clear that we are borrowing the right to
show their work because we think it’s good, not buying content to be
exploited; I’m proud that writers regard it as a prestigious and
professional place to have their work published that equals anything
in physical print; I’m proud that its readership in Britain alone
exceeds that of many printed magazines and all of the printed
literary journals. The site has always looked great and had good
design with a clear, accessible interface suited to the online
environment. It has always been, and we hope it will always remain,
free, with no registration, advertising or profiteering of any kind.
As editors we’ve done our best to remain if not invisible, then at
least transparent, and to keep our egos and personalities out of it.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
As a freelancer, chasing employers for money is a constant struggle
and an absolute bore. I waste so much time and energy on this, and
there’d be no need for it if other people just did their jobs. I
think I’ve only ever been paid, got my budget or had promised
expenses reimbursed in a reasonably timely fashion by maybe 1 in 5
(there’s that Pareto ratio again!) The lazy-arsed finance clerk
probably gets her wages without fail every Friday, but in the course
of a month she hasn’t had time to spend two minutes doing an EFT or
getting a cheque signed? The one that really makes me see red is
“lost the invoice.” We’re talking probably 1 in 5 invoices “lost”,
conveniently or incompetently, and usually spoken of as if it’s your
fault for following their procedure rather than theirs for misfiling
it, not being able to keep up with their workload, or just having a
really messy desk. “She’s on holiday and nobody else knows anything
about it” is another cracker when you can’t even contemplate
affording a holiday because you haven’t been paid for three months.
Finding opportunities and putting together proposals or pitches can
also be really hard work, time consuming, deadly dull and
occasionally demoralising when you remember that most of them will
never come to anything. Related to this, places may even have asked
you to pitch something only to come back to you 5 or 6 months later
with a maybe or a no which by that time you could have guessed for
yourself. Worse still are the ones who don’t even have the courtesy
or professionalism to communicate with you in any way at all.
Everything just vanishes into a black hole.
Dull is precisely the word for all of this peripheral, bureaucratic
bullshit and problematic is a good description of the all too
frequent state of relationships between commissioners and freelancers.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To be the best writer I can possibly be, as good as the writers I admire and whose work goes on having value for decades or centuries. I want people to look at the world and at their own lives differently, to recognise something of themselves in it,  if only for a moment or while they’re immersed in what I’ve made. I’m not interested in a mass audience. I want to find all the people I know are out there, the ones who would be interested in what I do if they knew about it, the people like me who never thought there was anyone else in the world who knew or cared about the same things they do.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Don’t. Don’t even think about it. You will not earn a living from it, because almost nobody does. Keep the job you already have, especially if it’s secure and reasonably well remunerated. Or dedicate yourself to getting something that will allow you to write (or learn to write) in your spare time as a hobby. Be a normal person.

Secondly… DON’T. Even if you’re one of the 10-20% who are genuinely talented and has something to offer the world, you’ll be competing with the rest of a cohort who are all at least as talented, skilled and ambitious as you are. Many of them will have unfair advantages, be prepared to plumb depths you can’t even imagine, or just be luckier than you, and you’ll all be competing for a share of the potential audience and a vanishingly small number of worthwhile opportunities. One mistake or bad impression left with the wrong (or right) person can kill your career before it’s even started. Or you can be successful once and thereafter find yourself passed over for one of the NEXT next big things who’ve been waiting in line behind you, and so on ad infinitum. Hacks, nepotists and socially adept ignoramuses frequently prosper over good writers. Publishers
frequently green-light glib, inferior, crass versions of ideas and concepts you could have made soar.

But since I wouldn’t have paid much attention to somebody telling me all that 10 or 15 years ago, mainly because I knew or assumed most of it already, then I’d have to say work really bloody hard on your writing, and on your looking, listening and thinking skills. Not having time isn’t an adequate excuse. Make time. Make your work better than anybody else’s. You’re giving up a huge chunk of normal life- the reliable car, the annual holiday, the financial security, the home you won’t be able to afford now or for the foreseeable future- because you think that what you’ve got to say would benefit other people or change the world is some way, however small. Make sure your writing or art is worth the time you’ll invest and all that you’ll be sacrificing.

Don’t give away your work to people/organizations who would profit it
by it any manner whatsoever. This has been part of internet culture
for as long as I’ve been aware of it. What’s changed is that
companies, including creative ones, have twigged and are well aware
that there’s always plenty more where you came from. There’s always
someone desperate enough to work for less than you, or for nothing.
So there’s a proliferation of “internships” (AKA unpaid work
experience for desperate, overqualified people in their 20s and 30s
instead of schoolchildren), excuses that the project is low budget,
and most odiously of all constant calls for content or staff by
websites, festivals, conferences, ad agencies, galleries and so forth
where they just take it for granted that they get fully finished,
professional quality work for free. Doing things for your community
(virtual or otherwise), for the general benefit of all as a public
service, or just for the love of it, and offering the same
encouragement, constructive criticism and support other people gave
to you as a novice are all different things and very admirable. I’ve
done it myself, I’m proud of it and I think that anyone successful
who doesn’t have a sense of gratitude and noblesse oblige is a total
shit who doesn’t deserve any further reward.

But if a site, company or a publisher has advertisers, sells your
work or anything else, if you’re doing any kind of labour that could
conceivably have a monetary or practical value, if they employ
editors, administrators, researchers or whatever, then you should be
paid, too. Money, furthermore, should flow towards the work’s
creator, not away. Think carefully before paying to enter a
“competition” or to have your work considered or assessed. In other
words, you shouldn’t be a single penny out of pocket as a result of
somebody else publishing or distributing your work. Breaking even is
the bare minimum you should expect. “Exposure” is usually overrated,
and padding out your CV is rarely an equitable exchange for what
these people are getting out of you. If someone who doesn’t respect
you still thinks they’d like to fuck you, then the very least they
owe you is paying for your dinner first.

Exploit yourself. Be your own producer. If neither you nor anybody
else is likely to ever make a profit on your work, or if you know
it’s good but also know that the mainstream would never touch it or
wouldn’t know what to do with it, then publish, exhibit, distribute
it yourself. It’s not easy to do well, and very easy to get it very
wrong and give a bad impression, but right now the possibility is
there to make your work look as good as or better than any mainstream
product and to get it out cheaply, efficiently and uncensored to
receptive, interested people all over the world.

Know your rights. Dedicate yourself to establishing the principle
that everyone who works or provides service in any way deserves a
fair wage, equal to the wage paid to any other person doing the same
work at their level of experience. Leaving all else aside, this is
one of the less frequently remembered tenets of the universal
declaration of human rights. Currently the publishing, entertainment
and art industries are getting away with far too much because
practitioners are betraying each other by accepting exploitation,
contempt and low/no pay for professional quality work and content.
Retain legal ownership of absolutely everything you do. Don’t be
paranoid- it’s unlikely anybody really wants to plagiarise your idea
for a short story to become a millionaire- but keep sight of the
principle that everyone’s mental and physical labour, and everyone’s
good inventions and ideas, have value.

PETER HOWARD

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: 2000
Reason: I decided, on a whim, to buy Macromedia Flash 4

Are there any key events and dates in the development of
your interest and skills?

I guess being asked to contribute to the trAce Incubation conference in
2004 was important to me, as it was a palpable recognition of my ability
as a new media artist. Joining webartery was also important, though I
can’t remember when I did that.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
I’ve learned Flash design and development, and programming in the Flash
Actionscript language and environment. I’ve also developed some skill in
javascript and html, including CSS.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
My day job is as an electronics and software engineer, so that has helped. I’m also a pretty decent on-the-page poet, so that helps.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
Hypertext poet? I’m not that interested in names.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
I’m an electronics and software engineer, as I think I said. New media work contributes about 1% to my total income.

What’s your working situation?
I work for a small company of software/electronics consultants, designing physiological monitoring equipment for sports, public safety, etc applications.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Not that I can think of.

How do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
Um, if I feel like creating something and I have an idea, then I set to work. If Paul of 57 Productions commissions me to create a piece, then I set to work.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Subatomic Poetry was pretty good. It was a lecture for the trace Incubation conference in 2004. It was funny, but had a serious side to it. It reproduced poems by Roger McGough and Wendy Cope, and incorporated a bubble chamber photograph from CERN. Rob Kendall has a web version of it on his WordCircuits site.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Filling in the details of Flash movies can get pretty tedious. The inconsistencies between web browsers re javascript is both tedious and problematic.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
Web art will be recognised as a genuinely new form, and my works will be acknowledged as some of the innovators in the field. (Well, one can dream.)

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Don’t. Get a day job. Do your writing for fun. If you get rich and famous then great. But you probably won’t.

http:www.hphoward.demon.co.uk/poetry/

http://peterhoward.org

CHRIS JOSEPH

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date:  Christmas 1984
Reason: This was the date I was given a Sinclair Spectrum computer, which was the first time I was able to put text, graphics and sounds together in basic multimedia.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
Christmas 1986: Sinclair Spectrum + 2
1991: First publication of print poetry
1992: First PC
1993: First experience of the internet and WWW
1994: Photoshop
1995: First website creation
1996: Sound software, first contracts as graphic designer
1997: Founded web design company, first ‘new media writing’ (writing intended from the start for screen rather than print)
2001: Discovered trAce
2002: First electronic work exhibited
2003: Received funding by Canada Council For the Arts for ‘Animalamina’; applied for writer in residence post at trAce and met Sue Thomas
2004: ‘Writers for the Future’ residency run by trAce, met Kate Pullinger
2006: Began Digital Writer in Residence post at DMU

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
Graphic skills since 1994; website design and online promotion since 1995; sound skills since 1996; Flash since 2000; video since 2003.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Ability to collaborate and also to work alone for long periods; the ability to live on very little income!

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
Digital Writer in Residence at DMU; 100%.

What’s your working situation?
In education / funded by Arts Council England / freelance.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
This has been my only ‘work’ since 2002.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
Applications for funding by relevant organisations.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Inanimate Alice, an episodic series of multimedia stories produced with Kate Pullinger. I very much enjoy working with Kate and the other people involved in producing the series, and the challenge of increasing the quality and interactivity in each episode stretches me as an electronic artist.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
There are always dull moments during programming and bug testing, but the most problematic element is ensuring that the work displays as you intend across the range of possible platforms. Beyond that, the issues around the digital divide make all electronic writing and art problematic.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To be able to financially survive by creating it!

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Keep aware of developments in softwares and hardware platforms for new opportunities; collaborate whenever necessary to complement your own skills; learn as much as possible about non-digital writing and arts

http://www.chrisjoseph.org

DONNA LEISHMAN

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing? 
Date: 1999
Reason: Working commercially in new media design where a gulf appeared in my artistic personal development and the paid client driven work. 

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
Academic Session 2000/2001 saw me complete a Masters in Design, which generated Red Riding Hood, this set me upon a research field and practical path quite distinct from commercial work.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
As a junior designer at a Scottish New Media agency (1998-2000) exposed to high functioning UK Generation Flashers who exposed a peer group and online culture and to a lesser extend helped my technical early forays into Macromedia Flash (the software a almost entirely used within my practice). This started my independent experiments on top of my new media ‘day job’, this eventually led to my decision to return to education to provide space to experiment, direct, produce, reflect and focus my artwork. During my Masters study (2000-1) and as part of summer recess I approach a Flash Animation studio in New York City where I worked full-time for 4months in a frenetic creative and technical environment. On return I produced Red Riding Hood and started a PhD. The PhD (2001- 4) consisted of self taught developments and harnessing the commercial experience.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Undergraduate artschool non-digital technical skills: sculpture, drawing, photography, studied Illustration with a particular interest in characterization / figuration and narrative sequences.

Personal: Flutist / interest in music.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
Visual Artist / Researcher

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
A full-time Higher Institution Academic, currently course director for BA (Hons) Illustration, which is approximately a 60% teaching and 40% research post. Duties also included PHD supervision and lead supervisor on MSC Communication Design.

0% currently all new media work is produced as research projects with a variety of funding.

What’s your working situation?
Academic researcher / education.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
No other work undertook.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
Through research to generate post doctoral research questions.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw (2004) interesting to me as it used Scottish history as part of its narrative context; the protagonist is still being mythologized. This offers an interesting duality to my authoring shades and nuances of real and unreal positions.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Cross Platform Browser Issues.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To endure as critical, visually sophisticated and inclusive for the participant.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
To published early which is not normally when you feel confident to do so.

PAULINE MASUREL

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?

Not exactly, no, but I believe it was around Spring 1999.  I suppose the main spur for viewing and being involved in writing which exists onscreen was joining the trAce Online Writing Community.  I had understood that the trAce Webboard discussion forum archives would be made available to researchers, so you might be able to obtain access to these and find a more exact date.  If you do discover when I joined I should be interested to know myself

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and
skills?

Some idea can be gained from this chronology, although it doesn’t address technical skills. http://www.unfurling.net/when.html

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
I can code basic html, know how to work with cascading style sheets, but have been too lazy to do so much. I can knock out the odd javascript and have done the tiniest bit of server side programming. I’ve made a few animated gifs.  I did a little bit of sound-combining once.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Collaboration has often been a central part of any online/screen-based work.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I would describe myself as ‘A writer’.  I don’t have any special name for what I have done, other than that.  I’m not a visual artist, although I have worked with people who are.  I obviously incorporate visual aspects in some of the things I’ve made, but I don’t consider this my forte.  However, some of my work is either web or screen native or has elements that make it appropriately located there.  In other instances the net is simply a distribution medium for writing which would just as comfortably sit in a print-only environment.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is
related to to your work in new media?

At the moment I am living off investment income and capital.  I have
not earned anything from my writing in any medium for several years.

What’s your working situation?
I am not presently in paid employment.  I work as a volunteer in a variety of capacities, studying at college one day a week and am primarily writing alone at present, although I maintain contacts with other writers and artists.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Possibly, in the most tenuous way.  Items on my writing CV have sometimes crept into job applications or interviews.  My previous experience of making web-based material and reading a lot of it has occassionally been useful background for assessing web-presented material because I have ome idea of the underlying constraints and possibilities.  For example, in my last job I was a member of the Website Editorial Group.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new
media writing?

I am not actively either creating or promoting any screen-specific writing.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
The Blind Tiler’s Assistant
http://www.unfurling.net/tiler/index.html

The work is a story and reflection about creative collaboration.  It uses recycling, randomness and cut-up, reveals its own source(s), whilst containing a conventional short story at its heart.  Randomly combining texts, yet constraining the combinations to tend towards order, is my ‘one trick’, and having learnt it I’ve used it a number of times in other contexts.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
It depends which work you’re referring to.  Dullness is rarely a problem for me.  Problems are more of a problem.  I find those problematic in the extreme.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
I wish to continue writing.  I am happy for that writing to develop and change as it does.  I should like that writing to find an audience.  It would be nice if writing that was perceived by others to have merit and/or attracted an audience received some remuneration, but with the expectation that any fees obtained would be unlikely to cover the minimum wage in terms of time invested in the craft of writing as a whole, this means that writing for profit is not necessarily the priority. “Why would anyone do this work if they
didn’t love tiles?”

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Get a paper round.  It pays better.

If possible can you please send a photo of yourself in your work setting?
My digital camera is playing up at the moment, so the best I can offer is the attached, hopelessly staged, photo of me wearing what is (allegedly) my ‘writing hat’.Writing_hat

If you’d like to send a picture that symbolises your working situation re.
new media please do.
This self-portrait, as part of ‘Imagining Ourselves’ probably sums it up:
  http://www.somedancersandmusicians.com/self_portraits/pauline_masurel.html

ANDREW OLDHAM

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: Spring 1997
Reason: I was asked by an old friend of mine who I had worked with on music in the past, utilising new technologies in PCs for the recording and mixing of music if I would be interested in writing an interactive story. This became Neuter which was based on the structure of the London Underground, as if it was a living organic cell riddled with a virus – this was nominated for the trAce/Alt-X Hypertext Award in 1998 and received publicity in national and regional presses.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
Yes, creating a vening poetry machine for Wearpurple back in 2000/2001 and then the founding of Incwriters in 2003/2004 at http://www.incwriters.co.uk and Incorporating Writing (ISSN 1743-0380) 2003 at http://www.incorporatingwriting.co.uk I became interested in the design of websites and more importantly how they could act as hubs and gateways for writers and poets. I also co-managed Quickshift.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
Website design, sound recording, guerilla marketing, management, e-marketing and e-publicity, e-networking over a period of 10 years from 1997.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Networking and creating organic ideas in the internet.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
Writer, e-produce, founder, e-director and designer.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
Writer in fiction and non-fiction. New media work varies on what funding is available and had ranged from 10% to 75%.

What’s your working situation?
Freelance, work with a small team, work in education.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Yes, you find certain sites that are of interest to others and you can create networks and opportunities.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
Via contacts and applications for funding.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects.
QUICK-SHIFT was an opportunity for writers to do intense and interactive writing online in real time during the weekend of 26 – 27 January 2002. The event ran from 5:00PM GMT on Saturday through MIDNIGHT GMT on Sunday. The 31 hours of timed, responsorial writing online were divided into 20 shifts of 90 minutes each and a final “RUN TO GOAL” round in which all writers were invited to participate. Each shift had 4 writers who gathered in a chatroom and took turns writing responses to previous text. A writer was given a maximum of 7 minutes to proof-read and write before passing to the next writer. There were no restrictions on genre. QUICK-SHIFT was co-managed by Andrew Oldham and Everdeen Tree.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Narrow mindedness, lack of scope when working with organisations unaware of the power of New Media and end up editing such work into a CD-ROM.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
Publication, distribution and networking. I am passionate about writing and providing opportunities for others committed to writing.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Be stubborn, be open, never say “no”, always say, “I’ll see what I can do”. And enjoy!

If possible can you please send a photo of yourself in your work setting?
I work in bed as I am disabled – so it wouldn’t be a pretty sight!

EDWARD PICOT

P1010042


Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: 2000
Reason: That was when I first set up my own website, and the process of learning HTML for it was what got me interested.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
When I first read Martha Conway’s story Girl/Birth/Water/Death (http://ezone.org/ez/e2/articles/conway/jump1.html). I can’t remember when this was, but it would have been 2000 or shortly afterwards. Up until then I’d seen a few examples of hyperliterature and not thought very much of them, but I read this one and thought “Hey – this is really interesting” and started to think seriously about branching out from “traditional” literature myself.

Almost as soon as I got interested in hyperliterature I must have written to the PN Review to ask if they’d like to publish some articles about it. I think I probably must have contacted several off-line literary reviews at the same time, but the PN Review (edited by Michael Schmidt, and based in Manchester) was the one that responded. I wrote a series of essays for them, exploring various aspects of digital literature. Then I got in touch with trAce – the online writing school/new media writing research group which Sue Thomas used to run at Nottingham Trent University. I can’t remember what prompted me to contact them, but their features editor at the time was Randy Adams, and he commissioned me to write a review of papertiger #2 (papertiger being a literary-magazine-on-CD published from Australia, which straddles the “traditional” literature/hyperliterature divide), and several other reviews/opinion pieces followed. I was also very involved with the trAce forum while it was running.

In the meantime I’d started writing nonlinear stories, and I tried sending them to Slope magazine (www.slope.org), edited by Ethan Paquin, which was an online magazine I liked. He said he was interested, but wanted to wait until he could publish more than one item of hyperliterature at a time – otherwise, I suppose, he thought it might just look like an oddity. As I recall there was a long hiatus, and I wrote back to him to say I’d got a new story or something, and to my surprise his response was to ask me if I’d like to guest-edit a feature about hyperliterature. This was eventually published online in spring 2003, but the experience of researching for it taught me a lot about the genre. Also, getting people to contribute to it put me in touch with a lot of practitioners who are still on the scene now – Lewis LaCook, Jason Nelson and Mez would be the most notable ones, I suppose.

Establishing contacts with people is very important. I joined the WebArtery group, to which I still make a lot of postings. I remember how nervous I was the first time I put a message on there. At the time it was run by Jim Andrews, and he was very encouraging and helpful – he helped me out with a bit of advice about how to create an animation using JavaScript. Later on I met him in person, at the trAce conference in Nottingham, in July 2004. I met lots of people there, and it really does make quite a difference if you get the chance to meet these people in the flesh: Michael Szpakowski and Millie Niss are the two I’ve kept in closest contact with, especially Michael, who has become quite a close friend of mine. Alan Sondheim, Sue Thomas herself, Randy Adams, Rob Kendall and various other luminaries were there too. Peter Howard, who hardly produces anything these days, but who was one of the main UK people at the time. Kate Pullinger was there, but I didn’t manage to talk to her – but Chris Joseph her collaborator was there (calling himself “babel” at the time) and I had a few chats with him. And thingummy, whose name I can never remember, who wrote “Online Caroline”.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
I work in a GP’s surgery, and in about 1998 we acquired a computer with Windows, an internet connection, and Microsoft Office ’97. I started fiddling about and exploring, and eventually used Access ’97 to set up a repeat prescription system. This taught me about relational databases, and a little bit about code (a smattering of Visual Basic), but it also taught me that computers were nothing to be afraid of, and if you were prepared to fiddle about with them for a while you could get them to do a lot of interesting stuff. This was really what laid the foundations for my decision to set up my own website. Then I learnt HTML (you can learn the basics in an afternoon), JavaScript, and later PHP and MySQL (I learnt these specifically to set up The Hyperliterature Exchange, because I thought it should have a database in the background, as it’s built on a big list of links and I wanted them to be searchable). Flash/Actionscript – I resisted Flash for a while, thinking that it would be better to use something non-proprietorial like JavaScript (and I still think this in my heart of hearts), but eventually I decided I just couldn’t do the stuff I wanted to do without a piece of dedicated software. More recently I learnt CSS and Joomla! – both of these for web-design jobs which I’ve done for the local schools.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?

I do quite a lot of drawing/animation, and quite a lot of funny voices and manipulation of audio files. Photography and image-manipulation too. You end up doing a bit of everything.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I describe myself as a writer/critic of hyperliterature, but “new media dabbler” would probably be more accurate.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
I still earn my living by working as Practice Manager for a GP’s surgery. The amount of income I get from new media is negligible, really – probably about £1000 a year – and of that the majority comes from odd web-design jobs which I pick up here and there, or from writing and publishing articles on the subject. In the past I’ve earned much more from criticism than I have from creative work, but all the criticism I’ve written just recently has been non-paying. The real money in new media is in grants and academic work. Selling it is very problematic, but it can be done – “Broken Saints”, a new media comic-story, was a big financial hit. On the other hand the experimental comics writer Scott Adams tried to sell work online via a micropayments system called BitPass, but it was a resounding flop, and BitPass (which I tried myself for a while, with zero success) went out of business. I’ve got all sorts of theories about what might sell and how to sell it, but none of them are proven.

What’s your working situation?
(for instance are you freelance  / run small company / work with a small team / work in education / work for a major company) or a combination?
As described above. As far as hyperliterature goes, I just work on my own.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Definitely. There’s the web-design thing, which is a very useful skill. I designed the website for my surgery, for example; and I’ve done various others since then. But knowing something about computers and digital media is enormously helpful in all walks of life these days.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
As you can see from some of my answers above, when I first came into the field I used to get in touch with people and offer to write things for them, and I had a surprising amount of success doing this. These days I tend to concentrate more on my own projects, although I do try to keep writing criticism occasionally, mainly for The Hyperliterature Exchange. But I do find that people contact me out of the blue – like yourself – to ask me to contribute an article, or respond to a questionnaire, or help them with their research. I never seem to be short of things to do. It’s more a question of trying not to overcommit myself than of looking around for work. Paying work is another matter, though.


Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects

I take it you mean projects of my own. Lots of my favourite projects are by other people.

A lot of my own work is produced as a result of playing with my daughter, who’s now nine. Ever since she learnt to talk we’ve spent a lot of time playing with her toys, with me “doing voices” for them and both of us making up stories – usually funny stories – together on the spur of the moment. If you look on my website you’ll find a lot of work which has been inspired in this way: “Penguin Memories”, “Sweetheart’s Expedition”, “Linesland”, “Chicks”, “Frog-o-Mighty”, “Bluedolph” and the Dragon Story section of “An Unimportant Story”. My latest project, “The Puzzle Box”, wasn’t produced in quite the same way, but it originated because my daughter suddenly decided that she’d like to have a bit of a book read aloud to her at bedtime every night, and I thought I might as well write her a story of my own.

On the other hand, my version of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird had nothing to do with my daughter: it originated when I happened to look out of the window at work one snowy day, and saw a blackbird hopping around in a crab-apple tree outside. One of the interesting things about this project was how I got material for it by putting keywords into Google and scavenging for useful images – “snowy mountains”, for example, which led me to a beautiful old picture of mountains by the Japanese artist Hiroshige. I scavenged some useful sounds in just the same way – the river-noise in “River” is an example. The project as a whole wouldn’t have come out the way it did at all if the Web hadn’t been there as a resource, and I think you can feel that in the texture of the piece – there’s a kind of openness to it, a breadth and variety of reference. Another interesting thing was how the audience for Thirteen Ways, and the level of interest in it, built up from instalment to instalment – because I published it in bits, over a period of six or seven months. But as a consequence of this build-up of interest, I got quite scared as I went along, at certain points, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to find ideas for the sections I hadn’t done yet, or I was worried that the ideas might be dull. It was a project which I really loved working on, but I also felt as if I was really going out on a limb at times.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
I don’t think any of it is really dull, but there are lots of aspects which are problematic. Because I do other work for my living, and only produce hyperliterature part-time, there are always things which I feel I’d like to learn about or try out, but I’m not sure if I can spare the time. For a couple of years I’ve been wondering if I should try to produce animations using Blender instead of Flash, and if I ought to move over to Linux instead of Windows, but I’m worried about the amount of time it would take to re-learn things. But this relates to another anxiety which comes from working in the digital field – everything’s developing so fast, you can’t possibly keep up, but on the other hand there’s a danger that if you don’t make some kind of effort to keep abreast of things your work might become obsolete. A couple of years ago Internet Explorer came out in a new version which would react badly to Flash pieces if they were embedded in a Web page in the oldfashioned way, so everybody who put Flash into Web pages had to move the embedding code into a separate file and only have a reference to it in the main file. That’s an example of the kind of thing I mean. When I finished The Puzzle Box I checked it online to see if it was XHTML compliant or not, and it wasn’t, because XHTML doesn’t like you using JavaScript for rollovers; so then I had to learn how to create a rollover using CSS.

Learning in the digital environment is different from learning an oldfashioned skill or craft like writing. You’ve learnt the basics of writing by the time you’re about sixteen. It probably takes you that long to get some of the finer points of grammar. Then, if you’re a writer, you spend the rest of your life refining your skills: but the stuff you learnt earlier never becomes obsolete. With computers, it’s a different story. You can spend time learning something, or building something, then turn round to find that it simply doesn’t work any more.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
First of all I want to keep enjoying the process of making it, because it’s been tremendously exciting and interesting for me so far. As long as that condition can be satisfied, I want to produce work which other people will enjoy – and not just people who know something about new media art or electronic literature, but ordinary people with a modicum of intellligence who just like nice things. And as long as both those conditions can be satisfied, I’d like to make shitloads of money.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Don’t give up the day job.

KATE PULLINGER

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: 2001
Reason:  The trAce Online Writing School asked me to teach online for them; that was the beginning of my involvement with trAce, and my interest in new media writing grew from there.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
In 2002 I began a year-long research fellowship with trAce, funded by the AHRB, ‘Mapping the Transition from Page to Screen’.  This year was crucial to my development as a new media writer as I was given the tools and resources to learn what I needed and meet people I needed to meet.  In 2004 at Textlab I met Chris Joseph, a fellow Textlab participant, and this went on to become a key relationship for me in new media.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
I learned a lot during that fellowship, including basic html, etc., but for me it is more about ideas and stories, and these are skills I’ve been developing since I was a child, when I first became interested in writing stories.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Having spent time learning how to write for film has been very useful in terms of understanding how to write for a screen, or for a medium that uses image and sound as well as text.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I’m still just a ‘writer’ but these days I also say I write ‘digital fiction’, and I use this term to cover a range of projects, from web to Flash to mobile phone fiction.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
As always, combination of writing fiction, teaching, and other types of writing.  In ‘writing fiction’ I would include fiction on any platform, book or digital.  Overall I think it is 60/40 writing/teaching – but I couldn’t separate out the new media from the traditional media on either sides of the equation.  However,  my teaching is now almost totally related to new media – almost, not quite, probably 80%.

What’s your working situation?
I’m a freelance writer, but I also have a half-time teaching job – 50/50.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
It has definitely helped me get other work relating to new media, for instance, the work I’ve done in the games industry has largely come about because of ‘Inanimate Alice’.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
At the moment, a combination of Arts Council funding, private backers, and games industry.   I am currently involved in trying to get a commission off the ground from a traditional book publisher for a fiction for mobile phones.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
I’m very excited about the mobile phone fiction project but can’t really say anything more about it at the moment.  ‘Inanimate Alice’ has been a fantastic project to be involved with, largely because people respond to it so warmly and enthusiastically.  It’s great to be involved in something that wins prizes and opens doors in the remarkable way that ‘Inanimate Alice’ has done to date.  But it’s also a complicated project for a range of reasons, and its future is uncertain.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
As always, finding enough time for everything is the largest problem of all.  None of it is dull, however.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
To be able to continue working is the most important thing – publishing books and working in new media and being open to whatever the future brings.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Get yourself out there, online and in person.  It is almost as important to meet people and be involved in new media networks as it is to stay at home and do the work.  However, staying at home and doing the work and making it as good as possible is by far and away the most important thing, whether you work on your own or collaborate.

LAWRENCE UPTON

5

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?

Yes….
Date: 1972.
Reason: I went to a presentation by artists from Föreningen Fylkingen at The Poetry Society in London, as part of Ices 72. They’d driven over from Stockholm, I think via the Netherlands rather than getting the boat at Gothenburg. And they brought their 1 inch telefunken tape deck. Quadraphonic.

I was interested in expanding what I was doing and here was an expansion I had not imagined – that day I heard a wide range (it was a long presentation) of text-sound composition, words / voices stretched, treated, bounced around the room, shattered around the room!, moving half way across the room and hanging there

I was up for that. I heard poetry that night that has stayed with me all my life – in particular the work of Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars-Gunnar Bodin about whom I was speaking to students only a few weeks ago

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
(When the Swedes were over, I spent some long time speaking to some of them and that led to visits to the Fylking)
1975 The Last Man’s Song (quadraphonic, 6.5 mins, Upton) made at Fylkingen; presented there 1976
1976 formation of jgjgjgjg – now there was nothing particularly new media as such…. but it was cross-disciplinary, experimental and so on. We tended to use live voice and improvisation. To take “multivoice poetry” and hit it with “sound poetry” as we’d met it. Cobbing had introduced me to Chopin, for instance, and many others & that with all the Swedish ideas was rattling around my head! I’d worked with Cobbing in the studio. I think all of us, in jgjgjg, for our separate reasons, quite wanted NOT to make sound works on tape but to do something unlike what those we had learned from were doing. Within a year of THE LAST MAN’S SONG being presented at Fylkingen (lights down, everyone suppressing their coughs, intricate sound work, and then lights up, audience claps) I was involved in quite different performances there – slide projections and live improv, one including the audience who seemed quite terrified to be asked to join in – and also mixing sound and live voice

I followed that second one up at Tekst in Geluid in Amsterdam (1977?) – stereo tape prepared at Fylking actually and a live improv with and against it

And that was what we wanted – in general terms – from jgjgjgjg. My 6 and half minutes of quad sound had taken 40 studio hours; and, I felt and feel, was draining to listen to – work which was all about the human voice and its potential, all about space, and yet lacked human physical presence. I was pleased I’d done it but I had striven to show I could work successfully in a formal system I inherited; and “now” I wanted to do other thing

jgjgjgjg only survived two years, but we worked at it. Every event was different. In berlin they called us dada poets. When we argued they said _yes you are_. Elsewhere we were called anarchists. Elsewhere still surrealists. We were none of those. They didn’t see the craft often. We became very aware of the space we filled, where we were in it, what it might look like – one piece, at Acme Gallery in Covent Garden, was called _Two floors of a sound landscape_

1978 – 1981? I worked at West Square Studio and joined EMAS (Electro Acosustic Music Association of Great Britain) [which became SAN (Sonic Arts Network) which now seems to be becoming something else!] 2 of us from jgjgjg began spending a lot of time there. The 3rd full time member went his own way from our p.o.v. We worked solo and in collaboration. We explored doing complex (still analog) work with voice and instruments and also Putney synths; with Erik Vonna-Michell I/we made numerous solo and collaborative works intended to go on to stereo cassette, not concert presented, in which the work and the recording were the same thing, rather than a recording of a performance

Now you won’t want the whole life story, and for a while I could tell it as a blank – a period in which I established myself as a teacher (I’d been doing poets-in-schools already) and made sure that I was pulling my weight in a suddenly acquired family – a mrs, two youngish children and a cat

but there were still significant dates / events

1982/83 RML computers came into the school where I taught English and Media Studies. They went straight to the mathematicians, of course; but I rather got on with the mathematicians and began contributing to the computer club as I learned. The headmaster, a mathematician, taught me dBase

1984 I bought myself an alan sugar word processor – a computer at home. at some point I got dbase on there. and a pascal compiler – I was going on courses, encouraged by the HM.

1986 I got another teaching dip “Personal Computer as a medium for teaching” from U. of Greenwich

2 years later I was full-time seconded to KCL to study computer science. I’d been to KCL at the start of the decade, studying lit. and lang., and – sort of – knew my way around. I spent most of my time, it seems, in the computer centre, taking whatever courses were on offer. e.g. I went through a few levels of Fortran; and then my maths ran out

[From KCL, I went to F.E. teaching, becoming “Head of Academic Computing” 1992-1996. (We specialised in databases and networking)]

1988 I wrote a poetry generator as a kind of master work. I spoke about this in “Willing suspension of disbelief” at SUNY 2001, the text of which is at poeticis.ca — http://www.poetics.ca/poetics08/Upton.html

I pursued programmed pieces for many years, sometimes adding pieces. It was a year or two after the first e-poetry, so I guess I am speaking of 02/03, when I binned them.

Anyway, more dates… 1994-2002 I worked with Cobbing on Domestic Ambient Noise – again this is not new media writing. It does push the book as far as it can go in some directions. It led on to things too. The work was multi-voice, collaborative, improvisatory. We worked with musicians and dance…New media is one of the areas I work. Why oppose it to old media?

1997 ish + I was working on developing a number of ideas for live new media writing with the late Alaric Sumner… and they were all dropped when Alaric just died in March 2000 without any warning – we were weeks away from looking for venues

2001 at Chisenhale I worked with others making film + real time projection + sound-singing + dance in workshops over 6 months

after all that I withdrew somewhat and spent a lot of my time in west cornwall. but I kept working (and commuting to Greater London) and some of that work was shown at Trace Incubations

Nowadays I am working a lot with the musician John Drever. We use prepared and live visual and sound outputs. Take everything on stage and just do it. It’s going fairly well. I am happy with it and others seem happy – we went to San Expo in Plymouth and e-poetry in Paris. In particular it seems to appeal to young music fans! We started in 2004. Still going

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
!!!!!!!! Particular to new media? Programming, I guess. I don’t mean to be facetious. It was more that I was learning things and applying them to art. I was always into new forms. I was always into using machines – making tape pieces before seeing the Fylking artists… I remember the chief tech at my college who had started out as a tv tech – “when I saw a computer”, he said, “I decided it was another black box I could plug things into and watch what happened”. Exactly. And not so much “new” as “more”

I think maybe as I think as I type that it must be planning and notation that has developed in the last few years

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Patience, if I have it; persistence

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing
I am reminded of Cobbing being asked, when he was a very old and ill man, but still performing, whether he was a musician, an artist or a poet: “it depends who’s paying me.”

Left to myself I try to tell the truth which tends to bore people
How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?
Ha!
I earn it with great difficulty, a bit here and a bit there, but it is becoming very difficult and worrying as whole price sets inflate by 10 and 15 per cent and the govt insists that inflation is around 2 per cent; while at the same time more and more money is sucked down into the Olympics. There is an asymmetrical relationship between what I do and what I earn – maybe 40 or 50 per cent of what I do is new media

What’s your working situation?
freelance with combinations

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
not sure I understand the question – I find that if one stays open all sorts of things develop

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
not sure I understand the question – really, I am not being awkward, but: I get the idea, I work on it (nowadays long chats and many coffees with John Drever) and then we do it. We talk and we talk. I make loads of plans and sketches and texts. Then into the studio where we aim to be efficient and even businesslike

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Is the _willing suspension_ story an answer. I have other stories, I am sure; but no point in my giving you more than you need

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
trying to get together the means to stay alive while I make new work

What ambitions do you have for your work?
easy – to do it better

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
If possible, don’t allow the desire to earn a living to corrupt what you are doing. For me, creative writing and new media are just other ways of naming poetry in the broadest sense; and it is my belief that one cannot be a worthwhile poet whilst bullshitting

TIM WRIGHT

Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?
Date: 1994
Reason: I had been working as journalist writing about computers and
technology since1989 and had started to see how personal computers
equipped with CD ROM drives could deliver really interesting
multimedia experiences not just in the workplace but also in the home.
As a magazine editor I also was excited by the potential for doing
away with paper and ink and developing episodic digital publications
without incurring massive print & distribution costs.

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
Yes. Quitting my job as a print journalist to join NoHo Digital full
time as editorial director in 1995 and meeting Rob Bevan. Going to a
Performing Arts Lab multimedia lab in 1998 and meeting Jon Sanborn of
Lafong, Sara Diamond of the Banff New Media Arts Centre and Andre Ktori
of Audiorom. Being appointed digital writer in residence for the Writers
for the Future programme and meeting Sue Thomas of trAce.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
When it comes to computers I am completely self taught. I was lucky to
have a job as a computer journalist in the late 80s & early 90s so I got
the chance to noodle around with a lot of hardware and software for
free. Understanding how a personal computer works in terms of disks and
memory and graphics etc, how an OS works, how a network works really did
change my understanding of what might be possible as a writer.

At NoHo Digital, it fell to me as the writer often to create the initial
scripts on projects around which a multi-skilled team could unite (a bit
like making a film …). It meant I had to try to write something that
was usable by  – perhaps even attractive to – graphic designers, sound
designers and programmers of various types. This meant therefore
acquiring project management skills and also developing a sense of what
to write that might actually be possible  given constraints on resources
and timescales. I suppose I still had the luxury that I could write up
ideas that I didn’t have to actually build myself – although sometimes I
was asked to insert my text in html or xml files so I had to get my head
round that a bit. but I always try to write something that I’m pretty
sure isn’t sci-fi and can be created without nasty glitches like hefty
file buffering, version sensitivity and specific hardware/browser
requirements that generally piss people off about computers.

For a project like Oldton (oldton.com) I did have to be much more
hands-on than I was used to – so that meant extending my html scripting
skills and also getting more advanced in the use of tools such as
Photoshop (for image creation and editing), Premiere (for editing video)
and Audacity (for editing audio). Although I railed a bit against this
at the time I realise now that I’m really glad to be a little bit more
self reliant. Nowadays I quite often don’t start thinking about a new
piece of writing by firing up a word processor but rather start with an
image, a web page, a sound file and work out from there.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
Performance and presentation skills can be really useful in the
development of work and bringing audiences to it. I try to never miss an
opportunity to re-present my work in different contexts and locations so
that I’m always rehearsing and reversioning what I’m saying and the
order in which things get said or shown. This is a really good way of
testing your work, stretching it and making it ‘new’. It’s always too a
great way to talk yourself into actually delivering the next step,
daring yourself to take on the next technical challenge.

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?

digital writer and new media producer

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is
related to to your work in new media?

Currently I do a lot of what you might call corporate or professional
media work, writing and consulting for the BBC and Channel 4 on
‘multplatform’ projects. I also do  fair amount of teaching/training/lecturing. so in terms of delivering my own original ‘new media’ work I’ve not been very successful lately. However, the BBC/C4 projects do have new media elements to them that require me to continue to flex my muscles as ’twere. and I do have a two or three
personal projects on the go at any one time. In terms of revenue,
roughly 60 per cent of it comes from broadcaster consulting and development, a further 20 percent comes from teaching/speaking and 20 percent comes from development/arts funding for personal projects.
Obviously every other year or so, this ratio changes when I find supporters funders for one of my own works. the key is not to let the consultancy/development work to completely take over…

What’s your working situation?

I am still a director of XPT Ltd and work a day or two a week for the
company usually with Rob Bevan and sometime two or three collaborators
scattered around the globe. We all tend to work at home and use Skype,
Basecamp, email, Pownce etc to keep in touch. I then work a day or two
for the BBC at the moment as a freelancer working at White City
usually with a quite large programme team. The teaching  is usually in
groups of 3-6 students or a lecture room of up to 25.

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
Well, I’ve started writing radio plays so I suppose slowly I’m being
considered as a writer rather than a geek who can help you make your
printer work. To be honest I have no ambitions in other fields. In
fact I sense that I was drawn into new media because I really didn’t
want to go into conventional publishing or broadcasting as a career.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of
new media writing?

I still do ‘pitch’ for work quite a lot and fill in application forms
for funding. I do also get work and support from people who’ve seen
stuff I’ve done online or seen me speak at a conference. Quite often, I
try to ‘join the dots’ of say three or four organisations/funders who
might all benefit from coming together round a project. so hoofing
around offices and travelling on trains to meet people is a big part of it.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Right now I still have a lot of unfinished business on a project call
golfonthemoon. It’s meant to be my attempt to get to grips with a
telling stories and play across a range of web 2.0 services and social
networks. It’s stalled at the moment and very fragmentary but every
time I have another go at it, I find myself ending up in very
interesting places and working/playing with really great people. More
and more I’m seeing new media writing as a way of catapulting myself
out into the world to play with strangers who become friends and
encourage other people to liberate themselves a little by dreaming,
goofing off in public and making stuff – so new media as the engine of
travel, action and social interaction, creativity & play away from the
screen in public shared spaces.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Dealing with email – most of it spam or stuff that would be handled so
much quicker by picking up the phone or via a web service.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
I’d like to do more theatre, installation and gallery work in the
coming years that could complement online and screen based elements.
I’d like to have a more direct relationship with my audience – we give
them a show or a book or a web experience and they pay us a little
fee. Maybe I can open my own shop. No middle managers, no
distributors, no commissioners… a man can dream.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from
creative writing and new media?

Make stuff. Doesn’t matter how messy it is in the making, just do it.
If it’s rubbish, delete it and start again. Don’t make excuses or
simply talk about it. Make stuff. Demo or die!

CHRISTINE WILKS

2
Can you put a date on the start of your interest in new media writing?

Date:
Spring 2004 is when I first started writing and creating in new media, but I’d been reading new media for some time before, largely thanks to the trAce Online Writing Centre which was my springboard into creative cyberspace. As a general surfer/reader, I’d been using the internet since the late 1990s.
http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk
Reason:
Spring 2004 I took part in Digital Writing: An Introduction, a trACe Online Writing School course taught by Tim Wright.
http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/writersforthefuture/participate/writingcourse.htm

Are there any key events and dates in the development of your interest and skills?
Spring 2004 – the Digital Writing course mentioned above – afterwards I was so fired up about new media I went to:
July 2004 – INCUBATION3: The 3rd trAce International Symposium on Writing and the Internet at Nottingham Trent University, which I found thoroughly inspiring – I was hooked!
http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/incubation/index.cfm
March 2005 – my article, Alice and the Digital Dump, was published at trAce – the first time I received payment for work online.
http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/Process/index.cfm?article=130
2005 – completed the LeTTOL (Learning to Teach On-Line) course at The Sheffield College. This led to a new source of income for me, designing e-learning content.
Autumn 2005 – took part in the  Multiversity tour along with other writers, mainly poets, from the Yorkshire Art Circus Writer Development Programme. We performed at literary festivals and other venues/events in Yorkshire. I presented a selection of my new media works. This was the first time I incorporated spoken word live performance with new media.

2006 – came across and learned about Moodle, the open-source virtual learning environment, which led to me, in collaboration with my partner, developing e-learning sites and courses, e.g. for Volunteering England (more below). The teaching content is often provided by subject specialists which I translate into e-learning modules – so it involves a lot of rewriting and turning print materials or face-to-face group exercises into online interactive activities, e.g. designing quizzes.

Autumn 2006 – began the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media as a part-timer at De Montfort University.
http://www.hum.dmu.ac.uk/blogs/cwnm/

January 2007 – began to take part in the remix,  a creative blog where digital media artists and writers remix each other’s media in the spirit of open collaboration – and in the process, we learn a great deal from each other.
http://www.runran.net/remix_runran

November 2007 – took part in the live presentation of The Devil’s Rope Journal, which developed out of the remix blog, at Interactive Futures 2007 in Canada with remix collaborators, Randy Adams and Chris Joseph. This was my first time presenting work at a new media conference.

What specific skills have you developed in new media, when and how?
My technical skills are self-taught – HTML & CSS, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, digital sound (recording, mixing & editing), digital music (using Garageband), digital video, digital photography, using social software, e-learning development using open-source Moodle & other course/content management systems (Moodle is better!).

I’ve learned my web specific skills since 2004. I developed my skills in digital video, sound, music, photography, graphics and DTP gradually over the years since the early/mid 1990s when I started using computers for more than word processing.

What other skills or talents have been useful in your new media writing?
My background in film & video making and analogue animation. I used to run an independent film/video workshop where the ethos of skill-sharing and collaboration was central – and in indie, low/no budget movie-making you have to develop a wide range of skills (tech, creative and organisational/management skills). Also scriptwriting for film & TV and other non-digital creative writing… also DTP in arts & voluntary/community sectors – e.g. newsletters, annual reports, info sheets, training materials, other publicity & PR materials…

How do you describe yourself in relation to your new media writing?
I find this difficult – I don’t know what to call myself. At the moment I’m describing myself as a new media writer/artist but sometimes it’s new media artist/writer… I’ve even tried new media arter/writist.

How do you earn your living now? And what proportion of your income is related to to your work in new media?

I work freelance developing e-learning content, designing/co-designing online courses and teaching creative media workshops. It fluctuates from year to year, but I would say that over the past 2 years all of my income has been related to my work in new media in one way or another. Mind you, I don’t have fantastic levels of income, partly because my income-generating work is on a part time basis.

What’s your working situation?
I’m freelance, but most of my work over the past couple of years has been in e-learning and in this area I usually work with my partner, who runs his own small company, Make It Happen. I sometimes work in other small teams too.
http://www.makeithappen.uk.com/

Has your interest in new media writing helped you in other work?
I’ve been running creative media workshops in community settings or for arts organisations for many years – e.g. in film/video making, scriptwriting, creative writing, animation, DTP newsletters – but recently because of my web presence, I’ve been approached to run workshops specifically in new media and online social networking.

If relevant, how do you generate new work for yourself in the field of new media writing?
Networking is crucial, both online and f2f, and getting involved in things. My partner and I are also proactive when it comes to influencing/persuading/encouraging existing clients to develop in new media ways – e.g. Volunteering England’s e-learning site (see below). I also come up with ideas for projects and I would fund-raise for them if necessary, as I have done in the past, but lately all my time has been taken up with my work in e-learning and my online MA in CWNM.

Please tell me a bit about one of your favourite projects
Volunteering England’s e-learning site: VE-learn, which we, Make It Happen (i.e. my partner and I) developed from scratch using Moodle, an open-source course management system (aka virtual learning environment). Initially Volunteering England had engaged a much bigger, Microsoft certified, web development company to develop a bespoke e-learning system for them and we were commissioned to write the content. However it quickly became clear that the ‘bespoke’ e-learning solution was far from adequate and we convinced Volunteering England to go the open-source route with Moodle. This meant that we took on the whole caboodle, developing both the e-learning site and its content.
http://elearn.volunteering.org.uk/

That’s my favourite income-generating project – but my real favourites are my own interactive fiction and non-fiction projects and creative new media collaborations – and I’m as eager as anyone to learn if and how we can make money out of that kind of thing.

What is the dullest or most problematic aspect of your work?
Spending too much time at my computer. The work I do is very demanding and time consuming – and I’ve got so much still to learn! I don’t get out enough! I’m striving for a better life-work balance but I’m so far from achieving it, it feels like a pipe dream.

What ambitions do you have for your work?
I want to create the equivalent of a novel or feature film online – an interactive, rich media, fiction experience. To achieve this and make it successful (i.e. gain a readership, doesn’t have to be huge, niche is fine) I suspect it will need to be a cross media project to allow as many different entry points into the world of the story as possible.

What advice would you give anyone hoping to earn a living from creative writing and new media?
Be prepared to create your own opportunities. You may find your source/s of income are around the edges of your main area of creative interest. It’s an experimental field, so be flexible and inventive, and be prepared to learn, learn, learn – never stop learning!
www.crissxross.net

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