Twitter: where Muppets meet Michel Houellebecq: The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

In so many words is a panel discussion on social media and books at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. It’s on Thursday 30 August 4.30pm at the Literary PleasureDome aka the Geo Dome in Hagley Park.

On the panel are bloggers (and tweeters) Lara Strongman, Moata Tamaira, Will Harvie and me (Donna). It’ll be chaired by Graham “Bookman” Beattie and promises to be informative, banterrific and hey it’s FREE! Come along and listen, and ask questions and share your opinions.

Here I interview myself, which isn’t as odd as it sounds.
What are you looking forward to at the Festival?

At the last Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival I was pregnant with a wee sproglet who is now 3 and a half. Which shows it been aaages since we had our own literary shindig. Too long.

I’m looking forward to a mixture of fiction and non-fiction subjects. It’s good to combine that hardcore informational session with ones that are more about creativity and storytelling.

This will be my first Pechakucha, and I’m especially excited since it covers two of my favourite subjects – Rachael King’s is talking about creepy 70s and 80s kids’ tv and Mark Spurgeon (@typemark) discusses typography. I also look forward to getting another typography fix at the Christchurch Art Gallery’s Pressed Letters exhibition.

I want to go to Antarctica. The history of polar exploration is fascinating, and with IceFest coming soon to Christchurch it’s good timing. Emily Perkins’ novel The Forrests blooming well deserved any hype, so am keen to hear more from her.

On the Spot where Tim Wilson and Martin van Beynen will explore writing about big events like Hurricane Katrina and our quakes. How do you write about things that seem beyond words? A perfect subject for a celebration of writing.

What is the allure of Twitter for you?

Brevity. Wit. The delightful and unexpected. You might encounter a HouellebecqBot or get involved into a discussion on whether Big Bird is an Order or Chaos Muppet (Thanks to @adzebill for that one). Twitter is a space to share, highlight, ask, and explore.

It’s a community space . Christchurch people and others shared earthquake related information and concerns. The #eqnz hashtag came to represent this . When Margaret Mahy died, many remembrances and tributes were shared via Twitter.

Serious information sharing is tempered by outbreaks of fun and creativity when a hashtag like #songsfromthesouthisland goes nuts. Or more recently #replacebooktitleswithnewzealandtowns. Sometimes the tweeting of an event or tv show is far more entertaining than the actual thing. Twitter makes us all commenters and a Greek chorus.

#twecon showed a new way of communication for academics, “a way to introduce people to ideas worth following up on” as @HORansome described it. Otago University has just completed Tweet your thesis.

It can also be a place to hone your writing – have a go at the NZ Book Council’s #fridayshorts. Writing a tweet is in itself an exercise communicating effectively – whether you are enticing people to click on a link, making a trenchant observation, expressing an idea  – and you’ve only got 140 characters to do it in.

Who do you recommend following on Twitter (especially on the literary side)?

Book-loving essentials are the New Zealand Book Council @nzbookcouncil and the Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University @modernletters.

David Gutowski @largeheartedboy is awesome. He creates great stuff like Book Notes in which authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. He also knows a lot about what’s happening in culture and books.

I follow a bunch of writers, partly it lets you under the hood of the creative process, but also because they are all-round interesting. People like @sarahelaing, @rachaelking70 and @emilyjperkins.

Gravitate to libraries and librarians and information/data types – you’ll be exposed to amazing New Zealand resources – The National Library of New Zealand @nlnz, @digitalnz and Palmerston North City Library @pncitylibrary et al. Chris McDowall @fogonwater comes up with fascinating stuff like Uncertain Rainbow.

I like people and organisations with hearts of art and poetry – Phantom Billstickers do some awesome stuff @0800Phantom. Courtney Johnston @auchmill tweets about art, poetry, history and does so with contagious passion. Christchurch Art Gallery @chchartgallery is all around fab.

There are lots of ridonkulously smart and interesting tweeps.  Mike Dickison @adzebill and Philip Matthews @secondzeit are well worth a follow. Also Jolisa Gracewood @nzdodo, Russell Brown @publicaddress, Toby Manhire @toby_etc and @guysomerset have fingers on the pulse.

Tweeps in the publishing industry are often a step ahead in anticipating trends. People like Fergus Barrowman @FergusVUP and publishers like Aussies @text_publishing.

If you are into full on book worship. Swoon over the offerings of @BibliOdyssey and @50wattsdotcom.

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