On 9 January this year (2023), it was 100 years since Katherine Mansfield died aged 34 from tuberculosis. A hundred years since she spent her childhood in Wellington observing colonial life, crossed Cook Strait to Picton to visit her grandparents and relatives in the Marlborough Sounds. Since a young woman bored with life in Wellington persuaded her parents to let her return to England where she made a life for herself as a writer and is still read and admired today.
Radio New Zealand interview
100th anniversary of Katherine Mansfield's death | RNZ
Katherine Mansfield House and Garden (a digital site set up for a year of commemorative events)
Katherine Mansfield House and Garden - Facebook
(20+) Katherine Mansfield House & Garden | Wellington | Facebook
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Relatively recent in geological terms social media platforms have become central to many people’s lives. Facebook launched in 2004 and went public in 2012 and has become the dominant social media with around 2.8 billion users. Twitter started in 2006 with a simple message by its co-founder, ‘just setting up my twitr’. Pinterest, an image-sharing site, launched in 2010 and Instagram, a photo, video-sharing, messaging and advertising application was also founded in 2010. Because of its popularity with millions of users it was acquired by Facebook in 2012. U-Tube launched in 2005. So, all created in this century which I find incredible considering how we have come to rely on them and accept their presence as part of our lives - as if they have always existed.
Social media allows us to communicate with family, friends and loved ones across the country, across the world. It informs us of events, both national and world-wide. For many during Lockdown and with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on freedom of movement it has been a lifeline helping ease the pain of social isolation. People turned to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to connect with others.
However social media can be a cause of concern and anxiety – teenage bullying by peers, trolls making abusive online comments on posts. Social influencers on Instagram can lead to young women feeing ashamed of their bodies. People may get depressed and panic-stricken scrolling through news feeds about Covid-19. For this reason, ‘Doomscrolling’ was voted ‘Word of the Year’ in 2020.
In allowing false information, ‘fake news’, to spread rapidly along with conspiracy theories, social media can be dangerous. Trump’s twitter posts shared by groups like Q-Anon led to the storming of the Capitol in January by a mob of Trump supporters. Media company, Twitter, took action citing its ‘rules’, and suspended Trump’s account for fear that further tweets could incite more violence.
But this too brings into question in a democratic country is it right that media companies, ‘Big Tech’ have this kind of authority and get to decide who can communicate? Shouldn’t this be a matter for the State?
Social Media can be helpful in allowing us to connect with others. It is a useful information tool. In my view it is not social media that is the problem, it is the way people have allowed it to infiltrate and dominate their lives. We have inadvertently allowed tech giants to take control.
Following reassessment of our priorities brought on by the pandemic it would be good if we could stop blaming social media and look at our own actions. We have only one life. Maybe we could limit the influence of technology. Maybe it is time to stop scrolling and ‘sharing’ and start living. In the words of Sir Edmund Hillary: ‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’.
© Julie Kennedy, February 2021
That feeling, a stillness, blankness, paralysis, anxiety, shock, horror, anguish, followed by disbelief and then anger. How could someone do this to us in our safe country? Memories of other events come flooding back, earthquakes, fires, 9/11, pers
A writer must stand on the rock of herself and her judgement or be swept away by the tide or sink in the quaking earth
~ Janet Frame
The Forum was very successful with three keynote speakers and several indie writers talking about their books. Publishers Copy Press and Prisma Print were present to give marketing advice to people who might have a manuscript they wanted to discuss. Both companies had displays of locally-produced books. Prisma Print has sponsored the Forum since the inaugural event in 2014.
The first keynote speaker, Leon Jay, provided those present with book marketing techniques. In his presentation he emphasised the importance of writers establishing a profile or brand to build a following. He suggested a social presence on Facebook or Linked-in was effective. Bookshops may not be the best place to sell your book and creating an online presence could be more effective. He recommended joining other online groups as well like Forums relevant to your content area. His message to writers was to identify where your readers might be. He
listed some priorities: Passion was one. Like an Olympic athlete he said writers may need to suffer to achieve their goal of completing a book. He emphasised the quality of the finished book, poor quality production and books not well edited were points to consider. A lot of useful clips can be found on U-tube to assist writers e.g. ‘How to set up a Facebook page’.
Iona Elwood-Smith, the second keynote speaker, runs a business in Wellington creating websites. Here are some tips from her presentation ‘Websites for Writers’. A website makes you look more professional and you can be contacted. A website is always open for viewing. Readers want to know more about you and a personal website provides that. You can sell your books and post reviews and book stockists, libraries and schools can check you out. You can have Links to other useful websites e.g. New Zealand Society of Authors www.authors.org.nz
It is possible to build your own website but this takes time away from your writing and may look amateurish. The ‘About’ page is the most looked at so have good photographs, tell your story and be interesting. Keep the website up-to- date. To Blog or not? You can have a Blog as part of your site. Websites with Blogs get more traffic and it keeps the content fresh. On your Facebook page you can link to the Blog so people can read the whole thing and can comment. Some writers think: ‘I don’t need a website. I’ve got a Facebook page’. Iona suggests a website is very important also. Last of all Iona said: ‘a website is for your readers – it’s not for you’. As a result of the Forum Iona is offering a special ‘Forum deal’ for Marlborough writers who want their own website created. www.buildawebsiteforme.co.nz
Wendy Scott, the third keynote speaker outlined the potential for e-book publications. She has achieved sales success on Amazon. Her novel, Hieroglyph, recently won a Gold medal in a young adult category in the United Kingdom. Wendy also emphasises the importance of ‘good honest reviews’. Amazon has a star rating for reviewed books. She suggested a writer can also give away a book on the website as part of a promotion and as Leon also mentioned can include a gift in the package deal. Wendy now has a fan in Picton. A college student who was looking at books for sale picked up Wendy’s book Hieroglyph and clutched it to his chest when he saw it on display. In these digital times it is encouraging to see such enthusiasm for a printed book from the younger generation.
On Sunday morning an interactive panel discussed the question, ‘Where to from here?’ For writers in Marlborough this could be exciting. Three groups, Writers of Picton, Marlborough Writers and Picton Poets decided to collaborate to have a website designed to promote writers in Marlborough. The new site is intended to introduce more writers into the groups and to promote local authors' books. The site will also feature individual links to writers and their books. A meeting is to be held with all those interested in August to discuss this further. Both Copy Press and Prisma Print have offered to sponsor the initial funding and the ongoing maintenance of the proposed website to be designed by Iona Elwood Smith.
Julie Kennedy, Author
Born in Christchurch, Julie Kennedy is currently a Picton-based writer. The Marlborough Sounds and local landscape inspire her writing, both non-fiction and poetry.