Writers On Writing / Be the spider: working the web with Sam Cooney

We caught up with publisher, editor, and writer Sam Cooney ahead of his seminar next week at Writing NSW, Making It Online.

Sam Cooney Making it online

Does every writer need to be online in 2019?

Absolutely truly dooly not! Although as an editor I can sometimes be annoyed when I can’t find a writer online (i.e. when I want to commission them!), my annoyance is definitely overridden by another feeling: one of deep respect.

That being said, if you want to be online for all its writerly benefits and/or it’s very important for the kind of writing you do, then you’ll find all kinds of opportunities online for publishing and community-building.

Can you think of some Australian writers who have really made an online presence work for them?

I think that the writers who make an online presence work best for them are all the writers producing terrific work. If someone is doing so while being Very Online: great! If someone is doing so without stepping even a foot online: equally as great. The trick is to try your best to be the spider, and not the fly: make the web work for you; don’t get caught up in it and become a dry husk.

I really love how Stephen Pham discusses ‘out loud’ on Twitter many of the things he’s writing about in his non-fiction. It helps that he’s sharp, funny, and just really knows how to tweet.

Sophie Cunningham’s ‘tree of the day’ Instagram account is a daily balm, but also a spiky reminder of the natural world all around us—and it’s wonderful to see her book about trees will be out soon.

Celeste Liddle’s use of Facebook is legendary, particularly her Black Feminist Ranter page.

It’s terrific to see Eloise Grills building an audience, especially with her use of Instagram—and she is doing so by being honest and by taking her audience/readers along with her on the journey she’s on as a writer trying new things.

Gina Rushton has been one of the most important journalists in Australia in the past few years, and she’s so dynamic and responsive on Twitter—I don’t quite know how she manages it all.

Ellena Savage’s transition to a wonderful TinyLetter that has both free and paywalled levels is inspiring—not only because she is placing financial value on these ephemeral missives, but because each and every one of them is remarkably excellent.

What’s one thing that a currently techno-phobic writer can do online to help boost their writing career?

If nothing else, having a very simple and very high-quality website is smart. If you like, it only needs to be one page! Just a bit about you, and then a way for people (e.g. editor, as well as other writers) to reach you. At a stretch it can also include some examples of your best work.

Apart from that, I’d channel my inner Marie Kondo and say that you choose the one platform/space online that ‘sparks joy’. It could be a social media platform, it could be a blogging platform, or it could be somewhere else. The key is that if you are enjoying this space—if you are enjoying being there and/or writing there and/or connecting with others there—then you are going to be far better off spending all your ‘online time’ there than you are spreading yourself around into multiple spaces, especially if you are doing so as a chore.

Sam Cooney runs the literary organisation TLB, which houses the independent book press Brow Books and quarterly literary magazine, The Lifted Brow. He is publisher-in-residence at RMIT, has taught sessionally at several universities, and is a freelance writer and literary critic. Sam’s writing has been published in MeanjinIslandGoing Down SwingingSeizureThe RumpusSleepers Almanac, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Saturday Paper, and as a founding member of the McSweeney’s Silent History geofiction project.

Making It Online will take place at Writing NSW on Wednesday 13 March, 6:30-9pm (next week!)Book your spot here >


Making It Online with Sam Cooney

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