The Home Loans section is the first cab off the rank to test out new web templates for Westpac – and it's looking almost as good as it sounds. Yep, that's because the section has had a makeover. I helped by reviewing, restructuring and overhauling the 80+ pages, including creating a new Property Investment section from scratch. I reckon people are going to love navigating through the site.
In 2012 I...
Nice bit of press on Westpac's new HomeClub – an online house hunting tool that I've been working on with Westpac!
I've been working on this for the last few months, not only writing all the bits and pieces of copy on the site itself, but also transforming the Home Buyers & Sellers Guide (brochure) into a digital format, which you can access from HomeClub. Has been a really fun time, and I can't wait to see how this impacts both the housing search market, and gives the other banks a bit to worry about!
I've been working at Westpac a lot recently, and part of our launch DM piece for Indiego's specialist writing service was lying around on many people's desks.
I always knew that one day when I truly needed a pencil, this would be the only one I could find... and it happened.
This month I've been doing some proofing for Tower Insurance, working on Westpac's upcoming launch of online home loan applications, and frantically helping to get Westpac's HomeClub uploaded and ready for launch.
(UPDATE: HomeClub has launched! See www.homeclub.co.nz, it's an amazing tool for the house hunting process, with the ability to import and fav properties from TradeMe, compare recent sales prices and figure out what you can actually afford. PS The answer to that for most people in Auckland at the moment is 'nothing good', haha, ha, oh. Sad reality.)
We also initiated a piece in this month's NZMarketing Mag looking at the huge process that was revamping Westpac's website (Indiego writers completely refreshed all the copy, making it a lot more user-friendly and web-savvy). Can't find the PDF but check out the August edition, it is a very attractive looking article if I do say so myself. You can download the PDF below.
And here's some more press for us, cos we rock.
If you were to interview yourself, what would you ask? One day I sat down and d just this. I wrote exactly what came to mind, with no editing nor much forethought. The result strikes me as a snapshot of my life and my interests at this moment. It is a petri dish, if you will, full of all that is festering in my mind at this point in time. Ew, gross.
I quite enjoyed the result though. Take a look:
I ask myself questions.
Who is your favourite author?
Author? Or writer?
Is there a difference?
Well, an author I relate to books specifically. A writer, to me, could be any medium. It’s more of an umbrella term (although there are a few authors out there who I would certainly hesitate to call writers).
But anyway. My favourite writer is Heather Hogan. She was plucked out of the comments section of my favourite website, Afterellen.com, and began writing for them. She’s so amazing. She has such a sensitive, magical way of putting things. Even when she recaps TV shows, she sees things that most of us didn’t, but when she talks about them we realise they were there all along and we just weren’t looking hard enough. She does have this strange ability to make what should be just an ordinary piece of writing magical.
Wow. So you’re pretty passionate about that?
Yes. Sometimes I get so passionate about it that I make myself want to cry.
Because I have no one who understands my passion. Well, who feels it like I do. There probably are but they live on the internet as commenters and bloggers and fan fiction writers. And also because of frustration that I can’t express well enough why I’m so passionate about it. I’ll just be stuck with this passion burning me up, or I might write it into journals that no one will ever see and then I’ll die and that’ll be the end of it.
Right, so, next topic. What’s your favourite media?
Hmm, that’s a difficult one… I’m going to have to say the internet, but the internet would be nothing if it didn’t have the other media to comment on. What I mean is, all the sites I love the most spend a lot of time talking about television and media representations and the like.
If I had to choose another one it would be television, for sure.
You could argue that television would be nothing if it didn’t have life to comment on. But anyway, why television?
That’s not true, there would still be vampire shows.
In terms of why television, I guess it seems a lot more natural to me than the format of a film. Or a novel. TV shows, they just kind of pop into someone’s life, show it to us, then pop out again. It’s not like a complete story that has to be crammed into an hour and a half of film, or 500 pages of a novel. I know that’s a huge generalisation about those media and not entirely correct. But I can’t explain myself further.
Well, what’s your favourite television programme then? And why?
I love a lot of them – 30 Rock in particular I find so groundbreaking. The humour is so fast and I love that it was created by a woman. Tina Fey is amazing. But overall, the TV show I respect the most is Skins. The UK version. Don’t even talk to me about the other one. Anyway, Skins to me is so much of what I’m into. They get young people to write it, they have all this interactive media for fans, and extras for characters, like they have video diaries or they might post YouTube videos that were ‘made’ by the character. Things like that. It’s the only mainstream thing out there that I really feel embraces youth culture and the way people consume these days. And then there are the actual characters in the show, and the themes they cover without ever seeming try-hard.
Well, the one that springs to mind – because it’s most relevant to me, is the Emily and Naomi romantic storyline. They build this relationship, and they struggle with labels and what their feelings mean and homophobia and all that… but at the same time it’s never a story about a lesbian relationship. It’s a story about the struggles of love. It just rings so, so true. And then when I thought the Skins writers could never do anything that topped that – it truly was a groundbreaking representation of a girl-girl relationship – they bring in Franky Fitzgerald. A genderqueer character. I guess I should clarify that. In Franky’s case it means she dresses traditionally masculine, but doesn’t identify as male, and as far as we know she’s not lesbian or anything. I think she’ll end up being a straight character who just happens to dress rather like a boy. So that’s pretty interesting. And again – they’re showing something that has never been seen before on television, but it’s completely normalised. Not like Glee, which feels like an after-school special. The disabled kid, the gay kid, the black, fat chick, the ambitious chick… I know that Franky has made as much of an impact for genderqueer people who have never seen themselves reflected before on television as Naomi and Emily did for me.
So there are still stories left to be told?
Absolutely. There are so many stories. It doesn’t seem like it because we see the same characters and the same storylines over and over again. And again, something ‘different’ doesn’t have to be an extreme or something rare, like a gay cowboy in the US wilderness or something. That’s a bad example. Maybe something like a pregnant drug-dealing clown who struggles with Tourettes. Something ridiculous like that. I guess I’m trying to say that there are characters who can be subtle but also groundbreaking.
Do you think that you have a story worth telling?
You mean, do I have one in me that I should put ‘on paper’? Or are you asking whether I think my story is worth telling?
Huff *holds breath then exhales slowly*. Well, I have a gazillion stories in me that burn to get out. But whenever I start writing them they kind of just turn into a version of my own story. I mean, a version of the narrative of my own life. I guess I’m not a very good fiction writer. All my writing is really just a version of a true story.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, yes. They say to write about what you know. But J.K. Rowling didn’t necessarily know about wizardry and magic. Although… they also say that every character is just a version of the author. No, what is it? That every character is not necessarily the author, but that the author is in every character. Something like that. My point is, when you listen to J.K. Rowling talk about the Harry Potter series, all those creatures and situations have come from somewhere. Like the Dementors in Harry Potter, she talks about them being a representation of her own depression. So maybe I’m not stuffed yet. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write fiction.
What kind of a writer do you see yourself as?
You know, I remember the first time I heard the term ‘writer’ applied to me. It made me buzz with this extreme feeling of happiness. A writer! Me! Mind you I very quickly reminded myself that I was only an advertising copywriter and we don’t really deserve to be called writers. I still don’t really feel like I deserve to have that descriptor attached to my name. Even thought I’ve tried my hand at rather a wide range of types of writing and writing mediums!
When do you think you’ll be able to comfortably call yourself a writer, and truly believe you’ve earned the title?
I don’t know… I mean, I feel like you have to be continually writing to call yourself a writer. If you wrote one play, would you call yourself a playwright? Could you only call yourself a playwright if that play got produced? Then there’s the fact that being a ‘writer’ is such a general term. Most people are ‘novelists’, or ‘playwrights’ or ‘journalists’ or ‘copywriters’. What kind of a tosser would just call themselves a ‘writer’? It’s actually quite a romanticised term.
You’re really making this a lot more difficult than it needs to be…
Sorry. I guess I would call myself a writer if I were employed – and paid – to write.
But you are.
Yes but we’ve been over that, that’s only copywriting. It doesn’t feel as honourable. Like anyone could be a copywriter.
But I think you know that’s not true.
Okay, so that’s not true. Copywriting is a particular skill. Not all “writers” – there’s that problematic term again – could be copywriters. Copywriting is often about just being able to strip things down to their most simplest, so that the average joe can understand what you’re trying to get across without straining himself. And sometimes there is a clever play on words. But it can’t be too clever, because you’re talking to a mainstream audience most of the time.
And on the whole, they’re dumb.
Yes, yes they are. Hard writing for easy reading. There’s another thing they say.
You really are full of helpful quotes and sayings.
I know. It’s a fault. Many people think it makes me smart, but in fact it just makes me unoriginal. If I was really clever I’d be able to think up my own way of saying it. It’s a bit like writing fiction that’s just me telling my own life story with embellishments, really. And it’s like fan fiction.
Fan fiction? Tell me about that.
*Sighs* That’s quite a long story.
Go on. If we haven’t already lost everyone with your rambling, they might stick around a bit longer.
Okay. Well, fan fiction is where fans of a particular TV show, or movie, or book, take certain characters from within that TV show/movie/book, and write new stories for them. Like, I love Emily and Naomi from Skins, so I write fan fiction about them.
That’s rather weird. What do you write about?
Well, the technique in fan fiction, I think, is that you can mimic the characters that already exist in this TV show, and you give them life in different settings, contexts etc. Like, Emily and Naomi in a fan fiction story could be in their twenties and aerialists in a circus, instead of 17 year old British schoolgirls like they are in the original Skins TV show. But you’d still recognise them because they keep their speech patterns, or their personalities, or their values… which then informs how they react to things in this fictional story you’ve written them into.
That sounds kind of complicated.
It’s not really. It’s more like the TV show never ended, it kept running and you can follow what happens to these characters as they continue living their lives. Your favourite show never has to end. Your favourite characters live on forever. It’s rather wonderful.
I’ll take your word for it.
Don’t be rude.
You shouldn’t be rude about other people’s passions. No matter how weird they are. Because if you tried them you’d probably get into them.
Do you think so?
You’d be surprised. If something is worth getting passionate about, there’s usually something interesting about it I think.
Can you give me an example?
Okay… okay I’ve got one. My business partner is into throwing knives. And I thought it was a bit weird when he showed me all these different knives he has, even a meat cleaver and a tomahawk. But then one day I had a go at it.
And you liked it?
Yes. I wasn’t, like, crazy passionate about it like he is. He gets drunk sometimes in the weekends and spends hours throwing these things. I’m bored pretty quickly. But I liked it enough to want to share it with other people. So far I have bought two other people meat cleavers to throw.
What was the reaction like?
Well, like when talking about your own passion, you have to choose your audience. The people I picked totally got into it. But I was slightly worried – I gave one to my sister’s boyfriend and I thought he might think I was a weirdo. But I packaged it up with beer and a CD of bogan songs so there was an idea behind it, which was ‘get boozed, act like a bogan and throw knives’. To show I was aware that it’s a bit of a weird gift.
You over-think things a lot, don’t you?
Hmm, I don’t know, do I? I guess I do… let me think about that, I’ll get back to you. *Smiles*
That’s good. I like that. You think you’re pretty funny, don’t you?
Yeah. But I don’t necessarily think that I’m a funny person.
Can you explain that to me?
You know… some people can be funny sometimes. But you wouldn’t necessarily call them a funny person. I mean, I have a lot of funny friends, but only a few of those I would label as a ‘funny person’. Not everyone likes a funny person. Because they tend to also be the people who need a lot of attention.
Ah yes. Would you say that many ‘funny people’ – as in people who are consistently funny rather than just funny occasionally – are also largely the most insecure people?
Yes. Often. Humour is a defence, as we all know. So you could almost say that to be a funny person is a double-edged sword because it might also mean you’re insecure.
Yes. However, not all funny people are really insecure. Look at stand-up comedians, they have to be pretty secure to do what they do.
True… I guess that means they’re just arseholes.
Haha. So if you’re a ‘funny person’, you’re either insecure or an arsehole?
Exactly. I think that’s the conclusion we’ve reached.
I’m glad we’ve reached a conclusion.
Me too, because my head is starting to feel crazy after all this talk. Having a conversation with yourself if quite draining.
I would agree.
Shall we stop then?
Okay. Do we say bye?
I guess so. Bye.
Bye. See you round ;)
There you go thinking you’re funny again.
I know. Shut up now.
I found out a couple of weeks ago that my play, iFamily, didn't get anywhere in the Playmarket competition. Being realistic this isn't so surprising, as there were a lot of plays submitted and many, I imagine, would have been from people who do this for a career. But still, I couldn't help but feel a bit down on it. The other option is to apply for a Creative NZ grant but then I have to include a detailed budget and all kinds of things I don't know about. That means I'd have to teach myself all of that and find a director all without knowing if anything would come from this effort. But that's the reality of creative endeavours, right? I guess I've been spoilt by being in the advertising environment, which is such a unique intersection between creativity and the corporate.
In the meantime, to help get me out of my creative slump and to prepare me for the online soap opera I want to write this year, I'm trying my hand at yet another thing I've never tried before - fiction. It's tough! Very different from copywriting. I've found the perfect outlet though. Fan fiction. Around 3 months ago I discovered Fan Fiction.net, and my life hasn't been the same since. I'm going to bare my soul here, and tell you that I am a dedicated pop culture enthusiast, an avid TV critic, and more specifically have an fanatic relationship with the characters of Naomi and Emily from Skins Generation 2. So when I found a website full of stories about these two, I developed a level of obsession that is usually only achieved by the teenaged and the insane. I love the concept of taking fully-formed characters that we already know so well and placing them in different situations to explore how they would act and react. The sign of a good fanfiction, to me, stays true to language patterns and values of the characters, but pushes them to their outer boundaries. They live on, beyond the limitations of the official TV show, as circus aerialists, close protection officers, famous american actors, hotel owners, teachers, hostages... whatever people can dream up .
Fanfiction also parallels the format of the online "soap opera" I want to write, which will be told entirely through online media. Readers subscribe to the story and receive emails in their inbox from the characters. It's very voyeuristic. Fanfiction is similar in that you subscribe to stories or authors you like, and as new chapters are posted you receive an alert in your email inbox. Each alert is SO exciting. That's what I want to achieve with my online soap opera. I only call it a soap opera because "online novel" isn't really right. I need to invent a new name for this method of communication. I don't believe it's been done before and I want to be the first. However there is a lot of functionality to work out.
But back to fanfiction. Another reason I love it is the sense of community it brings me. I imagine this is much like the pre blogging, pre social media days where fans of a particular thing (Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind) would share thoughts and tips in online forums and chatrooms. You come to "know" the story authors by the comments they write before each chapter, you recognise reviewers, too, and can respond to both. You're brought together with people from around the world by your mutual love for something.
Today my story was reviewed by one of the most prolific writers of Skins fanfiction, her pen name Hyperfitched. 'Hypes', as she is fondly referred to by those in the inner circle, is a young circus aerialist in Britain who writes to the most amazing standard. How she hasn't already been snapped up to pen the next season of Skins I don't know. My point being, she's a fricken' circus aerialist!! Internet, you astound be with your ability to connect people from the most disparate backgrounds! Hypes has chosen to set her fanfic in the circus - because SHE is in the circus! As they say, write what you know! And the characters fit as naturally in this environment as if that is the purpose they were originally created for. My my, I do love writing, and I do love the internet. What miraculous things can be created when the two intersect. Some say the internet only creates a false sense of community, but it feels more real to me than many of my interactions with people in the "real" world.
So, I'm up to Chapter 3 of my fanfic, called "Letting Go". It's full of angst, overblown descriptions and the hyper-emotion of teenage life that I have never really grown past. My poor ego is so tied up in this story, but so far the reviews have been lovely. This is unusual for the internet environment, but fanfiction.net seems to attract nicer people for some reason. I'm totally hooked on the rush.
Yay! I finally finished the FINAL final draft and have submitted my play. I was so worried about somehow not submitting it before the deadline that it's been appearing in my dreams. Along with a donkey, that's random.
Here is the official synopsis of the play:
iFamily is the story of a modern-day family facing modern-day problems.
Sam’s on the warpath because someone sucked up all the broadband - how are he and his best mate Kat supposed to socialize? Older sister Molly’s too busy plotting world domination with her girl gang to give two hoots, and getting through to older brother Bain is nigh on impossible when all he cares about is Lady Gaga. Luckily Gran has everything under control. She may be off her face - but she sure can make a mean cupcake.
iFamily takes the play beyond the theatre and into the online environment.
It features interactive elements within the play and as an extension of the characters that the audience can access before or afterwards. This includes the ability to connect with the characters via social media platforms. Become Molly’s friend on Facebook (if she deems you worthy), follow her 140 character rants on Twitter, or brush up with Bain’s research into women and empowerment in pop music by watching his YouTube montages. And when Sam, Kat and Gran get their "Can’t Cakes" business up and running, you can order your own online. Viral video publicity for the play gives us even more insight into the characters, for instance, you might just come across Gran on Chat Roulette!
Never before have you had the chance to become so entangled in the lives of fictional characters. iFamily takes audience participation into the modern day, and to a whole new level.
A playlist of the songs featured in ’iFamily’ can be listened to here.
Its working title is 'iFamily: One house, three kids, no broadband'. Brief synopsis:
Its core target is 17-22 year olds, but it will appeal to anyone. It's set in a family home over one day. The basic rundown is Sam, a 15year old boy and his mate, Kat, are trying to figure out who used up all the broadband allowance, which drives them through the house where we meet all the other characters: Molly, 17, and her gang of girls. Riot girls. Molly is a passionate feminist who rants about how no one does anything for the cause these days. Then Bain, 19, the older bro who is researching female empowerment in pop music. He's a sensitive lad. Then Gran, who the kids think is senile but is a actually a stoner. Did I mention that it rhymes? Parts of it anyway. I've never quite gotten over my love for things that rhyme, I love the rhythm of language.
There are very strong themes in the play around technology, social media and the impact on family and today's teenagers. Also around gender roles and the accessibility of feminism to young people in the modern day. And a big wallop of popular culture critique with a smattering of talk around marketing. What can I say - it's everything I'm interested in rolled into one.
The play has some interactive elements - seeing how pivotal technology is to the play it wouldn't make sense not to. But it's the publicity and the additional media elements that I'm really excited about. I want the public to be able to add Molly as a friend on Facebook, subscribe to Bain's YouTube channel, and order product from Kat and Sam's online business. Taking it out of the theatre and into the online environment. Really letting people interact with the characters.
I'm entering it into a competition soon. I don't expect to win but hey - I wrote a play, now I gotta to do something with it. I'd love to get it produced. I think that as the writer you have to be able to imagine how it would actually work in real life, so I'm itching to get it to that point. The characters feel like real people to me, I can hear them speaking as I read the words on the page and I want everyone else to see them too. The hardest part is putting yourself up for critique, especially when you have that little doubting voice in your head going "What makes you think you can write a good play anyway, dummy?". Shut up voice. I've pasted a scene below, from my favourite character: Molly. I kinda wish I was her. And think that I might be a little bit, don't they say that a writer's characters are just versions of herself?
I'd love to post it here, but the site won't allow for the correct formatting. So I guess you'll have to wait to see it for real ;)
In the interest of sharing cool things I love to read, follow the link below to an interview of Sady Doyle, who runs the ultra-amazing blog Tiger Beatdown. Sady is my favourite blogger at the mo, self-proclaimed "expert on lady business". (Check out Tiger Beatdown also, for some amazing feminist/pop culture writing.)
<Click on the file above to download the article>
In June, Metro magazine ran a piece about Auckland's "glamourous" lesbians, titled "Women in Love". The women interviewed were chosen by no criteria other than that they were attractive, and more specifically, they looked straight. It was a shallow, tired piece with naive reporting and some invasive personal questions. And on the whole, it was received negatively by the lesbian community. It's no wonder, really. We're tired of being reduced to a stereotype, to being sexualised, to being put in the "they're just like us and you wouldn't even know if they were sitting next to you" box. There was no angle, no insight, nothing new.
I know that Donna Chisholm, the reporter (and editor-at-large) received a lot of flak about the piece. So much so that she asked one of the women she'd interviewed to write in to Metro, defending it. This was firmly declined. What cheek! The interviewees themselves felt they had been totally misrepresented, and many of them had also been receiving flak from their peers (granted some of them had said some pretty dumb shit). The next month, Metro claimed they'd only received one letter to the editor about the issue. A likely story.
My girlfriend and I decided that they needed to be held accountable for perpetuating myths and generalisations about gay and bisexual women, if only in a small way. We chose 4 women who we felt would have something interesting to say about the matter. Three of them (including me) active in the queer community - organisers and volunteers for various queer events and services. And one other, who had been interviewed for the Metro piece and welcomed the chance to speak up about it.
We asked them their response to the piece, their opinion on the wider reporting about gay and bisexual women in mainstream media, and other questions about their sexuality. Nothing like "Are you the top or the bottom in the bedroom?", which it was rumoured had been one of the Metro questions. We wanted a positive look at the experiences and unique viewpoints of these women.
Then we had a photo shoot. We asked them to wear their "gayest" outfit. Metro magazine, we felt , had tried to homogenize the women, to 'de-gay' them in a way. To present them as objects for the male gaze. They had shut down any room for a wider interpretation of sexuality and the physical presentation of that. They chose "straight" looking women, like you could define what a straight woman looks like. As we expected, even with the four of us wearing our "gayest" outfits, I'm sure that in wider culture if we were walking down the street we each would have been assumed to be heterosexual. Or not thought of at all. It was our way to discuss the point that sexuality can not be put into boxes, labelled, described in any definite terms.
It was published in Express, Auckland's gay magazine. It won't get the exposure of Metro, of course. Most people won't even know we did it. But we did do it. We did it for us, and for every gay or bisexual woman who has faced those questions ("Who wears the pants?" "Can I watch?" "How do lesbians 'do it' anyway?"). And even the questions that are less stupid, on the surface, but just as tiring ("Do you get hit on by guys all the time?" "How do guys react when they find out?") Guys, it's not about guys. Contrary to what many people seem to think, being a lesbian has nothing to do with men.
We sent it to Donna Chisholm. So far, no response. I was nervous about sending it to her. It's frightening to stand up against a bigger, stronger person (in this case Metro/an editor/an awarded reporter). To stand up for something you believe in and say "Hey! Bully! I don't like what you did and I'm telling you about it". You leave yourself wide open for a figurative punch in the nose back. Perhaps there will be no response, no impact of this small article. Expect for the pride we get in ourselves. Except for the supportive Facebook comments from our friends. But someone has to do something, and sometimes that someone is you. Because just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so does a revolution start with a single idea, and a single voice. When these small rumblings of disapproval and disappointment join together, they become strong. And they are what slowly change the world and the people in it.