January 30   Cafe Review: Waldecks

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photo(71) I’m still disproportionately excited about meeting up with Amanda last week for a study session. We had a really great catch up and then got a couple of decent hours of work in. Maybe not the most productive work session in my life but definitely one of the most productive for me in a while. It saddens me a bit to say that equals to sitting down in one stretch and writing 1000 words for my phd and reading one submission with care. But then, that’s also probably almost all the work I’ve done since then. The bub is pretty good in a cafe, much better than at home where she seems to need a lot more entertaining. She might be a bit more of a socialite than me in that regard!

I figure leaving the house with her is going to be the best bet for me in getting work done over the next little while. So I’m going to keep track of the places that work and those that don’t. What do you look for in a cafe? Any suggestions for places in Perth to get a good cup of coffee AND to work in?

My first suggestion was the Waldecks cafe in Karrinyup, mostly cause it has such a nice setting out on the decking with very cool cane couches and the vista of their plants for sale. We went on that very hot day last week and it did have a light breeze that took the edge off some of the time.

Pros:

  • Large comfy couches and tables outside and large tables inside to spread out and work on.
  • Pretty setting to stare at whilst thinking.
  • Coffee not bad.
  • Reasonable access for a pram.
  • Lots of space to put babies down (see photo).
  • Free Wifi.

Cons:

  • Service is not awesome (twice I’ve been there, twice it’s not been good).
  • Coffee is not great.
  • Inside is pretty noisy.
  • Hot on a really hot day.

Even though the pros outnumber the cons, I’m still a bit meh about this cafe. Free wifi and lots of space are pretty appealling. I’d have drunk more cups of coffee if the staff had offered me or if when I asked to order another, I wasn’t sent to the front counter to do so.

 



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September 23   Maternity Leave

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So my plan was that I would work my six months on my PhD, turn in my candidacy proposal (at my uni you get accepted into the program and then you have 6 months to write your project proposal which needs to be accepted for you to gain candidacy) and then go on my mat leave Oct 1. And that meant from Twelfth Planet Press as well as my Phd. Go on leave. Hiatus. Do not work. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

And then somewhere along the line this plan became, hand in PhD proposal, go on mat leave from PhD and then finish up a whole bunch of TPP projects, have baby. I don’t really know why I haven’t accomplished more in the last 6 months, especially since I’ve been working full time on all this stuff. Which is to say, I don’t give myself slack for the fact that I felt sick for a large chunk of my pregnancy and tired for the rest of it. There was a lot of napping (!) in the beginning and now there is a lot of not sleeping and walking around in a zombified state.

(Seriously, WTF biology? In what universe does it make sense to prepare a woman to go in to a year of not sleeping with … not sleeping? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make her sleep lots?? I can’t stand it when people keep telling me to rest up and sleep now cause you won’t sleep later. Can’t fucking sleep more than 4 hours in a block of time. And OMG the discomfort. Let me tell you, 1 crying baby waking me up at night versus peeing every 3 minutes, hormones that keep me WIDE AWAKE for 19 hours a day, pain in my hands and elbows, numb fingers, not being able to sleep in any of my preferred sleeping positions, pulling muscles when trying to roll over? Yeah, uhuh. I’ll take the baby.)

Anyway, suffice to say, I got a lot less done than I thought I would. I didn’t factor in my moving more slowly. That never really occurred to me. And I still have at least 5 major projects to deliver before I deliver. And I’ve been stressed out a bit about this in the last couple of weeks. Especially since my PhD proposal is still not really in any good shape – I have 7 days left to finish it. I’m not sure if it can be done. And I have at least 3 books I’m hoping to get to print as well. Ahem. And some other stuff. And then stuff I wanted to get ahead on before I do have the sleeping in one hour blocks thing going on.

And then Thursday night happened. And as we’re driving up the freeway at 10pm, I’m thinking about what an idiot I am. And what really would be the worst case scenario if I don’t meet my deadlines. And really WTF was I thinking about not taking 6 weeks maternity leave, let alone 4? And the whole, “what would I do anyway if  I wasn’t working?” is not the real question – the question I should be asking is, what am I doing to myself, and my body by pushing so hard? And why?

So in theory, I’ve slowed down. Slowed my brain down, anyhow. I’m not going to panic about not meeting deadlines. I’m going to work when I can and do what I can and see what happens. And I’m remembering that I have people I can delegate things to and I’m working on handing that over. But you know the most annoying thing? The hardest thing to get myself to do (and this is the real reason my PhD work is behind) is to read. I avoid to do items that are “Read X” like the plague. I’m a publisher and I procrastinate on reading. Sigh. And then of course today, after only getting to bed (not sleep, but at least into bed) by 4am, I was reading cause that’s kinda low energy stuff and geez the reading for my Phd is really fascinating. Sigh. What am I going to do with myself, huh?



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Pretty much every other day, I take a moment to check whether the other shoe is starting to drop. I really can’t believe how lucky I am to be being given the opportunity to not only work on Twelfth Planet Press all day every day but also to be expected to be exploring new ideas, try new initiatives and to study practices around me. That the point of this whole exercise is to learn things about publishing in a time of great flux in the industry, and to hopefully, take out the other end of this study, a more viable and tangible business. Seriously. How did I get here? (The answer is always: Helen). It’s seriously try that if you find something you truly love, you never have to work a day in your life.

And the other great thing is getting to talk a lot about it as  I go along. Documenting it as I go so I can pull it together into some kind of exegesis at the end.

After spending last week immersed in talking and listening to other people talk about the industry, I’ve been mulling over our novella line. I love novellas – I love the format. I love the fact that they are meaty enough to really tell a deep, expansive story but aren’t as big a reading commitment as a novel. We’ve had a lot of critical success at Twelfth Planet Press with this format. There is no shortage of really great novellas being written. The problem has been that the format in print is just not a viable product. As of this date, the only one that’s ever broken even is Horn by Peter M Ball. At some point, I had to make the decision that I couldn’t keep buying and publishing novellas when they weren’t breaking even. As much as I love the form, and as much as I believe that indie press exists to publish and bring to the reader works that are outside of the scope of commercial publishers, I couldn’t justify the drain on the cash flow. Especially when eventually that comes at the expense of being able to afford other projects that might be more financially viable.

Last week I participated in a panel with Joel Naoum from Momentum discussing all things publishing for a postgrad MasterClass at Curtin. One of the points that struck me about what they are doing at Momentum, is being able to pursue projects that are not viable in print form by going solely digital. Without a doubt, with the democratising of publishing via self publishing and with the merging of big publishers, we have two new and very strong factors at play. The first is that there are more titles being published every year than the year before. And I don’t really see that changing in the near future. Readers are still reading but I suspect the readers for every title is probably less, as the readers spread across more and more titles. I believe this means that the potential to earn for a writer (and publisher) is going to be less per title. Similarly, as the big publishers merge and try to compete against Amazon, they are looking to concentrate on high performing bestsellers. And we’ve seen that result in the loss of the midlist for some time. This, I still think is good news for a publisher like TPP, but not for authors who are still capable of earning reasonably but that “reasonably” is being redefined. And this is where we are seeing a lot of changes in publishing business models as savvy midlisters experiment with new ways to make a career.

A third, and no less important, factor is distribution. Bookstores are closing. Book distributors are folding. And it’s getting harder and easier to get stocked in bookstores. I’m finding that TPP is being picked up by a lot more franchised outlets of the big bookstores in Oz but that’s happening as I work harder to do distribution myself ie dealing with each bookstore one by one. At the same time, I’m also finding other bookstores becoming less open to stocking indie press. Responses like we only stock books by publishers like [named big five publisher] are also coming in.

What’s going to happen to traditional publishing? We don’t know yet but if publishers want to still be around, we’re going to have to adapt and change our models. What used to be is no longer. And what worked before may not in the future. What is clear is that we need to be flexible and open to new things. As I posted the other day, it is really clear that the stigma of digital only publishing or digital first publishing has long been lost in the romance genre. A genre which is alive and kicking and very financially successful.

The sum of all these thoughts: I love novellas and I’ve been looking for a way to be able to publish them again. And I’m keen to experiment with publishing models to see what and how to be successful going forward. And so, finally we are open to novella submissions again! http://www.twelfthplanetpress.com/submissions And hopefully, I’ll be able to use this in my thesis somewhere :) I do quite like the double credit points of working on my press AND my PhD at the same time!

 



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It’s AWESOME!

I completely underestimated this whole zero inbox thing. I was promised great things but I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’d been slowly chipping away at my inbox for months. You know you have a number of emails pending that you get comfortable with, that you feel like you are in reasonable control of it all. It used to be 100 for me. And then I managed to get it down to 50. Lately it’s been between 20 and 40. But this last week, I’d been hovering at around 8. I was listening to one of the David Allen CDs yesterday and he said something about coaching an exec who had got theirs down to 5 and was getting ready to leave for the day. David encouraged him to go all the way to “see what it would feel like”. And as I stared at my final 5 emails late yesterday, I thought, “hey, let’s just see what it feels like.”

And what did it feel like? I’d been feeling bad all day that I hadn’t really done “enough” work for the day. I’d been doing small tasks and more backlog type things. And then at about 6pm, after I reached zero inbox, I suddenly found myself at my desk, typing solidly for a full hour, working on my PhD Candidacy application (it’s the first step you need to do as a phd student and basically outlines in 10 pages your thesis), I wrote 2700 words into what had previously been a blank, named document. I outlined the basic methodology and objectives, some of the background, some issues that I think need investigating to nail other bits down, even referred to material I’d been reading as part of my lit review. I wrote 7 pages. They aren’t great. But it’s a 10 page document. It’s too big a project for a PhD. Which is a great start – I have a lot of material to pare down. Lots of opened loops to go off and investigate to nail this down. I have a way forward. In one hour. I haven’t felt so clear headed in a very long time. Didn’t even know I could still think that clearly.

It was amazing.

That’s the promise of this whole management system – that by setting it up and maintaining it properly, you free your head from the day to day minutia, from thinking the same thoughts more than once, from being stressed about things you need to remember or need to do and you can move on to being creative. This was the first glimpse of this for me. And I’m addicted!



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May 29   Expectations

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Posting again after a longer silence than I intended. I had meant to post every day as a way of checking in with the world and also to mark progress on this long project of mine. But life has a way of not ending up the way you thought it would, doesn’t it?

Take today, I feel really like I haven’t actually accomplished very much. I didn’t “sleep in” but left the house early for breakfast with C who is on long service leave for a bit. We did some vague errands and came home. I feel like I loitered around on the computer for hours and now it’s quarter to 6 and almost dinner time. My loitering involved uploading some more ebooks to Kobo – I have started rolling out the TPP backlist on Kobo (no longer really relying on Smashwords to do it cause it’s now so unwieldy to use). So a couple more books are up waiting for publishing and three I noted are now published (A Trifle Dead, Cracklescape and Asymmtrey). I answered some emails. I sent some feedback to writers on work submitted that I read yesterday. I started setting up some other online accounts and things for projects in development. I filled some book orders and answered some emails about other orders. And I received the proofs by courier for Caution: Contains Small Parts. I proofed those and have spoken to Amanda and the printer about some issues with those. And I backseat drove a bit of  the wardrobe cleanout that C was doing :)

And in truth, between you and me, I feel like I might have wasted the day.

Which comes to the title of this post – expectations. I think I’ve probably always lived my life trying to meet someone’s expectations, whether they be mine or other people’s. I remember getting my very first report card in Grade 1. My mother was standing with a cousin and they were comparing my report card and my cousin’s (I had about 5 cousins in my class, small community). He had got As and I hadn’t. And up until that very moment, I didn’t know I was supposed to, or that we would be graded and that the grades would *count*. And I remember thinking, “Why didn’t I know this?” And for years looking back on that moment of feeling completely behind the 8 ball, and inadequate, I’m still not sure how you are meant to know that life is going to be filled with marks and assessments and *judging* unless someone tells you. I still remember vividly being 6 years old and feeling completely inadequate and not good enough. (And I’m sure the grades were of things like handwriting and colouring in).

That moment kind of taught me that life was going to be a race and that people were going to scrutinise you and compare you to others. And that seems pretty harsh and stressful, sure. But I went to a high achieving school with over achievers. If I’d not had  a competitive streak in me (and maybe that Grade 1 report card lit that spark for me), I would have drowned in that school. Others did, and I felt sorry for them at the time. But for me, I think otherwise, I would have been lazy and sat at average. Instead, I was up there competing and pushing and striving to be the best. I never was though. Fourth was the slot for me and I had to slog away and work my arse off to maintain it. In high school, we  ended up in much much smaller classes and I might have topped Calculus on a good day (but there were only two of us in the class anyhow). But the pushing to be the best got me an engineering degree. And even though I was probably only average or just above class average in my degree, without that expectation to perform, and without constantly measuring up, I don’t think I would have passed. As I said, I have the tendency to be lazy.

I started TPP as an experiment, really. I wanted to see if I could implement some of the ideas that I had through ASIM. And I wanted to see if a small press *could* be financially viable. I’m still seeing if a small press can be viable – I don’t consider TPP to be established enough yet as a business to really be able to test it (longevity, credibility, reliability, consistency, backlist and relationships and networks take time to develop) and I’m still learning so much about publishing. But one of the people who lit a spark in me to be competitive was Paul Haines. We were at a room party at a Convergence and he said to me, “Yeah GJ, what you’ve done is good and all, but you’ll burn out soon enough, like they all do.” And I looked at him and I said, “No I won’t.” And he said, “We’ll see.” And any time I’ve felt down or tired or like I could burnout or throw the towel in, I’ve remembered that conversation and thought, “I’m going to prove to him that I can do this.” And I still will.

I’m lucky to have found people in this community of ours who believe in me and support me and help make this dream a reality but also know how to push my buttons. Some people push them the wrong way but a lot more of them know how to push them to help me achieve more and better than I would have done if left to my own devices. And I’m really grateful to those people – who pick me up when I am down and push me on when I need the push. And sometimes the people who push you aren’t doing it with love. But without them, too, I’d be less.

But what happens when you aren’t in a classroom anymore or in a workplace where promotion is the thing you’re working on? I work from home now, by myself, on a project I am mostly in charge of myself including the direction, the point, and ultimately how my performance will be graded. I don’t have anyone to mark myself against. And having done this before, albeit that time I did it on campus so I had a lot of people around me to mark my expected progress over time etc, I know that a PhD is essentially a solitary endeavour and can be very confronting. The whole point of it is to come out the other side which then, after doing it, justifies and makes meaning out of the journey.

In some ways, the answer is that there is no real difference to what I was doing with TPP on my own – setting my own expectations, devising milestones and marking progress along the way. I guess, though, the trouble with me (and isn’t there always) is that I can actually go either way – be lazy or set unrealistic expectations. And there’s that word again. Because somehow, I think that because I am now working on this full time, I must therefore achieve exponentially more than I was before, whilst also taking off my weekends. And now on top of that, I’ve suddenly, in my second trimester, developed the need to sleep 10 hours a day, every day. I have NEVER slept that much before. I’m a 6 to 7 hour a night person with 1 day in the week of maybe 8 or 9, and I’m good. This sleeping so much feels … wasteful, I guess? Even though, if I don’t do it, I feel physically ill, and I can intellectually understand that my body needs the rest, what with all that multitasking of growing inner ears (we did that last week) and fingerprints (or whatever it is this week).

I’m just really scared that I will squander this opportunity I have here. It feels like such a huge gift and I want to make sure that I exhaust every aspect of it and put it to good use. And then I “sleep in” and work more slowly and feel sluggish a lot. It … comes back to expectations. I know.

 

 

 



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Today’s statistics are for Midnight Echo.

Midnight Echo is according to the website: “the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association. Each issue contains more than 100 pages of horror (or dark) fiction, poetry, art, comics, columns, articles, book releases, and more!”

The editorship is a rotating one. Only the first two issues had female co-editors. Since Issue 2, no woman has been at the helm of Midnight Echo. The magazine has never been solely edited by a woman. In contrast, five issues have been solely edited by men.

The gender breakdown for the prose fiction for all issues of Midnight Echo is:

MidnightEchoFiction

The average gender breakdown for the two issues coedited by women is 24% female authors to 76% male authors.

The gender breakdown for poetry, nonfiction and interviewees (ie people who were interviewed in the magazine, Note: interviewers were not always listed in the ToCs so have not been computed for this market) are:

MidnightEchoPoetryMidnightEchoNFMidnightEchointerviewees

Several of the issues feature a comic as it’s done by the same pair, the illustration is separate out from the overall art figures:

MidnightEchoComicsMidnightEchoArt



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As well as looking at awards stats, I’m also looking at the publishing stats, to place one in the context of the other. Additionally, I’m going to be looking specifically at some case studies as I move further into my PhD. Likely those won’t be Australian presses but the Australian context is within which Twelfth Planet Press sits.

Today’s data then is for Eidolon and Potato Monkey.

Eidolon Magazine was edited by Richard Scriven, Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G Byrne and then later on by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G Byrne. In their debut editorial, this team outlined their vision for the publication:

Eidolon is for you if you are interested in encouraging the development of new writers, if you are passionate about your views on speculative fiction in any media and if you enjoy discussing all of this and more. In short, Eidolon is for people who care about speculative fiction and all its off-shoots.

We are committed to promoting the idea of the “pro-fan”; a person who has a love for some aspect of speculative fiction, be it literary, cinematic, game-related or some other facet, and who strives to extend the boundaries of his perception of that passion; a person who seeks to create, to contribute and to objectively discuss.

Eidolon featured fiction, non fiction, interviews, reviews, artwork and letters from their readers. I thoroughly enjoyed getting absorbed in the discussions in the letters and through these discovered the editorial for Issue 12 which addresses concern over the apparent gender bias in their published fiction. Issue 24 (1997) was a Special Women’s Issue. I would have been interested to compare the gender breakdown pre- and post- this issue but Eidolon closed four volumes later, in 2000 with Issue 30. Nine issues had all male fiction ToCs. None occurred after the special issue.

Here is the overall breakdown of the fiction published in Eidolon by gender:

EidolonFiction

The breakdown of Nonfiction by gender:
EidolonNF

Here I’ve looked at both the reviewers and those they reviewed by gender:

EidolonReviewersEidolonReviewees

And then done the same for interviewers and those they interviewed:

EidolonInterviewersEidolonInterviewees

And the artwork broken down by gender of the artists:

EidolonArt

And then finally, the gender of the authors of the letters printed in each issue:

EidolonLetters

Potato Monkey was edited and published by Ben Payne. It ran for five issues from 2001 to 2007 and featured fiction only. Of the five issues, issue 5 consisted only of fiction written by men. Apart from issue 1, all the cover art was created by women.

This is the breakdown of the fiction in Potato Monkey by gender:

PotatoMonkeyFiction



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First of all, it’s important to realise that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones. For example, poverty and lack of leisure are certainly powerful deterrents  to art … It’s commonly supposed that poverty and lack of leisure did not hamper middle-class persons during the last century, but indeed they did  – when those persons were middle-class women.

As for the leisure .. Emily Dickinson seems to have had it (although she participated in the family housekeeping and nursed her mother in the latter’s last illness), but according to biographer Gordon Haight the time of the famous Marian Evans (later to become George Eliot) was demanded, through her late twenties, for managing the household and caring for her dying father … Marie Curie’s  biographer, her daughter Eve, describes her mother’s cleaning, shopping, cooking and child care, all unshared by Pierre Curie and all added to a full working day during Madame Curie’s domestic years, which were also the beginning’s of her scientific career.

Nor does the situation change much in the twentieth century. Sylvia Plath, rising at five in the morning to write, was – as far as her meagre work-time went – fortunate compared to Tillie Olsen, a working-class woman, who describes the triple load of family, writing, and full time outside job necessary for family survival.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing (University of Texas Press, 1983)

We haven’t really fully decided what’s going to happen post-baby. In our first broaching of the conversation, my husband asked me what I was thinking of doing and I told him my plan was to submit my PhD Candidacy application on time (due Sept 30), hopefully get candidacy, and then go on maternity leave. He nodded. And then I said I was planning on withdrawing from my degree for a year once the baby was born. To uh, you know, do the thing you do with newborns.  And my beautiful husband stood there, and looked at me and said, “Really? Uh … are you sure … are you sure you will be happy doing that?” Frankly, he looked really skeptical that that was a good plan for me and I possibly kissed him.

*Obviously* I’m not taking time off Twelfth Planet Press! When I stated such, he nodded and seemed much relieved. (Seriously … how is it that I ended up with the perfect person for me, who actually understands me?)

But in all seriousness, I’m preparing for the next chapter in my life. I’m well aware that my life is about to change. And I’m also really aware that I can’t expect myself to perform the way (or in the timeframe) that I am used to. At TPP, one of our focusses is to support female writers. And a big part of that has been to be ensure that we understand that timeframes for writing for women with family commitments need to be flexible, longer and understanding. Life happens. And it’s really easy for writing to fall off the radar when more pressing matters have to be dealt with. And when you haven’t published for three or five or ten years because you’re raising or caring for your family, well, it’s really easy for everyone else to decide you don’t write anymore. We have a few projects in the background at the moment working on supporting writers who are just going to take longer than commercial timeframes demand, because that’s the way it is. And I’m really proud of them, even if I don’t get to talk about them yet.

But that’s also why I’m not as hard arse an editor as I should be about deadlines. I’m way too soft with writers about meeting their timelines, and I think that’s possibly a weakness of mine. On the other hand, we’re all grown up professionals. And writers who are serious about writing, will write. And the rest are not. I make back up plans and I work with what I have. But I certainly don’t think that creativity being stuffed into 1 hour of writing before the kids get up or the last 10 minutes of lunchtime is going to be improved by hardlining.

That said, that pushing creativity into the hour before the baby wakes up, or grabbing a spare 10 minutes where I can find it, is going to be me soon (again, I guess, since that’s how I ran TPP when I had that pesky day job). So in preparation, I have been carefully planning what the heck I’m gonna do. I’ve blocked out a good chunk of time assuming I will be completely nonproductive (it’s possible I haven’t given myself enough time – Oct to Feb/March at the moment, thoughts?) And I’m trying to get ahead of that big block of down time with some titles finished early so that we can still roll out our books on time. A few authors got advanced warning of my news – I’m pregnant, you have to write faster! – so that we could bring forward some deadlines, shuffle some others around. Everybody’s been really great about it and I’m completely overloaded at the moment with work. If it doesn’t get done, it’s on me.

I don’t know how it’s going to go. But what I do know is, if you really want something, you find a way to make it work. And for now, I’m clinging to my plan :)



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Whilst I slog away processing the full stats for the history of the Aurealis Awards, here’s some stats for the current shortlists. I think these will be interesting to compare against the average, when I have that. Being a creative publishing phd, I’m also very interested in publisher statistics. I’m in the process of thinking through performance indicators for various measurements of “success” and here I am playing around with some of the elements of those (how do you measure how successful you have been at executing what you set out to do? – Big thesis-ey question)

Here is the breakdown of shortlisted authors, editors and artists by gender:

Aurealis 2012 shortlists by gender

And this one is a breakdown of the lists by the publisher size:
Aurealis 2012 by publisher size

 

I’m also interested in looking at trends and changes in the publishing industry so the following graphs look at which publishers have what proportion of the shortlists – divided roughly into big publishers and indie; and also number of titles per publisher shortlisted.
Aurealis 2012 big publishers

Aurealis publishers indie

Aurealis 2012 titles per publisher

 

ETA one final plot, of the women shortlisted for the Aurealis Award in 2012, these were their publishers:

Aurealis 2012 women by publisher



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March 3   Changing Tack

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I spent my birthday at postgrad orientation day. I was intending my birthday to be really low key but it ended up being one of my favourite ones so far. I met Helen at the train station and headed into uni with her where we had a long good catchup chat over breakfast before she escorted me to the lecture theatre where I would be spending the morning.

I was determined to sit by myself, engage with noone, and focus on getting the information I need. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t there to make friends or slide into “university life” – I’ve done all that before, the first time round, and am well aware of how much that gets in the way. So what happens? Someone sits next to me, and we get talking, and the next thing I’m doing is sending him to a TED talk that I think will be useful for his PhD topic. And some other people sit down near us. And we have to do that forced group interaction thing and I find out all three of them are doing PhDs in sustainability and planning and I realise that I have not run very far away from where I was at all!

But the day was super useful. I’m not sure how long it’d been since I’d been so intellectually stimulated – I had that complete drained exhaustion when I came home at the end of the day, like after a really hard exam. And I’d gotten a really good idea of what is required for the candidacy proposal I now have 6 months to write. And where to start on that. And some more thoughts on troubleshooting my topic and guiding where I might want that to go. All that stuff.

Sitting there in the workshop, I realised how excited I felt – I had that feeling you get, you know, when you fall in love or you win at something you’ve been working really hard at – elation, excitement … HAPPINESS. What an awesome birthday present to get – Helen spent quite some time lobbying me to even consider a PhD and helped me so intensely with my application. And there were moments where tears threatened at the back of my eyes, I was so overwhelmed at how lucky and excited I am to be able to spend the next 3-4 years on something I love so much. And how much I don’t want to waste any opportunities.

It’s a very strange feeling to be changing career tracks. And something I’ve been wrestling with for a while. I’ve been passionate about the environment since I was 14 or 15. When I first learned about global warming, and the large mammals under threat of extinction (elephants, cats and rhinos) and then the Biodiversity Act in Rio, I knew I wanted to work towards conservation. To making a *difference*. I was driven to act. I didn’t want to be on the sidelines watching the deterioration of the environment without at least trying to do something. And then my physics teacher found me a new degree at UWA – environmental engineering – which seemed to fit the bill. And that’s been my thing, what defined me, for a very long time.

It’s not that I feel like I’m betraying that. Well not necessarily. But I have been thinking about whether it feels like I’m giving in, or turning my back or … maybe it’s just that I’m sad to be moving on? Like, there’s nothing wrong with one door opening when one closes, but it’s still sad to be closing the room behind that door.

It’s not like I can’t still be active in conservation – there’s lots of other ways to work for a good cause.

And it’s also not unheard of to get burned out when your day job is something you’re passionate about but you very rarely get to win. And sure, part of my job was to fight the fight, if only for public record. I did have some small wins and worked towards one or two larger ones, and I have left some legacies by way of tiny tweaks to larger policies. But in all, I’m pretty jaded and cynical and some other stuff that’s mostly political and not for this medium. I shouldn’t really be there any more.

When I sat in that lecture theatre and later in the morning tea break talking to the other students about their PhDs in sustainability and I listened to their enthusiasm and passion to change the way things are, I wondered if I was doing the right thing? I wondered if this was some kind of cosmic sign about what I should be doing? I felt guilty, I guess.

I actually mulled it over for a while, until I realised that it *was* a sign, it was very *pointed* sign. That it was ok to hand over the baton to someone else, someone with the energy and enthusiasm to carry it the next round. And that in what I am doing now, I feel like I make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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