Monday, September 8, 2014

Sam Vincent on objectivity in investigative journalism



Sam Vincent is the author of Blood & Guts: Dispatches from the Whale Wars

Here, Sam writes about objectivity in investigative journalism.

After spending nearly two years researching, reporting and writing Blood and Guts, I’m sick of people who deal in absolute dichotomies. Eco-warriors or poachers; scientists or eco-terrorists; floating steaks or minds-in-the-water; goodies or baddies … I was attracted to the Antarctic whaling controversy because in it I see so many shades of grey: legally, ethically, environmentally and politically. But so many people just see a chequerboard of right and wrong; a point by which they can fix their moral compass.

I was continually asked if I was ‘pro-whaling’ or ‘anti-whaling’. Aren’t I allowed to think that the efforts of Washington State’s Makah Tribe to reclaim its cultural heritage by hunting gray whales, after being smashed by American expansionism for the previous 200 years, is a beautiful thing? Can’t I recognise that Iceland returned to the International Whaling Commission in 2002 with a reservation on the global whaling moratorium, but disagree with its subsequent decision to hunt endangered fin whales? Am I not able to celebrate the fact that the arrival of grog and missionaries didn’t stop Alaska’s Inupiat from hunting bowheads – and celebrate the fact that since commercial whaling in the Arctic ceased, bowheads, once threatened with extinction, are increasing steadily? Can’t I hold all these views and question why Japan maintains a program of negligible scientific esteem for a product its public doesn’t want?

But I didn’t seem to be allowed a nuanced view: it’s one or the other, you’re one of them or one of us. Whaling divides and unites, creating a demarcation, a fracture, a border between peoples. So how do you remain objective when the stakes are that high?

This is a work of gonzo journalism; I think it is extremely subjective. But it doesn’t pick sides. I approached this topic as objectively as I could, but after spending three months at sea with Sea Shepherd, visiting Japan three times and attending the recent International Court of Justice case at The Hague, I began to see that small-minded populism from all sides of the ‘whale wars’ is prolonging a conflict that should have been solved decades ago.

The closer to the middle of a story a reporter gets, the more exposed they become to criticism. But my favourite journalists aren’t afraid to be iconoclastic; to position themselves as truth-tellers unbeholdened to any side. This is why I love the writing of Matt Taibbi, Rian Malan, Michael Hastings and Janet Malcolm; and in Australia, of Anna Krien, Helen Garner and David Marr. None of them write to make friends, nor for people who have already made up their minds. It’s a lonely position to be in, but as an investigative journalist who values independence above everything else, that’s precisely where I want to be.

Blood & Guts: Dispatches from the Whale Wars by Sam Vincent is available now in all good bookstores.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

10 writing tips for emerging writers



Author Catherine Harris shares her top ten writing tips.

1. Take yourself seriously while at the same time not taking yourself too seriously.

2. Avoid the company of anyone who doesn't know the difference.

3. Write every day.

4. Revise, revise, revise, and then revise some more.

5. Cultivate thoughtful readers (they might not be writers) for pull-no-punches feedback.

6. Criticism and praise are useful only in so far as they advance your work; treat them with the qualified respect they deserve.

7. Immerse yourself in the writing community until you develop a rash.

8. Then apply calamine lotion and avoid the writing community like the plague.

9. Be generous (to others, to yourself).

10. Don’t give up.

Catherine Harris’ novel The Family Men is available now in all good bookstores.

The Family Men will be launched by Tony Birch at the Melbourne Writers Festival at 1pm on Saturday 30th August, for more information visit the Melbourne Writers Festival website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teacher Evening at Black Inc.



Meet Black Inc. authors Alice Pung and Clare Atkins

Come and meet Alice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem and editor of Growing up Asian in Australia, and Clare Atkins, author of Nona & Me.

Alice will speak about her new novel Laurinda, set in an exclusive girls school, and Clare will speak about her novel Nona & Me, which is set in Arnhem Land, and is the story of two friends, Rosie, who is white, and Nona, who is Aboriginal.

Free event, all welcome. Refreshments provided.
Date: Tuesday 19th August 2014
Time: 6.30pm for a 7.00pm start
Location: Black Inc. Office, 37-39 Langridge St, Collingwood VIC 3066 (on the corner of Langridge and Cambridge streets)
Bookings: Free event but numbers are limited, so please RSVP by Friday 15th August to enquiries@blackincbooks.com.

If you live interstate and are unable to attend and are interested in receiving information about Laurinda and Nona & Me, please contact Elisabeth Young on enquiries@blackincbooks.com.


Friday, August 8, 2014

National Bookshop Day


https://www.facebook.com/nationalbookshopday

To celebrate National Bookshop Day on Saturday 9th August we asked some Black Inc. authors to tell us about their favourite bookshops.


http://www.blackincbooks.com/authors/alice-pung


Alice Pung

"My favourite bookshop is Readings in Lygon Street, in Melbourne. I have been going there since I was 20 - such a warm and friendly place. They are so supportive of local writers - my favourite memory was when Helen Garner launched my book Her Father's Daughter there and made my dad all teary."

Alice Pung's novel Laurinda will be published in November 2014
http://www.blackincbooks.com/authors/david-hunt


David Hunt

"If you like books, and I do, you can’t go past Newtown’s Better Read Than Dead. The staff are both friendly and informed and I love haunting its zen-corridor space. Abbey’s Bookshop is an institution that hasn’t dated and its adoption of Galaxy means that’s where I go for my regular sci-fi and fantasy fixes. Pages & Pages in Mosman has the advantage of being well-stocked with Jon Page, a bookseller par excellence. Readings in Carlton is my home away from home and Berkelouw Book Barn at Berrima has the best book and burger combo in Australia."

David Hunt is the author of Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia

Andrew Leigh

"Around the corner from my office, in the newly funkifying suburb of Braddon, sits Electric Shadows. Its tall bookshelves are a browser’s delight, and the owners generously host book launches and other literary events. Even on those days when I’m too busy to pop inside, Electric Shadows’ ever-changing book displays give me a chance to see what’s just been released. Like so many bookstores around Australia, it contributes to making us a smarter and more interesting nation."


http://www.blackincbooks.com/authors/anna-goldsworthy

Anna Goldsworthy

"In Adelaide, I enjoy Mostly Books in Mitcham. Its staff are warm and helpful and clearly readers (you can recognise one a mile away). It supports local authors and knitting circles. And it has a table of highly seductive toys. In Melbourne, Readings."

Anna Goldsworthy is the author of Welcome to Your New Life


http://www.blackincbooks.com/authors/brad-hutchins

Brad Hutchins

"As I live in both the Gold Coast and Brisbane I have two local favourites who are friends and have been really supportive with my book launch.

Nobby Beach bookstore, on the Gold Coast, is a vibrant little family run book-exchange nestled amongst the ever-popular stretch of cafes, restaurants and bars of Nobby Beach. John and Leah moved up from Tassie years ago for a bit of warm weather and have run the store ever since. They have a wide range of used books and a great exchange program that rewards loyal, avid readers. They also stock new books with a great selection of classics, non-fiction and new releases. But what I really dig about this store is the friendly and helpful staff who are all enthusiastic supporters of Australian writers, with a genuine love for the written word. Ask them for a recommendation – they’ve read ‘em all!

Karen and Michael are the friendly owners of Books @ Stones in Brisbane; a wicked store in the middle of Brissy’s bustling ‘burb of Stones Corner. Their shop has it all, and they do a great job of helping people delve through their extensive range to find a winner. If they don’t happen to have the one you’re chasing, they’ll gladly order it in. What stands out about this shop is the commitment they have to helping Australian writers. They’re constantly organising events for local authors. With such professional, passionate people keeping a thumb on the pulse of the publishing world, it’s no wonder they run such a fantastic operation."


http://www.blackincbooks.com/authors/claire-dunn

Claire Dunn

"Last year I moved to a leafy little townhouse in Glebe, Sydney. It was a great location for an avid walker. While in one direction I would meet harbour, in the other, I would invariably end up at Gleebooks. During my university years it held a kind of mystique; wandering the aisles  I occasionally allowed myself to wonder whether anything I wrote would ever adorn its shelves. Fifteen years hence I still love the feel it has of a bookshop full of secret corners and unusual finds, but yet organised with care and attention. I find the books I want, and those that lay waiting for me to discover them. Each visit is an adventure, these days with the added treasure of locating my book amongst the spines."

Friday, July 4, 2014

7 tips for writing history by John Hirst


“The documents are not the world; they are the surviving traces of the world you have to imagine.” – John Hirst

1. In research don’t start at the beginning and hope to reach the end; work over the whole period the whole of the time.

2. If all the books agree, look at the evidence again (they may have been copying each other).

3. Play with titles and tables of contents soon after you start—the research will change these and then they will guide the research. 

4. Use the documents to find the passions and preoccupations of your people—and write about those.

5. Don’t refer to organisations by acronyms; use short titles. The longer the list of abbreviations, the worse the book.

6. Don’t write with your notes close at hand. The documents are not the world; they are the surviving traces of the world you have to imagine.

7. Read over your notes for the next part—and then sleep. Don’t get up until you have decided on an opening sentence.

John Hirst’s latest book Australian History in 7 Questions is available now in all good bookstores.