Sam van Zweden



megan burke

Review: Mama Mia by Mia Freedman

Having much respect for what Megan from Literary Life has to say, I took this book recommendation. Grudgingly, mind you. I shuffled off to the library in search of Mama Mia by Mia Freedman, the ex-editor of Cosmopolitan and editor-in-chief of a  jumble of other ACP magazines. She has also worked in television and written columns for newspapers, and now blogs.

I’m not particularly fond of women’s magazines like Cosmo and Cleo. I’m sure they’re great for some people, but for me, they just make me feel like being a woman is a game that I’m playing but I don’t know the rules for. Which is a pretty lousy way to feel. Once I got past needing Dolly and Girlfriend to guide me through puberty, I got those things out of my life. However, Mia Freedman’s Mama Mia was recommended to me as a book with countless insights to the publishing industry, so I thought I’d better give it a whirl.

It wasn’t exactly a revelation in terms of publishing tips and tricks – I’m not interested in going into women’s magazines, but in terms of dishing the dirt on big Australian names, Mia Freedman has done pretty well.

That’s not to reduce the book to a gossip-fest: far from it. Mama Mia is equal parts about Mia’s career, and her life outside of her career, as a mother and wife. It made me laugh out loud, multiple times. It made me cry. Like real, tears-down-the-cheeks crying. I didn’t expect that.

The book is brutally honest, from Mia going into labour screaming to everyone around her “I need to POOOOOOOOO!” (that was a laughing moment), to wondering over her ‘failure’ at keeping her baby alive (tears here), followed by years and years of IVF.

The ‘mothering’ part of the memoir talked to me a lot more than the ‘magazines’ – however, the ‘magazines’ parts weren’t uninteresting to me, and I was surprised to find that there was only one part of the book that I was shaking my head at. “No, no I just can’t relate to that” – Mia talked about how all women bond over clothes shopping. *spew*

The tone of the memoir is conversational, and perhaps this is why there was only this one point that I felt I wasn’t a part of.

Mia Freedman has lived a life very memoir-worthy, and she’s written a book which speaks to readers as if they’re her friends. It’s honest, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s accessible.

Overall, it’s pretty great.

Admiration/Inspiration Thursday with Megan Burke

It’s that time of the week again! The one where I tell you about someone/-thing that I think is great.

This week, it’s Miss Megan Burke of Literary Life.

Megan is something of a Superwoman, juggling a bunch of jobs, attending literary events, and blogging daily. She has a very strong readership, even though she’s only been blogging for about a year.

Her posts are insightful, witty, and always engaging. She often has something new to say about a much-reviewed novel, or something from her personal life thrown in there, which gives her blog something a bit different from straightforward book review sites. Megan also does author interviews, which are always thorough and entertaining. Thoroughly entertaining!

And throughout all this running around and fitting about sixty times more than I do into the day, Megan always (always) smiles.

Here’s our interview.

Describe yourself in five words.
Crazy. Talkative. Enthusiastic. Excitable. Book-lover.

Tell us a little about your blog, and what you do there.
I review books, interview authors/journalists/agents, go to literary events (like book launches, lit festivals etc) take photos and then write about them, hold competitions, talk about the publishing world and my own life (I volunteer at a lot of lit organisations) and work, and, above all else, ramble!

 Your blog has a pretty strong readership – how long has this taken to build up, and what kind of work and investment has that required from your end? Has the way you blog changed?
Lit Life has been around for just over a year. The key to a successful blog are regular, content-rich posts. Now, I can’t say that all my posts are worthy (however I’d like to think some are!), but I do post regularly. I guess I’ve built up my readership by a number of avenues. Doing different things and contacting different people help – for example, if you interview/review an author, author puts link on their site, author’s fans read it, and some might stick around. Also if you go to a variety of events or post on a variety of relevant topics people searching for sites with those key words will come up.

I am certainly not the most successful blogger around (I still cry a little each time another blog gets 100 comments within ten minutes of posting and I struggle with ten!) but I am proud of Lit Life. It’s a labour of love – I spend way too much time on it each week! I plan blog posts everywhere, scribbling ideas down on scraps of paper and in my mobile. I think my approach to my blog has stayed the same, but as my readership and profile go up I’ve definitely become more cautious of what I write and what I say – you never know who is reading! However, Lit Life’s core principles are still there – just a crazy book nerd rambling about books.

Your blog, Literary Life, is incredibly busy – you generally post most days of the week. How do you manage this? Where does all the content come from?
Gosh, I ask myself this every day! Usually I post in the dead of night, or at the crack of dawn. Or between classes. Or before work. Actually, I blog all over the place! I don’t know how I manage this to be honest. I take snippets of time and use them well. The content comes from everywhere – lit events/festivals, interviews, reviews, my life, other bloggers/authors/journalists – everything. I like to think that I post on a wide variety of publishing/writing things/issues, but it is skewed more towards my likes and what I do (ie what book launches I go to).

I also understand you’re quite a busy lady – you juggle a bunch of jobs, and blogging, and literary events – how do you find the time?
I don’t sleep. You get used to it. Ha-ha. No really, I am a good time juggler. So good, in fact, that I wrote a post on how I manage everything. You can read it here. The bottom line is I don’t waste any time. A break from work? Read a book to review. A train ride to class? Work on that novel. Don’t take time for granted. It gets away from you so fast.

You’ve done something quite brave recently on your blog, and issued a challenge to the blogosphere – the Comment July Challenge, which has got a pretty positive response so far. What’s the challenge all about, and were you confident that it would take off when you put it out there?
I was not confident at all that is was going to take off! As I write this, I have ten people pledge to comment with me and I am ecstatic about that! I thought it was going to be one of those silly things that I do and eventually it dries up because no-one reads it and/or cares about it. I was so excited when people started to sign up.
Basically, I know that I lurk on blogs and don’t comment on them. This bothers me, but obviously not enough to change – until now! I also like getting comments on my blog, and thought while I was in bed late one night of a sort of pay-it-forward system – people pledge to comment on at least five blogs per day every day of July. I really hope it works – everyone likes getting comments!

 In the course of your blogging you’ve interviewed a huge amount of people – what’s been your favourite interview so far, and why?
This is a hard one! The one I was most excited to get back in my inbox – as in the one I was screaming about – is Liane Moriarty. She wrote one of my favourite books – Three Wishes – and after not having a web presence for years she finally made a website and a blog. I was so excited! The interview is long and asks a lot of nit-picky questions about the novel and her life, and I like it because I like her!
I’m also proud of Tasma Walton – it took me over six months of chasing to finally get her to reply so it was well worth the wait! I also love Kathryn Lomer, simply because her novel, What Now, Tilda B?, was amazing.
It’s hard to name favourites, though (yes I know I just did!) because they’re all special to me in their own way. Which sounds incredibly lame I know, but I love the personal connection you make with the interviewee for that moment in time when you interview them. I love the back and forth emails, the interaction. I love exploring different sides to the author and the novels.
Saying that, I do worry that people don’t read the interviews. Looking at my interview list, it’s all very ‘me’. Majority of the interviewees are personal favourites and/or friends, and while I am interested in them, I’m not sure other people are. So it’s hard in that sense.

So you’ve met some great authors, you’ve also had a bunch of blog-related perks; invites to special events and the like. What’s been the best part of the whole blogging experience for you so far? What’s been the best blog-related perk?
The best blog-related perk? There have been so many! Ha-ha. No, I don’t blog for the perks (although they are awesome) I blog because I love books, and I have a lot of opinions on books. Probably the best perk so far is the Charlie Higson event at Penguin Offices in Melbourne – it was so special to be invited to the offices! It was such an amazing experience.
The best part of the blogging experience for me is the community. Hands down. From it, I’ve met so many fantastic people and made some lovely friends. Just the overall sense of community is just so lovely and over-whelming. I love it. It makes everything worth it.

What’s next on the cards for Lit Life and Megan Burke’s life? What can we look forward to?
We can look forward to a month of passing on the comment love!
I have a bunch of lit events coming up, which will be blogged about. So hopefully people find that interesting! I get a lot of good feedback from my posts from events and my Melbourne Writers Festival Live Feeds – they made people feel as if they were there too, which is fantastic and I’m so glad I’ve been able to do that for people.

Do you have any advice for people like yourself? And who, indeed, are these people “like yourself”?
People like myself? Crazy book nerd people who can’t shut up about books?
Are there people like myself around? I’d like to think I’m pretty unique but maybe I’m not!
Yeah sure – maybe stop talking about books for one second because I’m pretty sure that your friends and family don’t care anymore!
Seriously, I don’t know if I’m the best person to give advice, but hey. I’ll try!
To writers: keep writing.
To readers: keep reading.
To bloggers: I love you all!
(Lame yes, but hey. I never claimed to be some great advice-giver!)

Thanks so much to Megan for agreeing to be interviewed for Admiration/Inspiration Thursday!

Comment July Challenge, Week 1 Wrap-Up

So I thought I’d post weekly highlights for the month of July, while I do the LitLife Comment July Challenge.

This first week has proved harder than I thought it would – 5 comments a day, not so hard? Actually, incredibly hard! I’m also trying really hard to make my comments more substantial than “Great post!”. This, at times, seems to be an exercise in showing how little I really have to contribute to discussions…

However, there have been some good discussions, and some great posts to comment on. So here’s my top five from the past week (in no particular order):

1. Lisa Dempster’s “How to Blog When You’re Not Blogging”
2. Liam Wood’s “What’s Hipster Than Being Cool?” on Virgule
3. Megan Burke’s “What We Can Learn From Mia Freedman” on Literary Life
4. Jo Case’s “Why The Internet Turned Me On (To Creative Writing)” on Kill Your Darlings
5. Q & A Monday with Lisa Dempster on Virgule

Are you part of the Comment July Challenge? How’s your week been?

LitLife’s Comment July Challenge

It’s almost July. It’s almost winter!

In celebration of these things, Megan Burke of Literary Life is running something called the Comment July Challenge.

Megan has realised that she’s a lurker. She reads a ton of blogs every day, but comments on a very small percentage of them. I’m the same. I don’t let fellow bloggers know that I enjoyed their posts often enough, I don’t often contribute to threads worthy of a discussion. Sorry, blog world.

Here’s how we make amends:

For the entire month of July, I (and Megan, and the other people who have also taken Megan’s vow of commenty) pledge to comment on at least five blogs per day, in an effort to better connect myself with the blogs I read, and make sure that the producer of said blogs feel the love.

As part of her vow Megan is posting links to her comments so her devoted readers can take part in the discussions. I’ll be posting highlights weekly, so you can keep track of where I’ve been having some commenty-fun.

Hats off to Miss Megan for such an awesome idea! Head over to her site to make your own pledge, and spread happiness and light with the Comment July Challenge.

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