Fifty Typefaces That Changed the World

By John L Walters/Design Museum



This is one I snapped up in the marked-down basket at my local bookshop, The Turning Page in Springwood, that little shiver of excitement running through my middle as I found my cut-price treasure. For a long time back in my teens and 20s, I secretly wanted to be a typographer. Lining up each Letraset letter before rubbing the black letter onto the white paper, slowly forming a heading, was how I found my ‘flow’. I used to buy The Face magazine to see what typographer Neville Brody was up to as much as for its cool content.

And then desktop publishing, and the internet. Anybody could be a typographer. We all know how to deride Comic Sans. I stuck with writing and editing. Nothing could every disrupt those, right?

I still keep my love of a good font, and this book runs through most of them, from the Gutenberg Bible’s blackletter in the mid-1400s to Ubuntu in 2011, an open-source typeface available to anybody in the world, in over 200 languages, in and for free. As the designers say, ‘The way typography is used says as much about our brand as the words themselves’.

I have more comprehensive and detailed books about typography, but recommend this one as a heavily visual introduction to the art, with an incidental history lesson attached.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

by Mary Norris


I bought this book because a copy editor wrote a 200+ page book and it made the New York Times bestseller list. And because through it I learned that there is an Apostrophe Protection Society with a really ugly website and a chairman. And I can’t resist an editorial style guide.

Mary Norris is a copy editor with The New Yorker, and has worked there since 1978. She turns her vast, enviable experience into a funny and fascinating encounter with language. In her investigation of why Moby-Dick is hyphenated, she describes ‘…that immortal hyphen, stuck like a harpoon in Melville’s famous title…’. She has a whole chapter devoted to profanity, called F*ck This Sh*t. Sometimes you need to know how to handle that stuff.

I love her approach to language: precise, but not pedantic. I learnt so much about the origins or words, the uses of various arcane punctuation marks, and what a dream job working at The New Yorker is, and had a whole lot of fun doing it.

PS: Her new book, Greek to Me  will be published in April.

The Day We Built the Bridge

 

Children’s picture book   Written by Samantha Tidy    Illustrated by Fiona Burrows

My son was about 10 and we were crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge by train. ‘We’re so lucky to be on a world-famous landmark’, he said. We were, and we were privileged to be able to see its distinctive arch most days from the corner of the street behind our road. Now that he’s an adult, he realises that growing up so close to this iconic structure  was a huge privilege.

Samantha Tidy and Fiona Burrows have captured the outlines of the story of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge through the eyes of a child, from the need in 1890 , the idea, to the construction and finally to the cutting of the ribbon in 1932. The text is sparing, and just as the bridge’s two sides curved across the harbour to create connection, the words come together with the illustrations to tell a story of need, idea, effort, dreams, longing, striving and achievement.

The hardcover book is beautiful to hold and the illustrations are filled with detail that slowly reveals itself, from the endpapers illustrated with native flowers to the period posters for Arnott’s biscuits and Koala tea. It’s a lovely book for sharing with children in your life and will appeal to a wide age range, including children older than the traditional picture book reader. The book is a good spur for family discussions about a range of topics, from history, the First World War and construction methods used in the 1920s, to the place of dreams, needs, effort, achievement and celebration in our lives.

Publication date is 1 February 2019, and you will find teachers’ notes and be able to order signed copies at samanthatidy.com.

 

John Hockney’s memoir The Hockneys: Never Worry What the Neighbours Think to be published in October

John Hockney’s memoir is to be published in October 2019 by Legend Press. I was honoured to edit it before submission. It’s a very satisfying aspect of my work to help writers  get their book published.  Legend Press includes top Australian writers Mark Brandi and Alice Pung on its list.

John Hockney is a professional storyteller and brother of the artist David Hockney. He  helps others to write their life stories. I met him at a wonderful workshop he ran in the Blue Mountains. I went on to work with him on his manuscript before he submitted it for publication. That it took only a couple of months before it was snapped up is testament to what  a great story he has told.

John Hockney: storyteller

Before I did his workshop ‘Your Life – Your Story’,  I heard John talk about life with his brother, world-renowned artist David Hockney. David’s exhibition Words & Pictures opened at Blue Mountains City Art Gallery in October 2017. I remember thinking, ‘He should write a book’.

John Hockney tells his story going back two generations. His grandfather was a founding member of the Salvation Army in Bradford in England’s industrial north. His grandmother would made him a cup of cocoa with whole milk – not the watered-down variety he had at home – after he had dragged home her shopping in his billycart.

You would expect that the world-famous artist David might dominate the book, but John gives every member of his brilliant and eccentric family their due.  His father, who liked to wear brightly coloured stick-on dots on his bow tie, was always true to his moral compass. His sister Margaret produced an art work of a squid squashed on her scanner. It was accepted in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The theme that they never worried what the neighbours think runs thorough the book.

With his closely observed detail and exceptional storytelling,  John Hockney combines the two essentials of memoir or autobiography: have a great story to tell and write it well. It’s often funny and always honest and true. My understanding of what life was like in  post-war Britain was so enriched. My appreciation of what it means to be part of a family – in all its crazy complexity – was deepened immeasurably.

The book is available in hardcover from Book Depository.

8 things an award-winning author can teach you about being a writer

Mark Brandi is the author of the award-winning novel Wimmera, described by one reviewer as ‘a dark and disturbing story from a substantial new talent’. It’s both a crime thriller and a coming of age story, set in rural Victoria. Recently he discussed what it’s like to be an author at a wonderfully relaxed session at Varuna the Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains.

Picture of cover of Wimmera by Mark Brandi

Wimmera by Mark Brandi

1. It’s true: write what you know.

This maxim holds if you want your work to be the best it can be. Wimmera’s closely observed reflection of small-town life feels all the more real because the author grew up in rural Victoria. He captures both how free this life is for kids, who can go yabbying and stay out until dark; and how claustrophobic it is for adults when the world closes in on them. He also draws on his experience in the criminal justice system as an advisor to the police minister, and the experience of his three brothers, all of whom work in the police and justice system. But remember, you don’t have to have experienced every single thing you write about either.

2. Find a way – and it might be unconventional.

Mark gave up a full-time job as a policy advisor, enrolled in a writing course and – wait for it – WON $50,000 ON MILLIONAIRE HOTSEAT!* And by guessing the final answer! He could have ignored the entry form his brother sent him, but instead, without telling anybody, he applied for this most unlikely source of literary funding for his new life as an author. He doesn’t suggest you give up your day job, but the point is to make it happen if you’re serious about being an author. Find an hour a day or a couple of hours at the weekend. Join that writer’s group. Apply for those residencies that will give you some time out to focus on your writing.

3. Use the support and inspiration that’s out there.

Attend courses and writer’s festivals. Take a look at everything Varuna has to offer, from one-off events to fellowships. Two residential fellowships at Varuna helped Mark to develop the manuscript for Wimmera. Join Writing NSW. See what the Australian Writers Centre has on offer.

4. You can start with a short story.

Mark’s book began as a short story called To Skin a Rabbit (click to listen to the RN audio version).  Two of the main characters in the novel continued to haunt him after he had written the short story. He pursued them, and Wimmera is the result. Often aspiring writers are told to focus on either novels or short stories as their demands are so different. Break the rule. If finishing a short story will inspire you to get that novel out, go for it!

5. Enter competitions and awards.

If nothing else, it will give you the discipline to work to deadlines and get your writing finished. You may even win! Plus, you will attract interest from publishers if you are shortlisted. When Mark won the 2016 Debut Dagger, publishers contacted him. But…

6. Get used to rejection.

Don’t take it personally. Use any feedback you get to learn and to improve your writing. Mark submitted his book to different publishers and programs and got plenty of what he described as ‘nice rejections’. Some of them contained useful feedback, which he took into account as he reworked Wimmera. Instead of regarding rejection letters as negative, consider what they have to say and try to act on the feedback. Publishers may say no for a range of reasons, and many of them have nothing to do with the quality of your work. Keep going.

7. Enjoy the editing process.

I know, it can feel a bit like the teacher got out her red pen and pointed out all your errors, but editors bring perspective and loads of experience to your work as well as fixing your grammar and punctuation. Mark described how an editor researched and corrected details in a scene in which he described a cricket match on TV in the background to a scene in Wimmera. You can be sure one reader will be an expert in almost anything you write about and errors undermine the quality and credibility of an author’s writing. I recently read a book which had the name of one of my uni mates spelled incorrectly. It’s not hard to check that. My reaction was to wonder what else in the book was inaccurate. A good editor will fact check everything as well as look at the broad scope of your work, switching between a sweeping overview and a microscopic focus on detail

8. Revel in being an outsider and an introvert, if that’s what you are.

Mark was from the only Italian family in town. School was tough and he was bullied and excluded. But, as he said it, the excluded tend to be sharp and thoughtful observers. Use what you see and hear around you every day to inform your characters and your stories. Mark does this so well, conveying how children cannot and do not understand adult motivations, how the adult world is inscrutable to his characters in boyhood, and using this point of view to drive the narrative in Wimmera.

Varuna The Writers' House in Katoomba

Varuna Writers’ House

I learned so much from Mark Brandi’s generous sharing of his experience at Varuna’s Open House Day. There were other sessions, including one that explained Varuna’s programs and included a speaker from the Australia Council who fund writers and writers’ organisations. Above all, it inspired me to stop dreaming get back to my desk and write. I hope these 8 tips help you do the same.

*Writer Melissa Lukashenko also won big on Millionaire Hotseat. Read about it here.

YA novel Freefalling wins CBCA award for best unpublished manuscript

Maura Pierlot is this year’s Charlotte Waring Barton Award winner

Maura was announced as the winner of this award from the Children’s Book Council of Australia (NSW Branch), which is given annually for an unpublished manuscript. Maura wins a mentorship with  a well-known children’s writer. I was at the award ceremony in Sydney, and I think I might have let out a little shout when Maura’s name was read out as the winner – she had told me she definitely wasn’t going to win.

Maura Pierlot wins award

Maura Pierlot (centre) wins the CBCA NSW award for best unpublished manuscript.

I was lucky enough to copy edit the manuscript and I’m confident that it will be snapped up by a publisher.  It’s the contemporary story of Harley:  year 10 student, friend, sister, daughter and granddaughter, and her struggles with self-image, friendship, love and acceptance. Maura writes with great insight and sensitivity about eating disorders, disloyalty and grieving in a compulsively readable way.

Last year’s winner, Danika Hall, discussed her mentorship with Jen Storer as part of a great night at the offices of HarperCollins, whose children’s division sponsors the award.

Charlotte Waring  Barton was the writer of the first published children’s book in 1841, published anonymously as A Mother’s Offering to her Children: By a Lady, Long Resident in New South Wales. But more on that later, as it’s a story in itself.

Maura has also recently published the lovely children’s picture book The Trouble in Tune Town. It would be a great Christmas present for the music loving kids in your life.

 

When ‘giving’ isn’t really giving at all

Recently I attended three local events at which I learnt important things from three passionate people.

The first was Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk. I first read about her book in the New Yorker, and added it to my absolutely must-read pile. So when I saw that she was talking about her book in Katoomba, I reserved my spot in the front row. To say that Helen’s memoir is about how she trained a goshawk is to ignore that it is also a treatise on grief, literature of immense poeticism and an intense meditation on being human. The New Yorker called H is for Hawk ‘an improbable and hybrid creature’, as well as ‘coherent, complete, and riveting, perhaps the finest nonfiction I read in the past year.’

The second was Simon Cherriman, West Australian environmental biologist, who answered questions after a screening of his documentary about fitting GPS trackers to wedge-tailed eagles, Where do Eagles Dare? While Simon’s documentary is less perfectly formed than H is for Hawk – he is young, give him time ­- it is beautiful, absorbing and worth watching for the six-foot-eight naturalist’s extraordinary tree climbing ability alone.

The third was Anne Manne, who spoke eloquently about the culture of narcissism as written about in her book The Life of I at an event hosted by Korowal School in the Blue Mountains. Anne spoke about narcissism at both individual and societal levels, and, based on solid research, argued that self-absorption is on the increase in western culture. The antidote lies in changing both the way we rear and nurture children and in ending our worship of neoliberal economics and the culture it engenders.

Wedge tail eagle

The parallels between Helen Macdonald and Simon Cherriman’s work are obvious. Both have presented work about birds of prey in creative form. Both have held on to and nurtured, and finally shared, a passion for huge and magnificent raptors.  But if they are just two lovely people (and they are) who are passionate about birds, why did their ideas and their work leave my brain zinging? Why did what they shared make me want to grab every passer-by, maniac-like, and tell them ‘Read this book. Watch this film. You have to.’?

Both have made something of immense beauty. Both made me more aware of the magnificence and slight ridiculousness of these two giant birds of prey, with their unthinkably powerful wings grounded by legs that appear to be dressed in feathered pyjamas.

What captivated me was that each had had a very specific passion since childhood, and pursued it. Macdonald started her self-education in the art of falconry aged six. By her own admission, she was ‘the most appalling falconry bore’ before she hit adolescence. Lucky for us. Cherriman grew up with a love of the West Australian bush, and was only 15 when he found an eagle’s nest that began his passion for them. He describes wedge-tailed eagles as gentle and nurturing parents, despite their immense strength and predilection for a fresh kill.

And that’s where Anne Manne comes into the picture. She described parenting that combines strength and gentleness as one way to step back from raising another generation of the self-obsessed. Her work highlighted for me that I had loved those two incursions into the world of raptors not because of some latent ambition to be an ornithologist (although, in another life…) or because I realised I should follow my childhood passion (I don’t think I had one, unless you count reading).

It was because for an hour or two I listened to somebody with complete mastery of both their subject and its expression talk about it without any narcissism. Their subject was bigger than their ego. They were there to give and to share. Promoting their book and DVD sales was incidental.

It struck me that so much of the ‘giving’ we do in the course of our work and on social media is not really giving at all. That many of the ‘8 great free tips’ and ‘download my free guide’ gifts are only thinly disguised and often rather grandiose marketing. Of course we need to market our skills and to reach out to new customers. But let’s be more real in our giving, more altruistic and less narcissistic in our sharing, liking and linking.

Anne Manne said this that really resonated with me: the assertion that we don’t need things from others is narcissistic in itself.  We are social creatures, and none us can go it alone. Whether it is help at work or support in our private lives, we benefit from connectedness.

Manne’s book ends with the argument that society’s collective narcissism is affecting our ability to take care of the very earth we live on. We need to turn our attention away from ourselves and towards caring for our environment; to stop believing that we are entitled to all the earth’s resources and to start sharing the commons. Just ask the eagles.

Once the cash is in the bank, what makes the job you do really satisfying?

Research has shown that for most of us, the ideal job combines meaning – the idea that doing our job makes the world abetter place – with a decent income. The emphasis on one or the other depends on our values, priority, career stage, and individual factors such as our family situation and spending habits.

The evidence about the link between money and happiness is confusing and even contradictory. Some studies have shown that more money only brings a certain kind of happiness, others that once our lives are relatively comfortable, more money makes little difference to our level of happiness. The amount of money that brings happiness in the US has even been quantified: US$75,000 per year.

It’s even been suggested that happiness buys money, as studies have shown that happy people are better at earning more.

And then there’s the downside: generally, better paid jobs bring with them longer hours, more responsibility, less leisure time and more stress. A marketing executive who moved cities several times with his family in pursuit of the highest-paying job recounts how once he had reached his target income and moved for the fourth time in as many years, his job with a company in the manufacturing sector almost immediately came under threat. The long hours and the daily commute were exhausting him.  It took years of upheaval for him to realise that money can’t buy you job love.

Job satisfaction, in the sense of your work feeling meaningful to you and making a difference in the world, may well be easier to pursue, and more within your control.

1. Work for an organisation with values aligned to your own

First understand your own values: family? Career progression? Spirituality? Health? Then explore the values of any organisation you might work for. Do they offer generous parental leave? Are religious holidays observed and respected? Is there a mentoring program in place? Is going for a run at lunch time facilitated and encouraged? It will increase your satisfaction if not only the role, but also the culture is matched to what you find important in life.

2. Understand why you work (other than for the money)

Of course being paid is crucial. But there must be other reasons to drive you out of bed in the morning. Is it the challenge and the opportunity to prove yourself? Do you need to be with other people, cooperating to get things done? Do you need to be creative, or to help others? Look for the motivating forces behind the job itself. If your urge is to be creative but you spend most of your day managing people, you are less likely to be satisfied.

3. Place value on the work you do

Almost invariably your work will add value to the lives of others. The trick is to see it. An insurance salesperson reported finding no meaning in her job until a client pointed out to her that the recommendations she had made saved his business and his livelihood when a fire destroyed his takeaway shop.  Take time to seek out the value in your work if you feel it may have little, and you may well be surprised.

So who are the most satisfied workers? It depends who you ask, but the occupation that most consistently scores the highest in surveys is clergy, with around 98% of clergy members of all faiths reporting that their work makes the world a better place. Farmers and fitness instructors did pretty well too. This is not to suggest that you move to the country or give it all up for a position in your local gym, but it’s well worth looking more closely at what job satisfaction means to you.

The annual performance review: agony, ecstasy or just ticking the box?

 A year ago, Deloitte announced that they were getting rid of performance reviews. Research had shown, they argued, that a critical assessment was no longer the way to gather information about staff performance. Not only did they waste millions of hours, representing a huge cost, they were demotivating and inaccurate.

Other organisations, including Accenture, Google, Microsoft and NAB have also ditched the annual review and ranking system. They were convinced by their own research and by that of outside organisations that the system was not driving better performance.

If you hate performance reviews, either giving them or being on the receiving end, you’re not alone. A poll in the Sydney Morning Herald had 87% of participants agreeing that the ‘whole process is just a waste of time and doesn’t achieve much’, with only 5% agreeing that, ‘They force employees and managers to think beyond the daily grind and see how they are tracking’ and should be kept.

Kevin Murphy, a scientist at Colorado State University and an expert on performance appraisals, told the New Yorker that there were further issues:

·  Managers have incentives to inflate appraisals of their team members.

·  Feedback can make people less motivated and hurt relationships as it is often perceived as biased and unfair, even when it is accurate.

·  Organisations do a poor job of rewarding good evaluators and sanctioning bad ones.

‘As a result, annual appraisals end up as a source of anxiety and annoyance rather than a source of useful information’, Murphy told the New Yorker.

Other reasons given for scrapping performance reviews include:

·  They focused on the last couple of months and on recent performance, rather than on the full year.

·  More than half of the performance rating reflects the traits of the person conducting the review rather than those of the person being rated, due to the conscious and unconscious biases of the reviewing manager.

·  They tend to reward the most self-promoting employees, who are not necessarily the best employees in the long term.

·  They reflect an outdated way of working, based on the time and motion studies of the early 20th century, seeking efficiency above all else.

·  The performance review process is the single biggest cause of claims for bullying, according to research by reputation management consultants Risk To Business, who write, ‘The link between performance management and workplace bullying is unequivocal.’

Supporters of the review process argue that it is not the performance review per se that is the problem, but how it is conducted and managed.  Rhonda Brighton-Hall, board member of the Australian Human Resources Institute, has said that it is the quality of the leadership, not the form the performance review takes, which establishes its effectiveness. Handled well, a performance review can increase motivation, reward productive employees by giving them more responsibility, identify training needs and confront problems in an honest way. Staff are able to set career objectives and ask for support in achieving them. Confrontations can be managed in a considered way, and open communication is encouraged.

Supporters argue that it is important to separate the performance review from a pay review, as employees will perceive a negative review – or even any adverse comments – as a way to avoid giving a raise. Separating the two processes allows the performance review to feel more collaborative.

In a fast-paced work environment, there is no doubt that slowing down and reflecting on performance is helpful and positive.  Those who have given up the annual performance review have typically replaced it with more regular and less structured feedback and conversations. Next time we will take a look at those alternatives.

Why bosses have jobs and leaders build companies

My new post for Challenge Consulting

The day you’ve planned and worked for has arrived: you’ve been promoted to manager. You know that your leadership skills are going to be needed in the coming weeks and months, but what exactly are they?

Perhaps you’re suffering from ‘impostor syndrome’ ­- the feeling that you aren’t really up to a leadership role, and that sooner or later this will become obvious. How do you develop leadership skills and feel confident in your ability to lead? Here’s our guide to shaping your leadership style in the first days, weeks and months in a new leadership position.

Be clear on your priorities. Start by focusing on just three things, and get those done with the help of your team. What are you trying to achieve? How will you measure success – both your own and those of your team members? Let your manager, your team and any other stakeholders know what you are prioritising in these first weeks and months, so that they understand your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.

Being clear about your purpose and committing to your team and yourself is what leadership is about. Knowing what you want and who you are is the basis of being a good leader.

Listen and learn. An associate told me about a new manager who came on board from another organisation and immediately began changing every process in the team – even those that worked well. My friend had worked in the team for years and was a technical expert, but the new manager believed she had all the answers. If she had listened to her new team, and to the higher-ups, she would have won their respect and trust; instead she fragmented the team and was moved on within six months.

Spending time with your team and getting to know them on a personal level will mean you can inspire each person to do their best in the way that works for them. Motivation is different for everyone. Admitting your mistakes, learning them and discussing them with the team is a way of being authentic. Being authentic means you build trust and cooperation in your team.

Create a support network. Seek out a more experienced leader who can mentor you. This will not only improve your leadership skills, but it will also show you how to map your road to success in the organisation. An informal network of others in leadership positions can act as a sounding board and provide support if times get tough. A weekly coffee or eating lunch together is a good way to put that network in place.

Better still, you can hire a coach or sign up for a leadership training course. Challenge Consulting’s research has shown that leadership training increases median revenue by $31,000 per employee and productivity by 17-21%. Formal learning can help to address your concerns and questions in a systematic way, and the leadership journey need not be a lonely one.

Develop your communication skills. This includes working on your listening skills. Stephen R. Covey wrote that, ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’ When employees feel unheard they lose motivation, so make sure you don’t give the impression you know it all or are not interested in what your colleagues have to say.  Keep your audience in mind when you speak; simplify jargon and complex technical information when speaking to people whose job does not include working with those things.

Practice giving a presentation to boost your confidence, and think about joining an organisation such as Toastmasters or sign up for a class in writing or speaking for business.

Praise and acknowledge others. Do it immediately and your team will appreciate your feedback even more. Feedback is highly motivating and team members will appreciate immediate thanks, praise and even constructive criticism.  Learning to deliver constructive criticism is an art. You can read more about providing actionable feedback in our article about common feedback mistakes here .

Take time out to celebrate employees’ good performance and meeting the team or organisation’s goals. When employees feel acknowledged and empowered to do their best, productivity soars. An environment in which people want to work can be more motivating than money, and retaining good people is the hallmark of a good leader.

As small business coach Barry Moltz put it, ‘Bosses have jobs and leaders build companies’. So learn to be a leader.