Sunday, 27 November 2011

A New Chapter- Mamapalooza coming to Sydney.

Dear Readers,

It has been a few days (ahem) since last I tapped a missive into this virtual space, and I must admit the thought did cross my mind to end it with my last post, as the Scrolls seemed to have reached a point of natural conclusion. The end of the first six months of the Blog coincided with my new appointment (and the end of the teaching semester). Next year a new vista stretches out ahead. Many things have happened since last I wrote. One is another role I am taking up in the organisation of Mamapalooza- Sydney, an international festival of mother's creativity and art that began in New York and is coming down under in May. And a book project collating a decade of my contemporary art essays, interviews, and articles on Australian and International contemporary art and art journalism, that were published in art and popular culture periodicals, newspapers, radio, online media, and peer reviewed journals, when I was  owner/director of media writing and research business Arts Features International (that I started up in 2003) is in progress. I am still running my one-woman media writing business. With so much to write about, leaving the Blogosphere now would seems premature.

A new chapter begins.

Until next time.

Ruth Skilbeck

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A new position.

Next year, starting at the beginning of January, I will be taking up a one year contract as  MA Lecturer at the Journalism and Media Research Centre, in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at the University of New South Wales. I'll be coordinating two subjects, Feature Writing and Writing for Media, and basing my research at the JMRC. 
I began teaching at the JMRC in Semester 2 this year and have been teaching the course Online and Mobile Media, for which students write a semester-long Blog. With my newfound passion for blogging, I have much enjoyed teaching this course and reading my creative students fascinating and very varied Blogs.
Looking forward to a productive 2012.
The phoenix depicted in the Aberdeen Bestiary (ca. 12thC).

Rising like a firebird from volcanic ashes...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Rousseau's Social Contract and the Occupy Movement

When looking in the box room for something completely different, this evening, I came across a book I mislaid and have been missing for a long time. Jean-Jacque Rousseau's The Social Contract (1762), a slim volume whose cover is inscribed with the immortal epigraph: 'Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains'.  I can't argue with that, although I do think the words are even more apt when applied to Woman, given the history of gender inequity in social participation that reproduced itself throughout modernity, long after  Rousseau left the mortal coil. A desire to invert gender politics was not the cause of my joy when I found this little book tonight, however; I have been thinking about it because of the questions of the social contract that have been opened up anew by the Occupy movement.

At random, I opened The Social Contract at  Chapter 14, The Same- Continued. And I read:

'The moment the people is lawfully assembled as a sovereign body all jurisdiction of the government ceases, the executive power is suspended, and the person of the humblest citizen is as sacred and inviolable as that of the highest magistrate, for in the presence of the represented there is no longer any representation. Most of the disturbances which took place in the Roman assemblies were the result of this rule being either unknown or neglected. The consuls were no more than the presidents of the people; the tribunes were mere speakers, the senate was nothing at all.

These intervals of suspension, when the prince recognises - or ought to recognize- who is superior, are always alarming for princes; and the assemblies of the people, which are the shield of the body politic amd the brake on the government, have always been the nightmare of magistrates; hence the latter spare no effort in raising objections, problems, promises to turn the citizens against assemblies. When the citizens are avaricious, cowardly, pusillanimous, and love repose more than freedom, they do not hold out against the redoubled efforts of the government. It is thus that, as the opposing force increases continuously, the sovereign authority atrophies in the end and the majority of republics fall and perish before their time.

 But between the sovereign authority and arbitrary government there is sometimes interposed an intermediate power of which we must now speak."*

Rousseau's meditations on the social contract certainly seem apposite in light of the new dialogue that has entered and is now ringing through the public domain. What will it lead to? where will it go? Only time -and the people- will tell. But one thing is certain: there is now a public assembly that is speaking for itself. The Occupy movement around the world - which remarkably eight weeks ago did not exist- is characterised by the communication forum of the General Assembly which anyone who wishes to can participate in. This is a new global social movement that is giving people around the world a chance to assemble and speak- about public governance and social organisation; about how we humans may live better actively and equably participating in our societies.  And as Rousseau's words show, this is a form of assembly and communication that people have engaged in since antiquity. For decades throughout the 20th century people grew so used to having the world mediated through TV and mass media and adopting the role of the passive consumer that they almost forgot that democracy means 'rule of the people'.  Mass media and TV passive consumption made people lazy. The interactivity and lively dialogue and cultural exchange  of social media has woken people up, at the same time as the Global Financial Crisis has created a real need for new ways and solutions to economic and environmental problems. And now the social media conversations of concerned citizens have materialised in embodied dialogue and the 'general assemblies' of the Occupy movements in the public squares all around the world.

                                                                                                                                            © Copyright Ruth Skilbeck 2011

*Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. (1762/2004). The Social Contract. Penguin Books. London.

Interview: Tracey Emin and Ruth Skilbeck

In interview: Ruth Skilbeck & Tracey Emin at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2004  
                                     Photograph © Copyright Ruth Skilbeck

Professor Tracey Emin and Ruth Skilbeck pondering the art of travelling light in 2004. 

In the photo I am interviewing Tracey Emin, who at the time was attracting media epithets such as  'bad-girl' of British Art, and 'Britain's biggest art celebrity'.

Tracey came to Sydney in 2004 for the opening of her exhibition, Fear, War and the Scream at Roslyn Oxley9 gallery.

Tracey's stories of her adolescent experiences of rape and racial abuse, transformed into the material  form of her art catapulted her into the upper echelons of the art world when she was picked up out of her struggling artist's life in an East End council flat by Charles Saatchi. Achieving cultural and political prominence in the 80s, Saatchi, is the advertising agency director who advised the Thatcher government, then turned to contemporary art. In the mid-90s Tracey Emin became one of  Saatchi's  curated group of Young British Artists, that also included Damien Hirst and the Chapman Brothers. No longer so 'young', their work continues to be represented by Jay Jopling in London's White Cube gallery.

Sitting in the sun on the terrace of the gallery, we were talking literally and metaphorically about 'the Art of Travelling Light'. A stream of consciousness that began when I asked her about how she flies. We devised a story concept of Tracey Emin's Art of Travelling Light -with tips on how to fly aesthetically with minimal baggage- or in Tracey's case designer luggage. Above the detritus of relationship breakdowns, addictions, life's crises. With friends and other animals (Tracey had a much loved cat); through the transformed subjectivity of art.

An alchemy that seems even more apt now.

© Copyright Ruth Skilbeck 2011

My story 'Tracey Emin Down Under' is published in POL Oxygen-Design, Art, Architecture, Issue 2, 2003.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Riot Police Raid Occupy Sydney

By Ruth Skilbeck
There were violent scenes as hundreds of riot police raided the  Occupy Sydney site at 5 am this morning, making 40 arrests and moving over 100 occupants from the site. Before dawn, police moved in to disperse the 8-day 24/7 occupation, part of the global movement against corporate greed, that started with Occupy Wall Street. 
Several dozens of occupants were injured. Occupants say they were given ten minutes to leave the site but police moved in immediately, and manhandled them off the site. Many were “attempting to peacefully link arms and refusing to move” from the Occupy Sydney statement:

Approx 80 occupants were told they had 10 mins to leave but police moved in prior to the 10 mins and began arresting people and confiscating property.... Some of those arrested include people from the local homeless community who have been actively participating in the occupation.” quoted participants deploring the police violence. One said: "Seeing people who have been peaceful for eight days, crying and screaming in pain after they were woken up out of their sleep -- it doesn't make any sense."

Another said: "I screamed, I was saying 'release the handcuffs, loosen the handcuffs my arm is going to break' - I said it over and over."
Police have denied using excessive brutality, and  claims of manhandling and bashing  were “grossly exaggerated”  said Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch to reporters in Sydney. 
Twenty-nine of the forty arrested will be “issued with infringement notices for breaching a local government act”  said police in a statement, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. Four people are expected to be charged with assaulting police and seven were issued filed court attendance notices for breaching a local government act.
The raid followed a peaceful rally on Saturday attended by a crowd of all ages. Public talks  were held on a range of topics including  attacks to the public sector. 

The eviction follows the violent police removal of participants from the  Occupy Melbourne site at City Square, on Friday.
Occupy Sydney have called a planning meeting at 5pm this afternoon in the lobby of the Tower Building at UTS. Police have said that they will be monitoring the meeting, and  will be on standby at Martin Place.

                                 Occupy Sydney Eviction 5am 23rd October Video 1

The raid and its aftermath is being widely reported on social media and in the mainstream national and global media.
More information: 
Occupy Sydney.
Sydney Morning Herald 'Police deny using excessive force in Sydney raid'.
Green Left Weekly.

Occupy Sydney at Martin Place, Tuesday Night, 18/10/11

                  Occupy Sydney at Martin Place, Tuesday Night, 18/10/11 
                                                                                                                                               Photograph © Copyright Ruth Skilbeck

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Photos: A Night at Occupy Sydney

 Occupy Sydney, Martin Place.  Photos: Ruth Skilbeck

I am covering the events of Occupy Sydney as a freelance journalist and putting up stories on my blog. I went to the Occupy Sydney site in Martin Place for about two hours on the night of Tuesday 18 October, spoke to people, and took these photos.


                                                                                     Photographs © Copyright Ruth Skilbeck

GFC Suicides and the ‘Super’ Swindle

By Ruth Skilbeck

Today’s front  page article in the Australian online announces “Market forcing retirees to work after $75bn paper loss in superannuation.” The article discusses the economic loss using standard mass media cliches: “Baby-boomer retirees are being forced back to work, with workers having almost nothing to show for contributing $430 billion to Australia’s compulsory superannuation pool since the global financial crisis”. ‘Wealth Editor’  Andrew Main omits to mention the cost in human terms.
The human toll of the GFC is as broad as it is global. This is recognized in the worldwide Occupy movement’s ‘We are the 99%'  slogan. The GFC has triggered an unreported chilling trend for suicide, and that includes suicide by the men ( and perhaps also women) who work in the finance industries - those who advised their clients to invest their earnings and  lifesavings.

                                                                Occupy Sydney, Martin Place  Photo: Ruth Skilbeck

When I lived in Balmoral (before I moved to Newcastle in Jan 2010) I had friends whose husbands or ex-husbands worked in  finance industries, and I can report that there are many stories that are not published in the mainstream media. About the human cost of the Global Financial Crisis, not only on those who have lost all their saving, and had their lifetime savings wiped to face a retirement of (comparative) poverty, but of those who worked in the finance industries that took those savings, advising their clients on where to “invest”. 
The GFC hit when I was living in Balmoral. A friend and her ex spouse attended the funeral of a good friend of theirs who drove to North Head. And then jumped off North Head. Leaving behind a wife and two adolescent children to fend for themselves. My friend was angry with him. Now what are his wife and children going to do? She knew of several men who worked in finance who had jumped off Northbridge. It’s never reported but it has happened a lot.
As a divorced, 'casual academic' and freelance journalist I have not been able to make enough money to lose. Twice I have had to draw down my  superannuation due to financial hardship. Each time it has amounted to a princely sum of $3,000 and the government has taken one-third of that in tax.
In comparison, there are those in a senior generation in my family who have lost considerable life savings for retirement earned in very successful full-time academic careers. Investments planned to support their retirement,  have disappeared. If they are ‘too old’ to return to the work force, what about them? 
The men who worked in finance who committed suicide could not face the moral consequences of what they had done: advise people such as my senior relatives to invest their earnings and savings into superannuation funds that evaporated like the Howard government’s attempts at integrity and accountability.
“The hit to nest eggs has been exacerbated by the flood of personal contributions Australians made after Howard government treasurer Peter Costello announced in the 2006 budget that pre-retirees could contribute an extra $1 million into their super funds until June 30 the following year as  an undeducted contribution - that is without paying extra tax on it. That attracted an extra $95bn of personal contributions to super just before the GFC hit.” 

Self managed super funds lost between 20 and 40 pc in 2008 - an unprecedented drop . Previously 5 pc was the most lost in the "tech wreck" of 2002  and in the 1930s depression (when my grandparents lost a lot of their savings after following the advice of their accountant). 
Could it be that the GFC is in some way a leveller from the  heights of economic  fantasy to our core humanity that always seems to emerge as we are suffering the most? The deep pre-semiotic reality of affect that  may yet be the salvation of the human race and the planet that we inhabit.
Given this, it is supremely ‘ironic’, if not blatant evidence of serving the machine  of the system for the mainstream media not to be reporting the human cost. Instead simply announcing “baby boomer retirees are being forced back to work.”  Note the use of  “forced”. In capitalism’s theatre of cruelty, such glib statements may be made with abandon. 

What a facile statement from the 'Wealth Editor'.

And yes, that is my opinion.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Night at Occupy Sydney in Martin Place

Spent a few hours at Occupy Sydney in Martin Place, where there was an energised and peaceful gestalt buzz; rather extraordinary that about 80 people are living in an open community in between the corporate towers, and plaza fountains. Since the event began on Saturday,  each day at least another ten people have joined, one of the Occupiers said. It's 12.41 am now and I am having a coffee at MacDonalds on George Street, where a noisy fight broke out in a group of young lads in the hamburger queue, the air is electric with aggression; they are escorted or thrown outside onto the street. Then a police van arrived and female and male police officers conduct upper torso strip searches of the  brawling boys on the street directly outside the very window next to where I'm sitting (Of course all this has nothing to do with Occupy Sydney...) It all goes on for quite a while. I have to avert my eyes and occupy myself with checking my emails and teaching notes.  This is the third violent fight incident with intoxicated young people  that I passed since walking away from peaceful OS. It's another world down here on George Street. The wild west! I am considering going back to OS for the night. I forgot warm socks and it is chilly. But there's a lot of warmth from the people there that compensates for the chill in the night air. Met interesting friendly people, who've been there for days and had long conversations; with P. who told me he has not been to a protest since 1978...  The creative peaceful, alternative community feeling of creating something new and counter-cultural, and the way that strangers were talking to each other like friends reminded me of Australia in the late 70s.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Middle Class Global Revolutionaries Unite?

The world's middle classes becoming revolutionary and taking on the role of Marx’s proletariat was just one of several futuristic trends for the year 2037 (that also included information chips implanted in the brain and electromagnetic pulse weapons)- envisaged in a report by a team at Britain’s Ministry of Defense released in 2007, and reported by the Guardian in the same year, in a frontpage article ‘Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future.’
Only four years on and a Global Financial Crisis, and trending global Occupy movement later, the 2007 prediction looks surprisingly prescient.
"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on "a growing gap" between the middle classes and the superrich on one hand and an urban under-class destabilising social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, the report says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".
With the global peaceful Occupy Movement, powered by hundreds of thousands of the world’s middle class citizens disenfranchised by the system they believed in and that betrayed them, spreading in cities all around the world in the past month, it seems like the future is now, at least in the move to take global action for change.  
What formations will emerge from the Occupy movement remain to emerge and be seen; it seems very unlikely that these will take the form of rigid belief systems, and doctrinaire ideologies as at present the tendency is towards open, fluid social interactions in public spaces. Its very flexibility and spontaneity is a defining feature of this global movement that so far articulates a deep discontent and patient anger at the social injustices of the  “1%” superrich  world’s ruling elite controlling the wealth and resources, whilst the “99%’ are expected to  pay for the corporate greed and shortsightedness that brought on the global financial crisis - through massive cuts to public services and jobs.

Norton-Taylor, Richard (2007). ‘Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future.’ Guardian, 9/4/2007.

Occupy Sydney- Sleeping Out at Martin Place

As a freelance journalist I plan to sleep out at Occupy Sydney tomorrow night at Martin Place with several friends, to report on the  Sydney manifestation of the new worldwide movement in collaborative support for a vision for a new global governance, to improve conditions for all workers: that includes the many thousands of “casual” academics in Australian who will, routinely, be made unemployed at the end of the semester, and the current industrial disputes of Qantas workers.
Occupy Sydney began on Saturday 15th October together with hundreds of Occupy events around the world in sympathy with Occupy Wall Street that began one month ago as a people’s movement  opposed to corporate greed and corruption and calling for a world revolution for real democracy, closing the gap between the 99% and the 1% who control the worlds wealth and resources, and the banking system that brought about the Global Financial Crisis.
Sydney’s Martin Place is home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Macquarie Bank, and is known as the centre of corporate Australia.  The Sydney GPO and Seven news media centre are also located on Martin Place.
I’ve been advised to wrap up warmly. I will bring a camera, and plan to report on what’s happening in the public square!

Post-script. I didn't sleep out at Occupy Sydney as a journalist to report on the movement.  When I went there with a friend we went to the George Street end of Martin Place, and I discovered an interesting 'optical illusion'. Martin Place is a disappearing public square. From the lower concourse of the southern end looking up, the upper northern end disappears from view. This effect is aided by the strategic placement of a long based fountain. From the perspective of where I was standing it looked as if Martin Place was unoccupied. Little did I know that there was an active camp site of peaceful protest out of my line of sight. The next night, Tuesday 18 October, I went alone after work in the evening. I found the site stayed for over two hours, talking to people and took the photos posted on this blog.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

No More “Offshore Processing” Cruelty

A cartoon in an article in today’s edition of the Age newspaper online says more than the text. Walking through the corridors of power, Immigration Minister Bowen turns to PM Gillard and says: "We do have a last resort for  asylum seekers...treat them like human beings". 
 After many years, it seems the message is entering the mainstream media.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Refugee Art and 'Freedom From Persecution, the Question of Afghanistan' UTS conference

'Freedom from Persecution: the Question of Afghanistan' is the theme of a conference being held at the University of Technology Sydney, on Friday 7 October, in association with the exhibition, Unsafe Haven: Hazaras in Afghanistan’ photographs by Abdul Karim Hekmat, a UTS graduate and former refugee from Afghanistan- who returned to his former homeland in the Hazaras regions in 2010 and documented his journey through photographs and text. 

A key question raised in the conference is how can non-refugees act for refugee rights?

One way is to support refugees through supporting their art and empathetically sharing their experiences represented through art. One of the main functions of art is to process the traumatic experiences of life, and so art by refugees and exiles has a special importance and significance: as a means of processing trauma and also of bearing witness, communicating the lived events that make up history and change.
I hope to write more on refugee art and the newly formed Refugee Art Project, whose spokespeople, Dr Safdar Ahmed and Biquis Ghani, will give a presentation at the conference on their recent formation and initiatives to humanise refugee rights.

Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the conference due to work commitments, so instead am posting the conference program here, with information of where to find further details from the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at UTS.  Ruth Skilbeck 


A conference held in association with the exhibition, ‘Unsafe Haven: Hazarras in Afghanistan’, UTS Tower Foyer.

When: 7 October, 9.15am-5.30pm

Where: Room 411, Building 2 (CB02.411) University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW

Access: Free. Disabled access. Places are limited. Please register:<>

For thirty years Afghanistan has suffered under invasions, civil wars and military rule, and millions of Afghans have fled the country seeking refuge. Many fled the civil war after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and more followed during the Taliban period. By 2001, there were at least eight million Afghan refugees, mostly in Pakistan and Iran. Following the 2001 UN intervention and occupation more than five million Afghans – twenty per cent of the country’s population – voluntarily returned to the country, to a situation of continued political instability. Since 2006, with intensifying violence and internal conflict, voluntary return has declined. In recent months countries such as Australia have made provision for the forced return of Afghan refugees.

Continued conflict and protracted displacement in Afghanistan poses in sharp relief the question of how to guarantee freedom from persecution in the world today. In a global political system that generates radically destabilised countries, where political authority and legitimacy is absent, persecution becomes systemic. How can this be addressed?


9.15-11.00 Persecution and the right to protection?
The Government has provisions for the forcible return of Afghans. Is it safe in Afghanistan for returning refugees? Abdul Hekmat launches his report on the situation for Hazarras in Afghanistan, and discusses the exhibition, ‘No Safe Haven’. Liz Thompson, refugee advocate, discusses the status of Hazarras in Pakistan. Prof. William Maley, from ANU, speaks on questions of persecution in Afghanistan, and protection in Australia. Chair: Dr Nina Burridge

11.30-1.00 Refugee policy and global politics?
In an age of humanitarian intervention and border protection, what is the place of refugee policy? Prof. Sam Blay, from the Law Faculty at UTS, discusses current issues in Australian refugee policy. Dr Nour Dados, from Sydney University, contextualises refugee policy with Australian state claims to territory. Dr Wahid Razi positions state failure in the context of invasion and occupation, discussing the post-2014 scenario for Afghanistan. Chair: A/Prof. Dr James Goodman

1.00-2.00 Lunch and Book Launch 
 ‘Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political’ by Dr Anne McNevin, RMIT (New York: Columbia University Press). Launched by Prof Jock Collins. 

1.00-3.00 New forms of citizenship and political community?
How have refugees constructed new political communities? How may these transform existing forms of nationality and citizenship? Dr Omid Tofighian discusses the role of Afghan refugees in recasting Iranian identities. Dr Anne McNevin, from the Global Cities Research Institute, RMIT, discusses her new book ‘Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political’. Laurie Berg discusses the liberatory potential but also some pitfalls of transnational citizenship building. Chair: Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz

3.30-5.00 Refugee advocacy?For non-refugees, how to act for refugee rights? How can majority opposition to ‘offshore processing’ of applications for refugee status translate into new policy regimes? A/Prof James Goodman discusses mobilisation for humanitarian norms in the context of impunity for rights violations. Ian Rintoul from Refugee Action Collective discusses approaches to refugee politics taken by the Collective. Dr. Safdar Ahmed and Bilquis Ghani from the Refugee Art Project outline their recent formation and initiatives to humanise refugee rights. Chair: Prof. Heather Goodall

The conference and exhibition are hosted by the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at UTS. The conference program is online at:<>


Singing to Infinity #808

Singing to Infinity

And then I woke up and it was only a dream...

I dreamt I awoke but I was sleeping

This is my dream

This space, these words

This Book that has no end.

                                                                   Ruth Skilbeck  5.10.11

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

By Ruth Skilbeck. 

Just re-watched the Matrix. "Welcome to the desert of the Real" that famous line ‘mis’quoted by Morpheus (great name!). Apparently Baudrillard wasn't too happy about the Wachowski Brothers 'misinterpretation' of his famous line about the simulacrum taking it literally as the post apocalyptic 'real' world destroyed by humans; instead of the more sophisticated reference to language and impossibility of connecting to ‘the Real‘  beyond the sign and signifier, that was developed from Saussure’s early semiology, by Lacan. 
Many scholars will point out that Baudrillard's objection to the Wachowski Bros interpretation of his work was also connected to their idea of the matrix as a "simulacrum" which is constructed to hide a deeper truth, namely: a dystopian system of oppression, which is definitely a misinterpretation of what Baudrillard calls "simulacrum".*
However, ironically perhaps the Wachowskis' conception of the matrix as a simulacrum does serve as an example of the kind of insecure fearful society that my reading of Baudrillard's work suggests is produced through - and productively synonymous with- simulated versions of reality or hyperreality.
With the apocalyptic images of environmental catastrophe, war, conflict, and nuclear meltdowns conveyed continuously by the media, and the panopticon theories of digital media communication taking hold in the paranoid imagination of many, it may seem that both ‘mis’interpretations have morphed into their own constituitive forms of hyperreality in contemporary media discourse.
*Thanks to Claudia Perner for discussing these ideas with me on Facebook.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

E-Gads! Self-publishing is the new black of the transnational digital world.

Self-publishing is, it seems, the new black of the online digital world- and that means the world of the Blog and its internets. Self publishing e-books is cool, it’s attracting agents and traditional publishers, and it makes more money for authors and artists. That is according to the latest news from professional networking Linked-in group ‘Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content Publishing’.

An article posted in the group today by Robin Sullivan, entitled ‘The New Midlist: Self-Published E-Book Authors Who Make A Living’ details a persuasive list of reasons, backed up by  facts and figures, as to why self publishing e-books is now a more viable way for first time book authors to introduce the gilded fruits of their inspiration and perspiration, into the brave new world of digital media. 

Sullivan refers back to the bad old world when “self-publishing produced little to no revenue, and doing so was often the last resort for a project that had been rejected by everyone it had been put in front of.”

But now she says “in the post digital revolution” all this has changed.

“[T]he model has been turned upside down. Authors are going to e-books first based on earning potential and a quick time to market. If they do well, then they leverage their sales for larger advances and favorable contract terms.” 

She adds: “Of course self publishing is not for everyone, but at least for those that decide to go this route, they won’t have to be that one in a million outlier—if they can achieve the e-book midlist status, they stand a good chance of telling their boss, “I quit, I’m going to stay home and write for a living.”

Sullivan cites a “watershed moment”  that occurred in October/November 2010 when “the sales of e-books from previously unknown authors skyrocketed.”

She gives as a case study her husband , author Michael J. Sullivan, who has published six novels in the Riyria Revelations series through her small press Ridan Publishing. Starting at this time, hIs publishing income went from $1,500 approx per month to $102,000 in five months. 

Michael J. Sullivan’s  book series has also recently produced $154,000 in foreign rights, showing that with the new affordances of Amazon and Kindle, self-published e-book authors can now sell foreign rights. 

Self published e-book authors are also commanding far larger publishing advances from mainstream traditional publishers picking up their books which already have a following of readers.

All of which leads to the response: E-Gads!


As your humble scribe has several unpublished books, a novel art book and a new life journalism novel unfolding by the day (with glimpses on this Blog!) perhaps I should think of this as a publishing option? Sounds like it’s worth a try!


Sullivan, Robin, 2011, 'The New Midlist: Self-Published E-Book Authors Who Make A Living’.

© Ruth Skilbeck 2011

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Take a Break from Asylum Law Debate for Refugee Art

Readers of this blog will know by now that I have been attempting to cover the latest wave of controversy  and events in Australia’s long-running public debate over asylum law and refugee policy that revolves around the key contested issues of onshore/offshore processing: whether or not asylum seekers arriving by boat are let into Australia to have their claims processed here - or whether they are sent to be ‘processed’ in a nearby country or Pacific Island; if they are processed here whether or not they are put into ‘mandatory detention’ (in effect a form of indefinite imprisonment whilst they await the processing of their claim which may take years); if they are accepted as legitimate refugees whether or not they are issued with Temporary Protection Visas - which allow the rights of refuge but only on a temporary basis denying the security of citizenship....Another key area is of course refugee children and how they should be treated. 
Those following these events in Australia will also know that the ‘resolution’ of the Asylum Law debate in Australia has been suspended over the parliamentary break. When Parliament resumes in two weeks time a vote will be held to determine whether the Labor government has sufficient support to pass its proposed amendment to the Migration Act to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers in Malaysia, commonly referred to as the ‘Malaysia Solution’ - which the Labor government has said repeatedly  is the way to ‘break the people smuggler business model,’  referring to the boats that ferry asylum seekers to Australia - for a sum of money - a dangerous voyage that has resulted in many shipwrecks and deaths at sea. This shows how desperate asylum seekers are to further risk their lives in their bid to save their lives from the situations of war and conflict and environmental disaster that they are fleeing from.
Meanwhile, for if you are in Sydney, there are two significant exhibitions of art by refugees now living in Australia that give a different view from the perspective of asylum seekers and refugees themselves, that you might like to visit in this lull, in the political ‘asylum law debate’ and that I shall discuss in my next blog entry.
The exhibitions are: 
 ‘Unsafe Haven: Hazaras in Afghanistan’ photographs by Abdul Karim Hekmat, a UTS graduate and former refugee from Afghanistan- who returned to his former homeland in the Hazaras regions in 2010 and documented his journey through photographs and text.  At the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Tower Foyer, Level 4, 15 Broadway, Ultimo. Dates:  5 September- 7 October 2011.
The Refugee Art Project at ICE Information and Cultural Exchange, 8 Victoria Road, Parramatta. Dates: 8 September- 29 September. 10-4pm Mon-Fri.
I will discuss these exhibitions in a coming blog entry.