Road Trips, Instagram and a Random Encounter with Jack Kerouac

I’ve always been a gypsy at heart, but last week an Instagram photo revealed that Jack Kerouac was my first boyfriend’s uncle. Huh? Let me explain.

Cross country road trips, camping, travel and moving house have all been a big part of my life. By the time I was 8 we had lived in 4 countries on 3 continents. When I was 11, I saved up my pocket money and bought a tent, which I pitched in the garden. And now, finally, after years of longing, I’m on the verge of buying a VW Westfalia campervan. It’s my dream come true!

Toy Westie with street in the background

On the Road

By way of encouragement, friends and family have recently been giving me little tokens to keep my vision alive until I can drive away in my very own Westie. Earlier this month, my brother bought me an awesome ‘On the Road‘ leather keyring and luggage tag. I love the nostalgic classic orange penguin cover, it’s so iconic of a more innocent time, when travel and communication was purely mechanical and analogue, before the Internet catapulted us into a complex digital paradigm.

Last week I decided to go camping to escape the September crazies*, so I headed for the woods. An Instagram photo seemed the simplest way to inform my online peeps that I was out of town.

Keyring that looks like a penguin novel "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

The Plot Thickens…

Screen capture of Facebook exchange about Jack Kerouac's nephew

Within a few hours, my status update was seen by an old highschool pal in Chelmsford, England and she had news for me! Mima and I both went to the British School of Brussels in the 70’s, a fantastic school that was popular with British and American ex-pats working abroad in Europe.

Well, as you can see from the conversation that unfolded (right), it turns out that Jack Kerouac was my first boyfriend’s uncle. Who knew? I guess George and I were preoccupied with other things, but somehow the subject of the Beat poets and Uncles just never came up.

There are so many things to love about this exchange! Of course, there’s the obvious thrill of a personal connection to an immortal cultural icon. And the thematic relevance of the novel’s quest for freedom to my own unfolding journey of discovery is delightfully poignant. But perhaps most intriguing is the random juxtaposition between the old and new, a contemporary digital echo of the novel’s core theme expressed via Instagram and Facebook: a clash of opposing forces. Route 66 meets the Information Highway. The Beat Generation shakes hands with Digital Natives. Layers of storytelling traveling across time and space on real and virtual freeways. Trippy, man!

The Unbearable Randomness of Being

What are the odds against this strange factoid ever reaching me, 35 years after the fact? It seems so deeply random, predicated on a whimsical gift, photographed and seen across the world by a particular person at a specific moment in time. I might never have discovered this minor plot point, if it weren’t for the always-on exchanges facilitated by Instagram and Facebook. It boggles the mind.

Six Degrees of Digital Separation

This curious little story got a few digital media storytelling pals and I thinking…how can we use photos, and specifically Instagram, to share stories and engage people in real time? We brainstormed a few fun ideas that you’ll be hearing more about soon…

Has digital sharing revealed new facts or opened up storylines for you?


* The September Crazies follow the August Lazies – suddenly everyone is back at work after the summer and it can be a little overwhelming.

 

Always a storyteller, sometimes a…cameraperson!

My work involves wearing many digital media storytelling hats, which gives me a variety of ‘looks’, or at least, ways of looking. By turn, I’m strategizing with and coaching clients on their media and messaging goals; writing, producing, directing and editing content for every kind of screen; teaching; networking and brainstorming with peers; managing events & programming OPEN CINEMA screenings; and more. Variety is the spice of life!

A Digital Storytelling Toolbox

Having a broad skill base is a good thing if you’re a media savvy storyteller / digital alchemist / social media strategist / content marketer / documentary filmmaker like me, because it gives me a big ol’ digital storytelling toolbox to dip into. (I suspect I’m not alone in my search for an appropriate single term to describe my digital ninja skills these days. Can you relate?)

What is a Digital Alchemist, anyway?

Recently, I’ve been whittling away at a definition of what I do. Here’s what I’ve come up with: I help people to clarify, articulate and share their story or message with the world, using the appropriate media tools to reach their target audience: DVD, TV, cinema, podcast, webathon, YouTube, Facebook, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn…you get the idea. The common denominator is storytelling, and that’s what I know (and love) the best. A good story is like a life preserver: without it, your message is just more dead weight data that will virtually drown in the Internet ocean.

Always a storyteller, sometimes a…

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours studio kitchen

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours of the West Coast kitchen

So this week, I was working as a cameraperson on a studio shoot for an awesome local TV show, Flavours of the West Coast. Now in it’s 3rd successful season, this Cedarwood Productions gem features local farmers and foodies who are creating an astonishing array of local delicacies. The series also includes a fab studio kitchen segment with affable and talented host Chef Steve Walker Duncan, who is joined by a different local celebrity Rookie Chef each week. Check it out! This series is a lot of fun ~ with some great recipes, too!

Cooking up Soul Food

Chef Steve Walker Duncan with R & B legend Dutch Robinson in the Flavours kitchen

Chef Steve Walker Duncan cooks up soul food with R & B legend Dutch Robinson

During two long studio shoot days, we shot ten kitchen segments with ten amazing local talents, including Bob McDonald (Quirks and Quarks), jazz singer Louise Rose; Assistant News Director at CHEK Dana Hutchings; and an exciting newcomer to the West Coast music scene: Dutch Robinson. This R & B legend demonstrated his five octave vocal range (!!) and he’s played with The Ohio Players (Love Rollercoaster), Kid Creole and the Coconuts and most recently DRUM. Every one of these folks is passionate about their life and their work, and it was a pleasure to help share their stories.

I love my job!

 

Writing is the key to everything.

I’ve been doing a lot of clearing and letting go recently, following my mom’s passing at the end of 2011. (More on this remarkable odyssey later, believe me!)

Today, while sorting through old papers, I came upon some notes from an unspecified film industry talk on Laurel Point Inn notepaper, which dates it prior to 2009 or earlier, when the Victoria Film Festival used to hold its annual film industry talks there.

Anyway, I was inspired – it spoke to something that has been much on my mind.

” Writing is the key to everything.” Arcand

Well, there you have it!

As it happens, I recently dug out my copy of Natalie Goldberg‘s Writing Down the Bones. A most inspiring read that always guides me back to my writing practice. If you are a writer of any kind in need of a kick in the butt or gentle nudge, I highly recommend reading it. It’s helped me find my way back to the page.

What helps you put pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard?

 

 

 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

A Christmas greeting from Media RisingThis is an iPhone photograph I took on Johnson Street in Victoria, BC on a rainy evening. I then passed it through some funky filters using Instagram – I LOVE Instagram, it’s my favourite app. I post the photos to Facebook and Twitter, and I’m going to find a plug-in that allows me to post here as well…

Talking of my blog, I’ve made a new year’s resolution to blog regularly – at least once a week starting next week. I love to write, I’ve starting thinking in blog posts, but somehow, my musings rarely make it to the er, well, screen. Considering I’m always recommending regular blogging to my social media clients, I think it’s time I practice what I preach, n’est ce pas? *ahem*

Which neatly segues to a delightful meeting I had with two digital divas today, Jane Victoria King and Angela Hemming, of AHEM Productions (hence the segue). Angela and Jane both blog regularly five days a week, and our conversation inspired me. Thanks ladies, this blog post is for you…

Watch this space…a blog post a week is the challenge. I give you all leave to pester me on twitter or facebook if I fall short of my goal. Please, hold my feet to the blogging fire. (eek!)

Enjoy the festive season, and if you have any blogging inspiration to offer, I’d love to hear from you…

The Story Behind Social Media for Writers

I’ve been working with a lot of authors recently. Social media, writing and storytelling make cosy bedfellows; no matter which way you fold it, they need each other, and together they make a great team.

Wired Words Logo

Wired Words: A Symposium for Writers of Every Ilk

Last weekend,  I was invited to speak at Wired Words, the first BC Federation of Writers annual festival on Saturday September 10th, 2011. 50 local authors, writers and storytellers gathered in the stunning historic courtroom of the BC Maritime Museum to talk about everything narrative, ePublishing and digital media. It felt particularly poignant for this old-time house of law to host a twitter workshop.

Wired Words at the BC Maritime Museum Courtroom

BC Maritime Museum Courtroom, VIctoria BC

Writing in the 21st Century

A plethora of insights and tools were discussed at half a dozen insightful presentations: ePublishing, blogging, online marketing and digital printing. I gave 2 presentations, one on Social Media for Writers and the other explored film editing as it relates to writing and literary editing (more on the that later!). All were extremely well-received. Here’s a review of the day, with video interviews of Lorne Daniel and yours truly, written by Craig Spence.

Mandy Leith at Wired Words Festival, Victoria BC

Wired Words participants talk social media with Mandy Leith. Photo: Kim Goldberg

Connecting the Dots

Social networking is a great way to engage with not only readers, but the bookstores that sell your tomes, the publishers who print them and the reviewers who get the word out. Plus, writing blog posts is great way to practice word craft. In addition to a blog (I recommend WordPress.org), Twitter and Facebook page and Youtube (for video trailers of your book), there are a wealth of useful social media tools for authors. LibraryThing, Shelfari and Goodreads are only a few of the sites that offer online networks for sharing your personal library, reviews, published works, and of course, connecting with other writers and readers.

Writers need Social Media: Social Media Needs Writers

“Online tools are the fastest and easiest way for writers to begin building an audience, get better at their craft and network with others.” comments publisher Jane Friedman, whose blog is a great resource. Another great website, chock full of social media tips and links is The Creative Penn.

It’s very rewarding to provide social media support to authors as they launch their new books. I’m currently assisting local author John Shields’ new virtual book launch on September 21st, 2011: The Priest Who Left His Religion: In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality. I simply love the myriad of places that story and media come together. As a media-savvy storyteller, it’s my stock-in-trade.

What social media strategies have worked for you and your book or publication?