SCBWI Conference Sydney 2012: “Going Digital”

On Saturday 30 June 2012, SCBWI Sydney combined with the NSW Writer’s Centre for the Children’s and Young Adults Literature Conference. I was fortunate to be on a panel for ‘Going Digital’ with esteemed book creators Hazel Edwards, Pamela Rushby, and Lesley Vamos (Chair Chris Cheng) and am sharing my talk fyi.

I’d like to start my talk with two quotes from ‘The Story of a Transmedia Revolution’ by Peter Usagi:

“It might seem like a trivial thing, but imagine if you could remember the exact moment mankind learned to use fire as a tool, or how to farm, or how to surf the net on the world’s first web browser? Imagine if you could remember where you were, and what you were doing, when a major cultural revolution happened? News flash: it already has…”

“It isn’t often that you get the chance to be on the ground floor of history as it happens. Stop, and bookmark this moment in your life.”

Recently, I was in the supermarket when a small baby, about 6 mths, started to cry. In my day you’d pull out your car keys and jiggle them in front of the baby’s face. Today, that baby was glued to an iPhone screen.

Going digital isn’t a choice.

And the wonderful thing about storytelling in this digital age is that it includes hypertext, multimedia, immersive, interactive, non-linear narrative. In the past stories were produced and distributed by the cartels such as music labels, movie studios, television stations and publishing houses. Audiences consumed them through radio, cinema, TV and books.

Good stories were successful because they were shared. Today’s world audience of almost seven trillion people do not just want to consume content, they want to control and create content as well as share content. What we’re seeing is the emergence of a cross-pollinating, multi-media and self-sustaining world of storytelling.

In the past a vast chasm separated the author from the audience. Thanks to social media like Facebook, blogs, and twitter that chasm is not only shrinking, it’s disappearing altogether so that we’re seeing digital platforms with high levels of collaboration between content creators, and content consumers.

The lines between writer, publisher and bookseller or retailer, are blurring. Apple’s latest iBooks Author will explode storytelling in the digital revolution.

What is Transmedia Storytelling?

Telling a single, highly fragmented story across multiple platforms. These are often digital as seen with social media.
Transmedia storytelling includes audience participation, decision-making and collaboration. It involves play and performance as well.

As a transmedia storyteller for Kiss Kill my brief has broadened considerably so that now I must also be involved in:
– Audience creation with the goal of building a fan base. The world created is a character world, Mat’s world.
– Online engagement (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Blog) @Mawter, @KissKillDigital,,
– Brand building as ‘Jeni Mawter: Digital Storyteller”
– Connecting fictional characters with my brand – Mat blogs daily at
– Deepening my audience’s emotional engagement (blog followers, co-creators, spaces to comment, Like, re-Pin etc)
– Providing many entry points into the story through multiple texts. Prose is combined with scripts, songs, notes, poems, comics, essays, texting, photos, etc.
– Inspiring community creation
Scene How Do You Define a Man? filmed by young film maker and actors from Australian Theatre for Young People
Song created for lyrics ‘Thought I Knew You’ and recorded as Gonna Show You
gonna show you 5:27 Adam Fitzgerald Adam Fitzgerald’s Album
– Leveraging a community of creators around the brand such as musicians, actors and friends (YouTube, iTunes, young adult reviewers) despite a zero budget.
Example: Book Probe (Reviews) “This is awesome Jeni. I really like how the character comes through and you get a real feel for his predicament.” 2/4/12
– ongoing commitment to a story in evolution
– educating traditional story-tellers into new ways of telling
– educating the educators about the changing face of story
– upgrading technological skills and knowledge on a daily basis
– staying at the forefront of transmedia developments
– trying to belong to some sort of story-telling community but not knowing where I belong
– marketing, marketing, marketing
– moving into a world traditionally involving big entertainment creators such as television (BBC Sherlock series, Nike promotion); gaming (Perplex City) or theatre (Clockwork Monkey)
– exploring new income generating systems such as Kickstarter, Indigogo and Pozible (Australia) instead of Advances and Royalties
– Writing as auteur, rather than author
– Writing non-linear narrative
– Finding or forging new pathways for digital reviewing, selling, publicity, competitions etc
– Joining organisations such as WEGO which focuses on Health and Technology
– Supporting youth mental health

4 replies
  1. Jeni says:

    Hey Selena! Likewise great to meet and speak at SCBWI. The never-ending story is an interesting one. The way I’m dealing with it in Kiss Kill is to have the character, Mat, build his own platform or story-world and from this I’d like to launch into the next novel. Not sure how this will go but in theory it works 🙂 After his devastating relationship in Kiss Kill I’d like to write a love story for Mat!

    Selena says:

    Jeni, it was great to meet you and talk about all of this at SCBWI. What we didn’t talk about was how to end/close the story as author/auteur. I’d love to see/hear your thoughts on when to say ‘done’ and move on to the next novel…otherwise, when would you sleep?

  3. Jeni Mawter says:

    Thanks Anna! Wish you were there so I could meet you. Delighted we’re in contact and sharing and looking forward to more of this in the future.

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