Speech Recognition Software


Over the past year I’ve noticed that my hands and wrists are becoming sore from typing. Not just the soreness from overuse but there’s been some nerve pain too. So I started looking up speech recognition software on the Internet, reading reviews and talking to friends who use them in their offices.

I didn’t hold out much hope for me in the speech recognition department because my SIRI always wants to order me a pizza when I ask her to ring my friend Elise.

The one everyone recommended was Dragon Speaking so this morning I went down to Officeworks and brought it. At $249 it wasn’t cheap. It’s cheaper on the internet but my hands didn’t want to wait. As soon as I got home I downloaded it onto my computer. No problems. I did the tutorial. I found it easy to follow.

And then I put it through its paces. I’d been working on a story that needed the last bits of editing done. There were a few little teething problems. Mine, not its. My problem was not knowing what the commands were to move the mouse up or down, how to delete certain words, how to select words. As I worked through the help menu or the sample commands in the instructions I started to get into the swing of things. A lot of the commands are intuitive.

After an hour and a half, including downloading and doing the tutorial, I finished editing my story … and I’ve written this blog. It is definitely quicker than typing.

What I have noticed is there is a fine difference in the way I write sentences with speech recognition software. Because the software likes you to speak in sentences I have to form my sentences before I write them rather than let them form AS I write them. Whether this will have any bearing on the way I write I’m not sure yet.dragon (2)

Unlike SIRI, this guy gets me. In that hour and a half he probably only misunderstood five words I said. It’s only early days yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know him better and to a long and painless relationship.

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It’s time again for the Microlit Award jointly-sponsored by the Newcastle Writers Festival and Spineless Wonders.

Finalists in 2015 saw their work made into visual presentations. Very exciting! Check out my winning story under ‘videos’ here.

In 2016 finalists will be considered for publication in an anthology, and in another innovative multi-platform spectacular selected stories will be included in Spineless Wonders’ #storybombingNWF17 project.


Length: 200 word max.

Closing date: Aug 31

The 2016 joanne burns Microlit Award will compromise both national and local categories. The national category, open to Australian citizens living anywhere and to any person residing in Australia, will be judged by the award-winning writer, scholar and critic, Cassandra Atherton. The Newcastle category, open to Hunter residents, will be  judged by Joanna Atherfold Finn and winner of the 2016 Newcastle Writers Festival Microlit Competition, Karen Whitelaw.

Winners of both categories will receive cash prizes of $300.

We are looking for  writing which responds imaginatively to the theme of ‘landmarks’. Landmarks may be critical or celebratory, watershed moments or turning points in history and culture or in relationships. There are literal landmarks and marks on the land(scape). Interpret the theme as broadly as you wish, using any tone, from the serious to satirical, from whimsical to witty.

Microlit includes any form of short writing such as flash fiction, prose poem, dramatic monologue etc. Please note that we do not accept poems with line breaks for this competition.

Details are available here.

Good luck!

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In Defense of Procrastination

adam grant

Adam Grant

Some writers think procrastination is the same as being blocked. Some call procrastination thinking.

I’ve just watched a Ted Talk by Adam Grant called ‘Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers.’ He conducted a study which makes a strong case for the procrastination-as-thinking camp.

Grant is a self-professed ‘precrastinator’, a term I hadn’t heard before but I certainly recognise the type. You know the students who submit their work long before the due date, or the writers who send their stories away to competitions or publications almost before the ink is dry.

Grant’s study shows precrastinators are in such a hurry to complete their tasks they don’t give their minds time to come up with new, different and more creative ideas.

But if you’re a dire-hard committed procrastinator don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. If you never get around to writing that story, poem or novel it’s hard to see any originality and creativity.

Grant’s study shows that people who come up with more creative and original ideas-

  • allow ideas to simmer in their minds for a while before they do anything about them. This gives them time to come up with divergent ideas, to think in new ways, to make unexpected leaps.
  • generate more ideas – more bad ideas but also more good ones.
  • suffer the same doubts as anyone else, both self-doubt and doubts about the validity of their ideas, but they try to skip the self-doubt and use the idea-doubts to look for better options.
  • fear failure, too, but they fear failing to try more. They recognise that we regret the things we fail to do more than the things we do.

So next time you find yourself procrastinating it could just be that there’s a whole lot of simmering going on in the back of your mind.

And while you’re procrastinating why don’t you check out Grant’s Ted Talk. It’s funny and informative.

Let me know what you think.

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Sydney Writers’ Festival here we come

Well, dear Reader, I won the Microlit competition!

The video presentations of each story were amazing! For me they opened up a whole new range of possibilities for text in multimedia. The words were part of a bigger work of art which incorporated the visual, the musical and the voice. Visit my author page on Facebook to see the video of my award winning story, Koi.

Now, the story is off to the Sydney Writers’ Festival to be read in the session Little Fictions held on Monday 16 May from 7.00 – 8.30 pm, at Knox St Bar, 21 Shepherd St, Chippendale. Entry $15. All welcome!

swf logo

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Only 4 days to go until I see my 200 word Microlit story up in lights at the Newcastle Writers Festival!

4 finalists were chosen in the Festival’s inaugural Microlit competition  in partnership with publisher Spineless Wonders. My story is one of the finalists! Very exciting!

Richard Holt, visual artist, and actor, Eleni Schumacher, have recorded and created a special visual presentation of each of the final micro-stories to be shown at the free session Short and Sweet: the Art of Microlit on Saturday, 2 April, from 4.30pm in the Hunter Room in Newcastle City Hall.

You’re all invited!

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ABC Open 500 Word Project

abc open

March topic:                  My Other Life

ABC Open publishes and broadcasts stories created by regional Australians. I’ve read some wonderful stories online.

All contributions feature on the website, and selected stories also appear across ABC TV, Radio and Online.

Each month a new topic is chosen for the ABC Open 500 Word Project.

This month the topic is My Other Life. You can contribute by writing a 500 word true story about something unusual you get up to outside of work, or a side of yourself that other people don’t normally see. Write about your unusual passion and how you first got involved in it. How does your other self contrast with the side most people see? What satisfaction does your other life offer you that you don’t get from your day-to-day life? How does your passion contribute to you as a whole person?

Check out the other stories people have shared on this topic or explore stories from previous months by clicking here.

The deadline for this topic is the 9th April. Submit your story to ABC Open on their website.

ABC Open also runs free workshops [/events] in regional Australia where you can learn more about video, writing, photography and online publishing.

What also impresses me about the ABC Project is the community that has built up around it, and how that community’s heart is expressed through the hilarious, the heart-wrenching, and the amazing stories published online.


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Newcastle Writers Festival 2016


Keep the weekend April 1 -3  free for the 2016 Newcastle Writers Festival. It’s an exciting line-up this year. Check out the program .

If you want to spruce up your writing there are Masterclasses by Carmel Bird 


Carmel Bird

and Claire Scobie, and sessions on Self-publishing and how to Make your Writing Pop.

The Opening Night Event features Tim Flannery talking about his adventures with host John Doyle. 


Tim Flannery

David Marr, Libby Hathorn, Druscilla Modjeska, Richard Glover, Kerri Glastonbury, Marion Halligan, Charlotte Wood and Michael Sala are just a few of the noted writers speaking at the Festival.


Newcastle’s most loved and respected authors will launch new books, including Zeny Giles and Jean Kent.


Zeny Giles

The winners of the Newcastle Short Story Award will be announced on Friday at 5.30 pm at the City Hall.

On Saturday afternoon the work of the 4 finalists (including me!) in the Newcastle Writers Festival Microlit competition will be presented as art videos by author and visual artist Richard Holt, and the winner announced.

I hope to see you there!



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The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize


Elizabeth Jolley

In 2010 the Australian Book Review formed the annual ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. It was created to honour a highly respected Australian short story writer and has become one of our leading short story awards.

Entries are now open to writers anywhere in the world, and will close at midnight 11th April 2016.

Short stories must be between 2,000 and 5,000 words in length and written in English. They are judged anonymously.

First prize is $7,000. Supplementary prizes of $2,000 and $1,000 will be awarded. These three shortlisted stories will be published in the August Fiction issue of the Australian Book Review. The judges will commend three additional stories and the authors will each receive $850.

Entry costs AU$15 for current ABR subscribers or AU$20 for non-subscribers.

Click these links for further information and to read the stories of past winners.

Good Luck!

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Fiction & Compassion


        The Recipe                            by Frederick McCubbin


In a large regional town like any other large regional town in Australia lives a woman in her 60s. One of those battlers – you know them, the people who life has kicked around a bit but they get back up and make the best of things.

She works 2 days a week, volunteers at an animal shelter and loves having her grandchildren over to stay. Except she won’t let them come to her house anymore.

Over the years the public housing where she lives has become more and more disturbing and frightening.

In the townhouse adjoining hers lives a drug dealer. Most nights she’s kept awake by the continuous parade of clients slamming the front gate and doors, yelling out to each other, and roaring down the street in hotted-up cars.

The guy in the end townhouse comes down regularly for his ice. And at least once a week he bangs on the poor woman’s door in the early hours of the night screaming to be let in.

The woman on the other side of her is an alcoholic. She is feuding with a family across the road and has been caught defecating in their front yard. Or she exposes herself to men and boys walking past, summoning them inside. Night or day she’s out in the street screaming obscenities at the world.

Last year another woman desperate to leave burnt down her townhouse and damaged the others next to hers so the commission would have to place her somewhere else.

The police were there again this week when the ice addict was out waving and threatening people with a large kitchen knife.

Every night the woman my friend knows lies alone in bed in the dark, rigid except for a hammering heart, listening to every scream, every cry, every crash, every one of them a potential threat.

The housing authorities know how traumatic and terrifying the woman’s life has become. She has told them. She’s repeatedly begged them to place her somewhere else. The woman can’t afford to live in housing that’s not subsidised, yet if she leaves to live in a caravan park, for instance, she’s lost any chance of getting back into the system if a new placement does come up.

The police know all this. They’re frequent visitors, but nothing has changed.

I was upset when I heard this woman’s story because I had met her. I wanted to believe that if we could tell her story to someone in authority, with the real details of what it’s like to live her life, then they would be moved to do something about it.

Then I started thinking about all those other broken lives: the alcoholic aboriginal woman and the African family she terrorizes, the ice addict, the drug dealer.  Tragic personal stories that make up a part of the great family of humanity we belong to. No matter how unpalatable the stories are, or how much we turn away from the telling of them, they will still continue to exist.


Adam Smith

As a writer I know the power of story. Like the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith back in 1759, I believe that ‘the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others’ is activated by ‘changing places in fancy with the sufferer.’

Fiction allows us to change places with another person in a way that expands our experiences and understanding of their lives. When we know what it feels like to be that ‘someone else’ in detailed and unflinching truthfulness we’re more likely to develop sympathy and compassion for others like them in the real world.

This is fundamental to fiction at its best. And from that real changes are possible.

Remember  To Kill a Mockingbird.

There are so many stories we can write.

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The Joy of Writing


A writer friend who is also doing the challenge of observing and writing down the details every day sent me this email,

‘It is quite  incredible the wandering paths my mind has taken just by writing in the moment like this.Today I have tapped a little into the joy of writing again.’

Apart from writing two beautifully formed sentences she’s touched on something that happens when you forget about writing as a means to an end and write for it’s own sake, when you write for the simple pleasure of writing.

Writing like this feels as if you’re holding a conversation with someone who is excited by the same things you are, who you can be yourself with, who you can tell anything to. Who won’t care if you end every sentence with an preposition. How could you not want to spend a lot of time with someone like that?

I’m learning this daily writing isn’t separate from my life; it is my life. It’s my life I’m writing about every time I put words on paper, and from those words come insights, connections and a new and clearer understanding of what I think and believe, who I am, and the world I live in.

This daily writing centres me in the moment, just like meditation. It’s one way into discovering the joy of writing again. So I was thrilled when my friend rediscovered that joy, but not surprised. It happened like that for me, too.

So this week’s task is to write for the sheer joy of it. I can hardly wait.



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