Friday High Five: Designer pet magazines, Facebook experiments

Melbourne’s designer cat and dog magazines

Melbourne is known and loved for being the centre of independent publishing; the natural home of publications or publishers with a quirky edge. Geoff Lemon reports for the Guardian on two quintessentially hipster-Melbourne projects: glossy, impeccably stylish pet-themed magazines. Four&Sons ‘brings together an eclectic mix of inspiring 'dog-centric’ content to dog-lovers passionate about culture and creativity'. And Cat People is ‘a bi-lingual (English/Japanese) magazine - featuring 146 pages of interviews and work by cat-obssessed artists, designers, photographers and writers’.

Why Facebook made us sad on purpose

In 2012, Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 users, to see whether it could alter their emotional state and prompt them to post more positive or negative content. The research was published in March this year, and immediately prompted an uproar, with commentators and social scientists questioning the ethics of the experiment - and suggesting that data scientists should routinely receive ethical training.

The results of the experiment? ‘For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.’

Meanjin’s Zora Sanders on pitching and being edited

As part of Estelle Tang’s new initiative to encourage women’s writing, Pitch Bitch, Kill Your Darlings has interviewed Meanjin editor Zora Sanders about the differences in the ways men and women pitch work and respond to being edited – and she’s offered some great advice from an editor’s perspective. Though the advice is pitched to women specifically, many of her insights, from the editor’s side of the desk, will be relevant to all writers, and especially useful for emerging ones.

The urge to pre-empt someone’s negative opinion of you is SO STRONG, but you must fight it! Don’t apologise for your pitch or your submission. … I’ve also had the experience where I really like something, and the author is constantly telling me how shit it is. I start to doubt my own judgment and it can make me question the quality of a piece that I loved at the beginning.

Junot Diaz on the colour problem with MFAs

There’s been a lot of chat this year, in literary circles, about the question of university creative writing programs – MFAs – and the publishing scene as two distinct cultures, and methods of working your way into a writing career. (It was sparked by an essay by Chad Harbach that became a book, MFA vs NYC.)

In a New Yorker excerpt from the book, Junot Diaz writes about signing up to a MFA program at Cornell in order to take his writing really seriously, and hating it, due to the lack of people of colour on the faculty and the reading lists. The problem, he says, is systemic - and he’s working to address it, with his own Voices of Our Nation Workshop, for writers of colour.

Luke Ryan on comic writing

Luke Ryan was one of last year’s Hot Desk Fellows, working on his just-published memoir of getting cancer, twice (as a child and as a twenty something), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo. Over at the Readings blog, the writer and comedian praises comic writing, and explores the art of it.

‘Comedy has always had trouble being taken seriously by the literary establishment, subject to a sort of Victorian-era bromide that whatever is enjoyable cannot possibly be worthy.’

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