Local writer and blogger and UON alum Linda Drummond will be appearing at the Newcastle Writers Festival this weekend, sharing her experiences and tips for making the most of your online profile.
An enthusiastic Novocastrian, Linda uses her blog Pink Patent Mary Janes to promote Newcastle, local businesses and events. As she says, “If I see something awesome, why on earth wouldn’t I share it?”
We talked to Linda about her love for her community – both online and off.
Tell us about your background including what drew you into blogging?
I was born in and lived in Lake Macquarie before moving into Newcastle to study at the University. When I was doing my honours year I met my husband who was studying Civil Engineering here. We moved to Sydney after finishing our degrees, both lured by work. I spent my early career working in the magazine industry, only going back part-time after my daughter was born.
A little over twelve years ago the siren call of Newcastle lured us back home. Visiting family on the weekends we noticed a real change in the city and we wanted to raise our daughter in the town we grew up in. Although I grew up in Lake Macquarie, and my husband in Maitland, both of us feel like true Novocastrians.
I started my blog six years ago partly for fun, and partly as a form of research. I’d discovered blogs a few months earlier and was fascinated by the opportunity they offered. As a writer, there’s nothing more exciting than discovering a new medium to share your words.
Six years on and my blog’s changed a fair bit. When I started blogging I was working two days a week in Sydney, and now I’m purely based in Newcastle so that influences what I write about. It took me a few years to come up with the tagline for my blog which sums up its theme: A Little Bit of What I Fancy.
What are you passionate about? How can others in the community get involved?
I am very passionate about giving back to the community. For the past six years I’ve been on the committee of my local netball club (Souths) and I also coach two teams. While coaching I’ve also mentored two young coaches through co-coaching. I think it’s really important to share your knowledge and skills with others.
I’m also passionate about buying local and supporting small, independent shops in my local community. For the past two years I’ve shopped within a five kilometre radius of my home for Christmas gifts – choosing independent stores where possible. I also do what I can to support these stores by getting the word out – blogging about them, instagramming them or checking in to restaurants and cafés on Facebook.
I want to live in a community with thriving local industry, and the only way to do it is to put my money into them with my patronage. And if I can share it with others all the better.
Has writing your blog changed your point of view or reaffirmed something you already knew?
I love the way that blogging makes me feel part of a community. Blogging’s made me even more aware of the beauty in everything, as I’m constantly looking out for something new to photograph and blog about. Whenever I enter a café, restaurant or store I immediately look for the ‘instagrammable’ spot – a place that’s worthy of a picture. Just as I say, “I’m a writer” I also say “I’m a blogger” as it really does become a part of your personality.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
Every day I’m inspired by someone or something I see. I think it’s really important to look about and see what others are doing, no matter how different it is to what you do. For this reason I love attending opening nights or listening to speakers talk about subjects they’ve passionate about. That’s why I’ll be immersing myself in as many sessions of Newcastle Writers Festival as humanly possible – same as I do at This Is Not Art or other festivals in Newcastle or Sydney. Having an opportunity to have your creativity ignited by another is a real blessing.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
I’ve been lucky and have always had an opportunity pop up when I need it. I like to look ahead and see what’s happening in the future, so I can look at ways to harness it with my work. That’s one of the reasons I started blogging, so I could understand writing for the digital space. Writing online is completely different to writing for print publications. But you need to immerse yourself in it to truly understand it.
That’s also why I got involved in social media – because I had a feeling it’d come in handy for my work, and it has. I now work at The University of Newcastle in the marketing department and the vast majority of my work is online-related. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I hadn’t stretched myself personally to achieve something professionally.
What do you hope will be achieved by what you are doing and what did you achieve or realise?
I want to feel that I can make a difference with what I do. With my writing I want to inspire people to be their best and to see the beauty that’s around them. I want my daughter to see me making a living doing something I love, while also spending time giving back to my community through volunteering. I want her to appreciate that you can make your own success in life, if you’re determined and positive.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
It would have to be SPC Sunday. I started a hashtag that went viral late one Thursday night to try to raise awareness of an iconic Australian company who were on the brink of closure. I was chatting on Twitter about the situation when I thought that we needed to do something big and inspirational to make a difference. I looked back to my childhood, where tinned peaches and ice cream were a Sunday night special and put out the call for people to eat this retro dessert on Sunday and share their pics across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
It was a smashing success.
This tweet instantly resonated with people and the shares were phenomenal. On the actual SPC Sunday people were tweeting that their supermarkets were selling out of SPC products. By the following Thursday the company announced that a deal had been done and they’d be staying in Australia. It was phenomenal to play a part in something like this.
Whenever you volunteer or do something for the good of others you hope it’ll have a positive outcome. This outcome exceeded even my wildest dreams and, weeks later, still makes me feel immensely proud.
What would be your dream project?
Any job that requires that I move to France for 12 – 18 months and write about it is my dream job. However, I love having any chance to get creative and share my ideas. I can’t see the point in keeping skills to myself. If I’ve learned something, I enjoy the opportunity to share it with someone else. I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment – I have a job and a life I love.
What does the future hold?
For me, the future holds excitement and opportunity. While I like to have twelve month, five year, and ten year plans I also like to see what serendipity delivers. Some of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had have come about purely by being somewhere at an opportune moment. Who knows what will be next?
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?
I adore the variety that Newcastle offers. I love that I can always wander down Darby Street and find a great coffee, meal or a unique piece of clothing or jewellery. I feel pretty darned blessed to live where I do, in Merewether. I’m only a short walk to one of the most spectacular beaches in the country – and a short bike ride into the city. Newcastle has such distinct personalities: you can really tell you’ve moved from one area to the next. I love the historic East End of Newcastle, with its small bars, great cafés and eclectic architecture.
Seeing the recently-restored David Maddison building always excites me. We need to embrace Newcastle’s diverse range of architectural styles that show where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. My latest architectural obsession is Brutalism. Newcastle has some particularly fine examples: The Art Gallery and the Roundhouse are two that particularly stand out. I love looking at something through fresh eyes – what does it say about my town’s history? We need to see these stories shared, not by looking back at the past, but working out what they say about our future.
Can you name a local hero?
My heroes are those who are passionate about something, and those who act on that passion. The locals who’ve been working hard regenerating sand dunes at my local beach through Landcare are my heroes. All the volunteer coaches I see showing up week-after-week for training or games, and the people who got in and just started an awesome new business in this city. I also have to give Marcus Westbury a shoutout for the Renew Newcastle concept that started off the rejuvenation of Newcastle’s city. We wouldn’t have the thriving food and cultural industries we have without him and the team behind Renew Newcastle.
Rosemarie Milsom inspired me by deciding that Newcastle needed a Writer’s Festival – and then starting it. Last year’s festival was a stunning success, and this year’s program looks even better. For an avid reader such as myself, I can’t imagine anything more exciting than a weekend designed to celebrate literature and those who create it.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
Riding my bike through the leafy streets of Cooks Hill, then along the foreshore and out along Nobby’s breakwall. It’s my favourite way to clear my head and take in this beautiful city.
I love rugging up and wandering along the coastal walk from Merewether to Bar Beach. The colours that a winter landscape offers are stunning. The depth in the blues and greens of the ocean contrast dramatically with the rocks and cliffs and really make me appreciate this city. Being a cinema buff, winter’s also the ideal excuse to see some films. The Tower Cinemas is my movie theatre of choice, but now The Regal’s reopened it has some competition. I’m a real sucker for a film festival, and like to indulge in two or three films in one day –what a treat.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
Oh, I’ve had some beauties! I love a real experience with a meal, where the food, the atmosphere and a sense of drama is present. So my most memorable meal would be an Underground Epicureans experience. This secret supper club doesn’t reveal the location of the meal until the morning of the event – but it’s always somewhere special. We’ve eaten in the recently opened Regal Cinema, the exercise yard at The Lock-Up and in rooms and locations I never even knew existed. These nights are another fine example of a passionate Novocastrian who acted on dinner conversations to create something splendid.
Your favourite getaway destination?
I’m a Francophile, so I always pounce on the opportunity to go back to Paris, and explore a little more of France. We’re going over in June this year, with a week in Paris and a week way down South in The Lot. Travelling with my family makes my heart sing. In Australia it’s Melbourne, or the Southern Highlands – two places that offer something different to my hometown.
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
Explore the city like you’re a tourist. When my parents were visiting recently we did a cycling tour of Newcastle’s Street Art projects from last year’s Hit The Bricks tour. Seeing the city by bike allows you to see a different side to Newcastle. I think we all need to look at Newcastle through an optimist’s eyes. Look at the beauty, at the creativity, at what we have here. It’s pretty special, we should treasure it.