Zoë Writes

An Australian author living in Norway

Design and Copy: Secret Best Friends

Recently, as part of my job as a UX copywriter, I was asked to give a talk at a UX (User Experience) event that focused on impact. Since copywriting and UX don’t get paired all that often, I thought it was a great opportunity to share my thoughts about why they belong together.

My talk was really well received, and I’ve been asked about it by many friends and colleagues who weren’t at the event, so I thought I would share a version of it here (imagine the headings, pictures and quotes are slides and you’ll get the idea). And, if you have thoughts, please do share them in the comments.

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A certain age

When I turned twenty-one (a landmark birthday in Australia, despite having no legal significance), my high-school best friend gave me a birthday card in which she wrote, “Only nineteen years until you’re forty!” We laughed. I probably threw a scrunched-up napkin at her. It was so far off. It was never going to happen, not to us.

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A rambling mess o’ feminism

It’s International Women’s Day again, and as usual I have many feelings on the subject. I forewarn you that this post is likely to be somewhat meandering and a little incoherent. I want to say things like “feminism is a verb” (it isn’t, of course, but I mean this in the sense that it’s not static; we should be doing things), and I want to talk about privilege, and echo chambers, and how proud I was to be at the biggest world-wide women’s protest in history. I want to talk about the mushy mummy feelings I got watching my little girl skip off to school this morning with her beloved book about ancient Egypt clutched to her chest. I want to talk about how Mary Poppins started a conversation about Suffragettes in my house. I want to express my joy at reading our first Famous Five book together and rediscovering the fact that George defied all the female stereotypes of her day and ours. Any one of these subjects and thoughts could fill a blog post on their own. But together, listed like this in all their chaotic glory, they remind me that feminism is part of my daily life.

So, let’s talk words. I like words.

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One year on . . .

One year ago today, my life exploded. On that day, I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or what would happen next. Friends urged me to look forward without worrying about how I’d get there—to look to the light at the end of the tunnel, not at the road beneath my feet. But I like details. They make me feel safe and in control. So, I concentrated on the details, and bit by bit, I built a new life.

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When fear creeps in

A few weeks ago, my ex told me he wanted to take our daughter to Turkey for the summer holidays. This would require my written permission, as I had needed his to take her to Australia last November. With all the unrest at the Syrian border, I was reluctant, but I agreed. I told myself the resort town of Side in Antalya was a long way from the areas that were subject to travel warnings, and tried to ignore the reports that said militant groups may target tourist areas.

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Return to Djerassi

Two years ago I cracked the sads when I had to leave Djerassi. On my return home, I was bereft. Looking back, I think a lot of it had to do with the state my life was in at the time, but it was also due to the fact that it was the first time since I’d started seriously writing that I let myself be only a writer, one hundred per cent, if only for a week.

I started my first novel before I got pregnant, but at the time I was working full time as an IT project manager; writing was just something fun to do when I was stuck on an aeroplane or in a hotel room and didn’t feel like preparing for my next meeting. Then, I pretty much stopped writing for a year and a half after I found out I was pregnant, and when I picked it up again it was only for one day a week. The first time I went to Djerassi, I didn’t know anyone and spent most of my non-workshop time alone in my studio, revelling in artistic freedom and inspiration. Leaving was hard.

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Is Our Strength Drowning Us?

*Trigger warning: This post discusses depression, PND, and suicide.

It’s International Women’s Day, and this morning my Facebook memories were filled with wonderful, empowering posts from March 8s past, but when I got to March 8, 2013, I found some posts I had forgotten belonged to this day, and the tears began to well. On this day in 2013, I said goodbye to a friend I met (oddly coincidentally) on Women’s Day in 2009 at a company breakfast. I had only been working there a few months, and was in the engineering department where there weren’t many women. I was seated between two women I didn’t know and, as I tend to do in these situations, I kept to myself and hoped someone else would break the ice.

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Swallow, swallow, little swallow…

. . . will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger?

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is one of my great pleasures. I love it the way you love anything that set you on your path.

As a child, I had a reading of it on cassette that I listened to every night to fall asleep. I loved (and still love) the other stories—The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Birthday of the Infanta among others—but nothing quite touched my heart like the plight of the Happy Prince and his little swallow. It is a love story in its purest form. The prince’s love for his people, and the swallow’s love for the prince, are selfless, and tragic, and painfully beautiful. I don’t remember now who the voice on the cassette belonged to, but it was a lovely reading, slow and musical—the way I always hear the story in my head when I read it.

I’m sure there are millions of writers the world over who have been inspired to pick up a pen by Oscar Wilde for more than a century. He was, and remains, incomparable. I am no different to those millions, I suppose, but it was specifically the story of the prince and the swallow that made me want to write. The way the words flowed like water, the way each character, no matter how insignificant—and Wilde is a master of tiny yet complex cameos—pulled at my heart. Even as an eight year old child, I knew I wanted to create beauty like this through words of my own. I wanted to write.

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Alone Is . . .

Alone is getting home at 1 in the morning and not having to worry about waking anyone up. In fact, you can make a cup of tea, turn all the lights on, and play some music. Continue reading

Spending Christmas alone—and why that’s okay

A couple of months ago my relationship of almost fifteen years ended very suddenly, leaving me reeling. Aside from the actual break, one of the hardest parts of accepting what happened was knowing I was going to have to stay in Norway, even though my every instinct screamed to run home into the open arms of concerned friends and family. But to do that, I would need permission from my daughter’s father to take her out of the country, and though I knew he’d give it for a short period, moving back to Australia was always out of the question.

Luckily (or not perhaps not luck—maybe my subconscious was hard at work preparing me all those months ago), I had already booked a trip back for my daughter and me before everything fell apart. Through November and December, we spent five weeks surrounded by the Australians who love us, not one of whom didn’t want us to stay forever, yet not one of whom said or did anything to make it harder to do what I had to do: return to Norway.

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