Encyclopaedic Storyteller – interview with Richard Johnson (30 May 2008)


When I made a request for a new columnist, I received many, many emails. One of them was from Richard. I’ve looked at his website and I feel that he will be able to help some of my readers. I, therefore, took the liberty of asking if he’d like to be interviewed. He agreed; therefore, without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Richard Johnson …

Aneeta: Richard, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Richard: You are most welcome, Aneeta. This is something I haven’t done before, so please bear with me.

Aneeta: Richard, let’s start with something about you. Where were you born, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Richard: Well I was born in Victoria, Australia and still live here. I have had a few different occupations, but I suppose my profession is an Electronics technician. I have worked in the military in the Air Force as a Radio Technician (Ground radar and navigational aid specialist). After some years I went into teaching technicians about radio electronics and maintenance. After nine years in the Air Force, I left to work in other electronics-based jobs. I started out working in the industrial electronics field, then I worked for a company that automated theatres and stage shows like Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard. I was in charge of the test department that tested the lighting system that is on the Arts Centre Spire, here inMelbourne, so that the spire twinkles and glows like Tinkerbell’s wand.

I always had this idea of wanting to work in medicine, but didn’t know how to get into it. So I thought I’d go through the “back door”. I studied part time learning about Human Biology via correspondence. I loved it and ended up doing quite well on the assignments. That year I saw a job advertised to work on MRI machines. Wow I thought. That’s what I want to do! Medicine and electronics! I spent the next 6 years in that industry working with a great team of people, doctors and radiologists. Unfortunately, that all went bad. The company was taken over and many of us got sacked, or were bullied into leaving. It was quite nasty. About the same time I became interested in Buddhism and the philosophy associated with it. I classify myself as a Buddhist and I’m very comfortable with it.

Buddhists believe that everything begins and ends-all is impermanent. Some might say that this is to allow new ideas/things to arise. When I lost my job, it made me look towards a new beginning-encouraged by my wife and family. I was compelled to ask myself, “What is it that I really want from life? What is it that I want for the rest of my life? What do I need to do for my family as the main breadwinner? Eventually an opportunity arose that caught my eye. I wanted to teach! So now I teach technicians about radar, radio, navigational aids and in particular, the Instrument landing System that pilots use in bad weather to land aircraft. I’m really happy and satisfied with this as I see an importance in it and I’m constantly writing/rewriting and perfecting the student notes to improve the courses that I create and deliver.

Aneeta: In your email to me, you said something which caught my eye – you are a frequent contributor to Wikipedia. For the benefit of my readers, please explain this – what do you contribute and how does it all work?

Richard: Well Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit and contribute to. The main philosophy is that information should be freely available to all people. When I was young my parents spent a lot of money on buying the Encyclopedia Britannica, an encyclopedia consisting of 24 expensive printed volumes. As a child, I learned a lot from them, but they were written in fairly high-level language and were sometimes a little too difficult to understand. The internet has changed the way study and learning occurs. Many of us with the advent of the Internet, have expanded our knowledge of the world with up to date fresh information. Wikipedia achieves this and it is all for free! I believe that information presented as short encyclopedic articles and delivered truthfully and without bias is a great educational method.

All aspiring writers should have a go at editing an article for Wikipedia. It’s actually quite easy and fun. An generally a new contributor picks an article that they know something about, or even feels that the wording could use some improvement, either way you just click on the place that says “edit” on a page and then you adjust and edit accordingly. Finally the save button is pressed and the edits are now instated. This does leave the Wikipedia open to vandalism, however, vandalism lasts a very short time as most people “watch” their most loved pages for changes.

As we know, with so many problems in the world, Education and information is one powerful solution to remedy many of these problems. Wikipedia is a great way of learning about things, as well as honing writing and editing skills and improving on grammar. I started editing Wikipedia while I was learning Professional Editing and Proofreading, it helped immensely. A few examples of the work I have done for Wikipedia can be seen here.

Aneeta: The title of your website is Read-Write-services. Can you please give a few more details about the exact kind of services you provide?

Richard: I write for magazines, usually technically-oriented articles. I provide a low cost editing service for just about any writer who needs a critical eye cast over their work. I have tutored secondary school students in English, science and mathematics and so I offer this as a tutoring service. This is why my business is called Read Write services. Read write is actually a play on the concept of ‘reading something right’, an allusion to correct editing and therefore correct reading of text.

Aneeta: Does storytelling feature in your work and if so, how?

Richard: In my profession as an Instructor, sometimes I need to tell a true story about actual situations, things I have seen and experiences I have had, so storytelling from a public speaking aspect is quite important. Some people say that teaching and instructing is a “performance” I’d agree with that. Many of us can remember the best and the worst teacher we had very clearly in our minds, mainly because we would remember what they said and how they said it-that’s storytelling. I am mainly interested in non-fiction work, but since early this year, I’m trying my hand at fictional storytelling. For me though, it’s a step out of my comfort zone.

Aneeta: What advice would you give those who would like to venture into the world of storytelling?

Richard: Read aloud any work you create. A writer friend of mine says that his neighbour thinks he’s crazy as he reads his work aloud to himself in his backyard-where they can hear him.

Ensure you use punctuation to produce the cadence and “correct” meaning of your words and sentences. I probably use too many commas and not enough full stops. However any articles I’ve submitted have never been edited for punctuation problems. Maybe I’ve just been lucky?

There is an old saying that goes, show don’t tell. Which means use the reader’s power of imagination fired by your words to tell the story, try not to write a report or a dissertation about a story, get the reader to feel like they are there-in the story. That’s what I think makes a page-turner.

Get yourself on the internet and show your work. Produce a sheet of examples of your work similar to this. Clipsheet.

Aneeta: Richard, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Richard: No I think I may have bored the people reading this as is, thank you very much.

Aneeta: Richard, thank you.

Richard: Thank you for your kind invitation for me to express myself. Kind regards to your readers and viewers of this website!

This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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