‘Whanagarei’ and how proofreading by a WHANGAREI wordsmith helps

Getting a proofreader in Whangarei/Northland will help you avoid mistakes which some people might sensationalise.

Spelling mistakes can harm your brand, your communication, turn off audiences, or give media something to make fun of.

Now, I don’t make fun of people that spell stuff wrong in business communications. Firstly, I turn out such a high volume of copywriting and creative writing that there are plenty of mistakes in my own work. I have published books with embarrassing typos in them which I can’t undo.

Secondly, many successful business people I’ve worked with over the years have exhibited dyslexia. There is a connection between being dyslexic and having a creative, entrepreneurial mind.

Spelling mistakes are a bit unfortunate when they are carried into signage, though – they cost money. Example: there used to be a sign in the Pukenui Forest bush just behind the Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei with a beautiful Maori geographical name turned into utter gibberish.

If you’re a Northland organisation not putting much effort into proofreading and checking for spelling mistakes, here are a few of the things that can go wrong:

  • Spell a human’s name wrong and they will be uninterested in sharing the document/webpage with the spelling mistake
  • Spell a human’s name wrong and they may become offended and decline to interact with you
  • Spell something wrong and its searchability on Google declines
  • Journalists won’t take your media release seriously if it features spelling mistakes
  • Journalists may also mock your brand in the news.

One of the most commonly-misspelled words is Whangarei itself.

Without further ado, here are screenshots of some ‘Whanagarei’ typos from around town:

Whanagarei 1Whanagarei 2Whanagarei 3Whanagarei 5Whanagrei 7Whanagrei 8Whangagarei 4Whangarei 6




How to turn an interview into a news story

by Michael Botur, writer of interviews, blogs, content writing, journalism and web pages in Whangarei and Northland.

I completed this long-ish news story in April, based on an interview with Karl Armstrong, one of the highest-ranked executives in the NZ insurance industry.

Getting the story done meant going back to some skills I hadn’t used in a while. In 2014, I made a living writing hard news (newspaper journalism); in 2016-2017, I made a living writing soft news (public relations). With hard news, the journalist is expected never to share the words with the interviewee,  to try maintain complete objective independence. The discipline of PR/communications, on the other hand, involves ensuring everyone you’re writing about and writing for has been fully-briefed and has seen the story.

Writing the CoverNote story for Headline Publishing was sort of a middle ground. If you’re wanting me to ask me to complete an interview-based story for you, and would like to know what it takes behind the scenes, here are the steps I had to go through for this one.

  1. Read all recent news reports about the interview subject
  2. Read all recent news reports about the interviewee’s industry
  3. Talk to the interviewee and his PR/communications manager to let them know what angle I’m approaching the story with (the ‘angle’ of the story means the argument/thrust/bent/presumptions)
  4. Complete the interview.
  5. Create a narrative story structure, and put the quotes from the interview into the best positions in the story which meet the angle of the story
  6. Then a tricky part arises: getting the story shored-up enough that it will have 100% journalist accuracy, without taking the shortcut of sharing the story with the interviewee (this is that middle ground I was talking about!).
  7. Voila – story published. Everyone happy.




Flash Fiction Finals – Northland Goes Hard

Northlanders kicked butt in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day competition, which celebrates one of the shortest forms of creative writing.

I was along for the journey, supporting writers, helping out with publicity, media releases, capturing a news story and providing photography. 

13 year old Jana Heise, who was raised in Whangarei, won the NFFD Youth Award on June 22. Her story was then performed, with those of other Northland and national finalists, at a workshop and open mic event on June 24 in Kawakawa put on by Bay of Islands resident Kathy Derrick, who is a National Flash Fiction Day Committee city chair.

Former Whangarei writer Lola Elvy was in the youth top ten shortlist and Michael Botur was longlisted three times. Lola’s mother Michelle Elvy, who lived in Opua and Whangarei from 2008 to 2014, contributes much to flash fiction, as one of the editors of the Bonsai anthology, which will be published in August by Canterbury University Press. That collection includes at least six Northland flash fiction writers.

Flash fiction is a form of storytelling with a strict 300 word limit. National Flash Fiction Day is celebrated each year on the shortest day. This year’s competition attracted around 500 entries.

Northland has just three percent of the country’s population but achieves disproportionately well at flash fiction. Flash fiction took off nationwide after Ms Elvy and friends published the first edition of Flash Frontier magazine in 2012. Highest-placed Northland writer and top ten NFFD finalist Vivian Thonger of Kerikeri said when she arrived four years ago, the region was “a flash-fiction writing hotspot where people at all levels of experience could learn and hone their short-form writing skills.”

Thonger said flash fiction can be addictive. “It doesn’t take long to write a piece, yet it’s a delicate game trying to fit meaning and tension into 300 words or fewer. It’s a kick getting published, and it feels less painful when you’re rejected; you bounce back and try again quickly, or have several pieces on the go at once.”

“Many of us have a collection of vignettes, of unforgettable moments, stuck in our heads; flash is a way to bring those snippets to life as a feeling evoked, or a brief encounter leaping off the page, real or imagined, like a frisson of truth or recognition passing between you and the reader.”

Other organisers of the Kawakawa event included Whangarei author Martin Porter, a National Flash Fiction Competition Committee member. Kathy Derrick is also judging the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction competition 2018, which is having its prizegiving on June 27.

Vivian Thonger’s Bay of Islands Writers Group is looking for more members. Contact vthonger@gmail.com to join.



Helping Northlanders with their writing needs – update on May 2018 work

May brought some new challenges and a few old reliable tasks in terms of how I help small business owners in the Whangarei/Northland/north Auckland area with their content writing needs.

Jobs I worked on with clients included:

  • Helping a practitioner of alternative therapy to raise awareness of her work by putting out a media release tying in with current concerns over meth drug addiction in Northland
  • I helped a small business write five new web pages, with a focus on getting the keywords right to help with SEO discoverability (don’t forget to tell readers who you are, where you are and what services you offer!)
  • I sold a number of copies of my last short story collection, Lowlife – so that’s sold out again (I had to get Unity Books to give back some unsold copies so I could sell them to people who actually want them)
  • I sold a few copies of Moneyland after a May creative writing workshop in Snells Beach
  • I’m getting lots of interest in the writing services I offer authors, due to an advert I placed in the NZ Society of Authors newsletter. So there is a bit of interest in writers receiving help to tell the world who they are and what they are offering, via Createspace, Bookfunnel, Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads, Medium.com and more
  • I wrote a lot of columns about property, real estate and home renovation for one of my favourite clients
  • Some updates on a website for a large high school
  • Blogs about renovations and repairs to maritime vessel

Writers Should Call Themselves Writers

I’m a writer. If I want to get real super fancy with the description of my job, I can say I’m a copywriter, or content writer. My business card calls me a wordsmith, plain and simple. 

I stumbled upon somebody in my area this morning who offers “Strategic marketing and branding,” “digital marketing, targeted campaigns and placement,” which is cool – but that person forgot to mention the words writer or writing. Maybe their campaigns are 100% visual with not a single word, I dunno. 

Back to basics is best, I reckon. 

As my $300 advert in the latest Business 2 Business booklet published by NZME. and Northland Chamber of Commerce explains, I’m not so much into impersonal campaigns where the words are kinda meaningless. I’m more about putting my fingers on the keyboard and creating writing which is original and meaningful. Plus, I always encourage clients to make the most of every piece of writing they invest in. 

For example:

  • Get a great media release written, and you can use it as a blog post
  • Get a great Google Business or Facebook review, and you can wrap a blog post around that
  • See a relevant piece of news in the media and you can respond to that with a blog
  • A series of blogs and reviews and news items can be put together into a newsletter

Want help, advice or ideas? Give me a bell on 021 299 0984 / email Mike@michaelboturwriter.com

ps – Here’s my $300 printed advert. I don’t get an online version of it, sadly. 

MIke here to help jpeg