Meet Melissa, Editor-in-Chief at SpudnikLab and author of award-winning book ‘Others’ Is Not a Race. With prior experience in publishing and journalism, a job role in a company focused on bridging the digital divide may seem unconventional.
Join us for this week’s #PotatoSpotlight as we uncover more of what Melissa does!
1. Tell us a little about yourself!
My favourite things to bake (and eat!) are flourless chocolate cakes (my colleagues at SpudnikLab will attest to my greed in this area). I am (very slowly!) starting to learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu (thrilling and scary!) and later this year I will be starting studies in canine massage therapy to help dear dogs rehabilitate and live full and happy lives. I look forward to all that 2022 will bring :)
2. What inspired you to write your award-winning book ‘Others’ is Not a Race?
I started writing for practical reasons, for work and had a career as a magazine journalist. Nothing prompted me to write ‘creatively’ until my maternal grandmother passed away. It was only with her passing that I realized, much too late, that so much of the Eurasian culture and language I’d never bothered to learn about had gone with her. And so began my personal journey of trying to reclaim some of my own culture, and understand more about my community’s food, livelihood and linguistic traditions and also the places and spaces of my family’s past in Singapore.
I travelled to Malacca to document my father’s cousin engaging in the traditional work of the Portuguese-Eurasians there, fishing. I tried cooking some popular Eurasian dishes which I hadn’t eaten in many years. I began learning my mother tongue, Kristang, the 500-year-old creole language of Portuguese and Malay, which originated in Malacca. Having done those things (and I am still on this cultural reclamation journey), I feel much more of a sense of my own Eurasianness.
One of the marvellous unexpected effects of the book is that a number of readers have told me it has inspired them to learn more about their own cultures and to revive their own traditions and languages.
3. How did a background in publishing and journalism lead you to SpudnikLab?
The editorial skills from publishing and journalism come in highly useful when creating and editing content, which is my main role as an editor with SpudnikLab—how to identify interesting stories, storytelling skills to keep readers/users engaged and visual storytelling skills for instance.
4. What does a typical day at SpudnikLab look like for you?
Editing and writing app reviews for our Kobi app review platform for KaiOS phones, editing blog posts, reviewing audio recordings of our Kobi app reviews. Other days may involve conceptualising, styling and photographing our Kobi mascot, an adorable tiny soft toy turtle, for social media.
Check out Kobi the tiny leatherback turtle on our SpudnikLab Instagram account! And our Kobi logo was designed by Potato Productions’ very own 55 Minutes! Thank you Wendy and the wonderful team at 55 Minutes for doing such an amazing job!!
5. What are some common misconceptions about your job?
That an editor’s job is basically correcting grammar. It is so much more than that and correcting grammatical errors is maybe only 5 percent of my job.
A lot of the skills of an editor have to do with shaping content, organising its flow, developing empathy so you can write (or edit) to a reader’s or user’s level of awareness and knowledge about a specific topic. And imagination and a sense of humour and play help a lot too in developing content that is fun and engaging!
6. Share with us some meaningful takeaways/lessons from your job!
Teamwork and the support of your colleagues are essential for doing good work! Everyone has their own specific talents and strengths and pooling our various strengths leads to a better outcome, always :)
Another important takeaway is that clear, honest communication is always key.
7. Any tips/advice for someone interested in becoming an editor?
You’ll need to have expert level fluency in the language you want to be editing in. If your fluency level isn’t what you’d like it to be, you can always work on that. Familiarising yourself with style guides also helps. And I’d say just read, read, read! Read as much as you can, across as many subjects as possible and from every possible source—cereal boxes, instruction manuals, online content and of course, every type of book and journal. Everything you read will enrich and expand your exposure to the language.
Things well-written will sharpen your sense of what good language (and beautifully written language) is, and things not so well written will be good reminders of pitfalls to avoid! :)
8. What do you hope SpudnikLab can achieve this year?
The next version of our Kobi app review platform for users of smart feature phones (i.e. not smartphones but old skool retro type keypad phones like Nokia and Sony Ericsson, which now come with cameras and the internet, like the white Nokia phone pictured in the photo with Kobi) running on the KaiOS operating system. Our Kobi app reviews help users of KaiOS phones, most of whom are from developing economies, and are coming to the internet for the first time. Having reviews of apps specially designed for KaiOS phones helps them understand how some apps can help them with healthcare, education and financial literacy for example, and helps them decide which apps to ‘spend’ their precious data on downloading.
I’m also looking forward to seeing our DLit project on digital literacy emerge, led by my colleague Farah Sanwari.
And we may have an exciting project involving KaiOS phones and mad science! Ok, just regular science, not mad, but super interesting all the same. Watch this space ;)
9. (Just for fun!) Would you give up the Internet + TV for 1 million dollars and your dream house?
That would depend on how long I’d have to give up the internet and TV for!
But I think giving up TV and the internet to gain my dream house and a million dollars is a pretty good deal, even if it’s for the rest of my life.
There are many other things I could occupy myself with, like writing, and reading (books, not anything online haha), yoga, walks in nature, experimenting with baking, drawing, painting, ceramics … the list of things I think I never have enough time to do goes on…
hmmm, you know what, maybe I should just give up TV and the internet anyway!
If you’d like to find out more about SpudnikLab, click here!