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Writing

A whale of a tale: Why off-line research matters
March 12, 2014 | 5:30 pm

spermwhalemouthA long time ago, in some book of weird tales, I ran across the story of a man who had, allegedly, been swallowed alive by a whale, and later retrieved alive from its stomach. He was supposedly catatonic for two weeks, then finally able to resume his duties, with the side effect that his skin had been bleached white by exposure to the whale’s digestive juices. Some ministers used this tale as “proof” that the Biblical story of Jonah was plausible. But one fellow—Edward B. Davis, Associate Professor of Science and History at Messiah College—heard the story and got...

Story Cards tablet CCG gamifies reading for K-12 students
March 12, 2014 | 2:58 pm

storycardsHere's an intriguing game I just learned about. Educational publisher Amplify, makers of the Amplify Android tablet we covered last year, has come up with a way to gamify classic literature, in the hopes of getting students interested in reading it. Story Cards is a turn-based character-driven CCG. Players unlock character cards with specific abilities by reading the books they come from, and can gain bonuses by answering trivia questions related to the books in question. The game supports both single-player and multi-player modes. Students can build their own decks and compete with the game or each other. The...

Beware Author Solutions, and never ever pay for publishing
March 9, 2014 | 1:11 pm

Author SolutionsIf this isn’t Rule One of self-publishing, it should be: You should never, ever, ever pay someone to publish your work for you. Full stop. End of sentence. Now, it’s fine to pay for useful services, of course. If you can afford it, it could be a good investment to pay someone to edit your work, or to design your cover art, or even to format your book for you if you don’t feel confident of your own skills in that regard. (Though I’d honestly recommend paying $40 for Scrivener and spending a few days learning...

Amtrak Residency Program begins taking applications from writers
March 9, 2014 | 3:49 am

zephyrAs was promised a few days ago, the application process for the Amtrak Residency Program has opened up. Amtrak discusses it in a blog post, and links to the actual application form. Up to 24 writers will be chosen for the first batch of residencies, taking place from March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. The application form asks why you want an Amtrak Residency, and how it would benefit your writing, and gives you 1,000 characters to answer each question. Then it asks you to upload a sample of your work, of up to 24 megabytes in size....

Why the Term ‘Professional’ Should Matter to Writers
March 8, 2014 | 6:25 pm

writersI have just read Susan's response to Michael Koslowski at GoodeReader, and I would like to offer another perspective for both readers and authors to consider. I will state first off that I have no particular axe to grind with either Michael or Susan; I have worked with Susan a few times during our respective tenures here at Teleread, and I read and enjoy Michael's blog. But I think that Susan's plaintive 'why does it matter?' is a little disingenuous. It does matter. Let me give you an example as to why. We have a family in our school community who...

More details emerge about Amtrak Writer Residency program
March 7, 2014 | 12:59 pm

amtrakbridgeA few more details have come out about the Amtrak Writer Residency program, thanks to a Reddit Ask Me Anything with Julia Quinn, Director of Social Media for Amtrak. For those who lack the time to go through the entire thread, The Wire has a pretty good summary of the important points. Amtrak is planning to open an online application process within the next few days, with the program to begin this spring. Applications will be considered by a panel of representatives from Amtrak and the literary community, with a fairly loose definition of “writer” for the purposes of the program....

True or false writing – from two perspectives
March 5, 2014 | 2:25 pm

This article picks up from my previous piece in TeleRead on "Worldbuilding in fantasy/SF: Retreading the great clomping feet of nerdism," and in particular, on one of the comments on that post. There, a commentator called Sturmovik states that  When you remove world building from Fantasy then all you are left with is reality. I don’t consider Game of Thrones to be a fantasy series at all. It would have been set in 15th century Europe without losing anything that makes it enjoyable to its readers. In fact the recent success of the similarly named “House of Cards” proves the point....

From bestseller to bust
March 5, 2014 | 10:23 am

bestseller to bust[caption id="attachment_109175" align="alignright" width="160"] British author Rupert Thomson[/caption] This article from The Guardian was an interesting, if somewhat misguided read. British author Rupert Thomson, along with several others, were interviewed about the financial struggles they face as full-time fiction writers. From the article: "Thomson is not yet broke, but he's up against it. The story of his garret is a parable of literary life in Britain today. Ever since the credit crunch of 2008 writers have been tightening belts, cutting back and, in extreme cases, staring into an abyss of penury." And that is where it started to fall apart for me. If...

How not to do it wrong: An authors’ mentor writes
March 4, 2014 | 4:46 pm

K.M. Weiland, a writer of historical and speculative fiction and mentor for authors, has posted an interesting and at times amusing guide to: "How Not to Be a Writer: 15 Signs You’re Doing It Wrong." Mentor she may be, but as she doesn't seem to be especially peddling her own services in the ensuing writeup, and some of the signs appear to be both commonsensical and useful, I thought I'd share them. Two apparently contradictory ones are the most interesting to me:  "You’re protecting your originality by avoiding instruction on the craft" and "You change your writing process every time an...

The vitriol of Twitter: How social media torpedoed Jonathan Ross hosting the Hugos
March 4, 2014 | 1:12 pm

Twitter as kid with red crayonHere’s an interesting article from The Nation about problems the feminist movement is having in discussions on Twitter. The fundamental problem is “intersectionality”: people in the feminist movement are other things besides “just” female—they’re rich or poor, they’re white or minority, and so on—and people at one end of a spectrum find things to be angry at the people on the other end about, even though they ostensibly share a common cause. And this anger is compounded by the Twitter discussion medium, whose short bite-sized chunks can lead to a spectacularly toxic environment. I don’t really have anything to...

Worldbuilding in fantasy/SF: Retreading the great clomping feet of nerdism
March 2, 2014 | 12:35 pm

Lucy Hounsom has just posted on the Waterstones blog referencing the great critique by by British science fiction and fantasy master - and consummate worldbuilder - M. John Harrison of worldbuilding in fantasy and science fiction: "Worldbuilding is not technically necessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there." M.John Harrison's original statement, along with his fascinating and very deep notes and explanations added later, is archived here, and it's recommended reading. At...

Review: Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner
February 28, 2014 | 6:58 pm

coverIf you type the words into Google, you’ll find that random story generator sites are everywhere on the Internet. It seems like people have discovered the randomness of computers can help them shuffle up a bunch of basic archetypes and come up with a plot outline they can write to. But there’s a set of random story generation tools out there that pre-date the Internet by most of a century—and while not as old as some people claim they are, they’re nonetheless old enough, and well-used enough, that they can make a great tool in any writer’s toolbox. I’m...