Friday, October 2, 2015

TWIC: Fun Palaces are Places for participants, not spectators

Boingboing has an article with a video describing Fun  Palaces, places for people to make their owns ways to be active, learn and create.  As mentioned before on this blog, I am concerned about the future of libraries and the article describes how they are getting involved.

Declining E-book experience.  I am satisfied with my Kindle - even very satisfied as I am the sort who likes to carry much of a library with me and am in a bad location to get paper books.  And yet, even I see that the reading device could be designed better.  I do like the Kindle's focus on one thing - reading.  I can surf the internet if I need to, I mean really need to.  At the same time, I can use a book as a paper weight or (once) as a cutting board.
The Art of Manliness tells us that writing a book is hard to do.  The author of the piece had to write three of them before selling one.  He isn't necessarily advising against it but he is encouraging informed participation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sykes describes me perfectly

Author Sam Sykes discussed his feelings about Nanowrimo.  Has he been secretly observing me all this time?
And I feel like NaNoWriMo leads people to believe that it is a straightforward process: begin here, end here, in the span of a month. It isn’t for me (maybe others). 
And I find that a lot of people DO end there. Ideally, and this sometimes happens, NaNoWriMo gives people a taste of work they really like and then they just keep going. But I think a lot of people indulge the same process of doing it only in November and then letting their creative muscle atrophy over the course of a year and do it again.
He nails my criticism of Nano culture:
I’ve mentioned that I’m kind of annoyed with “lol writer” culture: a specific part of our work that leads people to do an awful lot of TALKING about writing and very little writing. To some folk, it’s all about joking about cocktails, making lengthy posts about the “perfect” writing environment, sitting in coffeehouses and whatnot. There’s a lot of talk about the process and not a lot of talk about the craft.
After watching a talk by Nanowrimo founder Chris Baty on writing, I read the comments section - it might have been a chatroom with real time comments, I can't recall.  There was a huge discussion on the perfect 'writer's snack'.  The consensus was frozen, peeled, seedless  grapes.  There wasn't a lot of talk about writing.

My definition of creativity is 'production of novel material'.  I have lots of novel ideas.  I haven't produced all that many.  Or, I have but it's been in the service of other's goals.  My PowerPoint slides for the classes in ESL that I teach are well organized and I do what I can to keep students engaged.  I do excellent work with the textbooks I have been assigned but I have dreams of making my own books, focusing on actions, making and asking questions.  I have handwritten some outlines but nothing has come of them.

Something has come of my creative writing ideas and I have Nanowrimo to thank for that.  My stories are not complete but they are further advanced than they would have been.  Sykes is right, but not entirely.  I am trying out being a writer and learning if this is what I want to do.  My grammar and presentation of ideas has improved and I feel I am a better reader now, knowing a little of what it takes to write.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TWIC: How I should be titling my posts...

Wordpress and a few other sites run a 'better blogging' article every few months.  I do hope that others read this blog and get something useful from it, but it mostly seems a storehouse for things I find interesting.  SEO isn't that interesting to me and I don't make money from this blog.  Still it is number four on this list, Number five: use at least one image for each post, is one I really need to remember.
Another recurring them is 'routines of famous creative people'.  Here is an example from Business Insider.
A.J. Jacobs: “Force yourself to generate dozens of ideas.”
In an interview for the series How I Write, Jacobs talks about his daily writing routines and dishes out some advice for young writers …
My kids wake me up. I have coffee. I make my kids breakfast, take them to school, then come home and try to write. I fail at that until I force myself to turn off my Internet access so I can get a little shelter from the information storm.
I am a big fan of outlining. I write an outline. Then a slightly more detailed outline. Then another with even more detail. Sentences form, punctuation is added, and eventually it all turns into a book.
I write while walking on a treadmill. I started this practice when I was working on Drop Dead Healthy, and read all these studies about the dangers of the sedentary life. Sitting is alarmingly bad for you. One doctor told me that “sitting is the new smoking.” So I bought a treadmill and put my computer on top of it. It took me about 1,200 miles to write my book. I kind of love it — it keeps me awake, for one thing.
Ani Alexander interviewed Gabriela Pereira.  I think both are writers.  I've kept the tab open for a while so I guess I think it's important.  You know what? This cold that I have that is sucking all my energy away from me is kinda important right now.  If I felt better, maybe I wouldn't be snarky about this:
Quote 1: There are no accidents in writing.
Quote 2: Every word should be in your writing for a reason.
Is it the virus talking or do these kinda contradict each other? Pereira has a book out next spring called DIY MFA.
The Washington Post discusses why America's obsession with STEM is dangerous.
If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. ... and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities.
I think Fareed Zakaria has started with some confusion. Engineering definitely fits the description of "specific technical skills" but Science and Math do not. The big difference is that the latter two are ways of looking at the world and fit this description (intended for liberal arts): " A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization." He also describes 'design' as outside of STEM.  I don't understand why he thinks this.

What the Hell does this mean?
One final reason to value a liberal education lies in its roots. For most of human history, all education was skills-based. Hunters, farmers and warriors taught their young to hunt, farm and fight. But about 2,500 years ago, that changed in Greece, which began to experiment with a new form of government: democracy.
Science people can't understand democracy?  I would say scientific training is what allows people to test political claims and improves democracy.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found, science enriches art but art doesn't empower science.

I think Zakaria has a point about Engineering and over specialization in education. The majors at my university are ridiculously specific and I wonder what will happen to the students in my Bodyguard class - seriously, that's an actual major my university offers.
The CBC short story Prize is available to be won.  Entries are due by Nov 1.  You might have to be Canadian.  I'm using my sick-card to justify not having read the information at the link.
Misbehavior In School Pays Off For Some Students. I don't know if this relates to creativity at all but it might.  Certainly, previous research on teachers showed the most creative ones typically made trouble.
when we recognize that misbehavior in the classroom can be reflective of two very different non-cognitive skills—externalizing and internalizing behaviors—a much more nuanced story emerges. Both of these characteristics are associated with lower schooling attainment. However, whereas internalizing behaviors, like being unforthcoming, depressive or withdrawn, predict lower earnings, externalizing behaviors, such as aggression, predict higher earnings. In other words, the externalizing factor lowers schooling attainment, but appears to have value in the labor market. This finding calls into question the role of schooling in identifying and cultivating skills that are productive.
David Malki retweeted something from Farooq Butt that I like.  I hope the embedding works.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hernandez's first draft completion notice

Ivan Hernandez, half of the third greatest Game of Thrones podcast (I can't keep up the joke - the frikkin best GoT podcast), has tweeted his completion of a first draft to a book. This isn't that big  a news item, but he included a screen shot of his word count and it included surprisingly specific data. Click to enlarge:

I wonder what tool he is using that specifies which character set it counts.  It doesn't mention Arabic, Japanese or Cyrillic, but Chinese and Korean are mentioned.

My novel from last year's Nanowrimo included three named Chinese characters and one named Korean but was written entirely in English. The many Russians, Nepalese and Kazakhs all have their names written in English so I have many Russian character but the word count would ignore them.  Not racism, cultural blindness, I think.

Friday, September 25, 2015


It seems this video on Facebook can be linked to, but I don't see how to embed it here.  The woodcarver, Mudana, does his rough work with a hatchet, holding the chunk of wood near his feet.

The bravery in the title however does not refer to the proximity of the sharp, fast-moving ax-head and his feet, but in the confidence in his work.

As a novice carver, I take only the tiniest chunks and scrapings from my work, terrified not that I will lose an appendage, but that I will make a irreversible error and remove a piece I need.  Training has given Mudana confidence.

But, as a writer, I can be brave and type stuff I'm not sure works.  Typed errors are far less likely to remove a finger and are far easier to repair.

Time to be brave and pound out some words, and 50,000 more in November.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Chuck Wendig discusses the financial situation of authors and how to survive the peaks and valleys of irregular paychecks:
Chuck Wendig discussed what authors make.
To go from peak to peak, you do what you can do.
What you can do is write the best book you can write.
That is, of course, nowhere near enough to save you or survive — bad books can do well, and good books die on the vine all the fucking time. Luck is a factor. You can lean into luck, but you can’t manufacture it. (Put differently: it’s easier to summon lightning than to create it.)
So, you not only write the best book you can write, but — you write as much as you care to write. How do I do this thing that I do? How do I personally survive the financial aspect of the writing life? I do it by writing a whole goddamn lot. That softens the valleys and lengthens the peaks because I keep a steadily rolling series of advances, royalties, and D&A payouts. Plus, I ameliorate all that with self-publishing money — that money comprises maybe 25% of my total annual income, but it comes faster and with monthly regularity. Ah, but here’s the rub –
Some traditional publishers have non-competes, which makes it harder to publish across multiple publishers and, if they’re being really rough on you, harder to publish self-pub work, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to draw a map

Jonathan Roberts, who made the Game of Thrones maps - for the book, I believe not the TV series - has a tutorial up on how he does it.  Here is the finished project - shrank a little - if you want the full size, follow the link.

Via Boingboing.