Writer David Moldawer's favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools show is David Moldawer. David is a Brooklyn-based writer and book collaborator who spent more than a decade as an acquiring editor in New York City publishing. He was an editor on a number of books I've written. He also writes a weekly newsletter for nonfiction authors and experts who aspire to be authors called The Maven Game.

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Raw transcript excerpts:

Focusmate Focusmate has been transformative for me over the last few months. It’s very simple. It pairs you with a random person via webcam and you work together for 50 minutes at a time. So it’s like having a virtual coworking partner. So what happens is you have a calendar and you pick a slot. Let’s say I want to work at 9:00 AM — it’ll say “You’re working with John or Bill or Melinda at 9:00 AM,” and at that time I click start and it brings up a typical webcam, video-chat-kind-of window, and the other person’s there sitting at a desk and I’ll say “Hi, what are you working on?” They’ll say, “Oh I’m grading something because I’m a teacher.” And I’ll say, “Okay great. I’m doing some editing because I’m a book collaborator,” and that’s it. And then we’ll just sit there and work with the webcam going. Nobody really watches each other. Read the rest

Cormac McCarthy on how to write a scientific (or any kind of) paper

For twenty years, novelist Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) has been an unofficial "editor-at-large" for the Sante Fe Institute, where he is a trustee. McCarthy has helped numerous scientists improve the writing in their technical papers about theoretical physics, complex systems, biology, and the like. In the new issue of Nature, theoretical biologist Van Savage and evolutionary biologist Pamela Yeh present a distillation of McCarthy's advice on "how to write a great scientific paper." I think the suggestions are applicable to any kind of non-fiction writing. Here are a few of the tips, from Nature:

• Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.

• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.

• Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct. Concise, clear sentences work well for scientific explanations. Minimize clauses, compound sentences and transition words — such as ‘however’ or ‘thus’ — so that the reader can focus on the main message.

• Don’t over-elaborate. Only use an adjective if it’s relevant. Your paper is not a dialogue with the readers’ potential questions, so don’t go overboard anticipating them.

Read the rest

Gollancz announces a £4,000 prize for sf writing by people of color

Gollancz, a venerable British science fiction publisher (now a division of Hachette) has announced its BAME SFF Award, with a top prize of £4,000 for science fiction written by over-18 BAME ("Black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers. Read the rest

Christopher Brown talking legal thrillers, dystopia, and science fiction

Christopher Brown (previously) is the guest on this week's Agony Column podcast with Rick Kleffel (MP3) (previously), discussing his outstanding legal thriller/sf climate change dystopia Rule of Capture. Read the rest

Come see me in Toronto and Maine!

I'm in the midst of couple of weeks' worth of lectures, public events and teaching, and you can catch me in Toronto (for Seeding Utopias and Resisting Dystopias and 6 Degrees); Newry, ME (Maine Library Association) and Portland, ME (in conversation with James Patrick Kelly). Read the rest

Lovely lokta notecards

I like to write letters. Theselokta notecards are my favorite.

I usually keep a few styles of lokta paper notecards around. The butterflies are particularly lovely and encourage me to find green ink.

Usually, I write with Noodler's Heart of Darkness, and ink that is designed to stand the test of time. Lokta paper is known for its durability and is resistant to mold, rot and bugs. The paper has a wonderful texture and simply looks beautiful, showing the pulped fibers it is made of.

There are claims in the packaging of how eco-friendly, local economy-friendly and indigenous peoples-friendly the makers of this paper are. These are all great things.

Writing on this paper takes a Medium nib or a very, very careful hand with a Fine and you must use ink that will flow. The paper accepts the ink, does not feather very much but even quick-drying ink will take a moment or two.

Beware the smudge!

The messages you send to loved ones will last forever on notecards that look lovely enough to keep!

Now you have to write things that are worth standing the test of time. It is fun tho, I treat writing letters on these a lot like I do taking photos with 120 roll film, every shot costs a few dollars, make it worthwhile!

I am sure folks toss my works of art into the trash.

Nepal Greeting Card and Envelope Set: Butterfly Notecards, Handmade Lokta Paper via Amazon Read the rest

The Microwriter, a tiny chording word processor from 1984

Photo by Bill Buxton of the Microwriter

Back in the 80s, the inventor Cy Enfield created this fascinating device -- a six-button "Microwriter" where you'd chord combos of buttons to produce the entire alphabet, letting you jot down notes on the go.

Microsoft's Bill Buxton calls it "the world’s first portable digital word processor" (the front-page photo for this post is from Buxton's hardware collection) and Open Culture wrote a terrific piece about the Microwriter a few years ago, citing from a 1984 interview Enfield did with NPR, discussing his "aha" moment:

“It occurred to me that ... it would be possible to combine a set of signals from separate keys, and therefore you could reduce the total number of keys. But, of course, this involved the learning of chords… difficult to memorize… But how do you make these chords memorable? And, one day, staring at a sheet of paper on which I was drawing a set of five keys in sort of the arch formed by the finger ends, it occurred to me, ah! if I press the thumb key, and the index finger key, anybody can do this just listening now, press your thumb key and your index finger down and you’ll see that a vertical line joins those two finger ends, a short vertical line. There is an equivalence between that short vertical line and one letter of the alphabet. It’s the letter “I.”

Buxton's site has some scans of the gorgeous user's manual, including this one:

There are chording keyboards these days, most notably the Twiddler, and stenography tech. Read the rest

The Moonman clear acrylic demonstrator looks good and writes well

This Moonman clear demonstrator is my showy fountain pen with a lot of crazy colored ink of choice.

A few years back I bought a TWBSI Eco. I enjoyed using it and it became my black/red ink pen of choice. A color I used to use a lot of. I wanted another pen to fill up with some of the neat colors I've acquired over the last few years. The Moonman C1 is a great choice.

The tank is huge and it looks really cool when filled with a teal or something crazy like Noodler's Rome Burning. I also enjoy that I can fill the huge tank and write all day without fear of running out.

I enjoy living with out wonder as to ink level. My checking my beloved DuoFold involved inky fingertips.

The fine nib writes like a fine nib and flows ink pretty well. The Rome Burning is pretty soupy and can gum things up. I ran about 1/3rd a tank of it thru the pen and I didn not have a problem. You can unscrew the nib so I am going to assume there are lots of medium, bent and other nibs available. It looks an awful lot like the nib on my TWBSI, but I do not have the pen handy to check.

Moonman C1 Fountain Pen, Transparent Clear Acrylic Demonstrator, Fine Nib Gift Writing Pen Case Set via Amazon Read the rest

This affordable Kaweco fountain pen is a pleasure to use

I picked up one of these Kaweco Sport fountain pens the other day...

I am unclear what is 'sport' about this pen, but it is a classic. The barrel is a bulbous octagonal design, something like a Rotring pencil that needs a diet. This shape feels wonderful in my hands. The plastic is lightweight and the nib puts down ink.

I bought a converter because I hate using cartridges, however the blue cart that came with the pen is just fine. I will prefer using this with Noodler's Ink however, I am an ink snob.

I tested a medium nib but was sent out the door of the shop with a fine. I will be swapping it, as the paper I am most enjoying these days really needs the broader nib. I do believe their fine is a fine and their medium a medium.

I still enjoying writing letters to folks I like and dropping them in the mail. I think it freaks people the fuck out.

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen Black M (Medium Nib) via Amazon Read the rest

Taika Waititi's got some great advice for writers and film directors

If you're a Taika Waititi fan, like I am, it's been one hell of a year. The What We Do in the Shadows TV series was absolutely brilliant. Last week, it was announced that he'd be directing the fourth Thor movie and, earlier today, the first trailer for Jojo Rabbit dropped. He's a writing and directing machine! If you've ever wondered what Waititi's creative process is like, then you'll want to dig into the insight offered up in this interview with the good folks at BAFTA.

My biggest takeaway: Keep writing no matter what. Force yourself to write and don't be afraid of blank pages. It's a grind, but no matter what you're scribbling about, you'll get there in the end.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of Activités culturelles UdeM Read the rest

J Michael Straczynski's "Becoming Superman": a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what's right

J Michael Straczynski (previously) is known for many things: creating Babylon 5, spectacular runs on flagship comics from Spiderman to Superman, incredibly innovative and weird kids' TV shows like The Real Ghostbusters, and megahits like Sense8; in the industry he's known as a writing machine, the kind of guy who can write and produce 22 hours of TV in a single season, and he's also known as a mensch, whose online outreach to fans during the Babylon 5 years set the bar for how creators and audiences can work together to convince studios to take real chances. But in JMS's new memoir, Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, we get a look at a real-life history that is by turns horrific and terrifying, and a first-person account of superhuman perseverance and commitment to the right thing that, incredibly, leads to triumph Read the rest

The nine rules of "Freddish": the positive, inclusive empathic language of Mr Rogers

From an excerpt from last year's The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, the rules of "Freddish" -- as Mr Rogers' crewmembers jokingly referred to the rigorous rules that Rogers used to revise his scripts to make them appropriate and useful for the preschoolers in his audience. Read the rest

Richard Kadrey discusses his new dieselpunk noir novel "The Grand Dark"

Earlier this month, I reviewed Richard Kadrey's new novel "The Grand Dark" for the LA Times; as I wrote, "His latest is “The Grand Dark,” a noir, diesel punk book set in a Weimar world of war trauma, debauchery, cabaret and looming disaster — and it's superb." Read the rest

It's time for the Clarion/Clarion West Write-a-Thon!

The Clarion workshops (Clarion at UCSD, Clarion West in Seattle) are key elements of the pipeline for producing excellent new science fiction and fantasy writers; I am a graduate of Clarion 92, and have taught both workshops, and volunteer on the board for The Clarion Foundation, which oversees the Clarion workshop at UCSD. Read the rest

How to spot a writer

The New Yorker's Mia Mercado asks: What Is Writing and Does This Count as It?

• Writing is when you sit—fingertips hovering over your keyboard, cursor blinking on a fresh blank document—and open Twitter for the twenty-eighth time.

• You can tell that someone is a writer because she’ll have a pencil behind her ear, a Moleskine notebook in her hand, a pen behind her other ear, coffee on her breath and shirt, eyes that beg for your approval, and a Sharpie she’s somehow hidden in her hair.

I have only one laptop sticker, and am therefore not truly a writer. Read the rest

Joel Gion, the psychedelic tambourine man from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is writing a memoir

If you saw the critically-acclaimed 2004 documentary Dig! about the frenemy neo-psych bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, you'll remember that the real star wasn't either of the bands' frontmen but rather the BJM's inimitable, lovable tambourine player Joel Gion.

Rocking his impressive mutton chops and 60s shades, Joel has spent the last 25 years performing with the BJM and releasing his own excellent music while slinging vinyl to make ends meet in the impossible city of San Francisco. Combine that unconventional life with Joel's skewed sense of adventure, razor wit, and relentless pursuit of laughs, and you end up with some killer yarns. Joel's got stories for ages. And now he's writing a memoir to share the weirdness with the world. I've read bits of what he's been writing and it is far fucking out, a modern Beat's notes from the underground.

Support Joel Gion's Patreon so he can get it all down on paper.

View this post on Instagram

I’ve just launched a Patreon page for my book focusing on the few run-up years before the documentary-era. Click on the link on my profile page and become a patron to read over 3K words posted right now. I’ll be posting new writing or project related stuff every week. #joelgion #bjm

A post shared by Joel Gion (@joelgion) on May 3, 2019 at 8:11pm PDT

Read the rest

I'm teaching on this year's Writing Excuses Cruise!

I'm one of the guest instructors on this year's Writing Excuses Cruise, a nine-day intensive writing program on land and at sea, departing from Galveston and putting into port at Cozumel, Georgetown, and Falmouth, with a roster of instructors including Brandon Sanderson, Piper Drake, Kathy Chung, K Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. The program starts with a two-day workshop at a Houston hotel and then sets sail, running Sept 22-30 altogether. I've taught many other workshops, but this is my first Writing Excuses Cruise and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope to see you there! Read the rest

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