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

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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

Watch a Hollywood screenwriter write a scene from scratch in 7 minutes

Our Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia made a video for Vanity Fair in which he gave screenwriter Emily Carmichael seven minutes to write a scene from a sci-fi thriller from scratch. Read the rest

Ottawa! I'll be at the Writers Festival this Saturday night (then Berlin for Re:publica and Houston for Comicpalooza!)

This Saturday, May 4, at 7:30PM, I'll be presenting at the Ottawa Writers Festival, talking about my novel Radicalized and how it ties into surveillance, monopoly, refugees, climate change, racism and oligarchy -- all the good stuff! Read the rest

Talking Radicalized with the LA Public Library: Trump derangement syndrome, engagement algorithms, and novellas as checked luggage

The LA Public Library's Daryl M interviewed me about my new book, Radicalized, specifically, about how my Trump anxiety (created, in part, by the platforms' relentless use of "engagement" tools to nonconsensually eyeball-fuck me with Trump headlines) led to the book's germination, as well as the specific inspirations for each of the four novellas, and the delights of working in novella form. Read the rest

A madlibs science fiction plot generator

Grether Labs's Science Fiction Plot Generator can sure pick 'em: "You are friends with a talking fireplace, and you are working to solve this ancient puzzle before the creatures consume you"; "You are a cyan-eyed cartographer who is finding the awful truth beneath this false utopia, and who is struggling with the terribly thick underbrush and terrible isolation"; "You are friends with a penniless government agent, and you are working to gather the spice before the computer system becomes self-aware"; "You are a science fiction writer and activist who has been made obsolete by a small perl script." Read the rest

Here are cognitive scientist Steven Pinker's 13 tips for better writing

In January on Twitter, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now, shared 13 tips for writing:

Reverse-engineer what you read. If it feels like good writing, what makes it good? If it’s awful, why? Prose is a window onto the world. Let your readers see what you are seeing by using visual, concrete language. Don’t go meta. Minimize concepts about concepts, like “approach, assumption, concept, condition, context, framework, issue, level, model, perspective, process, range, role, strategy, tendency,” and “variable.” Let verbs be verbs. “Appear,” not “make an appearance.” Beware of the Curse of Knowledge: when you know something, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like not to know it. Minimize acronyms & technical terms. Use “for example” liberally. Show a draft around, & prepare to learn that what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to anyone else. Omit needless words (Will Strunk was right about this). Avoid clichés like the plague (thanks, William Safire). Old information at the beginning of the sentence, new information at the end. Save the heaviest for last: a complex phrase should go at the end of the sentence. Prose must cohere: readers must know how each sentence is related to the preceding one. If it’s not obvious, use “that is, for example, in general, on the other hand, nevertheless, as a result, because, nonetheless,” or “despite.” Revise several times with the single goal of improving the prose. Read it aloud. Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. Consult a dictionary with usage notes, and a thesaurus. Read the rest

Ruminations on decades spent writing stories that run more than 1,000,000 words

Charlie Stross (previously) has spent most of his career writing two very long-running series: The Laundry Files, a Cthulhu-tinged series of spy procedurals, like HP Lovecraft writing James Bond, except Bond is a sysadmin; and The Merchant Princes, a tricksy medieval high-fantasy story that's actually an alternate worlds story that's actually a primer on economics, totalitarianism, mercantalism, and theories of technological progress. Read the rest

Dry highlighters are my favorite way to highlight text on paper

Rather than soak thru pages and make reading the flipside of whatever I just took notes on annoying to read, these dry highlighters are just great. Read the rest

Billy Wilder's 10 tips for screenwriting

Billy Wilder was the director of many excellent movies, including Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, and Double Indemnity. Here are 10 tips about moviemaking that he shared in the late 1990s with Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire)

From Open Culture:

Wilder was 90 years old when the young director Cameron Crowe approached him in 1996 about playing a small role in Jerry Maguire. Wilder said no, but the two men formed a friendship. Over the next several years they talked extensively about filmmaking, and in 1999 Crowe published Conversations with Wilder. One of the book's highlights is a list of ten screenwriting tips by Wilder. "I know a lot of people that have already Xeroxed that list and put it by their typewriter," Crowe said in a 1999 NPR interview. "And, you know, there's no better film school really than listening to what Billy Wilder says."

Here are Wilder's ten rules of good filmmaking:

1: The audience is fickle. 2: Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go. 3: Develop a clean line of action for your leading character. 4: Know where you're going. 5: The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. 6: If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act. 7: A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

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An "e-ink typewriter" that can only do one thing

Lucian's SPUDwriter (Single Purpose User Device) was designed to help him focus on creative writing after a long day of staring at a screen in his engineering job: it uses an e-ink screen and a keyboard, and only outputs via SD card or thermal printer.

As a person who does all of their engineering work on or adjacent to a computer, the idea of coming home and spending even MORE time on the computer for creative writing isn’t super appealing. So I made an e-paper typewriter – no browser, no games, just you and your word count. It has a character LCD at the bottom for the current line you’re typing, to make up for how slow E-paper updates, and when you’re finished you can save your file to an SD card or print it all out with the internal thermal receipt printer for redline editing. I call it the SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device), hopefully the first of a couple of SPUDs. It’s built on MBED and the STM32F401 Cortex M4.

The SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device) for creating writing made with E-paper, MBED, and STM32F401 Cortex M4 [Adafruit]

(Thanks, PT!)

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LA Times demands that reporters sign away rights to books, movies and other works they create while working at the paper

The LA Times Guild has been negotiating a new contract with the newspaper, but has hit a wall thanks to an unprecedented demand from the paper's owners: they want writers to sign away the rights to nonfiction books, novels, movies and other works they create separate from their reporting for the paper. The newspaper is also demanding the right to use reporters "byline, biography and likeness" to market these works. Read the rest

Luke Skywalker on how to write a cover letter

Of course don't forget to personalize it.

(via r/StarWars)

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