Monday, March 25, 2013

TWIC (11)

Why waste a skyscraper by placing it in a city?  The evolo 2013 skyscraper competition has yielded some great great entries. The polar umbrella looks cool and may actually work ...someday.

Jeez, don't even think of mousetraps!
 the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, put out a call for a better designed, more pleasure-inducing condom. The challenge is to make an experience-enhancing condom that will make men and women go weak in their desire to have protected sex! For the good of humankind!
The Gates foundation wants you to build a better condom.
At least these people are writing.
Salon looks at 9 fan-fic stories based on Game of Thrones.  Their picks can be found at the link.  All 608 (currently) can be found here.


And with this post, I formally give up posting news about other people's work and research.  Expect a lot fewer posts here.  I will still post when I feel I do something particularly creative- current projects include April Fool's Day, an Easter Egg Hunt for my son and a hopefully scathing review of a creationist book a friend has driven me to read.  Remember, I am a creative-ist, not a creationist!  Anyway, my own personal creative production has not markedly increased while working on this blog so I need to find other ways to grow.  I still want to be creative; perhaps now I will be creative rather than merely think about it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TWIC (10)

Bestseller authors aren't swimming in money.
This past summer, my novel, “Broken Piano for President,” shot to the top of the best-seller lists for a week. After Jack Daniel’s sent me a ridiculously polite cease and desist letter, the story went viral and was featured in places like Forbes, Time magazine and NPR’s Weekend Edition. The New Yorker wrote one whole, entire, punctuated-and-everything sentence about me! My book was the No. 6 bestselling title in America for a while, right behind all the different “50 Shades of Grey” and “Gone Girl.” It was selling more copies than “Hunger Games” and “Bossypants.” So, I can sort of see why people thought I was going to start wearing monogrammed silk pajamas and smoking a pipe.
But the truth is, there’s a reason most well-known writers still teach English. There’s a reason most authors drive dented cars. There’s a reason most writers have bad teeth. It’s not because we’ve chosen a life of poverty. It’s that poverty has chosen our profession
More on money and writing.

In Money Matters, creative people discuss what they’re not supposed to: the intersection of entertainment and commerce, as well as moments in their lives and careers when they bottomed out financially and/or professionally. The artist: Neal Pollack appeared in the national consciousness as part of the talented group of writers and editors that gravitated to McSweeney’s, Dave Eggers’ publishing empire. In 2000, The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature—a collection of satirical pieces centering on the fictional “Neal Pollack” persona, a larger-than-life spoof of macho world-beaters like Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer—became the first book published by McSweeney’s publishing arm. (The book was later re-published by HarperCollins.) A satirical rock novel, Never Mind The Pollacks, followed in 2003, and was followed by 2007’s Alternadad, a memoir about his experiences raising his son. Alternadad generated tons of publicity and human-interest stories about hipster parenting, in addition to generating interest from the television and film industries. But the book’s sales failed to match its buzz, and television and film adaptations didn’t pan out.

Writing for SyFy Channel. One suggestion of many:
It will probably be expected of you to have a romance plot or two in the movie along side the disaster/giant creature/giant creature disaster.  Given what else you're going to have to fit into your movie, and the time you have available (two hours, less commercials) you're not going to have time to do these in any sort of depth.
Thus they will be superficial and your primary objective is probably going to be making it so they seem less superficial than they actually are.
You don't want it to seem like, "I just threw in a romance because it was expected," even if it's true. Especially if it's true.

Their next step should be designing a better mousetrap.
A new NYC design contest takes aim at new payphones and comes up with ideas that are self powered and  expand far beyond mere telephony. The winning design is here.
The NYFi features two interfaces and a simple touch activates the height sensitive interactive zone on either face.  Two models of the NYFi are proposed: a ten foot model for commercial and manufacturing districts and a smaller model for residential and historic districts where payphones have not traditionally been permitted.  
Science Writing advice from Roger Highfield.

What do you need to know to write well about science?Whatever the subject, angle, tone, length or style, your story has to tickle the fancy of your readers and maintain their interest to the very last word. The aim is not to impress a professor with your knowledge, amaze your mum or to get something off your chest. Think hard about your intended audience. They may be ignorant but they are rarely stupid. They have all kinds of interests and preoccupations and, when it comes to getting their attention, these are the best places to start. Remember that they always have better things to do with their time. If you don't grab them with your first sentence, you might as well give up.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


I changed computers and am now somewhat comfortable with Windows 8.  During the move I lost five or six links and so have missed (at least) a week.  Um, TFWIC (These Few Weeks In Creativity) begins now!


The act of writing is awesome. The business of writing is, nnnnggghyeah, less so. Sometimes this thing we do seems like frolicking nude across a minefield while some shady assailant fires paintballs at your crotchparts. It’s hard to know which way to step. One wrong move and you’ve given some scam-artist all your copyrights or granted some publisher the right to tattoo its logo above your father’s ass-crack. We inkslingers have to stay frosty lest we get skuh-rewed.
The Internet is awesome because it’s all like HOLY CRAP ALL THE INFORMATION EVER, but it’s also less than awesome because it’s all also like HEY WHOA CHECK OUT THIS MOUNT FUJI-SIZED PILE OF HORSESHIT. Here on the Woven World Web, truth and bullshit are given equal time to parade around in their 1s and 0s; what that means for the writer is that we will encounter a mix of Genuine Information, Anecdotal Evidence (aka “Artisanal Data”), and Bold-Faced Deception. You’ll hear things about publishing or self-publishing or agents or contracts that fall into one of those categories but they all pretend to be in the category of Genuine Information even when they’re not. Always ask: “Is this true?” Then use your digital detective skills (and question-asking skills) to suss out the reality. (Please see yesterday’s post on the subject of dispelling misinformation. Pay particular attention to the comments.)
Finding the truth and vetting information and making the right choices is all on you. No agent is perfect. No publisher is untarnished. No self-publishing prospect is an Easter basket of puppies and kittens. You must get educated. You must stand vigilant against the rampant heinous fuckery out there. Don’t trust me. Don’t place all your trust in the hands of anyone. Ask questions. Seek information. Look for the pearls of truth in the oyster-spooge of opinion. Be smart. Protect yourself. You are your own best defender against all the nonsense.
Part of the above list of hazards for writers deals with bad agents and vanity presses.  Here is another warning about a new vanity/established press.

bad news - risk for new authors
"Hydra's deal is much, much worse than the one you'll get from a real DIY option like BookBaby or CreateSpace or Lulu, where you only pay for services you want, keep 100% of your profits, and assign no rights at all to the "publisher." It's got all the downsides of a DIY press, and all the downsides of a traditional press, and the upsides of neither."
UPDATE: March 16
\Changes to the Random House contracts.
Based on strong criticism from writers' groupsauthors, and agents, Random House has decided to make major changes in its digital contract. Allison was kind enough to share these changes with me. 

So far as I can tell, the changes look good, more traditional and generally better for the author.
via Boingboing
Laura Helmuth gives one bit of advice.  So do others; dig around.
Do you need background noise to help you concentrate?  How about coffeehouse noise?
As a university student with attention and concentration problems, I found that playing the same long-play tape helped.  I do feel pity for my roommate who ended up hearing the same Doug and the Slugs music every night!  Apparently, some people need more random noise than music provides and perhaps the coffee house blend will help them.
Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling
Know your audience when you want to help or build something for them.
"How did you decide to select a business model in which you treat the poor as customers rather than recipients of charity? And do you believe this to be a faster way out of generational poverty?
 Giving things away is hard to do on a large and sustainable scale. Selling products allows us to scale much faster. People who are trying to survive can't afford to wait for traditional giveaway programs that may or may not find their village. Selling our income-boosting products at prices villagers can pay allows us to invest in and grow a sustainable distribution network that gives rural people access to even more products and services.
 When we treat people as customers--not as recipients of charity--they have the ultimate power and choice to decide whether they want to buy what we're offering. As a social enterprise, we don't decide what people should get. It's up to them to decide.
 The foot-operated irrigation pump is successful because it provides small-plot farm families with an extremely affordable solution to their daily problem of drudgery--hauling water to their crops. (It was like going from doing six to eight hours a day of back-breaking work hauling water to two hours instead on a "stairmaster.") With improved efficiency in daily irrigation, farm families could then spend time expanding their plots, growing more diverse and high-value crops, extending their growing season or spending time marketing their produce and getting better prices--all of these add up to dramatic boosts in household incomes of $200 to $300 per season. The extra income allows them to feed their family, buy school supplies, keep their children in school, and buy inputs for the next crop without going into debt."
Know your location when you decide to help or build something.
"His first project--what he calls a "seed to cultivate a new type of urbanism on water in African cities"--is a floating school. The three-story structure is 108 square feet at its base, and 33 feet high. It sits on a flotation deck made of 256 used plastic drums. And the body is all wood, which is sourced locally. The idea is to keep things relatively cheap: Adeyemi estimates it will cost about $6,250.
The building is designed for about 100 students (aged 4 to 12), and has its own power system based around solar panels on the roof. There is rainwater harvesting capacity, and the school has its own toilet--something unusual for the area."
Does this drug enhance creativity?  Scientific American investigates.
Video (with the following caption):
"The drug Levodopa is designed to increase dopamine levels in the brains of Parkinson's patients suffering from tremors. A Tel Aviv-based doctor reports that it also boosts the creativity of patients taking it."
All the good ideas have been thought.  Is there more for me to discover? Or to write about?
"Only 1% of all writing on the internet is great writing, and even that is an “embarrassment of riches”.
Great writers produce great writing, and the bad ones cannot be rescued.
His golden rule is: the writer is everything. And a corollary: the publisher (with a few exceptions) is nothing.
We live in a world of ideas and they are not restricted by source or medium.
All of the above taken together paints a rather depressing picture for young writers. The honest truth is that the market we’ve entered is full of great writers who produce ever more great writing, leaving ever little time for us to find a readership for our work. Despite the difficulties, there are some ways to overcome these huge hurdles."
Write for free?
"The fact remains that if you have things to say that you think are worthwhile and nobody is offering to pay you to say them, you ought to say them anyway for free. If enough people agree with you that those things are worthwhile, it just may lead to something"
I read another article about not writing for free and beware of giving your content to for-profit groups but it didn't make the move.  That article and the one linked above don't really conflict but naturally caution is needed in choosing what you give away.
Limitations encourage creativity.

"Phil Hansen has tattooed bananas, drawn a portrait on stacked Starbucks cups and created a Jimi Hendrix portrait out of matches, which he then burned. In other words, he isn’t the kind of artist who feels bound to paint on canvas.
So how did Hansen happen upon such fascinating methods? By embracing a major limitation — a hand tremor that made it impossible for him to do the pointillist drawings he loved.
The power of limitations has been a real theme so far this conference. Why do you think this hasn’t traditionally been a part of the conversation about creativity?
I think due to the economy, we’ve been running into a spike of constraints while at the same time being more culturally fascinated with creativity than ever. One of the speakers, Danny Hillis, said “It’s hard to get people to focus on plan B when plan A is working so well.” Now we are in a place where lots of “plans As” are no longer working. Being forced to reevaluate is allowing us to see this connection between limitations and creativity that has always been right in front of us. Within this process, we are bringing curiosity back — curiosity about new possibilities that we hadn’t explored when plan A was working so well. And we are discovering better alternatives, as I’ve witnessed here from a lot of speakers so far at TED."