Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peter DeMarco on Photo Contests and CS Lewis on Writing

DeMarco is an acquaintance of mine, living in Busan, whose photos have graced National Geographic. He was recently interviewed and asked about photo contests.  In talking about his Busan Tourism Photo Contest entry, his method of choosing one particular pic was questioned:
What made you submit that shot over all of your other awesome shots?
That was one of my favorite pictures. But again, I tried to get into the mind of the judges. First, the city’s slogan is Dynamic Busan. I think photos that show a modern, even advanced, side to the city are best. Think newer, bigger, shinier, richer, faster. The city wants to use these photos to promote Busan to tourists and foreign investors.
A photo of a woman selling fish in the market is poignant, but it’s probably not going to grace the cover of some city-made promotional material. In fact, it seems like every year photos of the city’s most modern neighborhoods or buildings like Marine City, Centum City or Busan Cinema Center win. That said, what do I know? It could all change next year and a photo of a monk at a temple could win
Some of his pictures can be seen at the link above.
CS Lewis discussed three ways to write to children.  The first two ways consider children as a coherent bloc with identical wishes and desires.  The third way involves writing out a story that might be first been told to one specific child:

The next way may seem at first to be very much the same, but I think the resemblance is superficial. This is the way of Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Graham; and Tolkien. The printed story grows out of a story told to a particular child with the living voice and perhaps ex tempore. It resembles the first way because you are certainly trying to give that child what it wants. But then you are dealing with a concrete person, this child who, of course, differs from all other children. There is no question of 'children' conceived as a strange species whose habits you have 'made up' like an anthropologist or a commercial traveller. Nor, I suspect, would it be possible, thus face to face, to regale the child with things calculated to please it but regarded by yourself with indifference or contempt. The child, I am certain, would see through that. In any personal relation the two participants modify each other. You would become slightly different because you were talking to a child and the child would become slightly different because it was being talked to by an adult. A community, a composite personality, is created and out of that the story grows.
There is (much) more at the link.  Via Boingboing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

writing as procrastination instead of writing as work

I have mostly finished my semester's work at the university.  Classes are done but I am awaiting grades from a test my students take outside of class.  I was fairly busy until Friday.

This summer, I will work at an English camp where I will teach, uh, biology, I guess, in an ESL environment.  The uncertainty I displayed above is due to the plans for the class.  In the past, I have taught evolution and ecology and dove into these subjects with enthusiasm.  This time the camp director is giving me students with weaker English ability and wants more of a hands-on taxonomy class, focusing on descriptions of animals and behavior.  All this is good and the subject has great potential, but now you know about as much as I do about the class.

I need to write a booklet for the students by the end of the month and let me show you what I have so far:

Since I photographed this mind-map, I have added snakes, lizards and snails to it.  I may add shrimp as well.  Why shrimp for an inland camp?  Because Korea has fresh water shrimp - these are tiny or shrimpy-shrimp.

On the left is a snail and on the right is a longtailed tadpole shrimp.  Gangwon province is far from Kimhae where I took the picture so such shrimp are unlikely there.

Back to my narrative. I have had a little trouble sleeping because I have been worried about camp preparations.  Making the mindmap relieved me enough that I slept better after making it.  The thing is, the mindmap, though containing important information and offering suggestions on how to organize my book, does little to actually advance the project.

Earlier, I wrote about the differences between novelty and innovation.  I guess I have progressed through the first ring but have a lot of actual creating to do before the product is ready.

I think this illustrates the difference between the lessons of creativity lectures -like Music to my Ears - and discussions of genius.  The class focused on the creation of ideas while geniuses use their deep understanding of the material to choose the best ideas and build on them.  My mindmap contains no new (that is, not new to me) information and I, having studied biology in North America, am greatly ignorant about Korean flora and fauna.  To some extent, birds are birds everywhere and bugs are bugs, but this is to be a descriptive course and I need to be able to name and identify the critters seen or collected.

Anyway, here I am, typing this in a coffee shop.  Typing more original content on this blog than I have in months.  All too distract myself to the problem of not knowing what to type for the book.  Back to work.


Before I go, my son and his cousin made a mud man while I was planting rice this weekend.  Have a look - and also enjoy the snail eggs:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Make Something Everyday.

Below is the start of a poster that I probably need  on my wall to remind me to get to work.  Follow this link to see the rest.

Kids and creative writing.
Creative writing is part of being a kid. Writing and reading goofy stories of lost kingdoms and Mars colonies helps the imagination grow strong. But a recent study uncovers an interesting, perhaps even dismaying trend: this generation of kids seems to prefer narrative realism when they write.
In a study published earlier this year in Creativity Research Journal, researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Washington asked the question, “How have the style, content and form of adolescents’ art-making and creative writing changed over the last 20 years?”
To answer that, researcher Emily Weinstein and her co-authors, including Katie Davis, co-author of The App Generation, examined two distinct eras of teenage self-expression for the traditional hallmarks of creativity (such as originality, complexity and sophistication). After analyzing 354 visual artworks and 50 fiction stories, from two separate time periods, 1990-1995 and 2006-2011, there’s good and bad news.
The good news? Adolescent visual proficiency has improved. The bad news: teen creativity and technical skill in writing has declined. Instead of imagining Martian neighborhoods, the App Generation has been describing their own summer plans.
I am a science fiction and fantasy fan and have been forever.  Despite that, in real life, I am fairly pragmatic.  I don't think my love for fantasy reading has caused an over-developed desire for the fantastical in my quotidian life.  Still, creative writing doesn't require centaurs and elves or spaceships and the like.  One can create realistic but still imaginary dialogues with others or imagine likely events in the future.

I do like the books mentioned as appropriate to kickstart a teen's creative writing.  One of the books recommended is Mary Shelley's The Last Man.  I have just downloaded it and will read it soon.
Scientific American is one of my Feedly feeds and I am often interested in what they describe.  However, they tend to offer only short introductions with the expectation that you will buy the latest issue to learn more.  I used to do that, but living in South Korea has restricted my access.  If you want, here is a link to several articles on creativity - it is of limited value to me.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Comic book cartography and more

Comic book cartography.

Does this help with world-building?  It sure is fun.
Susan Messing on Improv
Uberflip, which appears to be a marketing company, offers 9 (proven) ways to unleash your creative genius.  The ways are shown on a slide show and one of them is to 'dim the lights'. Why?

Another 'way' is to use various apps.  They suggest:
Coda -crowdsourced app for creative writing: Review and app.
Oflow creativity techniques. Review
75 tools for creative thinking. Website.
I thought I'd written about my friend Gordon Bazsali here before.  In 2013, he wrote a new song everyday and recorded the first take.  His far more ambitious undertaking was similar to my work in InNoWriMo - working on raw creativity but with little filtering.  I spoke to him on Thursday about our respective projects and we agreed on some details.  He had imagined spending a year making new musical ideas that he would mine for the following several years.  Instead, he hasn't looked back at it or referenced it much at all. Well, he told me that, then he told me that he chose sixteen songs, cleaned them up and put them up for sale, so he did find at least some of his work commercially valuable.

In turn, I told him that I had written 52,000 words but hadn't finished the story - that would probably require another 5-10,000 words, nor had I looked back at or revised any of it.  I still plan to, though.

From there, our conversation looked at whether I could be called a writer or another coworker's wife an artist.  I have written and the spouse has produced art but not recently.  The comparison to being a killer came up.  Kill one person and for life people call you a killer.

Anyway, some links for Gord.  A 2012 album, Google+ (on which he and I may be the only two people remaining), a Prezi and Youtube page.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I have old-man eyes, Should you knock, and more

i was alerted to this Tweet by Twitter - ah, the Tweet is by someone, but Twitter itself sent me an email about it.  I hope you can read it;  My Twitter-foo is lacking and I couldn't figure out how to enlarge the picture.  I finally used Chrome's zoom in feature and printed the screen twice, then matched the pieces together to get what I consider a readable image.
Kay is talking about Dawkins' disapproval of fairy tales (probably the same link at Kay provided).
Reading fairy stories to children is harmful because it instils a false belief in the supernatural from a young age, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has warned.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Dawkins, a prominent atheist, said that it was ‘pernicious’ to teach children about facts that were ‘statistically improbable’ such as a frog turning into a prince.
He also claimed to have never believed in Santa Claus, knowing that the figure who turned up at his house at Christmas was his parent’s friend ‘Sam.’
Dawkins, who is professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, is promoting his new memoir ‘An Appetite for Wonder’.
I am something of a Dawkins fan and not such a Kay fan but I agree with the latter in this case.  I love fantasy and fairy tale stories even while understanding they have little literal basis in reality.

Dawkins is also quoted:  "He added: "I grew up. I put away childish things.""

The quote doesn't do much for the story but it reminds me of a comic about parents who put away childish things -including their children.  This isn't it, but I can't find the one I want.
Never work for free.
As a creative person (and everyone else, really), there are two… and only two… reasons why you should work for free:
  1. It’s part of your online business plan. You’re providing free content in the hopes that your readers will visit your online store. (Webcomic method) Or that their clicks will be enough that the advertisers will give you a lot of cash. (YouTube/ Adsense method) So while you are providing free content, you are not working for free.
...You never, never, never, EVER do it for the exposure. Doing it “for the exposure” is the preferred method of flimflam artists and IP thieves for getting your work. I’d say denying these creeps should be the first priority but that’s just the cherry on the sundae. Also, the only exposure you get is as a chump who will work for free.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lots of habitable planets and rules for writing science fiction

The people at planetplanet looked at how to maximize habitable area in our solar system's Goldilocks zone.  I first noted it on my creation/evolution blog but feel the image deserves to be repeated here.  The result is beautiful and just cries out for a story to be written as a wonderful example of worlds building.

With technology similar to what we now have, or even had available a few decades ago, these worlds could all be visited.  Could one planet colonize others?  Would the arrangement be recognized as artificial?  With 36 Earthlike worlds, would the author choose to have them all 'seeded' with life? Or perhaps they are a testbed to see how likely it is that life will arise unaided?  Would there be night as we know it?  All these glowing planets and moons would provide a lot of light.  How would tides work? Europa, a moon of Jupiter, might be heated by 'tidal flexing' - would some of these planets be too unstable for complex life?  What would you see looking up?
Standout Books looks like an interesting place for writers, even for wannabe.  Margaret Atwood recently tweeted about their use of her novel The Handmaid's Tale as a way to explain 3 golden rules for science fiction writing.
The article starts by pointing out that science fiction is not 'fantasy with robots'.  It needs to have actual science.
The first rule is "Know your thesis":

So what’s the point of your world? What are you talking about? Try and take the ‘science’ of sci-fi as an approach rather than a topic. Use your world as a case study, almost an experiment, which will prove your point to the reader.
Of course stories are more than one thing, but keeping your thesis central has many benefits when writing sci-fi. Knowing the point of your fictional world will stop inconsistencies. In 1984George Orwell provides detail after detail of the fascist state Oceania. Views on entertainment, dress, behavior and literature are scattered throughout, giving the reader the impression of a totally consistent world.
Everyone should read Orwell but I couldn't take a steady diet of his work.  I worry that sticking to a thesis would make your work oppressively allegorical or political.  Orwell's work is Important, but not all works can or should strive for that.  Michael Williamson was recently featured on a podcast celebrating the tenth anniversary of his book Freehold.  I enjoyed the story but only in spite of the Libertarian message.

On the other hand, Larry Niven's thesis in Ringworld -also mentioned in my evolution blog post - is "imagine some really big engineering" and has no obvious political message.  Perhaps part of the lesson is to 'remember your point and don't get too badly sidetracked'.

Again, Standout Books looks like a great resource for writers.  Have a look.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Extra details and a book review contest

I worked at a wildlife centre last year and Hallowe'en was a fairly big event for us.  First, Hallowe'en is always fun and second, that's around the last time of year that digging in the marsh can reliably be fun for kids.
Our Marsh Monster event had patrons being led through the marsh to various locations where volunteers and staff would tell part of a story.  In 2013, participants went to a mad scientist who told them about a strange illness affecting the inhabitants.  I was at the third station and before I had even learned what I would be or do, I announced that I would be a ninja.  The organizers humoured me and my frog part became a ninja-frog part.

I really think the extra dimension gave the frog character.  In addition to speaking gruffly, then smoothly then coughing and telling the visitors that I had had a human in my throat, I swung a wooden sword and displayed some of the moves I had learned in a Korean martial arts class.

The mad scientist also adopted the quirk of eating carrots while he spoke.  He was a little sick of them at the end, having eaten a full bag in the evening but his character was more memorable.

All this to explain why the image below is so wonderful. (from)
Other images at that link are similarly weird.
Kottke and Boingboing both offer this tutorial on visual comedy.

Write an essay/ review of some translated Korean literature and be eligible to win a prize! See here and on Facebook.
* Eligibility: Open to all foreigners residing in and outside of Korea

* How to Enter
1) Read the book :-)
2) Post your review in English on the book's Amazon page (Limited to 500 words)
3) Fill the application form on the LTI Korea's facebook page

* Prizes
1) Grand Prize (1 person): $500 Gift Card or equivalent
2) First Prize (3 persons): $100 Gift Card or equivalent(Each)
3) Second Prize (5 persons): $50 Gift Card or equivalent(Each)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Clarion, attacking your story and SCIENCE!

The real science of creativity
The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.
It's too bad that they show this beautiful image of left and right hemisphere just to tell you it is wrong:

Attack your story so your readers won't.  Includes this bit inspiration:
The Clarion writer's workshop starts soon (June 22).  Ah, a Clarion workshop starts soon; there seems to be three branches - two in the US and one in Australia.  Clarion is famous a great place for beginning science fiction and fantasy writers to learn their craft.  A writeathon to fund-raise.  A Wikipedia link which has links for the various branches.