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Currently Browsing: Random Mind Food

How to avoid the trap of boring white people

Aren’t you tired of writing the same thing? Don’t you see that all of your books look the same?

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Do you feel validated?

Imagine someone you knew did this for you on a daily basis. Imagine you were someone for someone else.

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Guest post: Mining a writing tip from Mandy Patinkin

Editor’s Note: During a conversation thread on author R.J. Keller‘s Facebook timeline, I was intrigued by fellow writer April Hamilton‘s take on a Youtube video featuring a few acting tips from Mandy Patinkin.  He’s one of my all-time favorite actors, so I was hooked already, and I loved hearing him speak so passionately. But when April started relating his tips to writing, I knew she was on to something, and I asked her to write a guest post. Below is her text (and then the video.).   Writing help can come from the most unlikely sources. I recently saw a video where actor and Broadway star Mandy Patinkin was being interviewed about his experiences with The Princess Bride film.  At one point in the interview, he talks about how, as an actor, he learned to boil down every scene he played to one word or a single sentence and use that as his grounding, or guiding principle for performing the scene. It occurred to me that writers can do the same thing when writing or editing scenes: distill the scene down to a single word or phrase that conveys the point of the scene (e.g., a specific action, a feeling, an incident that must occur, a reveal, etc.) and use that as a yardstick and delimiter. In other words, if the point of a given scene is to convey a character’s insecurity about something, then the word is “insecurity,” and as you write or edit, you can use that as a guidepost for what does or doesn’t need to be in the scene / does or doesn’t serve the point of the scene. This could work very well to help keep a scene on-point, and might save a writer from having to cut a lot of extraneous material during the editing phase if it’s employed during the drafting phase. This tip can also prevent or cure the dreaded “sagging scene syndrome” — in which a scene just seems to lose its focus or pace partway through, but the writer can’t tell precisely where it went wrong. I’d suggest that any writer who struggles with writing “tight” give this method a try. It may turn out to be the quick and (relatively) easy fix you’ve been looking for! April L. Hamilton is an author and the founder and Editor in Chief of Publetariat.com, as well as being Editor in Chief of Kindle Fire on Kindle Nation Daily and Digital Media... read more

The secret lives of real books: Video insanity!

Know what happens in a bookstore at night once everyone has left? This is awesome.

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Forget the facts and let’s be practical

Whatever your story, whoever the players, the odds are good that the folks who saw your life unfold remember it completely differently.

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How to artfully butcher your books

Need a new purpose for your old books? Flavorwire has some crazy/unique/neat ideas, but be warned: they’re not for the faint of heart. Some make my head spin like that chick from The Exorcist.

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Fairy tales are getting stupider

Humpty Dumpty? Apparently, according to the BBC, he can’t break now. He ends up happy and superglued. The old lady in the shoe? She now gives kisses instead of whippings.

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Stop judging other parents

One controversial blog I read occasionally is called FreeRangeKids. The basic idea here, posed by mother-turned-activist Lenore Skenazy, is that our kids already know what they’re doing. And if they don’t, it’s up to them to figure things out. Want your child to learn how to cook for himself? Then ya gotta let him burn his hands on the frying pan a time or two. Want your kid to be creative enough to play on her own and make up games with sticks? Then you have to cancel some of the fifty-seven extracurricular lessons you’ve scheduled for her and give her time to just wander in the yard without a plan. I agree with this, in theory. Sometimes only in theory. About half of the time, I think the advice is dead on the nose. The rest of the time, the site just pisses me off. That’s probably why I go; adrenaline is a great thing to get you going in the morning when you don’t really want to do the laundry yet. Regardless of why I do this to myself, most of the posts I’ve read from her have sent me into a tizzy in one direction or the other, either wanting to stick up for those who are accused of being overprotective, or reading comments by those who want to lynch them. Today’s post, written by someone other than Lenore, fits into the writing scheme of things, and angers me on a certain level. The full post is here, but here’s the gist: Wait a minute: Are those flashcards in that mom’s hands? At a baseball game? Yes. Yes, they are. She’s holding them up to test her preschooler on her letters and numbers – on a Friday night at Little League. Meanwhile, your kids are playing under the bleachers. Something about a princess and a fire truck and magical cookies…you have no idea what they’re saying. All you know for sure is that your kids are having fun, while the little girl with the flashcards is working on mom-imposed homework and a nervous breakdown before she’s 12. Here’s my take, and what I wrote in the comment trail: I’m sure somebody will be quick to call me a liar, but… I was reading at a third-grade level when I was three. I skipped kindergarten, and I LOVED school. Never fell behind, never hated it, never stopped wanting to find out more things and dig into more... read more

The guy who saved Baby Jessica shot himself?

Prompted by the previous post about “miracle kids” and where they are now, I was randomly Googling the whereabouts of Baby Jessica and came across this in the Wikipedia entry of the “baby in the well” event: “McClure’s rescue was credited mostly to paramedic Robert O’Donnell and police officer William Andrew Glasscock Jr., both of whom received tremendous media attention. In 1995, O’Donnell shot himself to death while suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. In 2004, Glasscock was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of sexual exploitation of a child, sexual assault, and improper storage of explosives.” The entry notes that citations are needed, but this article verifies the story: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/23/magazine/death-on-the-cnn-curve.html It’s truly something to read. The article is long, but every page is well worth the time. According to the report, the pressure of having been the baby-saving celebrity eventually became too much. When the Oklahoma bombing happened and appeared on the nightly news a few years later, O’Donnell was upset that he didn’t have enough money to make the trip to go help. The article says that his mother reported him thinking about how much psychological help the rescuers themselves would need after everything was said and done. There’s another whole other entry that could be written about the second guy mentioned in the Wikipedia paragraph, and how apparently even a child molester once did a great thing for a baby in trouble; but I’m too worked up at the moment about O’Donnell. Feel free to add your thoughts (on either) in the comment trail. (Image... read more

Where are they now – miracle kids

Is it a bonus to not remember the horrific day, to not really understand what’s going on and why everyone else is so sad?

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