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15,000 Useful Phrases

Being a practical handbook of pertinent expressions, striking similes, literary, commercial, conversational, and oratorical terms, for the embellishment of speech and literature, and the improvement of the vocabulary of those persons who read, write, and speak English. (Grenville Kleiser, 1917)
posted by Iridic on Aug 13, 2014 - 19 comments

Dialect isn’t just people talking funny

My project today is replacing all the dialogue spoken by Antiguan characters in Of Noble Family with dialogue rewritten by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne Hillhouse.

Let me explain why I’m doing this.
Mary Robinette Kowal talks about why she hired somebody else to help her with the Caribbean dialects for her next novel.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 6, 2014 - 38 comments

How To make a shoe, kill a bear, and mix a Widow's Tears

Mental Floss links to free How-To guides from a hundred years ago that are still helpful if you need to mesmerize someone or name a baby
posted by The Whelk on Jul 28, 2014 - 34 comments

To her, an editor’s life was one of constantly renewed fulfillment.

More than any other editor except Harold Ross himself, Katharine White gave The New Yorker its shape, and set it on its course. -- William Shawn. Almost 20 years ago - and almost 20 years after her death - the New Yorker profiled its legendary editor in Lady with a Pencil. [more inside]
posted by julen on Jul 27, 2014 - 5 comments

"Confession doesn't just allow – it incites."

...if it felt like an author had already come into your life, already seen some aspect of your experience then it would be natural to want to extend this intimacy into conversation. The impulse to contact a confessional writer – whose writing has already revealed something private – is something else. Perhaps it is still a desire to translate one kind of intimacy into another, but the terms are different. With confessional writing, the disclosure has already happened – now the reader wants to confess something back, make a reciprocal exchange. So whenever people talk about confessional writing as navel-gazing or self-involved, I think about those voices, and their offerings.
Author Leslie Jamison (previously, previouslier) explains why confessional writing is not self-indulgent. [more inside]
posted by divined by radio on Jul 10, 2014 - 5 comments

The CIA is a prescriptivist scold

Writing tips from the CIA’s ruthless style manual:

Strunk & White, it turns out, were CIA sources. The authors of The Elements of Style, a classic American writing guide, are cited alongside Henry Fowler, Wilson Follett, and Jacques Barzun in the Directorate of Intelligence’s Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications, whose eighth edition (from 2011) was quietly posted online (pdf) by the legal nonprofit National Security Counselors a little over a year ago, following a Freedom of Information Act request. [more inside]
posted by moody cow on Jul 10, 2014 - 30 comments

Trans Women's Lit

Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
posted by emmtee on Jul 6, 2014 - 11 comments

No Bullshit Hiring Histories

"Pastry work takes a level of skill, precision and rigor that I lacked in spades. I could’ve maybe become a decent pastry cook, with months of practice and a patient boss, but I was in no way qualified to be a pastry chef. I gave it my best effort, for three days, until the chef-owner realized her mistake and fired me. The place closed in less than 6 months. I never got paid." Laurie Woolever at The Billfold talks about how she went from Botantical Garden Intern to Anthony Bourdain's assistant.
posted by The Whelk on Jul 3, 2014 - 26 comments

Sometimes you just have to pick up a pen.

Calligraphy-skills.com is a wonderful throwback to the early days of the Web, when someone would just helpfully organize and present a wealth of information on a given topic for free, simply because they were that into it. [more inside]
posted by DoctorFedora on Jul 1, 2014 - 8 comments

To read Spark is always to read about reading.

Describing Dame Muriel Spark's oeuvre as "a body of work singular in its violence, formal inventiveness, and scorching opening lines," Parul Sehgal's What Muriel Spark Saw examines the enduring appeal and the mystery of Spark's fiction, particularly the "monstruous" women: "What hash Spark's characters make of those eternal debates over unlikable characters or unlikable women." [more inside]
posted by mixedmetaphors on Jul 1, 2014 - 6 comments

How to write 225 words per minute

How to write 225 words per minute. With a pen. Dennis Hollier, in the Atlantic, writes about Gregg shorthand, a piece of analog data-compression technology now largely forgotten and probably forever unequalled.
posted by escabeche on Jun 25, 2014 - 54 comments

Having the same tired discussions about gender bias, over and over.

The first Women in Science Writing: Solutions Summit took place at MIT on June 13-15. Here's a brief roundup, with plenty of links and stats that look at gender bias and harassment in science journalism.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jun 24, 2014 - 27 comments

"A pantry full of ingredients"

My goal here -- beyond the selfish utilitarian aspect of organizing my research -- is much in parallel with that of sites like the Medieval People of Color blog, or Kameron Hurley's award-nominated essay "We Have Always Fought". I want to help change the unexamined assumptions about the place and nature of lesbian-like characters in historic fact, literature, art, and imagination. I want to do it to help other authors find inspiration and support for the stories they want to tell. And I want to do it to affect the reception of my own writing. My project will be flawed in that it will privilege topics and interpretations of personal interest to me. (A geographic focus on Europe and it's neighbors. A temporal focus that ends before the 20th century and focuses strongly on the pre-modern. An examination of the data through a lesbian lens even when other lenses, such as transgender ones, are equally valid.) This is a caveat but not an apology. If I weren't doing it for selfish reasons, I wouldn't be doing it at all.
The Lesbian Historica Motif Project is a series of posts at The Rose Garden looking at source material about lesbian women throughout history.
posted by MartinWisse on Jun 22, 2014 - 14 comments

Mile 943: Day 44: Toulumne Meadows Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart

Writer Carrot Quinn is walking from Mexico to Canada for the second time. In 2013, she hiked the Pacific Coast Trail (2,663 miles) from Mexico to Canada. [more inside]
posted by Ideefixe on Jun 9, 2014 - 13 comments

Pretty Sure I've Read Most Of These....

The terrible (awesome?) fan-fic crossover story idea generator.
posted by The Whelk on Jun 6, 2014 - 77 comments

"Don’t Forget to Be Awesome"

The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
posted by Fizz on Jun 3, 2014 - 24 comments

little patience for intellectual phumphering

Finding the Next Lost: What Is an “Operational Theme” and Why Don’t I Have One? by Javier Grillo–Marxuach (Previously)
posted by Potomac Avenue on May 28, 2014 - 36 comments

A literary trick

From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.
In the New Yorker Junot Diaz talks about MFA vs POC. [more inside]
posted by MartinWisse on May 24, 2014 - 114 comments

"All Good Things..." 20 Years Later

Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga discuss writing the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale. [more inside]
posted by audi alteram partem on May 23, 2014 - 43 comments

No quarters given

Arcade Story - the co-founder of innovative OS X and iOS software outfit Panic reminisces about learning how to beat Dragon's Lair in the pre-Internet age, but that's not the fun part...
posted by Blazecock Pileon on May 21, 2014 - 17 comments

I AM FEELING IT TODAY! HIGH-FIVE!

"I decide I should really read this Updike biography from cover to cover right now if I want this essay to be worth reading." Heather Havrilesky (of the fantastic Ask Polly) on How to Write.
posted by Sebmojo on May 8, 2014 - 20 comments

Typewriters v. Computers: the argument revisited (again).

How the typewriter is/isn't better/worse for your writing. A little bit about ye olde handwriting in there as well.
posted by JanetLand on May 8, 2014 - 33 comments

Bill Simmons' Big Score

Bill Simmons, Grantland boss and 30 for 30 executive producer, went from a little known Boston blogger to one of the most successful sports writers in the history of American media. Rolling Stone's Rob Tannenbaum took a deeper look at Simmons.
posted by reenum on May 1, 2014 - 14 comments

"I think I'm an okay writer, but a very good storyteller."

World's best-selling author James Patterson on how to write an unputdownable story. Interview with James Patterson. 'Patterson recently earned the distinction of being the best-selling author since 2001. Just to be clear, one of the author's books wasn't merely declared "the #1 bestseller," a blurb that pops up on front covers regularly. Rather, James Patterson is the top selling author in the world for the last 14 years. An estimated one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States is his, dwarfing the sales of both Harry Potter and the sparkly Twilight vampires.' [more inside]
posted by VikingSword on May 1, 2014 - 92 comments

“So… do you… do you suppose we should… talk about money?”

Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
posted by The Whelk on Apr 23, 2014 - 51 comments

Dorkiness fits the narrative

The NBA season has ended, and the playoffs have begun, causing a figurative ton of internet ink to be spilled on predictions and power rankings. But one word in particular seems to keep popping up in articles to describe white players like Steve Novak, Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee, Andrew Bogut, and Josh McRoberts: "Dorky." And the writers that use it are inevitably white. Triangle Offense's Khalid Saalam (previously) thinks they should probably cut that out.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Apr 22, 2014 - 43 comments

When your line manager's recreational reading is the IBM Handbook.

How I got here in the end. Picture this: you're a former drug dealer who has turned to hacking for a living. You're crashing in an apartment a bit older than Texas, surrounded by about seventeen computers, sleeping on a futon with a girlfriend with metre-long purple dreadlocks, and planning your defection from one net-based futuristic corporation to another over Korean take-away food. [more inside]
posted by bitmage on Apr 18, 2014 - 20 comments

"writers are going to get it wrong, and that’s okay"

"This is specifically challenging in science fiction and fantasy, where there are often so many ways to heal someone–from super-science to ancient sorcery. And yet there are issues with miracle cures in fiction. For one thing, they rob disability of its narrative power. For another, they play into the problematic narrative that people with a disability somehow “deserve” it." -- Elizabeth Bear talks about writing characters with disabilities in science fiction and fantasy in a guest post for Sarah Chorn's Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.
In this SF Signal column, Sarah Chorn explores how fantasy and science fiction treat disability, through reading lists, author interviews and the examination of characters with disabilities like Tyrion Lannister.
posted by MartinWisse on Apr 17, 2014 - 26 comments

Woodward is Elmore’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Elmore Leonard's Detroit. With map. Part of Grantland's Detroit Week.
posted by xowie on Apr 16, 2014 - 5 comments

...not a neutral exercise.

"Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes?" By Amanda Lee Koe (Text essay, possibly nsfw)
posted by zarq on Apr 16, 2014 - 23 comments

The Game of (a Writer's) Life

Aspiring writers often ask established authors, "How did you do it?" The truth is that there is no single path to literary success. We sent a nonscientific survey to writers participating in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Did they keep a diary as a child? Did they ever have a book rejected? Did they earn a living from writing? We tabulated more than 200 responses to make the board game below. Roll a die and see where the writing life takes you.
posted by shivohum on Apr 11, 2014 - 28 comments

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing. "He is the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for nonfiction and fiction, but it’s not just the writing: Born into the East Coast establishment, Matthiessen ran from it, and in the running became a novelist, a C.I.A. agent, a founder of The Paris Review, author of more than 30 books, a naturalist, an activist and a master in one of the most respected lineages in Zen. As early as 1978, he was already being referred to, in a review in The New York Times, as a 'throwback,' because he has always seemed to be of a different, earlier era, with universal, spiritual and essentially timeless concerns." Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86.
posted by homunculus on Apr 5, 2014 - 40 comments

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge Larkin was delighted when Reader's Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of condensed novels. Thirst would reach a global audience and – who knows? – take off. Reader's Digest promised "to ensure that neither the purpose nor the opinion of the author is distorted or misrepresented", and all seemed well. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Mar 30, 2014 - 38 comments

Doña Quixote

My Dementia: Telling who I am before I forget, by author Gerda Saunders
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2014 - 16 comments

Dig out your sparkly pens again

When was the last time you got something in the mail other than the water bill or a pizza menu? Why does mail always have to be bad news? Groups online are reviving the dying tradition of penpals and sending the most wonderful, creative letters and notes across the globe, making the moment the mail drops onto the doormat exciting instead of dread-inducing again. Bonus link - the League of Extraordinary Penpals, who "think that writing a letter snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea and a cat by your side is a better way to spend your Friday night than hanging out at the bar."
posted by winterhill on Mar 17, 2014 - 36 comments

"I really like polyhedra."

Polyhedra and the Media - On the new polyhedra of Schein and Gayed, and mathematical journalism.
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 11, 2014 - 20 comments

Miles and Miles of No-Man's Land

"Certainly, there appears to be a large correlation between artists and depression. But I would argue that artistic expression is not a symptom of depression so much as a response to it. I see writing as an act of resistance against an occupying enemy who means to kill me. It’s why I’m writing this now." YA author Libba Bray on living with depression.
posted by changeling on Mar 6, 2014 - 15 comments

A Questline About Thieves Who Never Steal Anything

Shamus Young examines the idea of "story collapse" (the moment where a story reaches a critical point of ridiculousness and causes you to question every other aspect of it) by deconstructing the Thieves Guild quest-line in Skyrim: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. Entertaining reading for writers, designers and gamers alike.
posted by codacorolla on Mar 4, 2014 - 90 comments

A tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature

The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.
Philip Roth on his life as a writer.
posted by shivohum on Mar 4, 2014 - 16 comments

"Fuck the prose, no one's going to read your book for the writing..."

Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' [The Guardian] Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories.
posted by Fizz on Mar 4, 2014 - 123 comments

"Don't be like I was you can be better"

Convicts write letters to their past selves.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering on Mar 3, 2014 - 8 comments

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

Legendary science fiction editor Gardner Dozois once said that the job of a science fiction writer was to notice the car and the movie theater and anticipate the drive-in – and then go on to predict the sexual revolution. I love that quote, because it highlights the key role of SF in examining the social consequences of technology – and because it shows how limited our social imaginations are. Today, we might ask the SF writer to also predict how convincing the nation’s teenagers to carry a piece of government-issued photo ID (a driver’s license) as a precondition for participating in the sexual revolution set the stage for the database nation, the idea that people are the sort of thing that you count and account for, with the kind of precision that the NSA is now understood to bring to the problem.
posted by brenton on Mar 3, 2014 - 64 comments

A Vampire is a Flexible Metaphor

Meghan McCarron interviews Kelly Link for Gigantic magazine. They talk about The Vampire Diaries, fanfic, patterns in stories and the craving for distortion, among other topics. Great news for Link fans: she has a new short story collection, Get in Trouble, coming out in 2015 and is working on a novel!
posted by daisyk on Mar 2, 2014 - 23 comments

¶¶˄↗][#

A Conversation With My Copyeditor
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 28, 2014 - 37 comments

Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for

15 year old Jane Austen wrote a satrical history of English monarchs and now you can read it.
posted by The Whelk on Feb 25, 2014 - 19 comments

Amtrak choo-choo-chooses writers for residencies

One writer's Tweet wishing Amtrak had residencies for writers results in just that.
posted by wintrymix on Feb 24, 2014 - 95 comments

10 Famous Writers Who Don't Use Modern Tech to Create

10 Famous Writers Who Don't Use Modern Tech to Create [more inside]
posted by Evilspork on Feb 21, 2014 - 100 comments

Putting off writing

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators "Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out."
posted by dhruva on Feb 16, 2014 - 84 comments

I'd buy that for a dollar...

"If you want to predict the future, just think about how bad it could be and make a joke out of it, and there you go."
Ed Neumeier on the writing of the original RoboCop.
posted by mokin on Feb 14, 2014 - 73 comments

on literature and elitism

These days, the idea of being a “good reader” or a “good critic” is very much out of fashion — not because we believe that such creatures do not exist, but because we all identify as both. The machine of consumerism is designed to encourage us all to believe that our preferences are significant and self-revealing; that a taste for Coke over Pepsi, or for KFC over McDonald’s, means something about us; that our tastes comprise, in sum, a kind of aggregate expression of our unique selfhood. We are led to believe that our brand loyalties are the result of a deep, essential affinity between the consumer and product — this soap is “you”; this bank is “yours” — and social networking affords us countless opportunities to publicise and justify these brand loyalties as partial explanations of “who we are”.
posted by latkes on Feb 12, 2014 - 68 comments

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