To create your own Pulp Magazine cover (or coffee mug, or t-shirt, or…), head on over to the Pulp-O-Mizer.
To create your own Pulp Magazine cover (or coffee mug, or t-shirt, or…), head on over to the Pulp-O-Mizer.
Suddenly I’m in geek writer heaven; I stumbled across a copy of the original Star Trek Writer’s Guide, which opens with a stern test of your science fiction writing skills and ends with the following question:
Q: Are you people on LSD?
A: We tried, but we couldn’t keep it lit.
In between, there’s plenty of interesting fodder for even today’s earthbound writers.
Keep writing (and live long and prosper), Tom Chandler.
Matthew Stibbe’s Bad Language blog posted a series of photographs of writer’s rooms, and while I’m always willing to peek into the life of another writer, I’m reminded why I close my eyes when I walk into my office, at least compared to most of these.
First, let me say I’ve got a great office; we live in a nice house on three wooded acres on the flank of a 14,000′ stratovolcano. The view out the window is just right; not the stellar vistas of the upstairs rooms, but a glimpse of the outdoors — enough to remind me I should finish work and go play.
The problem is that it’s been a long winter, and the office is in its pre-spring-cleaning state. If you photographed it for a post like Stibbe’s, you’d want to disinfect your blog after posting.
I’ve got three unused desktop PCs and monitors stacked in one corner, a wire document rack stuffed with fly rods in another. A rack of winter clothes is pushed up against the wall, and bookshelves (which attract clutter like politicians attract scandals) line the back.
Small stacks of paper, fishing gear, office supplies and other junk cover 75% of the floor.
And I can’t really see through the detritus to the top of my desk.
It looks like a sporting goods warehouse fell out of the sky and landed on a combination library/copier room/computer repair depot.
Still, there’s hope.
We’re in the midst of our first sunny, 70+ degree days of spring. Line up enough warm days end-to-end, add in a pinch of freedom from deadlines, and eventually even I throw open the windows, shovel out the expired paperwork, and store the winter clothes.
I don’t think I’ll ever quite achieve the stately, dignified writing rooms featured in Stibbe’s post (I just noticed the post was by Clair Dodd, the potential Dr. Who companion who writes for Bad Language), but then, they’re mostly British, and cleaning their writer rooms is just the kind of stiff upper lip kind of behavior you’d expect from them.
Keep writing (and try to keep up with the cleaning), Tom Chandler.
I’m on the home stretch of my annual report project, though falling a little behind on a client’s online work.
In other words, it’s business as usual here at the Underground, which means I need to deflect attention away from my lack of posting with bright, shiny objects like this funny bit of video (warning — will induce PTSD in most veteran writers):
Keep writing (or not), Tom Chandler.
For the record, we writers are fragile, egotistical creatures, and a little recognition feels pretty good. In fact, if I squint hard enough at the e-badge, I can make myself believe Putlitzer winners only dream about recognition like this.
Two hours after the happy email arrived
and was instantly forwarded to my mother, I received a heated phone call from a marketing “guru” who was caught running a website security scam on my client. It was suggested I was delusional, uninformed and rude (no, no and yes, at least by that point).
That “feel good” stuff? Pretty much gone.
If the universe is listening, next time I’d prefer a little less Yin to go with my Yang.
Keep writing (and bringing home those heavy-duty awards), Tom Chandler.
I write for a living and rarely contribute original work to social sites; I’m simply not interested in enriching for-profit entities for free.
Until a couple days ago, Goodreads was the sole exception. I contributed book reviews to the privately owned book community site because I valued the reviews posted by others and wanted to give something back.
Goodreads even emitted a nice, warm, fuzzy sense of community — right up until the owners announced they’d sold it to publishing bad-boy Amazon for (an estimated) $150 million.
Exit the warm and fuzzy.
We’re all aware the real money in Web 2.0 is in digital sharecropping; get others to contribute content and build your network (on your land), then sell the result to the highest bidder. (You can read the always-astute Nicholas Carr’s thoughts on digital sharecropping here.)
Now, as has happened so many times before, the owners are rich and the users — whose contributions created the real value of the site — are left wondering what just happened.
Amusingly, the Goodreads announcement of the sale reads like it was crowdsourced; it answered few obvious questions, fostered a handful of new questions, and cheerleaded Amazon’s Kindle so often that every Kindle-free Goodreads member knows they just became a second-class citizen.
For a $150 million sale, you’d think they’d hire a good PR writer.
It seems clear Amazon bought Goodreads not simply for its 16 million users or its treasure trove of independent reviews (Amazon’s reviews are becomingly increasingly irrelevant due to attempts to manipulate them). According to The Atlantic, the 80/20 rule applies to readers too; 20% of the population reads 80% of the books.
Amazon’s betting a sizable percentage of that 20% are Goodreads members (total membership 16 million). To a bookseller and publisher, owning that resource is a lot like finding a shiny new bike beneath the Christmas tree.
Amazon already bought the second biggest book site (Shelfari — which has languished under their ownership), and they hold a small stake in the third largest (Librarything, which seems relatively independent).
They didn’t make these investments out of a love of books, and you wonder what book-related properties are safe from the Godzilla of digital sales.
On the Goodreads site, member responses to the announcement now run to 42 pages, and outside of a fair number of first-page kudos, those responses are overwhelmingly negative. In fact, the link to the announcement has disappeared from Goodread’s front page and from member pages. [UPDATE: I just received the Goodreads email newsletter -- sent less than a week after the announcement -- and there's no mention of the sale. Hmmmm.]
Many members haven’t forgotten last year’s holy war with the very same Amazon over metadata — and the amount of work many of them invested building the site’s own metadata when Amazon denied Goodreads access. More than a few pointed out the Orwellian turnabout.
Eventually, member discontent will die. Those who can’t stomach Amazon will leave (I downloaded my book lists and reviews before deleting them from Goodreads, though I still hold my empty account), and I suspect Amazon will do very little to upset a wary membership, at least for a while.
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.
I freely admit there have been times I wanted to do exactly this during an edit meeting — especially those where passive voice was forcibly injected into my copy.
Despite being mangled by entitled hipsters too lazy to pick up a dictionary, the English language clearly isn’t evolving quickly enough to accommodate the needs of the online world.
For example, we’re writing with the same dusty old punctuation marks we’ve been using for hundreds of years, and simply put, they just don’t seem cool enough anymore.
Fortunately, College Humor saw the problem and created 8 New Punctuation Marks We Desperately Need. Frankly, I’m on board.
Consider the jaw-dropping utility of the Sinceriod, Sarcastises, and my personal favorite, the Einstein-level-brilliant Morgan Freemark:
Suddenly, we don’t have to be better writers than those who came before us; we’ll enjoy the talent-deficit-erasing benefits of better punctuation.
For that matter, imagine a whole series of actor marks similar to the Morgan Freemark.
Feeling presidential? Wrap that copy in the Martin Sheenmark.
Want more oomph? Try the Marlon Brandmarks.
You know that vacuous, insincere personal essay? Just append a pair of Ryan Seacrestmarks and you’re gold.
The mind boggles. The fingers tremble. The lips part.
Can’t wait for this hot new punctuation to enter the mainstream? Download a font containing these marks here.
Here at the Underground we’re excited to bring you tomorrow’s punctuation today (in many cases, you’re getting it well before lunch).
Keep writing (but don’t bother with all that old skool punctuation), Tom Chandler.
The “Booze Cruise” is a well-known concept in nautical circles, but all credit to Carnival Cruise lines for pioneering the “Urine & Fecal Matter Cruise.” One of their cruise ships has been disabled for eight days in the Gulf of Mexico, and the passengers — who clearly didn’t expect to swim in their own sewage (I guess they didn’t read the brochure very closely) — seem unhappy:
Passengers have been texting ABC News that sewage is seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, the carpets are wet with urine. Food is in short supply and reports have surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine, and others on board the ship squabbling over scarce food.
I know when I pay thousands of dollars for a Quality Vacation Experience, I don’t typically expect to get raw sewage at no additional cost.
The passengers are already skewering Carnival via social media; who wants to be the PR staffer facing the media when these poor (and sorta smelly) souls hit the dock?
The Downeast Lakes Land Trust (based in Grand Lake Stream, Maine — a tiny town where we sometimes vacation in the summer) is looking for a Communications and Education Manager (fulltime).
The Land Trust is a small organization, but they’ve done some astonishingly big things. If you’ve got mad skillz, then the job description (pdf alert!) might be worth a look.
Naturally, the Undegrounder who gets the job owes me 10% their first year’s salary (hey, it’s a lot cheaper than an employment agency).
The Interwebs are rife with overreaching “list” posts (“The 47 Things Every Social Media Marketer Can Learn From Those Spit-Stained Cigarette Butts Discarded At The Side Of The Road“), and I largely ignore them (you should too).
But I couldn’t ignore The Hundred Best Lists of All Time, which isn’t inane, preachy advice from fools and shills, but a list of lists from The New Yorker, including gems like The World Rock Paper Scissors player’s responsibility code (96), The Apollo 11 surface checklist (25), and The Sporting News’ “Rules of Scientific Heckling” (78)
Of course, even The New Yorker isn’t immune to the occasional blatant traffic grab (Maxim’s “Hot 100” (95) and People’s “Most Beautiful People” (88), though mostly they chart a more conservative course (Robert’s Rules of Order (10)).
What’s on the Top 100 for writers? Naturally, I constructed a list:
(Of special interest to poets and novelists are Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve steps (8) and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5).)
What’s #1? You’ll have to read it yourself.
Keep writing (but never begin with “The Top 10…”), Tom Chandler.
I remember hearing this Terry Gross interview “Fresh Air” radio with children’s book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, the last five minutes of which were seriously moving. In this video, illustrator Christoph Niemann annotated the interview with his illustrations, and the overall effect is astonishing.
A nice reminder of the power of a perceptive interviewer and a pair of decidedly “old school” media.
For 27 years I've worked as a copywriter. Despite that, I retain a youthful appearance and remain mostly sane.
I'm a copywriter, but the Underground isn't focused solely on copywriting; it's a reflection of one writer's interest in other writers (and writer's tools, text editors, creativity - and everything else that bubbles up).
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