Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Elgin Literary Festival 2018

This Friday and Saturday will be the fourth annual Elgin Literary Festival. (You can see me in this picture from a previous festival--I don't remember the year. I'm the one writing on a laptop with my foot up.) I'll be moderating a panel Saturday morning on writing a book series. Other participants include local authors Lauren Jankowski (a friend of mine), A.J. Pine, and Gregory Thompson. Other panels cover topics such as poetry, independent publishing, and marketing. There will be books for sale (I'm not in the marketplace this year), and Chuck Wendig will be a keynote speaker. (Since I'll have my son in tow, I won't be able to listen to him--he's not known for being kid-friendly.) You can download the full schedule from the website. If you're in the area, hope you can make it!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Short Story Titles--Votes Needed!

I'm finishing up a short story that I want to submit to an anthology by the end of the month. (Hopefully I haven't jinxed myself by mentioning the anthology!) The short story is set in my Season Avatars universe, and the anthology has a shards theme. Additional details might spoil Summon the Seasons, so I won't describe the story here. Based on what I've said, which of the following titles would you find most intriguing?

Shards of Four Colors
Shards of a Summersman
The Shards Left Behind

You're welcome to suggest tweaks to these titles as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Library Books

It's funny how I can go into a library intending to get just a couple of books and end up with a stack. I put two books on hold Sunday and picked them up yesterday after work. But first I had to see what was new in the Science section and then in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and my son had expressed interest in World War Two, so I picked up a couple of books for him. I wound up with eight books, six of them for me. When I was younger and had more free time, I could finish them all before they were due. These days, I'll probably end up renewing some of my books. I guess that's why I still have so many paper books I haven't read and thousands of samples in my Kindle library--as soon as I see a book that looks interesting, I grab it, no matter how many others I still have to read.

How many books do you check out on your typical library visit? Do you finish them before they're due, or do you have to renew (or let them become overdue)?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World

In my opinion, the title "The Runaway Species" doesn't do its book justice. At least the subtitle "How Human Creativity Remakes the World" is a better fit.

The beginning of this book discusses two types of creativity (Picasso painting one of his masterpieces and NASA saving the crew of Apollo 13) that seem wildly different but aren't. Eagleman states there are three ways we can creatively alter something: by "bending" or distorting it, by "breaking" it into components, and by "blending" it with something else. (I can attest to the latter, as I tend to throw several different ideas into a single story.) He lists several examples of each type of change. We can adapt to new things very quickly (witness how much we're tied to our smartphones), so the pleasure we find in getting something new fades. On the other hand, something too different from the status quo will be rejected by society. (The example given in the book was Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, which was the finale of a quartet. Contemporaries hated it so much Beethoven had to remove the fugue from the quartet and publish it separately. Luckily, society caught up with Beethoven, and we are able to listen to the Grosse Fugue today.) One of the reasons we change things so much is to seek the sweet spot between familiarity and novelty. This is a constantly moving target, which is why companies must continue to innovate even when they're currently very successful.

The second part of the book discusses how to cultivate a creative mentality. Part of this requires coming up with many different options, working in a variety of fields, and being able to accept failure. The final section deals with creativity in schools, in companies, and in the future.

Anyone interested in creativity will find this an interesting book to read. The hard part, as always, is implementing its ideas in daily life.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Writer's Retreats

I had a chance to chat with some writers last night, and one of the topics was writer's retreats. One of the writers takes turns with other writers in her region to host a retreat every three months. Another writer talked about renting homes, in particular, Rudyard Kipling's home. It has ten bedrooms and rents for $700/night, which isn't bad if you split the cost among ten people.

I haven't done a writer's retreat yet; it can be difficult enough just taking a couple of hours to hang out in a coffee shop or the library. But I wouldn't mind the chance to go somewhere scenic for a few days and perhaps stay at a bed and breakfast.

Have you ever been on a writer's retreat? Did you go by yourself or with other writers? Was it productive? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

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