Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Write About Your Pets

If you're a fan of "The Art Of Racing In The Rain" by Garth Stein, then you might be considering writing a book from the perspective of your own favorite pet.

But where do you begin?

Writing from the perspective of a pet or any animal is tricky. It is difficult to research what an animal might be thinking at any given time, seeing as how they don't speak (or write) or offer anything in the way of a record of their thoughts and feelings. The writer is pretty left to use his imagination to determine the right way to express these feelings and the right way to tell the story that keeps the reader entertained without feeling as if they are merely reading what the writer is thinking, instead of what the animal is thinking.

For those of us who are NOT Garth Stein (who already proved he can practically read the minds of at least dogs) there are writing courses available to help us understand how to writer better from the perspective of an animal. Whether it is our cat, dog or favorite goldfish, there is likely an interesting story there, just waiting for us to tell it.

We’re using this special edition of the Angel Animals Story of the Week to introduce you to WOOF, MEOW, WRITE, PUBLISH: Writing about Pets and Animals for Love and Money. It is our downloadable, comprehensive course for people who want to write books, articles, stories, and essays about animals for publication or pleasure.

Check out our new website that tells all about this one-of-a-kind writing course. Go to to download WOOF, MEOW, WRITE, PUBLISH now. You’ll love the 14-day return offer.

Never before have the authors of fourteen published pet books, many of which have won awards and become best-sellers, actually revealed the secrets of writing successfully in the specialized field of pet writing.

We are excited to finally be able to tell you about the techniques and hard-earned experiences that helped us sell over a quarter million books through retail outlets and online bookstores. Our pet writing keeps us in touch with you and thousands of others who read the online Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter.

Did you know that our books are published in multiple languages, by major publishers in New York and the United Kingdom, and sold in bookstores and online around the world?

Click here if you want to read more from Angel Animals.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Self-Publishing Your Book Is Easier Than You Think (With Fiverr)

If you are like most writers you started thinking about selling your book long before you started writing it.
The good news is, with the advent of a multitude of electronic book publishing options, publishing your book is now easier than ever.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to ebook publishing. First, every ebook must be properly formatted. There are a plethora of web articles which explain the process for formatting your ebook yourself, or, you can visit and let someone else do it for $5.

The next step in the process is getting a book cover made. Anyone with a modicum of graphic arts skills can design their own ebook cover, or you can hire someone on to do it for $5.

Once your ebook has been formatted and a cover has been designed you can start submitting it to ebook publishers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords--they all offer self-publishing ebook options for writers that make the process simple to follow, even for a novice.

If you are interested in seeing your book in print, there are a number of self-publishing options that can help you do that as well. Just remember, the first step to self-publishing your book is to finish writing it...

With triple-digit growth in self-publishing services, technologies evolving weekly, and advertising hype, it's tough for authors to figure out which vendors to choose for which services. In a three-part series, I'm looking at three popular paths to get your print and e-book to online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, without going through the subsidy presses.

In Part 1, we learned how to get your e-book formatted and distributed to the greatest number of online retailers.

This week you'll find out how to get your print version online and in stores, or what I call:

Path 2: Print (POD) - Getting your print book formatted and distributed to online retailers and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Stay tuned for:

Path 3: Partner with a pro - Finding a distributor, small press, publisher services company, book packager or literary agent who will invest in and shepherd your book much like a traditional publisher in exchange for an exclusive distribution deal and significant royalty from sales.

Click here to read the entire article on self-publishing at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

eBook Sales Continue To Climb

Amazon remains a dominant force in the world of eBooks, but across the board, eBook publishers continue to see an increase in production as more and more users flock to electronic forms of the printed word.

While the market in general continues to grow for eBook publishers, trade publishers, specifically those producing books for education, professional and business markets are seeing the most gains.

Makes sense to me. Anyone required to purchase a number of hefty tomes every year--like textbooks or professional guides-is likely interested in reducing costs. The best way to reduce the cost of producing a book (aside from cutting the pay of the writer) is to make the book available in an electronic format.

School districts around the United States are looking to switch from hard bound textbooks to electronic versions of the same books which can be accessed via e-readers or tablet computers. This makes life easier for the students, who have access to the latest information, and the school district, which sees the cost of electronic books dramatically less than the cost of traditional textbooks.

So far electronic books make up less than 25 percent of the publishing market, but signs of their continued growth show that when it comes to eBooks, the future is wide open.

eBook production is growing rapidly in the trade category. In fact, according to a new study from digital publishing company Aptara, eBook production for trade publishers rose from 50% to 76% in the last two years.

For the study Aptara tracked eBook trends for more than 1,300 book publishers including trade, education, professional and corporate markets. It also found that one out of five eBook publishers makes more than 10% of their revenues from eBooks.

Click here to read more about eBook publishing from

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Unethical But Common Way For a Writer to Make a Buck

Some businesses are willing to pay for good publicity. Fake reviews are more difficult to spot these days.

Business will pay $5-10 for someone to speak highly of their work in a familiar, friendly tone with a realistic identity. By reading reviews that appear legitimate on social networking sites, people are more likely to go.

It is a way to hear word of mouth by people you don't even know. Social networking sites have definitely won over businesses in that regard. They make it almost too easy to post positive things about experiences users have recently had whether that be at a restaurant or in any other type of business.

While ethical dilemmas arise, people are still doing it and still making money off of writing fake reviews.

The new sketchy trend is for businesses (not just realtors) to hire fake online review writers. Cruise Craigslist in your city, and you’ll see realtors, retailers, plumbers and lenders paying $5 to $10 for a legitimate user to give them a review, so long as that user has an active Yelp account or a similar account. This gets businesses around having to make fake accounts and keep them active, instead, just pay a few bucks for a fake review. The truth is, the reviews look real, are written in natural language and are by a legitimate person, not “Thomas H. of Dallas, Texas” who has no bio or picture.

Read more of the article or see how to pick out fake reviews by clicking here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Lost" Writer Spills The Beans (Hint: They Made A Lot Of Stuff Up)

"Lost" was undeniably one of the most memorable shows of all time. It featured just about every element of science fiction/fantasy writing ever created including invisible monsters, time travel; Heaven, Hell; mad scientists, deserted islands, air plane crashes, flash backs, flash-forwards; special abilities (magic) and enough drama to make a soap opera writer proud.

Unfortunately, its convoluted plot left many viewers confused about what was happening and why. And if you were unfortunate enough to miss an episode you were, well, for lack of a better term, lost.

While the show was on there were rumors that the writers were essentially making it up as they went along; throwing in elements that were designed to build the mystery without knowing exactly how the mystery would be resolved.

Now we know, that's pretty much what the writers were doing: making it up as they went along.

Damon Lindelof was only writing for "Lost" as a way of getting a chance at writing for "Alias." He was the keynote speaker at the New York Television Festival this past weekend where he spoke at length about the mystery surrounding the writing process for "Lost."

Lindelof came in with plenty of ideas, including nonlinear storytelling and flashbacks.

"The biggest issue with a desert island show was the audience is going to get very frustrated that the characters were not getting off the island," he said. "My solution was, hey, let's get off the island every week. And the way we're going to do that is we're going to do these flashbacks. We'll do one character at a time and there's going to be like 70 characters on the show, so we'll go really, really slow, and each one will basically say, here's who they were before the crash and it'll dramatize something that's happening on the island and it will also make the show very character-centric."

Abrams liked the idea, and also had another: "'There should be a hatch on this island! They spend the entire season trying to get it open. And there should be these other people on the island,'" Lindelof recalled Abrams saying. "And I'm like, ''We can call them The Others.' And he's like, 'They should hear this noise out there in the jungle.' And I'm like, 'What's the noise?' And he's like, 'I don't...know. They're never going to pick this thing up anyway.'"

Click here to read the entire story about Lindelof.

Friday, September 23, 2011

This Writer's Life: Roger Ebert

Pulitzer Prize Winning film critic Roger Ebert admits the last thing he ever imagined happening to him was that he would lose his voice; lose his ability to speak. But in 2006, following complications relating to thyroid cancer, that is exactly what happened.

Today Ebert is back to reviewing movies, has his own television show and is known for running a very active Twitter account. He also has a new book coming out called Life Itself: A Memoir.

Despite the fact Ebert has no ability to communicate with his mouth his ability to communicate with his pen (or his laptop-whatever) is now stronger than ever. Ebert has found a new career as a social media communicator and found an audience ready to hear his opinions on film, the film-community and life itself.

When Ebert lost his voice in 2006, he said he was in a very dark place. Losing his voice was previously unthinkable to him. "For all the things that could have gone wrong with me, that was the last one," he said.

He stopped writing and watching movies and spent his days cooped up in bed, until his wife Chaz Hammelsmith brought him a DVD of a new movie she thought he might enjoy. That movie was The Queen, the Oscar-winning film starring Helen Mirren. Ebert found himself writing a review on a yellow legal pad. "Suddenly, I found myself back in business," he said. "Watching movies on DVD and writing about them."

Ebert went back to writing reviews for the Sun-Times, and also launched a blog and signed up for Twitter to get his voice out. "Memories came pouring out of my mind," he said. "There was a new urgency about the act of writing."

It was then that Ebert thought a memoir would be possible, especially after he realized there was a lot to write about outside of the movies. "I was afraid such a book would come down to a series of movie anecdotes and I didn't want to write a movie book," he said.

Life Itself tells the full story of his life and career for the first time: from his childhood in Urbana, Illinois, to his post as a reporter at his local daily, and to Chicago and the film critic position that changed his life. In his memoir, Ebert chronicles his brush with alcoholism, his marriage, his beliefs and the cast of characters he has met along the way.

Click here to read the entire interview with Ebert.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

'The Terminator' Turns To Writing

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a weight-lifter, actor, producer and political star. Now he intends to write a book called, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story" which his publicist said is NOT intended as a tell-all, so don't expect lurid details of his alleged affairs, including the liaison with the nanny which led to the birth of a son outside his marriage to Maria Schriver.

You might be interested to know this is hardly Schwarzenegger's first time writing a book. In fact, during the 1970's when he was at the pinnacle of weight-training celebrity he wrote and published the hugely popular "Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder."

Times have changed, however, and politics make for strange bedfellows. When he was popular for his body-building prowess it was easy to like him and appreciate his struggles and want to emulate him. As Governor of California, however, he made as many enemies as he did friends and the fallout from his divorce still reverberates with some people.

Schwarzenegger will definitely publish his book, whether or not it will become a best seller, well, that remains to be seen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography will not be a “tell-all”.

The book will detail Arnold’s childhood in Austria and his ever-changing careers as a bodybuilder, a Hollywood star and a politician. Although the memoir will touch on his personal life including his recent split from wife Maria Shriver, that won’t be its focus.

A source revealed to People magazine that the tome “will not be a tell-all”.

The memoir has been given the working title, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Arnold hopes to write it in between shooting all-action movie The Expendables 2 with Sylvester Stallone.

The former California governor is famous for having taken an unusual road to fame.

"Nobody has a life story even close to his,” his publisher, Jonathan Karp revealed. “Truly, Arnold is one of the most fascinating figures of our time."

Click here to read the entire article about Arnold's new book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Have You Been In Bed With Jackie Collins?

In a recent interview with the Associated Press Jackie Collins said she was glad for the opportunity to help improve the sex lives of her readers, many of whom have approached her and said as much.

Collins is known for packing her books with steamy love sequences, exotic locales and stories that simply drip sexuality, but she also somehow manages to tell a great story while she does it.

As a writer Collins said it is difficult to imagine who is going to read your books, much less imagine what sort of impact it might have on their life.

Many writers say the best way to finish a book is to write it for yourself; try not to think about the reader at all, or even if it WILL get read. just tell your story, be happy with it, and the rest will happen in its own good time.

AP: What's the hardest thing about writing?

Collins: The hardest thing for me is getting to my desk in the morning. That is so difficult. ... I'll stagger to my desk and I will pick up my pen and I will write a sentence. I write in longhand. It takes me a long, long time to write my books. I have them bound in leather when the book is finished. I do a lot of things on the computer but when it comes to writing I want that black felt pen and I want that yellow legal pad and I'm good to go anywhere in the world.

AP: You're also a big fan of Twitter. (Her Twitter name is JackieJCollins.)

Collins: I love tweeting. I have so much fun with my fans. I've asked them for reviews. I answer people's questions. Sometimes I'll do a little survey and say, "Who is hot this week?" We tweet a lot about television. Also, I meet people on Twitter. ... I met Denise Richards and we had a lovely lunch one day. She told me all about her (ex-husband) Charlie (Sheen).

AP: Are you dating anyone?

Collins: I have a man for every occasion. When I was a kid growing up, I used to read my father's Playboy and I'd see these guys and they had fantastic apartments and cars. I have all of that now. Why would I want to hook myself up with one man when I've had two fantastic men in my life? One was my husband for over 20 years and one was my fiance for six years.

Click here to read the entire AP interview with Collins.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kristin Wiig Writes Fast (And Well)

Kristin Wiig scored a big hit with her screenplay for 'Bridesmaids.' In fact, some have gone so far as to call her comedy, told from the perspective of a nearly all female cast, one of the funniest, if not the funniest movie of all times.

Everyone has applauded the fact it features comedy from a woman's point of view, something that has been sorely lacking in Hollywood, where movies such as The Hangover, while funny, are decidedly male-oriented.

Now you can get an inside glimpse of Wiig's writing style and practices by watching the behind-the-scenes extras that come with DVD and Blu-Ray releases of 'Bridesmaids.'

Even if you already caught Bridesmaids in theaters, you’ll want to check it out again at home. Why? Because unlike most comedies on DVD and Blu-ray that boast of hilarious special features, Bridesmaids actually delivers the goods. EW has an exclusive clip below from one of the behind-the-scenes features in which star Kristin Wiig, her writing partner Annie Mumolo, and producer Judd Apatow talking about the Bridesmaids writing process — including how quickly Wiig and Mumolo cranked out their first draft.

If you watch hard enough, you’ll even get a very quick peek of one of the best extras on the DVD and Blu-ray (out Sept. 20): A deleted scene between Kristen Wiig and Paul Rudd, in which they go on a blind date that starts off promisingly but then spirals out of control as Rudd turns out the be a short-fused rageaholic. What’s surprising about the outtake isn’t that it’s hilarious (how could it not be with those two?), but that a star of Rudd’s caliber got left on the cutting room floor.

Click here to read more about Wiig and the 'Bridesmaids' DVD release.

10 Tips for Freelancers Who Want to Make (Well Over) 6-Figures a Year

Making it big as a freelance writer seems close to impossible for many writers, but Robert Bly is one of many who has made that dream a reality. Freelance is becoming a more and more popular industry for writers.

Bly even offers tips for beating writer's block, whether it be for freelancers or any other writers. Whether you be interested in freelancing full time or part time, Bly's tips are helpful advice to get the most income out of your freelancing situation.

I started freelancing full-time in 1982, and except for that year and the next, I have earned more than $100,000 a year as a freelance writer for 20 consecutive years. Last year, I grossed $500,000, as I did the year before that.

I tell you this not to brag, but to illustrate that making a 6-figure income is a realistic goal for even an average freelance writer like me (I’ve never written a bestseller, nor have I sold a script to the movies or TV). Following are some suggestions to help you achieve and exceed the $100,000 a year mark:

1. Get serious about making money. “Before we can accumulate riches in great abundance, we must become money-conscious until the desire for money drives us to create definite plans for acquiring it,” writes Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich (Fawcett Crest, 1960).

If money is not a concern, you can write whatever you want, whenever you want, as much or as little as you want, without regard to the fee you will be paid, how long it will take to write the piece, or the likelihood that you will sell the piece.

If you want to consistently make $100,000 a year as a freelance writer, you need to avoid the “poverty mentality” that holds so many writers back from earning a high income.

See all 10 of Bly's tips for making more than $100,000 a year freelancing by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amazon Gives Readers Yet Another Reason to Ditch Local Libraries

Amazon has proposed to make a "Netflix-like" library that users can pay an annual subscription fee of $80 for an Amazon Prime account. The novels available wouldn't be brand new, but isn't that what you're getting from your local library?

The article says several publishers aren't excited about the idea because of the diminishing affect it would have on print copies of books. If Amazon tweaks their plan to fit what publishers find acceptable, what will happen to books?

As convenient as a Netflix for books sounds, what will come of libraries? Children in many classrooms across the world are already reading their textbooks from e-readers. Will the generations to come know the feeling of going to the library to check out books like we had as kids?

Amazon is reportedly talking with publishers about launching a new "Netflix-like" digital book membership service, as it strives to stay competitive in the emerging digital content market.

The Seattle-based retailer is exploring a service in which customers pay an annual fee in return for access to a library of content, but says the notion may not have wide support.

The Seattle-based Kindle maker is making a digital book library comprised of older titles available to Amazon Prime customers, who pay $80 a year for unlimited two-day shopping and access to a digital library of movies and television shows. Amazon may limit the number of monthly books under such a program.

Read the rest of the article here.

Self-Publishing Means Self-Promotion

Sean Platt, the dad behind @GhostwriterDad has a new book out. In fact, he has a series of books out called "Yesterday's Gone." The idea is to offer readers a new 100-page episode every three weeks with each episode ending in a cliffhanger.

Fortunately for Sean he is not only an excellent author, he also understands the importance of properly marketing your work. In addition to promoting the book on his Twitter feed he has created a web site ( and has capitalized on the high volume of traffic seen at YouTube by creating his own video to promote the book. He also runs "Collective Inkwell" which is the label he self-publishes under, so of course you can find links to his new serialized stories there.

Sean really understands the importance of marketing his products. You might have a great manuscript sitting in your desk drawer, but it doesn't do you any good there. And if you're waiting for someone to come along and find it, promote it and laud you with praise--well, you're going to be sitting there an awful long time.

Take a tip from someone who has been there, done that, and figured how to make the system work for them. Sean's web site would be a good place to start:

Yesterday's Gone is a post-apocalyptic serialized thriller which follows the events after October 15, when most of the world's population vanished at 2:15 a.m. EST. This is the story of those who were left behind.

Yesterday's Gone returns to an old publishing standard -- serialized fiction with killer cliffhangers, with a new 100 page eBook every three weeks.

Click here to visit the "Yesterday's Gone" video trailer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Will Computers Replace Writers? (Looks As If They Already Have)

You may not be aware of this, but an Illinois based company has been using computer program to write stunningly good sports stories for more than a year now.
The stories produced by the program designed by the company, Narrative Science, are indistinguishable from those written by living breathing reporters. Editors are unable to tell the difference and in tests, usually prefer the prose composed by the computer to those created by human hands and minds.

This effort is designed to help publishing companies faced with declining budgets maintain an ample supply of stories. Feed in a few facts and the program devises an entire story, including finding angles that make sense and composes lead paragraphs that grab the reader's attention.

So far Narrative Science has nabbed more than two dozen companies. These are companies which are using a computer program in place of a human writer. Much the same way automotive companies replaced human workers with robot welders and assemblers.

It is also believed this research will lead to thinking machines; robots which are better able to communicate and interact with their human controllers.

In the meantime, we are learning that humans no longer control the domain of creativity. When a computer can be taught to control the written word as well as a human there is cause for writers everywhere to be alarmed.

Not that this spells the end of the writing industry. Human beings are nothing if not unique. And it is this uniqueness, this ability to interpret and refine everything we see, hear, think and feel and to then communicate this information in ways which are, well, uniquely human.
After all, when threatened with obsolescense, John Henry used a hammer to beat a steam driven machine...
The Narrative Science software can make inferences based on the historical data it collects and the sequence and outcomes of past games. To generate story "angles", explains Mr Hammond of Narrative Science, the software learns concepts for articles like "individual effort", "team effort", "come from behind", "back and forth", "season high", "player's streak" and "rankings for team". Then the software decides what element is most important for that game, and it becomes the lead of the article, he said. The data also determines vocabulary selection. A lopsided score may well be termed a "rout" rather than a "win".

"Composition is the key concept," Mr Hammond says. "This is not just taking data and spilling it over into text."

Later last year, the Big Ten Network began using Narrative Science for updates of football and basketball games. Those reports helped drive a surge in referrals to the website from Google's search algorithm, which highly ranks new content on popular subjects, Mr Calderon says. The network's web traffic for football games last season was 40 per cent higher than in 2009.

Hanley Wood, a trade publisher for the construction industry, began using the program in August to provide monthly reports on more than 350 local housing markets, posted on its site, The company had long collected the data, but hiring people to write trend articles would have been too costly, says Andrew Reid, president of Hanley Wood's digital media and market intelligence unit.
Read the rest of the article on Narrative Science by clicking here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Return Of The Serialized Novel (Again)

These days everyone is doing it: self-publishing.

With self-publishing you have the opportunity to market your book in ways which appeal to you: ebooks, print-on-demand, serialized versions, blogs. If you want to do it, the chances are you can do it online.

Such is the case with the new novel by Abby Slovin. She was inspired to write her 400-page novel after finding old boxes of love letters between her grandparents. However, despite the fact she had a finished product which read well and seemed to appeal to a mass audience, she couldn't find a publisher to take it on.

So, she is publishing it online. One chapter, each week, for eight months.


Slovin is hardly the first person to think of this and likely will not be the last. I believe it shows the indomitable Writer's Spirit which all great writers have.

Don't wait for someone to believe in you: Believe in yourself, first.

Slovin talked with The Jersey Journal reporter, Summer Dawn Hortillosa about the process:

“I didn’t know this aspect of their personalities,” Slovin said. “When we retrace people’s pasts, we get hit with a lot of emotion.”

She created a fictional world inspired by these emotions revolving around a similar theme.

“It surrounds the relationship between an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter. And as the grandmother slips into dementia, the relationship backtracks and the granddaughter looks back at letters they exchanged throughout her childhood and young adulthood,” said the 28-year-old.

Read the rest of Hortillosa's article here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

If you are a poet you might derive inspiration from a gentle summer breeze or a babbling brook. If you are a writer of thrilling crime novels you might find inspiration from a searing headline.

If you are a member of "The Kooks", those English darlings of the indie-rock scene, you might just get inspired whilst using the lavatory on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Yes, the loo. The potty. The john. The porcelain throne. The one room in my house that actually has a lock on the door.

Whatever you call it, that's where The Kooks' frontman, Luke Pritchard, said he recently found inspiration to write a new song.

As long as it works for him, who am I to argue?

Writers, as a breed, are fickle creatures. Our creative thoughts ebb and flow seemingly without pattern. Some days we are a fountain of words while other days our well runs dry. If we knew how to turn it on and off at will I'm sure most of us would, but alas, the Muse comes when She will and we must oblige Her.

So tell me, where and how do you find inspiration? (Leave a comment below)

In the meantime (before you leave a comment) here's a snippet of TOM THOROGOOD's article on Luke Pritchard in the loo:

He explains: "I always take my guitar on flights and I wrote this when I was on a plane to New York.

"I sneaked into the toilet for quite a while to write it.

"When I came out I thought the air hostesses were gonna give me grief.

"But they were cool — even though I had been in there for two hours."

The unusual writing environment appears to have paid off and the orchestral track signals a change in sound and outlook for the four-piece.

Luke says: "Time Above The Earth is one of the statements of the album. It's us doing everything differently.

"The lyrics are moving away from what we've done before — it's a philosophical song about being above the world and thinking about life.

"That song came right at the end of the recording. Hugh (bandmate Hugh Harris, guitars/piano) arranged the whole string part. He's really into classical music and string arranging."

Click here to read Thorogood's entire article.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Storytelling As A Tool For Peace

Story Swap is proof positive that the stories we tell can have far reaching benefits; that our stories make us who we are and help us understand those who we think are strangers.

Story Swap has been around for just a few short years but already it has impacted hundreds--if not thousands--of young lives.

With Story Swap young people from different communities are brought together to share their stories, swapping snippets of their lives. In this way they learn about themselves and someone else.

For as long as we have had the ability to communicate humans have been sharing their stories. We share to enrich our own lives and the lives of those around us. We share stories so we can open our soul to another. It builds trust and understanding between tribes, communities and individuals.

Story Swap has had success student survivors of natural disasters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and New Orleans, Louisiana, following the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Dozens of communities, hundreds of students have been helped. Now the program is reaching across the Atlantic to the Arab and Jewish communities of Israel.

Here's a piece of the press release:

Arab and Jewish high school students of Israel -- from two communities that are minutes apart but rarely interact -- will come together for the first time this month to engage in Story Swap International (SSI), a ground-breaking program that employs the art of storytelling to build bridges of understanding. The collaborative project, founded by the Aspen Writers' Foundation (AWF) and expanded to an international level in partnership with Global Nomads Group (GNG), will take place September 19-23 in one of the most controversial regions of the globe. "Nowhere else does a program like Story Swap hold the potential, not to end the conflict, but rather to build a dynamic that might allow a resolution to survive," said Mickey Bergman, SSI advisor and director of Middle East Programs at the Aspen Institute.

"Story Swap is powerful precisely because it harnesses storytelling -- the most accessible and universal of all human activities -- to open the doors of communication that might otherwise be closed," said Lisa Consiglio, executive director of the AWF. "It works because when listening to stories, we suspend argument, engage our imagination, and, walking in the shoes of another, build compassion."

The 24 participants of SSI's inaugural Middle East Swap, selected from an Israeli Jewish high school in Haifa and an Israeli Arab high school in Nazareth, will be paired together for a five-day creativity exchange that is part of a two-year storytelling initiative in the region by the AWF and GNG. Over the next couple of weeks, the students will begin preparing for individual exchanges with their partners by taking classes in storytelling, creative writing, active listening, and media skills (such as interactive videoconferencing and digital storytelling). The Swap week will culminate with face-to-face exchanges between partners on September 23 that will provide the groundwork for future community outreach, including digital storytelling presentations by students to their communities in November.

Click here to read the entire press release.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do Events Impact Literature? (Or Vice-Versa?)

Ten years after the tragic events of Sept 11, 2001, authors are using the anniversary to look back and interpret the state of the world today, and the impact the attack on the World Trade Center has had on the lives of all of us.

Some question how the events have impacted literature--or if they have at all. I suppose I am more curious about how literature has impacted the way the world has moved, and thought, and reacted in the wake of that tragedy.

What words have since been written that would not have been written otherwise? Plenty. But of those words that were suddenly brought to the page, what impact have they had on our lives? What has changed because of those words; what have we learned about ourselves and each other that we would have never learned without those words?

That is the true importance of literature. Not, what impact have events had on the written word, but what impact the written word has on the events of our lives.

This article, "A compelling narrative from an unlikely source"by DAVID L. ULIN of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at the issue:

Ten years later, we know this is not what has come about. Whatever else the legacy of Sept. 11 might be, its effect on literature appears, at best, diffuse. Yes, there was a time, in the middle of the decade, when nearly every work of fiction seemed to contain an echo of the tragedy, from the fiercely fragmented vision of Deborah Eisenberg's "Twilight of the Superheroes" to the impending doom with which Paul Auster ends "The Brooklyn Follies." And yes, the debate over literature's relevance lingered; in 2005, V.S. Naipaul told the New York Times that "if you spend your life just writing fiction, you are going to falsify your material."

Where, though, is the transformative book about Sept. 11, the one that, like Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" or Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," evokes its emotional resonance? O'Brien calls this "story-truth," which he distinguishes from "happening-truth": "I want you to feel what I felt," he writes. And: "What stories can do, I guess, is make things present." That's what literature has traditionally provided - "the buzz of implication," as E.M. Forster put it - yet for whatever reason (the scope of the event, its ambiguity and chaos) such implication has been, in most writing about Sept. 11, hard to find.

Or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place. Over the last few weeks, I've been re-reading "The 9/11 Commission Report: The Attack from Planning to Aftermath" (W.W. Norton: 640 pp., $14.95 paper), which, in its calm, considered way, encompasses all the implications of the disaster, literary or otherwise. First published in 2004, the work of a bipartisan federal commission chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean and former Indiana Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, it has been reissued with a new afterword by the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, and it's stunning to encounter it again.

"The 9/11 Commission Report" opens with a vivid re-creation of the hijackings, then shifts into extended discussions of the rise of Osama bin Laden, the development of American counter-terrorism efforts, and the escalation of the conflict between al-Qaida and the United States. Throughout, the commissioners pause to comment on threat assessments, failed initiatives and missed opportunities, including several aborted efforts to capture or kill Bin Laden in 1998 and 1999. After offering extensive context, the report returns to the events of Sept. 11, covering emergency and military responses and the need for greater flexibility in reacting to future risks. "We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures," the commissioners write: "in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management."

Click here to read the rest of Ulin's article.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

National Read A Book Day!

You may not realize it, but today is National Read A Book Day.

If you're like me, you probably planned to read a book today any way. Myself, I am reading three books right now: "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson; "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein, and "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian.

I usually have more than one book going at a time. For me it's no different than switching channels on your television or surfing the Internet. I enjoy bouncing between stories sometimes and other times I voraciously devour a single book at a time and dive right into the next if it's a series.

Books are wonderful windows into another world, aren't they? I could expound on how delightful books are, but the chances are that you already know that or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

So, I shared a few of my books with you, now you share your books with me. In the Comments section below tell me what you are reading today....