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The Secret to Writing Your Dissertation

“I spent every night until four in the morning on my dissertation, until I came to the point when I could not write another word, not even the next letter. I went to bed. Eight o’clock the next morning I was up writing again.” -Abraham Pais, physicist

You’ve been in graduate school for many years now, and you’ve come a long way. You’ve completed all of your coursework, formed your Ph.D. thesis committee, passed your preliminary/oral/qualifying examinations, and have done an awful lot of research along the way. There’s a glimmer of hope in your heart that maybe — just maybe — this will be your last year in graduate school.

Image credit: East Tennessee State University's Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

You’ve probably even gotten some papers published along the way, with a handful of them (if you’re lucky) with you as the lead author! But there’s one more task you need to perform before you’re ready to defend in front of your committee: you must write that dissertation!

While there are many guides on how to do that, many of them are either jokes…

Image credit: Flickr user chnrdu.

…or people grossly overstating the task in front of you. There are some very important things that go into a dissertation, but there are also some huge misconceptions about what a dissertation is supposed to be. What follows is my advice for anyone who’s reached that stage in their careers, on how to write a dissertation. (At least, as far as theoretical astrophysics goes, although I’m sure this is applicable to many other fields.)!
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Comparison of Viewing Statistics on Two Online Writing Sites

An article written to conduct an experiment comparing two writing sites, Triond and ExpertsColumn, has provided interesting viewing statistics.
Writers constantly promote their favoured writing sites, no doubt hoping to attract more followers, more views and more money. At the moment my online writing time is restricted and I’ve been lucky enough to have two weeks of writing time available. However, for the next nine weeks my online writing time will be limited, so I decided to conduct a little experiment.

I decided to choose a topic that may attract views, a subject that was current and featuring in worldwide trends on Twitter. After some consideration I selected National No Bra Day, and wrote an article with that title that can be read by clicking on the link.
The article was initially submitted to Triond, followed 30 minutes later by publication on ExpertsColumn. My aim was to discover the viewing statistics for each of these sites. I decided not to compare income, as I have hundreds of articles attracting views on Triond, but only a handful on ExpertsColumn.

Read more:!
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Writing column has been a tail-wagging experience | Houston & Peach |

Guess what big day I celebrated this week. My second year of being a columnist for the totally terrific Telegraph! I’ve been writing this column for two years now and it has been a wonderful experience for me.

I remember sitting down at my computer writing my very first article published on Oct. 16, 2010. Although by that time I had been writing on Facebook for a while so I was very comfortable with the keyboard, writing a column for the newspaper was a new endeavor.

In fact, I was blazing new trails for the newspaper, too. Did you know I’m the first canine columnist The Telegraph has ever had? That’s pretty special to me. Who knows, maybe I’m the first canine columnist in the country.

When I first began writing, I wasn’t sure if stories of my life, my nonprofit group Central Georgia CARES and all the animals I care about would be of interest to you. After all, I’ve lived long enough to know not everybody in the world is an animal lover or interested in animal welfare.

But you know what? Apparently there are tons of readers who care about animals whether they have pets or not. And much to my delight, there are tons of readers who’ve told me they read my column because it’s entertaining.

I knew I was an animal advodog and a spokesdog and maybe even an animal evangelist, but I had no idea I was an entertainer. I wonder if I should hone any other entertaining skills like dancing or juggling just to keep it interesting.

Read more here:!
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How to write the first draft of a novel in 30 days

The outline you'll complete using the 30-day method will become a snapshot of your novel. After finishing a full outline, you should feel you've got the makings of an entire book (your story should feel complete, solid, exciting and satisfying) and you should be desperate to start writing the book itself.

This first draft outline is the equivalent to the first draft of a manuscript. Because you've revised it so thoroughly, it will read with all the completeness and excitement of a finished novel. Using this outline to write the first draft of your book (which, in almost all cases, will be the final draft, needing only minor editing and polishing) should be so easy you might even feel a little guilty about it. All the hard work will already have been done creating the outline.

Throughout this guide we'll work on the assumption that the first draft of your book isn't a fully completed draft in the traditional sense, but is instead a comprehensive outline – your first, whole glimpse of the book and a snapshot of what it will be once finished. The outline you create over the next 30 days will become the foundation upon which your entire novel will come to rest. This method is a way to lay out the full course of the story as it flows from beginning to end.!
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Hollywood teaches Russians how to write (VIDEO)

The most popular Hollywood scriptwriting skills teacher – Robert McKee has arrived to Moscow. He is travelling around the world, teaching people how to improve their script writing skills. Mr. McKee gave an exclusive interview to Voice of Russia.
Robert McKee is famous for his seminar called “Story” which first began in 1984. Since then, thousands of students worldwide have dreamt of improving their script writing skill specifically under McKee’s guidance.

A bit later, in 1997, his book “Story” was published, however in Russia it’s called “Two million dollar story. Master-class for screenwriters, writers, and not only”. The manual became a bestseller immediately and has been translated into 20 languages.

Robert McKee told “Voice of Russia” his success secrets.

In the Russian VGIK screenwriting skills are taught for 5 years. But how much time do you think you need to become a screenwriter.

In order to become a real writer, real author - you need 10 years. It’s 10 years of defeats, it is 10 years of scripts, that no one needs. 10 plays, which nobody wants to stage. 10 novels, which nobody wants to read. And maybe, in 10 years you will achieve a success. Perhaps, in five years, you can get educated, but in order to become a writer will need much more time.

It is said that there are just several scripts. Aristotle highlighted four forms. Do you follow them?

Yes, indeed. Aristotle pointed out four forms "tragic ending, happy ending, complex and simple. Two thousand years have passed since then and we have developed the system. Now I underline 24 genres. But in spite this the set is limited to - fantasy, horror, love, detective, and military history. So, just couple of dozen of genres.!
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First Bell: What happened to writing with pen and paper; Project Graduation parent meeting set /

• One of the interesting things about attending State Board of Education meetings is that you occasionally get to hear one of those "gee-whiz" presentations about some new technology that could revolutionize education. But one that was demonstrated Wednesday left me with a bag of mixed emotions.

The tool is called KWIET (pronounced "quiet"), which stands for the Kansas Writing Instruction and Evaluation Tool. As you might guess, it's a tool used to guide and evaluate writing assignments.

Photo by Nick Krug

Cordley School fifth-graders Chloe McNair, bottom left, Harper Kalar-Salisbury and Raegan Teenor laugh as they reach for the same package while trying to organize boxes for a food drive Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. Seventy-one boxes of nonperishables were collected and given to representatives of the Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church food pantry, which provides needy children with "back-snack" foods to take home on the weekends.

Basically, it's a computer-based, online tool that can manage any kind of writing assignment for any subject, at any grade level. Teachers create projects for students to complete. Students enter the information in a system that looks much like Microsoft Word. Teachers can then review the student's work, make comments or suggestions directly in the document, and grade the work based on whatever rules are being applied.

At first blush, that sounds like a very expensive substitute for paper and pencil. But one thing it provides is a standard, objective way of grading papers. Most of us have not-so-fond memories of teachers who were overly critical, or who graded by inconsistent and unpredictable standards. Standardization, in turn, frees up teachers and others to move away from standardized, multiple-choice questions and design tests that require a little more creativity and critical thinking.!
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Wyndmoor author helps other writers unlock talent | Chestnut Hill Local Philadelphia PA

ad’s living in the bathroom. Does Sarah really have to be falling for the shrink’s niece? Will the shrink make house calls?
Such is the synopsis of Wyndmoor resident, editor and writer Helen Mallon’s new short story, “Casual Day at the Crazyhouse,” now available in E-format at

Helen Mallon of Wyndmoor is an award-winning essayist and short story writer who is also able to bring out the best in other writers.
Mallon’s essay, “My Charlie Mason,” won a “Philadelphia Stories” First Person Essay contest in 2007, and her short story, “Astral Projection,” was included in “Best of Philadelphia Stories Anthology” that same year. Her short story, “Biology,” was nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize. Her poetry chapbook, “Bone China,” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2002, and the working title for her novel in progress is “Quaker Playboy Leaves Legacy of Confusion.”
Mallon will teach “Conjuring with Words,” a six-session class limited to six students, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m., at The Word Studio, 86 Bethlehem Pike, in Chestnut Hill.
In addition to her fiction, Mallon has served as editor of both published fiction and non-fiction works, and offers her services for individual consultations. She formed the Mt. Airy Writers’ Group in 2011 and has taught a writers’ workshop at the Cheltenham Adult School for the past five years.
According to Mallon, “As a working writer, I know the frustrations, hopes and joys that are bound up in the writing process. Engagement in a community of writer friends has kept me going, and a big part of my job as an editor is encouraging writers to believe in themselves.”
“I have used the editorial services of Helen a half dozen times,” said writer Helene Oakes. “Each critique was lengthy, absolutely thorough and offered numerous suggestions on how to achieve greater clarity and impact while respecting and honoring my vision of the piece … Helen is the consummate professional, prompt and consistent, and a joy to work with.”
Another writer who has used Helen’s services, Adrienne Redd, PhD, author of “Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers,” had a similar experience: “Helen not only paid close attention to the details in editing my doctoral dissertation and subsequent book, she also looked at the big picture. She made suggestions about improving overall organization more than once, and this improved the overall outcome … “
Raised in an affluent Quaker family in Germantown, Helen graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1974 and soon afterwards married (at age 18) a 42-year-old GFS teacher she had met when she was 13. The marriage lasted eight years, a period of her life recalled in “My Charlie Mason.”
She remarried, and is still married to architect Stephen Mallon in 1987. A year later she had a son and started to write poetry. She also worked as a secretary for the Episcopal Diocese of Philadelphia. “Being out of the [psychologically] abusive situation freed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Mallon explained.!
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A Writer Is Someone Who Has Written Today

In early 1983, even though I had never published anything, I decided to make an investment in my future as a writer. I went to a small computer store near Lake Union, The Word Processor Store, and plunked down what seemed like a fortune back then, right at $5,000, to buy a computer and a Daisy Wheel printer.

When I brought my initial purchase home and tried to make it work, I was sadly disappointed. In order to create the kind of double-spaced, page numbered format I wanted, I would have to plunk down additional money–$300 or so–to buy a separate program. I believe that one was called Peachtree, but don’t quote me.

A fellow writer from the Seattle area, another newbie named Stella Cameron, had been in the same store on the same day and made the same purchase. She called me back a day or two later and said that she had encountered the same difficulties I had. She had gone back to the store and returned her computer, exchanging it for an Eagle, and she urged me to do the same while I still could.

The Eagle wasn’t quite steam driven, but it was close. It was a dual floppy (five and three quarters) and had a whopping 128k of memory!!! This was two years before I had the great good fortune of marrying an electronics engineer, so at the time, the Eagle’s big advantage for a new computer user who was also a liberal arts major was those 24 function keys across the top which made it possible to make the computer work without my having to know anything about it. I’m one of those impatient people who would rather things simply work without anyone having to do something drastic–like read the directions!!

One of the store’s employees, who jokingly called himself “Bits and Nibbles” came over to help me install my new word-processing program. (By the way, it was after I married the electronics engineer that I finally got the joke!)

I loved the word-processing program from day one for no other reason than its name “Spell-Binder.” For someone who wanted to write mysteries, that was perfect. It still had some problems with page numbering and formatting, but I was willing to work around them because Spell-Binder came for free with the computer.

On the day “Bits and Nibbles” installed Spell-Binder he fixed it so that whenever I booted up the computer, the words that flashed across the screen were these: A writer is someone who has written TODAY! During the next two years as I struggled to go from being a wannabe writer to being a published one, those simple words gave me a daily dose of hope and encouragement.!
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The Medical Problems of 4 Great Writers

The Medical Problems of 4 Great Writers

By John J. Ross | Oct 19, 2012

John J. Ross's Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Great Writers is everything you need to know about the afflictions of history's greatest writers. Ross (a doctor and writer) outlines a few of the maladies of the authors we love.

Oddly enough, Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough is the by-product of a syphilis outbreak in Boston in 2000. Syphilis, which infected half a million Americans in 1945, had become rare in the United States. Many doctors had never seen a case. At the hospital where I then worked as an infectious diseases specialist, several patients with secondary syphilis went undiagnosed when seen by their primary care doctors. I put together a PowerPoint talk on syphilis for medical grand rounds, and thought to tart it up with a few Shakespeare quotes, having a vague recollection from my days as an English undergraduate that the Bard was fond of joking about the great pox. I dusted off my battered copy of the Riverside Shakespeare and started leafing through it. Holy crap, I thought, there is a lot of stuff here on syphilis. My curiosity was piqued, and I dug some more. Was there a connection between Shakespeare’s venereal obsession, contemporary gossip about his sexual misadventures, the appalling Elizabethan mercury cure for the pox, and the Bard’s tremulous handwriting in late middle age?

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In Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough, I tackle twelve writers and their real-life medical mysteries, blending biography, literature, and grisly medical history. Here are a few:

1. The Brontës—The deaths of Charlotte and Emily Brontë have inspired a great deal of pernicious biographical claptrap. Charlotte died to resolve her repressed sexual desire for her father; Charlotte committed suicide by starvation in response to being intellectually smothered by the Victorian patriarchy; Emily and Charlotte had anorexia; Charlotte died in pregnancy from hysterical rejection of the fetus; Charlotte’s dullard husband was actually a fiendish serial killer who offed the whole lot. In reality, all six of the Brontë siblings died of tuberculosis, a Victorian plague that killed off 1% of the English population per year. TB is a chronic, lingering infection that spreads rapidly in confined spaces, especially among the malnourished and demoralized. It entered the Brontë household after the older girls, Maria and Elizabeth, were infected at the Clergy Daughter’s School. This was the place made infamous by Charlotte as the brutal Lowood School in Jane Eyre, where the girls were beaten, starved, and terrorized by tales of hellfire and damnation. Although the suffering, consumptive artist is a tired cliché, there may be some truth in it, as the immune system is weakened by emotional turmoil, of which the Brontës had plenty. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne had depressive episodes; brother Branwell had bipolar disorder and dipsomania; Emily, brainy and odd, probably also had Asperger syndrome and social anxiety disorder.

2. William Butler Yeats—On Christmas Eve 1929, the poet Yeats was delirious and suffering from a 104°F fever in the Italian resort town of Rapallo. His crackpot buddy Ezra Pound fled the scene, fearing contagion. One of Mussolini’s top docs was called in, and made the exotic diagnosis of brucellosis. Yeats recovered after weeks of fevers and drenching sweats, thanks to shots of arsenic and horse serum. But his brush with mortality did not leave him unscathed. The brilliant and peculiar poet, who may have had Asperger syndrome, became obsessed with sex and death. This is reflected in his masterful final poems, and also in his quest to perk up his sex drive, which led to a weird “rejuvenation” surgery that produced a “strange second puberty.” Gossips called him the “gland old man” and “a Cadillac engine in a Ford car.”
3. James Joyce—In 1904, young Joyce’s fondness for Dublin streetwalkers led to a case of “gleet,” or gonorrhea. His frenemy, Dr. Oliver Gogarty, directed him to a local specialist, who would have given Joyce state-of-the-art therapy: penile irrigation with a purple solution of potassium permanganate. Joyce’s gonorrhea was gone, but he soon developed terrible attacks of eye pain and arthritis. This may have been an autoimmune illness triggered by genital Chlamydia. Joyce suffered through eleven grueling eye surgeries. Afterwards, leeches were applied to drain the blood and reduce the swelling. Not surprisingly, he developed a horror of the scalpel. Joyce spent most of his last two decades writing Finnegans Wake. This baffling, brilliant tribute to language itself was created despite Joyce’s near-blindness, alcoholism, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, and his heartbreak over the decline of his beloved daughter Lucia, who suffered from schizophrenia.

4. George Orwell—In the essay "Why I Write", George Orwell stated, "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness."The reader might interpret this as mere metaphor, but it was literally true for Orwell. His health collapsed for the first time after the writing of Homage to Catalonia, and the heroic effort of writing and revising Nineteen Eighty-Four would kill him. As a child, Orwell was "chesty", probably from an illness in infancy that left him with damaged bronchial tubes (bronchiectasis). Orwell made matters worse by chain smoking vile tobacco. (This was not seen as problematic, as 85% of English doctors smoked at the time.) As an adult, he survived four bouts of pneumonia and a bullet through the neck in Spain, but eventually succumbed to the tuberculosis that he acquired during his years of tramping, poverty, and vagabondage.Orwell underwent a series ofhorripilating treatments for TB, which included injections of air into his peritoneal cavity in a failed attempt to collapse the tuberculous part of hislung, and drugs that led to a near fatal allergic reaction. These ordeals influenced the account of the tortures of Winston Smith in the Ministry of Love. Orwell admitted that Nineteen Eighty-Four would have been a less gloomy novel had he been in good health, although it almost certainly would have been less powerful. Obsessed with guilt and failure, Orwell once observed, "Any life viewed from the inside is a series of defeats." In the end, helost his battle against tuberculosis. But Orwell's masterworks, completed at such a terrible physical cost, represent a great triumph of the human spirit over tyranny and lies.!
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The writer’s life: Author publishes first novel at 86

In the early 1980s, a love of writing drew Barbara Davies Hubbard to Napa to attend the Napa Valley Writers Conference. Divorced, she decided to move to Napa, walk the vineyards alone and write poetry.

A few years later, her ardor for putting pen to paper led her to an open poetry reading at 101 Coombs St., where she met her soulmate, Ernie Hubbard.

At age 86, she has just published her first novel, “Beyond Bitterroot” with Ashlar Press, proof that creativity does not necessarily decrease with age — it might even increase.

Hubbard now lives in Sausalito on a houseboat with her husband, Ernie. The couple enjoy dancing in the moonlight, walks along the beach and watching films together.

During a recent interview on their boat, Hubbard talked about writing her book and displayed the files of stories that she has written over the years.

“I began to edit some of my linked short stories for a collection but new material kept bubbling up, and I realized that what I had was a novel,” Hubbard said.

“Beyond Bitterroot” is a result of writing the story that emerged from one of the short stories.

“When I dropped the linked short stories for a novel, they went into piles of folders and into boxes and file drawers where they wait for resurrection,” Hubbard said.

With innumerable potential books to polish, Hubbard is disciplined about writing every day and recommends forming a daily writing habit for those with aspirations of being novelists.

“If you would like to write a novel but think you don’t have the time, start out by writing as little as 20 minutes a day. After a while the 20 minutes might slip into 40. In a few years you will really have something,” she said.

“Beyond Bitterroot” tells the story of a young couple struggling to make their marriage work in San Francisco during the 1930s. Rose, a young ranch cook in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, dreams of seeing the Pacific Ocean. David, the young son of a strict but loving Presbyterian minister, leaves his home in Wyoming to study art in San Francisco. The two meet in a “speakeasy,” begin an affair and soon Rose is pregnant.

Although the characters face challenges of their own making as well as those imposed by a troubled economy, there is an upbeat feeling throughout the book. Action is abundant, believable and not overdone. Rape, fist fights, making “Hooch” in the bathtub, train rides down steep canyons, tender moments of forgiveness, dignity and true repentance all are part of the story.

“There are no villains in ‘Beyond Bitterroot.’ It is the story of imperfect but well-intentioned people trying to understand and adapt in the face of the oncoming Great Depression, to a world that was not the world they expected it to be,” Hubbard said.

As a child she was a witness to the Great Depression. Then, as a young adult, she experienced World War 11 and the emerging cultural and intellectual changes that occurred across the globe.

“I grew up in the era of the 1920s and 1930s. People’s problems today – their hopes and dreams, regrets, what is in their hearts – have not changed,” said Hubbard. “Only the background, the style, automobiles, architecture, dress, have changed.”!
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The Secret of the Third Sentence

A lot of would-be writers are always asking me what the secret is to writing good, compelling articles. Well, I normally keep the answer as a sort of proprietary secret, but because you seem like a good egg, I'll tell you. Make sure that every third sentence you write is fucking awesome!

People have short attention spans, and so they will typically give you three sentences to dazzle them. The first one has to be sort of a hook that sets up a premise, while the second one explains the nature of your paragraph. Tonally then, your third sentence has to read like a space locomotive redlining a full payload of severed martian dicks back from the red planet.

It might seem a bit silly, believe me I know, but I've lost many a reader because I tried to write some high-minded claptrap about the resilience of the American spirit. Hand to jesus (yes, with a little 'j'), that isn't what people want to read, not really. No, they just want confirmation that what they're engaging in is the hell-forged manifesto of a half-cocked lunatic with genuine hatred seeping through his or her gin-logged pores. The problem with this technique though, is it's easy to get lost in the structure.

Some people don't constrain themselves to three sentence paragraphs and so they aren't sure if it is the third sentence of every new paragraph or if it is truly every third sentence. These gutless hacks should constrain themselves to wiping their asses with coarse ledger paper for that is the sum total of their so-called talent. Without fail, it should be every third sentence, and you just have to trust in the intelligence of your readers.

Invariably, once I tell people about the three-sentence rule, they ask if I made it up myself as a sort of filler topic for an article on a "slow news day." "Brilliance," I respond, typing this one-handed and fully nude as the too-warm battery of my laptop scorches my sallow genitals, "doesn't need a pedigree." Perhaps this doesn't exactly answer their question, but as true writers will attest, you are first and foremost scribbling your thoughts for an audience of one. Everybody else reading your work is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Shakespeare was a coward compared to Basho. Maybe that statement is a bit hyperbolic, but if you look through both writer's collected works, you'll see that the basis of the "power sentence" comes not from the Bard's sonnets but from the form of the modern haiku. Two sentences form up the body of an effective poem, the third drives the message home. "So?" That is the power sentence from Basho's haiku, "A cold rain starting." The entire poem, written out in linear fashion reads: A cold rain starting, and no hat -- so?

Those same hacks conscribed to scrubbing their wretched filth holes with their own excrementally-inked manuscripts will, no doubt, take delight in claiming that "so" does not constitute a fully formed sentence. That might, to the uninitiated, at first seem like a valid point. If you share that thought with them, so be it. But remember this: I am reading Basho, you are reading me, and neither Basho nor I, is reading you. For the others, the rest of you wise souls: go forth and write great articles. And as a final note: always try to end your own articles with a final power sentence that sums up the entirety of your genius. And for the love of Christ (this time capital 'C' -- seems more appropriate here) don't end it like this slap-dash, piece-of-shit "slow news day" exercise in megalomaniac banality.!
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Video interview with writer Maria Semple

Maria Semple joined us to talk about books, writing books versus writing for television and why she thinks novelists should stay away from Twitter.
Semple's very funny book "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" came out this summer. Like "Arrested Development" -- she was a consulting producer on the show -- the book layers on small details and unexpected turns to build an increasingly hilarious plot.

Her novel is a little bit warmer than "Arrested Development" -- maybe more like "Mad About You," on which she was a writer and producer. And then there was "Suddenly Susan," which I liked just fine but Semple often leaves off her resume.

Josh Glenn and Mark Frauenfelder on making stuff and kids' stuff

Michael Chabon on 'Telegraph Avenue,' pon farr and other passions

Review: Junot Díaz on fire again in 'This Is How You Lose Her'
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All that Hollywood stuff is behind her now (although she is really looking forward to the next phase of "Arrested Development"). She moved from L.A. to Seattle, where the leaves are green, the sky is full of rain and the streets are not laid out in a logical pattern.

She explains how all of those perceptions of her new city manifested, in heightened, frustrated form, in her novel's character Bernadette. As you might guess from the title, Bernadette has gone missing, and her adolescent daughter sets out to find her.

Semple explains why she decided to use the epistolary form to tell the story, and tells us what some of her favorite epistolary novels are.

She also tells us a little bit about what it's like being an author forced to do bookseller speed dating. (Hint: not that much fun).

Going against the grain, Semple thinks all novelists should get off Twitter. No Tweeting for novelists. Ever. Seriously.

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Rare encounter with extraordinary writing

We often see cormorants perched low above or near water with their wings spread. The common belief, endorsed many times in birding books and publications, is that cormorants have no oil gland.
All birds have an oil gland at the base of their tail, the uropygial gland. Using their bills, birds take oil and spread it over their feathers as maintenance. The oil has a waterproofing quality. If cormorants had no oil gland, they certainly would need to dry out. Soaking wet is not conducive to flight.
In a new and wonderful book, “Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds,” author Lyanda Lynn Haupt discusses this erroneous view of cormorant biology, among many other delightfully interesting subjects.
This is not a biology book. This is not a facts-only book to supplement your field guides. This is a special collection of very well written stories and observations about the fascinating behaviors common birds offer if only we stop and watch.
Haupt watched cormorants, then did some research. She tells us that cormorants indeed have an oil gland. How could a diving bird, similar in behavior to loons and grebes and some duck species, evolve with such an obvious missing part?
Well, they didn’t. The gland is there, but cormorant feathers have evolved to be wettable.
Feathers lock together with edges of barbules and hooklets that zip up, providing protection from the elements. Cormorants’ feathers zip less tightly, allowing some water to enter. This gives the bird more weight, diminishing buoyancy, easing the effort of diving. For the same reason cormorant bones are more dense than bones of other birds.
The cormorant common to Minnesota, our much-aligned Double-crested Cormorant, does indeed spread it wings to dry. In the Pacific Northwest, were Haupt lives, Pelagic Cormorants do the wing-spread thing now and then, while Brandt’s Cormorant does it rarely.
Haupt’s book is driven by curiosity and an understanding that simply taking the time to look, even at or particularly at common birds, is a rewarding way to bird. There is more to it than meets the eye if you make the effort to look closely.
Other chapters in her book visit listing, Varied Thrushes, woodpeckers pounding on your house, making two bird species (or more!) from one, grouse, swifts, Winter Wren, sparrows, crows, and migration. She writes with grace, catching in these stories the same flashes of iridescence that sometimes burst from feathers.
I found this book at the Hennepin County Library. Publi!
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The Internet, the Writer, and the Video Artist

Often times, people focus on the negative aspects of using the internet. Although it’s true that obsessive use of the internet can be unhealthy, internet use in moderation can have some remarkable benefits, even for artistic types. The internet has provided ways to help the independent writer and the video artist gain success.

Independent writers now have the option of self-publishing their books online. Self-publishing a book online is inexpensive, and no trees need to be cut down in order to make the paper that the books would be printed on. There still is the cost of hiring an artist to create the book cover, unless you do the art yourself or go to one of the many websites that offer images that can be downloaded either for free or for a small fee. But in the long run, more money and more of the profit goes into the pocket of the writer, instead of publishers taking a big cut of the profit.

There are times when newbie writers have trouble finding publishers that will agree to publish their books. Such was the case of Amanda Hocking, who tried for many years to get a contract with a publishing company, but couldn’t. So one day, she tried self-publishing online. In the first month, she made a few hundred dollars, and the following month, her profits increased to several thousand dollars. Even after that, her profits continued to increase. This might’ve not been the case if she had to rely on traditional means of publishing. She may have still been confined to work a job with very little pay, writing books in her free time, and wondering if her books would ever be published. But luckily for her, she had the option of e-publishing. As of today, Miss Hocking, a young woman in her twenties, has a successful career as an e-book writer. However, not every self-publishing author has been as lucky as Miss Hocking, but for the ones who have, it’s helped them to actualize their dreams of being professional writers.

The internet has been life-changing for the screenwriter as well. Before the internet, if you wanted to create art that appeared on-screen, your only two options were television or the movies. Becoming a writer for television or the movies is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s been likened to a private club that’s hard to “break into” unless you have a friend on the inside, or you just happen to be one of the lucky few to slip a script past the “gatekeeper,” and into the hands of a producer. But luckily, nowadays, there’s a third option: producing web videos online.

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Writing tools through the ages - News and information on Westfield and Mayville, NY - Westfield Republican | Mayville Sentinel News

Writing tools through the ages
Moseyin’ Along

October 17, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News
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Lately, I've been blissfully tapping away at my trusty computer, catching up on correspondence and gathering notes for upcoming classes I'll be teaching after the first of the year.

And, every time I commit my thoughts to the glowing screen, I realize just how fortunate I am to be writing in an age when there are such advanced tools as "Delbert," my nifty Dell PC. For instance, those of us who try to record the world around us have come a long way from the cave dwellers.

Imagine the frustration of those first early writers and artists who began painting shapes on the cave walls. How did they edit their work?

In the books I've read and the pictures I've seen on the subject, there were no crossed-out horses or painted over warriors. Instead of the many re-writes I need to put my work into publishable shape, the cave men/reporters must have been so sure of what they wanted to say that they did it right the first time.

And the early communicator who chiseled his words in stone - did he plan the project in the dirt first? If so, how did he keep the kids and the family dog from stepping on that first draft of his masterpiece? Such interference could easily have discouraged a budding talent.

As for those who wrote with quill pen, how did they keep up with the constant demand for paper and ink? There were no neighborhood stores - Office Depot, Staples, Wal-Mart - filled with blank tablets and throwaway ballpoints.

Just imagine the angst of old Edgar Poe, sitting hunched in concentration at his desk, the oil lamp casting a glow on his furrowed brow. His hand moved across the paper writing carefully. "Quoth the raven" - but suddenly the pen ran out of ink.

The poet, his imagination stopped in mid flight, would have gone to bed with his thought incomplete. For sleepless hours, he would have tossed, waiting impatiently for the dawn.

At last, when daylight finally came, he would have hurried next door to borrow a few precious drops of ink. Only then could he sit down and pen the famous ending - "nevermore."

Fact Box

Dear readers, due to a computer glitch last week, this column was apparently lost in cyberspace somewhere over the mountains of West Virginia. In years to come, it will undoubtedly be discovered by some historical researcher. But, in spite of the delay, I hope you will enjoy my take on how things in the writing game have changed through the years.

My earlier writing days were almost as frustrating. I composed my work directly on a typewriter.

Whenever I faced that blank sheet and dispassionate keyboard, I would expect the worst. The problem was, once my thoughts started rolling, I was unable to control the outpouring of my run-away mind. Before long, the ideas and words came faster than I could type then. Invariably, on the last line of an otherwise-perfect page, I'd introduce a glaring error. The act of tearing the sheet out of the typewriter and starting all over again brought on a physical pain that left me convinced I'd chosen the wrong line of work. Eventually, some clever soul who understood such frustration developed that great savior of the writing world, "white-out." I was able to "paint away" most of my errors, although the finished piece was, admittedly, a little lumpy here and there.

But now, with the magic computer at my command, a mistake only requires a few strokes of the delete key.

I can't claim that this modern genie has made me a better writer, but it has certainly made me a more relaxed one.

I would never have made it as a cave-dwelling reporter or a rock-chiseling columnist. In my world of multiple assignments and short deadlines, I've found my personal key to happiness is labeled "delete."!
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Writing Center offers online tutoring after hours

Online tutoring, provided by the FMU Writing Center (WC), gives FMU students a new way to access tutorials outside of normal hours.
Dr. Jennifer Kunka, director of the WC, implemented the program last semester for off-campus students, but has decided to offer online tutoring for the entire student body.
“It began because we wanted to provide Writing Center tutoring assistance to students who are not physically taking class on the campus,” Kunka said. “[Now] we have decided to expand it this semester to a wider audience. We’ve opened it up to the entire university and have started to get some interest in it from students who are signing up to make use of what we can offer.”
Justin McGee, one of four online WC consultants, said that Collaborate is an environment that provides almost the same experience as meeting face to face.
“It’s different because you lose that one-on-one interaction between the student and the tutor,” McGee said. “However, the program we use, Blackboard Collaborate, really makes the sessions as similar to normal tutoring sessions as possible.”
Tutorials take place through an online application called Blackboard Collaborate. Collaborate is part of the Blackboard website which many professors use to post assignments and quizzes for students. Collaborate provides specialized tools for online tutoring allowing students to share documents and to interact with the tutors in various ways.
Students who are interested in using Blackboard Collaborate through the online tutoring program are required to have a microphone and speakers or headphones in order to talk to the tutors. A webcam is helpful, but optional for students. The tutors, however, will have a headset as well as a webcam so students can both see and hear them during the tutorial.
Although the tutoring sessions provide the same quality of tutoring found in the WC, some prior set-up is essential to make sure everything happens as it should.!
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Writing prize marks new chapter for women

When twice within the space of three years no woman was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia's premier prize for fiction, a group of women in the books industry last year decided enough was enough: they would establish their own prize for writing — by women.
After months of planning and lobbying, they have announced that the first Stella Prize — named after Miles Franklin's first name — will be presented in April. The prize "for the best work of literature published in 2012 by an Australian woman" will consider novels and non-fiction and be worth $50,000 to the winner. Entries close on November 15.
Stella committee chair Aviva Tuffield, associate publisher at Scribe, said the inclusion of fiction and non-fiction was to differentiate the prize from the international prize for women's fiction formerly known as the Orange. "It's important not to be bound by only fiction or only non-fiction."
Tuffield said the bulk of the prize's initial funding had come from education philanthropist Ellen Koshland, with restaurateurs Patricia O'Donnell and Michelle Garnaut the other major donors. "We have money for the first year but hope something real will be much more attractive to sponsors."
The judging panel will be chaired by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reviewer Kerryn Goldsworthy and include novelist Kate Grenville and actor Claudia Karvan. ABC broadcaster Rafael Epstein will also be a judge. "There was always going to be men on the panel — but not a majority — because we want men to read women's books," Tuffield said.
She said the prize was feminist by nature in promoting women and equality. "It's very much about celebrating Australian women's literature and supporting books and writers in an industry that is struggling."

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Newspaper Writing Opportunity For Experienced and Non-Experienced People | The Guardian Express

We need entertainment, political, health, science, and technology writers

(We also need talented editors)

iFrackle is a new concept in reporting local, national and global news and information. Currently, we are expanding membership, which includes aspiring writers, ages 16 to 85. Once the iFrackle platform is completed, users will enjoy the flexibility of a twitter account, the content richness of a Huffington Post, and the broad professional accessibility of a linkedin personal and professional network. Above all, iFrackle will be fun, entertaining, extremely interactive and profitable on a level not yet achieved by today’s social websites and applications. Ultimately, iFrackle will be the first global “Citizen Journalist” newspaper to provide a broad balance of views regardless of their left-right leanings as its emphasis will be almost entirely on inclusivity and an uncensored platform for free speech.

Currently, we are interested in people that love to write. If you don’t have any writing experience, our unique program will provide you with the necessary online education to transform you into a top rate journalist, columnist or editor free of charge as part of our on the job training program. We are however, also seeking experienced writers to join our partnership program.

iFrackle has launched its beta website to facilitate our aforementioned goals as well as to provide a working platform to those interested in the following offer and opportunity.

This offer is twofold in that we seek two types of candidates, so please carefully read the following request: We are offering both a low wage paying opportunity to talented writers and an initially non-paying opportunity to bloggers, students, and interns. The money paid is not significant by any stretch, so if you’re looking to immediately support yourself, we urge you to consider someone else. That said, we are seriously looking for 3-5 people, tops, that would be interested in joining us for the long hall while on the other hand we seek a treasure trove of bloggers, students and interns to supply our increasing need for content on our newspaper website.!
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British writer Hilary Mantel makes history with second Booker Prize : Europe, News - India Today

British writer Hilary Mantel won the prestigious Booker literary prize for a second time Tuesday with her blood-soaked Tudor saga "Bring Up the Bodies," which the head of the judging panel said had "rewritten the book" on historical fiction.

Mantel, who took the 50,000 pound ($82,000) award in 2009 for "Wolf Hall," is the first British author, and the first woman, to achieve a Booker double.

"You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize, and two come along at once," Mantel said as she accepted the award at London's medieval Guildhall. "I regard this as an act of faith and a vote of confidence."

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Writing Your Statment of Purpose | GradHacker

Writing Your Statment of Purpose
Your Statement of Purpose document can seem hugely intimidating, particularly if you are an undergraduate writing one for the first time. And frankly, it should feel important. This document is the first point of contact between you and the admissions committee, and it remains the only document within your application package where you are able to speak frankly and directly about who you are and why you want to go to graduate school. It is a navel gazing kind of document, where you think hard about who you are and what you want. It should be at least a little intimidating, and you should definitely not leave it until the last minute. A statement of purpose is your chance to stand out among the crowd, and become more than just grades and test scores.

This post gives you some general hacks for writing this challenging document.

Be honest about why you want to go to graduate school. It is obvious very quickly when applicants are unsure why they are applying for graduate study, or are choosing graduate school because they are uncertain about their career options. Take it from me, graduate school is hard, grueling work for very little tangible reward. If you don’t have a real, genuine passion for your chosen field of study, you should be rethinking your graduate school goals. That said, assuming you have that passion, share your genuine, honest goals and passions with the committee. Let your letter spill over with your excitement for potsherds or 17th Century letter writing. And be honest about what you expect to gain from graduate school experience. Putting in time while you figure out the rest of your life is not a good enough reason to chain your life to studying the DNA patterns of Brazilian jumping spiders.

Know your research agenda. This is particularly important for PhD students, who will have to succinctly articulate their plan of study and potential dissertation plans, but at any level you should have a general idea of what, specifically, your passions are and what kinds of things you want to study. You don’t need to know every detail specifically at this stage, but you should know more than “I love history!” What specific time period in history excites you, for example? What types of research drive your passions?!
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3 Steps to Protecting Your Website's Search Rankings

Why One Young Entrepreneur Turned Down Mark Cuban on Shark Tank

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FCC Updates Small-Business Tool for Fighting Cyber Threats
3 Steps to Protecting Your Website's Search Rankings

BY AJ KUMAR | Yesterday| 2

image credit: Zelda
You've worked hard to follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to earn high rankings for your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs). After weeks or even months of content creation, customer outreach and link building efforts, you've finally reached a coveted spot in the rankings. Unfortunately, your hard work isn't over.

To understand why, think about the difficulty of maintaining your ideal body weight. While taking off pounds can be a challenge, keeping the weight off is often an even bigger struggle. Similarly, maintaining high rankings in the natural search results can be even more of a challenge than obtaining them in the first place.

Consider these three steps to help you retain those great website rankings you've worked so hard for:

1. Continue with SEO best practices.
The best defense is a good offense, so be sure to continue to follow the same SEO best practices. No matter what rankings you've managed to achieve, never give up on your link building activities, content creation campaigns and customer outreach programs to maintain your SERP standing.

If you become complacent and allow your SEO campaigns to lag, you run the risk of being surpassed by competitors who haven't slowed their search engine efforts.

Related: Bing vs. Google: Which Search Engine is Best?

2. Expand your 'SERP' presence by capturing multiple listings.
If you've seen positive business results from claiming the top spot on a single keyword search results page, just imagine how much better you'd do if your company held multiple listing!
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The Author of 'The Writing Revolution' Responds to the Debate

Fiction and poetry certainly have a place in America's schools. But when students don't learn how to articulate ideas, their options erode -- and our whole society is worse off for it.

It has been satisfying to see my recent Atlantic magazine story prompt so much passionate and thoughtful commentary. It seems clear that as schools begin to incorporate the Common Core standards into their curriculum, asking students to "respond" to what they read will no longer be enough. Most elementary, middle, and high schools will need to improve the kind of writing instruction they provide our students.

See full coverage
Since the publication of the article, I've heard from many parents, teachers, college professors, and employers who would welcome that development. Writing instruction, however, will not be a quick fix for troubled schools. For New Dorp teachers to understand in a granular way what they didn't know and were not teaching, they had to engage in sustained rigorous inquiry under the forceful leadership of their principal and the insightful guidance of Baruch instructor Nell Scharff.

Judith Hochman's program--methodical, structured and rich--developed in those teachers the capacity to instruct all students, even struggling ones, on how best to express ideas in writing. Make no mistake, though. The Hochman program is no Band-Aid for a poorly run school, an uninterested instructor or a half-baked curriculum. As I tried to reflect in my story, it takes sustained effort and unwavering focus to do what New Dorp did. It also takes time.

If elementary, middle, and high school teachers begin instructing their students on how to manipulate the mechanics of language, the benefits may be far-reaching. What I saw at New Dorp is reflected in the research around literacy, which suggests that intensive and explicit writing instruction improves writing ability in high-performing students but has a dramatic effect on the writing ability, oral expression, and reading comprehension of low-performing students. What is most exciting to me is the possibility that our public schools could better equip our citizens to engage in public discourse by providing the foundational skills they need to hold complex ideas in their minds and formulate nuanced responses.!
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Txting is bad grmmr, techrs say -

By Tom Lange of The Daily Journal (Johnson County)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 8:49 am
Before local high school English teachers can show freshmen how to become more persuasive writers, they have to reteach skills the students were supposed to learn in elementary school.
Students need to be reminded to indent new paragraphs, end sentences with proper punctuation and to capitalize the starts of sentences, proper nouns and “I.”
Armed with cellphones, teens and preteens have forgotten these basics and blame it on texting. Teachers have to stop them from using text language, such as “ur” and “cu later.”
Teacher Nicci Sargent has a list with these and other reminders hanging in her classroom at Franklin Community High School. When Sargent grades a paper and finds any violation of these standards, she stops grading and marks VWE – Violating Writing Expectations – at the top. Students get their papers back and have 24 hours to find and fix their mistakes before they lose points.
“We were constantly seeing these same errors and having to correct them in papers over and over again. These are skills that they learned in the first grade, but somewhere they got out of the habit of using them,” Sargent said.
Ninth grade is a critical year for students' writing skills. By the time most students begin their freshman year, they're relatively skilled at writing stories and other narratives, but they don't know how to write arguments and essays that require clear writing skills, Sargent and Greenwood English teacher Mike Campbell said.!

Tech Learning : 5 Tips for Grant Writing Strategies

Be careful with the use of appendices. Some proposal writers try to use the appendix to place information that should have been included in the body of the proposal. The appendix should not be used to get around any page limitations stated in the RFP.
In general, the appendix might include: résumés of key personnel that will implement the grant; endorsements and letters of support; verifi cations; assurances; and diagrams or illustrations. It is not uncommon to supply documentation of your non-profi t status. Some proposals will ask for you a list of collaborating partners.
Do not put new information in the appendix. Your grant application must stand on its own. Any information in the appendix should further verify or backup the text of your application.
Grant Forms
The forms that are part of the RFP guidelines will often serve as an outline for your grant narrative. Most RFPs will also include a procedure for the application submission. These directions will guide you and help you plan ahead. Additionally, the RFP will describe formatting issues. Follow all directions carefully. Many applications have additional components, usually a set of forms and assurances. It is imperative that you read all of the directions (several times) so that you can get going on these additional pieces.
Scoring Criteria, Rubrics and the Writing Process
Scoring criteria are often included in the grant request for proposals. The scoring criteria is often further described in a scoring rubric. The rubric may further break down the criteria and provide the grant readers a score range on which to judge this element.
Under each category in the rubric, a statement is provided as an example. This detailed rubric is both good and bad for the grant seeker. On the good side, the grant funder is telling you exactly what you need to do. What is bad is that you may be tempted to simply write the “Makes a Strong Case” statement without really describing what you plan to do. Be careful not to fall into this trap. For example, stating that the narrative describes a comprehensive action plan to share successful program implementation strategies and outcomes with stakeholders at the conclusion of the program does not tell the grant reader how you plan to do this. It does not say how parents, community members, and school districts will actually be able to share in the lessons learned.
Grant Budget!
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Importance of cursive writing varies by school

There are no requirements for schools related to handwriting, particularly cursive writing, and schools in Aberdeen and surrounding areas each have their own ways of working it into the curriculum.!
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