Excellent discussion

There are some wonderful comments in reply to yesterday’s post about if writers should consider watching television as a way to improve their craft. You might enjoy reading them – please chime in with your opinion!

I’m still in need of teachers using SPEAK in the classroom so I can connect them with an Australian teacher looking for examples of how that book words with students. If you want to help, please email me at laurie AT writerlady DOT com and I’ll hook you up.

Busy day. If I get everything done, I plan on watching the NOVA special about training for the Boston marathon tonight.

Sending out prayers to you, Uncle Jim and Aunt Barb, and wishes for for a speedy recovery and return to strength!

looking for SPEAK teachers, my thoughts on TV for writers

I have an email from a teacher in Australia who wants very much to teach SPEAK. She needs our help. The books have already been purchased, but the principal is having second thoughts about putting the book in curriculum.

She writes: …could you please help me with some real examples of ‘Speak’ being used effectively in the classroom and/or pass on my email to someone who may be able to help me?

If you would like to help this teacher, send me your email address to laurie AT writerlady DOT com. I’ll pass it on to her. Thanks!

I had another email which kept me pondering all weekend. The person heard me speak at the SCBWI conference in Michigan a few weeks ago and asked if I really meant it when I said writers should turn off the television.

The answer is no. And the answer is yes.

My primary point was this: if you are trying to be a writer, and if you find yourself complaining that you don’t have enough time to write, then honestly examine how much time you watch TV. The average American watches 4.5 hours of television a day!. If you want to write and you fall in that category, it’s a no-brainer. Turn off the television. Start writing. End of problem.

Now if you like television, and you are satisfied with the amount of time you’re writing and quality of your work, by all means, keep watching.


Some people see their television and movie-watching as a critical part of becoming better writers. They feel that the exposure to Story structure (Plot A, Plot B, Plot C, character arcs intersecting, etc.) that they get out of watching well-written shows helps their writing. I’ve had folks argue with me that they must watch TV to write books and write them well enough to be published.

Are you sure you want my honest opinion here?

I think that kind of viewing will help if you are trying to write a screenplay or break into television writing. But it’s not going to do much for your book writing.

I see a consistent weakness in the writing of young people and writers who don’t read much. They fumble with narrative description. They are great at dialog and they often get the bones of their story laid out well. But the actual description of scene action, setting, the observation of small details which reflect the emotional journey of the character – all that stuff is not up to snuff.

You learn how to write those elements of Story by reading. They are not part of “live action” storytelling – the kind we see on screens and stage. Television and film are different media than books. That’s why books don’t translate onto the screen without a great deal of changes.

TV and film are just as valid as books when it comes to storytelling. I don’t think TV is evil. I see nothing wrong with being a fan of a show and really enjoying your time watching it. (Though I do believe American Idol is an utter waste of time.) There are plenty of shows and movies I’ve enjoyed. My larger point is this: if you think that watching TV will help you write a great book….. well, good luck with that. I don’t think it works.

(Full disclosure – I tracked my TV viewing this week. I watched approximately two hours of news. BH and I watched most of the first Godfather movie Friday night, and some of the Ohio State vs. Penn State football game Saturday. I watched NFL football yesterday while I worked on thank-you notes and started watching a (Netflix) movie with Number One Son that was called on account of homework. And I read three books.)

What is your opinion about this?

Leopard Pounce

I have a confession to make.

Our family is Mixed.

Yep. Half of us (two out of four kids, my first husband and his wife) support the Dark Side.**

The rest of us (the other two kids, BH, & me) choose to live in The Light.

Two additional family members- my ex’s stepson Alex (who considers himself to be my nephew once or twice removed) and Steve (who is practically a son-in-law) – have been making bold steps out of the Darkness and into the Light of Macdom, the Light of Computers That Don’t Crash (hardly ever), the Light of Goodness.

Got that? (Yes, it is a complex family. We are thinking of having trading cards made up so we can keep us straight.)

Daughter Number Three, aka Meredith, aka adastraperasper is the Goddess of the Good. She’s a Mac tech at her college, and helps me out whenever I get confused. (Which is rare, because Macs rock.) All of this is to explain why Mer and Steve lined up in the King of Prussia mall last night to buy a family version (five licenses) for the new version of the Mac OS X operating system called Leopard.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Veeeery long line waiting for the launch.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Line continued in the store.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Happy Steve, almost 100% converted, at the after-party.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Leopard joins the family!

edited to add Meredith’s comments
“so yes, we did get tshirts! yay! a family license ends up, after tax, $210.

I did run into one, slightly major issue. I used file vault on os 10.4 (Tiger) to protect my files. It was a way of scrambling all of the files on my drive so the without passwords and such they could not crack my drive. I began using it to get in the habit for when I will be a teacher and dealing with confidential information. Anyway, I did not turn off file vault before I installed 10.5(Leopard), which meant that when Leopard was fully installed it was trying to read encrypted files created in a past OS. Well, this didn’t work so well. After some googling, I found out that many people were having this same issue. Luckily, I know a good bit about macs and how to find errors and fix them. So I started to poke around and eventually got to a point that I didn’t know what else to do. I was running into permissions errors everywhere. So I called up the wonderful people in Apple Care, and even though I had to be on the phone with them for awhile they eventually helped me. I ended up just backing up my most important files and deleting everything and installing a fresh OS. It is something that I had been wanting to do for awhile, because over the course of three years you end up with lots of little stuff that needs to be deleting. So the only downside to this is I am going to have to reinstall all of my applications, but in the end I have Leopard on my computer so it is totally worth it!!!”

** Despite their allegiance to Windows, we forgive the aforementioned relatives for their trespasses and honor their choices. All families need breathing room for diversity and tolerance.

We leave you with this classic Apple commercial from 1984. All hail the revolution. Enjoy.

a five of fridays

I am a huge word geek (show love for the linguistics majors, my friends) and one of my favorite things is collective nouns. So I am all over this Friday Five:

What would be a good collective name for your family, as in “A _____ of Joneses?”
We are a hug of Halse-Anderson-Larrabees.

What would be a good collective name for your closest group of friends?
Ummm… a babble of buddies.

What would be a good collective name for the stuff in your desk?
A despair of detritus.

What would be a good collective name for your next-door neighbors?
A glower of strangers.

What would be a good collective name for the people in your line of work, as in “A _____ of accountants?”
I am stuck here. Which do you like best?
1. A scribble of authors.
2. A shelf of authors.
3. An imagination of authors.

What are your Friday Five today?

Meg Rosoff: YA author? Adult author? Does it matter? Tell me true.