Friday, July 26, 2013

Readers' Questions About Writers Guilds

A recent column about writers guilds has prompted a rash of questions from readers — okay, not a rash of questions, since a rash is made up of a bunch of little dots, which implies that a bunch of readers were curious about this.

Let me try again.

A recent column about writers guilds has prompted a zit of questions from readers about how guilds work, how to join one, and even how to recognize the members.

Wanda A. from Quonochontaug, Rhode Island asks, "How hard is it to start a guild? Is there some sort of guildship granting authority, or a guild of guilds?"

Actually, Wanda, starting a guild is both easy and hard. Anyone can gather a group of people who work in one profession, dress them up in medieval-looking robes, and call themselves a guild.

On the other hand, you can sit in my garage all you want, but that doesn't make you a car. A guild is not like a professional association that throws big drunken conferences in Vegas each year. A guild works for the betterment of its members, collect a portion of each member's earnings, take care of members in hard times, and will even negotiate with the employers on behalf of the members. Writers guilds tend to be very poor, since they make very little money.

Clay M. from Box Ankle, Georgia writes, "So they're like a union?"

Yes, Clay, they're a lot like unions, but without guys in shiny suits who collect dues each month. Also, senior members of guilds don't sit on their butts while younger members do all the work, although they do get cutsies in the dessert line.

Bryan F. from Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada wonders, "What if I want to join a guild, but haven't been invited? How can I get in?"

The only way to join a guild is either to be invited based on the quality and scope of your work over several years, or to save the life of a member while they are in the course of their guild-related duties.

Save a guild member from being hit by a bus, and you won't get anything except 20 bucks stuffed into your hand. But, if a guy from the International Society of Novelists (ISN) is choking on a canapé at a book launch party, and you save him with the Heimlich maneuver, you're in like Flynn!

Please note, however, that you will only gain admittance if you are a writer in that particular genre. If you are not, the members will reward you with copies of their books. The number and quality of the books depend on how much they like that particular member.

Cathy D. from Gibsonton, Florida writes, "Does every guild have a signifier or talisman?"

As I described in my previous column, each guild has some kind of symbol or indicator that they are a member of their particular guild. That way, they can recognize their fellow members, or even members of other guilds.

For example, the League of Poets wears a gold oak leaf at all times, even when they're in their barista's uniform, while members of the Public Relations Practitioners Guild carry a recycled stainless steel coffee mug filled with an organic soy latte, and wear an overinflated look of self-importance. But not every guild has a talisman. For some, it's how they dress, like wearing a certain style and color of socks.

Sal P. from Pittsburg, Kansas inquires, "Why do we even need guilds? They're ancient relics from a forgotten past. They're elitist and exclusionary, and the whole system should be dismantled."

Ah, youth. I'm guessing you're under 30, and were ignored by a guild because of your age. Was it the ISN? The Alliance of Historic Fictionalists? It couldn't be the League of Poets, because they'll take anybody even if you haven't saved anyone (because the only launch parties they attend are the ones they're catering). Just keep producing good work, and eventually you'll get in, mostly because the people who rejected you will have forgotten or died in another ten years.

Ryan B. of Hammond, Indiana asks, "Is there a guild for Young Adult (YA) fiction writers?"

Well, Ryan, I'm sure that if you found all the YA writers who wrote something that didn't have vampires and was actually worth reading, you might be able to get both of them to create one.

If you have any further questions about writers guilds, leave them behind the loose brick, fifth one from the alley, at First Editions bar. Be sure to carry a black fountain pen in your breast pocket. The password is "swordfish."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Indiana Fever Fall to New York Liberty, 72 – 77, In a Game of "If Onlies"

With the Indiana Fever, we've gone from resigned disappointment to tentative excitement to actually being surprised by a loss all in a matter of eight games.

It's surprising what a difference a few weeks can make in terms of a team's fortunes and play-off hopes.

After the first eight games of the season, Indianapolis had resigned themselves with a champs-to-chumps storyline. After winning the next 6 of 8 games, Fever fans can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Okay, okay, one of those two losses happened last night to the New York Liberty — 72 – 77 — but it was an illustrative loss, and adds an "if only" factor to the team's narrative this year.

Take a look at these "if onlys" ("if onlies?" "if only's?" No, that last one is definitely wrong. You don't pluralize with an apostrophe).

"If onlies." It's "onlies."

Let's take a look at a few of the "if onlies" that kept the Fever from beating the New York Liberty.

  • Shavonte Zellous, one of the WNBA's leading scorers, went 2-13 in field goals, and 0-6 in 3-pointers, with another 4 points in free throws. She scored 8 points, when her average points-per-game is 15.3. That missing 7 points puts the Fever ahead, 79 – 77.
  • Erin Phillips, Jessica Breland, and Layshia Clarendon average 7.8, 4.4, and 4.2 PPG respectively. Last night, they scored 6, 2, and 0. One extra basket from each would have made the score 78 - 77.
  • Jasmine Hassell, same story. She averages 2.1 PPG, and scored 0 last night. She continues to hesitate with shots, choosing to pass rather than shoot. I hope she develops some confidence and knows that people aren't going to yell at her for missing. Swap out her missing points with Breland or Clarendon's missing ones, and we're still at 78 – 77.
  • My daughter continues to impress me with her basketball knowledge. "Lin Dunn put Phillips and Clarendon in because they're defensive players," she told me last night during the 3rd quarter. (I had no idea that this was a strategy at all!) The score was 42 – 33 at the end of the half, and the Liberty were in the middle of a 10-0 scoring run in the 3rd. Dunn rested Catchings and January, and went on defense. If they could have prevented two field goals and one 3-pointer in the 2nd half, the score is 72 – 70.

I don't say this to point fingers or be an armchair coach, but rather to find the optimistic hope in this loss.

I'm a big believer in motivational speakers and trainers who urge people to "do one more." One more sales call, one more meeting, one more hour of working. It's that one more that puts us ahead of the competition.

I'm hoping for the "one more" from the Fever (all the while knowing they work their asses off, and they want to win more than the fans want them to), and seeing the "if only."

Sports are a matter of the ball falling one way and not the other. One inch one way or another, and a ball goes in, or bounces off the rim. Many times, that makes all the difference.

"If only" Phillips, Breland, and Clarendon had one more field goal each. "If only" Zellous had an average night. "If only" the defense could have stopped one field goal and one 3-pointer in the 3rd quarter.

And yes, sports are a litany of "could have beens" and "if onlies." But this is where we should put our hopes. We're not resigning ourselves to losses, we're surprised by them. We're buoyed by those "if onlies."

Because on another night, Phillips, Breland, and Clarendon match their average, Zellous does her thing, or the defense stops 6 or 7 points from going in, and the Fever are in 3rd, ahead of 8–9 Washington.

This is a hopeful loss. This is a surprising loss. I'm happy about that.

Because it means the Fever have a reason to be optimistic about the playoffs, and that we could see a repeat of the 2012 championship.

Because it means once Katie Douglas is back on the floor, the Fever will be unstoppable.

If only she'd get better soon.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Indiana Fever Beat Washington Mystics 77 – 70

The Indiana Fever seems to be on the mend and on the rise again. The 5-8 Fever faced off against the 8-7 Washington Mystics with yet another glimmer of hope: Erin Phillips, who had been out for several weeks with an injury, was going to play tonight.

It has been an exciting ride for the Fever this year, after they had reached 1 – 7 at one point, before finally returning to their original form, and finally reaching 5 - 8.

A 77 – 70 victory over the Washington Mystics tonight brought them to 6 – 8, moving them into fourth place in the Eastern division.

Add to that the news that Tamika Catchings had been voted a starter in the WNBA All-Star game, which will be coached by Fever coach Lin Dunn, and you've got the makings of a fairy tale comeback story. All you need is Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and a pissed-off Jobu doll, and we're looking at a decent shot at making the playoffs again. With 20 more games to play, that's a real possibility.

"The WNBA's not a marathon like the NBA," Dunn told the Associated Press. "It's a sprint. Every game is so important. There's really no game that's more important than another."

In tonight's game, Shavonte Zellous was the points leader, with 16 points and 4 rebounds, while Erlana Larkins and Briann January each had 12 points. Larkins also had 9 rebounds.

Zellous is also proving to be one of the iron ladies of the game. She's always moving, always making something happen, and even after going down after catching a knee in the thigh, she was back later to help lead the final comeback and go-ahead.

The Fever were tied at the half before the Mystics started the second half with 10 unanswered points. Things were not looking good, but they also weren't out of reach. Her scoring brought the team back, and then put them ahead after she followed a 3-pointer by January.

"We needed this win because we play them again on Sunday," Zellous told the AP. "I think we did a great job of sticking together and coming back to get this win."

Some notable plays and efforts:

  • Near the end of the game, Zellous chased down a ball that took her up to the 4th row into section 17, my section. She actually had to put her hands onto some people's heads in the 5th row to keep from falling over.
  • At one point, I was pretty sure Erlana Larkins was going to go all Hulk Hogan on the Mystics. Do you remember when the Hulkster used to get angry during a bout. He would glare up at the sky, jut out his chin, breathe heavily, and shake his 24" arms with rage. There were two times, I fully expected Larkins to Hulk out on someone on the court.
  • This marks the first time Erin Phillips has been back on the floor, which meant Erin Thorn was no longer with the team. She was only meant to be a fill-in until Phillips or Katie Douglas returned. I'm glad she was able to make an important contribution, and if the Fever make it to the playoffs again, she played an important part in it.

Finally, tonight was also autograph night in the gift shop, and we got Erlana Larkins and Jessica Breland's autograph. Nice end.

If you want to see the Hulk Hogan reference I mentioned, fast forward to 32:50. I think Erlana Larkins was going to do that.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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The Secret Lives of Writers

It's a little-known fact that many writers are members of various guilds, leagues, and secret societies, organizations that have existed for many decades, if not centuries.

The groups aren't secret because they have tried to hide from the world's eyes all these years. Rather, it's because writers are so reclusive and lonely, they don't actually have anyone to tell.

Each writers guild is based on a different genre and literary style, and they can be found all over the world. The World Philosophers Guild was created by Rene Descartes in 1632, making it one of the oldest — and most boring — guilds of its kind.

There's the International Society of Novelists (ISN), the League of Poets, the Free Society of Dramatists and Playwrights, and of course, the Coterie of French Poets (based in Paris), which looks down their noses at the League of Poets for being too bourgeois.

The Science Fiction Writers Society was created in London by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in 1891 when the two met for aperitifs one evening, and learned they had both been denied entrance into the ISN. At the time, they were the only two science fiction writers in the country, but their ranks swelled as more and more young male writers found it difficult to talk to women and continued living at home with their parents. As a result, they were one of many male-only writers guilds, as women were not allowed to publish, or were forced to publish under male pseudonyms.

In fact, the group's tradition of not allowing women in their ranks lasted until 1973, when one particularly brave and outgoing member announced that he had met a woman who enjoyed scifi almost as much as they did. The members were moved by the woman's love of science fiction, but were even more impressed by the member's ability to talk to women that he was immediately elected Master of Letters, a position he held until he died in 2009. Under his leadership, the SFWS admitted women into their ranks six months later, but the members were still too frightened to speak to any of them until 1978.

Speaking of male writers, American novelist Ernest Hemingway was one of the few writers in history to split his loyalties between two guilds, given the hatred many guilds had for each other throughout history. Hemingway was a member of both the Brotherhood of Male Authors and the International Society of Novelists (which was co-ed), until the time of his death.

Other noted members of the ISN included William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, William S. Burroughs, and Hunter S. Thompson. In fact, the ISN included many of the who's who of the drunk and/or stoned literary set. In the first half of the 20th century alone, nearly all members were either raging alcoholics or drug addicts (or both, in the case of Thompson), and the guild nearly expired after more than 250 years of existence.

And while the societies and guilds typically get along — they're writers, after all, generally not prone to violent outbursts — there are still some deep-seated resentments among many of the groups. The World Philosophers Guild mistrusts the Society of Science Scribes, the Alliance of Historical Fictionalists hates the Mystery Writers Alliance, and everyone hates the Coterie of French Poets.

With a little practice, you can spot the different members of these guilds by their various markings, talismans, and badges they wear to be more easily spotted by their fellow members. After all, many of these societies have memberships that number in the thousands, so it's not possible to know everyone who's a member.

For the World Philosophers Guild, they have the infinity symbol tattooed on the inside of their right wrists. The Science Fiction Writers Society members all wear short-sleeve dress shirts with two pockets, while members of the International Society of Novelists are easily identified by a ring worn on their right hand, made from a letter 'L' typewriter key. And journeymen from the Guild of Poets all wear a gold oak leaf pin over their heart, whether they are in their regular clothes, or in their barista uniforms.

Personally, I'm not interested in this silly secret society stuff. It all seems a little too cliqueish and exclusive, like some prep school club whose members never quite grew up. Many of the members are pretentious, snobby, and not as nearly talented as they would like you to believe.

Also, my nomination to the Nonfiction Writers and Journalists Guild of North America was rejected for the second time. They said I continued to add too many fictional elements to my stories, and could not be trusted.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Spy Who Tweeted Me

Last week, while alleged NSA leaker Edward Snowden reprised Tom Hanks' role from "The Terminal" in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, he received a marriage proposal from Anna Chapman via Twitter.

Chapman is the redheaded Russian spy who was arrested in the U.S. in 2010 and sent back to Russia in a Cold War-style 10-spy swap ("we'll give you Chapman for Tim Tebow and two spies to be named later").

With a little investigating of my own, I've managed to dig up the entire Twitter conversation that followed.

RussianRedAC: @NSALeaker Snowden, will you marry me?!

NSALeaker: May be difficult. Stuck in Sheremetyevo airport until further notice.

RussianRedAC: I know. You're all over Russian news. I live just 5 miles from you.

NSALeaker: Just checked your Twitter page. I remember you. Watch your TV show here in SVO. Fmr employer kept tabs on you.

RussianRedAC: I know. That's how I got caught.

NSALeaker: No, I mean up until 2 months ago. Then I had to flee country.

RussianRedAC: Um, eww?!

NSALeaker: I know. Sorry. #NotMyJob

RussianRedAC: Not your fault. Think it might have been ex-boyfriend.

NSALeaker: It wasn't @CIA_Stud, was it?

RussianRedAC: Oh dear God. #awkward

CIA_Stud: Hey @RussianRedAC. Long time, no see. Not since. . . incident in NYC. Still think of you.

RussianRedAC: Oh hey, @CIA_Stud. Things going well here. Have own TV show now. #LivingTheDream

CIA_Stud: I know. Me & the boys from office watch it over lunch breaks.

MapleLeafSpy: @RussianRedAC, what's this I hear about you proposing to @NSALeaker? Thought you and I were exclusive.

Pentagon_Dave: @MapleLeafSpy, she told me same thing. #whatatangledweb

CIA_Stud: Ha, @MapleLeafSpy + @Pentagon_Dave = LOSERS! We used to laugh at how naive you were.

RussianRedAC: Um, spy, remember? #coverstory

CIA_Stud: But. . . even me?

RussianRedAC: Da, comrade. ;-) #sorrycharlie

CIA_Stud: Can't handle this. Can't breathe.

Pentagon_Dave: HA! @CIA_Stud = Catfish!

MapleLeafSpy: Wait a minute, @CIA_Stud, you're not that big blowhard she used to talk about, are you? What was her name for you?

Pentagon_Dave: It was Simpering Steve!

MapleLeafSpy: Oh wow, that was totally it! LOL

CIA_Stud: Hey, screw you! I'll come up to Canada, you'll meet my fists, Lincoln and Washington!

NSALeaker: Yeah, don't mess with U.S. I know where your national maple syrup stockpile is. #StillAnAmerican

MapleLeafSpy: Dude! 1. No, you don't. That's a secret. 2. I could lose my job. #becool

Pentagon_Dave: @NSALeaker, if you can share that, we could look the other way at SVO for a few minutes. #justsaying

MapleLeafSpy: @NSALeaker, I'm begging you. Please, be cool.

NSALeaker: Alright, DM me. Maybe we can work something out.

RussianRedAC: So, @NSALeaker, what do you say? Marriage sound good? You get citizen protection, amnesty.

NSALeaker: Don't know. Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia all offering nice options. Gets cold in Russia.

RussianRedAC: True, but we have high-speed Internet.

NSALeaker: Also, I have a girlfriend.

Leaker_GF: Not anymore! Seriously, you name climate as reason #1 not to marry Russian slut spy, and not me?

MapleLeafSpy: #awkward

RussianRedAC: Maybe so, b****, but I'm also 5 miles away. You're 1/2 way around the entire world.

Leaker_GF: Just say the word, @RussianRedAC. I'll fly over there and kick your frozen ass!

NSATail: Sorry, @Leaker_GF, we can't let you leave the country.

Leaker_GF: @NSALeaker, can't you do something about this?

NSALeaker: Um, fugitive, remember?

Freelance_Ops: @Leaker_GF, I see you're having problem with spies and foreign governments. For $10K USD, we can provide a solution.

** Freelance_Ops has been blocked and reported for spam. **

RussianRedAC: So, @NSALeaker, what do you say? Free for coffee later today?

NSALeaker: Sure. Not like I have to be anywhere. #freebutnotfree

RussianRedAC: Be there in an hour.

NSALeaker: Do you know where to find me?

RussianRedAC: Sure, Old roommate is on your security detail. I mean, works at the Starbucks near you. I'll be carrying a yellow rose.

MapleLeafSpy: Dude, watch out for the yellow rose! #ItsATrap

Pentagon_Dave: Yeah, I fell for that twice. #holdyourbreath

CIA_Stud: What? You told me that was a symbol of our special bond!

MapleLeafSpy: Me too.

Pentagon_Dave: Me too. First time I thought I was just sleepy.

RussianRedAC: Um, spy, remember?

BolivianHottie: @NSALeaker, Snowden, will you marry me?!

RussianRedAC: Back off, @BolivianHottie! I got here first.

BolivianHottie: Oops, sorry @RussianRedAC. Second time we've done that, huh? Didn't know you were still working. #professionalhazard

RussianRedAC: Ix-nay on the orking-way!

VenezuelanVenus: @NSALeaker, Snowden, you free for dinner tonight? I can carry in Chinese.

BolivianHottie: Forget it, @VenezuelanVenus. @RussianRedAC already beat us to it.

VenezuelanVenus: Dammit! Second time that's happened!

MapleLeafSpy: Claudia, is that you?

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, July 05, 2013

Karl the Curmudgeon Misses Typewriters

"You know what I miss, Kid?" asked Karl. "Typewriters. I miss the way they sound. They way they thump and clack under my fingers. You don't get that with a computer."

What brought this on? I asked. You've been using computers for years. You wrote your last five books on a computer. You get a new computer every 18 months just because you want the latest and greatest.

"Look around you. What do you see?"

I see a bunch of 20-somethings tapping away at their laptops or staring at their iPads, I said. We were sitting in Just Brew It, the coffee shop and hangout for Indianapolis' literary set and the wannabes who hoped they could absorb some of the place's mojo.

"And what do you hear?"

It's pretty quiet, since no one is talking. I can hear the store stereo and the espresso machine. I can even hear the little taps on their keyboards.

"Exactly!" Karl half-shouted. "That's my point!"

I shushed him, worried he would disturb everyone else, but they all had their earbuds in, listening to their music.

"Don't worry about it. These punks are caught up in their own little worlds. Hell, half of them aren't even writing. That one is screwing around on Facebook. And that kid over there has been watching Netflix since I got here. Is this what passes for writers these days?"

Who says they're even writers? I asked.

"They do!" said Karl. "They're from the creative writing class I teach. As part of their class preparation, I make them come here and write for an hour."

What does this have to do with typewriters? I asked.

"Watching them made me nostalgic for when I was their age. Back then, writing was actually hard work. Not the 'I walked uphill to school both ways' kind of hard. I mean, it was physically taxing. Typewriters gave your arms a workout. You had to walk to the library to do research—"

You had to crank up your Victrola by hand.

"Shut up, Kid. No, I mean these kids have it so easy. Everything they need is on the computer, and so their writing should be better. But instead, they play on Facebook and watch Netflix, and their writing shows it."

What does this have to do with typewriters?

"Watching them reminded me of the prestige of being a writer when I was their age. It actually meant something. Nowadays, anyone with a computer and a blog can call themselves a writer. Back when I was coming up, you had to prove you could do the work. It meant sitting in cafés, writing longhand in a notebook, and then rewriting it on your typewriter in your cramped little apartment at night."

And so you miss. . .?

"I miss the noise. I miss the ache in my forearms. I miss how the thumping hurt my ears. I miss the little bell dinging at the end of every line. These kids wouldn't know what that was like. Just give them their little frou-frou drinks, and their laptops with their self-isolating earbuds, and suddenly they're 'authors.'"

Karl's air quotes around 'authors' spoke volumes of how he much he 'respected' his students.

I still don't understand why that makes you want a typewriter.

"Because these people aren't writing! I want to feel like a real writer again!" I looked around, but no one had heard.

Karl, you've always said anyone can write as long as they have 'a write on and a write with.' You said that's what separated writers from the lower art forms — that we can work with a golf pencil and the back of an envelope, while a photographer needs a $1,000 camera and a $2,000 lens.

Now you're lowering yourself to their level, saying you can't do the work unless you have a 50-year-old machine, or a fancy notebook and special pen. That's not the Karl I know.

"Yeah, I guess you're right, Kid. I just miss the old days, you know? I miss what the typewriter represents."

So why don't you just get yourself a new one? You can get them online, and there are even a couple places in town that sell refurbished ones. I just bought one myself a few days ago.

"Really? What for?"

I was going to give it to you for your birthday, but you made them sound so interesting that I just decided to keep it. I'll get you the new John Grisham novel instead.

Everyone looked up to see what Karl was shouting about.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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