Elizabeth: Book Squee – Factfulness

The book I’m talking about today, Factfulness by Hans Rosling, may be a bit of a departure from the norm around here – it’s non-fiction for one thing – but it very much relates to the concepts of narrative and storytelling.

If you’re a fan of TED talks, you may already be familiar with Hans Rosling and his storytelling with numbers.  Last I checked, his talks have been viewed more than 35 million times after all.

The tagline for the book is:

Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.

Who doesn’t want to be wrong about the world and read some proof about how it is better than we think? Continue reading

Elizabeth: New TV Show Squee!

Okay, The Good Place is in season two so it’s not technically a new show, but I just started watching, so it’s new to me.  My TV viewing is generally limited to political news and sports these days (when I’m not writing, of course), but when The Good Place was recommended to me recently, I gave it a try.

An excellent decision.

The show starts out when Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell) finds herself in the afterlife.  Though not surprised to be dead, she is a little surprised to find out that she’s ended up in the Good Place since she’s pretty sure she wasn’t a very good person in life.   It’s not long before she realizes that there’s been some kind of bureaucratic mistake, but since she has no interest in spending the hereafter being eternally tortured in the Bad Place, she does her best to hide in plain sight from the Good Place’s architect Michael (played by Ted Danson) as well as the other obviously-in-the-right-place residents. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Measuring Joy

img_1231As I mentioned back in my New Year’s post, my watchword for 2017 is Joy.  Now that January is over, it seems like a good time for a check-in to see how just how that’s been working out so far.

There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~ J.K. Rowling


January was a good month for new stories.  Maddie and Dan from my holiday Mistletoe Reboot story got another installment in their “is it over or not relationship”; Jack and his brother Nick were featured in my January Short story; and Katie and Grant made their way around London on a team-building treasure hunt in last Friday’s Random Word Improv.  Even better, as far as meeting some longer-term goals, Cassie and Nicolai traveled along with me on this week’s business trip and are slowly inching their way through Act 2.  All of that is definitely “joy” inducing.

“Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” Continue reading

Jilly: Storyteller v Smooth Writer

storytellerI’m planning to spend today judging romance writing contest entries. It’s time-consuming and headache-inducing, but over the last couple of years I’ve discovered that analyzing other unpublished writers’ work is a great way to improve my own.

I guesstimate that on average it takes me about three or four hours per entry from first read to submission of score-sheet. Multiply that by four or five manuscripts, and you’re talking about a serious investment of time. It’s relatively quick, and usually great fun, to read an entry and reach a first impression. Are the scenes well-written? Do I care about the characters? Would I read on? It’s much harder to pinpoint what it is about the writing that makes me feel that way, and harder still to find the right words to give that feedback to the author in an honest, courteous and professional manner.

The last time I judged this particular contest I was lucky enough to read two very good entries back-to-back that made me think hard about Continue reading

Michaeline: David Bowie in the Stars

An astronaut in an untethered spacesuit floating above the Earth's clouds and oceans.

“Floating in a tin can” — space is an incredible setting for a variety of stories. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The world lost a great storyteller this week when David Bowie died on January 10, 2016. The man wasn’t limited – he could tell a tale in visuals, in music, in lyrics and with his body. He was a great genius, and one of his last stories, “Lazarus” (YouTube link), showed that he wasn’t done yet. I read on the internet that before his death, the songs from his new album Blackstar were a bit weird. But from personal experience, I can say that seeing “Lazarus” after his death was one of the most powerful video experiences I’ve ever had. We see his struggles, and they are all the more beautiful and poetic because we know the end of the story. And his aesthetic is as sharp as it ever was. The video is shot in shades of old wood and clean that remind us of the past, but don’t burden us with it.

I wanted to take a look at one of his great songs, “A Space Oddity.” (YouTube link to live version) This is the story of Major Tom, an astronaut who wins the admiration of the entire earth, but then winds up dying alone in space. What a downer! I don’t generally like this kind of story, but in this case, there’s the beautiful music that holds my hand and keeps me from running away from this dark, dark vision.

That’s the surface. Beneath, was something else. During a 2002 interview, John Wilson (a BBC interviewer, link to BBC here) asked Bowie, “What is it with spaceships?” Continue reading

Michaeline: Around the Campfire

An evening's entertainment by the light of a flame. (Via Wikimedia Commons, Ferdinand du Puigaudeau, Chinese Shadows:  The Rabbit)

An evening’s entertainment by the light of a flame. (Via Wikimedia Commons, Ferdinand du Puigaudeau, Chinese Shadows: The Rabbit)

Stuck in your writing routine? Here’s some food for thought: the Smithsonian speculates on how the campfire entertainment of our ancestors may have direct influence on the way we entertain ourselves today.

The post links to an abstract that says, “Night talk plays an important role in evoking higher orders of theory of mind via the imagination . . . .”

October is a great time for stories, and the early nightfall gives you plenty of time to explore evening storytime. So, if you are a little stuck, turn out the lights, light a candle, and tell a story to yourself or a loved one. See what happens, and have your writing tools near to capture anything that appears out of the dark.

Jilly: Guy Fawkes – Gunpowder, Treason and a Great Story


The Fall Guy

Remember, Remember
The Fifth of November
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
We See No Reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should Ever Be Forgot

In recent posts Michaeline and Kay have explored the history and customs of Halloween, with its ghost stories and supernaturally assisted techniques to identify one’s true love. We enjoy Halloween in the UK, but the tradition doesn’t run as deep here thanks to a scheduling clash with the Gunpowder Plot, a real-life political thriller from November 1605, such a brilliant piece of theatre that the story lives on more than four hundred years later. Continue reading

Michaeline: Start of the Storytelling Season

halloween002[1]There’s a strong storytelling tradition linked to Halloween – and Christmas, too, for that matter. In the ancient world of the northern hemisphere, October must have been the start of the storytelling season. The crops were all in, daylight hours were getting shorter and shorter, and it was the most plentiful time of the year. Good food and time to relax put people in the mood to create as well as listen. Continue reading