creative writing

Scott Belsky: Following through on Creative Projects

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Ever find yourself jumping from idea to idea, hooked on the high of idea generation but never completing any one project? 99% Conference speaker Scott Belsky breaks down road-tested methods for seeing ideas through to the finish.

Scott Belsky is author of Making Ideas Happen.

How to Apply for the Amtrak Residency

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From the Amtrak blog:

What began as a line in Alexander Chee’s interview in PEN Ten and was fueled by Twitter, is now an official Amtrak program.

As many of you may know by now, our test-run for Amtrak Residency was done by Manhattan-based writer Jessica Gross, whose piece, Writing The Lakeshore Limited was published in February by The Paris Review. What followed was overwhelming support on Twitter and in the media with #AmtrakResidency being featured in The Wire, The New Yorker, and Huffington Post among others.

Today we are happy to announce that #AmtrakResidency will allow for up to 24 writers to take long-distance trainsto work on their projects. Each writer’s round-trip journey will include accommodations on board a sleeper car equipped with a bed, a desk and outlets. We hope this experience will inspire creativity and most importantly fuel your sense of adventure!

Are you excited about #AmtrakResidency? Want to learn more and apply? Head over to our official entry form and good luck!

Waiting for my Rooster to Crow

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Rooster App

I read about the new Rooster App on the Washington Post, and it sounds perfect for me and my newly busy life. I grieve the fact that I don’t have blocks of time to read fiction, but this seems like the perfect solution:

You don’t need to wait at the docks for the latest installment of Charles Dickens’s “Old Curiosity Shop.” But what if your iPhone could recreate the excitement — and convenience — of reading a novel in serial form?

Check out a new app called Rooster, which has the backing of some of the biggest names in the tech industry. It launches Tuesday in the Apple app store, and was created specifically for the iPhone. Every month, Rooster will send two novels to your phone: a classic tale and a contemporary story, paired to provoke interesting reflection.

But these books aren’t just dumped on you in one I’ll-never-get-to-it download. Instead, the novels arrive in your cellphone in manageable installments, according to a schedule you set yourself. “War & Peace” looks so much less daunting as a serial tale consumed every day at lunchtime like “The Days of Our Lives.” The service costs $4.99 a month.

I was excited to get started, but as soon as I downloaded the app, I got a message “please request an invitation.” So I did.  A few seconds later I got a message that basically said I’m on a waitlist and will receive an invitation when one is available.

What’s that about?

I’m happy and willing to pay the $4.99 a month to give Rooster a try.  I’m not sure what the developers are thinking–perhaps there are free memberships to get people hooked, thus the wait?  It’s completely unclear.

I am extremely disappointed. I really wanted to give this one a try.

For now I’m contenting myself by reading Gay Degani’s serialized novel, What Came Before.  It is wonderful and highly recommended.  But I’m still annoyed about Rooster.

A Solitary World: Homage to H.G. Wells

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A Stunning Tribute to H.G. Wells via Cinematic Poetry

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives: Annie Dillard

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How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.

Amtrak Writer’s Residencies

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Amtrak Writer’s Residences offers round-trip train rides solely for the purpose of writing.

I love taking the train, even if it would make sense to fly.  Trains are like ideal mobile offices.  You have a view, the ability to walk and go out to lunch, but your away from your daily routine and interruptions.


Then today I read this on The Wire, so I guess I’m not alone:

Amtrak has begun offering “writers’ residencies” to, well, writers – long roundtrip rides aboard Amtrak trains dedicated solely for the purpose of writing.

After New York City-based writer Jessica Gross took the first “test-run” residency, traveling from NYC to Chicago and back, Amtrak confirmed that it is indeed planning to turn the writers’ residencies into an established, long-term program, sending writers on trains throughout its network of routes.

First, let’s get it out of the way: The Wire is 100 percent on board with this idea. Pun intended, because we’re writers. We love writing, and we love trains, and we love them both together.

Ray Bradbury on Writing, Creativity and Emotion vs. Intelligence

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Fantastic interview with science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who discusses his work, not as scifi, but as modern retellings of fairy tales.

Write or Die

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Write or Die 2: Writer Motivation

I took a new job on January 1 and I’ve been concerned about my writing habits.  I’m now a department chair, and I have a lot going on–so much so that meetings, faculty and student issues have all been coming in the way of my writing and intellectual life.

This isn’t a surprise.

In fact, most of my colleagues are amazed that I continue to try to write at all.  I have good reason for wanting to keep up my writing.  I finished an amazing novel writing workshop last fall, and now that I know what I need to do to fix my work, I’m read to get going. But I need serious motivation to counteract everything that is pulling for my time and attention.

I’ve been looking for an app that will allow me to focus more on writing for short bursts and keep me from straying to social media and my email.  I use every day, and I love it.  But it doesn’t have any feature to keep me focused, just a statistical meter that will let me know how many distractions I’ve had in one day.

Then tonight I found Write or Die.

It’s a writing application that will give you a jolt if you let your mind stray for too long.  I’d encourage you to give the web version a try (  The “consequence mode” will turn the screen bright read and start alarming if you stop writing for  more than 10 seconds. In Kamikaze mode you stop typing and your writing slowly disappears, character by character.

I decided it was the perfect motivator, so I took the option for the educator discount and downloaded it.  I was really excited to get started, but once downloaded I haven’t been able to get the program to start.  At all.

I have no idea what the problem is; my Mac software is all up to date.  In any case, I’ve written to the software developer and hope to have a fix soon.  In the meantime, I’m writing a blog post and wishing I had one less distraction.