Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, June 2-8, 2019

A fairly substantial batch of thoughty links to get your mental corn popping this week.

The BBC shares the latest in the Sudan crisis: the African Union suspends Sudan’s membership.

Richard Nieva reports that YouTube will ban supremacist and hoax videos in tougher hate speech policy. CNet

Denise Brodey: how one billion disabled people hit the business radar. Forbes

Liza Gross wonders, can efforts to bottle MDMA’s magic transform psychiatry? The Verge

Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall say that work-life balance is a myth. Here’s what they recommend instead. Time

Knvul Sheikh: creative types reserve a special corner of the brain for dreaming big. Scientific American

Matt Reynolds: the natural genius of ants is helping us build better algorithms. Wired

Verge Science tries to decipher ratspeak with DeepSqueak.

Robert Macfarlane takes us into the invisible city beneath Paris. The New Yorker

Franchesca Street takes us on a tour of abandoned sacred places around the world. CNN

The BBC reports on the long-lost Lewis Chessman found in Edinburgh family’s drawer.

Mara Johnson-Groh looks at how art advances astronomy. UnDark

SciShow Space news introduces us to the forbidden planet and new ways to produce oxygen in space.

Andrew Zaleski: urban forests are dying, but Baltimore shows us how to bring them back. Popular Science

Emma Stevens sings “Blackbird” in Mi’kmaq (yes, even Sir Paul himself made a thing about this performance).

Thanks for stopping by and, until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!


Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 1-7, 2015

Last Sunday, February 1st, was St. Brigid’s day. Here are nine facts about the day you may not have known. The Independent.

The full moon may have been last Tuesday, but you could still perform these nine rituals to unlock its energy. I think they’d work any time, myself. It might help to combat the Mercury in retrograde crap we’ve been dealing with lately. Or it just might make you feel more confident. MindBodyGreen.

Shawn Achor on happiness. UpWorthy.

What you learn in your 40s. The New York Times.

Deja Vu. It’s okay to be smart.


How extreme fear shapes the mind. BBC.

What Stephen Fry would say to God. Hearting this man so hard right now.


This pisses me off: How Veterans’ Affairs treats our injured veterans. The Huffington Post.

How being a gifted child can lead to dark consequences. The Calgary Herald.

Though this appeared in Writer Unboxed, it’s something that everyone could benefit from. Why we need to learn how to monotask again, by Therese Walsh.

Seth Godin was a guest on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast: The art of noticing, then creating.

A fascinating look into the world of the male Geisha. The Daily Beast.

What the Andromeda Galaxy would look like if it was bright enough to see with the naked eye. IFLS.

Feel like getting crafty? Here are 33 ways to use spray paint to revitalize old stuff. Buzzfeed.

Why we should stop docking dogs’ tails. We should also stop cropping their ears and declawing cats. All are mutilations, IMO. i09.

And that’s all the thoughty you get until next Thursday!

Tomorrow’s not only Friday (happy dance day), but it’s also Friday the 13th! And then it’s Valentines. Eventful days ahead!

See you on the weekend 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Oct 5-11, 2014

Psychology is back in the mix with a pile of interesting TED Talks.

What happened to #BringBackOurGirls? World Post.

How sleep patterns have changed over the years and why we might want to change back. Collective Evolution.

Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we all share. TED Talk.

JD Schramm on the silence surrounding suicide. TED Talk.

Eleanor Longden shares her journey from schizophrenia back to mental health. TED Talk.

Elyn Saks on her struggle with schizophrenia and what is taught her about seeing the mentally ill with compassion and clarity. TED Talk.

Vsauce answers the question, why are we morbidly curious? Three’s actually a fair amount of science and psychology backing this one up.


And as a follow up, here is Ask a Mortician, on the topic of necrophelia. It’s quite tastefully done, really.


Looks like climate change is escalating: 35,000 walrus gather in Alaska. National Geographic.

Remember Rikki Tikki Tavi? The Smithsonian Channel shared this video of the real thing:


i09 asks, are we over thinking the dangers of artificial intelligence?

David Brin on the spirit of exploration: comets, Pluto, Titan, and Mars. Contrary Brin.

Jackie Chan’s best story ever? Getting thrashed by Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.


The Pentatonix cover Clean Bandit’s Rather Be:


Get thoughty with it, my friends 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the Interwebz April 20-26, 2014

Thoughty Thursday

This week is video heavy. I think it just reflects my state of mind. Make of that what you will. *sits in corner drooling*

The ideal length for everything online from Buffer.

Hootsuite’s Game of Social Thrones.

Lindsey Stirling’s new video, Shatter Me, featuring Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.

Four Cats (as in Caterpillar heavy machines) playing Jenga from Boing Boing.

Cats + water = epic fun.

The 2013 Barkley dog family Subaru commercials. Giving the goggies equal time.

Thoughy? Meh. Inspirational? Not so much. Entertaining? I sure hope so 🙂

Every once in a while, you have to succumb to the brain candy.

Building your writing resume: three points to consider

This topic has come up in a peripheral way on Wordsmith Studio: As an unpublished, or even as a not-recently-published author, what can you do to bolster your writing resume?  I say peripheral, because the actual question asked was whether it was worthwhile to enter contests because many of the entry fees are expensive/potentially prohibitive.  I believe the question was posed in the context of accruing publishing credits, however, and that’s when I started to think about this topic in earnest.

So for better or worse, here are my thoughts on the subject in the context of my personal experience.

1. Contests

Contests can be fun.  They can inspire you, particularly if they have a theme you can latch onto, and the deadline always helps to motivate.  The issue for me is that many contests in literary magazines, whether for poetry or prose, carry with them entry fees, and some of these can be as much as $40 (!) for a single entry.  If that entry is a single poem (not epic, they usually have line limits), or a 2000 word or fewer short story, you really have to weigh the benefits of paying someone to consider your work, which already carries with it a labour cost in author-hours spent writing/revising.

Food for thought: Value your work.  How much do you think it cost to write?  Even at minimum wage per hour (and I’d advise a higher value than that) it’s probably more than the entry fee.  How much are you willing to pay to have your work published?  In the beginning, we may all have to pay for this consideration, but it’s important to remember that unless you have a really good day-job, you’re going to reach the point of diminishing returns sooner than later.

Yes, you can write off the entry fees on your taxes if you claim your writing as self-employment, and yes, you often get a year’s subscription to the magazine or journal, which you can declare as income on your taxes as well, but you have to consider the relative cost for benefit.

For example: If you’re paying a $25 entry fee to receive and annual subscription worth $15 or $20, this may not be in your best interest.  Sure, you may stand to win $500 if you place first in the contest, but if the magazine or journal holding the contest is well-known, you’re going to be up against some stiff competition.  Take the possible purse out of the equation and work through your numbers again.  If you don’t win, or even place, will this still be a good investment for you?

Contests are sometimes a way for a magazine or journal to generate some fresh material, gain new subscribers, or refill the enterprise’s dwindling coffers.  If you like the journal and want to support them, consider a paid subscription and simply submit to them according to their submission specifications (see below) to see if you can get published by other means.

Further, most magazines and journals that hold contests receive so many entries that their judges cannot possibly comment, even in general terms, on the quality/suitability of your work.  Entering a contest may be a good experience, but if you’re aiming to get critical feedback, it’s not your best bet.

Note: The concerns for poetry are a little different than for prose, at least here in Canada.  A poet can rarely make even a meagre income from their work unless they self-publish, and even then, the costs of producing the anthology often outweigh the profits derived from sales.  A best-seller in terms of poetry might be 500 – 1000 copies and the poet often has to go on the road (or start up a YouTube or podcast channel to promote their work) to give public readings and drum up interest in their work.  In my experience, poets write for the love of poetry.  They’re not aiming to make money from the endeavour.  The fact of publication is often worth the cost, whatever it happens to be, and most poets are gainfully employed in other, though sometimes related professions, to offset the costs associated with their calling.

My advice: Look for contests that have low or no entry fees.  They do exist.

2. Calls for submission

Which brings us to our next consideration: calls for submissions.  Most magazines and journals do have their criteria for submission posted on their Web sites.  Occasionally, periodicals, or even publishers wishing to put out an anthology will have a themed call.

Like the contests listed above, themed calls can be fun and often for the same reasons (theme, deadline, etc.).  One consideration that you should keep in mind is the potential for resubmission.  If the theme is too specific or narrow, the story or poem produced thereby may not be suitable for submission elsewhere, unless another publisher is interested in Animal Bollywood, or Japanese Steampunk.

Note: Follow the submission guidelines carefully.  Many publications weed out submissions that are not perfectly aligned with their criteria, particularly the more popular or well-known ones that are flooded with the work of hopeful authors.

Some magazines close their submissions once they’ve received what they deem to be “enough.”  Usually, this has to do with their publication schedule.

For example: A quarterly (four times per year or every three months) that publishes three to four short stories per issue might close their submissions after receiving eighteen to twenty stories (a year’s worth plus a few back-ups) that they deem suitable for publication.

This can happen in any genre (poetry or fiction) or any genre within fiction or poetry (SF, fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.).  This only reinforces the importance of looking up the submission guidelines for whatever magazine or journal you choose to submit to.  If you rely on annual print publications to plan your submission strategy, this is especially important.  The periodical’s or publisher’s situation could have changed since the guide was produced.

Remuneration: These terms can also be found on most magazine’s or journal’s Web sites.  Often, for fiction, it will be a sliding scale of cents per word depending on the length of the story.  It may be a flat fee per poem.  Some journals, particularly poetry or literary journals, will only offer contributor copies, or a year’s subscription.  Once again, as with the contest entry fees, weigh the benefits of publication.

A note regarding online publications: Online publications may not offer contributor copies either (because there is no print version), and if relatively new, may not be able to pay much, if anything.  If they are established enough to have advertising income they may provide remuneration.  Once more, read carefully.

In most cases, it will be rare that a piece of creative writing submitted in response to a call will receive detailed commentary. Once again, it’s a matter of numbers.  If you had to read a hundred short stories, would you be able to give each one individual attention?  We’d all like to say that we would, but I think the reality is that after ten or so, we’d all admit to a certain amount of exhaustion.  And to be fair, why give commentary to a handful, when everyone deserves the same consideration?  This is why most publications will not go this particular extra mile.

If you do receive a few comments or pointers: excellent!  It means that your submission was good enough to merit some extra time and attention.  If the commentary is specific, take heed and use it to your best advantage.  If it’s simply complementary, keep it, and try not to use it as an excuse not to edit and revise before submitting the piece to another venue.

3. Resources

One of the most popular series of guides is the Writer’s Digest series: Writer’s Market, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, etc.  I might recommend a subscription to the Writers service, which will have resources/listings updated in real time and on a regular basis.

For Canadians there is The Canadian Writer’s Market, but I’ve found that WD has been getting better and better at keeping their Canadian listings up-to-date.  This may be a good resource for those dedicated to publishing in Canada.  It comes out less frequently than WD, and so checking out the individual Web sites of publishers and publications becomes very important.

While the Interwebz can provide a plethora of resources, I’ll recommend Duotrope as an excellent starting point.  The service is currently looking for donations to remain in operation as a free resource.  If you’ve used the service and found value in it, seriously consider donating.

That’s all the Alchemy Ink Writerly Goodness has for this week!

Until next time!

Challenges become opportunities: The Author Salon Experience

Back in December, I joined Author Salon on the advice of one of the people I consider to be my writing mentors, Barbara Kyle.

Initially, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

My first mistake was not reading anything before I signed up, so when I was presented with a profile to fill out, I dove right in.  Little did I know that there was an art to this …  I did read the AS step-by-step guide, belatedly, but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I set up my profile to the best of my ability, sounded off in the Shout Out Forum, and then posted a call for peers in the In Production I Forum group that seemed to suit me best: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction.

The initial group that formed was small, but dedicated.  We started off by critiquing each other’s profiles.

Now, this may not seem particularly important work, but part of the AS process is that professional editors and agents peruse the site from time to time.  Ultimately, the author’s profile will be a marketing tool to those same agents and editors, so it is a critical piece of the AS puzzle.

It’s as important as perfecting your “pitch” or logline, as important as writing a knock-their-socks-off query letter, in short, the AS profile is as important as it gets.

I’ve been at a bit of a disadvantage because I’ve not yet attended a conference where I’ve had the opportunity to “pitch” my concept to agents.  I haven’t started shopping my novel yet, and so I really don’t have any experience crafting a query or synopsis.  I really don’t have an idea about what a hook line should be and how it differs from a conflict statement.  But I’m learning …  and I have to learn fast.

I thought I knew at least one thing going in: even if you have a series planned, the novel must function as a stand-alone, but it seems that everyone else in my critique group is using the fact that they have a series planned as a selling point.  So now I’m fairly convinced that I know nothing, and am approaching the whole process tabula rasa.

One question posed to me was, “why mention your day-job?”  The point was that the information should only be included in the event that it lends to the topic you write about, like a retired police officer writing mysteries/police procedurals.  I’d like to address that here.

As a learning and development professional, I write courses.  Certainly, it’s a completely different beast than a novel, but writing is writing and any practice reinforces skill.  It develops my rhetorical skills to direct my writing to a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Also, as a corporate trainer, I have presentation skills.  It’s a good marketing point and while it may not be on the top of every agent’s list of skills an author must have, it may be an asset that tips the scales in my favour.

I’m more likely to be comfortable in an interview situation, doing public readings, and participating in workshops or conferences on a panel.  I’m tech-friendly, if not tech-savvy, as the result of my work.  I could easily put out YouTube videos or podcasts regarding craft, or reading of my work (in fact, it’s something on my list of things to do for my platform).  I could even parlay my skills into delivering Webinars or tutorials.

Finally, it was my learning and development day-job that got me back into learning-as-lifestyle.  Mutant learning, social learning, independent research, call it what you want, it’s what I need to ramp up my profile and my writing as presented on AS and attract the attention of agents and editors.  I started developing my online platform as a writer thanks to my work in L&D.

What I learned about Initiate of Stone in the first go-round:

  • It was too long;
  • It was too complex:
  • I’m too wordy; and
  • I’m not very good at seeing the redundancies in my own work.

Then, in January, all of my critique partners left In Production I and were promoted to Editor Suite.  Most of them had attended an Algonkian Conference which acted as their respective invitations to AS.  They all received personal notification to move along.  I thought I was left behind.

So I started over with a new call for peers and waited.  Eventually the administrators realized that there was some kind of miscommunication and offered a clarification.  I was promoted to Editor Suite after all!  My relief was immense.

My new critique group in Editor Suite included all of my old friends, plus a couple new ones.

The first order of business was to start over with the profile critiques, and when that was done, we moved onto critique our first acts.  AS calls them the first 50 pages, but I prefer to call it the first act because it’s actually the first 50 -100 pp, depending on where your first major plot point falls.

What I’ve learned from the critique of the first act:

  • My first major plot point takes too long to arrive;
  • The story line for my protagonist needs to be seriously amped up;
  • I still suck at the profile stuff (that’s part of what I’m working on next);
  • I may be wordy, but given my chosen genre, epic fantasy, it works, overall.

Along the way, there was this thing called the Showcase.  AS reps would be showing a foreshortened version of our profile to industry experts and seeing if they could get any interest.  The call went out about the time that the former version of this blog was hacked and there was a little confusion while I reordered my electronic life.  The server on which my blog was hosted at the time was also my email server …

Got that mess sorted, but even though the Showcase went on until May, IoS did not get a single nod.  Almost everyone else in my critique group, however, got at least one, and many received multiple expressions of interest.  I’m very happy for my peers, but really disappointed in/for myself.  This just speaks, once again, to the importance of the AS profile in the overall process.

What I’ve done or am doing as a result of all this:

  1. Cut my novel in half.  The former mid-way point is now the climax and I still have to cut about 40k words.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m willing to work at it until it’s fabulous 🙂 ;
  2. Rewriting Ferathainn’s story/plot line;
  3. Revamping my profile;
  4. I’ve applied for, was accepted to, and have registered for Algonkian’s New York Comes to Niagara conference in October.  If nothing else, I’ll learn how to get my profile together there.

So we’ll see where this all takes me.  The AS journey has been fraught and fun and incredibly hard work so far.

That’s it for this week bubbies!  Gotta get working on my WIP!

For my science fiction writer friends, I want to post links to Robert Sawyer’s two-part January interview with William Gibson:

Also check out Robert’s TedXManitoba lecture:

Are you part of an online critique group?  What have you learned from the process?  How is it changing your creative life?