icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog) RSS feed

How crowdsourcing works

(through examples)
Wikipedia: A Model for Crowdsourced Publishing (Scott Vankirk on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-16-12) "Wikipedia is the original, and the most stunningly successful, crowdsourced application to date. Its store of knowledge is staggering. It’s even got a great definition of crowdsourcing. So how would this crowdsourced publishing work?
---You would want it to be open and transparent.
---You would design it to be self supporting.
---You would make it as inclusive as possible. There should be tools available that will allow any of the hundreds of existing reading/writing/publishing sites to become affiliates with the ability to participate in the crowd.
Wikipedia's List of Crowdsourcing Projects includes
---Any software project with an open Beta test.
---By the People, a transcription and tagging crowdsourcing project from the Library of Congress.
---CitySourced, an enterprise civic engagement platform that provides a mobile app for citizens to identify and report non-emergency civic issues, such as public works, quality of life, and environmental issues. Etc.
• Many writers use crowdsourcing to arrive at a good title, partly to ask for suggestions and partly to ask for opinions (which of these titles do you like best?).

[Back to Top]

4 Companies That are Killing It with Crowdsourcing (PlanBox) LEGO, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Amazon.
Don't Crowdsource Your Cover Design (Jane Friedman, PW, 5-24-19) Or at least don't crowdsource it with other authors. If anything, use readers. "Be intentional, focused, and reader driven when making decisions."
37 Great Examples of Crowdsourcing(We Thinq, 12-19-16)
Artistic Freedom vs. Crowdsourcing, Censorship, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect (Anne R. Allen, 3-1-15) A lot of online complaints "are examples of something called The Dunning-Kruger Effect, named for two scientists at Cornell University "who proved that people who are the most confident and vocal are generally the most ignorant and incompetent. In other words, the loudest complaints usually come from the least-informed people." We don't always need to listen to the Political Correctness police. Many banned book lists include such titles like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which also appear on basic reading lists for American literature.
Crowdsourcing (Marshall Hargrave, Investopedia, 5-16-21) "Crowdsourcing provides many benefits for companies that are seeking innovative ideas from a large group of individuals, hoping to better their products or services. In addition, crowdsourcing niches from real estate to philanthropy are beginning to proliferate and bring together communities to achieve a common goal."
7 Best Crowdsourcing PlatformsAdam Enfroy) Writeups about Innocentive, Openideo, Amazon Mechanical Turk, uTest, Upwork, 99Designs, and Cad Crowd, My Starbucks idea, Greenpeace (crowdsourcing for ads), Airbnb.
9 Great Examples of Crowdsourcing in the Age of Empowered Consumers (Kathryn Kearns, Tweak Your Biz, 7-10-15) Writeups about Waze, McDonalds Burger builder, Lego, Samsung, Lays, Pebble (Kickstarter’s biggest crowd funding success to date),
Crowdsourcing Businss ModelThe Business Model Analyst)
Crowdsourcing the public's memory: Still looking for that picture book you loved as a kid? Try asking Instagram (Rachel Treisman, NPR, 12-27-21) Marie-Pascale Traylor is the powerhouse behind an Instagram Page called What's That Book?, in which someone asks if anyone remembers the name of a book about "a girl with magic powers who learns how to fly" that she remembers from childhood, and readers come up with the title (which helps them find a vintage copy of the book).



[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

What do you make of the 'Bad Art Friend'?

For friends and readers who have found this literary incident perplexing, I share links to some commentary. What do you think?

Who Is the Bad Art Friend? (Robert Kolker, NY Times Magazine, 10-5-21) Art often draws inspiration from life — but what happens when it’s your life? Inside the curious case of Dawn Dorland v. Sonya Larson. This is the 10,000-word article that started it all. "It includes all the hot-button topics for writing and publishing: questions of artistic license, plagiarism, and copyright; status anxiety in the literary world; gossipy writing groups; social media use; and race."
The Short Story at the Center of the “Bad Art Friend” Saga (Katy Waldman, New Yorker, 10-10-21) "On Twitter, where much of the “Bad Art Friend” debate has flourished, my colleague Helen Rosner observes a “tension between writers who define themselves via their writing and writers who define themselves via ‘being a writer.’ ” To me, the slippage between these two categories gives the Dorland-Larson saga its heat. When you put a person’s life in your art, you risk misrepresenting them. But when you put another writer’s life in your art, you commit a kind of proleptic plagiarism—you steal their material. A growing interest, in some publishing circles, in “own voices” and “lived experience” intensifies this dynamic: a premium is placed on authors’ personal familiarity with the worlds they summon. There’s a corresponding sense that the person who inhabited a story in real life should get the first crack at fictionalizing it."
Bad Art Friend and how getting dragged into art doesn’t always feel like a compliment (Emily Donaldson, Globe & Mail, 11-1-21) As a slew of recent viral examples prove, writers borrowing from the real world for their fiction can lead to some unexpectedly thorny outcomes.
What ‘Bad Art Friend’ and the Facebook whistleblower say about our ‘connected’ lives (Christine Emba, Washington Post, 10-9-21) On Oct. 5, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gave the Senate damning testimony about her former employer, and the New York Times Magazine published a nearly 10,000-word piece by Robert Kolker about two feuding writers and an organ donation. Both events went viral. And both painted an unflattering picture of how the social media giant is affecting our everyday lives. It makes a weird sort of sense that “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” and Haugen’s Senate takedown debuted on the same day. Both were cautionary tales about the insidiousness of social media — Facebook in particular.
How Bad Art Friend Became Twitter’s Favorite Parlor Game (Robert Kolker, Times Insider, NY Times, 10-20-21) The email was straightforward: She believed she'd been plagiarized in a short story by another writer named Sonya Larson. Now they were in court. Kolker explains how he approached his reporting and what he thought about the online discourse around the story. His article on a literary quarrel between Dawn Dorland and Sonya Larson was a popular subject of conversation on social media.
Grub Street Tackles 'Art Friend' Fallout (Alex Green, Publishers Weekly, 11-1-21) While the nonprofit organization was not directly involved in the controversy, its employees and board members were. Among others, Sonya Larson has departed from her role heading up the annual Muse & Marketplace conference. Artistic director Christopher Castellani has asked for forgiveness and remains with the organization. (H/T The Hot Sheet)
'Bad art friend': should fiction writers ever lift stories from other people's lives? (The Guardian, 10-6-21) Great writers have always been inspired by friends and lovers, but a viral article has revived the moral arguments around muses. In the age of the internet, does using someone else’s story feel like a violation? Does this story have a moral? Yes: it's that writers are terrible people and you should cut them all from your life immediately. OK, so can I tell my story now?


And again, what do you think?

Be the first to comment

Critical race theory: What is it and why is everyone arguing about it?

Updated 12-19-21

Debates about critical race theory are coming to your district, board room, and classroom. Here's what you need to understand about CRT and the chilling effect of legislation not to teach about divisive concepts such as race and gender. Needless to say, the topic has become highly politicized. One component of the discussion: The 1619 Project.

What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack? (Stephen Sawchuk, Equity & Diversity Explainer, Education Week, 5-18-21) "The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others. A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas."
Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism and American History (PEN America, 6-16-21) "We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges, and universities. These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states, but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed “divisive concepts.” These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, “that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” These legislative efforts are deeply troubling for numerous reasons."
Why are states banning critical race theory? (Rashawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons, Brookings, 7-2-21) "Critical race theory (CRT) has become a new boogie man for people unwilling to acknowledge our country’s racist history and how it impacts the present. CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race."
Critical Race Theory (1970s-present) (Purdue Online Writing Lab, Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism) Helpful for students and teachers.
Lesson of the Day: ‘Critical Race Theory: A Brief History’ (Jeremy Engle, The Learning Network, New York Times, 9-20-21) Culture wars over critical race theory have turned school boards into battlegrounds, and in higher education, the term has been tangled up in tenure battles. Dozens of United States senators have branded it “activist indoctrination.” In this lesson, students will look at the spread across the country of legislation opposed to critical race theory. Then, they will consider the impact of these bills on their own schools and learning.
So Much Buzz, But What is Critical Race Theory? (Associated Press, NBC, 8-30-21) An excellent "Explainer." Former President Donald Trump has railed against it. Republicans in the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution condemning any requirement for teachers to be trained in it. And several Republican-controlled states, including Texas, have invoked it in legislation restricting how race can be taught in public schools. The concept known as critical race theory is the new lightning rod of the GOP. But what exactly is it?
     "Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.
      "It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
      "The architects of the theory argue that the United States was founded on the theft of land and labor and that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race. Proponents also believe race is culturally invented, not biological."

Attorney General Hunter to U.S. Department of Education: Keep Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project Out of Education Priorities (Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General).

'In the proposed rule, the Department of Education embraces the much-criticized “1619 Project,” which argued that U.S. history should be defined by our worst moments, as well as critical race theory scholar Ibram X. Kendi, who advocates for a form of racial discrimination euphemistically called “anti-racism.”  The comments, filed by Attorney General Hunter and 19 other state attorneys general, call the teachings of the “1619 Project” and Mr. Kendi deeply flawed and controversial.
What is Critical Race Theory and is it taught in North Carolina? Answers to common questions. (T. Keung Hui and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, News & Observer, 9-28-21) A series on a school board battle. Republicans in North Carolina and nationally, including former President Donald Trump, have called for a ban on what they call “toxic Critical Race Theory” in schools. Many schools say they are not using Critical Race Theory but are trying to make lessons more relevant to an increasingly non-white student enrollment.
What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Are People So Upset About It? (Lauren Camera, US News, 6-1-21) Most Americans are not familiar with term critical race theory, but that hasn’t stopped some from getting upset about attempts to reckon with the sprawling repercussions of slavery.
Critical race theory (Wikipedia) and The 1619 Project are particularly helpful Wikipedia entries, which explain and link to many facets of both topics, liberal, conservative, and objective.
The New York Times’s 1619 Project: A racialist falsification of American and world history (World Socialist Web Site, 9-6-19) A long piece, presenting an opposing viewpoint: "The 1619 Project is one component of a deliberate effort to inject racial politics into the heart of the 2020 elections and foment divisions among the working class. The Democrats think it will be beneficial to shift their focus for the time being from the reactionary, militarist anti-Russia campaign to equally reactionary racial politics."

Laugh at the outrage over ‘sexy seahorses’ – but there’s nothing funny about conservatives trying to rewrite history (Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian, 9-25-21) The rightwing playbook: outrage, leading to the passage of deliberately vague laws and advocacy groups diligently weaponizing those laws. The Moms for Liberty have been methodical: they’ve sent the Tennessee department of education a detailed spreadsheet outlining their complaints about the books being foisted on their children. A book about Galileo is “anti-church.” Over the past year, US conservatives have become obsessed with “critical race theory” (CRT). "None of the people raving about CRT are actually able to explain what the academic concept means; to them it just means anything that is less than complimentary about white people."

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Podcasts about health, health care, medicine and medical science

Aging (Hear Arizona, KJZZ-FM) What it's like to grow old in Arizona.
AMA Podcasts (AMA Moving Medicine, Making the Rounds, AMA Doc Talk)
America Dissected (host Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, on Crooked Media)
Anamnesis (MedPage Today) The story side of medicine. Personal stories from clinicians that baffle, delight, and might make you cry.
AP Cardiology Andrew Perry, MD, hosts a cardiology podcast for internists, residents and medical students.
An Arm and a Leg (A podcast about the high cost of health care, KHN)
Armchair Expert Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Annals On Call (Annals of Internal Medicine)
A Second Opinion Rethinking American Health with Senator Bill Frist, MD
Aspen Ideas to Go

Be a Powerful Patient (NPR) Two doctors share insider tips from the medical world to help you take control of your health care.
Behind the Knife: The Surgery Podcast
Bedside Rounds (host Dr. Adam Rodman)
Ben Greenfield Fitness (for hardcore exercise junkies)
Better Health While Aging
BMJ Talk Medicine
Broome Docs
Business of Health Care (KWBU)

Cancer.net (American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO)
Catching Health (Diane Atwood)
Contagious Conversations (CDC Foundation)
Conversations on Health Care Co-hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter lead in-depth discussions on health policy and innovation with industry newsmakers from around the globe.
Diabetes Core Update Presenting and discussing the latest clinically relevant articles from American Diabetes Association's four scholarly journals, monthly.
Don't Touch Your Face (APIC) Infection prevention.
Dr. Death (Laura Beil, Wondery) A scary story about a charming surgeon, 33 patients, and a spineless system--about Christopher Duntsch, an accredited but incompetent Texas neurosurgeon who was convicted of gross malpractice after 31 of his patients were left seriously injured after surgery, and two others died during it. See also Laura Beil Dissects a Criminal Doctor’s Surgical Rampage (Rachel Zamzow, The Open Notebook, 1-22-19)

Empowered Patient (Karen Jagoda) A window into the latest innovations in digital health and the changing dynamic between doctors and patients
Epidemic (Dr. Celine Gounder)
Everyday Emergency (a podcast about Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, bringing you true stories from people on the frontline of humanitarian emergencies across the world.
Ethics Talk (AMA Journal of Ethics) Illuminating the Art of Medicine

FOAMcast: An Emergency Medicine Podcast
Food Sleuth Radio (KOPN via PRX and Pacifica) Melinda Hemmelgarn,interviews experts who connect the dots between food, health, and agriculture (30-minute format). See Food Sleuth Radio archives
Fresh Air (Terry Gross, Why An ER Visit Can Cost So Much)
The Future of Healthcare

Healthcare Is Hilarious (Casey Quinlan, an advocate for more open access to one's own patient data).
Health Literacy Out Loud Helen Osborne interviews those in-the-know about health literacy.
Health Report (Dr. Norman Swan, Australia)
Healthwatch (Medpage Today) Listen or read.
Hidden Brain (NPR)
The Hilarious World of Depression (John Moe, host, APM Podcasts) "Frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with top comedians who have dealt with this disease"

The Impact (Vox-- a weekly narrative podcast about the consequences that laws have on real people's lives)
Inside Health (BBC Radio 4) Dr Mark Porter demystifies health issues, clarifying fact from fiction on conflicting health advice, with GP Margaret McCartney
Intelligent Medicine Dr. Ronald Hoffman on alternative/preventive medicine, integrative health, and natural healing.
Invisibilia (entertaining stories that explore why we think, act and feel the way we do)

Johns Hopkins Medicine Podcasts
Kaiser Health News (KHN) podcasts
Legends of Surgery

Mayo Clinic Radio
MJA (Medical Journal of Australia)
NEJM This Week (Audio Summaries by the New England Journal of Medicine)
Only Human (Mary Harris, host, WNYC)
The People's Pharmacy (pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical anthropologist Terry Graedon talk to experts about drugs, herbs, home remedies, vitamins and related health topics, NPR, North Carolina Public Radio)
QUESTioning Medicine (produced by two residents, this podcast encourages healthy skepticism of medical convention, which arose from residents and hospitalists wondering why seemingly straightforward cases gave rise to so many varying opinions)

Radio Health Journal
RadioLab (WNYC, investigating a strange world)
The Recommended Dose (with Dr. Ray Moynihan, produced by Cochrane Australia and co-published with the BMJ) In particular, try this one (interesting backstory on Cochran Collaborative) New is not always better; more is not always better; and so on.
Reset (Vox) Every story is a tech story. We live in a world where algorithms drive our interests, scientists are re-engineering our food supply, and a robot may be your next boss.Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning \Arielle Duhaime-Ross explores why — and how — tech is changing everything.

Science Friday (Ira Flatow interviews guests on a range of subjects)
A Second Opinion (Rethinking American Health with Senator Bill Frist, M.D.)
Second Opinion (KCRW, an examination of medical ethics and the practioners who define them.)
The Short Coat Podcast (A Podcast By Medical Students, For Medical Learners of All Kinds)

TED Talks About Science and Medicine
Think: Health (Jake Morcom and Cheyne Anderson, 2SER, Australia) Examines new thinking and new evidence from researchers and academics.
This Podcast Will Kill You Ecologists and epidemiologists Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke tackle a different infectious diseases each episode, from its history, to its biology, and finally, how scared you need to be.
Track the Vax (MedPage Today) Listen or read.
2 Docs Talk (Medical Radio for Smart People, 15-minute podcasts about healthcare, the science of medicine, current issues in medicine and health policy, and everything in between--cohosts Kendall Britt and Amy Rogers, MDs)

The Undifferentiated Medical Student
The Weeds (Vox's podcast for politics and policy discussions). Every Tuesday and Friday, Matthew Yglesias is joined by Ezra Klein, Dara Lind, Jane Coaston and other Vox voices to dig into the weeds on important national issues, including healthcare, immigration, and housing.
What the Health? (excellent Kaiser Health News podcasts about health news and policy, with Julie Rovner and journalists from the Times, Washington Post, Politico, and other news outlets)
The Workaround (Side Effects Public Media) Stories of the difficult and sometimes shocking things people do to work around roadblocks in the U.S. healthcare system. On NPR's Shots program, for example, To Get Mental Health Help for a Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody

Hat tips to Karen Brown, James Bullen, Joe Burns, Dave Rosenthal, Janice Lynch Schuster, Sue Treiman for suggesting some of these podcasts. Go here for a wonderfully full set of links from Covering Health, "Monitoring the pulse of health care journalism," from which I have borrowed liberally.

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Gems from Biographers' International 2021 Zoom conference

Links to BIO's excellent notes on what was discussed on various topics at the 2021 Zoom conference of Biographers International Organization (BIO):


One Subject, Three Ways: Agatha Christie Moderator Laurie Gwen Shapiro kicked off the session with the question, "How does the form chosen to tell a subject's life shape its content?" In this case, the subject was Agatha Christie. Exploring Shapiro's question were three panelists Zooming in from England and France


The Art and Technology of Interviewing Moderator James McGrath Morris and panelists Claudia Dreifus, Brian Jay Jones, and John Brady presented similar views about successful interviewing in this panel. They agreed that a biographer should find out as much as they can about the interviewee and be equally prepared when something unexpected arises in the conversation and pursue that topic. 


Researching Underdocumented Lives This panel continued the morning's plenary discussion, delving deeper into the particular challenges and rewards of researching overlooked and marginalized lives, particularly people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. Moderator Kavita Das kicked off the discussion by asking what drew the panelists to their subjects.


How to Pay for It, or Funding Your Biography Moderator Heath Lee started the session by noting that advances, even from major publishers, have been declining in recent years, and she hoped the panel (Carla Kaplan, Mark Silver, and Steve Hindle) would help biographers find other ways to finance their work.


Writing the First Biography of Your Subject Panelists Justin Gifford, Abigail Santamaria, and Carol Sklenicka, along with moderator Debby Applegate, explored some of the challenges and rewards of writing the first biography of a subject. With Raymond "Carver, Sklenicka heard there was a 'big rift' between his two former wives, which may have put off potential biographers. Publishers like to know that you have the cooperation of a subject's family or estate, but she said the lack of it is not necessarily a roadblock."

Swipe Right for Your Subject: How Do You Know It's the Right One?  Moderator Gayle Feldman asked panelists Mary Dearborn, Eric K. Washington, and Gerald Howard how they have chosen their subjects, quoting Jean Strouse: "If you want to do biography the right way, and get it right, you'd better have chosen the right subject." 

What Biographers Can Learn from Obituary Writers Along with Margalit Fox, moderator Bruce Weber and panelists Adam Bernstein and William McDonald have all written and/or edited obituaries.  Obits are "not the whole life" but "the kernel is there," making an obituary "a really good first stop" for a biographer.

Do I Know Enough? Navigating the Relationship Between Research and Writing Both Kai Bird, author of a recent biography of Jimmy Carter, and 2017 BIO Award-winner Candice Millard, working on a book on the search for the headwaters of the Nile, agreed on the need for extensive amounts of research before beginning to write, but once they reached that point, the two writers couldn't be farther apart on how they work.


[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Are fictional characters protected under copyright law?

Let me know if I am missing anything relevant to and important about this topic.

Are Fictional Characters Protected Under Copyright Law? (Kathryn Goldman on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-14-21) Goldman, an intellectual property lawyer, writes: "Jack Ryan, the analytical, yet charming CIA analyst, made an appearance in federal court in Maryland earlier this year. The heirs to Tom Clancy’s literary legacy are fighting over him. Unlike in the movies, he’s not in a great position to fight back....

      "Here’s the crux of the current court battle: When Clancy mistakenly transferred his copyright in the book Red October to the original publisher, did the copyright to the character Jack Ryan go with it? Or did Clancy retain the character copyright? In normal practice, the sale of the right to publish a copyrighted story does not stop the author from using its characters in future works. "Courts have held, in certain circumstances, that fictional characters are protectable in their own right."...

     'The “well-delineated test” is the most widely accepted legal test used to decide whether a fictional character is protected by copyright, but it is not the only one....

      'A character is protected under the “story being told” test when he dominates the story in a way that there would be no story without him." An excellent account of the issues on an important topic. Be aware of the implications, especially if the character you create might appear in a movie one day.

Protecting Fictional Characters Under U.S. Copyright Law (Richard Stim, Nolo) Fictional characters can, under U.S. law, be protected separately from their underlying works as derivative copyrights, provided that they are sufficiently unique and distinctive. This is based on the legal theory of derivative copyrights. A survey of court cases, among other things.

Copyright protection for fictional characters (Wikipedia) An overview of the issues and court cases. "Historically, the Courts granted copyright protection to characters as parts of larger protected work and not as independent creations. They were regarded as ‘components in a copyrighted works’ and eligible for protection as thus. Recognition of characters as independent works distinct to the plot in which they were embodied came about only in 1930 in the case of Nichols v. Universal Pictures. Following Nichols, the American judiciary has evolved two main tests to determine whether a character in a work can be eligible for copyright protection": The Well-delineated test and the Story being told test.

Copyright in Characters: What Can I Use? Part I Bryan Wasetis, Aspect Law Group, 5-9-14) Learn how copyright law affects video game characters, and ways to avoid copyright infringement. The first part in a three-part series. See also Part II (12-22-15, What are fair use exceptions) and Part III (8-4-18), about characters and trademark.

Marvel and DC’s “Shut-Up Money”: Comic Creators Go Public Over Pay (Aaron Couch, Hollywood Reporter, 7-16-21) "The star writers and artists behind major comic book characters are becoming increasingly outspoken about "paltry" deals that don’t account for their work being adapted into billion-dollar blockbusters.... Conventional wisdom within the comic book industry is to go to Marvel and DC to build your personal brand, then leave, bringing that audience over to publishers that allow you to retain character rights....Creators working at Marvel and DC sign work-for-hire contracts granting the publishers ownership over their characters and storylines."

[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

The man who invented "Guided Autobiography" (aka GAB)

Jim Birren and Cheryl Svensson

 Cheryl Svensson wrote a tribute recently to the late James Birren, a pioneer in the field of gerontology. Jim wrote the first Psychology of Aging textbook (1964) and founded the first school of gerontology in the nation. With Jim as dean, USC's school and gerontology center flourished. Best of all, he invented the "Guided Autobiography" approach to memoir writing. Here's Cheryl's story of how GAB came into being:

"One summer in the early 70's, Jim Birren took a sabbatical and taught a Psychology of Aging class at the University of Hawaii. The class consisted of for-credit students and older retirees who were part of the extended learning program on campus.


"As Jim told the story, the class was 'flat', dull, and not engaging. One day in frustration, he threw up his hands, told everyone to go home, write two pages on a 'branching point' in their lives and then be prepared to read it aloud in class the next day. This was an 'ungraded' assignment. Jim said that the next day, after they had all read their stories, the class came alive. The older people were talking with the younger students; they were making connections with one another that lasted throughout the remainder of the class sessions.


"Jim knew he was onto something but was not sure what it was. He returned to USC and gathered grad students (including his son Jeff) into a seminar class to research and study the history of autobiography, expressive writing, small group process, etc. From this he created Guided Autobiography, a small group process to help people write their life stories. Guided by a facilitator with 'priming' questions based on life themes, the students write two pages at home, return to class, and read them in their small group. The reading and sharing life stories in the small group is where the magic of GAB takes place.


"Jim Birren, the scientist, made a sharp turn in his own career path, a new branching point. His colleagues and peers must have looked at Jim--who changed from respected scientific aging researcher to soft academic interested in writing, life stories, group process--and wondered what happened? Jim was unfazed....


"Over the past 40 years, Jim has written three books on GAB, conducted many research projects beginning as early as 1980, and written countless articles. In the late '90s, a group of friends and colleagues of Jim's gathered around him at UCLA. By then he had retired from USC (a word Betty always said Jim knew how to spell but didn't know what it meant.) We formed the GAB workgroup (Birren disciples, when there were actually 12 of us), and sought ways to develop and extend GAB into new venues. We met as a group frequently and became best of friends. We created spinoff classes such as GAB II, Life Portfolio, Family History, and even an online e-GAB writing class. We built a website. We created a DVD legacy to Jim, we won the ASA award for most 'Innovative Older Adult Learning Program,' and Jim and I presented GAB workshops across the nation. We followed Jim's command to, 'Launch GAB!' "


Reprinted by permission.



See also:
Why I love teaching Guided Autobiography by Lisa Smith-Youngs
Guided Autobiography (The Birren Center)
Telling the Stories of Life Through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren
Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson. As of June 2021, Cheryl has trained 546 GAB instructors from 26 countries.
Telling Your Story, dozens of useful links to resources for capturing your life story or someone else's.

Post a comment

Nicknames of the major Western demographic generations

Nicknames and birthdate ranges for the major demographic cohorts of the United States, with links to the excellent Wikipedia entries for each. See Wikipedia's excellent Generation timeline.

Lost Generation  Born 1883-1900, came of age during World War I. Gertrude Stein coined "You are all a lost generation" and Ernest Hemingway popularized it in ~coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized as the epigraph for his novel The Sun Also Rises.
Greatest Generation Born 1901-27. Also known as the G.I. Generation and the World War II generation.
Silent Generation Born 1928-45. The "Lucky Few" Small because of the Depression and World War II
Baby Boomers     Born 1946-64. The Me Generation.
Generation Jones Born 1955-1965 "Keeping up with the Joneses"
Generation X or "Gen X" Born 1965-1980. The "baby bust" because of smaller numbers; sometimes called the "latchkey generation."
Xennials              Born 1977 -1983. A "micro-generation" or "crossover generation," with an analog childhood and digital adulthood.
Millennials           Born 1981-1996. Gen Y and the "echo boomers" as children of boomers; sometimes called "digital natives" as growing up familiar with the Internet, mobile devices, and social media,
Generation Z or Gen Z or iGen  Born 1997-2012. Sometimes called "Zoomers." "The second generation after Generation X, continuing the alphabetical sequence from Generation Y (Millennials)."
Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha  Born in early 2010s-mid-2020s. First to be born entirely in 21st century and to live through the Covid-19 pandemic.


[Back to Top]
Be the first to comment

Here's the deal with ISBNs: A note to authors who self-publish

guest post by Maggie Lynch


ISBNs are required with print books, unless you are only selling direct (out of your car or from your website) and not distributing anywhere else. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. ISBNs are used all over the world as a unique identifier for your printed book. Think of it like your book passport. The unique ISBN number carries a lot of information--the area where your book was created (e.g., North America), the language of your book (e.g., English), the name of the publisher name issuing the ISBN, a mathematically calculated identifier for your book that includes the title, the format, and edition number. And finally a check digit to ensure it is unique.

That last part of the identifier (title, format, and edition number) is also a cue as to what you can and can't change without getting a new ISBN. If you change your title, your format (ebook, paperback, hardback, large print, audiobook), or do a new edition you will need a new ISBN number. If you are re-issuing a book where you have received rights back from a traditional publisher, you will need a new ISBN number.


It used to be that ISBNs were required for ebooks. Amazon was the first company not to require them, coming up with their own inventory system (ASINs). Amazon assigns the ASIN once you load your book for sale. I can't remember when the other major distributors stopped requiring them, maybe six years ago or so.

So, a lot of people ask why should I buy an ISBN for an ebook? The answer for me is tracking.

Certainly, you can let each distribution entity assign an ISBN or use their own inventory control system for your books. All the major ebook distributors and aggregators (D2D, Smashwords, Publish Drive, etc.) no longer require you to have an ISBN. However, it makes it a lot harder to track your book's distribution from one distributor to another if you don't. It also makes it difficult to track how a widespread promotion is working over various distributors because they each have a different number assigned to your book. Finally, for those who are career authors building a brand for their publishing imprint, when you use the ISBN offered by Amazon or Ingram or Lulu or whoever you use for self-publishing, it is their name associated with your book on that ISBN, not yours.


On print books, IMO, it is even more important that you control your ISBN for the following reasons:

• You have complete control over what is entered in your book's metadata—that is, the descriptions and categories, the keywords and editorial 'pull quotes'. All of these help libraries, bookstores, retailers, and readers around the world discover your book and decide whether they want to purchase it. In today's digital world, your book's metadata can hugely impact its chances of being found and purchased by your target audience. When you own the ISBN you can get in and change this metadata whenever you want. (For ebooks, this is not as a big a deal because when loading to ebook retailers you are already filling out all that metadata information online.)

• As you are the publisher of record, your ISBN will remain unchanged even if you change your publishing service company or publish with multiple companies. If you decide to do a second edition (something often done with nonfiction books) you again have complete control over taking the first edition off sale or leaving it, and tying the two books together.

• Any individual bookstore or organization with larger orders or inquiries about your book will approach you as the publisher of record rather than a publishing service company (e.g., Amazon,, Ingram, Book Baby, LuLu, Books Fluent, etc.) that may not have your sense of urgency or care about how to respond to these requests. For me, I'd rather be approached directly instead of through a publishing service company.


Since shifting from traditional publishing to becoming a publisher myself, I have always purchased my own ISBNs because I've always looked at the long game for my career. However, for those who are only publishing a single book or perhaps plan two or three in their lifetime, using the free ISBN provided by a distributor or publishing services company is perfectly fine with very little downside.


You can purchase ISBNs at any time and then use them as you need them. The key is to complete the information needed once the book is released.


For example, I purchase 100 ISBNs at a time for my imprint. Because purchasing ISBNs can be expensive (i.e., $125 to purchase one or $275 to purchase ten) it is best to purchase more instead of one at a time. Some years, we have enough authors publishing that I use all 100 in a year. Other times it has taken two to three years to use all 100 before I make my next purchase.


On the other hand, if you are only writing one book, it may be beneficial to use the free ISBN provided by most distributors  (Ingram Spark, Amazon, D2D and many other print and ebook distributors will provide a free ISBN under their name.)


What's your experience?


Maggie Lynch




Be the first to comment

Should Norton have unpublished the Philip Roth bio?

Could there be a better topic for debate? Meat for discussion:
•  Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey. Note the many glowing reviews quoted on the book's Amazon page.
Norton Takes Philip Roth Biography Out of Print (Alexandra Alter and Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 4-27-21) The publisher also said it would make a donation to sexual abuse organizations equal to the advance it paid Blake Bailey, the author accused of sexual assault.
• Author Guild Statement about W.W. Norton's Removing Blake Bailey's Books from Circulation (AG, 4-29-21) W.W. Norton issued a memo on April 27 that it will permanently take Blake Bailey's biography of Philip Roth out of print in response to credible allegations that Mr. Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and behaved inappropriately toward his students when teaching eighth grade English. The Authors Guild condemns sexual assault and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, we are deeply troubled by W.W. Norton's decision to take Blake Bailey's books, including the recently published Roth biography, out of print.
Blake Bailey's Life as a Man (Katha Pollitt, The Nation, 4-28-21) "The disgraced writer's Philip Roth biography is a document of a misogynist literary world. But I had to read the book to get the whole story."

I Was 12 When We Met (Eve Crawford Peyton, Slate, 4-29-21) "Blake Bailey was my favorite teacher. Years later, he forced himself on me. Why did I seek his approval for so long...One by one, women from many different years of his class started sharing our stories. There were so many of us.

Rebecca Traister on the Connection Between Power and Abuse (Amanpour & Company, PBS, 4-28-21) Bailey faces accusations of his own: that he sexually assaulted multiple women and "groomed" underage students prior to making advances once they came of age.
Why stopping the distribution of the Philip Roth biography was a bad idea (Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post, 4-22-21) Better to publish than to squelch.
What We Lose When Only Men Write About Men (Ruth Franklin, NY Times, 4-30-21) The recent uproar surrounding Philip Roth's authorized biographer, Blake Bailey — whose book has now been taken out of print in the wake of accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior — has refocused attention on literary biography's man problem and the question of who is allowed to read and quote from a writer's materials, and under what terms.
Philip Roth and His Defensive Fans Are Their Own Worst Enemies (Jeet Heer, The Nation, 4-30-21) Why did it take a sexual assault scandal to raise red flags about a deeply flawed biography?
The Philip Roth biography is canceled, Mike Pence’s book could be next — and publishing may never be the same (Ron Charles, Book World, Washington Post, 4-27-21) Even by the standards of the #MeToo movement, Bailey’s descent has been precipitous...."Critics will claim that Bailey, Pence and others are being silenced, but that ignores the reality of our marketplace. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had no trouble finding another publisher when Simon & Schuster dropped him for promoting falsehoods about the presidential election. Even Woody Allen found another publisher!"
If the Author Is a Bad Person, Does That Change Anything? (Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 4-27-21) "Bailey’s comeback to his former students’ complaints—that his behavior was deplorable but not illegal—indicates a Humbert Humbert level of narcissistic detachment. As it happens, Bailey taught Lolita at the New Orleans middle school where he is said to have groomed his students."
The Blake Bailey Fiasco Implicates Everyone (Jo Livingstone, New Republic, 4-23-21) Philip Roth hand-picked Blake Bailey for the job of writing his biography. He was jealous of his legacy, and had fired a previous biographer who had a “mean, insatiably vilifying spirit,” according to the great writer. What effect will accusations of sexual assault have on the acclaimed biographer’s champions?
Philip Roth’s Revenge Fantasy (Laura Marsh, New Republic, 3-22-21) The novelist wanted his biography to settle scores. It has badly backfired.



I intended to give links to stories that provide a broad overview of the Roth-Bailey biography and the issues that arise because of it. Let me know if I've missed something important.


Be the first to comment