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Learning on the hard setting

The past few months, I’ve been trying to teach myself brush lettering. If there’s one thing I’m not going to be good at are things that demand both precision and looseness, and using a brush to write with is the ultimate of that. The rules are simple — thin lines on the upstrokes, thick lines on the down stroke, but my upstrokes always look like the spidery line had had a few pints before getting caught driving home.

But I had two pens. The easy one, that behaved like a brush, but was just flexible rubber and the other had long, individual brush hair. The first was so much easier to make it look good, but I have cats and they skittered it somewhere so I had to keep practicing with the long brush if I was to figure it out at all.

It was frustrating, going from something that sometimes looked like it was almost there to using a brush that made the letters look awful no matter how careful I thought I was being, but with the brush, there was no fudging it like the flexible rubber pen. Day after day I spent really concentrating on lifting the pen at the right spot or upstrokes that wavered less and less until they stopped wavering at all.

And then I found the pen that was so easy to use. After all that time with the difficult pen, using the brush that made it look easy with the techniques I learned having to do it the hard way was easy-peasy from the first time I put it down on paper again.

In my education degree, we had a tennis instructor come talk to us about teaching. He asked if you were teaching someone who had never played tennis before, if you would raise the net or lower it, and we all said lower it, obviously. Make it as easy as possible. He said no, you raise it. It makes using the skill easier, not harder.

And because I can’t go thirty seconds without thinking how anything applied to writing, it made me think of all the writers who told me that they understood the rule that they broke inefficiently was broken inefficiently on purpose. I wonder if they took the time to write enough stories where the character shows the reader their backstory enough times, how much clearer they would be able to see that the shortcut they gave the reader didn’t take them to the same place that the long way around would have.

I don’t need to know how your characters got from the end of the street fight to the tavern. You can tell me they arrived an hour later and I believe you. I’ll even follow you if up that point, you’ve shown all the important bits and the group comes in, talking about the manticore they had to slaughter to gain entry to the bar. Sure. Every book has a few opportunities to tell the reader something important. But if the rest of the story is told to that point, it’s just more telling. Pacing matters. You would think it didn’t for all the times I’ve been told the story is just fine if the rest of the critique group likes it. Show me you know how to show the moving parts of the story, I’ll think the manticore thing was hilarious instead of another missed opportunity to show the interesting bits on paper.

I absolutely agree that there are no rules. But if the story tells more of a story than it lives and the sum is less than its parts, there are lots and lots and lots of guidelines that has to be shown in the writing and not at the critique circle.

But anyway, I’m glad I found my pen. I’ve been wanting to learn how to write “happy birthday” on cards and have it look like sober spiders for a while now.

The cost of (public) failure in writing

I had a math teacher who only knew how to explain math to the students who already understood math. I decided watching her teach that the only math teachers who should be allowed to teach math must be the students who had to learn how to make sense of things that just came naturally to most math teachers.

I know, as a writer, I’ve had to figure out a lot of the moving parts of story. I mean, yes, POV is important, but how do you do POV? What individual choices can you make to shift the camera from recording what the characters do and say to reliving for the reader how the character thinks and feels isn’t a matter of sentence structure. I could get the student to slow down, to think of not just what happens but to imagine how that would feel to them and get them practicing scenes where every action has a reaction for the character. We could practice emotional reactions. Physical reactions. We could practice describing scenery, not just by what it looks like or how it makes the character feel, but how it does both of those while the character moves through the setting, picking out the important details that a character who is mostly focused on the task at hand would notice.

And I could do all that, because that’s how I figured it out. It was frustrating, taking the time to filter every thought through, “Right, but how would that *feel*?” until encorporating how it would would feel became second nature. But ask me, “Right, how do you write dialogue that matters?” I don’t really know.

If there’s one tool that I’ve always had in my toolbox, it was the ability to make meaningful dialogue feel like situationally appropriate conversation between two characters who didn’t know their dialogue was being recorded for posterity. Good dialogue is hard to do and nothing sinks a piece faster than dialogue that doesn’t feel like natural for me.

There’s advice I could give — brevity is really the soul of wit, end the conversation as naturally as possible after the point’s been made as possible. Never us a page to say what can be said in a look, etc, but I couldn’t walk them through the process step by step. Eventually, all my advice comes back to “Just write natural dialogue”.

The learning is in the doing, which means being willing to make mistakes. But when almost every story writers write today is for some form of immediate publication, I wonder where the freedom to practice and make mistakes comes in. I wonder what the true cost of failure is when every failure is also a public and commercial failure, too.

Story engines and seed growth

When I sit down to write a book, I usually have no idea what it is going to ultimately be about. I’m a character driven reader and writer, so it doesn’t matter what happens as long it tests my character to the furthest of their abilities and they have to change to succeed. I use a few cheats for this. When an idea first occurs to me I don’t sit down and write it until I know a few things about the world.

I need to know the protagonist, and what they’re trying to do at the start of the story. I need to know what’s immediately stopping them. I don’t need to know how that immediate roadblock ultimately runs into the predominate roadblock, but I trust future writer me to figure that out.

These are the parts of the story I need for my engine that will get me to the point where I (and the character) suddenly understand why the character’s life has been going so downhill so fast. Once all three parts are engaged, what happens next is limited only by my imagination.

I need to know what I’m trying to say, thematically. I’ve gone from thinking theme is the new clothes that the Emperor is/isn’t wearing to understanding that knowing what I’m trying to say on a thematic level should influence every major decision and every outcome so it’s always echoing somewhere in the story. It needs the lightest of touches or it’s going to feel like 2x4shadowing, but whatever the reader has to realize about the theme is what the character finally understands in the moment of their ultimate crisis. Knowing what that is from the start aims the entire story at that point.

And I need to know what it is about the world that is going to be different. Urban fantasy is a good place to start, but what about the setting sets the world at a slight angle from everything that’s come before.

Once I have all those pieces, whatever my character does to solve the problem at hand gives way to an adventure where the protagonist and I figure things out together. Here’s where the train metaphor becomes a harvester of early ideas. The more interesting seeds I cast, the more bountiful the eventual payoff when all these random occurances suddenly make complete sense once I use the theme to connect them in the rewrite. I never know which interesting thing that’s happening in the now of the store becomes the fulcrum of the story, but until I know for sure, it could be any of them.

I love trying to plant as many seeds as possible in the beginning of my work that can be cultivated as the story progresses. The more interesting I can make the world, the more opportunities I give awesome ideas to grow.

It’s why I think the learning has to be in the doing of the skill, and not in the end product. It’s not enough to do that a couple times and have something that doesn’t meander off tangents off cliffs. I still rewrite my drafts at least three times before I think the first draft is really finished. The first edit is practically a rewrite even if structurally, the story doesn’t change. Any great idea is followed, no matter how much work is needed to make it fit.

You learn what you practice, because it’s in the repeated doing that repeatable skills are learned.

Why Neil Gaiman is right about what he’s wrong about.

Two quotes that get passed down from writer to writer from famous authors are about as commonsensical as thinking Earth is flat. One is Stephen King’s formal for the second draft, which I’ve ranted about in the past. The other is Neil Gaiman’s quote about how the pros write when the amateurs wait for inspiration. Because what he says is absolutely right. He’s just wrong if he’s using the quote to suggest amateurs should write like pros if they want to be pros.


Amateur writers need to know the feeling of inspired writing. They need to hold it in their hand and dissect it like Beatrix Potter sliced open rabbits to see how they moved. If the author must hold still until inspiration settles like a spider web across the fingertips, it’s not a bad thing.


We didn’t stay hunter-gathers as a population for long, and neither will those who hunt inspired moments. It’s only a matter of time before those touched by inspired writing learn how to harness it, farm it, and make it reproduce itself at a much more convenient time than just when it feels like showing up. It’s human nature to domesticate our resources.


Instead, I see amateurs doing what the pros are doing because the pros are doing it and not understanding any reasoning behind it. If King writes 1500 words a day, so too should every writer. And if every writer hadn’t cut down the trees and pulled up the roots, tilled the soil and irrigated it properly to be able to produce 1500 words of plot each day, what fills up those pages isn’t going to be story. Could it be rewritten from the ground up once it’s completed to cut out all that deadwood that got pulled up instead of fruitful crops? Yes. Will it be?


Rewriting is a whole separate skill to learn beyond just writing first drafts.


There are more differences between the pros and the non-pros than how much and when they write. Learning how to weave a story together in a way that delivers a rich reader’s experience is a skill that takes time to practice and get better at.


So Gaiman is right. Amateurs should wait for inspiration, but just so they can memorize the sensation of its heartbeat in the tips of the fingers. Having the skillset to recreate that sensation on command is the real difference between pros and amateurs.

Infodumping conversations

Infodumping has a bad rap until you let Rob Sawyer defend its reputation, and then you start nodding along and agreeing with him. So when I’m talking about this kind of infodumping, it’s not the kind of infodump where you stop the story to handwave away the physics of interplanetary travel that we’re not capable of with all of today’s technology. As long as it’s engaging, it’s in play.


What I’m talking about isn’t so much the “As you know, Bob” conversations, but the “I know Bob, let me tell you about him, now that you need to know this” conversations. There are times you can get away with rehashing old information both characters already know. People IRL do this all the time. It can feel very natural to have two people about to break up their marriage rehash every sore wrong because they don’t want to take out the trash.

There’s probably even a great time in a work where Character A tells Character B precisely what they need to know and have it sing off the page. You may be able to get away with using this a couple of times in a novel-length piece. Where it starts to drag is where it becomes a primary method of telling your characters and readers what they need to know.


Even through dialogue, it’s still telling. And even if you show the characters talking, it is the least exciting method of conveying that bit of information? There’s a reason that the bad guy spilling their guts over their evil plan only feels satisfying if the protagonists had to work very hard for that information.

Knowledge in the story has to be earned for it to have weight and value. To talk about my method, I write my stories so that almost no new information comes out in the second half. Every part of the first half is in the first half because it sets up things in the second half. By the time the reader gets to where they have to know a plot point, they already know it, just before it’s needed.


It’s why I don’t have three acts. I have football games. The first half is a build-up, from the start of the beginning to the halfway point. All the stakes are in place before the spectacular halftime show that is the point of no return. It’s then a downhill race to get from the beginning of the end to the end of the end as I tie up all the loose strings I cut in the first half.


I worked a kitchen job for one summer over my undergrad, and it was enough that I tip 20% to the waitress no matter the quality of the food ever since. But I never forgot my boss saying, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” For writing, if your characters have time to lean, they have time to scream. I think characters that stand around and talk should be the exception, not the rule. If the reader needs to read a conversation, either the stakes have to matter so the reader is on the edge of their seat, or the characters should be doing something else that’s important to the plot while they’re having the conversation.


One hundred thousand words aren’t that much to tell an engaging work. To waste it on characters telling other characters what they need to know more than once or twice just feels wasteful. Considering a story is defined by how the character changes, using dialogue to show the characters what they need to know isn’t going to change them as much as having earned it.

Egg dropping and storytelling

Have you ever done that thing in school where you’re given an egg and told to make it survive a long fall by whatever means you could through whatever supplies you could find? That’s storytelling to me, but the egg isn’t the character; it’s the reader you’re trying to make feel something.


I never started to embrace reading other people’s work as the best way to learn until we were at a brunch and critique IFWA did. I can’t remember who was waiting at the hostess stand when we arrived, but I knew I didn’t know her name with 100% accuracy. I asked her, as a writerly conversation, if she was enjoying giving the critiques so far.


“Not really,” she said. It surprised me. I didn’t think anyone liked to critique, but we only did it to get our stuff critiqued. But that was saying the quiet parts out loud. As though reading my mind, she continued. “I only do it to get my stuff read.”


Which, I mean, so had I, ten seconds ago. But hearing my rationale from someone else’s mouth drove me to prove how wrong it was. “But it’s so useful,” I argued.


“How?” she asked. At this point, I’m mostly making up the conversation, but I promise it remains true to the spirit of the one we had.


I can’t remember if this was before or after realizing that as writers, we were all making identical mistakes but were able to justify it to ourselves that it worked despite the shortcuts taken to delivering the full emotional experience to the reader. I was years away from understanding that the rules aren’t the rules because some dead white guy said so, but because through the years of craft, the easiest ways to do things become set in stone. The easiest way to get your reader to respond to the piece emotionally is by having an empathetic main character. They should realize that who they are as a person at the beginning of the story has to change to be the character they need to challenge, if not overcome, the challenge they’re facing. Saving the world or a marriage, it doesn’t matter what the stakes are.


And yet, I kept seeing stories taking shortcuts. The easiest way for the reader to feel engaged in the story is to have conflict and stakes. Something needs to oppose them from getting what they want or keeping what they have, and it has to matter why they want it. The easiest way for a reader to want to read to the end is to make the reader understand where the character is coming from, even if that isn’t the reader’s history. The easiest way to not blow that is to keep the character’s reactions to what the average reader would find on the outer rim of what that reader would do in the same situation. It is possible to write a story where the character’s reactions are beyond what a reader would empathize with. There are lots of modern classics that can do that. However, they set the bar to how good the exception has to be to still work despite the lack of empathy. An empathetic character needs to tell a good story. An unempathetic character needs to tell a great one.


This is why the whole contraption the egg sits in is the story, and the reader is the egg. Your account of it takes your reader through an event as though you’re about to throw your story off the roof of the gym. How that reader survives the trip, safe and secure or battered and broken, is up to the strength of the story. You may want your egg to survive. You may want it to shatter into a million pieces. But an egg that never falls doesn’t live through an experience.


The most important part of the story is how I feel when I finish it, but so many stories want to tell you what happens instead of how the character grows having experienced it. The easiest way to get the reader to care is to give them something worth being cared about, however your ideal reader defines it. It reminds me of the legend of the Golem. Without a song or prayer in its mouth, it’s just a lump a clay. A story without a reason to emotionally engage the reader to me is just as responsive.

Rejection, then and now.

When I was 25, I didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve, my sleeve was made of my heart. If I had to pinpoint the worst years of my life, it would be my early to mid-twenties. If I wasn’t writing, I’d have no idea what to do with (to quote Troy from community, “MY EMOTIONS! MY EMOTIONS.”)

So I wrote this book. I’d imagined was going to be the book that was going to complete my childhood dream of being published before 25. I’d just sold a couple short stories to some excellent semi pro-markets and I thought this was the next logical step.

And Boston had been magical. I’d listened to Neil Gaiman read, I had him and Sir Terry Pratchett sign a copy of Good Omens, one of my wife’s favourite books even though it took probably most of a day in line to get them both to sign it. The panels had been great — The Tor panel on what to expect as a first time author as in published author was probably the most I’d learned in a panel. When Anna and I decided to skip the last day to go to Salem, because Salem was only a train ride away, we both jumped at the chance to get away.

Salem was amazing. As cheezy and commercial as anything you could imagine, and extremely modern considering in the seventies, they’d knocked down the old jail that had kept the actual “witches” (read, good Christians who wouldn’t give up their faith or the lands though it cost them their lives) to build a power company building. The graveyard was epic. There was this old oak tree that had probably greeted the first townies as they arrived. It had this one jutting out branch that ran parallel to the earth almost as long as the tree was tall, and so strong and thick that Anna could run on it. The gravestones were written in a time before S and F were two different letters.

So of course we got our cards read, and the sum of mine said “Not yet.” Man, I was upset walking out of that room, but I have to say, I hated the submission process. I’d sent out a couple of queries prior to the convention, and had gotten form letters. My god, they stung. All I needed to hear was one “no” and that story was never opened again.

But I was extremely lucky. I’d submitted a book to Loose Id that I’d written as a birthday present to a friend and sent it in before going to Boston on a lark. After that, my books from MLR, Amber Quill and Less than Three were all invitations. As long as I didn’t have to worry about rejection, I was writing my heart out, pumping out four books a year.

Then it took three years to get my heart back. In that cavernous silence in which I didn’t write anything for the first time since age 11, I decided in a fit of wisdom to go back and get my MFA. I hadn’t written in three years, but really, it was the perfect time.

And then the words came back and I’m twenty years older than that broken kid on a flight back to Calgary. My heart’s back in my chest where it belongs. Rejection just means the inconvenience of having to find the next person who will be able to see what I put into Kakotopia.

There’s three ways to get published in this world. Be great, be lucky, or be incredibly stubborn and learn how to grow between being good and being great. I was never a great writer. I had some skills, but the weaknesses dragged the story down more than the strengths made them float.

I think there comes a point where rejections are just rejections and I move on. I’m not great. I’m not lucky. I’m skilled and stubborn and happy with my choices. When I started out, each one sure felt like the death of my dream. What a difference time makes.

More self-published thoughts

I was on a Lethbridge Wordbridge panel yesterday about self-publishing, and I just want to share all that I couldn’t say because of time restraints. To recap my main points, the advice given to self-published authors to succeed were formulated a decade ago at a time where there was only about 200,000 books being published that year. It was still possible, though even then, extremely hard to do, to get your gem of a book noticed from all the other self-published books out there. As I said on the panel, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer and not a Debbie crusher of all hopes and dreams here, but I think something has to be said for the millions of self-published of authors who tried and failed at it who think they failed because they didn’t try hard enough and not because they had an infinitesimal chance at it to begin with. The only people you hear touting the process are the winners and the people changing their dollars to tokens to start playing the slots. Everyone else is dead silent.

And I want to repeat, there are lots of legit reasons to self-publish. Poetry books almost have to be self-published but for some exceptional exceptions. Family history books that aren’t meant for beyond the family or cook books or niche market books or stories about narrow regional interests make great self-published titles. If you already have an existing following who would love to read what you write, go for it. If you have a great platform and can sell books to those who listen to you as well. What self-publishing isn’t is a quick and easy short cut around the dread-pirate “gatekeepers” set up between you and your loving fans on the other side of the fence.

In 2016, 800,000 books were released, in 2017, a million books were released, in 2018, 1.3 million books were released and, this year thanks to the most recent numbers from Bowker.com, if the rate of increase hasn’t gone up since the 2017 numbers (and it has been on the increase for a decade now), 1.6 million books will be self-published in this year and almost 2 million books will be released next year.

That is a rate of almost 4,500 books a day or 183 books an hour each hour of every day. I’ve been told that the key to self-publishing to guarantee success is using Amazon analytics and using social media, but I told them that wasn’t the key, that was the bare minimum needed to be done. With so many writers desperately trying to do the exact same thing as any other self-published author using the exact same channels, how much attention can you really draw to yourself? I’ve seen writers on writing boards complaining of throwing ten thousand dollars into a marketing campaign and not having anything at all to show for it.

And let’s go back to all the authors who have a standard or typical outcome of the process, instead of being in that lucky 1% that can make decent money at it, or the top 0.1% that can compare their income to any traditionally published moderate success story, I would really like to see self-published authors newly into the game stop dismissing the outcomes of those who have come before them as personal failures instead of system failures. If the new player has that typical outcome too, what are people going to say about you when they step up for their shot?

And you really have to avoid those self-published authors who are–or say they are–a huge success at it that encourage you by focusing on how much money they make, or how much money you could make if you just do what they do without telling you exactly how much work and effort went into their fortunes. If their sales pitch sounds like an MLM where it doesn’t matter what the product is, all that matters is how much they make by working the system, you’ve got a real problem. It’s unsurprising to me that the success rate of MLMs and self-publishing seem to pretty much be on par, and the self-published guru isn’t making a dime on those they recruit. Unless, of course, that’s their platform for selling more books.

I want to make it clear that publishing is hard. It is difficult to get something that you’ve made to a level where someone who doesn’t love you loves it. People are exceptionally busy and money will always be tight. Getting your work to the point where it will be worth not only $10 and 4 hours but $10 spending money after all the other taxes and expenses the person has and 4 free time hours after all the work, sleep, social and  family time that is filling up their days, you’re asking for something extremely precious from your audience. If you want to have a good working relationship with people who want to keep coming back and reading your stuff instead of spending all that extra time trying to find people who haven’t read your first book and judged it to be not worth their time and money, you need to give them something precious in return.

When people tell you that the first thing you need to do is hire an editor, they’re telling you the actual third step of the process. They’re skipping the bit where you need to learn how to write at a level that other people will find value in your work and the step where you learn how to do that consistently. This is true no matter which path you choose to go down, traditional or self-published. It can be taught, and you can learn it. Once you get to that point though, traditional publishing bent writers just need to find an agent or editor who actively is looking for that book that ticks all the boxes that the writer has learned to tick. The self-published author with that exact same book has to throw it into the millions of books that have been released over the past three years and hopes theirs, somehow, gets chosen.

Youtubery writing resources

I ran into a problem in my thirties where as good as the writing group I was in was, I was personally hitting a wall. I was falling into the trap of valuing clean prose that wasn’t called out for basic mistakes over messy prose that might not have been as polished and I was at a point where getting standard advice over general rules no longer applied for my specific attempt at what I was doing it, yet the generic advice was being given over and over again. The critiquers who were exceptions were brilliant at it, but I found my growth as a writer was starting to plateau.

I saw new writers coming into the group full of vim and vigour with their roughly formed but interesting takes on things and saw everything that made their writing style unique getting buffed out as they turned their writing over to a committee. I saw the danger of writers writing for other writers instead of writing for readers who care more about the character and the plot than they do about clean prose.  As great as my teachers were, I wanted to reach out into other fields and glean what I could from as many places as I could.

So I went to youtube. The most help I found was a YouTuber named Vihart, who was a math-musician, of all things, but the way she talked about the creative process spoke to me, personally. Any of her videos are worth a watch, but I want to talk about the two videos that sat down and spoke to my soul, and then branch off to other channels that also are excellent and helped me before asking you guys what help have you gotten from the ‘tube.

The first video, like I said, is just great, but I want to concentrate on what is said after the 11-minute mark here. The video is about a style of creating music that deals with combinations and permutations rather than any actual skill involved, but what she says about the creative process is fascinating. Music is just twelve tones put together by people who have experimented enough that they would know how the music sounds without having to go through every permutation to find different notes that no one has come up with before that sound interesting.

Writing, to me, is the same way. As you’re just starting out, you may only grasp the dominant notes a story can have – hero, antagonist, problem, plot and put them through the obvious paces that anyone just starting out would know to do. Every once and a while a new writer can stumble down a path of notes/storylines that takes them into fascinating, new territory, but without the skill to be able to create something like that with any regularity other than luck, it’s tough to count on being able to follow down interesting paths. Being good at writing is just being able to imagine how plot points well away from the simple tunes like Mary has a little lamb but still take a unique path down an interesting line of events to get to an original ending. The more practice you have, the better you are able to set out planning to go off the beaten path but still get somewhere good.

What she says about copyright and the way the author’s intent to cause an emotional reaction, done ham-handedly, can show the viewer their intention to produce that emotion rather than the emotion itself, which almost never works. Viewers know when their being poorly manipulated, and it’s not a good look.

The other video I want to share is mainly the first part of They Become What They Beheld, which isn’t even Vihart’s own word. She’s reading from the foreword of They Became What They Beheld, by Edmund Carpenter, which really punched me in all my feels. I think the initial questions that she asks are equally valid when it comes to writing as well. The dreaded feeling that we’re none of us doing this “right”, but then she pulls out the book and reads from the foreword, the most powerful bit to me is the idea that artists do not create audiences. They are speaking to themselves out loud. If what they have to say is significant, others hear and are affected. There’s no skipping that step. No amount of marketing or sales force behind you can make something that doesn’t speak to your audience speak to your audience. I know in fiction, people like to point at Twilight and say the rules don’t apply any more, but as awful as those books are from a technical and moral standpoint, they spoke deeply to their audience.

She goes on to say the problem with saying things clearly and fully, is that clear statements are generally obsolete thinking. I always saw writing as a bay leading out to the ocean, where the sand and silt on the beach and under the water are what people are trying to mine to find good stories. The closer you are to the safe beach, the more you’re digging into sand that a million other writers have tried gripping before. If you want the good stuff that hasn’t been pawed over for centuries, you have to get in a boat, row out as far as you can, and free dive all the way to the bottom and bring up whatever you can to the surface. That new silt isn’t going to be perfect. It isn’t going to be smeared on the page as it is and make something that is well-formed. It’s going to be crumpled and half there. It’s up to the writer to make something out of that raw material, and their first attempts at doing it aren’t going to match the polish that the beach people who haven’t taken any risks can make their work look like. Writing groups love the beach writing, because it’s easy to digest and quick to critique. The half-formed gunk at the bottom of the ocean may not be accessible. It may not be polished, but it can be made to be with extra work in the way that the writing from the beach can never be made to be made more complicated without even more work done to it.

Well, that rambled on more than I thought it would. I just want to mention a few more author channels without going into detail. John Green’s analogy of what a rough draft is was brilliant. If the final draft of the work is the ashtray that people my age still made in kindergarten for our parents, the rough draft is just getting the clay from the riverside to the table in the art room. I am not going to find the youtube video I saw it in, but here’s the blog post it’s based on.

Continuing on Maureen Johnson on another guest vlogbrother channel talks about daring to suck here:

Their crash course on screenplays was helpful:

I really enjoyed Lindsay Ellis (who is a genius) talk about literature in It’s Lit, a PBS channel.

As was the whole Film Courage channel:

 

spring asparagus and roasted cherry tomato pasta

IMG_1820I experimented a bit tonight. I’ve been trying to perfectly roast the thick asparagus without it tasting raw or turning mushy, so I broke off the stalks and threw them in our cast iron pot with a lid. I turned the oven to 450 degrees and threw in a couple cups of cherry tomatoes (sprayed with oil and a bit of salt) in a pan to roast and waited 20 minutes for the oven to come to temperature.

I removed the tomatoes, put the pot in (lid off), and roasted the asparagus for 10 minutes. Then I took the pot out, covered it off the heat and let it steam for the twenty minutes it took to bring pasta water up to boil and the pasta to finish cooking. It was green and tender, but still crisp. To make the simplest pasta ever, throw the roasted tomatoes, chopped asparagus and about a quarter cup of goat cheese and swirl it around until the roasted tomatoes and cheese become saucy. Then crack some pepper and you’re good.