[Electric Speed] My new webcam | AI for writer’s block | Old maps

Digital tools and resources for creative people
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Electric Speed from Jane Friedman
A note from Jane

Let me tell you about the most embarrassing gathering I ever hosted.

It was my senior year of college and I couldn’t wait to welcome the new incoming staff at the newspaper where I worked. I also happened to be living in my very first apartment rather than a dorm room, with a real kitchen. So naturally I figured I should cook something for this special occasion. And my favorite dish in the world? Green bean casserole.

But I didn’t have much time to fuss with it, so I dumped four cans of green beans into a big stock pot, along with two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and heated it. Voila.

Then, for something sweet, I had recently re-discovered my childhood love of Nilla Wafers. I got a jumbo box.

And that’s what I served. Maybe there were some other items around. A bag of chips maybe? Some cheese cubes?

I don’t remember. What I do remember is going into the newspaper office the next morning, and the adviser telling me she had heard all about my green bean and Nilla Wafer party.

That moment gave me lasting insecurity about hosting people and revealing either that I have no taste or no class.

Yet at the same time, how I’d love to recapture that time in life where I had little fear or care of such judgments—to share what I love, without shame.

Jane

P.S. Most popular blog post this month: How Big of a Problem Is “Head Hopping”?

Cartoon by Bob Eckstein: A Charlie Brown-shirted Jane Friedman opens her apartment door in the evening to admit Peanuts characters Marcie and Franklin.
Bob Eckstein
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Jane’s Electric Speed List
Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I am not paid to mention any of these resources; there are no affiliate links.)
I have a new webcam: Opal
While my Mac has a perfectly fine built-in camera, it doesn’t zoom in as much as I prefer for online teaching. About a year ago, I signed up to reserve an Opal webcam ($300) and have been using it for several months now. It does a great job with zoom and can also artfully blur your background (known as Bokeh). It’s not as great as having a DSLR camera hooked up to your computer, but it’s as close as you’ll get at this cost.
How James Clear is writing his next book
James Clear is the author of the bestselling nonfiction book, Atomic Habits, and if you subscribe to his newsletter, then you know he consumes an unbelievable amount of material and usefully retains and synthesizes it. In this interview, he is very transparent about his research and writing methods. I read it more than a year ago and still find myself thinking about it.
Beat writer’s block using artificial intelligence
AI writing tools are becoming more incredible over time. While I don’t think writers will be out of jobs because of AI, these tools offer an interesting way to bust your way out of writer’s block. If youre curious about the benefits of an AI writing companion, consider Sudowrite. Even The New Yorker tried it and liked it. (Free trial, then you have to pay.)
Easily find old maps
I was able to find delightful maps of both my tiny hometown in Indiana, as well as my current Cincinnati neighborhood. Try it.
 
Short Story Writing for Publication with Elizabeth Sims. $25 class. Wednesday, November 16, 2022. 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
NEXT ONLINE CLASS
Nov. 16: Short Story Writing for Publication
Taught by prize-winning author Elizabeth Sims: You’ll learn how to approach the art and craft of authoring short stories as a professional does, with ingenuity and verve. Much of that consists of making conscious choices about craft and technique. You’ll learn that short story writing is very much about economy of language, expression, and action.
Your turn: Annotating images
In the last issue, I asked you to tell me if you have a favorite tool for annotating photos or images. One person responded:

  • I’m a years-long fan of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program app), a free image editing program. It can be as complex as you feel like making it. I also love the inexpensive video-making program Wondershare Filmora. You can upload a series of images, move them around, add a soundtrack or voiceover. I made a promo for my last book and several travel videos, all uploaded to Vimeo. As the phone cameras improve, so do my videos! —Joanne Orion Miller

Unrelated, I received this book recommendation from reader Cary Tennis:

  • I just read this amazing novel translated from the Italian by William Weaver, with intro by Italo Calvino, called That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda, an Italian author who’s known to Italians who studied humanities in high school/college but kinda unknown genius otherwise. Amazing book. Like I say, maybe it’s just the espresso talking but anybody who wants to read an amazing book (full of the most obscure words in English, half of which are made up—he’s kind of alike a James Joyce in Italian) … this is the one.

Next question: This one is for people who travel frequently: What is the one thing you always take with you, or otherwise do, to make travel easier or more comfortable? Hit reply to this email and let me know, or discuss over on Discord.
 
Free resources featuring Jane
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“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.”
—Marshall McLuhan
Jane Friedman
Created by Jane Friedman
I report on the publishing industry and help authors understand the business of writing.

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One of those perfect sheet pan meals. 🐔
 
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