Category: Family & friends


I can’t stop smiling right now. So many of my favorite things came together yesterday: the writing community, the revising craft, helping others, and one simple exchange at the speed of social networking. And in the end, I have something to show for it. It’s just a seed right now, but soon a community of writers and non-writers will grow to help each other better craft the written word. Introducing:

Readers Aloud

Readers Aloud is an open exchange project, pairing willing voices with revising writers or others who need read-aloud versions of written work.

Writers, join the group to take your manuscript to a whole new level – HEAR your latest revision from a reader’s voice. More than you ever could before, you’ll pick up on subtle, nuanced changes you should make.

How Readers Aloud makes it happen:

1. Those who want something read aloud leave a post on the wall describing their project (genre, word count, etc).
2. Volunteers comment on the projects they’d like to lend their voice to. Every little bit helps – even just a chapter. More commenters can chip in, crowdsource-style.
3. Writers and volunteers decide amongst themselves how to exchange text and audio files.
4. Give what you get! If you get help with your read-aloud project, help someone else with theirs – anything from a chapter to a whole book.
(Non-writers can post projects, too!)

I’m excited to help my fellow writers – starting with the group’s co-founder, author Kat Yeh. Kat’s work-in-progress will be the FIRST Readers Aloud project. After all, it helped inspire the group (see the story below)!

Enter our Charter Member Contest!

Join Readers Aloud (for free, of course!) and leave a comment below. For every comment from a new member, I’ll read aloud & record 250 words of Kat’s book. So challenge me – if 200 new members leave comments, I’ll read the whole thing!

Writers, get a chance to win!

Writers with a work in progress: tell me in your comment. We want to help! If you’re our randomly selected commenter, we’ll read aloud and record three chapters of any WIP to give your revision a boost.

To qualify, join the group and leave your comment by 11:59 CST on Monday, July 9. The winner will be announced July 11.

And do your writing community a solid – send your writing buds to http://bit.ly/ReadersAloud. Building our numbers will make it easier for all of us to get read-aloud help!

So… where’d this group come from?

My author friend Kat Yeh asked a question of her Facebook friends last night:

Does anyone else read their manuscript aloud during revision?

Kat wanted to know if she was the only one talking to herself. Of COURSE not! (Gosh, you’re silly!), the internet said. Harold Underdown, legendary editorial consultant and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, commented,

“It’s a technique I recommend. Even better is to have someone read it to you.”

Many other writers echoed this, in the 37 comments Kat’s thread collected. At one point, she lamented that her manuscript was probably too much for one reader to take on – 53,335 words. So, my unthinking brain (it does that sometimes) typed “Crowdsource it!” in the comment box. But then I thought, Yeah – I could read her a chapter and record it. That’s easy! 10, 15 minutes tops. So in another comment, I offered to read a chapter. And then the two of us got to talking about the idea of an exchange… And that’s how Readers Aloud was born.

Become a charter member and read aloud with us. Add your ideas or general comments about the group below. Our brains are storming with thoughts on helping non-profits, starting a monthly best-of podcast, approaching acting schools and sketch troupes… The read-aloud sky is endlessly blue, and we welcome your thoughts!
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Last week, a friend invited me to be part of his marriage proposal.

The friend was Len Kendall (one of the founders of the3six5.com). First, he mobilized hundreds of people by inviting them to a Facebook event. This was his venue to explain his plan to propose to Katie using an internet meme. The FB event also opened up a venue for discussion (and a little trash talk) among contributors.

This morning, Buzzfeed let Len take over their homepage for the day. (They loved the idea when he approached them with it two weeks ago.)

On Len’s proposal post, anybody could post their contributions through a meme generator embedded in the comment tool. Buzzfeed created this tool just for Len. With it, users simply uploaded a background, positioned the picture layer of Len proposing, and added their own message. Hundreds of us added to the “meme” and shared the posts to their social networks. Len even directed contributors to share with the hashtag #SayYesKatie.

At about noon CST, Len posted an update – Katie said yes!

Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s managing editor, says, “It’s been one of the biggest and fastest growing community reaction posts we’ve ever done.” Jack Shepherd at Buzzfeed even posted a Best-of #SayYesKatie post.

So the story traveled, as good stories often do.
#SayYesKatie appeared on MSNBCThe Chicago Tribune, and Mashable, among other outlets.

My contributions

(Buzzfeed post)
 
(Buzzfeed post)
 
(Buzzfeed post, based on Marquese Scott’s jaw-dropping dance video.) 
 

So, what does it mean, Double Rainbow?

Stop – I’m not even half as cool as a DR. But here’s what I think.

With the maturing and evolution of the social web, people now have the power to bend the internet. We’ve used the web billions of times to promote other media, but now we can do so much more to harness its own power. I know this is all very meta, but just think of it this way:
When television was first came along, people thought it was a great way to advertise radio.

If an individual like Len can “bend” the internet to tell his story, in what amazing ways could the social web tell yours?

Love libraries? Vote in the Pepsi Refresh Project!

As you might know, I have a soft spot for libraries. After hearing about a dip in Illinois public library funding, I attended city council budget meetings in Evanston and helped support fundraising efforts through blogging and getting other writers involved. The Evanston Public Library Friends have seen victories and setbacks. But through thick and thin they’ve persisted, and they’ve got a lot to show for it. Namely, they’ve opened The Mighty Twig – a volunteer-run, storefront library established to help replace Evanston’s shuttered South Branch.

How successful have they been?

In the Mighty Twig’s first six months:

  • 18,017 people visited
  • 509 children checked out 6,062 books
  • Volunteers distributed 15,297 free books across Evanston
  • They’ve built up a long wait-list of volunteers ages 10 to 89

They want to do even more – but they need your help.

Vote NOW for The Mighty Twig!Vote for Mighty Twig on Pepsi Refresh!
Help underserved areas get books.

The Mighty Twig’s newest project, “Right Book. Right Place. Right Person needs your vote in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge. Cheryl Chamberlain, Twig Advisory Board member (who’s also on EPLF’s Board of Directors) says,

With our project, we’ll buy books by African-American authors and books in Spanish and distribute them to 10 book centers in public areas throughout west Evanston. These areas have zero library services. We also have another three reading rooms beyond The Mighty Twig, and yesterday we began work on our fourth.

How to Vote

The top 15 candidates will get a grant, but The Mighty Twig’s standing is in the mid-20’s. So please vote once per day until the contest ends on November 30, 2011.
Vote online here: http://www.refresheverything.com/themightytwig

Vote via text:
Send the code 109325 in a text message to PEPSI (73774).

Don’t forget:

You can vote every day both online and via text.
Thanks for your support!

About an eon ago, my friend, young-adult author James Kennedy, “took over” my blog – I hosted a giveaway when his book The Order of Odd-Fish came out in paperback. Oh what fun that was, since James was also gearing up for his “Dome of Doom” fan art show and battle-dance party in Chicago – in which yours truly competed and valiantly… uh, lost… in the first round. But anyway.

James is up to some serious fun again. This time, he’s asking folks to retell Newbery-winning stories…  In video, in 90 SECONDS.

[Cough] Oh my. The prospect starts my little heart racing, it does. The contest has gotten lots of kids, classrooms, and families inspired, too. James and co-curator Betsy Bird (she of School Library Journal’s Fuse8!) have collected dozens of entries from miles around. With submissions from Canada and New Zealand, this thing has gone international AND intercontinental.

(Where it all began: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, starring James’s niece Freya. She’ll also star in the book trailer for my young adult novel Thirty Decibels.)

Check out this entry, told entirely in shadow-puppets!

Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

OH! Here’s one that had me laughing. I mean, c’mon, it’s a musical!:

The 21 Balloons by William Péne du Bois

Mark your calendars for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival:

New York:  Saturday, November 5, 2011, 3-5 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library main branch (Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY. 917.275.6975.)
Co-hosted by James Kennedy and Jon Scieszka, with appearances by Rebecca Stead and Ayun Halliday!

Chicago: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 6-8 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago (400 South State Street)

Even better: you can be a part of it. That’s right, James is taking entries until October 17th!

Here’s James’s take on the whole thing:

Teachers, here’s a fun project that will get your students reading Newbery winners.
Students, here’s an excuse to mess around with video equipment.
Librarians, here’s an activity to do with your teen advisory boards.
Anyone can enter. Everyone wins!

I love it! For full rules, head over to the official contest announcement. And get crackin’ on your entry!

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