Writing Excuses Podcast Homework

I love the Writing Excuses podcast.

For those who didn’t listen to it, at the end of each episode, they give a sort of writing prompt/homework assignment for their listeners to do related to the topic of that particular episode. I don’t usually do them. I have done some – like the ones where you ask friends to send you pictures of random items and then make a story out of them. I’ve posted those stories on this blog in fact:

Love Squash
Making Space

But usually, I just listen, and try to use what I’ve learned on whatever project I’m currently working on instead of starting something new for the writing exercise.

That is, until I got to season 10. Now, I’m fairly far behind. I think they are on season 12 at least now. In season 10 they are doing what they call a writing master class. So each episode (most anyway) will be a lesson and the lessons will build over the season. I’d like to participate with this season in the spirit it was created, that is – as a class. So that means I should actually do the assignments. However, I’ve learned there is a second reason I don’t do the exercises. I forget what they are when I’m home with my writing materials.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I’m out for my walks. I am not going to carry a notebook with me to do assignments while I am out for my walk. I think I will do it when I get home. Then I get home, walk through the door, and my family wants to talk to me, my cats want dinner, etc. and I don’t remember that I was going to do a writing exercise. Or I walk on my lunch break and when I get back I have to, you know, go back to work. If I do remember it’s when I’m getting ready to go for another walk and realize I can’t listen to the next episode because I haven’t done the homework from the last episode.

Tonight, however, I am getting caught up. I am doing the exercises from the first three episodes that I’ve already listened to. Writing Excuses has all the instructions up at their website, so I don’t actually need to remember what to do -I can look it up.

If you are an aspiring writer, I can’t recommend this podcast enough. There are so many other podcasts that discuss publishing, but this is about craft, and the advice is detailed and wonderful. Go listen.


My Favorite Science Podcasts

I’m getting behind on my podcast listening, but I just can’t bring myself to cut back on any of my favorite shows. They are all so awesome. Science is another subject I follow a lot of podcasts about, so here are the ones that have earned their place in my podcast feed.

Are We Alone – The weekly podcast from the SETI Institute. They sped much less time talking about aliens than you might imagine. Each episode has a theme, where they examine some aspect of life on Earth, often looking at human psychology, or culture, and how that may (or may not) give us insight into life elsewhere in the universe. There is usually a good dose oh humor mixed in.

NOVA Science Now – These are very short podcasts, usually between 1 and 6 min long. They are often teasers for NOVA shows, but I always take away an interesting tidbit of information.

Science Talk – The podcast from Scientific American. Need I say more? Well, I will. These are about 30 min long, and again sometimes act as teasers for articles in the magazine. Even so, they spend enough time on each topic to really do it justice, and I never feel like I need to run out and buy the magazine if I want to understand what they were talking about.

Skeptoid – More of a critical thinking podcast than a pure science one, but I’m still putting it into this category since the creator and host, Brian Dunning, applies the scientific method to his analysis of the topics he covers. These are generally under 15 min long, which is nice, but I’m amazed at the amount of research that mush have gone into them. He often covers topics about mythical monster sightings and UFOs and such. I’ve begun to skip those since I’m not all that interested. My favorites so far is his series on logical fallacies. Sometimes I hear an argument that sounds off to me but I can’t put my finger on why. Now I know why, and don’t get sucked into nonsense as easily.

TED talks – Only a subset of these could really be called science podcasts, they also cover topics about world affairs, culture, music, etc. I just listened to one today with young homeschool kid talking about sustainable farming practices. How cool is that? Apparently the video version is even better, but I’m usually doing something else while I listen to podcasts, so I stick to the audio. Even with just that, these are almost always powerful, moving speakers.

WNYC’s Radiolab – If I had to pick a favorite off this list, this is the one I’d pick. These are so well produced, so entertaining, I have trouble turning them off when I finish my workout or drive before the episode is finished. Just the other day I listened to “Lost and Found”. It was amazing, partly because I have a horrible sense of direction, and it made me feel a little better about that. There is a place in Australia I might need to visit. But the closing segment, which is not about someone physically lost, but more metaphorically lost, gave me goosebumps and I got misty eyes it was so wonderful. Here it is if you want to check it out:
http://www.radiolab.org/media/audioplayer/player5.swf(function(){var s=function(){__flash__removeCallback=function(i,n){if(i)i[n]=null;};window.setTimeout(s,10);};s();})();

60 Second Earth, 60 Second Mind, 60 Second Science -these are also all produced by Scientific American, and as the titles suggest, they are one minute podcasts about the environment, psychology, and science respectively. Always fun snip-its of information here. As I was linking to them just now, I see that there is also a 60 Second Health, and 60 Second Space. So I’m off to iTunes to get those!

If you have a favorite science podcast I didn’t mention, please tell me about it in the comment section. (I really shouldn’t ask you to do that as I don’t know where I’ll find the time to listen to any more than I already do, but I just can’t help myself.)


My Favorite Writing Podcasts

Several of the podcast I listen to (and I listen to a LOT) have said that if their listeners (like me) want to offer support they should blog about them. While I have also donated financially in the past to some of my favorite podcasts too, it isn’t something I can do regularly, and certainly not as much as I know these people deserve. So, bogging it is then!

I’m going to break my favorite podcasts into categories. Today is writing podcasts. After about a year and a half of podcast listening, these are the ones that have continued to earn their spot in my over-filled ipod. These are mainly fiction writing podcasts, by the way.

I Should Be Writing – Mur Lafferty talks about her own writing journey, interviews professional authors, and answers listener questions. She is very frank, open, but still encouraging. I like that she doen’t attempt to be perfect, but will talk about trying to write while sick, or discouraged, and other parts of the process that may suck. But her message is always: you get through it, and you keep writing.

Writing Excuses – By Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. These are all professional writers who discuss an aspect of the craft of writing each episode. Sometimes they have guests, but often it’s just the three of them. The topics they cover are very focused, and often something I didn’t even know I didn’t know. If you know what I mean. They are also nice short podcasts, usually under 20 min each.

Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing – Pretty much what the title says, although they talk to a lot of fantasy authors too. They have some really terrific interviews, and news of what’s going on in publishing.

The Writing Show – I just learned that this podcast is scaling way back on what they are putting out, but the back episodes are still really worth listening to. They cover all kinds of writing topics, and the guests are so enthusiastic, I even enjoyed episodes that were on topics I didn’t think I had any interest in, like memoir, comics, and screenwriting.

Pen On Fire – Another author interview podcast. Some talk about the craft of writing, some talk more about their books, but all are fun to listen too. My complaint about this one is that it makes me want to read every book they talk about, and I already have more to read than I have time for!

Dead Robot Society – A group of aspiring writers discuss the craft and business of writing and trying to break in. They are also mainly Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers. I occasionally disagree with some of their advice, but they often disagree with one another as well. They can have some interesting discussions and it’s a nice reminder that different writers will have different ways of approaching their writing. They can wander off topic, and get a little silly, but that’s fun to listen to too.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – Again, this one is what it says. These are super short, usually about 5 to 7 min long. Some strange grammar rules are explained very clearly.

If you have a favorite writing podcast that I didn’t mention, leave it in the comments section. If it isn’t one I’ve already heard, I’ll add it to my feed!


On Vampires

I remember saying that I’m not into vampire stories. But the last few I’ve read, I’ve really enjoyed, so I guess I need to rethink that generalization. Back in college some of my friends were into the Ann Rice vampire books, and they were too dark for my tastes. I never really cared for any of the versions of Dracula I’ve seen over the years either. That’s probably why I thought it must be the vampires I didn’t like.

Then with the popularity of the Twilight series, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I think it took me three weeks to read all four books, I was so into them, and they were easy reading. Shortly thereafter I was sad to hear one of my favorite writing podcasts routinely making fun of the series, and putting it down in almost every episode. Some of it, I think, is that when anything gets to be too big, too popular, some will always have to come with negativity to balance things out. But, I listened to their criticisms anyway, hoping to learn.

Just this week I listened to an episode in which the host admitted, to my disgust, that he had never actually read any of the Twilight books. All his criticisms were based on watching the first movie. I would have thought that a writer would know better than to judge a book by its movie.

Anyway, one complaint I’ve heard from a few sources is that the vampires are too tame. Vampires, some feel, are monsters, not just dead people who may be nice or may be jerks. Since vampires are made up creatures, I guess they can be whatever any of us want to imagine them to be. It’s really a matter of personal preference, right? So then I thought that maybe that’s what I like. Nice vampires. I don’t like monster stories.

Then again maybe not.

My good friend Amanda just had a vampire story produced on the Shadowcast podcast. I think it definitely falls into the ‘vampires are monsters’ camp, and I loved it anyway. Maybe because I was pulled along with the heroine’s hope to find the nice vampires. I wanted a nice vampire as much as she did, even though her limited experience with a vampire was definitely of the ‘monster’ variety. I won’t tell you what she found at last, so you can enjoy listening to the podcast or reading the story:
Letty by Amanda B. on Shadowcast.

The moral of this post is that I’ve learned not to make blanket statements like, I don’t like fill-in-the-blank stories. If I’d stuck to my guns against vampires, I would have missed out on an awful lot of enjoyment. Each story should be judged on its own merits (but remember a story should never EVER be judged on its movie!)