Short story slot machine shines in France

Gambling on a good short story? It's free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

Gambling on a good short story? It’s free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

CBS Sunday Morning never fails to amuse me. When they air something from David Turecamo, he’s identified as “Our Man in Paris.”

I keep wanting to see a tuxedo-wearing sidekick for James Bond, not a reporter.

However, Turecamo deserves applause for his recent report, “Dispensing with Words.” A town in France has installed vending machines. People waiting in line can choose a short story that takes only one, three or five minutes to read. All for free!

Here is the website of “Short Edition.” The Google-translation of French to English is a thrill ride in itself. I did glean that San Francisco seems to have the first story dispenser in America.

The website promise seems to translate “Everything Reads in 20 Minutes or Less.”

Less is more? That might work for writers in any country.




New Steven Pressfield Book (Eventually) Helpful

Ever hear a parent offer to take you out foPressfield book coverr ice cream, but the drive includes endless detours and stops before you get to your promised dessert destination?

That’s the problem with Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That is and What You Can Do About It (Black Irish Entertainment), the newest from creative inspirationalist Steven Pressfield.

Frequently-blushing readers, beware. This book has more than one profanity. Plus, Pressfield chooses to close the book with “Porn,” a chapter on his foray into writing sex scenes for a “skin flick.”

I think irony gets the laugh last in the chapter “How to Write A Boring Memoir.” Pressfield preaches not to pack every detail in nonfiction. Writing chronologically is the easiest way to have a meandering manuscript. Well, this author’s urge to recount his own story year by year causes the same concern.

Granted, a writer can learn by writing ANYTHING. Nevertheless, this isn’t going to stop readers from scratching their heads over Pressfield detailing his years as a New York copywriter and Hollywood screenwriter.

Finally, in chapter 76, “My Overnight Success,” Pressfield recounts nine storytelling principles that he says were acquired in his previous tours of duty in an ad agency and in screenwriting.

The most patient readers will get rewarded with writing tips and insights. My favorite quote? “A novel is too long to be organized efficiently, like a screenplay. There aren’t enough 3 x 5 cards in the world.”

Many other fans of Pressfield’s The War of Art will like this new title, too. Yes, there are some how-to specifics on plotting, pacing and character, combined with dollops of the author’s biography. Unfortunately, I feel like Pressfield was the channel-flipping TV watcher next to you, the one who never surrenders the remote control. How-to. Biography. How-to.

This reader wanted to enjoy only one program, one format, from start to finish.




Rejection letters for J.K. Rowling?

(Photo credit: Sjhill, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo credit: Sjhill, Wikimedia Commons)

Even __________ (insert name of mondo-famous author) gets rejections.

Did you know Dr. Seuss got rejected ___________ times? (Bigger the better!)

The numbers grew. The names changed. However, the talk remained the same in 1990s writing conferences. I wish such “chin up” assertions helped me. I was ready to hear the claim of “God’s Ten Commandments were rejected 101 times until he self-published and Moses distributed them.”

The news that J.K. Rowling would share any kind of rejection letter gave me that vintage flashback.

My advice today? Let that horse rest. Put the manuscript back in the stables. That as-is literary pony may win the next race, without a single tweak. Don’t over-analyze. Save your microscope for germs, not random rejection letters.



Author Debra Barton defuses toxic friendships

Barton Friends BookAuthor Debra Barton is back. She’s doing non-fiction right, choosing a subject many writers (and readers) would consider an emotional minefield.

Letting Go Of Friends: How To Recognize and Deal With Toxic Female Relationships is an exercise in creative courage. Barton surveyed more than 300 women to gain windows into friendships gone wrong.

I enjoyed the uplifting Dream Launch, her book debut. Barton’s newest has the same clear-eyed optimism, even though the subject matter gets much darker.

Barton identifies seven kinds of toxic friendships. Readers will nod as they find their own experiences reflected in “The Competitive Friend” and other chapters. Surveyed women even share their ages, allowing readers to see that a friendship can go sour at many stages of life.

Prepare for a jolt in “The Betrayer.” So-called friends have broken up marriages, sabotaged careers and tried other schemes that will raise anyone’s eyebrows.

The best part about Toxic Friendships is what Barton has left out of the book. She peppers each chapter with lots of helpful ideas for coping with friends who become anything but. However, the text is not stuffed with statistics or other impersonal lectures. Men would call Barton’s book a handy DIY Guide to Friendship Repair.

In fact, after reading this book, you may not think of Barton as an author. You may consider her your newest friend.



Paul McCartney & John Lennon, literary agents?

Beatles Rain 45I listened to Paperback Writer again this week.


Listening as a freelance writer gives one new appreciation for the words from Paul McCartney (with John Lennon’s finishing touches). Even today, the song mirrors the desperation of “authors” who’d do ANYTHING to get published.

The Beatles Bible” gives some fun insight about the making of the song.

Do you wonder how this one would do as an unsolicited submission for some publisher’s slush pile?

The reality of being a published author

George Washington bookWe’ve all had the dream.

Write. Get published by a mega-house.

Be careful what you wish for.

Scholastic pulled the plug on A Birthday Cake for George Washington, a picture book by Ramin Ganeshram. The publisher has “ceased distribution.”

In this first-person feature, the author explains how she was scapegoated and abandoned by her publisher. Racism? You be the judge.

Simply know that this could happen to you. You could take the blame for an illustrator’s misguided perspective. (Good luck finding any publisher who lets the author have veto power over illustrations, by the way.) Worse yet, your publisher may insist you stay silent, in hopes that protests will disappear.

This post isn’t about this book’s content. This is a wake-up call for authors. It could happen to you.




Clear your bookshelf for a new Chris Guillebeau!

Born-for-This-Final-CoverI enjoy his blog. I admire his candor.

I’m glad I own The Art of Non-Conformity and $100 Start-up.

Chris Guillebeau goes public April 5 with his Born for This. The new book features people with dream jobs they love. The author shares how these delighted folk found their calling through trial-and-error journeys.

Too many pundit-writers would choose to lecture readers on their ideas for seeking great work.

I’m confident Chris will employ the writing wisdom of “show, don’t tell.” He seems intent on letting the blissed-out workers divulge their own stories.

I’m ready to read. In fact, I feel “born for this” book.