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Clues to a Great Story: The TED Talk

“What this scene is doing…is making a promise that the story will lead somewhere that will be worth your time.”

The brilliant filmmaker behind stories like WALL-E and Toy Story, Andrew Stanton, brings us a TED Talk about learning how to tell the best and most effective story. He shares his insights on writing and drafting and using your own experiences to gain inspiration. I plan on listening to this Talk more than once, because even during my first listen, I could tell that this successful man had some amazing tips to share.

Aspiring writers? This one’s for you.

Quote #13

“Your greatest awakening comes when you are aware about your infinite nature.” – Amit Ray

The Mind of a Wavering Future Author

How is that every time I think I know what I want,
I don’t?
How can half my life be devoted to one thing

Books

And one thought can upset an entire dream?

I want to write

yes

But what to write about? What for?

I could be a screenwriter,
A writer of films.

I’ve always loved movies. Why not?

I could write children’s books,
the next J.K. Rowling.

I like kids. Kids like me. Why not?

I could write textbooks,
The How-To of life.

I hate textbooks. Better job security. Why not?

I could write reviews for a magazine or paper,
Ebert for a new age.

Maybe they’ll give me free things. Opinions are nice. Why not?

I could be a film director, photographer, artist,
But just maybe on the side.

I don’t know enough about those things to do them for a life.

I could work in a bookstore,
Just to get me on my feet.

What if I end up liking it? Owner of a bookstore. Why not?

I could be an editor,
Of a magazine or for publishing.

But really that’s not writing at all.
And what I love is that I love to write.
And despite all these questions, that’s what I want to do.
But how do I know if what I’ll write is right?
Will it make me happy
Forever?

And if I finally do decide on a job, where will I be jobbing from?
Probably in the same place
Where all the jobbers go.

What about books? That’s what I’d always planned to do,
Is it bad to have these thoughts,
To feel like I’m cheating
on my dreams?

And what is it about college,
where you’re supposed to

Find yourself,

that makes you question

Everything.

Architecting Skylight

Architecting Skylight

Jobs for Writers #1: Children’s Book Author

So as you guys may have noticed (or not noticed), I’ve been really busy this week. Not only have I been slowly recovering from an illness, but I’ve been maddeningly busy and may or may not have missed my usual every-other-Wednesday photo blog post (No, I definitely missed it).

All of this has caused me to have some sort of mini existential meltdown in which I questioned my purpose on earth and how it all fits in with who and what I want to be when I get out of college. But don’t freak out, anybody. Like I said, it was mini.

I still want to be a writer, of that I am certain. But what exactly should I write about? Where do I want to write? Should I write for myself or should I write for the world? Do I want to make an impact or do I want to float by under the radar?

Here’s what I’ve decided. I’m going to introduce a new series of posts in which I highlight and discuss a number of different jobs available to writers. These posts will be both for me and for you guys to explore the realm of writing and to look at different types of jobs that many of us may never have considered or even knew existed.

For now, I’ll be researching different jobs and discussing them, but if you guys ever have any recommendations or requests, leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to look into it. So here we go.

Children’s Book Author

English: Winner of The Macmillan Prize for Chi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though often considered the “easiest” type of book writing, becoming an author of children’s books, whether they be picture books or short novels, requires the same knowledge of creative writing as becoming an author of another genre. While it’s not necessary to have a degree to write children’s books, it is helpful to understand the ins and outs of the English language and be familiar with simple and complex literary concepts so as to use them properly in books.

Knowledge of marketing and how to market oneself to potential publishers is also a key trait of children’s authors. As an author, you’ll spend a lot of your time sending queries to publishers and pitching your ideas, so having an understanding of how The Business works would be beneficial.

Like a lot of authors, authors of children’s books are paid by the advance and royalty system. When a publishing company buys your book, they pay you an advance (depending on how well they think your books are going to sell on the market). Then, once your books have sold and they have accumulated the same amount of money as the advance (basically, once you’ve paid off your advance), you start getting paid in whatever percentage of royalties you negotiated in your contract with the publisher. Royalties are how much money you get out of the sale price (ex] If your book sells for $10 and you have a 10% contract, you’ll get $1 per book). Unfortunately, if your book doesn’t sell well, you might not be making any money off royalties.

Children’s book authors usually have to share their advance with the illustrator (and the illustrator usually gets paid more), so if you’re a writer who can draw and is concerned about making the most money possible (don’t become a writer), it would probably be wise to illustrate your own books. Sharing is no fun anyway.

Naturally, you’d have to be of a creative mindset in order to be an author. Also, it probably wouldn’t hurt for you to like kids. And books.
 

Degree
Not required

Salary
On average $55, 940 (US Bureau of Labor and Statistics)
(Tip: Salary varies. You can make twice that amount in larger cities and metropolitan areas)

Research/Helpful Links!
http://education-portal.com/articles/Become_a_Childrens_Author_Step-by-Step_Career_Guide.html

http://work.chron.com/much-childrens-book-writer-make-year-15393.html

http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Top-10-FAQs

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273043.htm

Fish Tale #2 – Dealing With Success and Failure

It’s been a long week here at wherever I am, and there’s a few things I need to catch you guys up to speed on.

My beloved betta fish Hemingway has unfortunately passed away. Like Ernest Hemingway, Hemmy (as I so dearly referred to him) survived several brushes with death (though none of them involved plane crashes or blood poisoning). But eventually his swim bladder disease got the best of him and I was forced to bid adieu to my grumpy-faced fishy friend.

Swim in peace, Hemmy

Swim in peace, Hemmy

Naturally, I blamed myself for his death. Did I do something wrong when I changed his water? Should I have acted sooner when I noticed he was looking a  bit sluggish? Whether his untimely death was a result of my actions (or in-actions), I am uncertain. But I know that I felt deeply responsible.

I mourned. And after a few weeks, I worked up the courage to try again and bought myself a new fish.

Everyone, meet DaVinci.

IMG_0858

He’s a delta tail Betta. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get a picture of him with his fins completely spread out (they’re huge), but this is a little sneak peak of what he looks like. It’s odd having him around instead of Hemmy, and sometimes I even catch myself calling him by the wrong name. But the point is, moving on from your failures doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting what happened. It’s attempting to accept what you did wrong, mourn, learn, and try again.

And this doesn’t just apply to fish. These are life lessons here, people.

Another update: I finally found a job.

After weeks of searching for jobs, filling out applications, and waiting around to never get called back, I finally had some luck with a local newspaper, where I now work as a copy editor and opinion columnist. Huzzah! Success!

So how does one handle success after endless failures? Naturally, I somehow get myself sick and spent my first day at the copy desk trying not to horrify everyone with my violent nose blowing. But despite that, I really quite enjoyed myself and I know I’m going to appreciate every ounce of experience I can squeeze from this job. So although this one seemed like a bit of a failure, I’m taking it as a sinus good things to come.

How to deal with success: Just try not to blow it.

Ah, sick puns.