How not to bore your audience at a reading, Viet Thanh Nguyen

“Am I the only one who finds literary readings boring? I usually avoided them. Then I had to go on book tour and tried not to bore people. I learned to think of myself as a performer rather than a reader.”

Here are some tips for writers who have to speak in front of audiences:

1. Do not be defensive and think that you are a writer and that writing is different from performing. I have seen poets who say that the words on the page are what matter and therefore they will read them with minimal interpretation. I invite them to do so in the privacy of their own rooms, because listening to them in public was painful (for me). …

2. Perform from a script rather than just read your book. I also like to blow up my font to 16- or 18-point size to make the text easier to see.

3. Make eye contact with your audience. Not just once or twice. Regularly. This will help keep the audience involved.

4. Do not just read 20- to 40-minutes straight while never looking up from your book and speaking in a soft monotone. PLEASE.

5. Consider reading just short excerpts and insert them into a story you are telling or a talk about some larger issue. Imagine what the larger story or talk is about

6. 
If you’re lucky enough to get an auditorium, dim the lights to get your audience in the mood for a performance. 

8.
Dress up, whatever that means to you.
 A vintage outfit, a motorcycle jacket, a cowboy hat. T.C. Boyle looks like a punk rock statesman.

9.
Consider visual aids
. T.C. Boyle has the advantage of actual movies made from his work that he can show. For my initial tour of The Sympathizer, I had a friend make a three-minute highlight reel from American movies of the war in Viet Nam.

10.
If you just cannot perform, consider having someone interview you
.

11.
Writing programs should teach their students how to perform.
 Just a one-unit course. 

12.
Last, bring energy to the room.
 Your energy level will be the room’s energy level, which comedians understand

Full details in his article at Lithub here.

See some Zadie Smith writing tips here.

Philip Roth on writing

If you write every day, eventually you’ll have a book.

I can’t explain the fact that there have been a series of books coming rather regularly out of me. I work most days and if you work most days and you get at least a page done a day, then at the end of the year you have 365.

-from a 2009 interview with Tina Brown for The Daily Beast

Learn to edit yourself.

Part of being a writer is being able to read what you’ve written and see what’s missing, see what needs development, see what’s suggested by what you wrote. It’s like a trampoline. You know, you’re jumping up and down on this draft, and each jump is an idea.

-from an interview with Robert Siegel at NPR

Write towards what works for the story (or for you).

You go with what’s alive. Two thousand pages of narrative and six lines of dialogue may be just the ticket for one writer, and two thousand pages of dialogue and six lines of narrative the solution for another.

-in a 1984 interview with The Paris Review

Work sentence by sentence.

Solving the problem of the book you’re writing always remains hard work, and your progress is snail-like. Even if you write a book in two years, sometimes you get a page a day, sometimes you get no pages … every sentence raises a problem, and essentially what you’re doing is connecting one sentence to the next. And you write a sentence and you have to figure out what comes next or what doesn’t come next.

-from a 2013 interview with NPR

World echoing language and lacuna choices

Four observations on the power of language and lacuna.

Language can take us out of context. But, language and artistic choices will and should always reflect the wider world, when made public.

The choice to use a puppet to portray a severely autistic boy in a recent play in London has had much criticism from the wider world outside the play.*The creative decision is mediocre, but beyond that the social political world beyond the play cannot be ignored. We live in a world of metaphor and symbols.

The decision for a German CEO to use words that echo the phrase that appears on the entrance of Nazi Auschwitz, even if accidental shows a lack of judgment for the reflection it would bring to the wider  Germanic world.

The casting of a queer-phobic actor into a leading bisexual role (the Color Purple) has echoed angrily and awkwardly with queer audiences and creatives.

On the flip side, the New Zealand Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern has evoked  “Damnatio memoriae”. In Roman times the state condemned the memory of a person and erased their name from history, it’s been done within many civilizations.

"I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless."

She’s condemned the recent terrorist to no name, such that their cause and “fame” fail.

Our words and actions echo like small and major myths. If you will speak to the wider world, the world will judge what words and actions you use.

*

https://www.thendobetter.com/arts/2019/3/6/autism-stories-representation-and-all-in-a-row-review

CEO blunder:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47566898

UK casting of Color Purple

http://exeuntmagazine.com/features/color-purple-gets-play-gay/

No name to the terrorist.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47620630

What’s a performance lecture?

It’s a form of anti-TED talk.

Existing since the 1960s as a subgenre of performance, the lecture-performance or performance-lecture has its roots in the performance and conceptual art of the 1960s, and balances on the boundary between art and academia.

It’s a type of presentation that goes beyond the academic format of the lecture. Artists (not only visual or performance) use the lecture to turn it into a performance space which fuses aspects of drama and of visual and other media disciplines.


It’s hybrid nature then often expresses in borrowed hybrid elements such as storytelling, the mass media, internet, adverts, slogans, images, and technology.

The performance lecture at its best has varied functions and elements operating on multiple levels. These can form a visual rhetoric or performative actions and artistic non-sequiturs  Techniques of advertising and propaganda or more straight forward education lectures and slides are used to explore the relationship between the image and the text or between consensus and the facts, or contrasting ideas or narratives.

In its artistic investigations the relationship of perception and of understanding, the audience and the performer and performance ideas can all come under scrutiny.

In that sense it is nothing like a Ted talk. It’s almost an anti-Ted Talk.

A TED talk gives you an idea and a smooth talker and tells you it’s the truth.

A performance-lecture gives you a part-idea that you have to complete, challenges you to assess its truth, your truth and the performers truth and like all good theatre can leave you activated and different from when you started.


Dementia, end of life

I met C. this week. C has known me since I was born and is now double my age. Early symptoms of memory loss have appeared. C is facing the end of life with dignity and is adamant that life as a vegetable would be no life.


I can see how the case for dementia is more complex than for other end of life states.  This long form profile and essay takes you through the story of Debra Koosed.


Her Time | Debra Koosed was diagnosed with dementia at 65. That’s when she decided she no longer wanted to live. By Katie Englehart.  Long-form read 20 -30 mins in the California Sunday Magazine.

It recalls to me the beautiful and sad moments of seeing my friend Jane Bodie and her mother, suffering dementia, the artist Sue Dunkley at her retrospective exhibition. Small poem here.

Thoughts on a life well lived.

https://www.thendobetter.com/arts/2017/12/20/how-to-live-a-life-well-lived-bernie-de-koven

https://www.thendobetter.com/arts/2019/3/7/on-being-97-years-old

Thought on mortality and the medicalisation at old age.

https://www.thendobetter.com/blog/2018/8/16/mortality-how-to-die-well


Launch of the Developer, architecture and placemaking site

“The biggest risks are the ones we never talk about… If development, design and government doesn’t join forces, unite as a powerful lobby and face the challenges ahead, we may stumble into a future in which the real value of everything we’ve built is nothing, writes Christine Murray…

 

The architectural press is a tidy place to be an editor. For the past 10 years, I visited buildings in the hazy afterglow of construction, between practical completion and handover. The projects were rich in artistic intention and unsullied by human inhabitation. Walking around with the architect, there was an air of celebration, because the difficult birth of the building was over.

 

Writing about these projects, I was often troubled by the fact that I didn’t know yet whether the building actually worked. That nagging feeling was formative in what would become The Developer – the need to look at places as they develop, from concept to decades after completion, and take the long view. With regards to successful city-making, everything about the journey counts, especially what’s there before you begin.

 

Plunging into the waters of place over the past few months, I’ve enjoyed meeting developers on muddy sites and hearing how on these plots of land will grow orchards of offices and homes. The scale of urban redevelopment in the UK is staggering.

 

Just as interesting as the stories developers have told me, however, is what they’ve failed to say.

 

Unmentionables in conversation often reveal our fears and their silence speaks of risks to UK investment. Brexit has been the most avoided topic. This week, at Mipim, there is magical thinking in action that if Brexit isn’t mentioned, it won’t scare investment away. The only person to bring it up was the French taxi driver.

 

This week, at Mipim, there is magical thinking in action that if Brexit isn’t mentioned, it won’t scare investment away. The only person to bring it up was the French taxi driver

 

There are other spectres scary enough to make crashing out of the EU (almost) a distraction. They also remain off the agenda…..

…Even those with major projects fronted on UK waterways don’t explain how their buildings will cope with the expected 60-fold increase in flooding. The number of floods in the UK has already doubled since 2004. The Thames Barrier will fail within 40 years – what then?

 

No longer a distant threat, the risk of frequent heat waves, water shortages and floods now falls within the investment timelines of major UK redevelopments completing in 10 to 30 years.

 

By 2030, we are expected to pass the 1.5ºC marker, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If that seems a small or even a welcome degree of warming on an unseasonably warm, winter morning, let David Wallace-Wells’ new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, scare you. In it, he describes how seven million people are already dying of air pollution globally in “an annual Holocaust”.

 

No longer a distant threat, the risk of frequent heat waves, water shortages and floods now falls within the investment timelines of major UK redevelopments completing in 10 to 30 years

 

As the Earth warms, the risks grow: in a 2º warmer world, 150 million more people would die. Wallace-Wells writes: “Numbers that large can be hard to grasp, but 150 million is the equivalent of 25 Holocausts… It is more than twice the greatest death toll of any kind – World War II.” Within 20 years, there will be 200 million climate refugees fleeing and in search of a new home, according to the UN.

 

The difficulty with carbon emissions, as explained by Wallace-Wells, is that we can no longer afford to do one or two token eco-things per development as an offset – we need to do everything at once and at speed: less waste, no concrete, fewer diesel vehicles, smarter estate management, more wildlife and biodiversity, and more innovation. But in return, we get the chance to future-proof investments.

 

“The risk of not engaging with these debates is obsolescence or worse – the loss of the real social, cultural and financial value of our places”

 

In the face of immense challenge might creep an inkling of futility, but we have the power to change how and what we build.

 

True visionaries see opportunity in every risk, while the peril of not engaging with these debates is obsolescence or worse – the loss of the real social, cultural and financial value of our places.

 

In our first edition of The Developer, we come at the topic of risk from many angles – from risky procurement to the anodyne public spaces created by the risk-averse.

 

On the whole, placemaking has always been a risky business, volatile in the short term but resilient in the long term, with high-stakes winners and losers.

 

“It’s the developer who takes the bulk of the risk, if they’ve acquired the land and have conditional funding arrangements, long stop-dates and need residential units to be sold before profit can be recovered,” says Theresa Mohammed, construction litigation partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins.

 

But developers are not afraid of risk, perhaps because this is a well-heeled industry – CEOs with affluent roots take more risks than those from poorer backgrounds, according to a 2014 study published in the Academy of Management Journal.

 

True collaboration is a refreshing concept, because the time for finger-pointing is over. As makers of place, we must take great strides and big risks together

 

Fear of risk might explain why nimbys dig their heels in so deep – communities have a lot at stake, too. From residents decanted from social housing to small businesses ousted from their market stalls, embracing change can be a leap of faith too far. And are we worthy of their trust?

 

Tackling the risks of our time will increasingly require sharing them. In an era of finger-pointing and what Paul Berg, partner at insurer Griffiths & Armour, calls “back covering”, sharing risk is a challenge in an industry where an “integrated, collaborative environment is the exception, not the rule”.

 

Berg says: “Where it exists, it invariably requires an insurance solution that recognises that among the team delivering the project, there is no blame, no litigation, no fault, so that between team members, there is no finger-pointing.”

 

This industry has a handle on charm, bluster and glib retorts, but in the age of social media activism and hyper-accountability, more thoughtful responses are now required

 

True collaboration is a refreshing concept, because the time for finger-pointing is over. As makers of place, we must take great strides and big risks together. This will require a search for common ground and shared goals among the whole design, development and management team, including planners, architects, contractors, politicians, investors, engineers, policy workers, developers, asset managers and end users – especially the marginalised ones.

 

My ambition for The Developer is to bring the whole industry together to break down barriers between our siloed professions, first at the Festival of Place on 9 July. At our events, there will be frank discussion about the future of cities and no ‘unmentionables’.

 

The Developer exists to unpick the key ingredients to successful placemaking and promote evidence-based findings to help us mitigate risks.

 

This industry has a handle on charm, bluster and glib retorts, but in the age of social media activism and hyper-accountability, more thoughtful responses are now required.

 

Launching The Developer is a risk, too. But I believe we need more thoughtful reporting on the user experience of our cities. The Developer is an experimental space where we can grapple with the most difficult questions as an industry and work out inspiring solutions together.”

Check out the site and the full article here.

Sorry To Bother You by danhett | a videogame about technology and journalists

Sorry To Bother You by danhett | a videogame about technology and journalists

When Dan Hett’s younger brother Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing, he embarked on a trilogy of autobiographical experimental video games about the experience and its aftermath”

Play the game:  https://danhett.itch.io/sorry

Read insightful Guardian review:

https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/apr/26/dan-hett-indie-games-designer-manchester-arena-bombing

Me: I recall making a moving poem in flash to express the grief and loss I felt, when I used my father’s old shaver (he had died in the last year, now almost 20 years ago) and I believe games and game making art both technology enabled or analogue are an important part of human expression and art.

The review around the game and Dan Hett’s work is lovely.