Calling All Writers

The view from my office:



I have been toying with an idea since Authors in Our Midst.  I really enjoyed the comments on those threads and it seemed like we had a lot of people who were in progress on some writing project or another. Do we have enough interest to start a writing support group here?

I was thinking we could “meet” a couple times a month and encourage each other, offer advice and suggestions. Maybe a secure drop box to share work to critique. I can see if our published authors would be wiling to pop in and offer their experiences and answer questions.

Hillary Rettig has offered her support/expertise with this, too! So if you’re interested, leave a comment in this post and I’ll take it from there if we have enough interest.

More Things in Heaven and Earth

So the most shocking news of the year may turn out (for me, at least) to have nothing to do with the election. It’s that Christopher Marlowe has been officially credited as coauthor of some of Shakespeare’s plays:

Shakespeare may have had a little more help than previously suspected.

The New Oxford Shakespeare edition of the playwright’s works — which will be published by Oxford University Press online ahead of a worldwide print release — lists Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare’s co-author on the three “Henry VI” plays, parts 1, 2 and 3.

It’s the first time that a major edition of Shakespeare’s works has listed Shakespeare’s colleague and rival as a co-author on these works, the volume’s general editor, Gary Taylor, said in a phone interview.

There’s been literally centuries of dispute on this, with the Shakespeareans accusing the Marlovians of all kinds of bad faith. But it was Big Data that validated Marlow’s authorship:

For the New Oxford Shakespeare scholars ran tests to determine whether authors like Marlowe could be reliably identified by the ways they used language — like frequent use of certain articles, and certain words commonly occurring in a row, or being close to each other in the text. Once this was determined, researchers applied these patterns back to texts, to see if they suggested an author other than Shakespeare. If results came out positive, further tests were run.

Mr. Taylor said that the exact nature of the playwrights’ collaboration cannot be certain, but that they did not necessarily work together in person. Scriptwriting at Shakespeare’s time was often structured similarly to how movie writing happens now: One author would earn an advance for writing a plot outline, and theaters would hire other authors to write other scenes, according to their strengths.

It’s possible that this is how the “Henry” plays were written, Mr. Taylor said, noting that some playwrights also collaborated by hashing through ideas in pubs.

Personally, I find the Big Data angle a bit creepy. I’m happy Marlowe is finally getting his due, and am all for the use of scientific techniques in the humanities. But if Shakespeare’s not “safe,” no one is. What other time-travel toppling of literary and historical edifices awaits us?

PS – someone at Wikipedia needs to get cracking:

The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument that someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him….Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief and for the most part acknowledge it only to rebut or disparage the claims.

Also, PPS – for those who are interested, a reminder. I know some Juicers are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo or AcWriMo, so here’s my resource center for those. Also my SavvyAuthors online class starts Monday (10/31) and will provide great support for all writers in November, and there’s a $5 discount for Juicers. (Happy to answer questions on any of these; email me.)

Christopher Marlowe

Someone’s looking smug!

Writing Productivity Class and Meet Ups (NY & NJ) Comin’ Atcha!

Hey Everyone – I’m going to bigfoot myself to announce that I’m teaching an online writing-productivity class starting 10/31. It’s great for any writer (creative, academic, business, etc.) trying to boost his or her output, overcome procrastination and perfectionism, and/or finish a project. (Actually for anyone with those goals, in any crazed-turquoise-bowl-6afield, but the examples and discussions will all be writing-focused.) The classes are four weeks long, and the format is bloggish, so you can be located anywhere. Normally $50, but the host, SavvyAuthors, is offering a discount of $5 just for Juicers—so $45. Click here to register. (Note: the class dates are wrong on that link but rest assured you will be registering for my class.)

More info below the fold. Another perk, btw, is that we typically get many romance writers in the class, and they are interesting people who tend to occupy the sweet spot at the intersection of “kind and supportive” and “publication focused.” (Oh, and in case you’re interested, here’s a piece I did a few years back on romance fiction and social justice.)

In other news, JT and I are hitting the road again and I’d love to meet up with any Juicers in either New York City (Nov 21 – 23) or Montclair, NJ (Nov 25-26). (Pre- and post-Thanksgiving.) Please email me at (Also email me if questions about the class.)

Illustration: gorgeous Kintsugi pottery by Lakeside Pottery Studio in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Per Wikipedia: “Kintsugi (“golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum… As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” Hillary’s note: in other words, Kinsugi exemplifies the virtues of nonperfectionism, one of the main topics we’ll discuss in class. (Image reproduced with kind permission of Morty Bachar and Patty Storms.)

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Congrats to Tom! (Open Thread)

Our own Tom Levenson’s “The Hunt for Vulcan” has been short-listed for the Royal Society prize for science books. As Joe Biden might say, that’s a big fucking deal!

Tom, to say you class up this joint is an understatement on the order of calling Donald Trump “mildly disagreeable.” Congratulations, man!

H/T: Valued commenter Scav.

Unconscious Bias and the “Oh Shit” Moment

Valued commenter CMM, a former police officer, published an article at Raw Story on the role unconscious bias plays in the split-second decisions cops make to use deadly force — the “oh shit” moment where life and death can hang in the balance. With her permission, here’s an excerpt:

[T]he incidents of the last week have been incredibly traumatic and painful for all “sides,” and I have been in plenty of deep conversations with people trying to think through and understand everything that has happened.

One person asked a seemingly simple question: Is it possible that these shootings are not caused by racism, but by a moment of fear and panic? My answer is that I believe that most of the shootings have happened in a moment of fear and panic — but that panic is driven by underlying racism.

One of my nerdy friends recently described humans as “pattern-matching machines.” The ability to rapidly take in a series of cues — appearance, body language, tone of voice, and more — is a survival trait that goes back to caveman times. We see a set of cues that read “friendly” and we react one way. We see a set of cues that read “danger” and we react another. Some of those cues are hard wired and some are learned.

Here’s where I think all of us who came of age in the United States in the last 50 years can be unconsciously racially biased, without being “racist” in the traditional sense. We have all been steeped since birth in a culture full of racially-driven signifiers…

So yes, it is possible to react out of fear and panic. Most of the shootings of black suspects are not done by officers with KKK-style racism in their hearts. But the fact that black people end up dead in encounters more often than white people IS a product of racism.

As responsible citizens, we can’t just shrug and say, my bad, can’t help it, it’s my subconscious programming. We have to fight it, we have to double check our gut reactions, and we have to understand the conditioning that we have all received. It’s still racism and it is still killing people.

The whole thing is well worth a read, IMO. CMM is absolutely correct that the onus is on us to be aware of and fight our subconscious biases. That’s especially important for people who are walking around with guns strapped to their hips. I’m not sure how that filters into police training, though. Is it just left up to individuals to work this out for themselves? God, I hope not.

Anyway, Vox published a statistic the other day that points a big red blinking neon arrow to at least part of the problem, IMO: Police academies spend 110 hours on firearms and self-defense and 8 hours on conflict management. Seems that cops with better training in de-escalation techniques would be less subject to operating in the “oh shit” moment, when minority citizens might be at risk of dying due to implicit bias.

Maybe that’s a start, anyway. What say you?