#twitterfiction Worthy of a Retweet

Literary festivals come to town and go, and for whatever reason you just couldn’t make it out to all you wanted to see this year. Fear not! Now the festival can come to you.

Today is the first day of Twitter’s very own Fiction Festival, an event that draws writers and readers from around the globe together on one page. Literature has never been so instant, accessible, or succinct, as authors craft stories from afar in real time, sometimes as short as 140 characters.

The Festival showcase will be a completely virtual event, taking place on Twitter with participants from five continents and stories in five languages. For five days, Wednesday, November 28 to Sunday, December 2, you’ll be able to find creative experiments in story-telling on Twitter around the clock.

Want to get involved? At this festival, you’re not relegated to the sidelines. Jump in with your own fiction, and use the tag #twitterfiction for all to see your work. You could:

- create a character and tell a story in his or her voice
– tell a story from your own account
– tell a story in a single Tweet
…and of course, any other creative ideas you have.

A showcase page of all the festival’s entries can be found at this link. Missed the daily live retweeting of Hamlet? Don’t worry, all of the selections are collated for you like this. You’ll never miss a lit festival again.

To give you a heads up on the happenings, here are a few highlights. No need to grab a map and traipse from tent to tent! You can also head to Twitter’s blog for a complete schedule:

  • Starting with the idea of a Twitter feed used as evidence, author Elliott Holt (@elliottholt) will tell the story of a crime. The audience will see that story unfold via three different perspectives, and then will have to weigh the presented evidence for themselves. Wednesday at 7pm EST
  • Perhaps no story is more powerful than a myth. Lucy Coats (@lucycoats) from Northampton UK, will re-tell 100 Greek myths in 100 Tweets. Wednesday 21 Nov. till Sunday 25 Nov. 9am EST
  • Emmy Laybourne (@emmylaybourne) and Anna Banks (@byannabanks) will put a humorous spin on the paranormal young adult story with love affair between a teenage girl and a…Sasquatch. Wednesday through Sunday at 4pm EST (21:00 GMT) 
  • For author Kurt Crisman (@unpublishedguy) online descriptions of TV episodes tell a story all their own. He’ll weave a whole story together out of these to describe five seasons of a science fiction show with an absurdist twist. Every day, updated hourly
  • Ifeoluwapo Odedere offers a satire, written in the style of the King James Bible, about a Nigerian community whose attempts to find a sustainable power source are continually thwarted by a saboteur. Thursday through Saturday at 8am EST
  • In a tense psychological thriller, Andrew Pyper (@andrewpyper) re-tells the classic Henry James ghost story “The Turn of the Screw” — set in a present-day White House. We will follow the Tweets of the new nanny, who is increasingly convinced something strange is afoot. Thursday through Sunday at 7pm EST
  • A group of four authors in Paris plan to work together to build collaborative sonnets in French, which they call #TwitRature. Thursday to Sunday at 5am EST
  • AND if you’re lucky enough to be in New York, the New York Public Library will be hosting the festival’s only non-virtual live event this Saturday.

I love that all of these creative people have embraced the idea of “twitterature.” I’m sure it’s a challenging way to stretch (squeeze?) one’s writing skills, and really brings the audience something innovative. What are your thoughts on how Twitter is changing the literary world?

Check back next week for a summary of the festival’s highlights!


Helen Fielding Working on New Bridget Jones Novel (v.g.)

Everyone’s favourite singleton to be thrust into the brave new world of Twitterature.

It’s been thirteen long years since a new volume of Bridget Jones’ diary, with all its obsessive weight woes and love laments, has been unleashed upon the world. In that time, fanatics have had to content themselves with reading the series’ two books over and over again, to the point of having memorized them by rote. (Okay, maybe some of us are more fanatical than others.) But the agonizing wait is finally over: Helen Fielding has confirmed that she is working on a new Bridget Jones novel to be released late next year. Hurrah!

And one of the most interesting tidbits to come out of Fielding’s announcement is how her writing and Bridget’s life will be thrust into the world of 2012. Instead of beginning the day with her routine account of weight, alcohol units drunk, calories consumed, and 1471 calls made, Bridget’s diary entries will begin with a tweet. Says Fielding, “It’s more like ‘number of Twitter followers: 0. Still no followers. Still no followers.'”

Perhaps Fielding will take it a step further. What if Bridget’s diary was not on paper at all? What if she has discovered the world of blogging, even tumblr, or instagram? Not only does the new medium give Fielding lots to play with, it gives Bridget an infinite number of worries to obsess over, like the number of visitors she has on her online dating profile, or her mother’s permeating presence on Facebook. Worries that make her just like the rest of us, regretful though we are to admit it.

In the age of social networks and text messages, Bridget has the power of instant drunken replies.
Oof, tumbled over.

As for the story at the heart of the work, it’s a mystery as to whether the perennial men of Bridget’s life, sensible Mark Darcy and reprehensible Daniel Cleaver, will be making an appearance. “Some characters remain and some may have disappeared,” Fielding said. “They’ll still be presences in the book. Like all of us you keep your friends, people stay in your life, but everyone’s life moves on.”

What? Possibly no Darcy and Cleaver? But what will have become of Bridget? If she is to have aged in real time, that would put her in her late 40s to early 50s. Is she the tragic spinster retread she always feared she’d be, the threat of being half eaten by alsatians looming? Or the lonely single mother of a pair of troublesome teenagers? Fielding isn’t giving away much information.

She has grownup. My life has moved on and hers will move on too. She’s still trying to give up [drinking and smoking], she’s still on a diet. She’s trying a bit harder, and is a bit more successful, but she’s never really going to change.

Phew. Now all one has to worry about awaiting this twitterature-influenced Bridget Jones episode is avoiding eating the entire contents of one’s fridge. Non v.g.


One of These Days, None of These Days: Why We Procrastinate

The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It

Sorry everyone, I meant to post this last week…

Sound familiar? If you’re a human being (and I’m betting you are) you’ll have procrastinated at some point in your life. More likely, you’ll have procrastinated a lot in your life.

But why is that? What is there in our genetic makeup that causes all of us to struggle with procrastination?

The duo behind AsapSCIENCE answers that very question. Thankfully, they do so in the form of a YouTube video, which means you can procrastinate your procrastination by watching a video on how not to procrastinate… Ah, the delicious irony.

Though the psychological causes are still debated, there’s a human tendency to over or underestimate the value of a reward based on its temporal proximity. This is often referred to as “temporal discounting.”

Basically, temporal discounting is a fancy explanation behind why you’d rather watch that cute video of a Costa Rican sloth orphanage NOW and write that important research paper LATER.

And it gets worse the further away your deadline is. Have a deadline at the end of the term, or even the school year? As it turns out, your weirdly-wired brain currently considers that exam or project of less important for being due further into the future.

Human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent a reward is perceived to be, meaning the further away a reward is, the more you discount its value. This is often referred to as “present bias” or “hyperbolic discounting.”

This is why students cram; you don’t realize the value of a high grade until you come close enough to the time that grade will be evaluated. And more often than not, procrastinators will have acted too late to achieve the grade they really want.

So there’s the science of why. Now, how to keep your procrastination in check…

1. How can you counteract present bias? Well, if the root of procrastination lies in the distance you are from your eventual deadline, why not bring that deadline closer? Setting smaller deadlines for yourself that line the way to your ultimate deadline is a good method to avoid last minute scrambling.

2. Immediate reward vs. future reward–so, a reward that’s far off in time doesn’t hold the same weight as some immediate satisfaction.  The best way to prevent the immediate reward being satisfied by Facebook or YouTube is to grant yourself another kind of reward. This could be a snack, a study break, or 15 minutes of browsing time. The important thing is that it has to be immediate. Telling yourself you’ll enjoy sweetmeats and other luxuries after you receive the grade you want is nice, but it won’t stop you from procrastinating before then.

3. Related to the above, you might want to try the Pomodoro technique. This involves the use of a kitchen timer, set at 25 minutes, to improve your stamina for studying over time. You spend a little bit of time on, a little off, and in the process you gain the ability to judge the amount of time and effort you’ll have to put into each assigned task, thus allowing you to manage your future time more effectively.

4. And if all of that still can’t peel you away from distractions, well just uninstall the internet. Seriously. Working writers do this all the time. There are even downloadable programs for it, like Concentrate and StayFocused (both for Chrome) and Leechblock (for Firefox). If you need the Internet to study, don’t panic; you can use these programs to temporarily block yourself from the sites most offensive to your study time (because there’s no way you’re using Facebook and Pinterest to study).

Furthermore, if you can practice the art of avoiding procrast… Oh hey, look, another cat video!


The Worst (Fictional) Jobs in Literature

Every week in a competition of wits The New Yorker asks a question of the Twitter-verse. Its most recent contest asked followers to reply to the question, “What’s the worst job in literature?

Although James Joyce’s proofreader appeared several times in the list, most tweeters stuck to the fictional theme. In the end the job The NY found worse than Hamlet’s motivational coach and Jay Gatsby’s poolboy was the winning entry “Narcissus’ girlfriend.” There were, however, so many gems within the bunch that we had to round up a Top Ten for you.

Think your job’s unbearable? Check out the hilarious responses below:

1. Captain Hook’s harpsichord key repairman

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

2. The reception committee for Godot

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

3. The chiropractor of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

4. Gregor Samsa’s exterminator

“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

5. Public relations for Lisbeth Salander

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

6. Richard III’s physiotherapist

William Shakespeare’s Richard III

7. Hester Prynne’s stylist

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

8. Huck Finn’s elocutionist

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

9. Ophelia’s swim instructor

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

10. Oedipus’s shrink. Or ophthalmologist.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles


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