Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Write for TV

A memo has surfaced by David Mamet, the executive producer of TV show The Unit, in which instructs his writing staff how to write better episodes. It's pretty hardcore (written in all-caps!), but there's actually some decent advice, even for non-TV writers.

My favorite part:




Monday, March 29, 2010

Cranes still offer "an extra special show"

There's a neat article in the Journal Star about how people from across the nation, and even the world, are flocking to Nebraska to see the cranes (pun intended!).

From the article:
But inside Rowe's Iain Nicolson Audubon Center, they keep a map on the wall so crane tourists can mark their hometowns with stick pins. This season alone, visitors have come from nearly every state and perhaps two dozen international locations, including Bermuda, Venezuela, Spain, Poland, Latvia, Turkey, India, China and East Timor.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Need Inspiration? Ask a Toddler!

Tiny Art Director is the name of a blog about a father who asks his toddler daughter what to paint, and then paints it! Her requests are pretty hilarious ("a dinosaur eating a baby!"). He also includes her critique and commentary with every piece ("He's just going to be nice to that baby he's got in his mouth"). The artist is coming out with a book as well, with more of the same.

I'm tempted to ask my neighbor's little toddler what I should write my next story about!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moving a House to Save it

Did you guys hear about the century-old historic Dial House over near 16th and South? Some businesspeople wanted to tear it down and build a CVS pharmacy there. So, in order to save it, the planning commission decided to move it! Crazy! In order to do so, they had to designate an empty lot as a historic landmark, before transporting the house to it. The Dial House's new home will be at 29th and Washington.

From the Journal Star:

Ed Zimmer, the city's historic preservation planner, acknowledged that was an unusual move but, "we're attempting to create an opportunity to save this building."

Peter Katt, an attorney speaking on behalf of B&J Partnership, said his client would rather move the house than tear it down.

"We believe that the best outcome for this property is to be saved rather than demolished," Katt said.

Sounds like everyone wins!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Czech Memories Photography Exhibit

Photographer Jean Lewis's exhibit "Czech Memories: Ethnicity and History Preserved in the Built Environment" is up at the Great Plains Art Museum (1155 Q St, Lincoln, NE). Much of the exhibit focuses on Czech cemeteries, which are particularly well cared for.

From the Journal Star article:

Amber Mohr, museum administrator and curator of the Great Plains Art Museum, said the reason the cemeteries are typically exclusively Czech is a matter of the historical record.

"About 50 percent of Czechs who immigrated (to America) had no religious affiliation," she said. "They were agnostic and called themselves ‘free thinkers.' Because of this, Catholics and Protestants refused to bury them in their cemeteries. So the Czechs had their own.

The exhibit runs until April 18th at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St., Lincoln NE. Go here for hours and directions.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Makes American Music American

From, this video: Bernstein on What Makes American Music American:

"In this clip, Bernstein sums up how America's melting pot of cultures distilled many different kinds of music into quintessentially "American" music. Too often we try to ignore cultural differences and pretend they don't exist. Pointing out the things that are particular to a group of people is seen as "impolite". I prefer to celebrate all of the ethnic cultures around me here in Hollywood- Hispanic, Asian, Black, Middle Eastern- it's all more interesting to me than the plain old white bread people I grew up around. As a cartoonist, the differences between all of us are much more interesting than the similarities. Viva la difference!"
Obviously, PSR doesn't deal with music at all, but I think some of this applies to American art and literature as well. Plus, aren't all the arts are deeply interconnected anyway?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marc Smith, Founder of Slam Poetry, in Omaha

If you've ever been to a poetry slam, you've probably heard the introductory spiel that explains what a poetry slam is. When they talk about how poetry slams began, they tell you about a guy named Marc Smith, who came up with the idea when he wanted to spice up open mic night. After they say Marc Smith's name, everyone is supposed to yell "So what!" It's very exciting.

Anyway, the famous Marc Smith (So what!) will be in Omaha March 23rd to read some poems. The event will take place at the Omaha Healing Arts Center, on 13th and Howard. There is a suggested $7 donations at the door.

For more information, check out the event page at the Nebraska Writers Collective site.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Toy Camera Photography

Some photographers from photo agency Magnesium created a gallery of photographs taken with toy cameras. The images are kind of eerie and pretty. (I predict a new hipster trend!) They also included an essay about toy cameras:

Ahh, toys. Ask most people when they started to fall in love with photography and many, if not most will hark back to the golden days of their childhood, when life was simpler, the sun shone brighter and film was, as the only option available, still cheap. Most photographers of today who were raised in the odd limbo generation of the 70s and 80s grew up on one or more of the futuristic Polaroid instant cameras kicking around the house. Or maybe you had the cartridge-based 110 film and disc cameras, invented by Kodak and popularized with the Kodacolor VR, or any number of short-lived point and shoot cameras, that weren’t toy cameras per se, but today can be found lining the discount bins of used camera resellers and garage sales alike, the world over.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How to Design a Book Cover in 1:55

A creative director made a time-lapse video of herself designing a book cover for what appears to be a steampunk romance novel. We see her revise, photoshop, and do all sorts of other things to make the cover.

Here's what the designer had to say about the process:
"The author, Gail Carriger, had done some research on her own (I love a design-minded author) and found a photo of Donna Ricci, the “goth supermodel”, in an awesome victorian kind of steampunk outfit, and sent it to us. The image was a near perfect starting point, so we just decided to see if we could use that very image. Donna was very happy to be our Alexia, so after a little Photoshop magic to make her look a little less punk and a little more proper Victorian, we were off to a pretty good start. The foggy London backdrop was a no brainer for the story and feel. As you can see from the in-progress image, we initially went very Victorian, very steampunk-feeling. I even designed a medal that I was going to use on the back (the octopus is drawn from the story)...but ultimately it was too old-timey, a little too dark."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Illinois, My Apologies

Justin Hamm, a PSR XI contributor, contacted us the other day to tell us about the collection of poems he's put together. The title of the collection, Illinois, My Apologies, comes from the very poem that we published last year in the magazine!

Mr. Hamm has been making audio recordings of his poems to prep for open mics, and he sent along this video version of "Illinois, My Apologies." And now we're sharing it with you, to listen and enjoy!

Originally from the flatlands of central Illinois, Justin Hamm now lives and writes in Missouri. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Cream City Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Red Rock Review, The Brooklyn Review, and numerous other publications. More about Justin and his work can be found at

Monday, March 8, 2010

Native Daughters Photography Exhibit

Native Daughters is an exhibit of photography featuring Native American women. It will run from March 8th (today!) to March 12th in the Nebraska Union Rotunda Gallery. The exhibit is the culmination of a two-semester class in the NU J-school focusing on Native American women. The exhibit is in honor of Women's Week.

One of the participants said
in a story in the Scarlet,
“It has been very humbling to talk to these women who are disadvantaged,” she said. “I have gained respect for people who have overcome trials and tribulations. It’s not always easy to talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries. Their strength has touched me the most.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Garrison Keillor on the month of March

Exactly one week after we posted about Willa Cather Winters, and the weather is starting to warm up! It was almost as if we switched from winter to spring in the course of a day! And then last fall, we had all of that nice weather until a few days into December, when the weather abruptly became bitterly cold.

I heard something great about the month of March the other day. Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame said
"God designed the month of March to show people who don't drink what a hangover feels like."
How true! Are you all doing anything fun to celebrate the return of above-forty temperatures? I'm finally going to go see what all the fuss is over these Sandhill cranes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obscura Day 2010

Back in October, we blogged about Atlas Obscura, a collection of strange and interesting places that bills itself as a "compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities, and esoterica."

The folks over at Atlas Obscura decided that we need a special holiday to celebrate those crazy and interesting spots all over the globe, so they founded Obscura Day. It's going to be a "day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your own hometown." On March 20, 2010, cities and towns across the globe are hosting celebrations. RSVP now to guarantee your spot!

It looks like there are a lot of Great Plains towns represented. None in Nebraska, though, which is too bad. They say that you can organize an Obscura Day celebration in your town, though. Anyone up for the challenge?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nice Writing

This article is over ten years old, but it made me think. The bulk of "Sweet and Low" is a critique of Barbara Kingsolver, whom the author claims is a "Nice Writer," meaning someone who writes shallowly on social themes. No one can criticize "nice writing" because it seems so virtuous.

I am not talking about hypocrisy. I am talking about the mere appearance of goodness as a substitute for honest art. The trend is everywhere. It is to be found, for example, in Lorrie Moore's short stories, especially "People Like That Are the Only People Here," the longest tale in Birds of America, her acclaimed new collection. The story is about a newborn baby dying of cancer. That is, the story's emotional register begins, from the very first paragraph, far beyond the reader's capacity to develop his or her own response to it. The effect is to place the supremely empathetic author in a protected niche, far beyond the reader's capacity to criticize. In this way Nice Writing fosters Nice Criticism. Anyone who writes nice writes with impunity.

Full disclosure: I really liked the Poisonwood Bible. But I see what the author is saying too. What do you think?