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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

I had a nemesis in middle school who was always calling me by some tortured nickname. For a while, it was “Fried Chicken,” but mostly she made up silly rhymes with my first name.

One day, though, she came up with something that stuck for years. A group of us were in the locker room after gym class, and she spotted cotton balls in my gym bag. She announced I was stuffing my bra with them (not true), and thus began my years-long nickname of “Cottonball.”

These were the years of “sticks and stones may break my bones,” and my mother told me to ignore the taunts and the teasing—they didn’t deserve my attention. So I remained stone silent and it became my eventual social default. Saying nothing was better than attracting more attention I didn’t want.

As I grew up (and left middle school, thank god), I started realizing I’d become a terribly earnest person. I don’t always understand when someone is kidding around with me, and I rarely crack jokes around, much less tease, people I don’t know.

It’s influenced my social media use as well: I tend to be straight and informative to a fault. I wish I could be off the cuff, witty and entertaining, but I still have that instinct to protect myself: don’t attract too much attention. That has drawbacks on social, yet I’ve built a platform just the same.

This is why I don’t like telling people how to use social media, because it’s like telling people how to behave at a party or make friends. Each of us has to find our own path, and engage in a way that honors our best ways of being in the world.

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
What Your First 50 Pages Reveals
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

Instant whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming

Sketch out ideas in real time with colleagues. No need to sign up. Fun!


Add a tiny timer to your menu bar (for Mac users)

As the app’s description says, if starting a timer takes more than a second, the timer app isn’t doing its job. This little timer for your menu bar couldn’t be simpler, and you can have multiple timers going at once. The paid version allows you to add tags and create time reports.


Want a weekly listing of bookish virtual events?

Every Sunday, you can receive a free newsletter that alerts you to free and paid online events for readers and writers. You will find some very impressive and free classes for writers here! It’s put together by author Sarah Nicolas and just started last month. Thanks to Rachel Kempster Barry for the tip.

Video app toolkit

Learn how to edit shareable videos right on your phone

If you want to look savvy and sophisticated when posting videos to Instagram, I encourage you to learn from Jeremy Caplan, who teaches at CUNY’s Newmark J-School. He’s shared the most useful apps for creating and editing shareable videos. His newsletter is worth subscribing to as well.

Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

Next online class: Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

On Wednesday, August 26: How can your writing turn into meaningful income from multiple sources? Unless you’re an overnight celebrity, getting your name and message out into the world—not to mention getting paid for it—is a long-range endeavor. We’ll take the long view and learn how author, garden designer, and speaker Benjamin Vogt has evolved from writing for himself to giving keynote addresses at national conferences. He’ll explore the many avenues to building an audience, finding your niche, and most important of all cultivating a passion others can relate to and find value in.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Music discovery

In the last issue, I asked you to share how you discover new music. Here’s what you said.
  • These days I discover new music through Spotify. I often listen to the charts, usually the Top 50 US. But I also check out new releases and the recommended artists or songs they provide after I listen to one of my existing favorites. I’ve found a bunch of great new music that way! —Leslye Penelope
  • The Spectrum on Sirius XM. Also, I live in a city known for its music (Memphis). We have two local radio stations, one that plays new music, and one that only plays Memphis or Memphis-related music. —Nikki Wright
  • You’re going to laugh, but the way I discover new music is at the salon. I go to Floyd’s 99 in Burbank, California, where they play music nonstop from a special channel. Also, the TV series Dark had some incredible music. Very atmospheric stuff, great for writing or thinking about writing.
  • I use the free version of Pandora. You make stations based on songs or artists you like and are matched with songs you might like based on that; you can thumbs up or down on those. Then, there’s a station called "Thumbprint Radio" which plays all your thumbs-upped songs and creates new recommendations based on that.
  • I would get my new music when I used to go to karaoke. They would usually play snippets of new (and old) music in between singers and I could get new (or new to me) music there as well as songs sung by the singers. I’ve gotten quite a bit of music that way. —Tammy Cox
  • My partner is the music person in the house. He gets his ideas from the local community radio, WORT. Anyone can listen to it online. Take a look at the schedule and it is certain you will find something you like. —Jean Krieg
  • I listen to Train Tracks with Pat Monahan on Sirius XM. He highlights new songs and artists. And I ask my teenagers. They know everything! —JD Kelly
  • My primary method for new music discovery right now is the Siri listen feature on my iPhone. I use it in the grocery store or when I am watching video on Netflix or YouTube [and hear a song I like]. You just need to say, “Siri, what song is this?” —Todd Sattersten
  • My husband and I recently binge-watched all the seasons of Blacklist, and I downloaded several terrific songs that were featured on the show. I’ve done this with Heartland, Yellowstone and other TV programs. —Elisabeth Daniels
Aaaaand ... I’ll add a shameless plug for my husband’s monthly mix, Gray Days & Gold—music that is lovely, sad, and seasonal. Here’s his August mix.

Next question: What website or app do you open when you want to take a break from the news or the headlines? (Social media sites don’t count.)

Upcoming online classes

❓ August 23: Open Q&A with Jane Friedman (free)

💸 August 26: Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

🕵️‍♀️ September 9: Research Agents and Publishers Like a Pro with Jane Friedman

🔒 September 25: Do I Need Permission for That? with Dr. Kelly Figueroa-Ray

📖 October 25: The Foundations of Getting Published with Jane Friedman

👑 January 13: Query Letter Master Class with Critique with Jane Friedman

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 34,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” 
—Marshall McLuhan
Copyright © 2020 Jane Friedman, All rights reserved.

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