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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

I grew up in rural Indiana, where my parents kept a large garden in the backyard. It had a little of everything: peppers, carrots, corn, onions, tomatoes. But there were only three of us, and the garden produced far more than we needed.

So my parents came up with an ingenious plan. They bought me a little red wagon, filled it with all the overstock vegetables, and attached a sign to it, “The Burpee Girl.” (The sign was beautiful, I might add—my father was a calligrapher, my mother an artist.) I was instructed to go around the neighborhood and sell door to door.

I hated this.

Not only was I an introverted child, but I found the whole pursuit intensely embarrassing. But I feared my parents more than knocking on doors, so off I went.

I did manage to sell a good deal, in spite of my utter lack of salesmanship. My best customer was the man who operated the city trash compactor by the railroad tracks. The smell and the heat in that gravel lot were oppressive. He sat in a little wooden cabin, in a space not much bigger than himself.

When the Burpee Girl approached, he’d stand up and duck out of his cabin, and carefully pick out the juiciest tomatoes.

Welcome to summer.

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
How I Hosted a Socially Distanced Book Event
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Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

One Look dictionary and thesaurus search

I was recently reminded of this excellent resource by reader Tammy Cox: One Look. It’s a great way to find words or phrases on the tip of your tongue, or to discover related words and concepts. Don’t miss the reverse dictionary, too.


Need an email marketing service provider? ConvertKit now has a permanently free plan

While I use Mailchimp for email marketing, if I were starting out today, I’d likely choose ConvertKit even though it’s more expensive. Good news for you: ConvertKit now has a free forever plan that goes up to 1,000 subscribers. (No affiliate links here—I just think it’s a great deal!)


Mac users: get better cut-and-paste functionality

I found Jumpcut through the Cool Tools newsletter. It’s a free, open-source clipboard manager that strips all formatting, pasting in plain text only. Note: You’ll need to be comfortable with downloading software from Github, but it’s still pretty straightforward to install.

Paper airplane: The Sprinter

Just for fun: Paper airplane designs

Helpful when you need something to do as you wait for that webinar or virtual conference to start. Or when you’re on a very long group call at your desk. Check out Fold ’N Fly.

Past Mastery: How to Reveal Backstory with Roz Morris

Next online class: Past Mastery: How to Reveal Backstory with Roz Morris

On Wednesday, July 1: Agents and editors say that mishandling of backstory is one of the most common problems they see in authors’ manuscripts. Introduced in the wrong place, backstory can interrupt the action, losing the reader’s attention. If you don’t give the reader enough, they won’t understand why they should be interested in the story events. Either way, they stop reading. Book doctor Roz Morris will teach you best practices for usage in order to enrich your whole book.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Unforgettable books by Black authors

In the last issue, I asked you to share a book by a Black author that has been unforgettable. Here’s a sampling from the enthusiastic response I received.
  • “It would have to be Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler. It was so good that I went looking for the other books in the series, plus others by the author.” —Chris Holder [ed. note: many of you mentioned Butler and also her novel Kindred]
  • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. Unforgettable novel and she is simply a genius.” —Russ
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Not a cutting-edge selection at this point, but its combination of language and story blew me away.” —Debby Mayer
  • “Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down was an eye-opening and haunting read for me.” —J. Moharram
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is my personal favorite. Great for all ages junior high and up!” —Jenny Wells
  • Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange” —Lisa Alexia [who mentioned many others as well]
  • “For gay romance, Nyrae Dawn/Riley Hart is a Black woman who frequently writes POC characters. One Hundred Thousand Words might be a good book to start with her.” —Charlie
  • “Off the top of my head I would say Beloved, by Toni Morrison, but Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward would be a close contender.” —Kathy Andrew
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The novel made me aware of the negative effects of British colonialism, something I hadn’t thought much about before.”
  • “I would encourage people to go read Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell. This is a DC comic about a Green Lantern serving on the edge of the universe. The story plays to everything we are focused on right now: race, justice, power and morality.” —Todd Sattersten
  • “The British writer Zadie Smith’s first novel White Teeth. Incisive and humorous.” —Skyghost Mindscraper
Next question: If you use writing prompts as part of your creative practice, what’s your favorite source? Hit reply and let me know about either print or online resources.


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Learn Facebook ads without breaking the bank! MFA author Kirsten Oliphant’s workshop will teach you how to properly target, tweak, and see success with Facebook ads on a budget.

Upcoming online classes

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter published by Jane Friedman that’s been sending since 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
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