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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

Sometimes we don’t recognize what we’re total crap at. In my case, during my school years, I applied three times to be an RA (residential assistant), and was soundly rejected each and every time.

The first time was in high school. (I attended a boarding school.) I thought for sure that my strong academic track record, good behavior, and obvious steadiness would make me a shoo-in. Plus I’d completed training to become a peer counselor.

Not only was I not selected, but the person I believed ill-suited for it—my roommate—was chosen. In a gracious move, she didn’t take the solo dorm room offered to RAs and continued to room with me.

In college, I had financial incentive to become an RA: free room and board. My internal motivations were still there, too: I considered myself a good listener and wanted to help people.

I was turned down again. This time, I was told that during a role-playing session I wasn’t able to get the other person to open up quickly enough. I found that ridiculous: the other person was an actor whose job was to stonewall me.

My last attempt was during a college study-abroad program. After being through the RA evaluation process twice over, I thought I had this game figured out. But again I was told no. It was a very kind no, but the residence life director looked at me as if I were a three-legged puppy.

For years I believed these people just couldn’t see me clearly—or they were simply favoring ebullient, extroverted fakes. In some ways, I was right: they didn’t see me clearly because I had 15-foot high walls erected. In addition to being introverted, I was shy, and it took me eons to trust anyone. I might have been a good listener, but my demeanor wasn’t inviting. Moreover, I relied on others to come to me.

For better or worse, these inclinations (which I’ve tried to soften over time) have found their way into my business model. I favor discoverability through organic search (creating content that leads people to me). I try to do my best work and let others decide, rather than going out to persuade. (Shouldn’t quality speak for itself?) I wait for others to propose partnerships; I don’t put myself out there.

This has some significant drawbacks—quality does not, in fact, speak for itself, although it sometimes gets noticed and appreciated by those who pay attention. For me, that has been enough.

Have a great weekend,

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
Fix Your Scene Shapes to Quickly Improve Your Manuscript

P.P.S. There is more to this newsletter—keep scrolling!
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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.)

A video speed controller can change your life

For my Hot Sheet reporting, I watch a lot of replays of webinars, workshops, panels, and conferences. It can be time consuming—and sometimes I worry halfway through it’s not worth the time to keep watching. So my life was changed when I discovered a browser add-on that allows me to speed up video replay as much as I want. I’ve gone as fast as 3x, and often keep it at 2x as the default. You can find versions for nearly every browser; just look for “Video Speed Controller” in the browser’s app store.


Trying to map out connections or networks?

I discovered this handy trick from Tools for Reporters: Linkfromdomain is a Bing-related command that helps you see top outgoing links from a specific website. For example, if you study the results for, you’ll see that I often link to services, organizations, and bookstores (Zoom, Submittable, Barnes & Noble, Canva, SCBWI). 


Type in a synopsis, get a movie suggestion

This is impressive: you can type in a brief plot description of a movie you’d like to see and get instant results. Here’s what I tried: aspiring author goes to New York City for fame and fortune, falls in love. Top two results: The Incredible Jessica James, A Quiet Passion. I would love to see this for books! 

Like Wirecutter for software-as-a-service tools

First, for those who don’t know what software-as-a-service (SaaS) is: it’s software that you buy on a licensing or subscription basis. It includes many services/softwares you know and have probably used, such as Microsoft, Adobe, Shopify, Slack, and more. 

It’s not always easy to choose the best SaaS for your needs, or understand the differences among them. So I’m very happy to learn of Satchel, which can better inform your decision making. Here’s a good guide to start with: The Best Project Management Tool

Writing Memoir Without Fear with Allison K Williams. $25 class. Wednesday, March 10, 2021. 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Eastern

Next online class: Writing Memoir Without Fear with Allison K Williams

On Wednesday, Mar. 10: You have a powerful story to tell … but what if your mom gets mad, or someone sues you? In this live class with Allison K Williams, you’ll gain tools and skills for sharing your truth on the page without retraumatizing yourself as you write. You’ll learn key strategies for avoiding legal action and hurting feelings while writing truthful characters and scenes. And you’ll discover how to navigate real-life relationships with tact and confidence while feeling good about publishing your words.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Best black tea (specialty and online sources)

Back in January, I asked for strong black tea recommendations and boy, did you deliver! Because so many people responded, I’ve parceled out the recommendations over two issues. The first list (two weeks ago) rounded up teas available at supermarkets and coffee shops. This list focuses on special tea purveyors or teas ordered online. Here’s a roundup of all suggestions with links.

Most popular suggestions:
  • August Uncommon Tea was recommended by Wayne Meyers, Layla Khoury-Hanold, and Lynn Schuessler. Cassie Premo Steele said, “Try Lowcountry and Painted Desert.”
  • Mariage Frères was celebrated by Joy Overstreet and Cynthia Morris. Charles Wood said, “The absolutely most amazing black tea is Marco Polo from Mariage Frères. My wife and I stumbled upon a Mariage Frères tea shop in Paris a few years ago and loved the tea, pastry and ambiance, but didn’t know its tea was world famous.”
  • Upton Tea was mentioned by Bob Peterson and Ruth Harris. Maria Alexander says, “My favorite is their River Shannon tea, but I also adore the Scottish blend and one of the Colombian black teas. You can’t go wrong, honestly. And their website is amazing.” —Maria Alexander
  • Murchies, a Canadian company, was suggested by Jennifer McCord and Aline Soules, among others. Aline said, “I particularly like English breakfast, Scottish breakfast, Balmoral Blend, Earl Grey.”
  • Fortnum and Mason was recommended by Margie Ogawa and Terry Freedman. Terry said, “I like Assam, although their Irish Breakfast tea is stronger.”
Other suggestions:
  • My answer to top grade black tea is Darjeeling from a small company, Vahdam, in India (available through Amazon). It is so delicious and satisfying. —Susan Specht
  • Dryad Tea. I personally prefer the Dresden and Firebird’s Child Chai, but my daughter’s been drinking lots of the Winter Court and Queen Mab’s Wish this year. I adore their book-themed and author-affiliated teas. —Dave Reed
  • The strong, smokiness of Davidson’s Lapsang Souchong Black makes even the fourth or so cup on any day as special as the first. Love this tea. —Jenny MacEwen
  • One of my clients gifted me tea from Simpson and Vail in Connecticut and I’ve been a fan ever since. They are a family-run tea company and their teas are superb, and as an added bonus their packaging is gorgeous. They also have a line of author teas like Maya Angelou and Lewis Carroll. —Karen Fine
  • As a lifelong tea drinker, I’ve tried nearly everything and the black tea that does it for me in the morning is Marks & Spencer’s Luxury Gold No. 2 (they also sell an Extra Strong No. 3, which I’ve not worked up the courage to try, but one of these days I will). —Connie Shelton
  • I recommend Assam Braveheart from Imperial Teas in the UK, who ship worldwide. It really is strong and deliciously malty, a great Assam, and best drunk with full-fat milk. —Karen Traviss
  • I am a big fan of the Rare Tea Company and love the Rare Chinese Keemun black tea. —Brian Watson
This is not a complete list of what was suggested; see my site for everything!

Next question: Do you have a preferred source for stock images (whether free, Creative Commons, or paid)? Let me know by hitting reply to this message.

Upcoming online classes

🌱 March 10: Writing Memoir Without Fear with Allison K Williams

💻 March 11: Blogging Strategies That Work in 2021 with Jane Friedman (with Writer’s Digest)

⭐️ March 24: Get Better Critiques Now with Lisa Cooper Ellison

📚 March 27: How to Get Published with Jane Friedman (with Midwest Writers Workshop)

✏️ April 15, 22 & 29: Advanced Self-Editing Master Class with Roz Morris

👑 June 16: 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 35,000 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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