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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

Early in my writing career, I offered some useless advice to a group of college students.

I had been invited to speak to a class about interviewing because of two profiles I’d recently published: one on Richard Russo (after he’d won the Pulitzer for fiction), and the other on Alice Sebold, who was sitting atop the New York Times bestseller list at the time.

The students wondered: How was I able to get them to respond to my interview requests?

I can’t remember the exact answer I gave, but it was something like, “It’s not hard! Just write a good intro email!”

It’s more complicated than that, of course. I was able to land big-names in part because I was a staffer at Writer’s Digest. And my interview subjects had books to promote.

These days, I myself field regular interview requests, and a handful come from students, looking for emailed answers. I used to faithfully respond to these, but I’ve now all but stopped. That’s because once the questions arrive, they reflect little study of the issues, and no awareness of what I’ve already written or said. I almost feel like I’m writing their assignment for them when I do answer their questions.

But this is somewhat unfair of me, because I tend to grant numerous podcast or video interviews knowing that the questions will be pretty much the same as those I get from students. I can guarantee I’m going to be asked, “If you could only offer ONE piece of advice on X, what would it be?” Or “What does every author need to do to succeed at X?” And so on.

I bet anyone who is an expert in their field faces the same issue.

So today, if I were to go back and revise my answer to those students about landing interviews via email, I’d tell them the following:

Treat the interviewer as a person with a unique body of work, not a Pez dispenser of advice. Explore the nuances and tensions surrounding their area of expertise—and hopefully ask questions they haven’t already answered elsewhere.

And if you’re a teacher trying to help younger students reach out for interviews, here is wonderful guidance.

Have a great weekend,

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
Find the Ending Before You Return to the Beginning

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

Looking for a rock-solid keyboard?

While I quite like the minimalist and flat keyboards from Apple, my husband (Mark) greatly dislikes them and complains that—despite years of use—he cannot get accustomed to their flimsy, insubstantial, and tiny keyboards.

Well, there’s a solution for him and anyone else who likes the early era of keyboarding: Keychron. They make wireless, mechanical keyboards that look right at home with that old Mac Performa in your basement. They can pair with computers and mobile devices alike, PC, Android or Apple. Hat tip to Iain Broome of Unslush.

Keychron keyboard

If you use, don’t miss this collaboration with Anchor/Spotify

Attention bloggers using If you want an easy way to turn your blog posts into podcasts, there’s a new tool for you. Anchor (owned by Spotify) allows you to connect any account to an Anchor account (free), then convert blog posts into audio using text-to-speech technology. Instant podcast! Learn more.

Create your own RSS feed that lists all newly released books from your favorite authors

It’s called and it uses the Google Books API. No charge.

Show me every TV or film scene that has ...

Flim (still in beta) allows you to search TV/film for specific things. Like lobsters. Or anything you want. You can also filter by type of media, genre, release year, and more.

About that lobster search: Flim thinks that thing in Alien is a lobster. And the Gremlins, too. So it’s not totally perfect and be aware that a search for something like lobster will turn up some rather icky results.

How to Get Published: Traditional, Self and Everything In Between with Jane Friedman. $99 master class. Saturday, March 27, 2021. 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern

Next online class: How to Get Published: Traditional, Self, and Everything In-Between with Jane Friedman

On Saturday, March 27, in partnership with Midwest Writers Workshop: In this one-day masterclass, you’ll learn not just the foundational principles of getting a book published, but gain up-to-date insight into the changing landscape of the publishing industry, and how you can navigate your own path toward success. You’ll discover what it takes to capture the attention of a New York publisher or literary agent (whether you write fiction or nonfiction) and how to determine if self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional publishing is the most appropriate path for your next project. Can’t attend the sessions live? No problem—Midwest Writers is offering access to the recording for three months to all registered attendees.
Learn more and register

Your turn: stock photo sites

In the last issue, I asked for your go-to sites for stock photos (free, paid or Creative Commons). The most common suggestions were Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, Shutterstock, VisualHunt, and free images through Canva. Here are the others.
  • Pond5 has inexpensive options that are not perfectly staged and posed or obviously stock looking. Depending on what you need, you can find some really authentic images there, often shot by journalists and indie filmmakers. —Marco North
  • There’s a gender spectrum stock photo site at Vice. CreateHERStock is one that probably isn’t as well known. They have paid packages too, but there’s a free set. —Keri Culver
  • For images, I like hitting the state archives (Indiana State Records and Archives and Ohio History are standouts) for images. Penitentiary records can also be a useful source as well as some local historical societies. —Denise M Testa
  • A partner and I launched Bouquet stock photography. It’s a curated library of stock photos with a focus on diversify and representation. —Dana Kaye
  • Picmonkey: the pro subscription includes vast photo library. —Lynn Baber
  • CIA World Factbook. —Kathy Clark
  • Nappy is a site with free-to-use photos of Black and Brown people, filling a massive void in the stock image world for diverse photos. —Nick Barron
Next question: I’m often asked for microphone recommendations, and my go-to for a USB microphone is the Blue Yeti. But there must be alternatives out there. Is there one you recommend? Hit reply and let me know.

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 21: How I Use Zoom in My Business with Jane Friedman (free!)

⭐️ 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

📡 April 18: The Art & Business of Author Platform with Jane Friedman (with Writers Circle)

👑 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 36,000 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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