PubCoach top 10: August 2020

Reading time: About 5 minutes

Here are my 10 favourite articles or posts from last month, focusing on the most useful, helpful and healthful pieces for writers.

When I worked in the newspaper business, I had to learn how to cope with what we called “silly season.” At the height of summer — late August in particular — when just about everyone in the world was on vacation and absolutely nothing was happening, we still had to fill newspapers with stories.

So, we devoted hundreds of column inches to stuff that otherwise would never have seen the light of day. Monster wasp nests. Sandcastle contests at the beach. Ice sculptures carved with chain saws. With that philosophy in mind, here are 10 un-newsworthy stories — not important, not life-changing — but fun or interesting. I hope they make you smile or tap your toes. Or both.

Compare the reading habits of five generations

Did you know that Millennials (people age 26 to 40) read more books and visit libraries more often than any other generation? For an informative infographic on your cohort’s habits and how they compare to those of people in other generations, check out this beautiful infographic.

I found the comment that, “Baby Boomers who were read to as a kid are more likely to return the favour” particularly interesting. And I think it would be true of just about any generation. So, if you have kids, be sure to read to them. Summertime is a great time to do that.

 

Appreciate some delightful Taiwanese models in their 80s

The owners of a laundry shop in central Taiwan have become Instagram stars for posing in garments left behind by absent-minded customers.

Chang Wan-ji (83) and Hsu Sho-er (84) model a funky range of clothing, complete with over-sized sunglasses and jauntily-tied scarfs.  No one is more surprised by the venture’s success than the guy who proposed it — their 31-year-old grandson and unofficial stylist, Reef Chang.

As writer Chris Horton (@heguisen) put it in the New York Times, “They are naturals in front of the camera. Ms. Hsu, exudes the haughtiness of a supermodel but retains an air of playfulness. Mr. Chang, is the perfect foil, complementing his wife’s swagger with a chill disposition while rocking bountiful eyebrows.”

 

Savour a cartoon about writing

Do you find writing challenging and difficult? Something you avoid and procrastinate about? Cartoonist Grant Snider (@grantdraws) has a nine-panel message for you.

My thanks to reader Karen Bower for passing this delightful message along to me.

 

See these gargoyles from the Denver airport

To celebrate its 24th birthday last year, the Denver International Airport (@DENAirport) gave travelers a gift: a chatty gargoyle. See it here in a two-minute video.

The marketing and design agency Karsh Hagan (@karshhagan) invented the allegedly 243-year-old talking animatronic in order to address the airport’s worldwide conspiracy rumors. I’ve never been to Denver but now I really want to go (although only when the pandemic is over, of course).

 

Figure out your favourite Hamlet:

When I did my undergrad degree many decades ago, political science and English vied for my major of choice. Although poli sci eventually won, I’ve remained a huge fiction reader and theatre-goer. And the play Hamlet has long been one of my obsessions. Imagine my joy when I found an amusing, video-filled post featuring the 40 best Hamlets of the last one hundred or so years compiled by Emily Temple at LitHub (@lithub).

The list includes serious recommendations: see Richard Burton in 1964 as #16 and Andrew Scott (the Hot Priest from Fleabag) in 2017 as #8. And it also offers amusing ones: my favourite of those is #27, Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island doing a musical Hamlet. Took me right back to my childhood. My only question: Why is there no mention of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet?

 

Read about bees

Do you care about bees? A chance conversation with a store clerk, who was a beekeeper had caused me to consider the hobby. That is, until I read my friend Dave Doroghy’s (@DaveDoroghy) delightful book, Show Me the Honey

As the New York Times put it in a review, “If you think beekeeping is a quick and easy shortcut to wealth, this book will set you straight. . . a light read on the pleasures and pains of a beekeeper that will give you new respect for all the work — by two- and six-legged laborers alike — that goes into producing the spoonful of honey you stir into your tea.”

Even if keeping bees is a lot of work, reading this book is an easy job.

 

Bake a tomato corn pie

Can’t remember who told me about Smitten Kitchen but I love Deb Perelman (@debperelman) and her opinionated take on food. She lives in New York City and cooks like a fiend. On her About page she says she’s wary of excessively fussy foods and pretentious ingredients. “I don’t do truffle oil,” she writes, “[or] Himalayan pink salt at $10 per quarter-ounce or single-origin chocolate that can only be found through Posh Nosh-approved purveyors. I think food should be accessible, and am certain that you don’t need any of these things to cook fantastically.”

And she won my heart with a delectable — and seasonally appropriate — recipe for Tomato corn pie. I made it for dinner last week and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted and my entire family loved it as well. I get her newsletter and you should, too.

 

Use this tech support cheat sheet

I think I’ve told you before about my son Duncan’s (@DWGLeckie) great technical aptitude — and his concomitant scorn for people — like me — who sometimes struggle with technology. After years of training (from him) I have learned to always restart my computer AND to ask Dr. Google before asking him about any computer or software-related problems.

Recently, when I emailed him with a question relating to an app that was giving me trouble, he sent me this response.

If you’re a parent or grandparent, remember to restart and ask Google before you do anything else. If you’re a Millennial, print out this sheet and give it to the other non-computer people in your life.

 

Dance to the apartment sessions

Apartment Sessions is a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist collective performing remarkable music in very small spaces, like apartments. Here are my faves: We don’t have the words, Queen’s Somebody To Love (filmed in a subway car!) and Donovan’s Dream (I particularly enjoyed seeing the percussion section contained by the top level of a bunk bed.)

 

Consider the value of the post office

This post will not make you smile but it will tug at your heartstrings. Geraldine DeRuiter’s blog, The Everywhereist (@everywhereist),  has been named one of the best blogs by Time Magazine. She writes about travel, food, feminism, family and film and does so with great aplomb. Here, she writes about her late father, and uses the essay as a chance to reflect on the value of the US postal service. (Actually, her post broke my heart.)

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My video podcast last week addressed how to juggle research with writing. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

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What are the best blog posts you’ve read in the last month? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below.  Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Aug. 31/20 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!