... and how do we make it better? This is the opening question asked by Steven Pinker in this talk given to accompany his 2014 book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Clocking in at over an hour, it's not really a ‘snippet’, but it's such a great talk (and book) that I couldn't resist sharing.
All languages borrow words from other languages, so it should perhaps come as no surprise that this happens in fictional languages too. In this interesting interview, David J Peterson, the creator of several fictional languages including the Dothraki and Valyrian languages used in the Game of Thrones TV series, explains how fictional languages are not only influenced by real languages but can borrow words from other fictional languages as well. For example, the Dothraki, having no form of written language, had no word for ‘book’ so borrowed the word from High Valyrian instead.
David J Petersen is the co-founder of the Language Creation Society and author of the book The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building which is due to be published by Penguin Books in September 2015.
The video is shared from the YouTube channel of The Guardian.
The wonderful Ursula Le Guin has been honoured with the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards this month. She accepts her honour for writers of science fiction and fantasy everywhere, saying that 'Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now'.
She goes on to deliver a passionate speech warning against the over-commercialisation of writing and publishing, and standing up for art and freedom. You can watch the speech in full below.
Today is Ada Lovelace day, an annual celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the infamous poet Lord Byron, but her mother sought to curb any 'poetical tendencies' by educating her in mathematics. (Her mother, Anne Isabella Byron, was born in County Durham and was herself nicknamed the 'Princess of Parallelograms' for her love of mathematics.) At the age of seventeen, Ada met Charles Babbage and became fascinated with his work on mechanical computers. Babbage dubbed her 'The Enchantress of Numbers' and from her notes on his Analytical Engine, which included a detailed method for using it to calculate a series of Bernoulli numbers, she has been credited as the world's first computer programmer.
Today is National Poetry Day, so here is the wonderful Jackie Kay reading her poem Old Tongue.
In this fun little video, publisher HarperCollins and author Mhairi McFarlane have compressed the entire publishing process from initial story idea to final printing into a three-minute whirlwind tour. At this length you aren't going to get any deep insights, but it does a remarkable job of demonstrating all the work that goes into publishing a book. As a result it's a superb overview of the different stages that are required: writing (with added tea); pitch & market positioning; structural, line and copy-editing; cover design; typesetting; proofreading and finally printing. The only thing not covered is marketing, but the video itself is proof of that stage!
This time last week I was fortunate enough to be in Mundal in Fjærland, Norway's answer to Hay-on-Wye. This beautiful little town is found on the Fjærlandsfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord which is the largest fjord in Norway and the third longest in the world. After a morning trip to the foot of the Bøyabreen glacier, and an an afternoon stroll with a paddle in the river, a potter around the local bookshops was the perfect way to end the day. Most of the books were delightfully incomprehensible as I can't lay claim to any understanding of the Norwegian language other than what can be extrapolated from watching Scandinoir on BBC4, but there were a few pockets of English language books to tempt my purse!
My book group's selection for August is Half of A Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which is set in 1960s Nigeria. One of the things that I love about reading is the way we can learn about the world through the words of others. But we need to be on our guard, as this can sometimes lead to a blinkered view which leaves us too ready to accept stereotypes. In her TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains why her earliest stories were about snow, apples and ginger beer; and why it is important for us to hear many stories of a place and not just a single story, repeated so often that we begin to think it is the only one.
The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2015 short story competition is open for entries until Sunday 15th February 2015 so there is plenty of time to craft a 2,000 word story on the subject of 'Joy'. It's free to enter and you could win a £500 cash prize as well as a place on a residential writing course and publication on the W&A website. For more details see the Writers' & Artists' competition page.
To get you in the mood here is a short interview with Stephen King discussing short story writing. His best-selling novel Misery started life as a short story, so maybe you will have the same luck with 'Joy'!
Not all networking meetings can boast a cathedral as their venue! This morning's Durham Business Club breakfast meeting took place in the beautiful medieval vaulted Undercroft Restaurant in Durham Cathedral. I'm looking forward to returning in September for a tour of the development work that is opening up new exhibition spaces as part of their Open Treasure project.
Caroline Orr is a proofreader, editor and e-book formatter who loves escaping to fictional worlds and is very fond of small stuffed dragons.