Writer’s Digest, September 2008

Agent Advice: Ted Weinstein of Ted Weinstein Literary

Writer’s Digest, September 27, 2008

by Chuck Sambuchino

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Ted Weinstein of Ted Weinstein Literary) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

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The Unfinished Game

The Unfinished Game coverBefore the mid-seventeenth century, scholars generally agreed that it was impossible to predict something by calculating mathematical outcomes. One simply could not put a numerical value on the likelihood that a particular event would occur. Even the outcome of something as simple as a dice roll or the likelihood of showers instead of sunshine was thought to lie in the realm of pure, unknowable chance. The issue remained intractable until Blaise Pascal wrote to Pierre de Fermat in 1654, outlining a solution to the “unfinished game” problem: how do you divide the pot when players are forced to end a game of dice before someone has won? The idea turned out to be far more seminal than Pascal realized. From it, the two men developed the method known today as probability theory. In The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter that Made the World Modern, acclaimed popular mathematics writer Keith Devlin, known to millions of NPR listeners as “The Math Guy” on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon, tells the story of this correspondence and its remarkable impact on the modern world: from insurance rates, to housing and job markets, to the safety of cars and planes, calculating probabilities allowed people, for the first time, to think rationally about how future events might unfold. (Basic Books/Perseus)

Why Boys Fail

Richard WhitmireUSA Today editorial board member Richard Whitmire’s Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind, expanding his recent article in The New Republic, a provocative investigation of the crisis in boys’ education and their downward spiral of worsening school performance, diminishing college prospects and reduced career opportunities, questioning the conventional wisdom, identifying the core reasons for this decline, and offering solutions that are already working in several schools around the country, to AMACOM.

Cool Cuisine

Cool Cuisine coverWhat we eat does have an impact on global warming, and you can enjoy being part of the global-warming solution by following these easy recipes, tips, and techniques outlined by chef and environmental educator Laura Stec and meteorologist Eugene Cordero. Cool Cuisine: Taking The Bite Out of Global Warming presents a realistic view of food and drink and their impact on greenhouse-gas emissions. The food-environment connection is clearly defined with food solutions coming from doctors, ranchers, farmers, dairymen, chefs, and food service professionals. Stec’s friendly, entertaining style and Cordero’s no-nonsense data combine culinary art and science in a way that inspires and instructs. (Gibbs Smith)

Unfolding the Napkin

Dan RoamStrategy consultant, visual thinking guru and author of The Back of the Napkin Dan Roam‘s Unfolding the Napkin, a workbook providing hands-on lessons, case-studies and detailed examples to put into practice his unique approach to visual problem solving, again to Branda Maholtz and Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio/Penguin.

The Autobiographer’s Handbook

Autobiographer's Handbook coverThe Autobiographer’s Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir, edited by Jennifer Traig with an introduction by Dave Eggers, received this starred review in Publisher’s Weekly: “Put out by 826 Valencia, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Eggers started to provide creative writing instruction for middle and high school students, this book presents straightforward, practical ideas and advice from a double-handful of contemporary writers. Edited by memoirist Traig (Devil in the Details), a longtime 826 Valencia tutor, it’s comprised largely of excerpts from wide-ranging, insightful round-table discussions among nonfiction practitioners like Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Nick Hornby (Housekeeping vs. the Dirt), Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes) and Sarah Vowell (Assassination Vacation)… Besides lessons on celebrating the ordinary and the importance of humor, contributors also offer ways to push through the inevitable writer’s block and handle miffed family and friends. Their guidance, complemented by writing exercises and work plans, should prove useful, informative and motivating for writers at just about any level.” (Henry Holt).