Libraries And The Economy

When libraries ask for funding from any level of government, it’s an uphill battle. Politicians like to have their names prominently displayed on signs next to public works project; building new roads, repairing sewer systems. You can’t blame them, it’s how they get re-elected and keep their jobs. What makes it so challenging for libraries is that the phrase “non-profit organization” doesn’t excite government leaders who are trying to convince the public they are creating jobs and growing the economy. And yet, libraries do contribute to the economy!
Libraries provide employment for their staff. If there are twenty staff members. that’s twenty citizens who are earning a living, spending money at local stores and not competing for scarce employment opportunities in the community. Hiring student volunteers also contributes to local economy; they learn the importance of being punctual, they learn how to take directions and they develop useful interpersonal skills. At the library, they learn the basic skills they need to be successful in the workforce.
Writers may be thought of as artists, but they are also entrepreneurs; their books are products they promote in the marketplace. By not only purchasing books by local authors, but also inviting them to lead seminars and participate in public readings, the library is helping writers promote and sell their products. If a local writer becomes successful, she’ll be buying a new car at a local dealership and making travel arrangements for her book tour through a travel agency in your town. If the writer includes references to your town in the book, it will help put your town on the map and generate tourism revenue.
Libraries aren’t given enough credit for how they help shape the future of the economy. If someone has an interest in starting a bakery, but doesn’t have the resources to attend a culinary school, he can begin the process by going to the local library and borrowing recipe books. Who knows what might result from just starting the process; a new local bakery, or a national franchise with it’s headquarters in your town.
A student attending high school has an interest in Engineering, but isn’t quite sure it’s the path she should follow. Fortunately, she can borrow books about the subject from the library to help her make that important decision. A lot of time, effort and money can be saved by going to the local library and doing some research. If you read books or watch videos by motivational experts like Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield, they stress the importance of finding your gift, the natural ability that you can develop into a successful career. When someone uses the resources of their local library to discover and develop their talents everyone benefits; new businesses are created, and with them, job opportunities.
The most important way libraries contribute to the economy, however, is how they encourage people to let their imaginations run free. We spend so much of our lives being told what to do, what schedule to follow, and what to believe. If we want the economy to grow, we need citizens who can imagine a better future, design new products, and create new industries. It all begins with the question, “What If?” and that’s a question that all libraries encourage us to ask.

Libraries have been an important part of my life for many years, so I’m excited that my eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper is available as a download through several libraries in Canada and the United States.  I’ve enjoyed learning about new authors through the books I’ve borrowed and now readers are borrowing my eBook.

Copyright is important to me, so please give me credit if you choose to quote from any of my blog posts. I’ve seen my eBook listed on several websites offering “free” eBooks, but I haven’t tried downloading it. It’s possible hackers are using the promise of free books as an opportunity to download Trojan viruses on computers.

Hoping that this week you’ll find time to write and share your voice with the world.

J. Paul Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

              

 

The Part-Time Grind

As a writer, it’s frustrating to see the same story ideas being recycled. You go to the theatre and so many of the posters advertise films that are either another installment of a popular franchise or a remake of a film made twenty or thirty years ago. It’s frustrating because you have so many story ideas that you want to share with the world; your imagination is unlimited, but the amount of time available to you is not.

If all writing involved was actually writing, the process wouldn’t be so complicated or time consuming, but a writer is essentially an entrepreneur. The writing process requires you to develop your ideas, create a product, submit that product to the marketplace, follow up on  submissions, and if they are rejected, find new markets for them.  So what do you do, if you have a job that takes up forty or more hours of your week?

First, you’re going to have to choose which project to make the main priority. At present I’m working on a science fiction novel. I have a couple of screenplay concepts I’d love to be working on as well, but if I don’t concentrate on the novel, I will never finish it.

Second, you have to commit to finishing the project. You have to decide that even if you only have a short time each day to write, you’re going to keep at it until it’s ready to submit to an editor or producer. Keep in mind that nothing you write will be perfect, so although it’s important to do your best, at some point you will have to submit the work and see what happens.

Third, don’t compare yourself to other writers. If you convince yourself you’re a lousy writer just because someone finishes a project faster than you, you’re likely to become discouraged and give up. That would be a shame, because the world needs to hear your unique voice and your circumstances will never be exactly the same as those of another writers.  It’s like the feeling you get when driving a used car and someone passes you  driving a brand new sports car. You feel jealous for a moment, until you realise he may be driving $100,000 of debt.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the best description of the writing process I’ve found is an address by Canadian science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. If you look up his name on http://www.youtube.com you’ll find the videos listed as Robert J Sawyer-P1 of 3-OWC2010, Robert J Sawyer-P2 of 3-OWC2010, and Robert J Sawyer-P3 of 3-OWC2010. OWC stands for the Ontario Writers’ Conference and each video is about ten minutes.  I hope you’ll find time in your busy schedule to watch these three short videos. His website, http://www.sfwriter.com also has some great resources.

Keep writing, world needs to hear your unique voice. If you choose to use this essay, or quote from it, please remember to give me credit for my efforts.

Copyright © 2017 by J. Paul Cooper

 

 

God, The First Writer

Note: When I use Him or His when referring to God, it’s to avoid using it. To the best of my understanding God is a spirit and therefore doesn’t have a gender. To be clear, I am referring to the God of the Bible, not some nondescript infinite spiritual being. Atheists don’t apologize for dismissing the concept of God, I don’t apologize for believing in God.

So God decides to write the Ten Commandments. One of the greatest challenges for writers is brevity, keeping your message succinct; a one page cover letter to an editor, a two sentence logline to pitch a movie concept to a director. God manages to write a moral code for the human race in ten brief directives.

Where does God write the Ten Commandments? On a mountainside, and He makes it perfectly clear no one, except His friend Moses is allowed on the mountain while He is writing. You can probably relate; you want to be able write undisturbed, preferably in a room with the door closed. So why would God invite Moses to join Him? Proof of authorship; Moses was a witness to the fact God was the author.

It’s a good thing that God considered Moses a friend, and that He accepts human emotions and frailties. On the way back down the mountainside the first time, Moses sees his people worshipping an idol, a golden calf, and breaks the first stone tablets.  God allows Moses to return to Mount Sinai and writes the Ten Commandments on a second set of stone tablets.

When Moses walks down Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments a second time, his face glows to the point people are afraid to approach him. Why was that necessary? The problem was someone could have claimed that Moses thought up the Ten Commandments by himself, and they weren’t really God’s words.  His glowing face made a clear and undeniable statement: The Ten Commandments, Copyright God.

If you choose to quote from my blogs, please remember to give me credit. I can’t clear a mountain to write, but I do my best.

Copyright © 2017 by J. Paul Cooper

 

Writing Formats: The Keys To Your Potential

Note: This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Opal: The Canadian Magazine For Authors and Writers. http://www.opalpublishing.ca.

The potential of the creative mind is infinite.

As the setting sun dips below the horizon producing a red glow, one writer imagines two lovers walking along a beach holding hands. Another writer imagines the red glow of plasma engines on a starship, delivering the alien horde about the annihilate the human race. Both stories can have a happy ending.
With time and practice, anyone who applies themselves and is dedicated to their craft can develop a unique voice and become an excellent writer. Although your mind constantly overflows with creative ideas, there is one factor which can limit the opportunities available to you; the number of formats you are familiar with.
It isn’t an issue of lack of talent, it’s about how quickly you can respond to opportunities. If you see an announcement for a playwriting competition, and you have a great story idea, you can write the play while you’re learning the format, but it will take longer. It will be a much less stressful experience if you already understand the format for writing a play for live theatre.
Another good reason to experiment with various formats is that it may help you find which format you’re most comfortable working with. Several years ago I was writing a crime novel and now matter how many times I started, I always found myself stifled by writer’s block. I had recently read a couple of screenplays just out of curiosity, so I decided to write the story as a screenplay, to see how it would work out. A couple of months later I had a completed feature length screenplay and I discovered my favourite writing format. Since that time I’ve written several screenplays, submitting them to producers and directors. Screenwriter, poet, playwright; you can wear all those hats!
An excellent way to develop an understanding of different formats, discover how they relate to each other, and how they are adapted for movies, is to use the following process: Read the source material (if it’s an adaptation), read the screenplay, and then watch the movie. You can begin by searching your local library’s catalogue and find out which screenplays are available. Use “Motion Picture Plays” as the subject and “Screenplay,” as a keyword. Some books about making movies also contain complete screenplays or excerpts. If you search using a movie title, keep in mind that the source material’s title may not be the same as the movie title. The 1982 movie Blade Runner was based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
You can buy screenplays, but it’s better from a cost perspective to see if the library has the screenplays you want to read first. There are websites that allow you to read screenplays, but I can’t vouch for how safe they are. Your library will also have books on how to use the different formats. If you’re not sure if a movie is based on an original screenplay, visit http://www.imdb.com. On each movie’s webpage you’ll find the Writer(s) listed below the Director, including who wrote the screenplay, as well as the title and author of the source material, if it’s an adaptation.
The reason this process is such a useful learning tool is because of the wide variety of formats you’ll be exposed to. Arrival (2016) us based on the short story, ”Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang. A Few Good Men (1992) is based on a play by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. All The President’s Men (1976) is based on the non-fiction book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodword. Adaptations can also be based on magazine articles, an individual’s personal journal entries and poems.
Whether it’s based on an original screenplay or an adaptation, it’s fascinating to learn how the writers and directors, all storytellers, approach the same story.
Are you wondering why I said a story about aliens annihilating the human race could have a happy ending? An alien writer published her memoire of the invasion, The Day Humans Died. The memoire became an inter-galactic bestseller and she became filthy rich. In real the real world, the lawyers get all the money.

J. Paul Cooper