Michael Arndt is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine. He wrote the first draft of this, his debut script, in just three days (but went on to do around 100 revisions before the film was finally made). His second script was Toy Story 3, for which he also received an Academy Award nomination.

In the following short film Arndt shares how a close examination of Toy Story 1, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and a better understanding of how the early stages of these scripts set up their characters, helped his own writing process.

Fellow screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels) contacted Arndt about the insights he shares. Arndt explained:

I’m aware the model I set up here applies imperfectly to Toy Story 3 itself. (It applies much more cleanly [for example] to Tootsie, which I consider one of the best comedy first acts of all time.) The broader point is that the emotional fuel for your first act break is largely set up in your inciting incident — and that is something that does apply to Toy Story 3.

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Too Much Information: Why Writers Should Conceal Their Research

“I have to resist the compulsion to reference everyone of these.”

In this guest post Drew Chial paints a cautionary tale about letting your writing get too technical.

A few years ago, someone approached me about adapting a thriller into a screenplay. Reading through the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure where the script should begin. The first scene involved an autopsy where the pathologist missed the symptoms of a biological agent. The author took us through each stage of the autopsy including each instrument the pathologist used, where he made his incisions, and the weight of every organ.

It was clear the author knew what he was talking about, but he wasn’t telling a story, he was teaching a lesson.

The scene had no conflict until the author told us about the crucial detail the pathologist missed. The prologue read like it was supposed to function as the opening stinger of a crime drama. This might have worked if the pathologist had struggled to find a cause of death or started to show signs of the contagious infection, instead he gave an extremely technical description of a routine procedure with no conflict.

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Publication Opportunities for Writers in January and February 2015

Over 50 publication opportunities for both established and emerging writers.

Please check the relevant websites for all terms and conditions. 

Printer’s Devil Review
is seeking thoughtful, earnest fiction. The editors like stories that ‘make the ordinary unfamiliar, that introduce us to new ways of seeing and being in the world, stories that move us without aiming for stock reactions’. The current reading period is open until 1 January.

Apogee
is a literary journal specialising in literature and art that engage with issues of identity politics: race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and hyphenated identities. Submissions for Issue 5 close on 1 January.

Firewords Quarterly
is a new independent literary magazine with a strong emphasis on design, as well as substance. Launched in Spring 2014, Firewords aims to be a publication where exciting new writers can have their voices heard and remembered. Submissions for Issue 4 are open until 9 January.

Slice Magazine
welcomes submissions for short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The editors are looking for anyone with a fresh voice and a compelling story to share. Submissions are open throughout January and February.

Blank Fiction Magazine
an independent literary magazine publishing intelligent and thought-provoking genre fiction. It is currently seeking submissions of literary fiction up to 10,000 words. Closes 10 January.

Litro Magazine
is seeking submissions for its February 2015 print issue with the theme ‘Diaries’. It accepts short fiction, flash/micro fiction and non-fiction. Submissions close 11 January.

Lifted Brow
is accepting submissions of fiction and non-fiction for its soon to be relaunched print edition; closes 11 January. Entries are also being accepted for its inaugural experimental non-fiction prize.
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Competitions for Writers in January and February 2015

Competitions from around the world for both established and emerging writers.

Please check the relevant websites for all terms and conditions and be aware that entry fees are payable in many cases. 

Glass Mountain Poetry & Prose Contest
is open to emerging writers; current or former students in any graduate program in creative writing are not eligible to submit. Winners in each category will receive US$100, publication in Glass Mountain, and free registration to the 2015 Boldface Conference. Entries close 9 January.

Folio Fiction Contest
is seeking entries up to 5000 words on the theme ‘conflict’. Entries should address how the operation of the theme at the macro level (Climate Change, Racial Injustice, Abductions, Armed conflicts, Surveillance, Consumption, Global Warming, Violence Against Women) interacts with characters, scenes, and events at the intimate, micro level. First prize is US$1000 and entries close 15 January.

Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry
accepts entries of up to five poems. The winner, chosen by Matt Rasmussen, will be featured in CutBank 83 and receive $500. All submissions will be considered for print publication. Closes 15 January.

H.E. Francis Short Story Competition
is open to original, unpublished fiction of 5000 words or less. The winner receives a $2000 cash prize,  publication as an Amazon Kindle Single, an announcement in Poets and Writers, and, with the author’s permission, publication on the H.E. Francis Competition Website. Entries close 15 January.

Montana Prize in Fiction
seeks to highlight work that showcases “an authentic voice, a boldness of form, and a rejection of functional fixedness”. The winner, chosen by Susan Steinberg, will be featured in CutBank 83 and receive US$500. All submissions will be considered for print publication. Entries close 15 January.
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Iceland Writers Retreat is offering one lucky writer a free delegate’s ticket to its April 2015 event.

The winner will receive a full retreat package including accommodation, tours, most meals and all workshops for the duration of the retreat which runs from 8 to 12 April.

To enter, contestants are asked to write a short story or essay of no more than 500 words using the above image of Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center as their inspiration.

The prize does not include flights to Iceland or transfers. Only one entry person is permitted and there is no entry fee. The panel of four judges will be made up of representatives from Iceland Travel, Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature, Promote Iceland, and Iceland Review magazine.

Entries close at midnight on Sunday 25 January. For full entry information visit icelandwritersretreat.tumblr.com.

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Aerogramme Writers' Studio's Favourite Books of 2014

We asked some of our wonderful contributors what were the best books they read in 2014. Here are their responses:

EMMANUEL IDUMA

I’m on the final pages of Yvonne Owuor’s Dust, which has brought an excitement and a brokenness I cannot yet name. Earlier I read Maaza Mengiste’s Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, a novel that reads like a dream inserted in Ethiopia’s history. The new book by David Levi Strauss, Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow is a touchstone for me as a fledgling art critic – how do I write with conscience and clarity about photography?  Two books of poems, Tade Ipadeola’s The Sahara Testaments and Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues, though different in style, highlighted for me what is at stake in Nigerian poetry. They contain a certain fire, an urgency to name things properly. Finally I have held myself to the standards and vision of two novels: The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector’s last book, and Seiobo There Below, Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s newly translated book.

Emmanuel Iduma is co-publisher and creative director of Saraba Magazine. His debut novel, Farad, was published in 2012 by Parresia Publishers. 

KELLY GARDINER

I’m way behind in my reading, so many of 2014’s highlights have been out for a while. I started the year reading Jesse Blackadder’s evocative Chasing the Light – immersing myself in a story of Antarctic exploration while sweltering on a hot beach in the middle of an Australian summer. Other favourites from the exciting new generation of literary historical fiction writers include Hild, in which Nicola Griffith casts a new light on the so-called Dark Ages, and Stella Duffy’s uproarious Theodora, based on the life of the unlikely Byzantine Empress. I loved Paddy O’Reilly’s The Wonders: there’s so much to enjoy and ponder in this subtle story of misfits who become celebrities, and the wondrous world they inhabit. In an era of brilliant young adult fiction, Fiona Wood’s masterful Wildlife is the YA book I loved most this year – her prose and characterisation are just about perfect. In non-fiction, Janet Butler’s Kitty’s War, based on the diaries of Kit McNaughton, is an earthy antidote to recent romanticised narratives around nursing in World War I. There are so many books coming out to commemorate the centenary of the war, it feels like a deluge, and it’s going to feel like that for another five years or so. If you want to try to understand the War to End All Wars, start with the first-hand accounts, some of which are among the best twentieth century writing: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, Siegfried Sassoon’s autobiographical novels beginning with Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man, Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That, and Frederic Manning’s The Middle Parts of Fortune. All are either still in print or have now been republished.

Kelly Gardiner writes historical fiction for readers of all ages, and teaches writing, research skills and digital literacy. She works part-time at the State Library of Victoria. Her latest book is Goddess, based on the life of the seventeenth century swordswoman and opera star, Julie d’Aubigny. 

ANNABEL SMITH

One of the highlights of my reading year was Richard Powers’ Booker-longlisted Orfeo, the story of an avant-garde composer who becomes a fugitive after being falsely accused of bioterrorism. It is the most profound and emotionally affecting book I have read in a long time and the prose is stunning. I find it hard to resist a literary apocalypse tale and was beguiled by Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, the tautly paced and perceptive tale of a touring troupe of actors and musicians who cross paths with a dangerous cult leader, twenty years after the world we know is destroyed by a pandemic. Finally, for sheer weirdness, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy  (Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance) is unparalleled. Beautifully written, intensely creepy and utterly baffling, it is a compelling psychological thriller about how a group of bureaucrats, scientists, psychologists and ordinary folk deal with a mysterious and utterly unknowable life-force that transforms part of the Florida landscape.

Annabel Smith is the author of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her latest project is The Ark, a new digital interactive novel/app. 

ROWENA WISEMAN

Maree Dawes’s verse novel BRB or Be Right Back was a surprising highlight this year. She explores the power of words over touch and how an online obsession can become a real world problem. Erik Jensen’s biography Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen is a powerful yet sympathetic portrait of a complex artist that raises the question does good art excuse bad behaviour? This year I also discovered a couple of unforgettable gems, Émile Zola’s The Masterpiece, a true masterpiece, and Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (translated by Matvei Yankelevich), a hilarious introduction to the iconic Soviet-era absurdist writer and poet.

Rowena Wiseman writes contemporary fiction and children’s stories. Her most recent book, Bequest, was published in June 2014 by Tenebris Books.
 
 


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3. Custom Penguin Books Pillow Case

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$19.50 – available hereContinue Reading…