Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boggle

Tokyo 3.1

“I need spine surgery.” Tessa’s work colleague John always found a way out of work. “I have a brain tumor!”
As a matter of fact, he claimed to be a good friend of most of the medical staff at the hospital. 
One day, Tessa accidentally… on purpose… made him trip in the corridor at the office. John grumbled all the way to the hospital. 
A boggled Tessa wheeled him through the corridors. “No one is acknowledging you…”
“Ungrateful people… I practically paid for the whole new surgery wing,” replied John. 
Tessa sighed deeply, thinking to herself “some things never change”.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Tolpuddle Martyrs

Katsbeach

Event: 500 Word Challenge
Time: 30 mins

***

It was time for revolt, it was time for anger.
Work, work and struggle for nothing more than work.
Be lost, be penniless, be a slave.
Be. No food. 
Be. No home.
Be, the emptiness of any tomorrow ahead.
Be. No more.
And they fought back. They believed. They could. They did.
Others didn’t. They condemned ideas, they condemned actions, they condemned everyone swiftly.
And a martyr became nothing more than a name on a yellow, brittle piece of paper, a faint recollection of an immemorial past.
They tried to run, to hide, but they couldn’t. They didn’t.
Lives irreparably uprooted into faraway lands filled with unknown nothingness, filled with the certainty of an impossible return.
They struggled. They fought. They lost.
Back then, they lost. Yes…
Today, they are recalled. They are here.
Their ideas, their actions, their tomorrows became our today, their message still alive and meaningful, almost unbelievably meaningful, in a world of no tomorrows, pessimists say.
But now they live on. They live.
Now, they do.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Have You Ever...

Kronbelt

“Have you ever written a letter so filled with passionate love that, years later, you simply cannot believe it was you who wrote it?” asked the old man, the most recent addition to the prison system.

“Nope… Where I come from we don’t write love letters. Heck, we don’t write at all,” replied the seasoned cellmate. “Will you write her love letters now that you’re here?”

The old man sighed so deeply that his cellmate thought he was having a heart attack.

“You killed her, didn’t you?” asked the cellmate.

“Love…” continued the old man. And he looked outside nostalgically.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Writing Challenge: 30 Minutes, 500 Words at a Time!

Milk Wood

I get asked frequently whether the Writing Challenge I host Saturdays is a Dash. This happens because there is indeed a Dash taking place throughout the week.

In the Dash, people have 15 minutes to write a story/poem on the prompt provided by the host.

My Writing Challenge is not like that. So, what is my event all about? Let's see!

The Writing Challenge is a goal-oriented writing event. 30 minutes, 500 words!

From the Virtual Writers website"you can make a long story short by taking small disciplined steps every day, instead of sitting idly by waiting for inspiration to strike."

So, the aim of this event is to gear writers, bloggers and anyone who enjoys writing towards getting work done. No Real Life, no Second Life (SL) meddling in. This is the time to focus and write.

We gather at Milk Wood in SL, home to the inworld group of the Virtual Writers, every Saturday at 11am noon SLT for 30 minutes of frantic writing.

This is an event for all writers! It doesn't really matter what you are working on, your latest book, short-story, blog post, newspaper article or even your roleplay character. What matters is to get to 500 words.

Yes, that is very difficult. Sometimes we simply get stuck. However, the idea is to push you to write, no stopping and thinking, no procrastinating. Just get those words down on a piece of paper (or computer screen!) as fast as you can, as many as you can.

"What if I can't get unstuck?" you may ask. Well, to help bypass that difficulty, I suggest a prompt at the beginning of each event. This prompt is taken from the Virtual Writers prompts page.

At the end of the event, many ask me if they should share what they've written (as it's done at the Dash). You can! It's not a "must", but if you'd like to share for the sake of sharing or if you'd like to get some feedback on your writing, we'll be glad to read what you've written. 

I must add that many prefer not to share their work inworld due to Linden Lab's ToS, especially the Content License and Intellectual Property Rights section. I'll leave it up to you!

Again, the goal is to write, to get unstuck and write as much as you can! 
30 minutes, 500 words!
Join us!


Resources:
What is the 500 Word Challenge?
Virtual Writers Inc. inworld group
Virtual Writers Inc. owner, Harriet Gausman.

Event:
Day: Saturdays
Time: 11am Noon SLT/Pacific US
Location: Milk Wood in SL

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Magic Words

Betelgeuse 5

The owner of a store in a terrible neighborhood placed a stories dispenser next to a candy dispenser. The first was free, the other wasn’t.

He encouraged his clients to grab a story, but they just smiled and took candy instead.

One day, a young woman walked in. She seemed undecided.

“Are the stories for free?”

“They are,” he replied, delighted.

The young woman rotated the button and a small paper came out.

“Is it a good story?”

She smiled.

Many people started dropping by and, as unrealistic as it might seem, they began to smile a lot more too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Courses

Milk Wood
"Learning never exhausts the mind." 
Leonardo da Vinci


2015

May 11 - June 7 - Heart Health (University of Reading) - a Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease (character building).

April 20 - May 31 - Psychology and Mental Health (University of Liverpool) - How a psychological understanding of emotions and behavior provides new ways to improve mental health and well-being.

April 20 - June 14 - Introduction to Cyber Security (The Open University) - Essential cyber security knowledge and skills.

April 13 - May 15 - Forensic Science and Criminal Justice (University of Leicester) - The use of science in criminal investigations and its role in the criminal justice system.

March 9 - 27 - How to Succeed at Interviews (The University of Sheffield) - Tools to succeed at interviews and land a dream job or course place (character building).

March 2 - April 10 - Dysphagia: Swallowing Difficulties and Medicines (University of East Anglia) - The administration of medicines to patients with dysphagia (character building).

March 2 - 20 - Introduction to Dutch (University of Groningen) - Introductory course (character building).

January 5 - February 13 - Introduction to Forensic Science (University of Strathclyde) - Methods and scientific underpinning of forensic science, from crime scene investigation to reporting evidential value within a case.


2014

December 1 - 12 - How To Read a Mind (The University of Nottingham) - Introducing cognitive poetics: the application of cognitive science to literary reading.

October 27 - November 3 - How to Read Your Boss (The University of Nottingham) - Linguistic techniques to enhance business communication.

September 29 - November 9 - Introduction to Journalism (University of Strathclyde) - Key principles and debates in journalism in the context of an escalating story.

June 23 -July 11 - Good Brain, Bad Brain: Basics (University of Birmingham) - The form and function of the human brain.

June 8 - August 1 - Forensic Psychology (The Open University) - How psychology can help obtain evidence from eyewitnesses in police investigations.

April 28 - June 20 - Start Writing Fiction (The Open University) - Fiction writing focusing on the central skill of creating characters. - Review

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sausage

Avatar Games

The Neuroscience teacher was considered quite the genius. However, he lacked the most basic speaking skills.

“This sausage-shaped thing is called myelin,” said the teacher pointing at a diagram of a neuron. “When it’s gone… bzzzt.”

One day, as he prepared to start the class, someone screamed BZZZZZZZZZZZZT from the back row. All students erupted in hysterical laughter.

The teacher slowly walked towards his desk, pulled a button-shaped thing from inside a drawer and hovered a finger over it.

From that day onwards, before sitting down, the whole class would anxiously examine their chairs while the Neuroscience teacher snickered, waiting.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Story Waiting to Happen

The Far Away

... The Far Away (click here for full text).

This post is part of a series of monthly articles for the Virtual Writers Inc. website about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings. Enjoy!



Note: One of the characteristics of Second Life is the fact that it's constantly and rapidly changing. Sims come and go; others look quite different, as time goes by. Do take that into consideration when using the links provided. 

***

The Far Away




As news of a Second Life 2.0 of sorts emerge from all corners of the blogosphere, I cannot help but feel the need to go back to The Far Away, AM Radio’s creation now preserved by Ziki Questi, a blogger, photographer and artist herself.

Made mostly of what some call “the old technology” (aka prims), The Far Away has been an all-time favorite of both residents and bloggers from the entire spectrum of areas in Second Life (SL), writers included. I, as many other SL residents, have returned to it over the years many times.

Back in 2009, I took part in an SL event called The Poetry Quest. The idea was to write a poem based on a place indicated by the organization. AM Radio’s creation was one of them. Inspired by this extraordinary piece, I wrote Solitude.

Despite my familiarity with this installation, I felt it would be important to talk to Ziki. From her I learned that The Far Away was AM Radio’s first creation in SL, the first among many that are now all gone. It exists since 2006 and at this precise location since 2007. Not being considered a “museum piece” at all but rather something alive, it has seen a few small changes here and there. However, the core of this piece is very much the same and it does look remarkably current.

I asked Ziki why she felt compelled to take a step forward when she realized The Far Away was about to be dismantled. She replied that for her this was “a seminal build, a fantastic work of immersive art, and (…) [that she] didn’t want to see it disappear”.

As I prepare to take you on this journey, I spent quite some time on location and I too noticed what Ziki told me during our conversation, that “there are almost always people at The Far Away… an interesting combination of old-timers (including many who have been away from SL — it’s one of the few places they loved that’s still around) and new people”.

So, let’s kick-start our imagination!

Up to now, we have visited full sims, locations with enough elements to trigger a hundred stories. This time, I will attempt to draw your attention to one single plot. The scarcity of elements present is both challenging and inspiring.

The first impression is of solitude amongst the endless field of golden wheat. Yet quickly we realize that so much might happen here.

The abandoned rusty engine in some way evokes the idea of traveling and our mind wanders off into the future. Perhaps this is a reminiscence of a far away past, now that humans have moved away, after hundreds of years of explorations and experimentations throughout space, a recollection, an anchor even.

At the back of the locomotive, I notice that there’s a sketch of a deserted landscape with a bare tree. A flock of birds flies by. There’s a pencil beside this sketch. I feel like picking it up. I’d however only add words instead of drawing something. We are writers after all, aren’t we? So, let’s continue our voyage seeking for words.

The smoke box door at the front of the engine is half open and a dragonfly is ready to follow us. I wonder why it hides inside. There’s another dragonfly though. It buzzes about merrily; it suggests to me a totally mischievous children’s story, where the kids of a local farmer play hide and seek, sheltered from the world, trying to dream up magic plans of never ending adventures.

Embraced by a few twigs and decorated with two feathers, a top hat rests peacefully. It somehow seems out of place. I nevertheless make an effort to integrate it in this path of ideas for stories.


A symbol of affluence, the black top hat became quite fashionable in the nineteenth century, a century of important developments such as the growth of railways, the means of communication and science.

On one of the sides, the power lines evoke long distance, as the name of this location does as well. For some reason, I feel that there’s a story of spies in The Far Away. Secret communications, coded messages sent from abroad, all end up at a table where a rudimentary radio and headphones are waiting to be used.


The secrecy, I imagine, involves a lady violinist whose drafted black and white charcoal portrayal has just been finished. This drawing was perhaps made by a mysterious, secret lover who dropped by her place unannounced. When we click the bowl of green grapes, we are offered a glimpse at this character or any other you might choose.

Our stories waiting to happen include a microscope, the one sitting at the top of the cupboard, which challenges the visitor to search for almost invisible details.


As I walk towards the barbed wire fence, I notice a ragged cloth waving in the wind, caught and struggling. However, I am followed by that dragonfly. It flutters about. It promises so much in a whispered hint, and unexpectedly the fence becomes much more than a line, much more than a separation. It becomes a promise of freedom.


I look up and see the windmill. The windmill spins fast, almost dizzyingly fast. Suddenly, the ideas move away from the ground. And we fly above the golden field of wheat, its symbolism opens up an array of possibilities for stories, some charged with spiritual content, others of promised wealth and abundance.

Finally, I go back to the locomotive, the heart of a train. It lingers in the center of this location, ready and waiting. If you sit at the top of it, your avatar will be placed in a larger-than-life pose, arms stretched outwards, shards of light emanating from behind, definitely an image evoking the power to overcome difficulties and surpass all hurdles.

Before I wrap up, there are a number of clickable items where you can get a lot of interesting information and inspiration from. Some are not as visible as others. Hint, hint!

Whether you are hoping to write a story reminiscing about the past, a story about children, about spies, revolutions in technology and science, or simply a love story, I invite you to drop by and experience this intriguing and captivating location, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at The Far Away!

THE END

***

Disclaimer: Virtual Writers Inc. and I are in no way affiliated with any shop located in the sims featured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.