June 24th, 2009

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Do You Speak American?

I was thrilled to find this page on American dialects, courtesy of haikujaguar. This will come in very handy for refining the use of dialect in my dogsbody story arc. (Have you ever tried to wrangle a cast list in which some of the characters are local, but some have come from another continent and some have been shipped around different parts of America, and some code-switch depending on who they're talking with and some don't, and almost none of them speak something approximating modern standard American -- in the same story? Argh.) Further resources describing flavors of Southern and of African-American speech would be most welcome, particularly with vocabulary lists or grammar patterns included.

Also, the nice linguists on this site get bonus points for emphasizing, with several large hammers, the fact that dialects aren't negative. Everybody has one. Some are just more respected than others, and the disrespected ones are just as precise in their rules as the respected ones -- and sometimes provide linguistic features not found in standard American English. (If you see me writing "had ought to of" it's not a mistake: it's a ringing condemnation of some action I consider stupid or morally bankrupt, when some other action would have been obviously correct. I picked it up from my Tennesssee-born grandmother and have no intention of ever putting it down.)
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Better Luck Next Life

Two flies were on the table busily making baby flies. I stealthily picked up a flyswatter and sent them both to their next incarnation.

This demonstrates the horror movie rule: never have sex when there is a monster in the house.

To the flies, I am a monster. Heh. Rawr, even.
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Poem: "The Witch and the Frizzled Hen"

This poem came out of the June 2009 Poetry Fishbowl, courtesy of the generally sponsored poetry fund. It was inspired by a prompt from minor_architect.

Frizzled chickens are real, and a popular form of show bird or pet. Due to a quirk of genetics, their feathers arc away from their body instead of toward it, creating the "frizzled" appearance. These birds look very unusual.


The Witch and the Frizzled Hen


Once there lived and once there was
a witch in the hills of Poland.
She had a little hut with a brown tabby cat
and a flock of black chickens.

One day at the market,
the witch heard a poultry dealer say,
“This chicken’s feathers are all backwards.
Nobody wants to buy a chicken with frizzled feathers!
I shall have to sell it to the butcher.”

The witch looked into the cage.
Indeed, the chicken’s feathers curled away from her body!
“Things that are different are good for magic,”
the witch said to herself. “I shall buy this hen.”
And so she did.

The frizzled hen scratched for grain and bugs,
and drank water, and left behind droppings,
just like the ordinary hens. She laid nice brown eggs,
some of which the witch took into the kitchen,
and some of which remained in the nest to hatch.
When the chicks hatched, some of them looked
like the black cock who fathered them,
with his sleek smooth feathers –
but some of them looked like their mother.

Then one day a thief tried to steal some chicks.
The frizzled hen squawked and flapped her wings
and pecked the thief until he bled.
Her strange feathers made her look huge and fierce.
The thief ran away, screaming about demonic chickens.

The witch just smiled,
and thanked the frizzled hen with a handful of corn.
“So,” said the witch to her apprentice,
“that is the magic of noticing and knowing.
I noticed the frizzled hen and brought her home.
I know she’s not demonic, just an ordinary bird
with extraordinary feathers. But he doesn’t know that!”

The apprentice laughed,
and went to collect the eggs.
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Poll: Cyberfunded Creativity Post Length

Over on crowdfunding I have posted a poll asking creators and consumers of cyberfunded creativity (aka crowdfunding) for their opinions about the length of CFC posts. You are all encouraged to participate. It's been a busy week over there, with several new projects announced. I'm hoping that this poll will help creators understand this aspect of what audiences want and why.
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How to Start a Cyberfunded Creativity Project

You've read about cyberfunded creativity (aka crowdfunding), a newish business model in which creative folks sell their work directly to audiences online. You've probably seen one or more projects by other people. Now you're considering a project of your own, and you aren't sure how to get started. Here are some tips...

1) Join the crowdfunding LJ community. There you can observe other people's cyberfunded creativity projects, learn about new ones, talk with other creators, read polls about CFC issues, post about your own project, and invite feedback. This community is a great resource for creators and donors alike. In one place you can do many of the other recommended steps.

2) Read articles about cyberfunded creativity. There aren't a lot yet, but you can find some. I did a 4-part series for EMG-Zine earlier:
"What Is Cyberfunded Creativity?"
"Cyberfunded Creativity in Context"
"Exploring Cyberfunded Projects"
"How to Practice Cyberfunded Creativity"


3) Explore cyberfunded creativity projects by other people. On LJ, crowdfunding maintains a Links list of projects. Many other projects, including whole fields of things such as webcomics and online novels by famous authors, are available elsewhere on the web. Do some serious browsing.

4) Cultivate a large and lively audience. Cyberfunded creativity lives or dies on audience interaction. The bigger your audience, the better, although you may succeed with just a few avid fans. The livelier your audience, the better, although you may succeed with a horde of lurkers sprinkled with die-hards. Do everything you can to to encourage people to participate in your blog and your project.

Network widely to attract new members. Watch for people who comment and/or donate a lot in other people's projects. If you make friends with them, they may do the same for your project. Also, vocal people are good indicators of what an audience likes; if several people say they like something, probably others like it also. Feedback on other projects can help improve yours.

5) Ask your audience what they want. This is another aspect of audience interaction: people are more willing to give you money if you deliver exactly what they want, especially if nobody else can or will. They may prefer certain characters, painting media, song topics, or some other facet of stuff you're already doing. Find out where your passions overlap theirs and pump that.

6) Pick an exciting idea. Some cyberfunded projects are small, but many feature ongoing characters, plots, settings, styles, or other motifs. Try to find something you will enjoy doing for a while. If it works, it's easier to keep people paying for more of something they already like than to start from scratch all the time and hook people on new stuff. But switching to new things sometimes is also good; don't let people get bored.

7) Figure out what presentation mode will suit your needs. Some projects use specific donation levels or subscriptions. Others have a general donation button where people give whatever amount they choose. Some projects are one-shots and others are ongoing. There are art, writing, music, and other media in cyberfunded creativity. Mix and match as you wish.

8) Plan to promote your project. Use different media such as blogging, email lists, web ads, personal conversation, flyers, whatever works for you. If you're not comfortable blowing your own horn, cyberfunded creativity will pose an extra challenge for you; be prepared to deal with that. It helps to enlist other people to promote your project, such as echoing announcements on their blogs or putting your banners on their websites.

9) Network with other cyberfunded creativity providers. If you comment on their projects, donate, and/or echo their announcements then they are more likely to do so for yours. Decide whose work you really like and make friends with them. Tell them about your project and ask about theirs. Post and comment frequently on crowdfunding to join in conversations with other creators. Put "cyberfunded creativity" and "crowdfunding" in your Interests on your LJ profile. When people Friend you on LJ, Friend them back unless you have a strong reason not to; this really boosts your exposure.

10) Offer something before you ask for something. Start small and work up, especially by offering free samples before requesting money. This helps attract and retain audience members. It also lets you try things out and tinker with them before a project gets too solid to change easily. That way the paid version can be a bigger and better expansion that makes people want it even more.

Similarly, many CFC providers use some kind of perk for their donors or even their whole audience. Artists may scan extra art from their sketchbooks. Writers may offer an extra post. Both use "honor roll" lists naming their donors, and either may offer character cameos that put donors into their world. People selling prints, books, etc. may offer free shipping or tuck surprises into a package. Use your imagination and think about what kinds of things would make you go squee.