LISTcavage: The 5 Best Things I Read in January


By Adam Vitcavage

I turned 29 on Jan. 3 and made 30 goals of sorts to do prior to the time I turned 30 in 2019. One such goal was to read more. Now, you may think, don’t you already read a lot of books? I do. Fiction, mostly. I also read the news via tweeted links, and I keep up on the entertainment business (production deals, actor hires, viewership ratings, etc). I read a lot. In theory. But I found myself reading a lot of the tl;dr, clickbait versions of article that some sites regurgitate with just the pertinent information.

Not anymore. I’m going to the source. I’m reading in depth reporting about a wide variety of subjects. The whole piece, too. No more petering out near the end of the article because the premium information was at the top of some inverted pyramid.

That’s the reason I’m collecting the best things I’ve read every month. So maybe you can find something interesting as well.

“‘I Want it to Stop’”

By John Woodrow Cox (Washington Post)

I’m cheating. This article, the sixth and last in a series about violence and the American adolescence, was published on Dec. 27, 2017. It’s an important and chilling read nonetheless. John Woodrow Cox navigates the story of 15-year-old Ruben Urbina, who after unsuccessful suicide attempts called to police threatening to blow up his block with a bomb. He didn’t have a bomb and suicide-by-cop was his goal. The narrative weaves his family’s reaction, as well as his best friend Jessica Newburn’s own struggles with depression, with an informative investigation into teen suicide.

On average, one child under the age of 18 committed suicide every six hours last year, according to a Post review of new data released Dec. 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half of those children died from hanging, strangulation or suffocation, while 41 percent used guns. The total number — 1,533 — was the largest in at least a decade, nearly doubling over that period.

“Is This the Golden Age of Drag? Yes. And No.”

By Isaac Oliver (The New York Times)

As a straight, white male, I shouldn’t like drag. At least according to the majority of society. I do, though. It’s art. It’s a great performance. It’s intriguing. VH1’s "RuPaul’s Drag Race" helped launch drag queens into a wider audience. My sister has been watching for years. It’s something we enjoy together. Queens have become stars--going on tours, attending conventions, and selling their won merchandise—but for the cream of the crop, or those past their prime, drag is becoming…a drag.

New York bars pay anywhere from $50 to $250 a gig, plus tips, which can be fruitful — Bob, before “Drag Race,” said she paid off student loans with 10,000 singles — or not.

Regular expenses like new outfits and wigs, makeup replenishment and cabs (to avoid harassment on 3 a.m. subways) add up, as does drag’s physical toll. “There’s athlete’s foot, joint pain, U.T.I.s, pink eye,” Katya said. “There’s bizarre sexualization, not being sexualized when you want it, and the almost complete forfeiture of a regular gay relationship.”

Charlene, laughing at her kitchen table, said, “Unless you win ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ the rewards are mostly spiritual.”

“A New Old Skywalker”

By Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Facebook post)

Never has a fan-base been so split on something the love so much. Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi has divided "Star Wars" fans to the opposite ends of the galaxy. Those who loved it versus those who hated it. I’m in the camp that says, “Yeah, I enjoyed it.” But I’m also someone whose Star Wars mantra is that no film is as good as the world thinks it is, but no film is as bad as the world thinks it is. Fans rank "The Empire Strikes Back" as an A++ and "Attack of the Clones" as an F--. I say the bell curve is closer than you think. Anyway, Johnson’s friend JGL, who also has a cameo in the film, both of which he addresses in the piece, decided to share his opinions on TLJ and film in general.

I also wanna say, I’m not here to tell anybody they’re wrong. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to be wrong when it comes to movies, or art, or literature, or whatever you wanna call it. In our ever more gamified culture, with endless awards shows, publicized box office figures, and the all-knowing Tomatometer, it seems conversations about movies are more and more often put into quantified terms of good and bad, best and worst, right and wrong. And then there’s the twitface-insta-fueled tribalism, people taking sides, pointing fingers and spitting venom at the other guys. There seems to be a lot of that going around right now from both lovers and haters of this movie. Dear oh dear, folks. This isn’t politics or sports. The fruit is in the subjectivity. If you feel differently than I do, I’m 100% cool with that. I think it’s often in these very differences of perspective that movies can be at their most enlightening, helping us learn something about each other and ourselves.

“Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered House map was just struck down — with huge implications for 2018”

By Andrew Prokop (Vox)

In late January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted that the U.S. House maps were a violation of the state’s constitution. While I was gathering articles for this list I was originally going to suggest this New York Times article about the issue (which I still recommend). But here I’m talking about a simply written, but informative example of how gerrymandering greatly affects the entire nation.

Republicans tried to pack Democratic-leaning areas together into very few districts. The hoped-for result was that the GOP would lose a few districts by large margins, yet win a majority of districts comfortably and consistently.

That’s exactly what happened. In statewide elections, Pennsylvania was a competitive swing state.

“The Invasion of the German Board Games”

By Jonathan Kay

What do I know about board games? Next to nothing. This article is about hobby board games—those niche games for super fans. Settlers of Catan is one. I’ve played it and I see what they mean. While anyone can play a board game, there are some which require skill for the game in particular instead of a general sense of intelligence or humor or what have you.

Hobbyists around the world started paying serious attention to German-style board games (or “Eurogames,” as they’re now more commonly known) following the creation of Settlers of Catan in 1995. While it took more than a decade for that game to gain a cultural foothold, there seems to be no going back: Much in the way that Cold War–era American beer connoisseurs gravitated to the higher quality and vastly larger variety offered by European imports in the era before stateside microbrews took off, players who’d become bored with the likes of Monopoly and Scrabble started to note the inventive new titles coming out of Germany.

Silver Scream: Our Friday the 13th Boneyard of Horror!


Friday the 13th in October means one thing: a marathon of frightening films (or in my case, a corny Halloween movie binge). Whichever genre you prefer, take a peek at some of our favorite spooky flicks (and podcasts!)from the good, to the bad, to the downright bone-chilling. And while you’re at it, avoid walking under any ladders today.—Stephanie Schaefer

Daniel Ford: Tomorrow's Friday the 13th, which means something horrible will likely befall Sean Tuohy and myself.  

Before the inevitable hot-coffee-spills-in-lap scenario, we want to know what your favorite Halloween/scary movie is and why! (Question from the desk of Stephanie Schaefer.)

Sean Tuohy: Doesn't some horrible happen to us every day?

I mean just this morning I experienced the worse thing ever: I woke up.

Here are some of my favorites:


Besides being a classic and one of the first teen slasher films, “Halloween” is just a creepy movie. It takes its time building up to the final, tension-filled moments. The music alone (which is just a bongo beat switched to a piano) will cause your skin to crawl.


Look, that scene when the federal agents show up in EVA suits with the blinding white light shining behind them is terrifying. I refuse to watch this scene as an adult.

“Prince Of Darkness”

The middle film of John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy, “Prince Of Darkness” is a "smart man's" horror film. With an original plot line, a great cast, and some horrifying imaginary, this is one of Carpenter's best movies. 

“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”

Stop rolling your eyes! Yes, this is a blood-soaked teenage slasher film with some really over-the-top deaths but…there are some really scary moments that cause you to jump out of your chair.

“28 Days Later”

From the opening scene in the dark underground lab that shows a young eco-terrorist get infected (what you deserve, you hippie!) to the final rain-soaked fight sequence, “28 Days Later” is one of my favorite modern horror films.

“Phantom Of The Mall”

Paulie Shore is in this movie. Enough said.

Stephanie Schaefer:

“Halloweentown” Series

I’m not a fan of horror movies, but I can get down with a good Disney Channel Halloween flick. Plus, the late Debbie Reynolds made the movie with her portrayal of kooky Grandma Aggie.

**Looking up last-minute flights to Oregon.**

“Hocus Pocus”

How can you not love this cult classic? From “I Put a Spell on You” sing-alongs to talking cats and an all-star cast of witches, its 1990s nostalgia at its finest.

Rob Bates: So, this isn't a movie, but I just started listening to, and am very much enjoying, the Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society Podcast, where three dudes play an old radio show and then afterwards analyze and geek out about it. It's a lot of fun.

I would recommend these episodes, featuring episodes from the truly creative and wildly innovative series “Quiet Please:”

“The Thing on the Fourble Board”

This is one of the most famous old radio episodes out there, and I've kind of grown obsessed with it. (Patton Oswalt is a fan.) The plot is,let me just warn you, completely ridiculous, but you kind of "buy" it,  thanks to the great lead performance by "Porky" as well as the "guest." Also, you learn a ridiculous amount about oil rigging.

“Whence Came You”

I found this one even freakier than Fourble Board, though it does contain one marginally offensive piece of dialogue, which may be why it isn't well known. But it's awesome.

If you want to hear those shows without the before and after commentary, they are both readily available for download on archive.org.

Remember, the show is called “Quiet Please.” Listen in the dark with headphones!

Mike Nelson:

“Sleepaway Camp”

A basic, campy (like, campy-campy, but also literally about camp), mysterious slasher film that is as stupid as possible until the very end when it becomes genuinely stupider than is conceivably possible in the most fantastic way. I refuse to share a clip. Just go watch it and do not look at spoilers, you jerk.

Sean: I am going to second “Sleepaway Camp.” The ending scene and Judy's death scene make the movie. Also, James Earl Jones's father is in the film.

Daniel: “The Omen” is up with all movies that led to sleep loss for me as a teenager. I remembering watching it with my father, who laughed whenever I'd swear at the television or blankly stare at what was going on. Great flick.

Plus, Gregory Peck. I mean, the guy's a legend.

Caitlin Malcuit:

“The Thing”

John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is a perfect horror movie. It’s gross, it’s scary, and has that amazing Drew Struzan poster. A masterful exercise in body horror and paranoia, “The Thing” is best viewed with the lights out so that deep Antarctic chill can creep into your bones. With fantastic and dark performances by Keith David and Wilford Brimley, it’s also a worthwhile viewing because of Kurt Russell’s beautiful mane.


Suspiria is visually stunning, arguably the most beautiful horror film ever made. A standout in Italian giallo master Dario Argento’s oeuvre, this entry in his “The Three Mothers” trilogy is one of the last films ever to be printed in Technicolor. The death scenes alone are enough to put 1980s slashers to shame.

“The Witch”

Robert Eggers’ debut couldn’t be a bigger home run for a director. “The Witch,” moody and slow burning, is one of the most pitch-perfect thrillers in recent memory to hit the genre. Though the forests of Ontario stand in for New England’s onscreen, you won’t be able to walk through your neighborhood woods without a side-eye to the rustling leaves or the next rabbit you see.

Rob Masiello: I'm gonna let you all finish, but "Deep Blue Sea" is the greatest horror movie of all time.

Joking aside, I'd like to submit something arty and weird, but instead am going to recommend “The Conjuring.” It's the first time a movie caused me to audibly shriek, and the whole film is elegantly executed. Even the climax, which is often when horror movies lapse into absurdity (not the good kind), is harrowing. Not to mention Vera Farmiga is always a delight to watch. Sadly, after viewing “The Conjuring,” I read an article criticizing it for socially regressive themes. It got me thinking, and I can't say I disagree. But if you're only after a good spook, it's a must-see.

I'll also second Caitlin's recommendation of “The Witch.” It's a slow-burner that spirals into this urgently fucked up fever dream that will haunt you.

Sean: “The Conjuring” was a solid ghost movie. “The Conjuring 2” starts off great and then falls apart at the end.

Rob Masiello: I agree! The second one was a big disappointment. Never as spooky as the original, and some tacky CGI thrown in to boot. And way too much yelling.

Sean: Yes! Halfway through they got lazy and said, "Screw it! We'll do it on a computer.”

Rob Bates: Can I also recommend the original “Wicker Man?” Saw it a few years ago and it has some weird off-key moments (which kind of work for it) and definitely packs a huge punch. Forget the stupid Nicolas Cage remake; I have never seen it but, based on the excerpts I've seen, I don't want to. And remakes usually suck anyway. But this was great.

If you ever watch the show “Coupling,” one of the characters is obsessed with Britt Ekland in this movie, and if you watch it, you will know why.

Also, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” is the supreme horror-comedy. Funny, and even goofy-scary. Can't wait to show it to my kid.

Emili Vesilind: “The Ring!” Couldn't sleep for weeks after seeing it.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Alison Doherty (Writer's Bone newcomer!): This movie is confused. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a Halloween or Christmas movie. Written by Tim Burton, the movie chronicles the adventures of Jack the Skeleton, King of Halloween Town. Jack is overjoyed when he discovers Christmas Town but things go awry when he tries to bring Christmas to Halloween Town.

Hitting the High Notes: The Sequel!

Back in 2014, the Writer’s Bone crew compiled their favorite musical moments in film. After revisiting the post for our newsletter recently, we decided to stage a sequel. If you want to join the discussion, submit your favorite suggestions in the comments section, post them on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford

“Dick Tracy”

Mike Nelson: Al Pacino’s finest performance (do not @ me) is laced with misogyny and misunderstanding, but not misguidance. The man knows a crappy dance routine when he sees one, and he exposes Madonna so much in this one scene that her next hit is “Ray of Light,” which, let’s be honest, is complete garbage with a nice brand name attached to it.

“The Commitments”

Daniel Ford: The Commitments give The Wonders a run for their money for best fictional rock band that flamed out too early.

“Top Gun”

Stephanie Schaefer: Pre-Scientology Tom Cruise at his finest. 


Caitlin Malcuit: The three-minute tracking sequence in "Goodfellas" is one of the film's most dazzling moments, but the extra touch comes from the use of The Crystal's "Then He Kissed Me." As Henry takes Karen for a night out at the Copacabana nightclub, introducing her, and us, to the perks of organized crime, the girl group's sweetness heightens the rush of a mesmerizing first date.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Lindsey Wojcik: After the huge success of the revival of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Broadway, which I saw four times, I became a Hedhead and discovered this 2001 release—an adaptation of the stage book, written, directed and starring the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell. The film has so many powerful and catchy songs, but "Origin of Love" is a gut-wrenching ditty based on a story from Plato's Symposium. It's songwriting at its finest—Stephen Trask is a master—and evokes all the feels about what it's like to love. 

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

Daniel: “What’re you doing?”

“Stealing your woman.”

“Take her.”

“TRON: Legacy”

Mike: Everyone has their motivation tactics at work. Coffee, going outside for some air, doing pushups at your desk (I have seen this happen, and I don’t think it’s that weird, and if you’ve ever seen my arms you know it’s not me), and probably the most common: music. The “TRON: Legacy” soundtrack is mine, and I then turn into Olivia Wilde during this Daft Punk cameo in the movie (meaning, I start absolutely dominating work, and then it fights back and permanently cripples me).

“The Wedding Singer”

Lindsey: "The Wedding Singer" and its soundtrack was the seed that sprouted my never-ending fascination with the culture of the 1980s, a decade in which I was only alive for nearly three years. "Grow Old With You" is one of two only original songs on the soundtrack and it's the sappiest. It perfectly encapsulates what most people are looking for in a partner—someone to share the milestones and monotonous parts of life with for the rest of days. The hilarity of the scene (I'm looking at you, Billy Idol!) does not take away from the sentiment, which is why I consider it of the most powerful musical moments in film.  

“Mulholland Drive”

Rob Masiello: Rumor has it that Rebekah Del Rio's thunderous performance of "Llorando" was recorded on the spot, without her knowledge and with virtually no editing before being worked into “Mulholland Drive.” How it fits into the film's larger narrative is worthy of a much longer analysis than appropriate for this feature. This Spanish cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying" will leave you shaking regardless of what language you speak.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze”

Mike: School is a waste of time. I learned everything I needed to get through childhood right here.


Matt DiVenere: Check out the reintroduction of the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in “Skyfall.” Seeing the car, hearing the trumpets...I immediately get goosebumps and smile. Such an iconic car and such an iconic moment.

“True Romance”

Dave Pezza: I've been holding on to this magical scene from a highly underrated Quentin Tarantino movie (he wrote the screenplay). It doesn't get much better than Tarantino dialogue in front of a Hans Zimmer score. So cool.

“Hudson Hawk”

Sean Tuohy: What a weird movie, but Bruce Willis can sing. Really, the man has a set of pipes. This scene is playful, fun, and weird, which sums up “Hudson Hawk.” Also, this captures Willis at his best: charming and a must-watch.

“Baby Driver”

Sean: “Baby Driver” is “La La Land” but with better characters and armed robbery. This clip sums up film perfectly.

“Back to the Future”

Hassel Velasco: Guys...Marvin Berry discovered his cousin's revolutionary sound back in 1955.

“Romeo & Juliet”

Lisa Carroll: I loved loved loved teaching Romeo And Juliet in freshman English, and after we finished reading the play we'd watch Baz's version and discuss the adaptation. The innocence and tension in this scene is so beautifully amplified by the sensuous nature of the song and her captivating voice. Totally swoon-worthy.


Lisa: Yes, I will take the Oscar, thank you.

“Ella Enchanted”

Lisa: My second favorite Queen song (after “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Wayne's World”), and one of my favorite Cinderella adaptations.

“The Bodyguard”

Lisa: Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” made Cosmopolitan's “50 Old Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch.”

It has the greatest soundtrack of all time and the worst acting of all time as proven in this clip.

“My Best Friend’s Wedding”

Daniel: If you’re a sappy romantic, you really can’t get better than this.

“La La Land”

Mike: “You know the most psychologically damaging event of your life? Let’s just run it back and see what life looks like if we skipped that part.” Everyone who had a hand in “La La Land” is a jerk and deserved to get bested by “Moonlight” for all the emotional damage you caused me. I’m sending you all of my future wife’s inevitable therapy bills.

The Boneyard Archives

Oxford (Comma) Debate: Is the Serial Comma Really Necessary?

By Dave Pezza and Matt DiVenere

Watching Dave Pezza and Matt DiVenere debate in an email chain is like marveling at a couple of old men try to club each other with their canes. Arms and legs flailing madly, dentures flying out of mouths, and no actual damage done owing to the physical infirmity of the contestants. Enjoy their most recent swashbuckling over the beloved Oxford comma.—Daniel Ford

Dave Pezza: Summation of my argument: I use the Oxford comma, or serial comma, because I am not a neo-fascist, white-privileged stooge of the boys' club known as journalism.

Matt DiVenere: The Oxford comma is for lazy writers who are too drunk to not realize they're rambling on and on. Or they just have a blatant disregard for the reader and are arrogant enough to think the reader will figure it out. Don't be lazy and rewrite your sentence.

Dave: That is inaccurate. The serial comma’s use is recommended by almost every major English style guide and non-journalistic based publishing house in the United States. Those who do not use the serial comma feel as though they belong to a long line of prestigious writers and journalists and have such an uncanny affinity for writing that their syntax never errs on the side of confusion. Therefore, their prose needs not that lowest and most plebeian of punctuation: the serial comma. And that is ironic, because most journalistic publications are written at an eighth- to 12th-grade reading level. And that very same comma would be added to any eighth to 12th graders’ paper.

So please, for the love of writing, stop purporting this high-handed, Machiavellian trope of superior writing and the common man’s inability to follow prose otherwise. It is demeaning, and those who think this way are very much in the minority. But I suppose that makes sense, the small minority pretending that it alone knows what is best for the whole.

Matt: Almost everyone thought the earth was flat.

Almost everyone thinks global warming is a myth.

Almost every time someone defends themselves with "almost everyone," they are wrong.

Almost everyone is never everyone. So why must there be a definitive answer here?

I believe that English professors and authors utilize the Ox because writing consecutively lends more toward description. The Ox makes sense for those long-nosed authors who don't have a fear of heights from looking down it so often at journalists.

But the Ox does not lend itself to the journalistic writing style that I call my own. Therefore, I consider to be a writer's shoehorn. If you're too lazy to put your own shoe on, is wearing shoes your biggest issue? And who owns a shoehorn anymore?

And journalists write to a fifth- to eighth-grade level. So ha!

Dave: We are not arguing about scientific facts that can be proven right or wrong based on research and the scientific method. We are talking about a simple, easy, and straightforward convention used the world over to help readers and writers better understand one another. So when everyone agrees that its use is your best bet, you can believe them.

This isn’t the 1920s. You’re not Ernest Hemingway. The current literary form of the English language is pretty set in stone. Sure, the language changes now and again to conform to contemporary trends, but on the whole we’ve figured it out. So your style isn’t anything new, and its complexities and subtle nuances aren’t so amazing that they preclude the use of a comma at the end of a list. Sorry. It doesn’t. And the people who haven broken the mold, like Hemingway, James, Wallace, and Shakespeare, did so because they were masters of the conventional.

You’re not one of these matters, I’m not, and odds are noone reading this is. Sometimes you have to play by the rules and just suck it up. Be happy that you have to eat it on something as inconsequential to daily life as the serial comma.

Matt: I don't think journalists are trying to say they're better than anyone or even that our way is more right than yours. I'm just saying that you need to be open to other ways of doing things.

So I need to follow 100% the way something was created nearly 100 years ago without questioning it or making any changes? Quite a statement to make. Do you still write on rock with a chisel? And exactly how many years away are you from calling music "noise" and yelling at kids to get off your lawn?

Dave: We are talking about a comma that, when used at the end of a list along with all the other commas in said list, unequivocally avoids confusion between each distinct item. Damn, you really are losing a lot of artistic integrity by following that damn rigorous, old school Oxford comma. Damn those old, white bastards for controlling how your unique 2017 art reads.


And if using the serial comma is 100% following the way we wrote English 100 years ago, then you need to start reading more turn of the century prose, my friend. Change and progress is most importantly about keeping what works and fixing what doesn’t. The serial comma has always worked. It will continue to always work. And not using is akin to a teenage temper tantrum, throwing up that middle finger to the world that just doesn’t understand your art, Kevin! No, we get it. This is how the world works, get over it.

Matt: Let's do a quick sample sentence and let's see how you read it compared to me:

  • A stripper, Dave, and Dan all had fun together last night.
  • A stripper, Dave and Dan all had fun together last night.

To me, the first sentence says that the strippers' name is Dave. The second sentence says the three of them had fun. 

But the Ox is needed every time right? And I'm the asshole because I think if you just change the sentence around, it'll be easier to read and more concise? Your turn.

Dave: If we are following conventional rules, and we are because we use the Oxford comma, “no comma, however, should separate a noun from a restrictive term of identification,” according to Strunk & White. So when I see this sentence:

  • A stripper, Dave, and Dan all had fun together last week.

I know that we are talking about three different people for two reasons: first, the serial comma tells us that there are three people, and, secondly, if Dave were a stripper the sentence would properly read:

  • The stripper Dave and Dan all had fun together last week.

Or one would have properly added the parenthetical commas distinguishing Dave as a stripper with which we might not know:

  • Dave, a stripper, and Dan all had fun together last week.

But there is no way, if you know your grammar, to confuse a sentence written this way:

  • A stripper, Dave, and Dan all had fun together last week.

But a sentence written the following way could, grammar tells us, only have one meaning: ‘a stripper’ is parenthetical information, leading off the sentence that describes Dave, which would make the word ‘all’ very confusing and ill advised:

  • A stripper, Dave and Dan all had fun together last night.

Final Statements

Dave: Kids, if you see someone not using the serial comma, call them out on it. Life too short to be wrong all the time. Be right. Take those bastards down a peg!

Matt: My conclusion is simple, clean and concise. Which is a perfect way to simply explain why the Ox is a waste of time that only leads to angry conversations, name calling and oversimplified history lessons. In the end, aren't we writers facing the same existential crisis? That people today do not care for the written word as they have in the past. Instead, today's readers seek out five-second videos, internet memes and gifs? We need to stand together as one united front in that battle.

P.S. Sean Spicer uses the Oxford comma.

What do you think? Is the Oxford comma necessary? Reply in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.

The Boneyard Archives

4 Essential Documentaries for Writers

By Sean Tuohy

We should always be writing, but there are times when we need to rest and relax. During those times, however, we should still be doing something that refuels our writing tank. These four documentaries about famed writers will get the juices flowing! Feel free to share your favorite writer documentaries in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

“Life Itself”

Roger Ebert was a writer first and a film critic second. His skill behind the keyboard was unmatched. In this heartwarming and inspiring documentary, viewers get to see how Ebert became a world icon. If the final scenes don’t cause you to tear up, you may be dead inside.


Made by famed Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno, this in depth look at J.D. Salinger provides details about a man who hides in the shadows even in death. The film studies the man and the writer who would become famous for staying away from the fame.

“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”

Gore Vidal is larger than life. Vidal has been friends with, or gotten into fights with, some of the biggest stars, trendsetters, and icons of the past 50 years. This film takes you through the long and winding road that is Vidal’s interesting life.

“Dreams With Sharp Teeth”

Harlan Ellison is short tempered, tough, and one hell of a writer. He does not shy away or try to be kind of politically correct. But that is where his charm comes from. If this does not light the writing section of your brain on fire, then nothing will.

The Boneyard Archives

Election 2016: Belinda Carlisle Song or U.S. Presidential Campaign Slogan?

By Gary Almeter

Of all the pundits, pollsters, prophets, and prognosticators lamenting the dearth of civility, the lack of substance, and the general erosion of intellect that has punctuated the 2016 election, the person for whose mellifluous musings America most yearns for remains Belinda Carlisle. And yet the former lead singer of the Go-Go’s remains noticeably and painfully absent from political discourse. It's like the world is about to end because Lex Luther is about to depress the detonators and everyone is wondering where Superman is because he, like Carlisle, has disappeared. 

Or has she?

It would seem the cheesy sound bites, the preoccupation with how men and women grab one another and where, and the self-aggrandizement of 2016 aren’t new cultural developments. Can you guess whether or not the following are Belinda Carlisle songs or U.S. Presidential Campaign slogans? Award yourself five Go-Go’s points for every correct answer, and award America next Tuesday by voting!

  1. We Can Change

  2. Change We Need

  3. Tanned Rested and Ready

  4. We Want the Same Thing

  5. Not Just Peanuts

  6. Mad About You

  7. I Like Dick

  8. Let Well Enough Alone

  9. Heaven is A Place on Earth

  10. There’s No Indispensable Man

  11. Live Your Life Be Free

  12. You’re Nothing Without Me

  13. Don’t Swap Horses Midstream

  14. Runaway Horses

  15. It’s Morning Again in America

  16. I Get Weak

  17. Nobody Owns Me

  18. Circle in the Sand

  19. Whatever It Takes

  20. Leave a Light On

  21. A Chicken In Every Pot

  22. Feel the Bern

  23. I Feel the Magic

  24. Lay Down Your Arms

  25. Let Us Have Peace

  26. Who is James K. Polk?

Answer Key

Belinda Carlisle Song:  1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24

U.S. Presidential Campaign Slogan: 2 (Barack Obama, 2008), 3 (Bobby Jindal, 2016), 5 (Jimmy Carter, 1976), 7 (Richard Nixon, 1960), 8 (William McKinley, 1900), 10 (Wendell Willkie, 1940), 13 (Franklin Roosevelt, 1944), 15 (Ronald Reagan, 1980), 21 (Herbert Hoover, 1928), 22 (Bernie Sanders, 2016), 25 (Ulysses S. Grant, 1868), 26 (Henry Clay, 1844)

Both:  17 (Donald Trump, 2016, and Belinda Carlisle, 1987)

The Boneyard Archives

Halloween Hijinks: A Frightfully Fun Collection of Books and Movies

Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford rounded up their frightful favorites for your Halloween reading and viewing pleasure! Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

“Trick ‘r Treat”

Sean Tuohy: If one film could sum up the Halloween spirit and scare the hell out of you, “Trick ‘r Treat” is it. Five stories featuring deadly ghost from the past, vampires, and creepy monster children, play out over Halloween night. It’ll haunt your dreams long after Halloween is over.

Seven Sins by Karen Runge

Daniel Ford: Sean hit the nail on the head when he called Runge’s collection of short stories “deeply unsettling but overwhelmingly enjoyable.” Every story makes your skin crawl, but you can’t help but marvel at Runge’s sharp, artistic prose.

“The Witch”

ST: “The Witch” features classic New England horror mixed with the supernatural that will take you on a journey through despair and horror. Following a family of Pilgrims during the 1600s, the film examines how a family can slowly crumble under a growing pressure. Unsettling and masterfully done, “The Witch” will keep you glued to the screen (even if you have your hands over your eyes).

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

DF: You’ll never look at your luggage the same way again.

“Night of the Creeps”

ST: Master director Fred Dekker—of “Monster Squad” fame—combines a hardboiled detective story, a monster tale, and a love story in this classic ‘80s horror film. After an alien slug is let loose on a college campus, it's up to a chain-smoking detective and a nerd with a broken heart to save the day.

“The Slutty Pumpkin”

DF: “How I Met Your Mother” may have had a divisive end, but you there's no denying that this show was great once upon a time. This episode encapsulates everything that made the show must-watchable when it was on its game: Lily and Marshall’s “they’re so cute and in love it makes you want to hurl” relationship, Barney’s witty, yet sexist, machismo, and, of course, Ted Mosby’s sweet, deluded pursuit of his one true love. Throw in Robin getting dumped by a guy wearing lederhosen, and this episode is just about perfect.

“The Devil’s Backbone”

ST: Taking place during the Spanish Civil War, this creepy ghost story looks to find the human elements in the supernatural. Boys at an orphanage must confront a ghost haunting them within the walls, and then must fight the evil forces of war trying to get in.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

DF: Kelly Link’s stellar short story collection ended up becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, named one of the best books of the year by Time, and earned rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Not bad for a collection that features demonic houses, iBoyfriends, haunted spaceships, and plenty of weird.

The Murdery Delicious Blood Stone Secret by Peter Sherwood

DF: The first two books in Peter Sherwood's Murdery Delicious series provided plenty of thrills, humor, and delectable recipes, and the ghostly finale is no exception. The Chalmers brothers "breezy summer getaway at their newly restored ancestral home" predictably goes awry, and the Chalmers brood must survive the perils of Blood Stone Manor! As Sherwood suggests, "Do peer past the gate, won't you?"

The Troop by Nick Cutter

ST: Part Lord of the Flies, part “28 Days Later,” all horror. This novel follows a group of Boy Scouts who must fight a deadly virus that threatens to kill them all.

“The One With the Halloween Party”

DF: The only thing better than Chandler’s usual snark is Chandler being sarcastic while he’s wearing a bright pink bunny costume. Also, Joey’s Chandler impression is aces.


DF: Zombie attack!!!! (*Sniff* Miss you, "Community.")

The Rising: Deliverance by Brian Keene

ST: When the world is overrun by demon zombies, a father teams up with a priest and woman with a haunted past to save his son. The book is filled with gore and moments that will make you wince, but you'll learn that the real monsters in this tale are the humans.

The Captive Condition by Kevin Keating

DF: As I said in last October’s “Books That Should Be On Your Radar,” every character in this novel receives a fate that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. Oh, that sound you hear is likely Keating pounding the final nail in your coffin. Enjoy!

ST: Much like Daniel warned, this novel will keep you awake at night and have you jumping at every bump and shadow.

DF: *Checks closest for creepy crawlers* Damn you, Tremblay.

The Night of the Four Horror Authors

Four horror authors in one place means four times the horror! Listen to our interview with Joe Hill, Kat Howard, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and Paul Tremblay.

The Boneyard Archives

50 Years of ‘Star Trek:’ Our Top 5 Favorite Episodes From the Original Series

By Sean Tuohy

“Star Trek,” the long-running and much beloved sci-fi series, has been exploring the far reaches of the cosmos and filling our imaginations for 50 years.

To honor its golden anniversary, we decided to look back at the original television series that started it all and list our five favorite episodes. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Let’s boldly go where so many others have gone before!

Season 1: “Space Seed”

This is one of the most beloved episodes in the history of “Star Trek.” It introduced Khan, the biggest villain in the Enterprise’s history. A relic of the 20th century, Khan is a genetic superhuman who became a warlord. He’s deadly and cunning, and in this episode he takes advantage of the crew in order to take over the ship. Kirk stops him, of course. Simple, thrilling, and filled with great characters and plot lines, “Space Speed” features the best of the "Star Trek" universe.

This episode was also the lead-in for the 1982 film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Perhaps you've heard of it. 

Season 2: “Obsession”

An evil creature attacks an Enterprise landing crew and Kirk discovers that the past is haunting him. Eleven years before, the same beast attacked the USS Farragut while Kirk was aboard. Kirk hesitated firing at the creature, which ended up killing his role model. Guilty for his past actions, Kirk becomes obsessed with finding and killing the beast. “Obsession” stands out for its dark storyline and allows the viewers a glimpse into Kirk’s flaws.

Season 3: “And the Children Shall Lead”

Dark and spooky, “And the Children Shall Lead” finds the crew saving children…who are not alone. They have a special friend with deadly powers. Despite the dark tone of the episode, there is a great moment at the end where Kirk is seen comforting the kids. It’s a great showcase for the brash captain’s fatherly side.

Season 3: “The Savage Curtain”

The crew of the enterprise must team up with Abraham Lincoln to fight an evil villain.

No more needs to be said.

Season 1: “The City on the Edge of Forever”

Penned by the legendary Harlan Ellison, this episode is considered one of the best ever and with good reason. The crew finds a time portal, and Kirk falls in love with a woman he must watch to die to save the future.

How great is that?

The Boneyard Archives

12 Screenwriting Lessons From Our Favorite Screenwriters

By Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford

Screenwriting is the redheaded stepchild of the creative world that makes millions of dollars. The literary elite has always looked down on the craft of screenwriting. Hemingway was known to hate screenwriters, and F. Scott Fitzgerald truly hated writing screenplays toward the end of his life.

This hatred, and the simple-minded image of the screenwriter that has emerged over the years, makes it is easy to believe that screenwriting is a simple task. However, fist fighting a bear after pouring honey over your head is easier than completing a screenplay and then selling it.

Screenwriting is all about images and keeping the story short but powerful. A good screenwriter has to figure out how to write an epic but do it on the head of a pin. It’s easy to lose your voice as a screenwriter because you try to please so many people. The best screenwriters can throw a heavyweight punch with a baby-sized fist and keep their voice despite everything going on around them.

Editor-in-Chief Daniel Ford recently picked out the best screenwriting advice Writer’s Bone has heard. Share the best advice you’ve received in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Always hire better writers than yourself.
— Mike Royce
The craft will always be the most important thing, but this is a business; you need to stay on top of it because it changes constantly and can eat you up and spit you out if you don’t know it.
— Shane Weisfeld
More than anything it was, ‘Let’s just tell a damn good story.’
— Doug Jung
You develop your voice through rewriting.
— James Vanderbilt
If you are passionate about television, and you watch much more television, than try writing for television because the jobs are there.
— Amy Holden Jones
You have to keep the hustle going even after you sell a script.
— Katrin Benedikt
Tropes are shorthand for emotional strings you can pluck.
— Nicole Perlman
It’s going to feel wrong until it feels right. You can’t give up.
— Scott Frank
Write! Read screenplays to get a feel what they are supposed to read like, then just keep writing screenplays.
— William C. Martell
Make sure Michael Mann knows who you are when you meet with him.
— Ken Nolan (we’re paraphrasing…)
Feed your brain with a bunch of ideas. Read as many scripts as you can.
— Eric Heisserer
Outline your favorite movies as you watch them so you can teach yourself structure.
— Kirsten Smith

15 Tips From Our Favorite Writers On How To Hone Your Craft

By Daniel Ford

We're spoiled around here with all the advice we get from both established writers and aspiring scribes like ourselves. Every now and again, we like to corral all our favorite tips and words of wisdom into one post and share it for an added boost of creative inspiration. Feel free to share your own literary encouragement in the comments section or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Keep writing!   

Get better, get better, and don’t think about anything other than getting better.
— Richard Russo
Keep writing. Just keep writing. No one else is going to do it for you.
— Jo Baker
Read a lot. Read, read, read. And then try to write something you would enjoy reading.
— Nelly Alard
Photo credit: Stephane de Bourgies

Photo credit: Stephane de Bourgies

Develop your voice through rewriting, but don’t destroy what’s actually working.
— James Vanderbilt
Even if you think your writing is not good, just keep writing every day because you get better every time you do it.
— Michelle McNamara
Read like crazy. And write as much as you can.
— Lee Eisenberg
Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

The difference between a writer and a wannabe writer is that, in the end, a writer can’t give up.
— Billy Coffey
I believe that, whatever one accomplishes in life has little to do with age, and everything to do with attitude. If anything, long years of a rich life, as mine was and is, expands a writer’s possibilities. In the end it all resides in the mind and spirit.
— Lynn Rosen
First, read. Read all the time. Read widely. Second, embrace the process. Third, don’t give in to the self-doubt
— W.B. Belcher
Remember that everything is a work in progress.
— Lindsay Starck
Photo credit: Victoria McHugh Photography

Photo credit: Victoria McHugh Photography

The most important thing is to find the subject that feels completely urgent to you.
— Moira Weigel
Take encouragement from everywhere you can get it. Enjoy the journey and do your best work.
— Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt
If you want it bad enough, and you work long enough and hard enough, and you get up again and again and again after being knocked down, you can do this.
— Taylor Brown
Photo credit: Harry Taylor

Photo credit: Harry Taylor

The important thing is to keep a sense of perspective. It took my father’s death (I was 26 at the time) to motivate me to send out my work. His death taught me that time is short, and if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, you better do it soon, because you may never get another chance.
— Meg Cabot
Photo credit: Lisa DeTullio Russell

Photo credit: Lisa DeTullio Russell

This is work. And it never stops. You have to be both humble and believe in yourself and your songs more than anything.
— Matt Pond
Photo credit: Derek Cascio

Photo credit: Derek Cascio

Why Do People Love The Bands/Musicians We Hate?

Photo courtesy of  Rick Harris

Photo courtesy of Rick Harris

Matt DiVenere: What popular band do you hate that people get mad at you for?

Sean Tuohy: None. I may not be the best for this because there is no band or group that I dislike. I really enjoy all music. In the few hours I've been at work, I've listened to classical, an EDM mix, country, and now some Stevie Ray Vaughn. Even the bands I don’t enjoy as much normally have a single song I enjoy to listen to. I used to hate Jon Bon Jovi. Not the band, the person. I really hated him.

Gary Almeter: I loathe reggae. I said this at lunch with colleagues once and everyone was all incredulous and all, "Whaaaaaaaat?" More succinctly, it is a fucking waste of everyone's time. I loathe its laid back offbeat rhythms and its casual evocations of general positivity and folksy folks relaxing on rustic beaches. I loathe Bob Marley. Unrelated, but sort of related, is that I also loathe Bob Marley's fat Irish cousin, Van Morrison. Furthermore, I loathe Bob Marley's margarita-swilling, parrot-wearing brother-in-law Jimmy Buffett. I also loathe Bob Marley's illegitimate stepson, Jack Johnson.

Rob Bates: He's not a band, and not even popular anymore, but I hate Billy Joel. I had to limit my friend's access to my Facebook posts because she objected to one particular rant. I'm usually so vociferous about it, no one wants to argue.

Daniel Ford: I hate Vampire Weekend. Why does everyone under 35 love that band? They suck. I hate their pretentious instruments, their weepy lyrics, and their uninspired hipster garb. Add Band of Horses to that list for similar reasons. Has this generation been so inundated with pop-crap that they can't recognize shitty music when they hear it? "Those lyrics are deep and dope, man." No, they aren't, they're bullshit. And as someone who shovels it on a regular basis, I know of what I speak. 

Matt: I knew this would be a popular topic.

I'm going full heel here, to use a wrestling term. I hate The Beatles.

I hate them. The most overrated band of all time. They're iconic because they walked across some street? I just don't get it.

I'd rather listen to Britney Spears' first album (minus the "hits”). I'd rather use the Oxford comma. I'd rather...you get it. I told my father-in-law this, and I thought he was going to revoke his acceptance of my marriage to his daughter. Still a very touchy subject. He also is mad at me that I think “Jurassic Park” is overrated, but that's another story for another time.

Daniel: I was looking forward to you making a compelling argument about this, but you had to go ahead and insult the Oxford comma. How dare you?

The Beatles changed the face of music. It was more than just pop and lyrics, everything they did was iconic. And not iconic in the form of Instagram posts or sub-tweets. Not to mention, their music, for the most part, is fun. How do you not get fired up listening to "Drive My Car" or "Twist and Shout?”

You're a monster, Matt. Your father-in-law is playing the long game on this one.

Dave Pezza: Not many like Vampire Weekend. In fact I am one of like two people who own all three of their albums. They are a rare band that mixes African beats, crisp melodies, and a purposefully cheerful tone. And Ezra Koeing's voice is amazingly sharp, that shit doesn't even waiver in concert. Lastly, their lyrics are ridiculously good, hard to decipher but good none-the-less, like a good poem. Vampire Weekend is what you get when English majors make music. No one said you had to like them, but your nay-saying speaks more about you than it does about those of us who like them.

But on to the first point, Billy Joel! Come on. When did all of the joy in your life so totally disappear that now Joel's soulful piano and uncannily high voice doesn't pluck at your heartstrings? I once had a girlfriend who hated Billy Joel. I guess it turns out all Billy Joel haters have a bottomless pit of jet black where their hearts should be.

Matt, you need to stop viewing the world from you hyper technological 2016 point-of-view. Imagine listening to the radio in the 1960s and amongst all the dross that passed for pop music, and then "Twist and Shout,” "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," or "A Day in the Life" comes on. These songs were so good people went insane. Brian Wilson allegedly went crazy when he heard “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band.” So please, for the love of god, use your writer powers to empathize with a people who don't live in our jaded, overanalyzed, hypersensitive contemporary world.

Daniel: I've seen Vampire Weekend’s "African beats" live. I had to be roused from a near-coma. So your argument for liking this band revolves around "English majors making music," "hard to decipher," and "like a poem?" Sounds like a real hoot! I'd rather listen to Death Cab for Cutie's wrist-slitting music fused with Celine Dion's shrieking. 

I was a huge Billy Joel fan in high school. And then I kind of grew out of him. I didn't start hating him or anything, I just found different musicians to like more. I saw him at Fenway last summer and he was great. I can't hate a bald, sweaty fat guy still grinding it out on the road (and by grinding it out I mean stay in five-star hotels and showing off his young wife).

Gary: I don't hate him but I'm sort of tired of Bruce Springsteen. We get it, you're tired of seeing the poor and downtrodden get poorer and downtroddener amidst the smoke stacks and railroad tracks of the Midwestern city. But it's time to move the fuck on. 

Once at a poker game, the fellas were talking about who was the best songwriter of all time—Dylan, Springsteen, and Neil Young. I said, "I think you need to add Billy Joel to the conversation," and you would've thought I had gouged out their pancreases they were so offended. But I think he is part of that conversation.  

Rob: Vampire Weekend is like a Paul Simon rip off band, but they have some decent stuff. It is pleasant to listen to like latter-day Paul.

What kind of monster doesn't like the man behind such gems as,

He's talking to Davy who is still in the navy/You are only human you are supposed to make mistakes.

He writes for three year olds!


I learned that a man isn't just being macho.

If there is a more horrible lyric in rock, I have yet to hear it.

Daniel: Stephanie Schaefer agrees with Gary's Springsteen comments. Engagement now in the balance. (Just kidding *prepares couch *.)

My reaction to starting this thread:


Lindsey Wojcik: I'm chiming in just to send love to the “Arrested Development”/Will Arnett gif.

Lisa Carroll: I am not going to tell my husband about the Springsteen comments but I have seen "The Boss" six or seven times and the man is amazing live. I'm not going to tell my 15-year-old daughter about The Beatles comments but I will tell you that she and I were belting some Beatles in the car today and I love that she knew that "Hey Jude" had 1:45 of additional "na na na nanananas" left when she forwarded to the next song.

I hate Frank Zappa. I hate Neil Young. I hate Bob Dylan.

I hate that I don't know who Vampire Weekend is but I just Googled them and I have "Oxford Comma" playing in the background as I write this...

I love how passionate you all are and I love reading these crazy threads.

Hassel Velasco: I absolutely despise The Eagles. Yeah, we get it. It's a hotel and we can never leave. For fucks sake! If I had a dollar for every time I've skipped that song since the time I first listened to it, I'd be able to retire comfortably by 70. (I need a new accountant.)

If you don't like The Beatles, you probably don't like anything in general #justkidding #butreally. The Beatles continued to push the boundaries of the recording process by practically leading the transition from two-, to four-, to eight-track recording.

Nickelback is also terrible.

Matt: I'm very aware of all that The Beatles accomplished. They were revolutionary. But that doesn't mean I have to like them. David Ortiz is a legendary figure for Boston, but you won't see me praising him ever.

I'm more of a Rolling Stones fan. And Billy Joel. But my parents never listened to The Beatles growing up so I never did either. It's just not for me. Nothing to do with my age or my view on the world. I'm also more of a Huey Lewis and the News guy too. Saw them a few years ago on the Boston Waterfront...they still got it.

Another band I hate that might turn down the scalding heat of hatred pointed at me from this group: Dave Matthews Band. I just don't get it. A few of his songs are tolerable, but c’mon. I'm not a fan of those "jam bands" at all.

Gary: I too hate Dave Matthews Band. And jam bands in general. Like when are the fucking words going to start you smelly hairy fucks?

I would see Springsteen in concert but for the same reason I would go see Mount Rushmore or the La Brea Tar Pits: the experience has just sort of wended its way into the American psyche and so we feel like we should do it as some sort of duty. The whole Springsteen thing seems to be just an extended skirmish based on hyper-compressed humility and backhanded boasts.  

I also hate Sting.

Stephanie Schaefer: I may risk Daniel taking my ring back, but I have to agree with Lisa. Neil Young sounds like a whining/dying animal. I also only like one U2 song (“With our Without You,” obviously). I was actually upset that iTunes automatically gave me their new album for free (and I initially blamed Daniel for putting it in my music library).

How hasn't anyone mentioned Taylor Swift? I have way more songs of hers on my iPod than I'd like to admit. I'll admit that her songs are super catchy, but the lyrics all seem like they could be written by a fourth grader.

"Today was a fairytale/I wore a dress/You wore a dark grey t-shirt/You told me I was pretty/When I looked like a mess/Today was a fairytale."


Adam Vitcavage: I don't hate them, but I've never gotten into Radiohead as much as my friends say I should. They're basically required listening to in my world, and I like them enough. But I never swam in the deep end of their discography. They're singles are catchy and I respect them. But there is so much out there to listen to. I'd rather give my heart completely to a small amount of bands than listen to everything out there for a few weeks until the next "must listen" to band comes out there.

I guess I don't really hate any bands. I just choose not to listen to a lot. Like reggae, metal, super twangy country, etc. The usual stuff pretentious and self-indulgent hipsters don't like. But don't worry, I'm seeking help and in a Hipsters Anonymous group.

Alex Tzelnic: I believe in the soul. I believe Adam Levine is a no-talent ass clown. I believe that Maroon 5 is one of the worst band names of all time, and that being a judge on “The Voice” so that you can engage in inane banter with Blake Shelton ruins any artistic "credibility" you have. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe that if I hear “Moves Like Jagger” one more time, I'll weep like Brian Wilson, but for the exact opposite reasons. I believe sleeve tattoos do not automatically make you a badass. And I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Goodnight.


Join the discussion! Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Boneyard Archives

18 Things Darth Vader Might Say On A First Date

By Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford

Editor’s note: Believe it or not, this post started after I alerted Sean that “Ghostbusters II” was on VH1 the other day. Somehow our conversation devolved into trading one-liners back and forth for several hours. Feel free to add your own in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone. Keep writing!—Daniel Ford

10 Writers Worth Following on Twitter

Photo courtesy of  Andreas Eldh

Photo courtesy of Andreas Eldh

By Daniel Ford

A snowy morning in April (one in which saw the hot water in my apartment crap out) makes a man take stock and think about what’s important in this life.

Writers kibitzing on Twitter ranks pretty high on the list, duh.

Ann Hornaday (@AnnHornaday)

Anyone who thinks Ethan Hawke is as underrated as we do is a friend of ours! Hornaday also loved the vastly underappreciated “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which earned her plenty of Writer’s Bone brownie points. Her movie reviews for The Washington Post are always spot on.

W.B. Belcher (@wbbelcher)

You drink whiskey with a man after he signs a copy of his novel, the least you can do is put him on a top 10 list. You should really buy and read Lay Down Your Weary Tune in addition to following him!

Marlon James (@MarlonJames5)

Superb author. Important voice. On our podcast bucket list.

Scott Frank (@scottfrank)

I give all the credit in the world to Sean Tuohy for holding in a high pitched squeal during a recent podcast when one of his screenwriting heroes started talking about adapting Elmore Leonard.

Matthew Hefti (@TheRealHefti)

Hefti’s novel A Hard and Heavy Thing floored me. He’s proven to be equally insightful on Twitter.

Julia Claiborne Johnson (@JuliaClaiborneJ)

If you haven’t read Johnson’s Be Frank With Me, you’re really missing something special. She’s also wickedly funny on social media (despite her claims that she’s a “dinosaur”).

Walter Chaw (@mangiotto)

Any writer that can craft something of this depth inspired by a substandard comic book movie deserves an instant follow. He earned bonus points for defending “Superman Returns.” 

Rachel Harper (@rachel_m_harper)

I haven’t been able to put down Harper’s novel This Side of Providence. Look for a podcast with the author in the near future!

Tommy Wallach (@tommywallach)

Wallach wrote a wonderful book called Thanks for the Trouble and put up with me asking a bunch of dopey questions about the Young Adult market during our recent interview. I'm also pretty sure he's read every book that's ever been written. 

Jay Atkinson (@Atkinson_Jay)

Last, but in no way least. Atkinson has become a vocal advocate for Writer’s Bone and has an unending supply of good stories and writing advice. Hannah Duston would be really proud of how he told her story (I’d also like to see those two compete in a decathlon or something).

The Boneyard: Creative Comforts

Photo courtesy of  Joe

Photo courtesy of Joe

Daniel Ford: During our last Friday Morning Coffee, we voiced our frustrations about substandard fiction (but also how it helped us learn about the craft).

We do a lot of reading based on books we get in from publishers, as well as fiction and nonfiction we have on our "must-read" lists. But what books or movies do you go back to when you need a comfort read? Something that restores your love of reading and primes you to read the next chunk of your list?

For me, during the last year or two, it's been Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. Sure, I have a soft spot for him because he was one of our first interviews, but his lugubrious, warm writing style and earthy characters are more like old friends than literary devices. There's also enough of a plot that satisfies the thriller-genre lover in me. He's really taken the place of Clive Cussler and Nelson DeMille in my reading life.  

Sean Tuohy: Normally I would spit out five titles that I return to, but right now I’m in this weird output mood. At the moment, I can’t take anything in or focus on anything new, even stuff I really like. I usually would go back to a Stephen King novel or a movie like “Bullitt” or “Die Hard.” Something I enjoy, something simple.

The other night, however, I felt like I needed to take a break from writing but the idea of reading didn’t seem to work. So I blew the dust off my copy of “The Punisher” from 2004 and popped it in. There is an amazing audio commentary from the film's writer and director, the great Jonathan Hensleigh. I have listened to it a dozen times before, but at that moment it felt perfect because I needed something familiar. Someone talking about the craft of screenwriting accompanied by flashy images.

Daniel: Oh, that's cool. I can totally see how that would be helpful and entertaining at the same time. It's not draining you like reading a screenplay or novel either; you're engaged with whatever movie you're watching. I dig it.

You worked in a video store, so you'll remember when DVDs first came out. Remember how cool it was having all of those "special features?" It blew my mind as a teenager. I think I may have enjoyed “The Lord of the Rings” special features more than the actual films. I would buy DVDs just for the extra stuff (which is why I think I ended up buying "15 Minutes").  

I need my output mode to kick on. That's the other reason I've needed a comfort read. Great fiction can inspire for sure, but there's something about tapping into the genre and authors that made you a writer in the first place that gives you a creative boost.

Sean: Don't you wish there were book commentaries? After you read something you can play it, and it’s just the author talking about how he or she came up with scenes, characters, plot.

The special features on DVDs are the best things in the world. I’ve bought movies twice because one copy had more features than the other.

I like a good creative boost. You need it, but don't you also need downtime? As a writer, our minds are always racing from plot to character to research to the small details of a scene. Don't you need a little rest?

Daniel: Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. Reading a worn copy of one of your favorite novels or watching a movie you've seen hundreds of times gives you a mental break while at the same time still sharpening your creative katana (yeah, I stole your idea!). You don't have to worry about assessing the characters or keeping track of the plot. You know what happens already! You can just enjoy whatever it is about the novel you loved—whether it's the language, characters, or setting.

I try to read a portion of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera every year. That book is just too beautifully written not to go back to it often. And I don't have to read it in order. I can just concentrate on all my favorite scenes without feeling like I'm missing anything. And the end of that book...man...that's how you do it. I don't think I've read a better ending. I envision that Taylor Brown's Fallen Land is going to be one of those novels for me as well. That hit me right in my sweet spot. Other books on my comfort read list: To Kill A Mockingbird (of course), The Cider House Rules by John Irving (anything by him really), Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and John Steinbeck's East of Eden.

Book commentary...I love it.

Emili Vesilind: Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch is my go-to read when I'm stressed out—I also read it every five years or so because it makes me laugh. It's a rather formulaic story told in incredible detail about a fashion-obsessed girl named Reality who lives on the Lower East Side and talks to her clothes (example: she can hear her frocks quivering in anticipation as she's about to put them on). Tulloch was a writer for fashion magazines, and she encapsulates a really specific, magical moment in New York City pop culture with this one. It never fails to make me happy.

Gary Almeter: On days when I am feeling "not so fresh" I typically revisit college anthologies and read some poems and/or a short story or two. They are familiar and provide comfort; and each subsequent reading is different from those before it. They also serve as a sort of benchmark for how I have grown as both a reader and a writer.

Sean: My ultimate comfort read is called “The Hemingway.” It’s just me drinking too much whiskey in a boat while trying to wrestle a marlin.

Dave Pezza: Take me, Sean. Anytime, anywhere.

Danny DeGennaro: I once saw Sean punch a grouper so hard that they had to call in the Coast Guard.

Gary: Once Sean and I were on a raft heading down the Mississippi River when a big ugly catfish the size of a horse jumped onto the raft. Sean dropkicked that fish so hard and so far. I've never seen anything like it.

Sean: That was an awesome summer trip, Gary. We learned two things:

  1. I don't care for catfish.
  2. Gary can build a raft out a few planks of wood and a lot of heart.

Stephanie Schaefer: Does a comfort television show count? If so, “Friends” all the way. It never gets old!

Daniel: Bradley Cooper would disagree with you, Sean:

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that "The West Wing" remains my ultimate comfort television. I could start anywhere in the seven seasons and be happy as a clam. The acting and writing is superb, of course, but each show has a different memory attached to it. Watching "Two Cathedrals" with my three best friends/roommates in New York City when none of us had much more than the clothes we wore and cheering as Jed Barlet denounces God in Latin. Bingewatching with my younger brother when I came home for holidays and cramming 22 episodes into three days. Watching with my parents during the four months I stayed with them while transitioning to Boston and telling my mother she had to watch what happened next instead of asking me questions. I recently watched the series finale, which means I get to start over (and listen to Joshua Malina's new podcast while I’m at it)!

Stephanie, that was a long-winded "yes" to your question!

Rachel Tyner: Comfort TV would be “Friends,” “New Girl,” “The Office.” Comfort books include Harry Potter (obviously!) and A Wrinkle in Time.

Lindsey Wojcik: Comfort TV is easy. “Arrested Development,” “How I Met Your Mother” (sans the series finale), “30 Rock.” Comfort read would have to be Here Is New York by E.B. White. A constant reminder of why I love living in the city even when things get rough and an illustration that the city never really changes with time. 

Join the conversation! Reply in the comments section below, tweet us @WritersBone, or drop us a line on our Facebook page!

The Bonyard Archives

The Boneyard: Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

Photo courtesy of  heyrocc

Photo courtesy of heyrocc

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

Sean: Okay, so last night I attempted to read—for the second time—a book that we received some time ago. 

The book hasn't been released so I don’t want to name it, but it’s a detective novel. The writer is a former police officer. The first time, I stopped reading three chapters in because it was boring. The writer spent too much time trying to make it feel real that it slowed everything down. It happened again this time around. The author would slow the story down to give some little fact about this or that. 

Now, with these types of stories you have to put in details but when is it too much? When should a writer stop trying to get in all the facts and just tell the story?

Daniel: Man, I'm glad you brought this up. I just finished a book that comes out in June and it is awful. Poor dialogue, wimpy plot, caricatures instead of characters. I plowed through it because I hate not finishing a book I start, but I threw it right in the trash when I was done. I chalked it up as a lesson in how not to do things and I'm moving on.

Anyway, I think if you're going to overload people with facts, write a nonfiction narrative or just a straight nonfiction account. The rules are essentially limitless, so why do writers hem themselves into plot devices and narration that don't move readers? 

Take the movie "Spotlight." Are all the details factually correct? No, of course not. Journalism, when done right, can be monotonous to an outsider. I heard Ann Hornaday, a movie critic who writes for The Washington Post, say on a podcast a couple weeks ago that some of the scenes featuring confrontations on the golf course or at parties were actually done through email. Does that make the movie any less authentic? No. The whole point of fiction is that you get to stretch beyond the bounds of reality. You can do that without losing the essence of the story. 

Also consider Dimitry Elias Leger's God Loves Haiti. He tells a spirited, haunted love story in the middle of the Haitian earthquake in 2010. He doesn't dwell on Richter scale readings or news reports. He uses the facts to build his own world, one that explores the themes unleashed after the earthquake in a way that relates to readers. 

People who read fiction want the authenticity of feeling and emotion, and don't necessarily care that facts have been stretched or tweaked.

Sean: Good example with “Spotlight.” You could say the same for “Bridge of Spies.” Was the film 100 percent spot on? No, not at all. Chunks of dialogue were taken from documents and things like the exchange and sneaking people out happen but not like it did in the movie. 

I like to look at Stephen J. Cannell's work. The man was known for his research. He would spend months researching people, topics, and fields for a single book or television show. But he knew how to inject that into his work without slowing it down. He knew that you shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. 

If you are a good cop, it does not mean you’ll be a good writer. I tend to find that they get bogged down in details that the readers do not care for.

Daniel: Right. You have to know the facts, but also know when to ignore them. Creating a mood or a deep character is much more important than, say, explaining exactly how a suspect gets booked or what streets cops actually police. 

"The Wire" is probably another good example of doing it the right way. Fiction's job isn't to inform using facts and details, it's to inform with passion and emotion.

Sean: Yes! I completely agree. 

“The Danish Girl,” which was a big award-winner this year, tells this "true" story about a male artist who wants to become a woman in the early 1900s. Everyone loved it. It was not a real story. The film was based on a novel, which was based off a true story. But the film and novel captured the passion and emotion of the real people but put it into a fictional setting.

Daniel: "Steve Jobs" is another excellent example. All of Jobs's life didn't happen before product launches. However, I was impressed by Aaron Sorkin's screenplay. He illuminated Jobs's entire life in a structure that would make an excellent play. I walked away feeling like I knew a little more about Jobs without caring if every detail was correct. And after reading the biography, I think Sorkin captured the man and all his faults in three acts.

Sean: "Ray," the Jamie Foxx movie, did the same. It captured the man, how witty and driven he was, but also all his faults. 

I want the facts and what to know how those facts impact a character but I don't want them to slow down the story.

Daniel: I live by three commandments when it comes to writing: 

  1. Be honest
  2. Be human
  3. Don't be boring

Facts can throw up roadblocks for all three. We're storytellers, and storytellers shouldn't be afraid to deviate from facts in order to uncover larger truths about the human experience. Move people with your dialogue and characters; don't bore them with lists and procedures. Readers get enough of that at work!

Sean: You are like Frank Ryan in Swag. You got your rules and you live by them. I like that.

But those are good rules and should be the cornerstones of any storytelling. Like Raymond Chandler said, "Every ten pages have a man with a gun." We need to keep the readers invested and interested without making them work.

The Boneyard Archives

Have Writer Will Travel: Does Wanderlust Inspire Your Writing?

From the desk of Daniel Ford: I just got back from London/Dublin and was thinking about something the last couple days in my jet lagged soaked brain. Does travel inspire you to write? I didn't do a whole lot of writing while abroad, but I did have a bunch of ideas I'm eager to test out.

Sean Tuohy: Nope, not really. If anything traveling just gives me settings for future stories. Whenever I travel, and I pass an interesting building or a plaza, I always take a metal picture and file it away. Maybe seeing something or learning some bit of local history will set off a spark but the urge to write isn't there. I like to write in a comfortable setting, some place I am familiar with. The only time I like to travel and write is if I am going somewhere I know well, like Florida or Ibiza.

Daniel Ford: Yeah, I think Ibiza would be high on everyone's writing setting list.

Sean: True, but for me it’s the fact that I am really comfortable at my uncle's house. If I went to Ibiza and went to a hotel to write I don't think I would be comfortable. The house has a great energy and the views from the living room and bedroom are amazing so those mixed together are great.

Daniel: Right, exactly. I can't write in a hotel unless it's super old or charming. There's something too sterile about them. And you're absolutely right on atmosphere. It has to be some place that I can set my coffee down, where I've set it down hundreds of times before, and litter the table or desk with papers (and probably pastries).

Sean: Pastries always help writing. Oddly enough, I had this thought this weekend regarding hotels while I was in a hotel with Rachel. We had a nice corner room with a nice view. If I could drag a table up to the window I would totally write. Because the room was so simple and the view was of a city that I know and love I thought I could write. But would I really? I don't know. Maybe when I sit down it wouldn't be a fit.

Daniel: Let’s ask the rest of the crew!

Gary Almeter: I definitely think it does.  Not so much because the Grand Canyon, Shakespeare's birthplace, the ocean, or the Pacific sunset are inspiring (at least not to me though surely to some) but because of the anonymity that comes with traveling. Both the traveler and those he or she sees are doing whatever you think they might be. Why are they hugging at the airport? Where did they come from? What is that person doing here? You tend to make up stories as you see all this. I think cities are inspiring. You see all the people going about their ordinary days while you are vacationing. Where are they going? The sense of alienation also fosters a sense that there is something sketchy going on every corner. Hotels foster this too inherently—like you can’t help but think of all the malfeasance that happened between and amongst the prior inhabitants of that room. 

We met a couple on our honeymoon—we didn't exchange addresses or anything—and I always wonder what they are doing now.

Dave Pezza: In my limited experience, it definitely does but not right away. In fact, not close. For me it takes years for those adventures to manifest into something thoughtful and poignant.

Lindsey Wojcik:

"Is the wine complimentary?"



The wine was placed next to the first meal I've had on an airplane. The menu that night was cheese pasta or chicken and rice—I chose the former—with a salad that only consisted of some pieces of iceberg lettuce and half a tomato, a cheese wedge with crackers, a roll with butter, pretzels, and a caramel brownie.

I devoured the pasta, washing it down with the sweet white between bites. Next, I conquered that cheese wedge, which actually turned out to be a nice spread. I couldn't muster up the appetite for the dried, wilting lettuce even though an olive oil and vinegar dressing would have done the trick—it lost all nutrient value at "iceberg."

I leave the unopened salad and roll on the tray, anticipating when the woman with the wine will return.

"Anything else to drink?"

"Can you top me off?"


I hold the cup into the aisle as she pours. She wheels away, and I start to lose myself in a book.

"Life is not a paragraph, death is no parenthesis."

Page seven, and I'm hooked. I give myself until 10:00 p.m. to keep reading, hoping I'm not disturbing the stranger besides me.

I typed that into my iPhone Notes as my plane to Barcelona, Spain, flew over the Atlantic Ocean last month. I wanted to capture moments of my first trip abroad while I was actually experiencing it, but the notes ended as soon as I landed. While I did not write much after that, being a solo traveler in another country, where I barely spoke the language, proved to be an inspiring experience.

I navigated myself somewhat successfully around a new country without the crutch of a trusted GPS-enabled iPhone, made connections with people from lands other than Spain, and became immersed in learning, seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling the pulse of Barcelona—albeit, with limited time, the culture immersion happened atop a double-decker bus. But I did it all alone. The experience proved to myself that I could do anything and erased the fears writers often face when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It made me write without pause, professionally, and re-ignited my desire to write for myself.

Experiencing anything new is always cause for self-examination, and I think travel does that best, which is why it can be so inspiring for many writers.

The Boneyard Archives

Are Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Plans Good or Bad for Publishing and Consumers?

Editor’s note: Always eager to instigate a debate between Dave Pezza and Matt DiVenere, I emailed them the news that Amazon was considering opening 400 brick-and-mortar locations. Their reactions did not disappoint. Matt graciously took up the devil’s advocate mantel, something that Dave will pay dearly for in the future. Feel free to join the debate in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford  

Dave Pezza: Those neo-fascist, monopoly-loving idiots can go ahead and open as many brick-and-mortar locations as they would like. This is what happens to most over-abundant enterprises. They get bored of swimming, sleeping, and showering with the inhuman amounts of money they have amassed, and they start to get cute. Are you fucking with me Amazon? Your whooooole business model since your inception, which was about the same time the fucking Internet started, was getting rid of the overhead associated with physical stores. And now they are hacking up a deep lugy into the face of modern publishing and bookstores by opening brick-and-mortar locations. Why? Because they are, and always have been, complete and total douchebags. I envy their douchbaggery level. It's unprecedented. Hopefully they'll lose millions of dollars in the process as they continue alternate between shooting and tea-bagging the dead corpse of American publishing like a teenage, hyperactive, hypoglycemic, depression-soaked Halo player.

Matt DiVenere: In this dog eat, dog world, Amazon has decided to take on an industry that needed a serious revitalization in order to stay relevant in a world filled with screens and has won outright.

For those who go the route of calling Amazon "mom-and-pop bookstore killers," are you toeing this line because of nostalgia? Do you still own a Super Nintendo and play it with all of your friends? Do you have a blog and call yourself a foodie even though you have no real experience in the food industry other than eating? Do you only listen to music on record players because "that's how music was intended to be played?" Do you refuse to eat anything that had a face (not counting that burger you ate last weekend when you were drunk)?

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but that bookstore that you drive by every once in a while that you say is, "awesome and your favorite place," probably wouldn't be around anymore no matter what Amazon does. America is no longer flipping pages and getting paper cuts. America is scrolling on screens whether you like it or not. Can't you just be happy that a major company has decided to give you a space other than Starbucks to be pretentious?

By the way, how are you reading this? On a screen? What do you mean?? You didn't print it out so you can read it in front of a window while someone Instagrams a photo of you reading (#humblebrag)? Point, set, match.

Dave: Matt, you ignorant slut.

“The new ways, the digital ways, the screens, the clouds, it is all unstoppable.” “It is the future.” “Stop toeing this line.” “The old ways are enfeebled and trite.” 

Low-evolved, hypocritical sheep say these things. It is with the collective bleating of the Instagram stars and YouTube celebrities and the-point-and-click Contras that our world is now changed, and for the better we would be led to believe.  Technology, innovation, and change are fundamental building blocks of our national chemistry, an elemental necessity that follows established rules and principles. A business that is not growing is dying. Print and tangible commodities are dead.

Wrong. You are simply wrong. 

Not all change is progress. It would seem that Americans are still getting paper cuts.  And they like it. E-books sales have dropped considerably for what should be a continually booming industry. Vinyl has surpassed live streaming music in revenue for the first time since ever.

How and why you ask from the inch and a half screen of your over priced, under used iWatch? (Oh, it tells time? So does my $50 dollar Nautica). Because Americans are not idiots. Because new is not always better. More is better. Diversity is better. Some music sounds much better on vinyl. Some music does not. Thank god I can get both because I am smart enough to know the difference. I read Scotty McDouchernozzel's New York Times blurb on the Iowa caucus results on my iPhone Monday night. I will read his column on Ted Cruz's victory on Sunday in print over a hot cup of coffee and a couple of eggs. I, like most Americans (I hope), know when technology/change is useful, and when it is not.

The issue of Amazon opening stores is first and foremost a consumer issue. I do not want to buy my items from one place. I want options. Options give me value. It gives me power. The mom-and-pop store gives me a feeling of home and customer service. These properties cancel out their higher prices. But sometimes Amazon's $2.99 price tag on a favorite paperback just can't be beat. Barnes & Noble's signed editions, 20% off coupons, and hardcover deals keep me walking through those doors on a weekly basis. I have options.

Having physical Amazon stores is as close to a monopoly as we have ever seen in the publishing world. Imagine Barnes & Noble went under and is bought by Amazon's brick-and-mortar division. What's to stop its online prices from skyrocketing to meet its in-store prices? Nothing but a court order, and we have all seen how that works out.

Don't be an idiot. It is very clear what Amazon is trying to do here: make more money. This is a zero sum game we are playing. More to some means less for others.

Matt: A business that doesn't attempt at improving itself is dying. Staying stagnant is to die a slow, painful death. Bigger is better. Newer is better. Why do people sleep outside the stores for the newest iPhone each year?

Do people do that for the latest hardcover novel? No. That's because the younger generations have not grown up with their parents reading the newspaper at night. Parents now are on their phones or tablets. In the classroom, children are considered behind if they don't have the basic handle on typing and Internet terminology. It's not actually a dig at the older ways but more of a nod toward what's to come.

If we rewind before Amazon hit it big online, large corporate stores such as Barnes & Noble were taking business away from the small neighborhood bookstores. It was very rare to see a local bookstore update itself to stay relevant with the times.

The same can be said for the print newspaper industry, more specifically, the national print newspapers. The Internet world came up on them fast and they were way too slow and stubborn to attack. Instead, they reacted and…well. You can see what's happened to the print industry.

Of course Amazon is trying to make money. That's what successful companies do.

And Amazon dipping its toes in the water with the brick and mortar storefronts is just the tip of the iceberg. If they are successful, there will be more companies to follow. What if Apple starts selling records at the Apple stores? Tesla sells its own cars, most of them in a small storefront with limited test drive vehicles available.

There is room in the marketplace for this. And if there are fewer options for you to purchase a book, you can't blame Amazon for that. Blame society. Blame technology. Blame whatever helps you sleep at night. But don't blame the successful company looking to add to its offerings.

Okay, your turn. Join the discussion by commenting in the section below or by tweeting us @WritersBone

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