On Stories

What is Literature for?

Kottke wrote this, and I like it better than what I was thinking:

"The School of Life on four uses of literature. I especially liked this bit:

We’re weirder than we’re allowed to admit. We often can’t say what’s really on our minds, but in books, we find descriptions of who we genuinely are and what events are actually like described with an honesty quite different from what ordinary conversation allows for. In the best books, it’s as if the writer knows us better than we know ourselves. They find the words to describe the fragile and weird special experiences of our inner lives: the light on a summer morning, the anxiety we felt at a gathering, the sensations of a first kiss, the envy when a friend told us of their new business, the longing we experienced on the train looking at the profile of another passenger we never dare to speak to. Writers open our hearts and minds and give us maps to our own selves, so that we can travel in them more reliably and with less of a feeling of paranoia and persecution. As the writer Emerson remarked, “In the works of great writers, we find our own neglected thoughts.”

I would argue these points also apply, in one degree or another, to not just literature but to any artful endeavor: film, TV, comics, theater, painting, etc" (via).


But I'll add this, "Literature is a tool that will help us live and die with a little bit more goodness, wisdom, and sanity."


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-N- Stuff  :  On Stories  :  Books

9 TED Talks From Writers

We love a good TED Talk. What better way to celebrate this awesome media than witha roundup of talks by nine kickass authors? Whether you are looking for a talk on fear and imagination, or poetry and animation—we have something for you. Just follow the links below.

Roxane Gay

We can’t stop talking about how thrilled we are to have the incredible Roxane Gay as the judge for our sixth anthology. She has established herself as a fiction writer, essayist, and astute cultural critic. Her TED Talk covers the difficulties of reaching a perfect feminist ideal, and why it’s important to keep trying anyway. Watch the talk here!

Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch is an Oregon writer who has written both a memoir and several novels. Her TED Talk shares her own journey through life, and her realizations of self-acceptance along the way.

John Green

John Green is the bestselling author of multiple novels, including Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. His TED Talk is focused on different styles of learning, and how he fell in love with online video. Go on, check it out.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author who is best known for her 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Her TED Talk deconstructs the idea of “being” a genius, and then continues with the supposition that all people “have” a genius. Watch it now.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, and she was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008. Her TED Talk is on the importance of multiple viewpoints, whether they are about a country, a people, or a person. Check it out here.

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a Turkish author, writing in both Turkish and English, and she is the most widely read female author in Turkey. Her TED Talk explains the power of fiction, and the empathy it engenders, in overcoming identity politics.

Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker is an American novelist, best known for her novel The Age of Miracles. Her TED Talk describes how fear shapes imagination by making us imagine possible futures, and her talk is centered around the story of the whaleship Essex. Take a gander.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is an American poet, and he was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. His TED Talk combines the written word and visual art, as he shares the story of how his poems became animated films in a collaboration with Sundance Channel.

Jarred McGinnis

Jarred McGinnis is an American author currently based in London, who has mainly focused on writing short fiction. His TED Talk shares his passion for stories, and demonstrates the wonders of fiction as a magical force in his life. Check it.

by Kimberly Guerin


For more on . . .

Ted Talks  :  Stories  :  Writing

How Disney Connects Us All

Human's have been telling stories ever since we could talk . . . probably even before then, because the power (and perhaps purpose) of Story is to "connect with people on an emotional level" (via).

Which is why people tell stories of their experiences, and "write what they know," to connect with other people - to share in the Great Story. 

But what if what you know is suburban Minnesota? What if all you've ever seen is Montana farmlands? How do you write about that? Because most people don't want to read those stories, we want car chases, space adventures, and monsters in the closets. But we also want to connect with the characters. We want to feel the sadness, the loneliness or the joy of the character, because when we do, we're suddenly connected. No matter where or when we're from.

Disney has known this trick for decades. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Zootopia, Disney has been connecting audiences, from all around, from differing age groups, sexes, and social classes to a curious fox, adventurous clown fish, and a self-entitled young lion.

And they've done it, predominantly, by connecting us all through a pain and sorrow that can only come with deep loss. Below is the list of movies used in the short film above. As you watch it, take note of how many of the major characters experience the loss of one or both of their parents.

In all of life and throughout all the world, everyone has experienced loss. And Disney has picked up on it, preyed upon it, and used it to connect us all.

Films Used:

- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Pinocho (1940)
- Fantasia (1940)
- Saludos Amigos (1942)
- The Three Caballeros (1944)
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
- Cinderella (1950)
- Alice in Wonderland (1951)
- Peter Pan (1953)
- Lady and the Tramp (1955)
- Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
- The Sword in the Stone (1963)
- The Jungle Book (1967)
- The Aristocats (1970)
- Robin Hood (1973)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
- The Fox and the Hound (1981)
- The Black Cauldron (1985)
- The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
- Oliver and Company (1988)
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
- Beauty and Beast (1991)
- Aladdin (1992)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Pocahontas (1995)
- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1996)
- Hercules (1997)
- Mulan (1998)
- Tarzan (1999)
- Dinosaur (2000)
- The Emperor´s New Groove (2001)
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
- Lilo & Stich (2002)
- Treasure Planet (2002)
- Brother Bear (2003)
- Chicken Little (2005)
- Meet the Robinsons (2007)
- Bolt (2008)
- The Princess and the Frog (2009)
- Tangled (2010)
- Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)
- Frozen (2013)
- Big Hero 6 (2014)
- Zootopia (2016)

Music: Really Slow Motion - Suns And Stars

Editor: Bora Barroso // Twitter: @BoraBarroso


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Movies  :  -N- Stuff  :  On Stories

Pixar is offering free classes!

In partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar is offering a number of free online lessons in making 3D animated movies and, perhaps most importantly (at least for me) . . .  storytelling!!!  The project is called Pixar in a Box. Here’s an introductory video:

There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week. Here’s the introductory video for that, featuring Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out (via).

The first round of classes include:

And I gotta say, I'm pretty friggen stoked.  Thank you Jeff Birdsong for sharing this brilliant link!

 For more on . . .

On Stories  :  On Writing  :  -N- Stuff



On this date in 1868, novelist John William DeForest coined the now inescapable term “the great American novel” in the title of an essay in The Nation. Now, don’t forget that in 1868, just a few years after the end of the Civil War, “America” was still an uncertain concept for many—though actually, in 2017 we might assert the same thing, which should give you a hint as to why the term “great American novel” is so problematic.

Stories Matter : John Green Style

"It is absolutely exhausting and infuriating and the more I let myself be stuck inside of [my body prison] the less I am able to acknowledge and celebrate the humanity of others or those who are distant from me who are fundamentally "other" the more the problems of people who live far away or live in circumstances that are different than mine feel like they are 'not my problems' . . .
Fiction for me, stories for me, are the only way out of that, out of this prison that I'm stuck inside of.
I can live inside the lives of someone else for a while. . ." 


Stories Matter.

One Book Which Changed My Life Forever


Instead, here is the first book which changed my life forever. There have been others, of course, but you never forget the first time.

The book which had the most change on my life was The Bridge to Terabithia.

Picture this — I am a young, nerdy 5th grader walking into a class full of rowdy kids. (Yes, even at age 11, I thought they were rowdy). They stampeded through the hallways. I sat and read.

Our teacher tasked us with a wonderful book about woods and magical creatures. I soaked in the world. I traveled with the two main characters (no, I don’t remember their names, and I’m not going to google them to sound smarter).

This book pulled me in. I can’t remember an earlier experience which so engaged my heart, soul, and mind.

I didn’t just read the book, I was IN the book.

Pure nirvana.


I read ahead of the chapters for the day. This was not a new thing. I remember flipping over the pages happily, wondering what mischief would happen next.

Here’s what happened next:

The girl died.


She crushed her head on a stupid rock, and she died. A needless, pointless, useless tragedy. Later, the boy character ate pancakes or something.

I couldn’t understand — how could she have died? Kids my age don’t die, even in books. They are invincible. If she died, would I die? Would everyone in my classroom die?

I finished the book in a daze. I walked across the room, trying to get to the bathroom.

The teacher grabbed my arm before I could make it out the door.

“Todd, are you okay?”

I wrenched my eyes shut and nodded my head, trying to prevent the inevitable. Then, I dropped my head to my chin and released the raw emotion which had been clawing its way out of my ribs and up my throat for the last hour. There, in front of all my friends and classmates, I squalled like a baby.

A book made me feel this way.

On that day, I learned words have the ability to change the way you think. I learned stories are more powerful, sometimes, than actual experiences. I learned reading ahead is not always the best idea.

Most importantly, I learned art can make you feel. It can make you think. It can create an emotion — not the fleeting emotion of a thought, but one deep enough and strong enough to change a life forever. One so powerful you tell strangers on the Internet about it 16 years later.

Words matter. Stories matter.

And they always will.

— TB

Repost from Todd Brison