Jones compares storytelling to the seven principles of magic, giving narrative newcomers and veterans alike a fresh way to think about the craft. Watch him give his talk — and perform a magic trick.
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read. And certainly couldn't read for pleasure.
It's not one to one: you can't say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.
And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
I often listen to podcasts when I'm walking or commuting. I realized on my way home Friday night that, without meaning to, I bookmark my weeks with two "happy" podcasts.
Monday mornings, as I walk to the train station, I listen to the marvelous Happy Monday podcast, hosted by Josh Long and Sarah Parmenter. As soon as I hear the first couple of notes of the upbeat theme song I am in a good mood and ready for the week. The podcast is designed to be short, commute-sized, and features fantastic interviews with design and web practitioners. Today's edition features one of my favorites, Seth Godin. You should subscribe and listen.
Friday evenings, as I walk home, I listen to a podcast that is in no way work related. Pop Culture Happy Hour is NPR's entertainment and pop culture round-table podcast featuring spirited discussions of movies, books, television, and nostalgia. It is hosted by Linda Holmes and features a witty, self-deprecating, group of pop culture loving friends and guests. Last week's episode was about the new tv show The Bridge and the many faces of Doctor Who. You should subscribe and listen.
Beyond the "happy" in their titles both podcasts have a similar section. In each episode of both podcasts a recurring question is asked. For Happy Monday the question is "what is inspiring you this week?" and for Pop Culture Happy Hour the question is "what is making you happy this week?" Fantastic things to ponder as you begin and end a week.