Have you heard of artificial imagination?

imagesI recently received a business magazine in the mail that hooked me immediately with this line: “Artificial Imagination—Using digital technology to unlock human creativity.” The Summer 2017 issue of Strategy + Business magazine discusses both artificial intelligence, which I was slightly familiar with, and artificial imagination, which I was not.

Something about the term “artificial imagination” made me bristle, but as I read the article, I chilled a bit. The article began with the tale of a 2016 pop song released in Japan, “Daddy’s Car,” which was written by an artificial intelligence system. According to the article by Deborah Bothun and David Lancefield, “The melody and harmony were composed by AI (artificial intelligence), and a human musician mixed the sound and wrote lyrics for the track.”

Elsewhere in the article, artificial intelligence is referred to as “technology endowed with creative intelligence.” In a way, I’ve already seen some of this technology. I recently learned about an editing program that performs many of the same functions I provide as a fiction editor. It looks for misspelled words and poor grammar. It looks for word repetition. It looks for passive sentence construction and slow plotting.

But when I tried a free sample of this editing program for myself, I could also see its drawbacks. The program couldn’t tell me whether it was okay to break a grammar rule in a particular case, as a human could. At no point in the sample edit did it say, “What a great line!” That’s something I try to do for the authors I work with as a way of encouraging them. I got the feeling the program would let me know what was unquestionably incorrect, but I found no way for it to let me know what was beautiful, or moving, or meaningful—or even confusing and in need of clarification.

Still, I agree with the article’s premise that AI needn’t be automatically seen as a threat to human creativity. I like the idea of using AI to give me more time and energy to pursue the creative endeavors I most enjoy. As the article states, “AI gives humans more space to generate more value—to unleash creativity, to exercise judgment, and to think about the flow of their work rather than the processes that govern it.” And I’m certainly all for unleashing creativity—in myself and others.

Dictionary spellings and variants

Preferred spellingsWhen the dictionary lists more than one spelling of a word, which one should you use? I like to use the preferred spelling.

Do you know which of these common words is preferred? I know only because I’ve had to look them up for books I’ve edited over the past few years that the favored spellings are barbecue, doughnut, and drive-through. If you look these up in the dictionary, you will find, for instance, “barbecue also barbeque.” What does that also mean? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition, says, “When another spelling is joined to the main entry by the word also, the spelling after also occurs appreciably less often and thus is considered a secondary variant.”

Sometimes, though, you’ll find two words listed and joined by or, not also. The dictionary notes, “When a main entry is followed by the word or and another spelling, the two spellings occur with equal or nearly equal frequency and can be considered equal variants. Both are standard, and either one may be used according to personal inclination.” An example from the color world? “Ocher or ochre.” Either is fine, and my “personal inclination” is to use ochre.

Do you use preferred spellings? Did you know there was such a thing?

5 things I learned from Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn JacksonI continue to learn from every single writer I meet, and yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joshilyn Jackson—author of gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, and Someone Else’s Love Story—who was at the Newnan Country Club to speak to  our Newnan-Coweta Chamber Business Women’s Network. (Helpful hint: arrive early to such lunches and you get to personally stalk the speaker. Ahem.) In addition to meeting an author whose work I have long read and enjoyed, I had the happy experience of having my chicken salad lunch served with a side of writerly inspiration. So I scribbled as fast as I could and filled up quite a few pages in my pocket notebook. Here are some of the things I learned from her.

1. Don’t expect overnight success. “I freakin’ love my job,” Joshilyn said, and it took her a good seven years to find success as a novelist. Her path included initially sending too many query letters, experiencing the dejection of rejection, and actually calling an agent (“The thing you don’t do is call an agent”). But even after she failed to sell her first book, she had a short story placed in a popular literary magazine, and that drew the interest of some New York editors, and … long story short, she got a great agent and eventually sold that first novel.

2. Be ready to support your fellow writers. It’s always fun to hear which authors another author likes. Who is she reading? Joshilyn eagerly cited (and I might have missed a name or two) When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen and Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones, and she is also a fan of writers Lydia Netzer, Haven Kimmel, and Michelle Richmond.

3. Everyone loves a little humor. Isn’t it great to go somewhere and hear a roomful of laughter? It’s hard to imagine that Joshilyn doesn’t provide some wherever she goes. She had our group of businesswomen quite rapt. At some of these luncheons, not a single question will be asked during the Q&A session, but that wasn’t a problem this time. The questions (and Joshilyn’s answers) kept coming, and more than a few women lined up to chat with her after the program.

4. Characters are important. Joshilyn had a lot to say about characters and considers herself a very character-driven writer. She had a clever way of explaining it too. “Characters drive my car,” she said, but theme and plot are in the front seat and fighting over the radio dial.

5. Writing is indeed a business. Joshilyn says she spends about two-thirds of her time writing and one-third of her time working on marketing, which includes such tasks as posting on social media, speaking, and attending trade shows. And finally, what writer wouldn’t have loved the note she chose to end on: “I take a lot of pride in my craft, and I always try to get better.”

Fine Books & Collections Magazine

current_coverDo any of you remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan, “Two great tastes that taste great together”? Well, I love magazines and I love books, and a few months ago I was delighted to discover a combo of the two every bit as awesome as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Fine Books & Collections is the name of the magazine, and I’ve just received my second issue in the mail.

I’ve already told my husband that I’d like to visit the new American Writers Museum, a subject of one feature, the next time we’re in Chicago, and of course I love all the advertisements about rare book auctions. (Would you pay $11,250 for a first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind? Someone just did.)
But for my money, the best article in this issue is Biblio 360, the magazine’s guide to book clubs and societies, membership libraries, classes and seminars, exhibits, conferences, book fairs, and festivals. I was quite intrigued to learn about such bookish groups as:
The American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers. People collect bookplates? That’s one area I’ve never explored, but maybe I ought to! (www.bookplate.org)
• Fine Press Book Association. This group has the goal of “promoting the appreciation of beautiful books and printing skills.” (www.fpba.com)
• The Miniature Book Society. A nonprofit organization, this group promotes “all aspects of the book arts with special affection for the small format.” (www.mbs.org)
• The Movable Book Society. I tend to move my books from stack to stack around the house, but that’s not what this means. This is a group of enthusiasts of pop-up and movable books. (www.movablebooksociety.org)
And if you’d like to keep up with such intriguing book news for yourself, you can visit the Fine Books & Collections website for a free sample issue here.