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The Speed Writing Movement

Tina Brown's new imprint will focus on fast books. Can they stack up? Speed writing seems to be the flavor of the week. First...



Tina Brown's new imprint will focus on fast books. Can they stack up?


Speed writing seems to be the flavor of the week. First we were graced with the news that Sarah Palin's memoir, Going Rogue, is to be published in November, a short four months after she began working on it. Readers seem unconcerned that the quick turnaround may dilute the quality of the book-it is already the number one selling book on amazon.com. Then came the announcement that Tina Brown's The Daily Beast will start a line of book imprints that focus on quickly penned titles.

The Beast's books will be on timely topics, and will run short, about 150 pages long. They will be for sale as e-books first, and then be released in print. Freelancers for the site will write the books, and will be given advances to cover the one to three months they will be given to produce a final manuscript. Brown explains the reason behind the fast clip this way: "There is a real window of interest when people want to know something…and that window slams shut pretty quickly in the media cycle." Brown also noted that there is "a gap between online writing and full-length books that was no longer being fully met by a dwindling market for magazines." (Ouch).

As a writer, I am conflicted about these speedy books. Palin's memoir is ghostwritten, of course, which helps explain how a non-writer could compose her life story so quickly. But should writers cheer or lament the Daily Beast's new model?

Sometimes, when I am following a complicated news story-online, in the papers, and on television-say the Afghan election or the discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus-I think: "This is very interesting and I want to understand it better. I cannot wait for the New Yorker article to come out." For such topics, a short book might be a great alternative. On the other hand, I value rigorous research, in-depth reporting, and carefully wrought prose. I worry that an emphasis on speed will diminish depth and style. After all, would we want The Decline and Fall of The American Empire to be written in a day?

Ezra Klein offers a refreshing perspective on my anxieties, and provides context for understanding why we might be capable of writing faster now than before-and not because we are all stupider, lazier, worse readers than we used to be, the oh-so-predictable response. In "Fast Books!" he notes that some writing is, indeed, easier:

People tend to assume that blogs are a product of technological advancements in publishing content. But the writing of constantly-updated political blogs is a product of the falling time cost for finding information. You can now get all your polls on pollster.com, and all the op-eds from every newspaper, and all the archives from all these newspapers, and all the info on other blogs, and so on and so forth.

That's why I can publish 15 posts a day. Writing doesn't take very long. Quoting doesn't take very long. But assembling information used to take an awful long time. It required a lot of phone calls and microfiche and faxes and walking over to Brookings and paging through newspaper archives and begging a source at Gallup. Now it doesn't take much time at all. That allows me to be the equivalent of a very fast columnist, and there's no reason it won't allow others to become very fast book authors.

It took me seven seconds to copy and paste this into my word document.

The piece of Klein's argument I hesitate to endorse is this one: "Writing doesn't take very long." Sometimes one can write quickly, sure. But often writing takes a very very long time. It depends upon what kind of writing you are doing, and what kind of writer you are. If you have experience doing research, if you have trained your mind to think critically, and if you have a facility with words-then you can put together an argument, analysis, blog post, and even a book quicker now than you used to. But there are a lot of "if" requirements, and without these foundational skills, writing becomes gobbledygook, and the writer will have a monster Google-induced headache.

So maybe I can get behind a speed writing movement, and train the young ‘uns to increase their posts per minute. But it would need to be accompanied by a Slow Writing one, to borrow a term from the foodies. I suspect Klein has quite a bit of education and training under his belt-and that that training took a good number of years. It takes a lengthy apprenticeship to become a master blogger. (And, thus, the compensation for such blogs and books should be higher than it is for those who take longer to produce.) We do not want to unloose just anyone into the world of fifteen posts a day, or a one-month turnaround book author.

Phew! That was quick. Already done with my column! Now, back to slogging through revisions of a book I have been writing since the twentieth century. The next one, I promise, will be faster. (Tina-call me!)

Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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