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R.I.P. Robin Williams

Jenn Sheppard:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Originally posted on Fortune:

Robin Williams died Monday, an apparent suicide, at age 63.

He started his career doing stand-up, got his big break on ABC’s Mork & Mindy, was best known for his work in Hollywood (Good Morning, Vietnam,Dead Poets Society,Hook,Aladdin,Mrs. Doubtfire and The Birdcage), won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting, and also took home two Emmys, four Golden Globes and five Grammys.

But the last time we heard his voice was in Apple’s “Your Verse” iPad ads, reading Walt Whitman to his students in a clip from Dead Poets Society.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple [fortune-stock symbol="AAPL"] coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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Long weekends

I spent Saturday of this week working a 20-hour day at the 43rd annual Florida Trail Riders Banquet Awards Celebration in Daytona Beach, Fla. Then Sunday, I worked on my friend’s dirt bike with her and replaced her top end, which was a learning experience since I was in charge of changing the piston. Talk about a tough job! I’m definitely no motorcycle mechanic but it’s always cool being able to do something by myself.

Today, we drove to the Croom Motorcycle Park in Brooksville for the day and put in a good 25 miles (plus 5 miles that didn’t make it on my GPS because I forgot to turn it back on) in just over an hour and a half! Crazy since I haven’t been on my bike in months but I have been working out and doing yoga a lot so I felt strong and my ankle seemed solid; it was my hands that felt weak!

Details at Garmin Connect:

Distance: 24.22 mi
Time: 1:35:18
Avg Speed: 15.2 mph
Elevation Gain: 395 ft
Calories: 571 C
Avg HR: 145 bpm
Max HR: 182 bpm


Back to Life

Back to Life.

I feel human again by cuddling with my puppy or going for a run on the beach. Lately, I’ve also been hitting up bikram yoga for 90 minutes of profuse sweating. It’s like racing a 4-hour enduro without the adrenaline rush.

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Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Jenn Sheppard:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

“I always refer to style as sound,” says Leonard. “The sound of the writing.” Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are those rules in outline form:

  1. Never open a book with the weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control!
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Same for places and things.
  10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

These are Leonard’s rules in point form. For context on each rule, check out this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

Source: Open Culture

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The 10 most corrupt states in the U.S.

Jenn Sheppard:

Not good, Florida. Top 10.

Originally posted on Fortune:

When we think of government corruption (as one tends to do),  our biased minds often gravitate to thoughts of military juntas and third world governments. But, of course, corruption is everywhere, in one form or another. And it’s costing U.S. citizens big time.

A new study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2% of those states’ average expenditures per year.

The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the union. Based on this method, the the most corrupt states are:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota

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Advice For Writers From Literary Agents

Jenn Sheppard:

And if you get any constructive criticism, do not be defensive and shrug it off—see if you can use it to make your pitch better. So many people give up after a few rejections. Keep the process moving by honing your letter as well as your manuscript/book proposal. And stay positive! This is a hard one, I know, but bitter and frustrated authors send out that vibe and I can always sense it–in person and even in query letters. You are selling your project, so sell it with a smile on your face.”

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:

Writing on PaperBy Chuck Sambuchino

Literary agents are full of great advice for writers. That’s why, whenever I am concluding an interview with an agent, I always end the encounter by asking “Is there any other piece of advice you’d like to discuss?”

This open-ended question often draws a fantastic answer, as the agent’s most passionate advice will pour out.

That’s why I’ve gone through a whole bunch of literary agent interviews and cobbled together some of the best writing tips that agents have passed on over the years. There was so much good material that I had to break it down into multiple columns. This is Volume I, and you can check out agents’ helpful and inspiring advice below.

And I want to take a moment and say that I’m excited about being a recurring new contributor to Writers in the Storm. You will be seeing more columns from me on…

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