Bonnie Burton, Pop Culture Author
Cool Tools Show 165: Bonnie Burton
Our guest this week is Bonnie Burton. Bonnie is a Los Angeles-based author, who writes books and comics about sea monsters, Wookiees, mean girls, crafts, magical things, robots and aliens. Her books include Live or Die?: Survival Hacks; J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World Movie Magic: Amazing Artifacts; Crafting With Feminism; Star Wars Craft Book; Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Girls Against Girls; Pros and (Comic) Cons; Womanthology and more. She’s on Twitter at @bonniegrrl.
On Writing by Stephen King ($15)
Stephen King wrote a great memoir about his career, and how he struggled as a writer. I think it’s immensely helpful and illuminating to any writer at any skill level. Because he shares his experiences and his habits and his thoughts all throughout all of the books he wrote. Even talks about his childhood, where he wrote kind of an underground zine at his high school, and almost got kicked out for it. Because it’s just making fun of teachers and stuff. But it was all the stuff that they wouldn’t print in the regular high school newspaper. He kind of got his start as an underground writer. Then it talks about all of his struggles. But it also is very candid about his alcohol and drug abuse, and how his wife really kept him grounded, and how he still struggles with things like writers block and impostor syndrome and all of that. For me as a writer, I re-read it once a year to remind myself I’m not a hack. It’s funny too because, it’s not just about writing. It’s also about, what do you do after the book is published? Because I’m on my 10th book, and every publisher is different. Every marketing plan is different. You’re still doing that hustle as an author. You still have to do all your own marketing.
Yellow legal pads ($12/12pack)
This is as old school as you can get. It’s yellow legal pads. I do all my first drafts and outlines on yellow pads. The reason I do that, it’s just a pen and a pad. You don’t have to do yellow pads. I just prefer them because they’re long, and they’re yellow so they’re easier on the eyes if you’re writing late at night. I do it just because I am such an ADHD person. I get distracted by everything. If I don’t have a yellow pad and I’m working on my computer, I guarantee you I’m checking Twitter at least 80,000 times before I get my first paragraph written, and that’s a problem. I know some people just say, “Turn off your internet”, but I can’t do that. That’s like turning off life support. I can’t turn off my wifi connection. I would be horrified if the apocalypse hit and I’m just hanging out in my apartment writing. I think for me specifically as a writer it’s just good because it slows me down a bit. I don’t get distracted. I don’t zone out. I notice when I type sometimes I zone out. When I hand write I don’t have that problem. Also I can go back to these journals, where sometimes when you switch out laptops, or even though things are in the cloud they’re not where you think they are. Or things get deleted. Or you don’t have the right drafts. When you write something down physically, that’s not going anywhere unless you physically put it in the trash can. I’ve found scripts from college that I’m reworking now as original screenplays, that in college would have been on a Mac classic, or a floppy disk or something. I probably wouldn’t even be able to retrieve it. At least on a yellow pad it’s old enough technology that you can find it again. You don’t need some sort of software to reconfigure it to read it.
What it is is a website, when you go to it, all it is is it plays ambient café noises. Like the clinking of mugs, espresso machine noises, and just the kind hushed conversations you would hear in a coffee house. It also has the option to have the sound of rain. Guillermo del Toro has a writing room in his Bleak House office museum that, it’s just a room where it looks and sounds like it’s raining outside. Even though it’s not. He had it all set up to be fake rain sounds hitting the pane. Because that helps him write. For whatever reason, that’s his litmus test. This you can run it on any browser, in the background. If you are typing on your computer. I have it on my computer while I’m writing on my yellow pad. It’s like, I’m getting the best of both worlds.
Soil Moisture Sensor Meter ($10)
This is an actual tool that has nothing to do with writing. I have a zillion houseplants and I constantly kill them. If you’re like me, there’s a tool called the soil moisture meter. They’re usually under $10. You can get them at plant stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, Amazon. Wherever you like to shop. I work from home so I like to have houseplants around me, because it gives me a sense of calmness. It also provides extra fresh air when I’m hyperventilating over a deadline. It’s always good to stare at your succulents and ferns and spider plants when you start panicking. I also talk to them a lot. What this does is, it’s a moisture meter. It’s super simple looking. It’s just a metal rod with a detector on the top that says the soil is either dry, normal, or super wet. It’s great because you can poke it in the soil, and you don’t have to do the finger test. Because usually they say just poke your finger in soil and you can tell. Yeah, that doesn’t work. I’ve killed so many plants doing that. At least this goes all the way down, so you know if there’s too much water at the base of your plant, or if there’s not enough, like if you’re a light waterer. Or if you soak too much. All plants have different requirements, so it’s good to just Google your plant name to research what watering they need first before you do all this. But it’s a great tool, and it’s a great procrastination tool. You feel like you’re doing something productive when you go and measure over 30 plants in one sitting with your little soil moisture meter.
Live or Die?: Survival Hacks
My new book Live or Die?: Survival Hacks comes out this year. In it I explain how to find water and food, start a fire and build shelters in tough terrains with everyday stuff. The book comes with a magnet to make your own compass. It’ll be available at Scholastic Book Fairs in 2019 and at bookstores in 2020.
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