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We Want to Turn Your Blog Into a Book

"We want to turn your blog into a book and maybe even a movie." That is a dream of many bloggers. And it has happened. Rarely. I have been giving it some thought this month.

I wrote about it on one of my other blogs a few weeks ago and I'm recycling most of it here today.

In 2004, the New Yorker had said that books by bloggers would become a cultural phenomenon, but I never gave that a thought in those days. I started blogging in 2006 and since then have added 8 other blogs to my weekly writing. As a few friends like to remind me, "if you only channeled all that writing, you would have a few books by now."

When I started blogging, it was already becoming pretty common. I started blogging as something to use both in my teaching at NJIT and as a way to get my ideas out there. I had been doing workshops and presentations on the still-new blogs, wikis and podcasts for a while and I was trying to get faculty at the university to incorporate them into their courses.

Then I was asked to do a presentation for business people on those topics. Though I was doing podcasts and had created a few wikis, I was not a blogger. One of my colleagues at NJIT, Tim Kellers, was my tech guru and he created a blogging platform for us to use in our presentation using software called Serendipity. Thus, Serendipity35, my blog about learning and technology, was born. And it's still going.


Then came stories like that of Julie Powell and her blog about trying to cook the entire Julia Child cookbook in her New York apartment.

PostSecret and Stuff White People Like are other blogs that became multiple incarnations of books, but Julie was the star student.  Her original blog on Salon.com is gone, but is archived on the great Web.Archive.org site.

The blog began in 2002 as she cooked her way through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." In 2005, it became a book, Julie and Julia:365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.

In 2007, a film version was announced - the first major motion picture that started off as a blog.

Say what you will about the writing of Powell, she had an established readership and that is why a publisher knew that readership could mean book sales. This is not new to publishing, TV or film - choose things (comic books, hit plays etc.) that have a built-in following and are a surer bet.

The film adaptation, directed by Nora Ephron, also titled Julie & Julia, was released in 2009. The film was actually based on both Powell's book and Julia Child's autobiography My Life in France.

This was not a small, independent film. Amy Adams starred as Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Julia's husband Paul was played by Stanley Tucci.

But that is one blogger who got great deals out of many millions of bloggers. It is tough to find a number for how many blogs exist (active and archived) but just Tumblr.com's cumulative total blogs in July 2016 surpassed 305.9 million blog accounts. That makes the odds about the same as winning the Power ball lottery.

Yes, Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody got a book deal out of her blog (not the one that led to her best known screenplay for Juno though).

Another success story is Tim Ferriss.  His blog, the Four Hour Work Week, was listed at number one on the top 150 Management and Leadership Blogs.

In 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton started a project to create a photographic census of New York City and his blog version (and Facebook page) of Humans of New York became the book Humans of New York: Stories and was a bestseller.

That is why you can find lots of blog posts about turning your blog into a book. (For example, look at thebookdesigner.com/2015/06/making-the-leap-from-blogger-to-book-author/ and authorunlimited.com/turn-your-blog-into-a-book-effectively

I still haven't moved any of my blogs to the print (or film!) world. I could see my poetry project at Writing the Day as a poetry collection. I'd like to think that Weekends in Paradelle and One-Page Schoolhouse have enough posts to produce a collection of essays. The same might be true of the several thousands post on Serendipity35, but I realize that many of my posts are "dated" in the time they were written. Editing would be a major part of turning a blog into a book.

I believe that, despite tales of the death of print, an actual book still holds a special, higher place in our culture than a website. Publishers: contact me.

Chimeras Aren't Just for Mythology and Games


A sphinx, a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.
Photo: La Granja, Spain, mid-18th century via Wikipedia
I first think of chimeras creatures from Greek mythology. One was a fire-breathing hybrid that was part lion, with the head of a goat and a tail that looked like a snake. But the term has come to mean any mythical or fictional animal with parts taken from various animals, or even something non-animal made of very disparate parts. 

This summer, a lot of virtual explorers have been playing the video game “No Man’s Sky which seems to have knocked Pokemon Go out of the top of the news feed this month. This game allowed players to discover overnight 10 million different alien species - chimeras - in the game galaxy.

Okay, it's just a game, but what is intriguing about its design is that the company that built it (Hello Games) did not animate.create all the game's alien creatures. Their galaxy is populated by the computer program using a process called procedural generation.

Chimeras in No Man's Sky


The game uses "Superformula," an algorithm discovered by botanist Johan Gielis, that describes symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes (boulders, leaves, animal horns) and creates life forms. Those life forms are chimeras made of organs and parts that are remixed over and over by the algorithmic engine.

It is smart enough to consider what type of chimera would fit in the surrounding area, and then chooses a variety of types. Not unlike mythology, you may get a lion's body with the head of a rhino and the legs of a gazelle.

It has to also consider things like balance and weight and create an appropriate skeletal frame. You can't have that rhino head on a chipmunk body.


This idyllic space exploration and whimsical chimera creatures are interesting as a game, but they may begin to exist in the real world too.

A report from MIT's technologyreview.com says that "Human-Animal Chimeras Are Gestating on U.S. Research Farms." It's not a project to create the chimeras of mythology, but an approach to generating human organs by growing them inside pigs or sheep.

There was a funding ban put in place in the U.S. for this type of research, but some research centers went ahead anyway trying to grow human tissue inside pigs and sheep with the goal of creating hearts, livers, or other organs needed for transplants.

This creates immediate ethical issues for some people. Adding human cells to animal embryos comes close to merging the species.

Have you ever read The Island of Doctor Moreau, the science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, or seen one of its film adaptations? Wells' "exercise in youthful blasphemy" is about a shipwrecked man who ends up on the island home of Doctor Moreau. The doctor creates human-like hybrid beings from animals. Wells was interested in themes including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature.

This type of research was pushed into the news last September when the National Institutes of Health announced it would not support studies involving such “human-animal chimeras” until it had reviewed the scientific and social implications more closely.

But this month, the NIH said they plan to lift the moratorium on funding of certain controversial experiments that use human stem cells to create animal embryos that are partly human. The new policy permits scientists to get federal money to make embryos, known as chimeras, under certain carefully monitored conditions.

The ethical concerns remain, such as the possibility of  inadvertently (or intentionally?) creating animals that have partly human brains. That might endow them with some semblance of human consciousness or human thinking abilities.

What is a chimera developed human sperm and eggs and breed and produce human embryos or fetuses inside animals or hybrid creatures?



Yes, chimeras still sound like science fiction, but so much of science fiction has become in some form science fact.


Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a form of meditation in action. In this meditation, walking is used as our focus. We become mindful of our experience while walking, and try to keep our awareness involved with the experience of walking.

There are several different kinds of walking meditation, but I was introduced to one at a Zen monastery In Buddhism, kinhin is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen.

In walking meditation, we certainly keep our eyes open and are less withdrawn from the outside world - although the walking can be done indoors. In my experiences, I have walked clockwise around a room and walked outside in woods. The hands are held in shashu (one hand closed in a fist while the other hand grasps or covers the fist) and each step is taken after each full breath. I have done it at a slow pace and at a brisk pace.

The practice appealed to me for several reasons. Right off, I enjoy walking outdoors. Second, I found it appealing that we needed to be aware of things outside of ourselves. I suppose that wind, sun, trees, nature sounds and manmade sounds like airplanes and cars can be viewed as distractions, but there were plenty of distractions for me in sitting meditation. It is certainly easier on the back, neck and knees.

I found that I could easily work walking meditation into my day, from the walk from the car to my office to the walk in the park at luch or the walk in the woods after dinner.

I looked at several books on the practice, including The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh.

He describes the practice, but also includes walking meditation poems and alternative practices. It is probably a change for many people to "walk not in order to arrive, but walk just for walking."

He recommends bare feet touching the earth as a way to better live in the here and now.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Step and breath are important to this simple practice of walking with attention and mindfulness. For some, prayer is part of the practice.

This practice is very old and not restricted to Buddhism. The term "circumambulation" means walking around a sacred object or idol. This circumambulation of temples or deity images is part of Hindu and Buddhist devotional practice (known in Sanskrit as pradakśina or pradakshinaṇā) but is also present in other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

There are many books on walking meditation, but it is easy enough to begin uninitiated on your own or by reading an online article. It is, however, the kind of thing that can only be learned by doing.

This is not walking to get your 10,000 steps or as exercise or to get to any place. This circular path is done with attention to the walking - your steps, your breath as the metronome setting the pace, the path ahead. And, as with almost all mediation, you try to acknowledge and then dismiss the distractions.

For my "monkey mind," this last part is most difficult. It is hard for me in walking in the woods not to want to stop to examine a plant or stone or dismiss the water in the creek or the call of a bird.