Visual Quill Blog


VQ Staff - Friday, June 20, 2014

Hashtags, which used to be known as pound signs, are becoming a more prevalent part of our culture. Twitter was the first social media site to adopt hashtags in July of 2009, and "anything with a # in front of it became hyper-linked".

An article in the New York Times states:

"In the early days, hashtags were primarily functional — a way of categorizing tweets by topic so that members of the Twittersphere could follow conversations of interest to them by searching for a list of similarly tagged tweets... Over time, though, the hashtag has evolved into something else — a form that allows for humor, darkness, wordplay and, yes, even poetry."

Now hashtags are used in many ways in our culture. Advertisers often start a hashtag to help build hype around their product, they're sometimes on the corner of our TV screen when we're watching a show, and at conferences and events, oftentimes have a hashtag so that people can easily share what's happening across social networks. 

Hashtags have become part of nearly every social media site nowadays, and the word was even added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in May 2014 where the official definition is:

noun \ˈhash-tag\: a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet).

It was found that the most popular hashtags about books and reading were:


This somewhat new development in our culture is changing how people write. For one, eliminating spaces from parts of our writing.

What do you think about hashtags and how do you think they will continue to evolve and change on social media, and will they eventually make their way into literature?

SHARE this article on Twitter!

Watch a humorous take on our society and hashtags from Jimmy Fallon by clicking here.



The History of Hashtags

A Sample of New Dictionary Words for 2014

100 Twitter Hashtags Every Writer Should Know

Block Out Writer's Block

VQ Staff - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Writer's block. Maybe you're writing and all of a sudden, you just cannot figure out what to write next. Or maybe you've just sat down to start and you just don't know how to get started. All writers get this block once in a while, even famous authors. Ernest Hemingway is quoted saying:

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”

To avoid this feeling, there is a multitude of things you can do. Whether that be taking a walk around the block (seeing the color green has been proven to boost creativity), writing about a completely different topic for a little while, or listening to some music to increase your motivation and inspire you.

Qwiklit has come up with 100, 1-per-day prompts to overcome Writer's Block once and for all.

Several authors have noted that writing a haiku has helped since it gives them parameters and limitations that are not always there in their usual work.

Another solution is simply a brainstorm for your piece. Write down any and every idea that you have. As author C.J. Cherryh said, "It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly." One idea you have today may end up being a great one, even if you don't think so at the time!

How do you combat writer's block? Comment below and share your ideas and SHARE this blog post!


13 Famous Authors on Overcoming Writer's Block

Famous Writing Quotes: Inspirational Author Quotes on Writing

Stuck in Traffic? Listen to an Audiobook!

VQ Staff - Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A new study from the GPS company TomTom was recently released to say that Seattle drivers spend, on average, 83 hours per year in traffic delays. King5 News reports that, "Seattle [has] the fourth-worst congestion delays in the nation". While this varies based on each person's commute, there will come a time when you are stuck in traffic with nothing to do.

Luckily, it's now easier than ever to get reading done while stuck in traffic. Audiobooks can be loaded onto smartphones and played through Bluetooth. Another option through the King County Library System includes audiobook CD's to play in the car.

An article about listening to audiobooks in the car from USA Today has a quote from a driver who says:

"Once I started listening to the audiobooks it was like a weight was lifted from me," said Rick Palmer, 60, of Garden City, Mich., who says audiobooks saved him during long commutes. "I never minded the ride home. In fact, there were times when I would circle my block because I came to a good part and wanted to hear it."

If you need some help thinking of ideas for the next book you should read, the website What Should I Read Next is a helpful tool.

So, instead of flipping through radio stations or waiting impatiently for traffic to move in the Seattle area, listen to an audio book instead! USA Today states that, "A good audiobook can make a 500-mile journey seem like 50".


Seattle drivers spend 83 hours-per-year in delays

Road-trippers say audiobooks make the miles fly by

Speed Reading

VQ Staff - Friday, May 23, 2014

The average adult reads approximately 250-300 words per minute.

Click here to take this quick test to see how quickly you read.

Now, imagine if you could read even faster. In our fast-paced, information-packed world today, speed and productivity is key. Spreeder and Spritz allow you to do just that. Spreeder is a website and Spritz is an app.

Instead of reading left-to-right, line-by-line, both the website and app takes each word and displays it in the center of your screen. It goes through the words quickly, you set the speed, and you realize you really able to read much faster than you thought. You can finish your reading nearly 50% faster because your eyes only need to focus on one spot. The Spritz website says: 

"Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays."

The downfall to speed reading is that, the time it takes our eyes to move across the page is the time when we comprehend what we are reading. A Business Insider article states that: "Even though readers mostly move their eyes in the direction that text is written, about 10% to 15% of the time, readers look back at words they've already read". Sometimes we don't quite understand what we are reading, and we reread the sentence. This is difficult in speed reading because the words are moving so quickly.

What do you think about speed reading? Do the benefits outweigh the downfalls?


Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?

Learning to Speed Read – Why it’s important

The Big Problem With Speed Reading Apps

The Evolution of E-Readers

VQ Staff - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The past few years, there has been a scare that physical bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, were disappearing because of the rise in popularity and availability of e-readers. The website Paleofuture says that ideas of the idea of e-books started back in “at least the 1950s” and the idea has only grown and changed from there. Now, in 2014, about 50% of Americans have a tablet or e-reader.

In 1998, a mere 9 years before the Sony Reader and Kindle were first released, the Associated Press released some information about the possibilities of e-readers:

“Once the stuff of science fiction, Rocket eBook packs 4,000 pages of text and graphics — or about 10 average novels — into a paperback-size, 22-ounce device that sells for $499.”

In 2007, that all changed when the Amazon Kindle first came into the picture. The Sony Reader technically came out first, but the Kindle was the e-reader that rose to popularity and continues to lead in the market. The first Kindle was 10.2 ounces, could hold approximately 200 books, and cost $399.

Seven years later, e-readers have become a normal household item. The leading e-readers today are the Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Now e-readers have a variety of additions and options including ads or no ads, 3G and/or Wi-Fi capabilities, colored screens, black and white screens with a light built-in, and so on. Some e-readers also double as tablets with HD screens to play TV shows and movies.

Today with a variety of options, comes a variety of prices for e-readers. Now Amazon’s cheapest Kindle, called Kindle Paperwhite, is 7.3 ounces, holds 1000 books, and costs only $69. While there are still e-reader prices that are closer or above the price of the first Kindle, which was $399, these come with even more memory and functions.

With the evolution of technology moving at a rapid pace, the changes in e-readers is sure to continue. 2014 so far has been known as the year of wearable technology, but so far wearers of Google Glass have said that it isn’t the best for reading books. An article in Publishers Weekly states: “Of course the notion of ‘reading’ a book on the tiny hovering screen seems beyond possible at this point but this is the earliest iteration of Google Glass and who knows what further development will bring?”

How do you think the activity of reading and the format of books will grow and change as technology becomes more advanced?


5 Past Predictions for the Future of the Ebook

Google Glass: No, You Can’t Read A Book On It

Amazon Kindle Wikipedia

Most Anticipated Books of 2014

VQ Staff - Saturday, January 18, 2014

January is already half over and enthusiasm is building over a long list of literary titles set to be released throughout 2014. We’ve taken a moment to browse compilations on two websites: culture media site Flavorwire, on their “15 Most Anticipated Books of 2014,” and the online literature and arts magazine, The Millions, on their Most Anticipated: The Great 2014 Book Preview.” Here are the fascinating upcoming titles we found on both lists:   Praying Drunk, a collection of short stories by Kyle Minor, set to release February 4th. Kyle Minor won the 2012 Iowa Review Prize and Tara M. Kroger Prize, both for Short Fiction. What’s Important is Feeling, a collection of short stories by Adam Wilson, set to release February 25th. Adam Wilson’s 2012 book, Flatscreen: A Novel, was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, an Indie Next Pick, and an Amazon Book of the Month. Can’t and Won’t, a collection of short stories by 2013 Man Booker International Prize winner Lydia Davis, set to release April 8th. An Untamed State, the debut novel by Roxane Gay, set to release May 6th. The story follows a woman forced to come to terms with her kidnapping. Prior to writing this novel, Roxane Gay has written short stories and essays that have appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, The New York Times Book Review, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, as well as many others. The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour, set to release May 13th. The story follows an adolescent learning to be human after being raised in a cage like an animal. Khakpour’s debut novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects, became a New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” a Chicago Tribune “Fall’s Best,” and a 2007 California Book Award winner. Khakpour received a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing. Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush by Geoff Dyer, a story about living in an American aircraft carrier. The book is set to release May 20th. Geoff Dyer has won numerous awards for his novels and books. He received the GQ Writer of the Year Award in 2009. The Vacationers, a novel by Emma Straub, set to release May 29th. The Vacationers is about secrets and drama that surface amid a family vacation. Straub’s debut novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, was a Bookpage Best Books of 2012 pick. What upcoming book(s) are you most excited about this year?    



Wishing You a Bright, Digital New Year

VQ Staff - Saturday, January 11, 2014
2014 has begun! With the start of the year, many in the literary world are sharing their thoughts about the future, particularly the future of digital publishing. Let’s take a look at some of the predictions currently floating around. In late December, Jeremy Greenfield wrote an article regarding 2014 predictions for Digital Book World, and then another for Forbes Magazine, after collecting opinions from several experts in the digital publishing field. Here are a few of the predictions outlined by Greenfield:
  • -Barnes & Noble will close or sell their Nook
  • -Amazon will open its own physical stores
  • -Publishers will create their own reading platforms and begin to sell directly to consumers
  • -Ebook prices will fall
  • -Libraries will have full purchasing access to publishers’ ebook catalogs
  • -Self-publishing and digital marketing will continue to grow
  • -Non-bookstore book inventory and sales will increase
Founder of Dear Author, Jane Litte, also wrote her own list of predictions, including:
  • -Barnes & Noble and Sony will partner, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses
  • -Traditional publishing will make a comeback
  • -Self-publishing prices will rise
  • -Fan fiction will grow in popularity, as well as author collaborations and digital audiobooks
David Niall Wilson, author and CEO of the digital publishing company Crossroads Press, joined in the voices with his own predictions, claiming:
  • -Barnes & Noble will be just fine, if not better
  • -Audiobooks will be on the rise
  • -Libraries will embrace new technology and downloadable content
  • -Ebook promotion will continue to evolve

Many of these predictions overlap. Some completely contradict one another. And still, countless more predictions can be found elsewhere, as well as those remaining in the previously mentioned articles. Do you think these predictions are plausible? Do you have your own predictions for the future of digital publishing?  



Janet Dailey Passes

VQ Staff - Saturday, December 21, 2013
Entrepreneur, community leader and romance author Janet Dailey passed away on Saturday the 14th at her home in Branson, Missouri. Her business partner reported a recent aneurysm which was likely to have contributed to her death. She was 69. Dailey was a New York Times Bestselling author and the first American author to write for Harlequin. She had written approximately 155 novels and short story collections, and had won many awards for her work. Her books have sold over 325 million copies worldwide in 19 languages. She was well-known for her romance novel series, The Calder Saga and Americana – a 50-book series, one for each American State. Apart from her vast popularity as an author, Dailey was also well-known for a plagiarism scandal that occurred in 1997. Fellow bestselling author, Nora Roberts, sued Dailey for copyright infringement after discovering reports of strikingly similar ideas, plots and passages in two or more of Dailey’s novels, including Aspen Gold and Notorious. Dailey apologized publicly, blaming her behavior on a psychological disorder brought about by recent family illness and deaths. At the time, she reported, her husband was battling cancer and she was under immense stress. The lawsuit was settled in 1998 with Roberts donating the funds to various literacy foundations, including the Literary Volunteers of America. Dailey went on to write and publish many more books since the 1997 scandal. Her most recent title, Merry Christmas, Cowboy, was published in September of 2013, and made the Publisher’s Weekly adult mass market bestselling list in October. Have you read any of Janet Dailey’s books? If so, which was your favorite?   

The Death of Literature or the Birth of a New Age?

VQ Staff - Saturday, December 14, 2013
 There’s no doubt that literature has undergone (and continues to undergo) significant change, especially with advancing technology like the Internet, computers and an ever-increasing market of mobile devices. The publishing industry has been panicking while bookstores and newspapers go out of business. Books are being converted to digital formats and paired with audio, video and interactive components. Writers and critics complain that what once was literature – a daring, risk-filled art – is now full of contemporary, institutionalized writing, created by inexperienced authors. While some people spread rumors about the “death of literature,” others assure us it’s not dying: it’s merely changing. Thriving, in fact, as a new form of art. One thing is for sure: authors can no longer rely on their skill in this overcrowded and shifting market; they must adapt in order to succeed. “Good work is only the start of the process,” says Matthew De Abaitua, in his article about the digital re-launch of his first book on Publishing Talk. His science fiction novel, The Red Men, was originally published in 2007, before eBooks were a reality. Following the advice of his agent, he sent a copy of his book to the visual artist group, “Shynola,” who proceeded to adapt the first chapter into a short film. Their film, “Dr. Easy,” premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June of 2013 and was launched worldwide by Film4 and Warp Films, along with the first publication of a revised edition eBook by Gollancz. In the first week of the release of “Dr. Easy,” the film had over 100,000 views on the video sharing site, Vimeo. De Abaitua attributes the success of his novel to the action he and his supporters took in anticipation of how technological and cultural change would affect literature. Adapting to the digital age allowed the story to be reintroduced in a different way, and as a result, reach a wider audience. His experience taught him that without years of support and promotion, an author’s work can easily disappear. Aya Karpinska’s Shadows Never Sleep is another example of adapting literature to today’s technology. She decided to tell her story visually, through an iPhone app, so she hired a programmer and set out to create a “zoom narrative.” Zoom narratives employ images, stylized text, and the reader’s ability to zoom in and out of the pages to follow the story. Other emerging forms of storytelling dependent on technological platforms include “flash fiction” and “twiction.” Flash fiction stories are limited to 1,000 words or less, while twiction pieces are written for Twitter. Websites, such as Flash Fiction Online, publish short stories and deliver issues to subscribers via RSS feeds, email, and podcasts for audio versions. DailyLit LLC delivers serialized versions of classic novels electronically. Born out of the idea to integrate reading into daily life, DailyLit subscribers set their own schedules for the delivery of their installments, which take less than twenty minutes to read. Apart from expanding the art of storytelling, technology is also proving to help authors reach their audience faster, easier and cheaper. Internet publishing is less expensive compared to the cost of producing print books. The internet also allows authors to experiment with artistic decisions and promotional strategies in order to better understand who their readers are, what works, and what doesn’t. Visual Quill is part of this emerging scene of contemporary literature. We provide web development to help authors reach that wider audience, promotional book trailers which incorporate audio and video into our client’s stories, as well as many other marketing materials and services. Our job is to advocate for authors in this age of new and innovative approaches to create and promote literature. What do you think? Is reinventing literature through technological advances a benefit or hindrance to the quality and successes of authors and their books?   

Why is Reading to Our Children Important?

VQ Staff - Saturday, December 07, 2013
Reading teaches vocabulary, phonetics, grammar, listening, communication and comprehension skills, as well as strengthening concentration, self-discipline, attention span and memory retention. Reading stimulates the imagination and teaches abstract concepts, logic and judgment. When reading a book, children are exposed to stories and character interactions which expand their understanding of the world. Children learn that books contain knowledge and learn to relate stories to real life, and vice versa. Exposing a child to reading before he or she starts school is associated with higher academic success. Perhaps most important, reading teaches children that reading books is a valued and pleasurable activity, and it builds stronger child-parent relationships. Teaching by example increases the likelihood that children will read independently as they get older. Yet only 48% of children in the United States have family members who read to them, and about 15% are read to fewer than three times a week. This statistic seems surprising considering the abundance of studies underlining the benefits of reading to children. Because infants don’t understand the concept of reading at such a young age, many parents feel they don’t need to read to them. However, studies show that even babies benefit from reading with their parents. Critical years in the development of language are in fact between birth and age three. Reading to an infant exposes him or her to the sounds that build language. By age one, a child knows all the sounds of his or her native language. Children whose parents read to them regularly know more words by age two than children whose parents do not. Reading is a stimulating activity for infants. Babies learn by looking at pictures and listening to their parent’s voice. When the parent points to objects and states their names, the child associates words with images, and will eventually extend that knowledge to real world objects. Reading helps infants develop thinking skills and familiarize themselves with concepts like words, pictures, colors and shapes. Happily reading books with a parent helps to associate reading with happiness and lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. As a result, when a baby becomes a toddler, he or she is likely to pick up books and pretend to read independently – another beneficial learning experience. Once a child reaches age seven, parents often stop reading to them, but experts advise parents to keep reading to their kids even when they’re old enough to read by themselves. Continuing to read to kids sets a great example, keeping them engaged and fostering a love of reading. Parents don’t have to continue with rhyming stories about bedtime – they can read a wide variety of more difficult books with their children, take turns reading, and then discuss the books afterward. Raising the challenge bar helps to motivate kids to improve their reading skills. They will continue to learn new words, facts and concepts that they couldn’t grasp as preschoolers. Studies show that students who read outside of class are more likely to read above the expected level for their age. A 2009 survey by the National Center for Fathering and the National Parent Teacher Association found that 39% of fathers in America never read to their children. According to Booktrust research in the UK, only one in eight fathers reads to his children. Statistics like these inspire the creation of programs like the educational agency Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s “Fathers Reading Every Day” (FRED) to encourage fathers and other father figures to read to their children. Why is this important? Research is showing increasing evidence that involved fathers play a very important role in a child’s development. In fact, some findings show that a father’s influence is even more important than a mother’s. When fathers read to their children, it fosters stronger bonds between parent and child and teaches by example. As a result, children with fathers who read to them score higher in reading achievement and grow up to read independently for pleasure. Did your parents read to you? What was your favorite book growing up?   Sources: