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LeVar Burton on How Science Fiction Influences Technology

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When the iPad debuted in 2010, Star Trek The Next Generation‘s LeVar Burton wasn’t as surprised by the device as others. After all, characters on his show and the original series were beaming each other up, video chatting and using touch devices way before Apple.

“As a fan of science fiction, I’m not surprised because I recognize that science fiction literature tends to ask us what I believe to be are two of the most powerful words in language in combination: what if,” Burton said in our final Media Beat interview.

“I believe there was some kid who watched those original episodes of Star Trek… That kid grew up, became an engineer, a designer of product, and is responsible for a piece of technology in the flip cell phone that’s more prevalent now than toasters,” he continued. “You look at Bluetooth ear devices, Star Trek. You look at Flip cell phones, Star Trek. Devices, seeing devices for the blind inspired by Geordi‘s visor? Science fiction literature and pop culture really is a main conduit for how we invent our future reality.”

Yeah, Google Glass does look a little like this.

Part 1: LeVar Burton: By not focusing on reading, “We’re sacrificing our kids”
Part 2: LeVar Burton on the Future of Reading Rainbow & Printed Books

LeVar Burton: ‘We’re sacrificing our kids’

If everyone loved Reading Rainbow, why in the world was it taken off the air? Politics, says, host LeVar Burton.

“That’s the story that a lot of folks don’t get. No Child Left Behind is doing exactly that, and so the mandate is to teach kids how to read, the rudiments of reading, and there was no money in the budget to foster a love of reading,” he said in our Media Beat interview. “Look, we have spent so much money on the machinery of war in the last 10, 12 years, we are having to make really ridiculous choices. And we’re sacrificing our kids, literally sacrificing our kids.”

So, Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, bought the rights to the name, launched a new company, RRKidz, and created the Reading Rainbow app featuring over 150 books, video field trips and classic clips from the TV show.

“We have value, a product that is of value for families, that is economic and full of the kind of enriching content that the brand, Reading Rainbow, has always been known for,” said Burton.

Part 1: LeVar Burton on the Future of Reading Rainbow & Printed Books
Part 3: LeVar Burton on How Science Fiction Influences Technology

LeVar Burton on the Future of Reading Rainbow & Printed Books

Who didn’t love Reading Rainbow as a kid?  The iconic 80s show used songs, celebrities and video to actually make literature fun. Well, times they are a changin’, says the show’s onetime host, LeVar Burton.

“Television was the medium and the technology of its time in the 80s and 90s, but you know better than I do that this is the digital-native generation,” he explained in our latest Media Beat interview. “And they consume most of their screen time on mobile devices. That’s where we wanna be. If you want to be where they are, you’ve gotta be on a mobile device.”

Furthermore, Burton said, the days of printed books are also numbered. ”We’re looking at a future, whenever it comes, that we’re gonna consume most of the reading that we do on some kind of electronic device or another. We will still have printed books; they’ll never go away. I think our emotional attachment to them is too strong. What it will do, I believe though, is make the books that we own more valuable to us, more precious.”

(And watch the full interview for a freakin’ awesome homage to that beloved RR theme song.)

Part 2: LeVar Burton: By not focusing on reading, “We’re sacrificing our kids”
Part 3: LeVar Burton on How Science Fiction Influences Technology

Toure Tackles Watermelon, Fried Chicken and Post-Blackness in New Book

In his new book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?, noted journalist and author Toure says he wanted to explore “what it means to be Black now.” And, no, “post-Blackness” is not the same as “post-racial.”

“Post-racial suggests a world where race does not exist and racism does not exist, and it’s a completely ridiculous term… With post-Blackness, what I’m talking about is a conception of Blackness where the identity options are infinite. So, we’re not saying THIS is what it is to be Black,” he explained in the second installment of our Media Beat interview.

“There seems to be this conception that Blackness must stay in the hood as if Blackness is milk, and the hood is the refrigerator. And the further away you get from the refrigerator, it will spoil. And you go to Yale for four years, somehow you have lost your Blackness, as opposed to if you go to jail for 10 years, your Blackness is hardened?”

In the book, he even asks noted Black academics, celebrities, and activists the best question ever (yes, I said it) about a huge stereotype: “Would you eat watermelon in a room full of white people?”

Watch the full video to find out how ?uestlove of The Roots and Rev. Jesse Jackson answered.

You can also view this video on YouTube.

Part 1: Toure Lights Up the Twittersphere with a Debate on… Tipping?

Part 3: Toure on Pitching, Getting Assignments, and That R. Kelly Interview

Essence EIC: We Are ‘Absolutely’ Looking for New Writers

Before they were mainstays on countless bestseller lists, Maya Angelou, Terry McMillan and Alice Walker were all once featured in Essence. And, says editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White, the magazine is always looking to give the next big talent a shot at a byline as well.

“The first thing you think about is what are Black women thinking about. What’s important to Black women?” White explains in our latest Media Beat interview. “And that is really the crux of what we do at Essence and, therefore if you’re pitching us, that’s what you should be focused on too as a writer.”

You can also view this video on YouTube.

Part 2: Tuesday, we discuss the real deal behind that fashion director controversy.

Part 3: Wednesday, White explains how she’s growing Essence.com in the face of steep competition from entertainment blogs.

Columbia Pictures VP Devon Franklin: ‘If You Write a Good Script, We’ll Find It’

It’s Devon Franklin‘s job as VP of production for Columbia/Sony Pictures to buy film scripts and see them through the development and production process. So, how can aspiring scribes keep their work out of the slush pile? Take a screenwriting class, enter film competitions, and polish your drafts until they’re perfect.

“Do everything you can to work on these ideas,” Franklin, the man behind Jumping The Broom, explained in our @mediabeat interview. “And I promise you — people think this is crazy — we need good scripts in Hollywood. So, if you write a good script, even if you’re in Nebraska, Ohio — you could be in the most remote part of the world — if you write a good script, I promise you somehow we’ll find it.”

Franklin applied the same principles of diligence and faith in his own life, which he details in his new book Produced By Faith: Enjoy Real Success without Compromising Your True Self (Simon & Schuster).

“The book is a metaphor for your life as a movie, and every movie starts with a big idea,” the author and motivational speaker explained. “My whole big idea for my life is to inspire and encourage, and God has called me to use film as part of a way to do that.”

You can also watch this video on YouTube.

Part 1: Jumping The Broom Production VP Brings Spirituality to Hollywood

Part 3: Columbia Pictures VP Devon Franklin Talks Netflix, Social Media

Bored to Death Creator Jonathan Ames Gives Screenwriting Tips

Jonathan Ames has written short stories, newspaper columns, and novels in his over twenty years as a writer and author.

In our Media Beat interview, he revealed how he added another title to his resume:  screenwriter and executive producer of HBO’s Bored to Death, a series based on his own short story about a writer turned private investigator.

“I read a number of scripts and I just quickly gleaned that you want to make the descriptions short and to the point and the dialogue lively,” Ames told mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby. “I did learn as I went along to begin scenes late and end early. You don’t want people walking across the room a lot and ringing doorbells. You know, all that’s gonna chew up screen time and get thrown out anyway. It was just sort of adapting to a form, like adapting to a poetic form like a sonnet. What’s another one? A siesta. No, that’s a nap.”

Watch the full video for more tips (and humor) about Ames’ writing process and to find out why, despite his success, he’s still not ready to settle down.

Part 1: Bored to Death‘s Jonathan Ames on Sex, Insecurity and…Boxing?

Part 3: Jonathan Ames Brings “Jonathan Ames” to HBO’s Bored to Death

Lit Agent Felicia Eth Wants Writers With ‘Real Marketing Savvy’

Brain Mechanic book coverOutgoing? Smart? Talented? You could be the perfect match for veteran literary agent Felicia Eth, the woman behind Spencer Lord‘s The Brain Mechanic. In mediabistro.com’s Pitching an Agent series, we spoke with Eth about what she looks for in authors, the genres she’s most interested in, and what an aspiring client should never, ever write in a query letter.

One takeaway: “The client from hell is someone who is obsessive and doesn’t trust me to do my job; someone who just doesn’t take my word or listen to me.”

Read the full article here.

Terry McMillan’s Advice to Young Authors: ‘Focus on Your Stories, Not the Fame’

With millions of books sold and fans already salivating over news that a film version is in the works for her latest release Getting To Happy, Terry McMillan has accomplished feats in publishing that most scribes could only dream of.

So, what’s the one piece of advice she’d give to those looking to emulate her success?

“I tell a lot of young writers that they should be more concerned about their stories and characters than being famous and even getting published, because when they’re ready they will be published,” she said in the final installment of our Media Beat interview. “Too many of them now all they think about is how much money they’re gonna make, being famous, getting on The New York Times, that’s their goal. And that’s such a phony, superficial, shallow goal to have as a reason for writing.”

Watch the full video to get more of McMillan’s insights on the screenwriting process and to find out why she’s not a Kindle fan.

Part 1: Terry McMillan: From Waiting To Exhale To Getting To Happy

Part 2: Terry McMillan Puts the ‘Ugliness’ of Divorce Behind Her

Terry McMillan Puts the ‘Ugliness’ of Divorce Behind Her

One thing you’ll often hear fans praise about author Terry McMillan is her authenticity. And it doesn’t get any more real than the headline-grabbing drama surrounding her marriage and divorce to Jonathan Plummer.

After McMillan drew from the couple’s island courtship for How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Plummer later famously came out as a gay man. But McMillan says neither the novel nor its accompanying film were completely autobiographical.

“Yes, I went to Jamaica. Yes, I met a younger man. But most of what happened in that book and in the movie didn’t happen to us that way. It was fiction,” the Getting to Happy author explained in our Media Beat interview.

So, what does she think of her ex now? “We’re friends. I’ve forgiven him. One of the reasons I was able to tell [the story of Getting To Happy] is the fact that I really did overcome a lot of things, one of which was anger and bitterness,” she said.

And nothing like a little jerk chicken to ease the pain.

Part 1: Terry McMillan: From Waiting To Exhale To Getting To Happy

Part 3: Terry McMillan’s Advice to Young Authors: ‘Focus on Your Stories, Not the Fame’

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