Month: October 2015


Starting looking at our footage from the Steven Pinker interview yesterday, and I realized we hadn’t posted this picture of our team with him yet! We took this at the end. Really looking forward to sharing the video with everyone, it was a blast. ^_^

It was a joy and an honour to film an interview with one of the most influential linguists of our time, champion of scientific outreach, and overall cool guy, Dr. Steven Pinker. I want to thank Dr. Pinker again for taking the time to talk with us, and the whole Ling Space team for bringing the interview together! 


While our director Adele was at NerdCon: Stories last week, she got the
chance to interview some great people about their relationship with
language and with stories! Here’s a bit more about the contributors to
this week’s con report video:

Desiree Burch is a comedian, writer, public speaker, and performance artist, and she recently took top honours at the UK’s Funny Women Awards. You may also know her as the voice of Pamela Winchell on Welcome to Night Vale.

Jim McNierney is a writer, educator, editor, and co-founder of Ardre Editing. His blog, Critical Geekery, approaches games, movies, and comics from an analytical perspective.

Sara Langworthy is a developmental psychologist and the host of the educational channel Developmental Enthusiast on YouTube. Her first book, Bridging the Relationship Gap: Connecting with Children Facing Adversity, has just been published by Redleaf Press.

Regan Foote is the host of Quick Curator,
a series of educational videos on Youtube about museums. For an glimpse
of the channel that’s particularly relevant to the topic at hand, check
out her video about NaNoWriMo and writers’ museums.

Kevin R. Free is a writer, actor, pop culture addict, and alumnus of the New York Neo-Futurists. His work has been featured in numerous plays, radio shows, and podcasts, and he supplies the voice of Kevin in Welcome to Night Vale.

We’re excited to hear what you all think! And we’ll be back with a special Halloween episode next week, in our regular format. ^_^

It me!

Steven Pinker Interview


We’re very excited to announce that we’re going to be interviewing Steven Pinker tomorrow afternoon! We wanted to see if any of you had any questions they’d like us to ask him. We thought we’d throw in a question or two at the end from you guys. You can send them to us via asks or through reblogs or such.

Looking forward to it! We’ve been wanting to start doing interviews with linguists for a while, and this is definitely an exciting place to start. ^_^

Extremely exciting interview is extremely exciting!

Send your questions to Moti!



New mini-comic.  This can be viewed as a single image here.

I’ve been asked a few times what, if anything, would make Mordecai smile. This isn’t the only thing, really, but it’s definitely the most saccharine.  I blame the itty-bitty, unexpected kitten who recently moved in with me.  She was almost as much inspiration here as she was distraction.

Lackadaisy – now on Patreon!

In two-hundred years all us webcomic artists will be dead and forgotten but I often feel Tracy Butler’s an exception. They’ll be exhibiting her originals down the hall from Mary Cassatt.

This opened a well of feels within me. 

Yes forever. ❤

NerdCon: Stories

Hi Tumblr, Ling Space director and co-writer Adele here! I spent last weekend at NerdCon: Stories, which was an absolutely amazing event that I am so glad I got a chance to attend. When I first found out that Hank Green was going to organize something a bit like VidCon but about stories and story telling, I knew I had to go. Stories are how we communicate, and educational video is no exception: every episode, we try to make a thing you’ll walk away from having learned something new, and a lot of my work as director is about fine-tuning the way we tell the tale. Plus, as a speculative fiction author myself, I was excited about the idea of panels and signings with writers whose work I really admire, of which there were a ton on the guest list. So I packed up my stuff and hopped a plane to Minneapolis! (more under the break)

The con lasted two days, and each day had a bunch of mainstage events with a really exciting variety of stories and creators and formats. A few different guests took the stage on the theme of “Why stories matter”, including Hank and John Green, Desiree Burch, and Paul and Storm. Desiree Burch is also one of the amazing people I interviewed for the Ling Space, so look forward to my con report video going up next week on our YouTube channel!

There were smaller panels being held in rooms off the main auditorium, which were both (a) awesome and (b) brutally hard to get into, because of everyone agreeing about how awesome they were. I did get to sit in for one or two of them, including the tail end of a wonderful writer-oriented one with Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, Lev Grossman, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi, aptly titled “Honing your craft: Embettering your word-doing”. Yessss.

NerdCon also had a signing room, with a pretty solid only-line-up-an-hour-before-no-seriously-shoo system that pretty much prevented people just camping out in the space, so that was good. I’ve basically never gone to signings before, but in this particular case I had a particular goal: I wanted to go tell Hank Green that if he and his brother didn’t do the things they did, like Crash Course and SciShow, then there’s no way Moti and I would be doing what we’re doing. Which, you know, we love doing, so I just wanted to thank Hank for that. And I did!

He also autographed my plushie Hanklerfish’s butt! Yay!

Oh yeah, I also got my programme booklet signed by Lev Grossman’s evil twin. So that was fun.

The last mainstage event of the con was a performance by the New York Neo-Futurists of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”, which I had never heard of before but that my editor friend Arwen recommended with such glee that I had to go check it out, and which was incredible. It’s a fast-paced series of vignettes, written by the cast, presented in an order determined by the audience, often funny, sometimes political, and always powerful. It was an amazing way to wrap up NerdCon Stories, and now that I know they put on a performance of it almost every Friday and Saturday night in New York, I’m definitely going to try to catch it next time I’m in the city.

Why stories matter is something I found myself thinking about again and again during the weekend, and that’s still rattling around in my brain now. I think we underestimate just how much of our daily lives are built out of stories; the way I define myself is a bunch of stories, and the way I think about other people is too. Every worry and anxiety that clamps down on my brain is born from a story I make up, usually not on purpose. Narratives are much more than just creative writing, and my experience at NerdCon really brought that home, both through the events themselves and through the thoughts and conversations that sprung up around them. 

A bunch of us wandered out into the daylight, on Saturday afternoon, and discovered right across from the Minneapolis convention center this amazing construction dubbed mini_Polis. A model of the city out of planks and paint and stencils, it was made by local artists as an interactive space, with chalk lying around so you could add to the message, which NerdCon attendees did with creativity and enthusiasm.

There was also a box there, a weird old arcade cabinet with buttons that didn’t seem like buttons but that started speaking when you pressed them. They spoke with the voices of the people who had worked together to build mini_Polis, people who had lived in the city, and who had filled the arcade cabinet – and the model itself – with their stories. It felt to me like a summation of what NerdCon was about: people are made of stories, and so are cities. I grabbed a piece of pink chalk, and added my part to the message of mini_Polis for that day.

Thanks for all the stories, NerdCon. ❤

Stories for all



A school librarian introduces me before I give an assembly. “Girls, you’re in for a real treat. You will love Shannon Hale’s books. Boys, I expect you to behave anyway.”

I’m being interviewed for a newspaper article/blog post/pod cast, etc. They ask, “I’m sure you’ve heard about the crisis in boys’ reading. Boys just aren’t reading as much as girls are. So why don’t you write books for boys?”

Or, “Why do you write strong female characters?” (and never asked “Why do you write strong male characters?”)

At book signings, a mother or grandmother says, “I would buy your books for my kids but I only have boys.”

Or, “My son reads your books too—and he actually likes them!”

Or, a dad says, “No, James, let’s get something else for you. Those are girl books.”

A book festival committee member tells me, “I pitched your name for the keynote but the rest of the committee said ‘what about the boys?’ so we chose a male author instead.”

A mom has me sign some of my books for each of her daughters. Her 10-year-old son lurks in the back. She has extra books that are unsigned so I ask the boy, “Would you like me to sign one to you?” The mom says, “Yeah, Isaac, do you want her to put your name in a girl book?” and the sisters all giggle. Unsurprisingly, Isaac says no.

These sorts of scenarios haven’t happened just once. They have been my norm for the past twelve years. I’ve heard these and many more like them countless times in every state I’ve visited.

In our culture, there are widespread assumptions:

1. Boys aren’t going to like a book that stars a girl. (And so definitely won’t like a book that stars a girl + is written by a woman + is about a PRINCESS, the most girlie of girls).

2. Men’s stories are universal; women’s stories are only for girls.

But the truth is that none of that is truth. In my position, not only have I witnessed hundreds examples of adults teaching boys to be ashamed of and avoid girls’ stories, I’ve also witnessed that boys can and do love stories about girls just as much as about boys, if we let them. For example, I’ve heard this same thing over and over again from teachers who taught Princess Academy: “When I told the class we were going to read PRINCESS ACADEMY the girls went ‘Yay!’ and the boys went ‘Boo!’ But after we’d read it the boys liked it as much or even more than the girls.”

Most four-year-old boys will read THE PRINCESS IN BLACK without a worry in the world. Most fourth grade boys won’t touch PRINCESS ACADEMY—at least if others are watching. There are exceptions, of course. I’ve noticed that boys who are homeschooled are generally immune. My public-school-attending 11-year-old son’s favorite author is Lisa McMann. He’s currently enjoying Kekla Magoon’s female-led SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD as much as he enjoyed the last book he read: Louis Sachar’s boy-heavy HOLES. But generally in the early elementary years, boys learn to be ashamed to show interest in anything to do with girls. We’ve made them ashamed.

I want to be clear; if there’s a boy who only ever wants to read about other boys, I think that’s fine. But I’ve learned that most kids are less interested in the gender of the main character and more interested in the kind of book—action, humor, fantasy, mystery, etc. In adults’ well-meant and honest desire to help boys find books they’ll love, we often only offer them books about boys. We don’t give them a chance.

Whenever I speak up about this, I am accused of trolling for boy readers when they aren’t my “due.” So let me also be clear: I have a wonderful career. I have amazing readers. I am speaking up not because I’m disgruntled or demand that more boys read my books but because my particular career has put me in a position to observe the gender bias that so many of us have inherited from the previous generations and often unknowingly lug around. I’ve been witnessing and cataloging widespread gender bias and sexism for over a decade. How could I face my kids if I didn’t speak up?

And here’s what I’ve witnessed: “great books for boys” lists, books chosen for read alouds, and assigned reading in high schools and colleges, etc. are overwhelmingly about boys and written by men. Peers (and often adults) mock and shame boys who do read books about girls. Even informed adults tend to qualify recommendations that boys hear very clearly. “Even though this stars a girl, boys will like it too!”

This leads to generations of boys denied the opportunity of learning a profound empathy for girls that can come from reading novels. Leads to a culture where boys feel perfectly fine mocking and booing things many girls like and adults don’t even correct them because “boys will be boys.” Leads to boys and girls believing “girlie” is the gravest insult, that girls are less significant, not worth your time. Leads to girls believing they must work/learn/live “like a man” in order to be successful. Leads to boys growing into men who believe women are there to support their story, expect them to satisfy men’s desires and have none of their own.

The more I talk about this topic, the more I’m amazed at how many people haven’t really thought about it or considered the widespread effect gendered reading causes. I was overwhelmed by the response to a blog post I wrote earlier this year. To carry on this conversation, I’m working with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to create #StoriesForAll. Each day this week we’ll feature new essays on this topic from authors, parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and readers. On twitter, instagram, and tumblr, join us with the #StoriesForAll hashtag to share experiences, photos, book recommendations. Discuss: How deep is the assumption that there are boy books and girl books? Does it matter? What have you witnessed with regards to gendered reading? What damage does gendered reading cause to both girls and boys? What can each of us do to undo the damage and start making a change?

I yearn for that change. For our girls and for our boys.


Shannon Hale is the New York Times bestselling author of over 20 books, including the Ever After High trilogy and the Newbery Honor winner Princess Academy. She co-wrote The Princess in Black series and Rapunzel’s Revenge with her husband, author Dean Hale. They have four children.


I can’t reblog this hard enough. This is a major issue and a major project that we need to undertake on a wide scale, not just during one week but every time we buy – or write – books for kids. 

And here’s the thing: it’s not just boys who are affected by gendered reading. When I was growing up, and even until fairly recently, it was a lot harder to sell me on books with female protagonists, because there was the implication that they would be about being a girl. And my life never felt like it was about being a girl; it was just my life, and if it was ‘about’ anything it was about being a person. Me as a kid, as a teenager, even me as an adult for a mortifyingly long time totally bought into the divide with “books for boys” being universal and “books for girls” being specific to, and solely about, the female experience. Which is obviously bullshit, but growing up as I did without ever strongly identifying with either gender made me shun “girl stories” since I couldn’t imagine ‘the female experience’ would have anything to say to me (any more than ‘the male experience’ would, but boy stories didn’t seem to be about that, they were just stories).

All that changed, like I said, embarrassingly recently, and I’m not sure what did it, but giving female protagonists a chance definitely played a part. I realized the obvious: that there are as many different kinds of women, and different stories about women, and different ways to be women, as there are women, and that sometimes authors (of any gender) get it right. And that’s changed me as a reader, as a writer, and as a person. So I strongly believe that we can do a lot by encouraging boys to feel comfortable reading whatever books they want, including books “for girls”. Because stories make us bigger. And the more we learn to see things from diverse perspectives, the more likely we are to treat other people – and ourselves – with decency and respect.