Job: George Lucas Educational Foundation
Title: Blog Editor
Despite my behind-the-scenes role of editing and producing over 2000 blog posts for Edutopia between 2011 and 2016, I can provide one front-end writing sample: my 2015 April Fool's Day post. Years of working with bloggers and crafting the voice of the site gave me the perfect opportunity to sneak a bit of silliness into a generally serious context.
In December 1998, Phoenix Pop Productions hired me to write Spychaser, a six-episode web gaming series for Foote, Cone & Belding. Players learned about a line of networking hardware by 3Com Corporation while eavesdropping on a crew of quirky data pirates in the hi-tech cities of Paris, St. Petersburg, Bangalore, Las Vegas, Singapore, and Istanbul. My role was developing colorful characters and building simple logic puzzles through dossiers, emails, chat sessions, downloads, and web destinations -- all in stylized text blocks of 100 words or less. From the 14 short pieces in this sample interactive story chapter (Las Vegas), the design team built all necessary screens.
The site drew at least 170% of the expected registrants between January and June 1999. Phoenix Pop’s Producer Amy Taylor told me, "Without your plot-twisting, character-building, awe-inspiring scripts, this project would not have been … a widely-recognized, award-winning international sensation … The stories have been a major reason we have users around the globe returning every month to find out what'll happen in the next episode of Spychaser... that's no small feat." The series won the 1999 Communication Arts Award of Excellence for Interactive Advertising Design.
Project: James Cameron's Titanic Explorer
Title: Lead Writer
From April through October 1998, I worked as the lead writer on James Cameron's Titanic Explorer, a three CD-ROM set by CircumStance Design for Fox Interactive. I wrote a documentary-length narrative voiceover, and a few hundred pages of supplementary text. Each node of the documentary ran 30-40 seconds, requiring a short, freestanding paragraph to capture the essence of that moment while advancing the larger story. Although the team included an ace researcher and two respected Titanic experts, I did considerable research of my own to help prepare and organize the information. In the final stages of production, I collaborated on the video editing. Of these six samples, the first three are excerpts from the voiceover script, and the other three are text links.
I truly enjoyed helping history speak for itself (and the outtake footage from Cameron's film Titanic certainly didn't hurt). The production team was passionate and committed, and because Fox Interactive hoped to market the product for Christmas 1998, the pace was intense. After it was all over, CircumStance’s Creative Director Tim Barber said, "Thanks for everything you've contributed and put up with during the course of this wonderful and difficult project. Your talent made it possible and I look forward to the next." And years later, Producer Michele Thomas told me, "You are still the best writer I've ever worked with." I am proud to add that this title won a 1999 Communication Arts Award of Excellence for Information Design.
Job: On the Path Productions
Title: Script Writer/Editor/Producer
Between June 2004 and January 2012, my principal role as a contractor for On the Path Productions was editing interview transcripts into formatted 90-second radio shows and podcasts on the general theme of health literacy. My scripts included time codes and suggested music or sound effects to direct the audio engineer in assembling them as OTP's signature "Life Love & Health" show. I also helped develop longer, magazine-style segments for the "Life Love & Health: Special Edition" program, as well as the house-branded "Your Health Matters" podcast series for the Scott & White healthcare network.
Taking this format in a somewhat different direction, I assisted the CEO/Executive Producer in creating a series called "Springmann's Story." In this project, I researched and wrote monologues for him about assorted health and lifestyle facts and trends. This script from 2007, "Clean Hands, Clean Heart, Dirty Dog," looks at the perceptions in some Arabic cultures about how we use our hands.
In one comment that I feel speaks to the overall value I brought him, CEO/EP Christopher Springmann said, "Nice work - tight and to the point. THIS is the direction we need to be going in with these programs. The client gets more value... and the listener benefits from real targeted messaging. Great work!"
Job: On the Path Productions
Title: PR Writer
At various points during my eight-year association with On the Path Productions, I wrote and sent a monthly newsletter and semi-monthly press releases. This September 2011 newsletter speaks to both the projects and aspirations of OPP.
Project: Daily and Monthly Horoscopes
From June 1997 through April 2004, I wrote horoscopes for Astrology.com, an iVillage channel. For the dailies, I interpreted the possibilities of simple astrological relationships from a database, and then distilled them into generalized, entertaining forecasts of about three sentences each. The result was sometimes a kind of narrative haiku. After two and a half years of writing shorter pieces, I began working concurrently on series that required 100- to 400-word articles, some involving a more sophisticated grasp of astrological principles. Additionally, I wrote minimal horoscopes to fit the screens of handheld devices. My daily, weekly, monthly and yearly horoscopes covered such topics as romance, business and career, fitness, and the high-tech world. iVillage readers are primarily women, and my target audiences included office workers, romantic couples and singles, teens, and mobile users.
Project: Arthur's Kindergarten: Trouble With Arthur's Treehouse
Title: Script Writer
In March and April 1999, I wrote the voiceover script for Arthur's Kindergarten: Trouble with Arthur's Treehouse, an edutainment CD-ROM by Presage Software/Human Code for The Learning Company. It was a dense six-week project, and my first hands-on lesson in the deep structuring of an interactive script. As the writer responsible for one of three simultaneously developed titles, I worked within the boundaries of a small and specific world. The characters were already well defined, and I had to learn what they could say, when and why they would say it, and in how many variations. Although I worked offsite for the entire project, frequent design changes and tight time constraints insured that I was available for the producers, educational consultant, other scriptwriters, and client. These samples trace the logical path (with all possible choices) through a spelling exercise.
As Associate Producer Melissa Nagy told the writing team, "Thanks for dedication to this project … You all did an excellent job at keeping up with the many design changes and keeping the changes in check. It was a pleasure working with all of you on this project."
Project: Healthy U of Delmarva's "The Diet and Exercise Private Tutor"
From June - July 2004, I developed a narrative element for the social agent that had already made this title's first release such a success. The Private Tutor was a warm, wise, gender-neutral voice that encouraged users to stay with their fitness programs and log their results daily. I came up with a story line reinforcing this character's voice and mission while giving it a complex, amusing, daily soap opera of a life story. This unfolded in first person narrative with occasional check-ins by two equally unusual faculty members. Here are a few excerpts from the story.
Although a design change ultimately steered the project in a different direction, I did receive these glowing words of praise from Mitzi Perdue, Software Developer and President of Healthy U of Delmarva, Inc.: "Alan Lipton has been a pleasure to work with. He is fast, professional, and delivers his highly creative and imaginative work on time."
Project: Information Sickness
Information Sickness is a print zine that I have self-published since 1991. For Issues # 1-9, my chosen medium was interactive fiction on the printed page. Information Sickness is a many-threaded novel-in-progress, disguised as a news journal that reports on the events of parallel universes. Later issues included the work of guest authors whose thinking meshed with mine, but the zine still showed a cross-section of my favorite approaches to writing:
• The blank literary canvas on which anything is possible
• The world-building details that make the bigger picture credible and life-like
• The stylized prose of fiction writing
• The invisible prose of news reporting and documentaries
• The opinionated commentary of editorials and music reviews
• The free play of dialogue, in which the narrator disappears and the characters’ voices take over
The experience was enhanced by strange images and factoids culled from mainstream newspapers, often in the context of collages that illuminated their intended meaning or suggested a different one.
I'm currently at work on Issue #10, which will leave behind the world of print and exist exclusively online. Meanwhile, I present these samples:
• Serial Fiction: "The Magic Toys, 1991-1995: A Media Scrapbook" compiles pieces of a story thread stretched out over several issues. Please keep in mind that I present these as episodes and not as a completed or cohesive work.
• Dialogue: After a contextual setup, the multiple characters of "Prismatic Prison Interview" tell an entire story through pure dialogue. This piece unites characters from several ongoing story threads.
• Film Review (Fictional): The three films discussed in "Parallel Universes and How to Get There" were never produced, and probably never will be. This is yet another device to summarize three unrelated story threads.
• Music Review (Actual): A real band called Mighty John Henry released an actual CD called Hot Air Head, and this review of their effort was published in Information Sickness. Presumably, they were pleased.