I have a lovely treat for all of my writer-readers today! Iván Brave, author of The Summer Abroad and They Lived They Were At Brighton Beach has kindly dropped by to share a post with us about his top YouTube channels for writers.
First, let’s have a quick look at his latest book…
Blurb: Amid loss, hope, and despair, They Lived They Were . . . is a story about the power to move on.
It begins with a show at Brighton Beach, New York, where Ilya Gagarin performs a set of original dance music to a crowd of loyal fans. They know him as a rising internet star, only 22 years old, and the resident DJ at one of Brooklyn’s sauciest nightclubs. And yet, at the apex of this performance, a text comes in from his girlfriend who just happened to find his stash of coke and crushed prescription pills. Feeling betrayed for the last time, she leaves him. Deletes him. And goes on to have her own successful career as a blues guitarist.
The rest of the summer becomes a struggle to get her back.
The best way and only way Ilya knows how is to launch the debut EP he has been putting off. Unfortunately for the DJ, the club where he works at teeters on fiscal collapse, plus the security manager is a jerk, blocking his every chance for a release party. Only a has-been, mentor-type DJ, encourages Ilya to finish the project, and share it with the world.
As he works towards his dream, the pressure to succeed, paired with the growing pains of a professional artist, reveals a dark truth: the loss of his mother. Soon, recurring nightmares haunt the DJ, alongside distant childhood memories. Only the power of music, together with an urge to regain his abandoned Russian heritage, both of which are described passionately in his journal, keep him afloat week after week.
Soon, Ilya meets a real life guardian angel. Someone twice his age, and Russian, too: the ethereal yet grounded Julia Levina, a celebrated news anchor with her own troubled past. She inspires him to finish the album and land a date for the launch. By midsummer, her pity turns to empathy, which itself turns into something more. An affair ensues. A smart one, they convince themselves, since it doesn’t implicate her 6 year old child, nor pull Ilya astray from the path he believes will win back his ex-girlfriend’s heart.
Close to the date of the show, however, the DJ suffers a relapse, this time with dire consequences. He isn’t able to finish the album in time for the launch party, which comes and goes, and culminates in even more tragedy. Though things look gloomy, it does serve as the reality check that concludes the misguided affair and ends his substance abuse. But not before one final twist.
“Do you know how Russians say Once Upon a Time?” explains a mysterious meta-character, who has been inserting footnotes the entire story. “. . . Жили были. It translates to They Lived They Were.” Suggesting Ilya might just get his fairy tale ending. Or at least move on.
Now, without further ado, I will hand you over to the man himself:
Twelve YouTube Channels – for writers – Unlike Any Other
By Iván Brave
Between the espresso machine and social media, YouTube serves as one of the writer’s greatest time wasters. Only with the added benefit of also serving as one of the writer’s greatest tools. Boasting over 31 million channels, and 500 hours of videos uploaded every minute, all of it to distract, to entertain, to educate, and to enlighten you, writers are bound to come across some important content on the internet’s #1 most visited website.
After surfing YouTube for twelve years, here are my top twelve most useful channels for writers that I have come across, organized into three categories:
Off the Wall BookTube
Having slowly grown in the shadows of larger communities, BookTube now claims mainstream credibility, appearing in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and the New York Times as a “must” for book lovers. A quick search online reveals hundreds of active readers, each with their own personality. If, after sampling some of the major BookTubers, you still have doubt as to the hugeness of all this, then the channel to watch is YouTube Original, specifically their “BookTube” series:
In one of the videos you meet the host of the next channel, Readwithcindy. She is an opinionate, terribly funny, and engaging member of the community. Try this video first, where she defends the common criticism against BookTube:
Although Cindy does make a good point, unless you get hooked to a certain channel, within a couple hours of binging different hosts, many of them start to blur together. And yet, one channel remains consistently different, if not outright weird: Paperbird. The level of knowledge this host possess is unparalleled, with a wit and a charm all his own. Watching his videos is like getting lost with David Lynch and Salvador Dali in a dream by William Burroughs, for some straight up YouTube baroque art. For example:
Granted, he might not be everyone’s cup of tea. For something more in the middle of the spectrum between sanity and insanity, you cannot go wrong with the Poptimist. Given his self-proclaimed NPR voice, cool way with words, and deep love of literature, viewers discover some of the best information out there, on his channel. Listening to him is like listening to a good friend recommend a book:
Education & Motivation
The next category is one we all agree is important, but rarely delve into. Unless of course we adhere to the whole “You never stop learning,” or “better than yesterday” philosophy. The next channels feature creators who dedicate their time and energy to making us writers just a little bit smarter, and a little bit more excited about the prospect of putting our hearts on the page.
Take for instance the first channel, the Quotidian Writer. Hosted by Diane Callahan, a professional editor and mentor to writers, this is the kind of channel you could binge on for a couple of Saturday mornings, never getting tired, always feeling her enthusiasm for the written word. Here is some expert advice:
If you really have time, then you should check out Ted-Ed, as well. Their video topics span everything from science to technology to the ancient past and the future. Before getting lost, writers would do well to begin on a handful of literary playlists, such as “The Writer’s Workshop,” “Playing with Language,” “Myths from Around the World,” and “Reading between the Lines.” With so much fabulous content, you can’t go wrong, just start somewhere:
So far I have focused on book writing, but another genre of YouTube, and of writing, involves an equally important (if not downright more lucrative) medium: cinema. For those of you who dabble on scripts and plays, or prefer to focus on images and dialog in prose, one channel you absolutely must explore is Film Courage. Whether it’s education or motivation, this channel has something for anyone interested in story:
One channel most of us are familiar with is the School of Life. It is a brand of chill self-help, with a little something for everyone. But for writers, if you want to learn more about some of the world’s greatest literary masters, their series on “Literature” is a must. There is so much to learn from this online school:
Theory and Analysis
Writing is a serious business, and if you are extra serious about becoming serious (seriously) then there are channels you must watch in order to not only enjoy yourself with friendly book lovers, not only educate yourself or motivate yourself, but to go deeper into the thoughts of other writers. Here are the final channels for you, if other voices and musings is of writerly interest.
In a realm otherwise populated by talking heads and loud mouths vying for your attention, few are the channels that speak calmly and softly, Like Stories of Old. You could skim the uploads for a video on your favorite movie or jump straight into the series analyzing some major archetypes. Or watching something more pertinent to our daily lives, “The Fundamental Difference between Stories and Reality”:
For a different take on analyzing stories, especially of film, then try The Take. Here you find some popular uploads with views up in the millions, video essays on some of the most iconic characters, as well as a series on tropes. The one that got me hooked is now a personal favorite, “The Femme Fatale”:
Since we are on video essays, you have to give it up to one of the most original, unlike any other essayists in today’s world, the Nerdwriter1. Whether it is an analysis of Harry Potter, Michal Jackson songs, or how a politician answers a question, here we get both a great voice and an intense insight, from a YouTuber who cares about words. For starters, I recommend this:
The final channel to get into isn’t necessarily the best or most engaging. In fact, it is at times caustic and biting to the writers of major stories. And yet, just like you should always invite one of these guys to your party for variety, the channel is called, The Closer Look. His video on delivering emotion to your writing, by analyzing some powerful tearjerkers, is well worth a watch (and rewatch):
Naturally, with so many channels on the web, there is no way all the best ones were going to be contained in this short guest post. But, nonetheless, here are the top ones that have hooked me, and taught me a whole lot along the way. What about you? What are your favorite channels?
Thank you, Iván, for the great tips; I’ll definitely be checking these out! My own personal favourite writer’s channel is Siren Stories, featuring authors J.J. Barnes and Jonathan McKinney. It’s packed with their writing tips for adults and children, plus bonus content related to their own books. Share your fave channels in the comments!
They Lived They Were At Brighton Beach is available on Amazon right now!