Created by Walt Disney in 1955, Disneyland has been a magical destination for kids and adults alike for the past 63 years. It’s also a huge moneymaker. Disney’s parks and resorts brought in nearly $5.2 billion in revenue in the last quarter alone. Central to Disneyland’s success? Its meticulous design.
The history of that design is the subject of a new eponymous book published by Taschen. Written by Chris Nichols, an architectural historian, preservationist, writer, and Disneyland fanatic, the book touches on everything from Disney’s involvement in the park’s development to the famous designers and engineers who built it. But Walt Disney’s real feat was to create an immersive world that combined the familiar with the fantastic, laid out in an easily understandable way so that visitors always felt in control of the spectacle around them–all while persuading them to part with as much money as possible.
MAKING THE OTHERWORLDLY FAMILIAR
Walt Disney’s ability to build such a magical–and lucrative–world stemmed directly from the talent he had access to in Southern California. “It’s a creation that could only come from Southern California in the ’50s, from this place in this time, when we had so many people working in the entertainment industry,” Nichols says in an interview. “But we also had a huge science boom then, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and CalTech and all the aerospace industry that was based here at the time. They were making satellites and rockets and all this great stuff that would influence Tomorrowland [the sci-fi, space-themed section of the park].”
Disneyland was different from the other theme parks 0f the era because it was designed to be more like a World’s Fair than a carnival. In fact, the famed ride It’s a Small World was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. But rather than showing off different country’s achievements, Disneyland instead focused on some of the most foundational American stories of the last century–fairy tales, fantasy, and science fiction–all told through immersive experiences, decades before virtual reality became a thing. Disney’s genius was in making the otherworldly feel completely familiar.
MASTERING USER-CENTERED DESIGN
Today, with the rise of virtual reality, consumers are accustomed to feeling like they’re the center of an experience, whether it’s a music video or art therapy. But more than 50 years ago, such experiences were rare. Disneyland was a masterclass in the art of the immersive narrative. “You’re not only experiencing someone guiding you through a story, but you’re the main character,” Nichols says of the rides. “In Peter Pan’s Flight, there was no Peter Pan figure at the beginning, because you were Peter Pan. You’re not only in a story, you’re living it in the architecture, in the ride vehicles, in the costumes.” By making visitors central to each attraction, Disney created seductive experiences that visitors felt they couldn’t get anywhere else.
Frank Lloyd Wright. I.M. Pei. Those are the familiar names of two of America’s best-known architects.
Wright’s distinct prairie-style homes dot the American landscape while Pei’s large but elegantly designed urban buildings and complexes are among the world’s most famous architectural works. Pei’s projects, among others, include the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the controversial glass pyramid in Paris’ Louvre Museum courtyard.
But have you heard of Julia Morgan, who designed California’s famous Hearst Castle?
Or trailblazers such as Marion Mahony Griffin, the first woman to be officially licensed as an architect, and Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize?
It isn’t surprising if you haven’t. According to a January 2019 article in ThoughtCo., which listed 20 famous female architects, the role that women have played in architecture and design often go under the radar.
While architecture has been a male-dominated field, that is not the case at Felder & Associates, where I have worked since its inception in 2012. We have four women and three men on staff. The forward-thinking leadership of the firm’s managing principal, Brian Felder, has played an extraordinary part in making our workplace a gender free oasis in an otherwise industry-wide testosterone-filled desert.
Why is architecture, like so many other professions, such a tough profession for women to crack?
According to a 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times, only 18 percent of licensed practitioners are women although they make up nearly half of U.S. architecture school graduates. This disparity sometimes is referred to as “the missing 32 percent.” Unfortunately, females leave the field in disturbingly high numbers after they’re confronted with lower salaries, given fewer career-building opportunities or find a lack of mentors, who champion for them.
Full-time female architects earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Plus, architecture’s history as a male-dominated profession has contributed to an all-consuming workplace culture that leaves little flexibility for women expected to balance work and family. According to the Times article, 75 percent of female survey respondents had experienced sexual discrimination on the job, and 83 percent believed having a child would hurt their careers.
My personal observations and experiences have confirmed some of these disparities, but I consider myself lucky.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain a successful professional career while balancing family because I have a husband who shares responsibilities and encouragement. Without his support, it would be more challenging to continue with a professional career.
And while I have quite a few female friends who are architects, I have never worked for a woman nor had a strong female mentor. Contractors and clients often assume I need to ask my male boss for help in understanding construction, codes or a design issue. When I approach a problem with the same assertiveness as a male architect, I’m sometimes labeled with the “B”-word.
Since I was a kid, I dreamed of designing buildings before I knew what that encompassed. And now as an adult would I encourage young girls to enter architecture? Absolutely. I would tell young women (and men) entering the field that determination and passion go a long way. You will be successful if you work hard, tune out the negativity and chase your goals with perseverance. If you want to be an Architect, then go be one.
I finally believe that I am in a position to give them a hand. I’ve been around enough to help guide them and try to be the mentor I never had. I’m pleased we have two young women working with us at Felder & Associates. Alma Johnson and Cathryn Sinclair graduated with architectural degrees from the Savannah College of Art and Design last year and are interning with us as project associates.
Sinclair says she believes the playing field is more level than ever before but there is always room for improvement.
“I hope to continue to see the gap close,” she says.
For Johnson, success is based on how hard you work.
“Now, the gender gap does exist, but I think that the world is evolving on a more modern idea of a woman in the workplace. I don’t see gender. I see what skill sets I need to acquire to be as successful as the candidate next to me,” Johnson says.
I hope their perspectives will remain true and their positivity high after spending 15 years or so in the industry. I suspect they will reflect on their early days as a time when they had to deal with an old and outdated set of standards.
One thing I know for certain. They are in a wonderful setting to avoid bias and discrimination working at Felder & Associates. We are, thankfully, treated equally regardless of our gender, and we treat one another with mutual respect and understanding.
My hope for young women in architecture is that they will continue to mentor the next generations of women architects, have equal opportunities and respect. One day we will be as well-known as Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei.
Gretchen Callejas is a project architect at Felder & Associates, where she specializes in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, small scale commercial architecture and high-end residential design. She is also LEED-accredited from the U.S. Green Building Council. Callejas earned Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from Ball State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design.
With a career spanning almost three decades, Common’s journey in the spotlight has been anything but.
Along the way, he’s gained an ever-expanding list of titles and credits that run the gamut: rapper, artist, father, actor, activist, model, author, designer, philanthropist, Microsoft ambassador, and Academy Award winner, to name a few.
But if you’re thinking that’s enough to satisfy this modern-day Renaissance Man, you’re wrong. “I revel in the fact that in being all of these things, I don’t have to choose,” said the multi-hyphenate talent. “I want to do and be more…what I’ve accomplished so far is great, but there is always more to achieve.”
Voice of the Future
Common might’ve had his start in the music industry, but he’s no stranger to the world of STEM. In fact, he’s had a long-standing relationship with tech behemoth Microsoft dating all the way back to 2008, when the two partnered to launch Softwear (a play on “software”), a retro clothing line of T-shirts featuring MS-DOS (an operating system) font. Six years later, that partnership was re-birthed as the tech giant searched for a spokesperson to helm its first Super Bowl commercial. Common sent in a tape explaining why he wanted to lend his voice, and the rest—they say—is history. Since the inaugural commercial in 2014, the artist has lent his voice to a multitude of commercials, shorts, and presentations touting the importance of advancing technology and the infinite possibilities created by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
“Technology is possibility, adaptability, and capability,” he muses in one spot. “It’s not about changing what came before—it’s about creating what comes next. Right now, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us…the question is, what will we do with it?”
Actor to Activist
Common’s firm footing in the entertainment industry might sound like a full-time endeavor, but he has consciously created the time and space to enrich and advocate for the causes he believes in. “The truth is, you don’t have to be an actor, or an athlete, or an influencer to make a difference,” he said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs. “All you have to do is have a desire the make the world a better place. Every human being can do it, and I have a desire to do my part.”
This desire has manifested into fervent action focused on increasing and championing diversity and mentoring youth in the inner-cities of his home state, among other things.
In January, he delivered the closing keynote at the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers (CDO) from an array of Fortune 500 companies on a mission to provide tangible, ready-to-implement strategies to encourage and increase diversity and inclusion both internally and within their local communities.
“My interest in promoting diversity was rooted in my looking in these communities and seeing certain people not having access to the same opportunities,” said the ardent advocator. “The undeniable fact is that we need to see more women and POC [people of color] in positions of power—same for different beliefs and those in the LGBTQ+ community.” “We have to figure out ways to increase the diversity, and that starts with a conversation. For me, I love being in a position where I can be a part of the paradigm shift and contribute to that conversation.”
Speaking to C-suite leaders about diversity isn’t the only way Common is lending his voice to the diversity conversation. In 2018, after African-American business partners Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were racially profiled in a Starbucks—causing national outrage—the chain subsequently closed 8,000 stores for a day to conduct anti-bias training. The voice they heard in those videos, stressing the importance of anti-discrimination and inclusivity? Take a guess. The art of the give-back has further manifested into the creation of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to reach and impact inner-city youth in Chicago through mentorship and college-preparation programs. For more than a decade, the foundation has intimately focused on nutrition, healthy living, financial living, character development, and creative expression—even holding youth leadership conferences and summer camps. With more than $230,000 in scholarships awarded, a 100 percent graduation rate among participants, a 99 percent college attendance rate, and more than 2,500 collective hours of community service provided to the community, the organization has earned the distinction of an impactful labor of love.
“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help,” said the philanthropist. “I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose, and I always believed that of we started with the youth, we’d be planting the seeds for our future to blossom.”
A Tale of Common Sense
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn to an educator mother and youth counselor father, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood of Chicago, where his foray into the world of music developed and thrived. Talented and precocious, he was writing lyrics by age 12, and at 15, formed a rap trio—C.D.R.—with two high school friends. Far from just an after-school hobby, the group served as an industry incubator, not only building his proficiency in writing, producing and performing, but also aiding in his personal branding as an artist.
“C.D.R. represented so much in my life, and it was the birthplace of a lot of artistic firsts,” remembered Common. “That acronym was a revolving door of different meanings—it mainly stood for Corey, Deon, Rashid [our names], but on other days, it was Compact Disc Recorder, or Recording Def Rhymes. We were learning how to record, making demos, writing songs, performing—just trying to figure ourselves out and do our thing.” Influenced by hip-hop’s titans of the time, including LL Cool J, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, and Rakim, C.D.R. went on to gain a footing in the industry, having their songs played on the University of Chicago’s local radio station and opening concerts for Big Daddy Kane, Eazy-E, and Too Short.
Upon graduation, Common enrolled at Florida A&M University under a scholarship, where he majored in business administration. His artistic streak remained uninterrupted, however, and in 1991, after being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column, he left A&M to sign with Relativity Records. It was under this label that he released his first album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, using the moniker Common Sense. The album was an underground success, and laid the groundwork (as well as a growing fanbase) for his subsequent albums and collaborations. To date, Common has won more than 20 awards from various distinguished award bodies for his lyrics, albums and performances, including a 2015 Academy Award for his and singer John Legend’s original song “Glory” (from the Selma soundtrack), three Grammys, four BET Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. He has also garnered over 40 nominations in the music industry.
More than Music
Had Common been content to produce records, pull awards, and perform his hits for dedicated fans around the world, that might’ve been the end of the story. But, true to his character, he always had his sights set for more—much more. He began making his mark in the film and television industry in the early 2000s, often making cameos as himself and later evolving into more complex roles in well-known films, such as American Gangster (starring Denzel Washington), Wanted, Just Wright, Suicide Squad, Selma (as activist James Bevel), and installments of the John Wick franchise, to name a few. His constantly growing acting portfolio, which currently includes more than 40 films, supports a long-term goal to eventually become one of the great actors of our time.
“I’m still working to get to where I want to be, and I’m always working to get to the next level,” he said. “The majority of roles I want, they’re looking at other actors for. But I’m always going to fight to prove myself.” As he works tirelessly to widen his range and nab multifaceted roles, Common is also focused on another goal: helping amplify the creative voices of others through his nearly five-year-old production company, Freedom Road Productions. To date, he has executive produced Showtime’s popular drama The Chi (created by screenwriter Lena Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series), and last year, signed a deal to develop and produce new television series with Lionsgate TV.
On the Horizon
Common’s career in the spotlight has diverged into many paths during its three-decade journey, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Add to that his impactful work in mentorship, advocacy, and diversity, and a bevy of new projects within all of these fields, and it’s safe to say that he may never stop. Next up is his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, a personal anthology exploring the core tenets of love to help others give and receive love to live better lives and build stronger communities. Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the book is sure to be a page-turner.
On the film front, the actor will feature or star in three upcoming films: The Informer, The Kitchen, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Several TV series in collaboration with Lionsgate are also in the works. Simply put, Common wants to expand his experience, provide opportunities for others, and inspire.
“I want to live my passions, help others do the same, and make the world a better place, as much as I can,” he said. “This—all of this—inspires me to work harder and do more.”
Most of us control our technology using our fingers and hands, whether that’s through touch screens or a mouse. But for years, individuals with disabilities have used their eyes as a way to control digital interfaces.
Now, researchers are experimenting with ways to bring eye-tracking technology to general users. At the annual ACM Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) conference last week, scholars presented three new methods for able-bodied people to take advantage of a user interface that has mostly stayed within the realm of assistive technology. The experiments show how using your eyes as a tool to control a computer could make everyone more productive, not just people who are disabled. It’s an example of the power of inclusive design: When technologies are built to accommodate users who have disabilities, everyone else benefits, too.
Proofreading emails–or any other chunk of text–with just your eyes
One of the most annoying things about writing is typos: They’re inevitable, but they’re a pain to go back and fix. Academics at the University of Auckland and the University of Bath presented a research paper at CHI that proposes using your gaze to fix those pesky little mistakes and navigate a chunk of text. First, you look at the typo you want to fix (something you’re probably doing anyway). Then, you start typing. The program, called ReType, identifies the word you’re trying to change based on your gaze, and replaces it with whatever you type. Then, you just have to press enter to continue, enabling you to keep your hands on the keyboard as you continue to edit your mistakes. Your cursor then stays in the location you just edited, enabling you to insert or delete text there. It turns your eyeballs into a mouse.
The study included a variety of keyboard users, some of whom had used gaze-tracking technology before, and the researchers showed that the method was able to match and sometimes beat the speed of using a mouse. Plus, users liked it: “We were very pleased to hear from a number of users that they expect ReType to be helpful in addressing and preventing repetitive strain injury,” Gerald Weber, a computer science lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, tells Fast Company via email, referring to the musculoskeletal damage that’s caused by small repetitive tasks like clicking, typing, and using a mouse. Currently, Retype is just a prototype, but the research team has patented it and wants to turn it into a product.
Navigating through code without ever using a mouse
Studies have found that developers spend about 35% of their time navigating through their code while they’re working. When they’re debugging, they spend about 50% of their time looking for information–something that slows them down considerably.
Using eye tracking to communicate with colleagues
As more people work remotely, collaboration across distance can be difficult. But a study from researchers at Pomona College that was presented at CHI shows how eye tracking could act as a collaborative tool. The researchers focused on the challenges of collaborating on a piece of writing while working in different places, something that has become common with the popularity of tools like Google Docs. They conducted a study with 20 pairs of academics, each of whom had an eye-tracking device at the bottom of their screen that showed their collaborator where they were looking within a digital text editor. After completing writing tasks where they did and did not have access to the location of the other person’s gaze, the study participants reported more mutual understanding, higher joint attention, greater flow of communication, and increased awareness of what their co-author was doing when they could see where their partner was looking. (The eye-tracking technology only shows up within the text editor, so collaborators wouldn’t be able to spy on each other’s eye movements outside of that context.)
Drive through any city in America and you are bound to see some graffiti. Some people love it, while others hate it. These images, letters and paintings found on buildings, bridges and other surfaces can often signal decay and bring property values down.
This has prompted many cities to create designated graffiti art spaces, and many businesses have commissioned artists to create murals to deter graffiti on their walls. Putting graffiti art into the spotlight, Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be holding its 2nd annual Graffiti Art Contest on Saturday, June 1, 2019. All graffiti artists are invited to compete for cash prizes and the chance to have their work on exhibit in the museum.
“We are happy to encourage people to think outside the box and work with those who love this form of public art,” explains Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits at Alcatraz East Crime Museum. “This contest gives artists a chance to showcase their talent and a rare chance to have their art featured in a museum.”
The artists who are selected to compete in the contest will be staged in the parking lot behind the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. The event is open to the public. There will be three winners, who will be awarded $750, $350, and $200 respectively. Each of the three winners will also have their graffiti art put on exhibit inside the museum.
Contestants must pre-qualify by entering online and must be at least 18 years old. The deadline to enter for consideration for the contest is May 8, 2019. Artists can review the full guidelines for the contest at: alcatrazeast.com/graffiti-contest/.
The judges’ panel includes local representatives of law enforcement and the arts, including Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Richard Catlett.
In 2018, Alcatraz East Crime Museum held its first annual graffiti contest, with contestants from both the local area and surrounding states. The grand prize went to Steve Hall of Maryville, Tennessee.
“Everyone competing was very kind, and it was inspiring to see all different artists with different talents, backgrounds, mediums, and ideas come together and celebrate their art,” says Emily Overbey, an artist who competed in last year’s competition.
The Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at the entrance to The Island, at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. They are located near the Margaritaville Hotel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The museum is always adding to its collection, and has a star-studded panel of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including those in law enforcement, collectors, a medical examiner, crime scene investigators, and others. The board includes Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who is best known for the Casey Anthony trial. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.
About Alcatraz East
Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime-solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. General admission tickets are $14.95 for children and $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.
Facebook has acquired GrokStyle, a shopping startup that uses AI to help you buy furniture and other items for the home. The move, which was reported by Bloomberg, is the latest sign yet that the social network is looking to push deeper into e-commerce in 2019.
Facebook spokesperson Vanessa Chan confirmed the acquisition saying, “We are excited to welcome GrokStyle to Facebook. Their team and technology will contribute to our AI capabilities.”
GrokStyle, which was founded in 2016 according to CrunchBase, is a San Francisco startup specializing in visual search. The company is known for technology that allows shoppers to search for furniture and other items by taking photos with their phones. Last year, the company partnered with Ikea on its augmented reality furniture app.
In a note posted on its website, the company said it had “only scratched the surface of what is possible with computer vision.”
“Our team and technology will live on, and we will continue using our AI to build great visual search experiences for retail.”
It’s not clear exactly what team within Facebook GrokStyle and its “AI capabilities” will be a part of. But it’s another potential sign that Facebook plans to move deeper into shopping features.
The company has been steadily adding shopping features to Instagram, but hasn’t said much about similar shopping experiences in other places.
Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.
With the New Year right around the corner, it’s a great time to start thinking about your resolutions. Everyone should set goals at the beginning of the year, so they have some idea of what it is that they want to accomplish.
In other words, by setting goals you will solidify your long-term vision for what it is that you want to achieve. There are some great resolutions for writers to set that will keep them productive and working toward their publishing goals.
“Every January we get a fresh start, we get a chance to make plans about what we want to complete in the New Year,” explains Annalisa Parent, writing coach and award winning author. “It’s so important that writers make resolutions every January. By getting those goals out of your head and down on paper, you will be one step closer to making them happen.”
Many people are skeptical about setting New Year’s resolutions, fearing that they will not see them through. While it’s true that many people do abandon their resolutions within weeks of making them, there are many others who stick with them and are successful in accomplishing what they set out for themselves. You can never accomplish a goal that you don’t take the time to set.
Parent is an expert writing coach who has helped many writers through all aspects of writing, publishing, and marketing their novel. Here are five New Year’s resolutions she offers for every writer:
To finish your novel. Every writer seems to have an unfinished novel on their hands. Make 2019 the year that you finish the novel so that it’s no longer nagging you. Once you get it done, you will feel better about it and can move toward the next steps to get it published.
To read more. Every writer needs to be an avid reader. If you haven’t been getting much reading done, it’s important to make it a priority. Whether you read a book a month or a book a week, you need to keep reading. It’s important because it helps expose you to what’s been written and published.
To work with a writing coach. Working with a writing coach can do wonders for your writing career. It can help you get organized, finish your book, get your book published, and market your book in a successful way.
To embrace your writing style. Everyone has their own writing method, but some people don’t embrace it. Instead, they try to change it, which doesn’t seem natural. Make 2019 the year you embrace your writing method and go with it, seeing where it may lead you.
Go beyond your comfort zone. It’s difficult for people to go beyond their comfort zone when it comes to writing. This year, make a commitment to go beyond that comfort zone and see where it leads. Try new things, because you may find they are extremely rewarding and enrich your writing life.
“By making writing goals for the New Year, you are letting the universe know you are making writing a priority,” adds Parent. “It’s time to give your writing the time and attention that it deserves, so you can live your publishing dream. Do that, and you will be very happy and fulfilled with where it leads you along your career path.”
Parent has coached hundreds of writers and has taught over 100 writing courses around the world. She works with fiction authors looking to traditionally publish. Her book Storytelling for Pantsers: How to Write and Revise Your Novel without an Outline won the CIPA EVVY Silver Award in Best Business Books, and earned a merit award in the Humor category. She has been a featured speaker on writing-related topics across the globe, and she has been a guest on a variety of television, radio, and podcast shows, sharing her secrets for how to write, publish, and sell your book.
For more information about Annalisa Parent, her book, and her coaching services, visit her site at: datewiththemuse.com. For more information on how to become a published author, download her free e-book TheSix Secrets to go from Struggling Writer to Published Author here: datewiththemuse.com/6secrets.
About Annalisa Parent
Annalisa Parent has worked with writers all over the world. She offers writing coaching services that have been instrumental in helping writers to go from idea to publishable piece and have the confidence to take their work to the market. Parent focuses on three main areas: Quality, Clarity and Creative Flow, all through a neuroscientific approach. For more information on her services and to set up a chat about publishing, visit her site at: datewiththemuse.comor book a one-on-one chat session at datewiththemuse.com/publishnow.
With his PlayVS e-sports platform, Delane Parnell is creating a valuable scouting grounds for new tech talent.
Sporting a pair of black Jordan 11 Cap and Gowns that look like they were just unboxed and a dark baseball cap that casts a slight shadow over his baby-cheeked face, Delane Parnell fields questions from the audience at this September’s TechCrunch Disrupt, the annual San Francisco assembly that has become a startup kingmaker of sorts. He shares the stage with Jason Citron, founder and CEO of Discord, a messaging app for video gamers with more than 150 million users, and—after a $50 million fundraising round in April—a valuation of $1.65 billion. Parnell’s PlayVS (pronounced play versus), an e-sports platform for high schools, has yet to even launch. But the 26-year-old Detroit native exudes confidence. “Investors are starting to realize that gaming is the next social paradigm,” says Parnell, answering a question about e-sports’ mainstream popularity. “And they want a piece of it.”
You don’t have to look far for evidence of gaming’s influence. It’s all over YouTube and Twitch in how-to videos and live-streamed sessions of FIFA 19 and Assassin’s Creed. A robust ecosystem of e-sports competitions is rising as well, with game publishers, entertainment companies, and even colleges and universities creating leagues and events for pro gamers and amateurs alike. The largest tournaments, for titles such as Dota 2 and Call of Duty, can fill stadiums and dangle purses of millions of dollars. According to research firm NewZoo, revenue from e-sports-related media, sponsorships, merchandise, tickets, and publisher fees is expected to nearly double from 2014 to reach $1 billion this year. Goldman Sachs projects e-sports viewership to reach 300 million by 2022, putting it on par with the NFL.
For all the organizations rushing into e-sports, a hole remains: high school competitions that engage the estimated 75% of American teens who already play video games. Parnell is filling that void with PlayVS, which lets schools create leagues and host virtual and live competitions. Though he’s diving into an industry full of well-funded sharks, including Amazon (Twitch’s parent company) and Discord, Parnell has an edge. In January, PlayVS signed an exclusive, five-year e-sports partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the organization that oversees varsity sports and activities at nearly 19,500 public and private high schools across the country. The first test season of a PlayVS-powered competition, for the popular multiplayer game League of Legends, commenced this October at high schools across five states, and the company is gearing up for its official inaugural season in February.
Parnell is now on a roll. Last week, just five months after PlayVS closed its $15.5 million Series A, the company announced a $30.5 million round from investors that include Adidas, Samsung, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and the VC arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I don’t care if you’re gaming on your phone, on a console, or through a cloud service,” Parnell says. “Gaming in high school, even if it’s tic-tac-toe, will run through us.”
If he succeeds, he could effectively control a pipeline that would feed into the burgeoning pro leagues. It took the NBA two decades after its first draft to start recruiting players from high schools, but e-sports leagues are already tapping young talent. A 13-year-old recently signed with a European pro Fortnite team. Given the venture capital and startups flooding into e-sports today, Parnell could create another, equally valuable conduit: one that enables high schoolers—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—to parlay their interest in gaming into lucrative tech jobs. All he has to do is convince schools that e-sports deserves to be taken as seriously as football and basketball.
Each November, there is a writing challenge that takes place around the world. The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges writers to pen a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. During 2017, over 400,000 people participated in the annual event.
Many people like the challenge of writing the novel in one month, but most have no idea what to do with it once it’s done. That’s where an expert writing coach can come into play and help take the novel from a challenge to a published book.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to write an entire novel in a month,” explains Annalisa Parent, writing coach and award winning author. “The last thing you want to do is close the document or tuck it in a drawer and never do anything else with it. You did the hardest part, now all you need to do is take the next steps to take it all the way.”
As an expert writing coach, Parent has helped countless people around the world to finish their novel, edit their manuscript to publishable, work their way through the publishing process, and successfully market their book to the masses. She offers one-on-one chat sessions to provide a customized approach to guiding each writer in the specific areas they need help in.
Parent offers a wide variety of guidance for writers and can help those who are taking part in the NaNoWriMo by:
Guiding them through the editing process once they have finished their novel.
Helping them to determine what to do with the book once they have finished the editing process.
Working with them to target publishers that publish books in their genre.
Helping them to successfully reach their target market to help sell the book once it has been published.
Boosting the writer’s confidence so they feel they can meet the demands of the publishing process and come out successful.
“Every November it’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something great in the creative world,” adds Parent. “National Novel Writing Month is just the start of something beautiful. But it can go on to be the start of a wonderful writing career if you play your cards right and take those steps to get you there. I’ve helped many people to get their novel published, and it never stops being a wonderful feeling for us both.”
Parent has coached hundreds of writers and has taught over 100 writing courses around the world. She works with fiction authors, as well as entrepreneurs seeking to write their expert book. Her book Storytelling for Pantsers: How to Write and Revise Your Novel without an Outline won the CIPA EVVY Silver Award in Best Business Books, and earned a merit award in the Humor category. She has been a featured speaker on writing-related topics across the globe, and she has been a guest on a variety of television, radio, and podcast shows, sharing her secrets for how to write, publish, and sell your book.
Parent is also currently offering a 2019 Writing Gym in England Retreat. To learn more about the retreat, visit the website at: datewiththemuse.com/retreat. For more information about Annalisa Parent, her book, and her coaching services, visit her site at: datewiththemuse.com. For more information on how to become a published author, download her free e-book TheSix Secrets to go from Struggling Writer to Published Author here: datewiththemuse.com/6secrets.
For a complete list of weird scholarships, conduct a free scholarship search at www.tuitionfundingsources.com. Tuition Funding Sources (TFS) is the largest online resource for higher education funding, helping graduates and undegraduate students address the rising costs of school by providing free access to scholarship information.
Through its site TFS connects students to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in financial aid.
New York – NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Gregg Bishop recently announced that the City will offer free design assistance to promote commercial corridors in low-to-moderate income communities. Design services will be offered through SBS’ Neighborhood Design Lab program, which has already helped community-based organizations (CBOs) successfully implement branding campaigns worth up to $20,000 each.
Neighborhood Design Lab teaches CBOs how to design marketing campaigns that promote local businesses, engage local residents, and attract customers.
While visual design is a key component in boosting neighborhoods, many CBOs lack the necessary funding to put towards design expertise. CBOs can apply now through October 12th, 2018 to join Neighborhood Design Lab’s second cohort.
“Neighborhood Design Lab supports community organizations in promoting their neighborhoods in their own words,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “Through visual design, community organizations can share the value of their neighborhood with fellow New Yorkers and global visitors.”
About Neighborhood Design Lab
Neighborhood Design Lab works in partnership with the Worldstudio to pair CBOs with a professional designer to brainstorm, plan, and carry out a creative design event or campaign that connects to a long-term vision for a commercial corridor. The following fiscal year 2018 participants successfully completed design projects.
Alliance for Coney Island launched the Coney Island for Everyone! marketing campaign;
Kingsbridge-Riverdale-Van Cortlandt Development Corporation created a logo and branding for the newly established Marble Hill Merchants Association;
Northfield Community Local Development Corporation introduced a marketing campaign highlighting Port Richmond Avenue on Staten Island aka “The Avenue”; And
Union Settlement built the East Harlem | Working Together marketing campaign.
For more information or to apply, visit nyc.gov/neighborhoods. Four CBOs will be selected to participate in this next round of the program.
Neighborhood Design Lab Success
Union Settlement joined Neighborhood Design Lab with a long-term goal of branding East Harlem as a destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike to explore the longstanding history, culture and tradition. Union Settlement found that East Harlem was being perceived as unsafe by potential visitors, which hurt local business. Through Neighborhood Design Lab, Union Settlement launched a promotional campaign called East Harlem | Working Together which included banners, information brochures, and window decal to create a welcoming environment. The campaign created a East Harlem | Working Together YouTube channel to promote local businesses. Pablo Guzman of Union Settlement’s Business Development Center stated the following regarding Union Settlement’s experience with the program:
“It was a great pleasure for Union Settlement to be part of this program,” said Pablo Guzman. “The beautiful design materials created through Neighborhood Design Lab help us bring merchants of East Harlem together.”
About the Department of Small Business Services (SBS)
SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information, visit nyc.gov/sbs or call 311.