Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writer Tools: for playwrights in development--LiveScribe Pen

I'm not an ultra gadget guy--I don't have a smart phone or an iPad, but I have come across a handy high-tech tool that will be especially useful for when I'm developing a new play.  I just bought a LiveScribe Pen, in part because I'm organizing a big assistive technology fair in Brookline for kids with special needs next week (see also: reasons why I'm not getting other stuff done), but also because it will help me take better notes when I'm in meetings with my writers' groups or in talkbacks after readings.

Basically, the LiveScribe pen has both a built in camera and a microphone.  Using special paper, I'm able to write notes on a pad while also recording audio of what's being said.  By tying together the special grid printed on the paper, the camera recording what I write, and the microphone, I can then play back later exactly what was being said while I was writing. 

In fact, in playback mode, I can just tap the tip of my pen to any spot on the page, and it'll give me the audio that was recorded when I was writing that word.  In addition, using a USB cable and small docking port, I can upload what I've written on the notebook, along with the audio.

I used this at my Rhombus writers' group last night, and it was pretty cool.  First the actors read about ten pages of my new play.  I took minimal notes, but made sure to write something whenever a new scene started.  Afterwards, I was able to go back and tap my pen on the page where I'd written the scene heading, and the pen would play back the scene.

I also recorded the comments from the discussion as I took notes. This will be especially helpful for me, because I often work on multiple projects at once.  I won't go back to do more rewrites of the pieces I brought to Rhombus for another few weeks, at least, since I'm wrapped up in the first draft of a new novel.  With my LiveScribe notes, when I'm ready to go back and make changes, I'll be able to hear the reading, and look at my notes and get as much of the discussion as I need to provide full context for revisions.

Here's a sample of my notes (I know my handwriting is embarrassingly bad, but it was written while listening, on my lap, etc.) that I was able to download right from my pen to the computer.  You can't hear the audio, but it's all on my computer.  And on the pen, which can hold up to 200 hours of audio.

If I tap the pen on the page where it says "Sarah/Marlene @ gate" it plays back the audio for that scene.  (For the file on the computer, I just click there with the mouse.)

The version of the pen that I bought (the 2 gig Pulse) cost $100 at Staples (and with a $20 coupon, it only cost me $80).  Not cheap, but for someone like me, who juggles multiple projects that are simultaneously in development, or for which revisions are often delayed, I think it can become an invaluable tool.

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