03 January, 2015
You've set your goal, now what? Congratulations. You set your goal for 2015. Now how do you accomplish your goal? I can tell you how I used to go about achieving my goal. It involved no planning, no strategy, no focus. But let't not dwell on the past. How do I do it now? Well I'm glad you asked. Write your goal down. Write down the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. If you're not sure, ask someone in that field. Since I am a writer, I will let you peek at last year's steps. 1. Identify where my writing needs work. 2. Take classes that address my weakness in my writing. 3. Rewrite and see if I show improvement. 4. Take more classes as necessary. That was my focus and planning. My strategy involved using a calendar planner, looking at classes that were offered, scheduling them on my planner, booking plane tickets, and paying for onsite and online classes. My goal was to improve my writing. I had to identify where I needed it. I knew from published authors and screenwriters who'd read my work that I was great at plot, great at dialogue, great at story. Everything that was necessary for a novel, screenplay, or teleplay to work was on the page, but I wasn't great at editing. Now I revised, and revised and revised. But It still wasn't working. So my focus last year was on learning how to edit my writing. Did it work? Yes. I can see the flaws, and deescalations, and lack of conflict and fix them. I can cut entire scenes and even characters. I can rewrite scenes three, four, or five times to see which one fits the story better. When I do revisions, I set the revision as my goal and then I write down the steps. What am I looking to edit/revise: dialogue, conflict, stakes, emotion, characterization, setting, plot, etc. Approaching my writing this way allows me to write that first draft like a young girl running through a meadow, listening to pixies play on flutes. Because I know when I'm done, I'm going into the underground bunker with bare concrete walls and its time to revise-get brutal with my editing. Some writers are different. They start in the bunker with the writing craft tools and even an outline. I need to let myself flow free for as long as I want. Write the way that comes natural to you. 3. Do the steps. This is where the planner comes in handy. Write down what steps you are going to take every day. Yes, every day. I work eight hours a day, five days a week, so I know it means sacrifice-sleep, or something else. But this is your dream. Do it. 4. Write some celebrations in. I like a glass of sparkling wine when I finish a writing project. Or it could be a trip to the office supply store for fluorescent sticky notes. Anything that motivates you to continue. My goal for 2015: to option a novel and screenplay/teleplay. I've already gotten started, and yes, my planner pages are filling up. I'd love to hear what your goal is.
20 December, 2014
Sunday a childhood friend of mine passed away. This week has been tough. The weird part is I haven't cried yet. I've been holding it in. And all the grief counselors are nodding their heads. They know what's coming next. Colette and I drifted apart the last decade. Which is strange for two people who used to be so close. Busy lives, different priorities, different states of residence, or possibly a Tragic life event in her life. Now she's gone. Random thoughts about her popped into my head this week. Going to her house to play dolls. Going to her house for sleepovers. Her coming to my house for a sleepover. Running high school track together, though she was two years behind me in school. Going on double dates together for high school dances, me a senior, she a sophomore. Me driving to Murfreesboro to visit her at college, her going to my college. Going to fraternity parties in college together. Me so bored at one I wrote a short story. She was a character in it. So were alien invaders from outer space. Road trips to Atlanta in college, staying with my aunt and uncle who didn't mind a gaggle of college girls eating their food, making a mess, staying out until the crack of a dawn and then ringing the doorbell to be let in to sleep it off. Her meeting her one true love Dexter, who would tutor me in math in college. Road trip to Atlanta to shop for wedding dresses. Endless hours looking at dresses in Atlanta and back home. Bachelorette party at her house. Me, a bridesmaid in her wedding. Until a few year ago, the dress was still in my closet. I donated it to an organization that help girls have a prom dress. My daughter and I living with her and her husband Dexter in Atlanta for a few months as I tried to sort out finding a job. Random thoughts about the secrets we told each other. Sorrows we both shared that no one else knew about. Things she never told her family. Things I will still keep silent for her. She became a widow and life changed for her. She changed. Walls were put up. I resigned myself to seeing posts on Facebook, hoping one day we could reconnect. That she would let me back in. Her two sons kept her busy. That much I could follow online. They looked so much like Dexter. She was alone. Her chest hurt. She couldn't breathe. She called an ambulance. She went to the ER. She passed away. I received the news and I wanted it to be a horrible, sick practical joke. I wanted it to be. I needed it to be. We'd never had a chance to reconnect the way I wanted to. We would never have that chance. Then I thought about her sons-orphans now. Her brother, sole survivor of their family as their father passed when she was in college and their mother this last summer. That was too much grief for my heart and I had to distract myself. I focused on work. Five days. Now I'm allowing myself to feel. To fall apart. To weep. To yell. Today as she is laid to rest. Yesterday I sat down a made a list. It was all the things I said I would do, that I never did. Time is not promised to us. Tomorrow is not promised to us. What matters is what we make of today. Life is too short is the saying. My friend was still young, yet that youth did not keep her from dying. On my list are things like go experience the Grand Canyon. That trip to Paris I've dreamed about since high school and never did. Get back into my art (painting, clay). My writing. My writing. Prominent on my list and a reminder of where my focus should be. Life is too short to be miserable, stressed, unhappy. You(we), literally don't know how much time we have left. Why are you wasting it being miserable? Being stressed? Being unhappy? Refuse to be a lemming. If it is within your ability to do so, do so. If it is not,what is holding you back? I'm Working on a new screenplay. And it is about death. And it is taking me places I never would have written on the page. There is no fear. There is no hiding. It is all coming out on the page. Colette Is/was one of only two people outside of academia that I've let read my fiction writing. Heather is number two. I've never told her how dear her friendship is to me. How it's like the sun on a warm day that make you happy. How I can rely on her no matter the time of day or the circumstance. I will make sure she knows, because life is too short.
16 November, 2014
Missed opportunity. Standing in line waiting on a movie screening and the person next to me struck up a conversation. I'll call that person Jane Doe. Jane is a screenwriter. She wants to see her screenplay turned into a movie. She's invested years of her life into this script. She's done research, she's done marketing, she's even done some fundraising. You see, Jane Doe wants to make the movie herself. She's looking to raise a lot of money for the project. I congratulated her on taking that step-knowing what she wants. I commented that she must have been busy this week, networking at the different events going on around town. She said no. She doesn't do it that way. She asked if I had seen a particular screening of a very we'll know actress's film. I commented that unfortunately I wasn't able to get in to see it. She said not only did she see it, but she had the opportunity to talk to this well know actress. I said what any reasonable person would say, "Did you discuss your project with her, because it seems like she would be interested in being involved in what you told me." Now this is the part where you need to make sure you are sitting down. Jane said "No. She didn't see me." I asked what she meant. She went on to explain that she waits for people to see that she's different from everyone else, and waits for them to approach her and then she discusses the script she is trying to make into a movie and her need for funding. She then went on to tell me this was the second time she'd been within conversation distance with this actress. Neither time did she say anything. I had no words. Thankfully I have words now. Before you judge her too harshly, have a care for your own glass house. Have you had a dream you wanted to pursue so badly and God brings the opportunity for you to do so and you remained silent? Pursing a dream is active. Being that this woman was a stranger to me, I could not shake her and say are you crazy? How many times do you need for this to happen for you to see its time to open your mouth and say something. News flash. No one is going to walk up to you and say "Hey, here's a couple of million dollars because you just have something about you. Or "Please come work for my company because there is something about you." You have a goal, you have a dream. Open your mouth. Pursue it. Go get it!
03 September, 2014
Yesterday, September 1st, my best friend died. She was fourteen, furry, and had four legs. My cat was my best friend, my heart, my confident, and my compass. Nothing makes sense since she passed. She fell ill on a Friday and by Monday morning she was gone. Can a cat be a best friend? Yes. She woke me up before my alarm every morning, and if I tried to sleep in late on the weekends she was on the job. Her meows, and head butts to nudge me awake, as if to say "good morning friend, let's have some fun today." I will miss her smiles. I will miss her licking me whenever I was down, or sad, or had gone through a break up or a rough time at work. I will miss her warmth as she curled up in my lap, and kneaded my legs to make a comfy spot for herself. I will miss her curled up next to me in bed, or lying across my legs in bed. I will miss my writing partner. She would lay under my writing chair in such a way that it was difficult for me to get up or move my chair, so I would find myself sitting in my chair for hours writing. I believe she knew exactly what she was doing. And times that I could get up, I would see her peering at me from under the chair as if to say "we're not done today are we?" Her presence eased my loneliness, her antics as she played with her toys or ran up and down my stairs made me laugh. She loved to carry on conversations with me. She loved tuna. She loved lying on the screened in porch, to spend hours looking at nature or napping in the sun. I had fourteen years to be loved unconditionally by this magnificent cat and I am thankful for every second I had with her. I miss her terribly.
28 April, 2014
I took a class at UCLA in February to help me get to the next level in my screenwriting. Four days of intense work. Am I ready to take my screenplays, revise them, and send them out? No. I'm pulling myself off the market for now. It's not that I'm a horrible writer. I'm not. It's just that I now know what's missing from not only my screenwriting, but all my writing, and I want time to improve my craft. There are people who don't understand why I'm doing this. I've even given them the Olympics analogy: just because I can run and I lettered in track in high school, doesn't mean I'm ready to compete in the Olympics. Writing is who I am, and I want my best possible chance at a lifetime of it. I've rediscovered my love and passion for short stories. The beauty of this, is that I can work on improving my fiction writing via short stories, and improving my screenwriting by doing stand alone scenes. It's exciting. It's challenging. I'll be doing a lot of writing that may never get published, but I'll be so much a better writer, and person when it's time.
20 January, 2014
Writing is about being transparent. I love movies that make me laugh out loud, and make me cry. The actor is able to take the writer's words and create a performance that moves me. But for the actor to do this, the writer has to step up to the plate. I am a huge fan of Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch, and Martin Freeman. The end of season two had me in tears. Sherlock jumped from the building. I will not spoil the season 3, opener for those who haven't seen it yet. The writers of that show have shown me what it means to build a flawed character, that is love able, but not needy; how to put plot twists and engage the audience in solving the mystery. I am in awe of those writers. They bring everything they are to the table every week to write for this show. Think about the last movie or book you read that you were unhappy with. I bet the first thing you said was "the character". I think to write an amazing character, you have to be willing to be naked. You have to go deep within to pull all the not pretty parts out, put them on display. Doing this frees you as a writer. It's like being naked in a room-there's nothing left to hide, so you might as well be yourself. I have looked back over screenplays and novels I've written and found I have slapped my own hand a few times, and hindered my own nakedness. That nagging dissatisfaction that has plagued me at the back of my mind for more than six months has surged to the forefront. I have chosen to be naked. All those words and actions my characters wanted to say and do, that I would not allow before, I let them. It is so freeing to be naked. It can be scary, but once you've been naked in a room, there's nothing left to hide. Show it. Flaunt it. Be proud of it. Write it.
20 November, 2013
When you make a choice to pursue a dream, you will sometime hear advice that goes like this... "Make sure you have a back up plan", or "make sure you have something to fall back on". Here's the problem with that line of thinking, it's not based on faith. Faith is the "evidence of things not seen". That means you have to jump even though you can't see the ground. Now people that say the aforementioned statements to you mean well. But you were created for boldness. Be bold. Take that dream, that passion, and put yourself into it 100%. Don't have a Plan B. Here is what I've learned. If you have a Plan B, you will never devote yourself to your dream more than 80%. Sometimes not even 50%. There will always be apart of you that you hold back. Here is what I know. You only have one life on this planet. God didn't give you this life for you to play it safe with Plan B. He meant for you to go all out and pursue that dream with everything you have. Plan A. An uncle of my reminded me of something. When you do what you love (Plan A), you'll never work a day in your life. Work is Plan B. Let's decide to get rid of these Plan Bs. They weigh us down, choke the dreams out of us, and do nothing to bring joy in our lives. Take sometime to remember what your Plan A was. Prepare yourself for your Plan A and then jump.
08 October, 2013
I've finished my third novel. It's a young adult sci fi thriller. I've decided to do something different with this novel. I'm writing the screenplay adaptation for it. There are lots of screenwriting books on how to write an adaptation and I will join those ranks, but my book will be a self pub. And less than half the price of those others. Why? I'm more interested in helping other writers than making a huge profit. Writing an adaptation of a novel you wrote is easier, but not easy. Yet, I am enjoying the process. While I'm working on the adaptation, I've gone back to my first love--short stories. I'm working on a collection of short stories for women with broken hearts. Healing and second chances happen. Back to work I go...
03 October, 2013
I've been adjusting to a new job and working on a new novel. Life changes can sometimes have you on the ropes of a boxing ring, or falling out of a plane five hundred feet up, with no room to unleash your parachute. No matter. I've survived. Writing a novel about a cyborg is not easy. That is not to say I thought it would be easy, but with my Mfa and two prior novels under my belt, I thought it would go a lot more smoothly. Now I second guess myself more and get frustrated more quickly than before. I'm realizing all the wonderful things I learned in my master's program are great for after the rough draft is finished. Right now, my focus needs to be on telling that critical voice in my head to shut up, and allow myself to write badly, write okay, write brilliantly--just write. Writing is more challenging now because I'm exhausted. Reflection is a good thing. But when you reflect and realize that not only did you not have a vacation this year, but you haven't had a vacation in over ten years, it can leave you frustrated. Especially when there is no vacation in sight. However, I did find a wonderful waterfront park in the town center that is perfect for taking my iPad and keyboard, a picnic basket, and blanket and novel for after my writing. Recharging my batteries is key and will bring back that vitality I need in my creativity, and in me as a person.
27 July, 2013
I did it. I walked across that stage and received my Mfa degree in writing for children and young adults. Two years of intense emotions, deep writing, and learning all those craft techniques that I never knew. Now I can not only tell you about psychic distance in a story, I can give you several examples, among other things I learned. I cried going across the stage. I guess it didn't hit me until then what I had accomplished. I am very grateful to God for the opportunity to attend Hamline and be the person He always knew I was. I had amazing faculty advisors in Anne Ursu, Eleanora Tate, Claire Rudolf Murphy, and Marsha Qualey. Each of these wonderful writers/authors, taught me not only about craft, but about the hidden treasure that is me. Yes, I am a treasure. And so are you. There is only one you. Which means if you don't do what you were created to do, the world will shine a little dimmer because of it. Post Mfa. Leads to the "so now what will you do?" question. What will I do? Write. I was writing before, but I didn't have the knowledge, skill, or belief in myself. My writing now is not hindered, hampered, or choked as it was before. How do I know? I just started a new middle grade novel and I'm having fun writing it. Does that mean beautiful prose flows off my fingers as they tap, tap, tap the key board, or scratch, scratch, scratch the pen on paper? No. There are sentences that need work, words that are not my best, but that my dear is for the revision. And as a famous author told me, that voice that bothers you is for the revision, not the first draft. If you are a writer, or you want to be a writer. Let me give you some awesome and amazing advice from the Amazing Krissie, the character in my new middle grade novel. "Write. Don't listen to that bad voice that says what you are about to write is stupid, pointless, boring, and no one will like it. That voice is jealous of you for trying. So stick your tongue out at it, wiggle your butt, and scream at the top of your lungs-"Na, na, na, na ,na, Na. I can't hear you. And write away." Krissie is about to take a very, very, long voyage full of mystery and peril so she will have to get back to you later, but don't forget her words, and WRITE.
28 June, 2013
Options There was this show called Let's Make A Deal. I love watching reruns of it on cable The contests have to chose between door one, door two or door three. I've been thinking about that more intently since my grandmother passed away. She was a true light in my life. She always believed I could be successful (all of us) with hard work and determination, and the Lord's will. Right now I'm contemplating my options. Having an Mfa in writing fills me (or it will when I walk across that stage), with a sense of accomplishment, but also renews my desire, my dream to be a published writer. Writing is who I am. It's what I do. It's what I love. At my grandmother's funeral my uncles gave me some solid advice. It is this advice that has me looking at the three doors. Options aren't just where I want to live (U.S.A. or U.K.), but what I want to do with my hours. I would love to teach a college level writing course; volunteer to teach inner city kids the joys of creative writing. But I also want to focus on my writing; in a way I haven't as yet. Options are also what to do to make ends meet while I pursue writing. At this date I have two completed novels (young adult and middle grade), and five completed screenplays (young adult to adult). I have a partially completed middle grade script, and a partially completed middle grade sci fi novel--both of which I plan to finish by September. I guess all this is to say "Don't give up on who you are, or what you love doing. Trust in God and He will always make a way to see those dreams He gave you turn into reality." I've made my decision about where I want to live and what I want to do with my time. It is a radical shift, but its the right decision at the right time.
01 May, 2013
Alive on the page? Do you ever put a book down and think "Man, that character is crazy", or "Man, I can't stop reading this, I hope she doesn't get caught by the ogre". Or does this happen instead, "Man, that writer used some really powerful words", or "Man, that writer really knows how to mess up a book. I'm done reading this." The difference in the two is just like acting. We love to go to a movie where we can get lost in the character, not in the person playing the character. Personally I hate going to see a movie and I see the actor, not the character, he or she is portraying. Well the same holds true for a novel. A writer wants the reader to feel like the character could come off the page and be a real person. A writer does not want the reader seeing the author. I'm revising my second novel with my advisor in graduate school, and I have caught myself "writing pretty". Writing pretty is my way of saying an author throws words on the page to let the writing flow, without paying attention to the character. You see me as the author, you do not see the character. I find that I write pretty when I am typing solely on the computer (or iPad). I find that my writing is rich and full of character and description when I write long hand. So I've switched to writing my revision and all new material long hand. It takes longer, but then again God blessed me with being able to type over 80 words per minute, so I'm good. Plus the action of writing, and the typing allows me to do more reflection and editing. When my novel is published, you will be glad that I took the time to write long hand. And so will I.
06 March, 2013
I wish that title was true, but alas I have not been able to perfect the sub-light engine required to travel to Mars. Oh well, there's always NASA. My critical thesis is done, my whirlwind tour of Minnesota and LA are done for now and I am home and back to work writing. I am still hard at work on my creative thesis. It is a middle grade fantasy novel that has always had a soft spot in my heart and I am working on revisions. Oscar party in LA the night of the Oscars. I had so much fun being around like minded film people. Ben Affleck's speech via the big screen TVs, really struck a cord with me. It gave me a recharge for my screenwriting career. A meeting in Hollywood, and I got the boost I needed, confirmation of being on the right track, and an eagerness to get out there and sell my work. It really made a difference to meet someone excited to help me with my dream. Changes. Remember I've stated before change is necessary. Instead of reading screenplays on Saturdays, I'm now reading two screenplays a day. Every day. And with the change in my job I'm able to write six hours a day. Not six hours on Saturdays and a few hours on weeknights when I could, six hours a day. I have my full time job and my full time writing career and I've never been happier. I jump out of bed full of energy, trying to see what I can get done with my writing before I work, and look forward to finishing work and sitting down to my laptop to work on scripts, and my iPad to read screenplays. This afternoon I wrote a beat sheet for a new horror screenplay. It's got the elements I want, and love to write- flawed characters, life altering choices, despair, hope, twists, scares. I can't wait to get started.
20 December, 2012
A long time go I wrote a short story about people being hooked up to computers. I shoved it in my "crate of writing" never to be seen again. Then The Matrix came out. A few years ago I wrote a short about Hansel and Gretel. I put off developing it into a full script. Now Hansel and Gretel is coming out in theaters. If you have a great idea for a script, or a novel write it. Don't sit on it. When you sit on something, you are giving another writer an opportunity to take a spot that may have been meant for you. I had another idea for a movie. It was about the reality of dreams. And you know where I'm going with this one Inception. I regret not writing theses stories out and submitting them. They are missed opportunities. Stretch yourself as a writer. When you get an idea and you know it's a great idea, write it. Sit down and do it. Complete it, edit it, revise it, and send it out. At this time I have four completed screenplays (1 horror, 2 sci fi, 1 YA drama), based on topics that haven't been done before (as The Matrix and Inception hadn't been done before). I also have started the outline for a drama based on a topic that hasn't been done before. And I've completed the outline for a reboot of a mix of things from my childhood. I have a YA sci fi novel that hasn't been done before and I'm excited about it. I'm not stuffing it in the "crate of writing", I am actively engaged in writing all of these and submitting these works. December 2012 is the month of submissions for me. It's also the month of editing, and writing for me and I wouldn't have it any other way. God opens doors for us. It's important to be ready when that door opens. You still have time. Let December 2012 be your month. Don't sit on it.
18 December, 2012
God is still in our schools. In these days following the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, people are still shocked, saddened, and grieving-and rightfully so. There is one thing I would like to address. It is the term "You took God out of our schools." That is absolutely not true. See I teach in a public school and I can tell you with 100% certainty that God is still in our schools. I'm also a Christian. Does God stop at the door to my school when I head into work each day? No. He is with me. Always. What about the students that are also Christians? Does God not follow them on to school property? No. He is with them. I hear the students debate and discuss God and Jesus. I hear teachers and staff members pray and comfort one another in Jesus name. I've been on school campuses where students read their bible during a quiet lunch. Stop saying God is not in our schools anymore. Every time a believer steps foot on a school campus God is there. Don't confuse organized religion with who God is. The early believers in the book of Acts didn't have organized religion and yet God and the Holy Spirit were there with them. I may not be able to publicly display the Ten Commandments, or hold open prayer with my students but that doesn't stop me from praying for them, or loving them. If anything it intensifies it. God is very much in our schools.
04 December, 2012
Fiery Furnace I had a chance to go to LA for a screenwriting workshop on December 1st. I prayed about it and bought my plane ticket and paid for the course. Six days before the workshop I got an email it was cancelled. Now I had a plane ticket to LA, but I no longer had a workshop to go to. The same day I got the cancellation I got an email for a Christmas gala/fundraiser on December 2nd at the CBS studio lot. There was no indiction of what person sent me the invitation but I feel like it was God's providence that I got it. I showed up Sunday night with butterflies in my stomach, and dryness of mouth--not sure what to say or who to speak to. The host broke the ice for us. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I connected with producers, actors, writers, and all manner of Hollywood people. It also happens that they were Christians. They encourage and inspired me and made me feel good about being a sci fi screenwriter. Prior to leaving for Los Angeles I had picked up a wonderful book by DeVon Franklin called "Produced by Faith." I highly recommend it, as it helped me see how I had pushed aside God's calling on me. What does this have to do with a Fiery Furnace? Daniel was forced to go in the Fiery Furnace. He said even if God did not deliver him, he would not worship the gold image of the king. Daniel chose to be obedient to God even though he did not know the outcome. Daniel stayed faithful. I'm choosing to go into the fiery furnace. I know what God has asked of me, and I know what my response should be. I don't know how long it will take for my screenplays to sell, or for me to get a writing assignment. I do know that I trust in God even though I can't see the outcome. You can call it faith. Faith that if I put all my focus and energy into writing for God that He will make a way. I told God I was ready to go into the fiery furnace. I didn't expect the difficulties and challenges that have happened recently that have nothing to do with my writing. I joked (partially) about taking my passport and running away. The heaviness in my heart due to the difficulties and challenges threaten to pull me away from my writing. I'm not a robot. I do have feelings, but I'm learning to do something my former advisor in grad school told me--take all that hurt and emotion and put it into your writing. Use it. She gets me, because she was right. I'm taking time to have my cry when I need to, to be angry (and apologize) when I need to, but I'm also turning off the phone and having some solid writing time. I know there are some people out there that cheered when I went in to the furnace thinking it would break me, and wishing me to fail. Yet I'm standing in the middle of those flames, radiant and unharmed with my Savior near me. Guess what? There's room in the furnace for you.
27 October, 2012
I think everyone has heard the term "practice makes perfect". Yet how many writers actually take that saying to heart? Being a writer is a lot like being an Olympic athlete. You have to practice daily. When you don't win a match, you go back and review the footage. I.e. you look back over your work. You see where it didn't work and you keep at it. Writing is such a personal thing, but so is being an Olympic athlete. You have to practice, you have to read up on your craft, you have to study the competition, and you cannot give up. Well you can give up, but I'm assuming you don't want to. Let me encourage you to keep at it. I love writing. I live and breathe it. In about a month, I will have a chance to meet with some executives and talk about my work-my screenwriting. I want my writing to be the best it can be so my time after my day job is filled with learning more about screenwriting, reading screenplays, and writing. A big portion of that time was taken up by writing my thesis for graduate school. The good thing that came out of the thesis, is I'm better at research, and I've gotten used to writing for six hours straight, each weekend day. As I put aside my thesis (leaving only minor editing), I'm excited to get back into my writing. I sat down Monday and wrote out a page full of log lines. Out of seven, four were viable, and I will begin working on one next week. Exciting times ahead.