20 January, 2020
MLK Day is just another school holiday By Desiree Middleton copyright 2020 I was going to skim the internet and copy and past another banal platitude to MLK that ended with “black power”, or “Happy MLK day”, or “Black lives matter”, but the state of the nation and the world made me question what the point was. Why does anyone celebrate MLK day? Is it just another school holiday, or should it still matter? And if it should matter, why should anyone care? At least a dozen times a day, I hear the N-word used by students. Casual banter with their classmates. Hurled at each other as insults. When corrected by myself or other students, the perpetrators usually apologize. But in ALL cases, an hour later, a day later, they are back to using that word. I’ve erased the N word off of tables and out of books. Sometimes my name and a not nice picture of me is attached. Sometimes students erase it before I see it, warning me to stay away while they erase it—telling me after what it said. “I want you to understand the history of that word”, I’d say to the perpetrators. Or, “Here is why that word is offensive to me”. Social media and television continue to paint a picture of African Americans as whores and gang bangers. “Say something ghetto,” a student once told me. Now, today’s youth are not the only ones who have a skewed sense of what an African American is. My own culture group does as well. “Ugh, she’s at the beach sitting in the sun. Doesn't she know she’s black?” “Why do you talk like white people?” “Why don’t you write about (anything related to slavery), instead of this horror stuff?” Or what I heard growing up: “Why do you read so much?” So when it comes to MLK day do I go to the African American museum and read aloud, I have a dream, because it’s expected of me as an African American? The affluent African Americans from Beverly Hills will make their appearance at the museum and at parades. Shake hands. Even have a repas with middle and lower socioeconomic African Americans. Then the economic classes will divide like the Red Sea. Those affluent folk will get in their Mercedes while the others will hop the blue line or bus (or Prius), to go home; never to mix again until next MLK day. That’s the real tragedy. Or do I take what MLK stood for, and others after him, and put it into practice? As I write this I am listening to an African American cellist. Ooh he’s doing a non-African American thing. Watch out! I’ve seen enough in this world in the time I’ve been alive to know that equality is a moving target. That African American women have suffered atrocities so horrifying, reading eye witness accounts of them will make you physically ill. And I’ve seen hope. Hope is like a wildfire. It needs only the tiniest spark and breath of life to become alive. I choose hope. MLK had a dream. Along the way this country lost sight of that. Let MLK day be your reminder. Move past retweeting or posting an MLK speech. Do something to uplift someone.
30 December, 2019
2020 The new year and new decade are almost here. I know people will write out a list of things they’re most proud of accomplishing in the past year and decade. Such a list can serve two purposes. The first is pride. The second, and more constructive, is guidance. I started the decade wanting to be a published author. It’s happened a half dozen times now. And you...what have you done with the time you’ve been given? Not what expensive car or house did you buy. Or what lavish vacations did you take. Did you change someone’s life? Did you change your own? Did you help or turn your back on someone in need? Did you take a risk and try something new? I’ve always wanted to rock climb. Ever since I was a child. I was hiking the other day and there was a gorgeous view of the snow covered mountains in the distance. I wanted to take a picture of them. I love photography. I wanted a perfect shot. The only way to do that was to climb a boulder that stood taller than me. I wanted my shot. So I grabbed hold with my fingertips. Dug in with my toes and climbed. I focused on my hands. Never looked down. And climbed to the top. The view was amazing. Then I looked down and saw how high off the ground I was and I felt ecstatic. I hadn’t let doubt about whether or not I could climb the boulder keep me from trying. I dug in and climbed, never doubting I could succeed. I’d no idea how I would get back down, but I didn’t care. When I set out from home that morning, I’d only intended to go hiking, not rock climbing. But I saw the opportunity and took it. Being in shape (prepared), I could do it. 2020. What opportunities will come your way? Will you take them, or turn your back on them; believe them impossible? Today I worked on the outline and first paragraph of a new novel. The genre falls under what I believe is called magical realism. I’m looking forward to writing it. I was supposed to start it January 1, but this story means a lot to me and I chose not to wait. Don’t wait. Set your goals for the year and pursue them. Climb that boulder. Know you can. Have faith.
18 June, 2019
There's something amazing about holding the first copy of your novel in your hands. Flipping through the pages. Smelling the glossy cover. I was able to do that. My first Young Adult, Fantasy (with some Sci-fi elements), novel is out. And I feel extremely blessed. Jesus has taken me on this journey of self discovery. Showed me my true purpose. Gave me the tools to make my dream come true. And this is just the beginning. The Blue Key: Quest for Peace is part one of a series. Part two has already been outlined and I will commence writing it this July. FULL TIME! Thank you to my family and friends who made this novel possible. My proof copy of The Blue Key: Quest for Peace, sits on my bookshelf next to the first bible I bought when I was saved. It's in the right place. Do I have any regrets about this novel? I regret that I spent years sending it to agents and getting it rejected, instead of listening to people (including young adults), who loved it and begged me to publish it so they could finish reading the entire novel. LISTEN TO YOUR AUDIENCE. THEY KNOW BETTER! My second novel is also a series. This one is 100% Sci-fi. I'm almost done with revisions on it. Then it will sit for a few weeks while I work on final edits to a suicide screenplay I'm putting finishing touches on. Then that novel will hopefully be ready to publish in August of this year. Thank you again for all those who believed in me and cheered me on. You guys are amazing!
29 January, 2019
This post is not for everyone. This post is for anyone who has seen all the publishing success of friends and it has started making you feel bad. You may feel bad because you haven’t achieved a book deal or landed an agent. You may feel bad because your books no longer sell. May I have a moment. You are amazing. No one call tell your stories the way you can. No one has your distinct voice. You may be knee deep in diapers or working two jobs (that was me), or so busy with what life gives you that your writing has shriveled down to nothing. You are amazing. You care and provide for yourself and your family. Your writing isn’t gone. Your writing practice isn’t gone. Both are at a different position than when you started this writer’s journey. You are amazing. What is the one novel, poem, short story, picture book, screenplay, etc. that you’ve always wanted to write but didn’t think anyone would care to read? Write it. Write it in snippets of the day. You only did a paragraph today? Yay. You only did five pages this week? Yay. You can’t find five minutes to write? DM me so we can talk about what’s really going on. You are amazing. And I am here to help anyone that wants it. Desiree
09 September, 2018
I spent several hours out and about in LA last night. I needed reorienting—a shift back to my priorities. We looked at condos being built and we finally saw the light installation at LACMA. We people watched, because that’s what people in the industry do. And I felt peace. I love writing. Even on the hard days. The days where I push myself to meet my writing goal. Writing is woven into me— it’s my purpose. It’s why I live in LA. But lately I haven’t had the time I need. My days of being able to sit down for four hours after my day job and work on my writing have evaporated. And it makes me sad. So I needed last night, to shift me back into pursuing my purpose and my passion. On May 11th of this year, I wrote a treatment/beatsheet for a new horror script. It’s a low-budget, social media horror script that is not like other social media horror scripts. I want to write it. I need to write it. No Matter What I Will Be True To Myself I Am A Writer
18 June, 2018
Recently I had the opportunity to direct a horror short I wrote, at Warner Brothers. It was my first short film and it was an amazing experience. That experience gave me the final push I needed to start self-publishing my fiction. LA is the land of don't wait to be discovered, go out and do your thing. In the world of publishing, there is still this division of "I got an agent and I got a book deal from a major publishing house", vs. "I decided to self-publish my novel." Despite the number of best-selling, self-published authors, traditionally published authors and agents, (not all, but enough), look down on a self-published author, whereas in LA, an actor or writer that goes out and does their own short film or web-series, is praised for taking the initiative. Doesn't make sense does it? Glad we are in agreement. So I had a choice. I could continue submitted my writing to agents, even though I knew dozens of people, just in my circle alone, wanting to buy my books, or I could start self-publishing, knowing that my novels are: well-written page-turners that are marketable. And I have an Mfa in writing from prestigious Hamline University. I have a network of people I can call on to proofread and edit my novels. Beta readers ready to read ARCs. The only thing that was missing was for me to let go of "waiting for an agent to discover me", and get on with my work. I am an author now. And I have work to do.
14 June, 2018
Today Today I published my first piece of fiction. It's up on SMASHWORDS. The title is The Do Over Door. Go get it! It has been an interesting journey, this road to being a published author. My family and friends have stood by me and encourage me. My MFA alum have also been there--go HAMLINE! And along the way I got to direct a short I wrote at Warner Brothers. It's been an amazing June. What's next for the author? I'm up to page 118 of 370 of my YA fantasy novel that I will be self-publishing. It needs one more revision after this week, then a final revision. then an editor's eyes. Then a revision based off of that, then a proofreader to check my spelling and grammar and incessant use of commas, then a book cover designer to give it that Wow factor, then it'll be ready. Devoting 8-10 hours a day and giving the editor (who I still need to acquire), time to do his or her magic I hope to have it ready by June 30th. From there, I have a YA fantasy to complete the first draft on and a horror script to write. July is looking good. Thank you for being with me on this journey and I will post updates on my status as a AUTHOR!
02 April, 2018
Nothing and Something Every time a writer puts pen to page, or binary code to laptop, he or she takes a risk. Will the audience love my writing? Will I get an agent? Will this book ever get published? Then there are other risks like: should I get an Mfa? What happens if you don't take a risk? Two things. Nothing and Something. Wait, you mean I don't have to take a risk? I can leave my novel about giant chicken invaders in the drawer or on my laptop? Yes. That is your right. And nothing will happen to the novel. But something will happen to you...if you are truly a writer. Because someone who is truly a writer can't let their writing sit for weeks or months or years without be touched, without doing some work on it. Someone who is truly a writer can't go a day without thinking about their writing. It could be thoughts on a novel in progress, or an idea for a new novel that bubbles to the surface of your psyche. Regardless, you will feel the effects of not writing: sorrow, a feeling of being out of step with the world, confusion, irritability. A complete shut down of all mental faculties, leaving you howling in the corner of your bedroom in a tattered robe, with a boiled egg in your pocket. Okay, the last one was an exaggeration, but you get my point. Not taking a risk in writing your novel or short story, or picture book affects you as a person because you are a writer. There is nothing on this good Earth that will satiate your writing passion except writing. I have a YA scifi novel that I am editing. I think I'm on draft four. It should be done by the end of the month. I don't write dozens of drafts. I write a solid, meaty, first draft and hit each revision hard--not allowing myself to shy away from dumping paragraphs or characters, or going line by line to make sure I told the story in the best way possible. I am ruthless at editing and revision. I have a list of ideas for at least half a dozen scifi and fantasy novels that I'm ready to get started on. My mind is a writer's mind and it never stop. And I am so blessed and grateful that it doesn't. What if you don't think about writing every week or you pull out your novel you've been working on for the past ten years and have a go at it once a year? Does this mean you're not a writer? I think it means your a hobbyist. Which is fine. Writing isn't your passion. Something else is. Writing may be your stress reliever or quirkiness that exhibits itself once or twice a year, but it is not who you are. What if you used to write daily or even weekly and it's been a month or six months or even a year since you've written anything beyond a report for work? Are you exhibiting the signs I mentioned above? If so, you need to cut out the fluff in your life and get back to writing. If not, that means your passion lies elsewhere and you should figure out what it is. Being a writer doesn't mean you have to write 5,000 words a day or even 500. Sit down and write. Your writing brain will let you know when it's time to stop for the day. Let writing be a natural extension of who you are. I don't know who said it, but it's so true "we always make time for what's important." You have time to write 5 pages a day in your twenty four hour day.
24 November, 2017
Every year I participate in nanowrimo. The goal is to complete a novel in 30 days. This is the first year in awhile that I've completed a novel via nanowrimo. Check them out for next year nanowrimo.org. It's my third completed novel, if you don't count the novel I wrote in high school (horror), or the novel I started, but didn't finish in college (scifi). Yeah, that scifi novel still has some potential. Writing a novel makes you reflect on your life. I've always been a writer. Always. Elementary, middle, high school, college--always a writer. People get writer's block, I don't. People write strictly for the money, I don't. To me, writing is pure and utter joy. There's a spring in Florida where you can see all the way to the bottom. You can, and many people do, float on it via inner tube--for hours. It's relaxing, tranquil; it's perfection. That's what writing is like to me. It's like floating down that spring and never getting out of the water. Or, if you're not into the whole nature thing (I love the outdoors), imagine a full day at a spa and someone else paying the bill for it. Facial, mani-pedi, massage with weird scrubbing sugars, champagne, lunch, the works. That's how writing feels to me. As part of nanowrimo, I wrote a YA, scifi novel. YA means young adult. The heroine of the book is sixteen. She is not "the one", or "the hero destined to save the world". She's not even "she's pretty but doesn't know it". She's a girl who believes strongly in the bond of family and sees that bond tested in some pretty horrible ways, that I won't give away on this platform. The novel is a rough draft at this stage. I will continue to work on it until it sings, while I work on my next YA novel. I love being a writer.
10 October, 2017
All I want is a cheeseburger. I had to have dental surgery. That meant stitches. That meant no chewing. No real food. For over a week now, I've had only soft food. I was excited when the dentist said I could have ice cream and Jamba Juice. Who wouldn't want to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? That lasted two days. Yogurt? One day. Mashed potatoes. One day. All around me I kept smelling food. I dreamed about platters and platters of ribs and steak and coconut cake. Now I know how Oliver felt watching all that food go to the rich people in the back room while he had to eat gruel (watch the movie). I wanted real food. But I'm a writer, be specific. I wanted a greasy, half pound cheeseburger, on a bun baked by a ninety year old grandmother in her family run business. I wanted my cheeseburger to have a thick slab of melted cheddar cheese from a two hundred year old dairy farm in Wisconsin. And I wanted steak fries. A whole plate of steak fries. With potatoes from...you fill in the blank. What does this have to do with writing? When you query and submit your manuscript to an agent before it's ready all you've done is give them mashed potatoes or ice cream. They get served mashed potatoes and ice cream all day. They don't want it, and so they reject your manuscript. Take the time to build that oozy, gooey, cheeseburger. The kind that drips juice down your chin and onto your denim capris when you bite into it. No one wants to keep eating ice cream forever. And you! Why are you still making yourself eat ice cream? Take the time to dive deep into your work. That doesn't mean write writhing on the floor in anguish. Be true. Have fun. Build cheeseburgers.
02 September, 2017
I finally did it. I wrote one of those defining screenplays. The kind of screenplay that takes an emotional toll on you to write. That takes everything you have to write. So much of that screenplay pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, ittook me longer than usual to write. And I don't mean just the extensive research, but the emotional weight of it. As I typed fade out on the final page yesterday, I knew. This screenplay would be my calling card to Hollywood. The screenplay is an inspirational drama about a family going through something no family wants to deal with, and it centers around the sixteen year old daughter and her father. I know, you want details. I'm leaving the details to the pitch I'm writing for it. The script is not ready to hand to someone and say "here, read this." It's my first draft. But I'm putting myself on a "working writer" deadline. Because if I was writing this for a studio, I would be on a deadline. Not just to finish it. But to deliver a perfectly polished script. My goal is to have a perfectly polished script in six weeks. That means before and after my day job, I'll be working on this script. Diving deep. Making sure my conflict happens at the right moment, and that my characters act and speak authentically. Making sure I have high stakes and escalations (screenwriter talk). Not just the larger than an elephant in a shoe box conflict and high stakes, but that the stakes keep getting higher during the screenplay. And that they are the right stakes and escalations. That the emotional impact it there. That the meaning/theme is woven throughout. That it honors what God wants me to say. I've prayed about this screenplay the entire time I worked on it and will continue to do so while editing it.
26 May, 2017
I had an amazing post planned for this blog entry, then I realized it would make a great novel. The past few months I've been working on a faith-based screenplay. It's about a subject most Christians don't talk about. I won't reveal it yet, because there are so many people that like to steal ideas and would take this one, sell it, and profit from it before I even finished the third draft. Suffice it to say the topic is relevant for society today and you don't have to be a believer to get it. Emotional journey. That is what this screenplay has taken me through. To be a great writer, you have to be able to feel what your character feels and then translate that onto the page. My characters have been taking me on an emotional journey. It's a heavy script, heavy with emotion, and when I am done with the first draft, I will let it cool off in a "drawer" for a month and continue working on my YA scifi novel. That novel is at the point where my character must make a terrible decision. There is no "good" choice for her. Only a necessary choice. She will find out in the end how "all things work to good..." And so to, I hope, the character in my screenplay does. Keep writing.
24 May, 2016
Death has the unique ability to help us pause and reflect on our lives. We think about what we do day to day. We think about whether we have accomplished what we set out to do with our lives. I started this blog to chronicle my steps to becoming a published writer. I have published and am publishing science curriculum. Curriculum writing is a passion of mine. But I also long to be a published fiction author. And I am very close to seeing that dream become a reality. My next project is a middle grade (think ages 7-13), science fiction novel about a most remarkable girl. She just doesn't see herself that way yet. But circumstances will force her to shine and believe in herself. I'm 12,000 words into it and will have a rough draft by the end of June. I can't wait for the world to meet her.
28 December, 2015
Like ocean waves that crash upon the rocks of the Pacific Northwest, movement is necessary. This blog has been silent for months. I've worked 12 hour days only to come home and work four more on my writing. I've celebrated and I've cried. This journey I am on has seen its share of movement this year. And I look forward to 2016 with much hope and belief. and a return to the things I love, including this blog.
06 October, 2015
Lets briefly talk about fear. I needed to add an opening scene to a teleplay I've been working on. This scene has no dialogue but it packs a huge emotional punch. I procrastinated for three days. I could not write it. I mean, I could physically write it, but emotionally I could not write it. What my character was feeling was too raw, too powerful. I knew it would take over me and swallow me whole. And I knew I had to write it. Isn't that like life. Sometimes we have to make decisions and they are hard, and stressful and sometimes even painful and we'd rather just not do it...but we must. To be true to ourselves, to be true to our writing, we must do it anyways. I wrote the scene. And now I'm preparing to revise it. I hurt for my character, but I kept writing. What decision do you need to make in your writing or in your, life that is hard but you need to do it anyway? Do it anyway. Take that step. Make that call. Do it.