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A Story of Songs

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With the kids starting school this week, I’ve gone ahead and upped my exercise quotient by adding to my routine a morning walk through the hills near our house. And of course I cannot go without my iPod. I love when my iPod—set on shuffle—tells me a story through a series of songs. Today’s story was:

1. “(Nice to Meet You) Anyway” by Gavin DeGraw
2. “Downfall” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Radiation” by Gavin DeGraw
4. “Still Ain’t Over You” by Rob Thomas
5. “Nothing” by The Script

There were others, but this bloc in particular spoke to me. (And no fair criticizing what’s on my iPod . . . Though it has been very fond of Gavin DeGraw just lately. I have about 400 songs, of which 32 are Gavin DeGraw, and yet he pops up quite often.)

Seems to me something went a bit wrong between songs 1 and 2. And it got more dysfunctional from there. Meanwhile, I must now focus on tidying up the ending to Peter, since I’ve had a request from a publisher for the full manuscript. I thought it was done, then decided to change some stuff, and now I’m running flat out to get it done.


Writing Retreat: Paso Robles

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Getting work done out here at the lovely Bianchi Winery:




Fellow authors Kimberly Emerson and Erika Gardner also in residence. Tonight we’ll reward our efforts with dinner at Thomas Hill!

(Oh, and the rom-com script did also make semi-finals in CWA.)

Right or Happy?

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You hear it from time to time: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” I don’t know if this is from a book or what, but my understanding is that it means you shouldn’t argue your point too hard. Like, there comes a time when you should just walk away. A time when peace is worth more than winning the day. Agree to disagree or whatever.

But what this phrase fails to address is the fact that some people are only happy when they’re right. And particularly when they’re sure everyone knows they’re right.

In short, some people can’t be happy if they aren’t right.

So if someone were to answer this question with, “Being right is what makes me happy” . . .

Just wondering about that.

Odds & Ends

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I’ve now written 30 pages of a new television drama spec. That’s, like, 60% done. And I think it has real potential. But then I’m going to have to go write the treatment. Sigh.

Well, maybe I’ll use my upcoming writers’ retreat weekend to focus on that. Or maybe I’ll just drink a lot of wine. Writers are supposed to drink, right? Isn’t that a thing?

Truthfully, though, I have a growing list of writing projects. That always makes it tough to sit down and focus on any single one (unless I have a firm deadline imposed on me by some person or organization). I need to decide beforehand what I want to work on over the weekend, else I’ll fritter my time and not make progress in any direction.

I also have a couple books to read and review. But I won’t be doing that on my writing weekend.

First: finish this spec. Write the treatment and outline the first season or two (or will it be one of those limited series type things? must decide . . .).


Writing Conferences

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I’m looking for suggestions as to good ones to attend in the next year.

The past couple Februarys I’ve gone to the San Francisco Writers Conference, which is quite massive and has the added appeal of my not having to fly. (I don’t mind flying, but it’s expensive when added to conference fees and hotels and such.) I’ve really enjoyed SFWC, have met some great people and received good advice, but the sessions/lectures both years were largely the same, and so I felt a sense of diminishing returns. I think I may have to take a year or two off from SFWC and try something else.

Last year I also attended Screenwriters World Conference, and that was . . . Well, the sessions were less impressive than SFWC, even given the difference in focuses (SFWC being more about books). I did get some good info, and again, I met some great people (ran into some friends from SFWC in fact), but . . . The pitch session, too, was a bit weak. A lot of no-shows and a major focus on horror stuff, which isn’t what I write.

Still, I might have tried SWC again except they moved it to August, which doesn’t work for me.

I did AFF a couple years ago, and that was good. I’d do that one again. And I’d like to try SXSW some time, even though that’s less about writing.

I’ve heard good things about the Willamette Writers Conference, but I know little about it. Maybe I should look that one up. Or maybe I should look at sites of some authors and/or screenwriters I admire and see which conferences they attend.

Of course I’d always be open to doing a conference somewhere else, like the UK. Just for a taste of something different. I love to travel, might as well have an excuse for it.

So, Fellow Writers: Have you attended a conference you loved? Or hated, for that matter? Please let me know.

TBT: Parageography Outline #5

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(In the course packet, this is actually #4. That’s because the first “outline” I posted was really just the syllabus. So now my numbers are off by one.)

P. Vergillius Maro: AEneid 3–8,
Onward to
Wherever it may be
[not to mention Whenever]

When our objectives become unclear,
we redouble our efforts.

[misquoted and misapplied
from George Santayana]

I. The Hand-Tooled, Leather-Embossed PATRIOTIC EPIC!

II. The Defamiliarization of the Known

III. The Voyage: Through Confusions to CERTAINTY
     A. Italian non sponte sequor. . .
     B. Landfalls of the Voyage: A Chart of Events/Places
          1. AEneadae/AEneia – Founding
          2. Delos – Prophecy
          3. Crete: Pergamum – Founding, Prophecy
          4. Strophades – Prophecy
          5. Leucata/Actium
          6. Buthrotum – surrogate Founding, Prophecy
          7. [Acro]Ceraunia
          8. Castrum Minervae
          9. Sicily: Etna
          10. Sicily: Drepanum – Prophecy
          11. Carthage – surrogate Founding
          12. Sicily: Segesta – Founding, Prophecy
          13. Italy: Cumae – Prophecy
          14. Sub-Italy: Underworld – Prophecy
          15. Italy: Laurentum
          16. Italy: Pallanteum – surrogate Founding
     C. A not too legible MAP of the Wanderings of AEneas
     D. Prophecies
          1. Creusa [Troy]
          2. Apollo [Delos]
          3. the Penates [Pergamum]
          4. Celaeno [Strophades]
          5. Helenus [Buthrotum]
          6. Anchises I [Drepanum]
          7. Sibyl [Cumae]
          8. Anchises II [Underworld]
          9. AEneas’ Shield [en route to Etruria]
     E. The Impelled Voyage: Heaven’s Workers
          1. Juno
          2. Venus
          3. Jupiter
          4. Neptune
          5. Apollo
          6. Mercury
          7. the Sibyl
     F. Names on the Land: Geographical AEtiology [a sampling]
          1. Palinurus
          2. Misenus/Misenum
          3. Caieta
     G. The Odyssey Revisited…or Not, As the Case May Be
          1. Ithaca & environs
          2. Scylla & Charybdis
          3. The Cyclopes
          4. Circe
     H. Patterns
          1. Troy destroyed = Carthage destroyed = Carthage destroyed2
          2/ Troy restored = Pergamum [Crete] = Buthrotum = Acesta/Segesta = [eventually] ROME [the original] = [inevitably] ROMA NOVA
          3. The Voyage as Labyrinth
               a. The Troy Game on Sicily [Acesta]
               b. The Doors as Cumae
               c. The Underworld
               d. Hercules & Cacus beneath the Aventine
IV. The Double Vision of Space in Time: Past = Present
     A. Thanks to Apollonius?
     B. The Catalogue of Italians in Book Seven
     C. Actium Previewed: Two Versions of a Watershed
          1. The Games in Three
          3. The Shield in Eight [see VI below]
     D. Pallanteum: AEneas at the Site of Rome in Book Eight
          1. A rather more legible MAP of Pallanteum/Rome
V. The Love of Venus and Vulcan1
     A. Where’s the Net?
     B. Gravitas and Decorum
VI. With the Future on His Arm…
     A. What’s a Shield For?
     B. Purpose and Prophecy
     C. Ways of Winning
     D. To Reiterate in Conclusion, THEN must = NOW

1 If not very ParaGeographical, this section does demonstrate certain of Vergil’s problems and solutions. There is an analogy to be made; all it takes is a wee bit of determination in the application. It also sets up the next, more important item.


A note re: my formatting for these outlines. I’m doing my best to keep Doc’s variations in typeface sizes and such, all his bolding and underlining, but one thing I am not doing is Æ and æ . . . There’s just so much of it . . . And I trust you all to be smart enough to know Doc would always use ligatured letters. He was a professional, after all.

Bad at Waiting

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I have a handful of submissions out now: plays, scripts, sample chapters of my novel. We’re also this close to finishing with my short film. And I know the best thing to do while waiting for feedback and responses and links to final cuts is to keep producing other work. Keep writing. But I’ve reached a kind of weird saturation point where I’m almost too antsy and restless to focus. I want to know. Whether my play has been selected, whether this or that person likes my script, whether this publisher or that literary agent wants to read more of my book. I want to know what’s going on with the ABC Talent Showcase and when Creative World Awards will announce the quarterfinalists. I want to know now.

But I’m learning to be patient. Or, really, I’m having that lesson thrust upon me. Things never seldom move that fast. And it always comes and goes in cycles. I’ve sent out a bunch of stuff. Now I must wait for the wheel to circle round.

In the meantime: more writing. I simply must make myself sit down and do it. I have a list beside my computer of all the projects I mean to work on. I need to chip away at that list so I can cross off some of these items. Progress, after all, comes in more than one variety. Yes, there is progress when replies come—one hopes to move forward and hear “yes.” But even “no” is a kind of progress, the kind where you either put that project aside, or send it out again, or stop and revise it. And then there is progress in the writing itself. I must remind myself of this. That my work cannot wait on others’ answers.

The Depression Thing

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In the wake of the news about Robin Williams, a lot of people are talking about depression. I’m no clinical psychologist, so I can only really speak to my own experience, and what I know from friends who also suffer.

Depression, it seems, comes in a lot of different “weights.” A sufferer can experience a variety of these in his or her lifetime. From having a “low” day to “so bleak I can’t even get out of bed.” And then, of course, the ultimate “I can’t take it any more. I have to end it.”

For me, there are days where I just feel “down.” Sometimes this is triggered by a lot of rejections happening all at once, but just as often these days happen “just because.” No reason. I hit a low tide of emotion. On those days I don’t want to write, don’t even want to read. I usually just sit on the chaise in my office. Yeah, I just sit there, and I hate it, but every time I try to get up to do anything, I simply can’t. People coming to talk to me is the worst thing in the world on those days. But sitting there is awful, too, and I can’t even gather my thoughts . . . They just sort of float around. I’ll think briefly about this or that thing, and spiral toward all the things I’m sorry I ever did, or what I should have said back when, or whatever. It’s not useful. But that’s what happens. And it’s too hard to do anything else. Like, getting up and doing something is almost physically painful on days like that.

In a way, it’s like being really, really sleepy. That’s the effort involved in getting up and doing anything on low days. Like I’ve been drugged with sleeping pills but am expected to stay awake and do shit.

And then there are times when I’m really low. And I won’t say I haven’t considered taking a handful of pills on days like that. I’ve come pretty close once or twice. I’ve learned how to prevent myself, though. Isn’t that funny? I have ways of tricking myself out of suicide.

A. Always have at least one project going. Not just any project, but one I really care about, am passionate about. One I want to see finished. As long as I have something like that, I’m not going anywhere.

B. Always have something to look forward to. This is why I plan so many trips and stuff—I love to travel, and as long as I’ve got something lined up in the near future, I’ll at least make it that far.

C. The kids. Yeah. I think about wanting to see them grow up. I know this should be my #1 reason, but sadly, if I’m honest with myself, it’s not. I’m selfish by nature, I guess. I really need me stuff to keep me going first and foremost. Because one day the kids will grow up and move out (one hopes), and I can’t imagine being one of those parents who has put her everything into her kids and is left with nothing when they fly the nest.

Still, there are days . . . When I feel like I’m the only one who does care about me or my work, when I think I’ll never “make it” as a writer or screenwriter . . . Days when the next trip seems way too long off, or it’s a trip I’m less excited about . . .

Well, I’m still here anyway. Today. Right now. And today I’m feeling okay. It’s the most I can do, really: a self-diagnostic from time to time. And today the lights are green. Good to go. For now.

The InkTip Experiment

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I’m always open to trying new ways and forums for getting my work out there. I’ve gone tried-and-true with queries and pitch fests, I’m an active member on Stage 32 where I forge new connections constantly, and I’ve done pretty well on the screenwriting competition front. All this is hard work and often unrewarding, but worth the effort when those one or two opportunities pan out.

Sometimes, though, things don’t pan out or they fall through, so I decided to try InkTip for one of my scripts. It’s done really well in film festival competitions and such, but it’s such an oddball script—not at all studio fare—that it’s had trouble finding a home. InkTip touts many successes, and ostensibly hosts a number of independent type producers and directors that might be looking for my kind of script. That is, something small and dramatic that could be filmed with minimal locations and on a relatively small budget.

For those of you who need some background, for $60 a writer can post his or her screenplay on InkTip for six months. The script is searchable by certain criteria (for example, the producer may be looking for a particular genre, budget range, number of male and female characters) and the writer can see how many times the log line has come up in a search and/or how many times the script has been looked at.

In the first week of my script being posted, it was looked at five times. Three of those times was by the same company. But none of them went on to look at the script. And now the script has been there for another month with no log line hits at all. Hrm.

Meanwhile, just by querying, I’ve had two requests for the script just last week.

So . . . I can’t say I’m all that impressed with InkTip. They say I can bring my listing back to the top on August 18, and it’s clear being at the top of the list makes a difference; it was after that first week that my script fell off entirely. However, I’ve tweaked the listing a few times since and still have not seen any uptick. And I know it’s a good script. Not perfect, no, but I’m willing to work with the right person/people to get it there—just need to find someone who believes in it as much as I do.

That person doesn’t appear to be on InkTip.

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Back from Santa Cruz, and I’m sure Sherl will have plenty to say about it all at some point (in fact, he has a lot to say about a lot of things; he’s been busy but plans to update his blog soon). Meanwhile, feel it’s as good a time as any to say the romantic comedy script I’ve co-written made the preliminary cut in the Creative World Awards. They should announce Quarterfinalists next week, so . . . They gave us really good feedback on the script, but I know competition is fierce. A lot of good writers and good scripts out there. I hope ours is one!

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