web analytics

The Postal Service

So the U.S. Postal Service is thinking of reducing the number of days they deliver mail. Guess they couldn’t raise the price of stamps forever . . . Especially now that they have “forever” stamps that crazy people have been hoarding against potential postal hikes. There has even been talk of USPS shutting down completely and letting the other delivery services (UPS, FedEx, &c) take over. Fine, I suppose, except that our UPS guy already hates us for how much stuff we get delivered, never mind adding a bunch of letters to the pile.

Truth is, most people like checking their mail. There’s that weird moment of potential, the fact that something wonderful might have appeared in the box. The same feeling comes with e-mail, though it’s less tangible–but it explains the strange addiction people have, the gratification that comes with seeing that someone has sent you something, even if it’s junk mail or spam. It’s validation that you exist and are connected to the great web of the world.

So I think the postal service should actually deliver every day. They should add Sundays to the delivery schedule. Then they’d be offering a service the others don’t. You say, “But you can’t have mailmen work every day without a day off.” And I agree. Which is why you have two part-time mail people working 3- and 4-day blocs. They wouldn’t get benefits, but then the way things are going, no one is going to have them (or pensions) much longer anyway. And you’d be employing more people, which is good for the economy.

This is all completely off the top of my head, mind. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons it wouldn’t work. But I’m busy avoiding work of my own. And in that spirit, I’m about to go do a cardio workout and not think about the writing I should be doing instead.

Opportunity for Writers

I was asked to pass this on to anyone who might be interested . . . Alas, it’s for UK residents only, but I’m doing my part here.

Creative Diversity Network
in partnership with BBC Writersroom

TV Drama Writer Lab

There is a prevailing problem in the industry when it comes to finding, keeping and protecting Black and Minority Ethnic writers for TV drama. TV Drama Writer Lab is a targeted development scheme, working across the industry and broadcasters, bringing together a group of up to 10 of the most talented writers with a real commitment to TV drama. This unique opportunity has come about at short notice – but this is just the beginning of an ongoing journey for a group of talented voices.

Selected writers will take part in a three/four day residential in Kent, between 7-10 November, where they can develop their ideas, craft and knowledge, and network with other writers and producers across the TV drama industry. This is a scheme for talented writers on the cusp of a career in television, and as such applicants will need to have some form of professional experience under their belt – eg a full commission, production or professional showcase in theatre, radio, film or TV.

Writers must submit an original calling card script (written for any medium – TV, film, stage, radio), a TV drama idea they would like to develop (at least one paragraph, and up to one page), and a biog or brief CV of previous experience. Writers will be selected on the basis of the ability shown in their script and the potential for TV shown in their idea.

Email submissions with the subject header ‘CDN TV Writer Drama Lab’ to: writersroom@bbc.co.uk
Deadline for submissions: 9am, Monday 3rd October
Selected writers informed: by 5pm, Friday 7 th October
Residential: 7-10 November (3 or 4 days to be confirmed)
Please note: the residential will be all expenses paid, however there will not be an attendance fee available to writers.


What will I get out of this as a writer? The opportunity to: get your work noticed by the BBC and other producers in the industry; to develop a TV idea further in a safe, creative environment; to develop TV craft and skills through workshops and discussions; to network with other writers and producers, and develop relationships with both; to hear direct from the industry about how things really work in practise; to ask burning questions and get honest answers.
What does BME mean? It means Black and Minority Ethnic; or non-caucasian.

Why is this only for BME writers? Because there is a very specific problem and editorial need in the TV industry, where BME writers are not adequately represented in programming and output

I’m disabled but not BME – what about me? Writersroom has previously run schemes and partnerships for writers with disabilities and intend to do so again in the near future under the BBC’s tenure of CDN. And any UK-based writers with disabilities can send us an eligible script at any time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/writing/submissions.shtml

I am BME but not living in the UK? Then unfortunately you are not eligible to apply.

Is there a commission/job at the end of this? Not directly, no – but we hope it may be the first step towards that for selected writers.

What do you mean by ‘professional experience’? We mean that you have been engaged and paid to write a script by a professional company/organisation (as opposed to amateur, self-funded or student work).

What do you mean by a calling card script? It must be all your own work and entirely original. It should not be an episode from an existing show or series, even if professionally commissioned/produced. It should be a full script – either an entire single drama, or the pilot episode from a series or serial.

Can I send a sitcom/sketch show/sketches? No – we want to see drama. But comedy-drama does count.

What do you mean by TV drama idea? An original proposal for a new TV drama, whether a single drama, a series or a serial. It should be at least one paragraph and up to one side of A4 maximum, outlining the title, world, idea/premise, format, genre/tone, story and characters. We don’t need lots of plot detail – we need to know what the show is really about and what it will feel like for an audience watching.

What do you mean by biog/CV? We need to know about any writing experience you have – but also do tell us anything else about yourself that you think we might be interested to know. Please send no more than one side of A4 if it’s a CV; if it’s a prose biography, please write no more than half a side of A4.

How will the residential work? We will arrange and pay for the travel, accommodation and food for all writers attending. Writers will stay overnight (2 or 3 nights – to be confirmed) at Bore Place in Kent, where there will be a BBC member of staff at all times. During the day, there will be a series of sessions, workshops, brainstorms, one-on-ones, Q&As and individual writing time.

Why is there no attendance fee? We are able to facilitate the residential but are unfortunately unable to provide a fee for writers.

Why is this at short notice? The opportunity came up at short notice to repurpose a pre-existing residential booking, and we decided that the BBC’s tenure of CDN and the general editorial need for BME writers meant that this was the first choice project to undertake.

Bonus Bad Movie

I can’t believe I forgot to put Lady in the Water on my list from yesterday’s Worst Movies blogfest. Or as my husband calls it, Ron Howard’s Daughter Is in My Pool. I love M Night–hey! we have similar names!–but this movie was just . . . It was awful. Really. A cute idea in theory but hamhandedly executed.

Or maybe I just really hate movies with so much water?

Worst. Movies. Ever.

It’s another blogfest! Courtesy of Alex J Cavanaugh: the ten worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.

Now this list is supposed to be theatrical or DVD releases (no made-for-TV movies), but that’s all good since I don’t watch made-for-TV movies. I won’t attempt to put these into any real order; they were all awful–though I’m sure plenty of people might disagree. Without further ado:

  1. Vampire’s Kiss. Okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I have an issue with Nicolas Cage in general. But even if I didn’t, this movie was terrible. For a long time I used it as the ruler against which all other bad films were measured, asking myself, “But was it as bad as Vampire’s Kiss?”
  2. Queen of the Damned. I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which is why this movie pained me so terribly. It was an incoherent mishmash, and Stuart Townsend was all wrong for Lestat–I mean, they couldn’t even bother to try and make him blond? And yes, I do understand that as Aaliyah’s last big moment, this film has a special place in many people’s hearts, but let’s face it: it’s bad.
  3. Daredevil. So bad vampire movies can be followed by bad superhero movies. I cringed my way through this one, almost ending up curled under the theater seat in a sort of duck-and-cover move designed to save myself from its atomic bomb of bad.
  4. Van Helsing. Yeah, okay, more vampire stuff. Either I watch a lot of vampire movies, or a lot of vampire movies are just really bad. Or both. But this movie . . . They kept ending up in the water, for one thing, which got irritating after a while. And it’s such a shame because I do love Hugh Jackman, but ugh.
  5. Jackie Brown. I know a lot of people love this movie, but I’m not sure why. Then again, I don’t remember anything about it except that I absolutely hated it. My brain has wiped out all other memories related to this film, probably for good reason. Which is why I won’t tempt fate by ever trying to view it again.
  6. Atonement. Another movie with a lot of water. It was supposed to be all artsy and whatever, but it just ended up beating the audience over the head with its, well, artiness. I hate movies that do that (or books, or anything); it’s like they’re proselytizing or something. A movie shouldn’t have to work that hard to make its point.
  7. Underworld. We walked out of this one. That’s how stupid and bad it was. Just an utter waste of time.
  8. Borat. Another one we walked out of. And it wasn’t that we were offended; it just wasn’t funny.
  9. Cradle Will Rock. Oh my God, I’m such a big John Cusack fan. Seriously. But this movie was awful. Such star power put to such bad, bad use.
  10. The Secret Lives of Dentists. Also a big Denis Leary fan. But not here.

That’s ten. The first ten that come to mind, though I’m sure if I kept thinking, some of these might be replaced by others. I have a film degree, after all; I’ve seen a lot of movies.

I know that a few on this list are generally considered crowd pleasers and/or cult favorites. Meh. I can’t help the way I feel about these things.

Two of Swords

I really want to get back to my writing. Problem is, I’m not connecting with my material these days.

I’m never sure what to do about this sort of thing. I don’t think it’s writer’s block per se so much as me not feeling it. And in order to write well, I really do need to be emotionally invested in what I’m writing. After all, it would be easy to do a paint-by-numbers job and just construct the story, but (at least in my case) it wouldn’t be very good.

Now it’s often said that writers should just write, even when they don’t feel like it, and I do this a lot of times, but I usually don’t get very far. Not because I want it to be perfect (though it’d be nice if it were); I know the important thing is to get that draft out and then go rework it later. I just don’t have the steam to push through like that. I get restless and want to move around the room, find something else to do. It’s a weird sort of impatience, with myself or the work or both. So I often channel that energy into submitting things. Which, of course, only ups my impatience because then I have to wait for feedback and responses.

I love writing. But it’s a lot of work. And yet it’s even worse when I can’t write for whatever reason.

I will try.

Making a Play

So I’ve written two plays: the 10-minute “Warm Bodies” and the one-act play 20 August. That one was supposed to be two acts but it would have required a lot of padding to make it long enough and I didn’t want it to drag.

Prior to these two, I’d written scenes but never an entire play of any length. Except screenplays. I had done those and intend to do more.

So what drew me into to playwriting? Well, friends of mine asked me to try my hand at a short play for something their local community theatre was doing, a sort of directors’ workshop. “Warm Bodies” sprang from that. And I was rather pleased with the result, so I submitted “Warm Bodies” to a few other places–many of which I have yet to hear back from. But one theatre in London e-mailed me back and asked for a sample of something longer.

I had nothing longer. At least, not in terms of stage plays. SO . . . I wrote 20 August.

Apparently as far as plays go, I write on commission. Unpaid commission at that, but if something ends up produced, that wouldn’t be too terrible.

I used to be in a Shakespeare troupe, and I also did some acting in college, so at least I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the form. With my screenwriting background, and my understanding of the mechanics of a stage, I think I did all right. “Warm Bodies” has been submitted to eight different competitions now–and though it hasn’t been accepted anywhere yet, it hasn’t been rejected yet, either (though that’s just a matter of time, I’m sure)–and 20 August is being read in both London and Cardiff.

I never fancied myself a playwright, even though I have taught playwriting classes. Hmm. As Ophelia says: “We know what we are but know not what we may be.”


Fellow author Christine Rains has awarded me the following:

Thanks, Christine! I don’t know if I really deserve them, but I’ll take what I can get. I am, in turn, supposed to pass these on to other deserving bloggers, but I don’t have much of a blogroll yet. I’ll have to think about it for a bit before sending these on.

I’m also supposed to share seven random facts about myself. I suppose this is in lieu of an acceptance speech? Well, okay . . .

  1. I can’t eat any meat that is on a bone. I mean, I guess I can, but I won’t.
  2. I got impatient and proposed to my husband instead of waiting for him to get around to it.
  3. I don’t cook.
  4. I do a pretty decent version of “Kiss Me” in karaoke.
  5. I no longer have a gallbladder.
  6. I hate flying but love to travel. Car or train trips are my favorites. Of course, sometimes you just have to fly.
  7. Though I skipped it this year, I usually teach Shakespeare, playwriting and other such courses at a local summer camp.

And oh my, I do believe it just started raining. Meanwhile, I only have a couple more hours to myself before I have to go pick up the children from school. Back to work!

My Writing Process

I sometimes get asked (as I’m sure many writers do) what my “writing process” is or involves. It’s rather complicated, actually. It involves a lot of daydreaming, usually while lying on my bed clutching my stuffed dog (a Patrick Puppy from FAO Schwartz).

Before you say, “Well, that sounds easy!” let me assure you it’s not. For one thing, I have a husband, three children, and a cat that seem to want or need me almost every second of the day, so finding enough minutes to string together for daydreaming is a trick in and of itself. And a lot of times I’m so tired, I can’t conjure anything to daydream about. And the daydreaming bit is crucial to the writing because after I get something worked out in my head, I go, well, write it.

Once I’ve got something well and truly underway, however, I can usually go sit at the computer–again, when I’ve scraped together the time–and work on it without needing long sessions on my bed or couch. It’s only when I hit a wall that I go back to the virtual drawing board and begin dreaming up new angles.

The next question is, I suppose, “But where do you get your ideas? How do you decide what to daydream about?” And that I really can’t answer except to say I gather these thoughts from everywhere and anywhere and weave them in my mind. It might be that I marry a song lyric to something I saw on the side of the road, or a line of dialogue pops into my head and I feel the need to build a circumstance around it. A horror story I never wrote because I really couldn’t bear to put it on paper was prompted by a weird drive during which the family and I drove through a small town and saw not a single soul, then turned onto a road that ended in some kind of family-owned smokehouse. Truly eerie. And I had this terrible thought that, if we were to go in there, they would take my baby (she was 8 or 9 months at the time) and turn her into sausage. I imagined her crying and–worse, far worse–the sudden stopping of that crying when they cut her throat. So you may see why I couldn’t write this, but there you have it, one of the places and situations that “inspired” me for good or ill. (And for the record, we turned around and left that town as quickly as we could, and we never did see a living soul.)

The final bit of my process is the hardest part. Whenever I finish something, I want to send it out right away. But of course it’s always better to wait, let the work simmer, then revisit and edit prior to sending it anywhere. Getting others to read it is an option, too; they may see things you don’t. Bottom line is: you want to send out a polished gem, not just-mined ore.


Dear God, I need a . . . I don’t know . . . manager? More like a commander, actually. Someone to help me form a plan of attack for all these projects.

I’ve sent “Warm Bodies” out to several competitions, so we’ll see what kind of feedback I get on that. I’d like to get 20 August to a point where it can also be sent out. Originally I thought I was going to try lengthening it to a fuller two-act play, but now I’m thinking I might just reduce it to a one-act. I don’t want to pad it too much–and to make it long enough for a typical two-act it would need a quantity of padding–else it will lag.

And then there’s “The K-Pro,” which I did work on some more this past weekend in New York but didn’t get as far as I would have liked. I know where the story is going but I’m stuck in the details of getting it there.

And gods, I need to get this spec script done!

Ducks! Ducks? Come back here, ducks! I need a row of you, right here, right now!

My 9/11 Story

Everybody has one, and I won’t pretend or presume that mine is any more or less important than any other. But for some reason I like reading these stories; there’s something cathartic about them, and something equally healing about writing one’s own down, getting it out, putting it in hard, visible words so as to give it perspective.

For me, September 11, 2001, began with me waking up in a bad mood because I’d had a nightmare. I often have vivid dreams, but in retrospect this dream is one I will never forget: I was a passenger in a white pick-up truck, but I couldn’t see the face of the driver, only his right arm, which was dark–I thought Latino, maybe, but it could as easily have been Middle Eastern. I didn’t want to be in the truck, but there was no getting out. We were on a highway, moving quickly even though there were many cars, all going in one direction. All the big, green highway signs (you know the ones, at least in the US, that hang over the highways and mark exits and such) read: Death and Destruction Ahead. And in the distance was a cityscape, dark clouds swirling over the tall buildings.

My alarm went off and I stomped through my morning routine, my cat following me around and mewing his sympathy for my irritation–at least, that’s what I thought at the time, but maybe he was just clued in to something bigger and deeper in the cosmos. Animals are funny that way. I eventually left our apartment building, and the day was beautiful, bright and cool, so I chose to walk to work. That walk took me across Boston Common and the Public Gardens to where I was a production assistant at Houghton Mifflin on the corner of Berkley and Boylston Streets.

It was my habit to arrive at work a bit early, somewhere around 8:30 or so. On the other side of my cubicle wall sat the department admin, and I could hear her and a few other voices chirping about the Internet, web sites too slow or not loading or some such. I ignored it. Not a minute later my desk phone rang, and my husband told me without preamble, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

“That’s stupid,” I said. I was picturing a little Cessna, and some amateur would-be pilot making a ridiculous and grave error.

My husband seemed to follow my line of thinking. He said, “No, like, a plane.”

Admittedly, I had very little grasp of the geography involved. We’d been to Manhattan a few times, had walked past the Towers at least once, and of course they were featured in any film that had New York as its established location. But other than that, I was a bit at sea about the whole thing.

I tried to go online, but like the admin and her crew, I couldn’t get any news sites to load.

And then my husband said, “Oh my God, another one.”

He worked in finance, you see, and so the open space of his workplace was dotted with televisions.

At this point the girl who worked in the cube next to me was in hysterics. In lieu of any actual, factual information getting through, rumors were flying. The Sears Tower had been hit, the Space Needle in Seattle, Los Angeles was under attack. I grabbed my co-worker, marched over to our boss’ office, and informed her in no uncertain terms that we were leaving. I told my co-worker to call her boyfriend to come get her and felt very lucky I lived within walking distance of my office.

Our boss then went to the corner conference room to tell the department head what was going on. “Can this wait until after the meeting?” he asked. “The country is under attack!” my boss told him. I didn’t wait to see how it played out; I ushered my fearful co-worker back down to the lobby to wait for her boyfriend. Once I’d seen her safely into his car, I started the walk home.

My husband called on my cell to tell me they’d evacuated his building (he’d had to walk down 38 flights of stairs) and that he was going home (he was also within walking distance) and I should go home, too. I told him I was already on my way. The walk down Boylston and then cutting through the Common was very different from the one I’d taken that morning, and as I crossed the lawns I saw so many college students lounging on the grass, reading and dozing, and I thought: They don’t have any idea.

I stopped at the corner convenience store to pick up a few things, just in case they ended up closing early. Just in case we ended up stuck in our apartment for a few days.

My husband was already there when I arrived, television on, and we watched it all unfold, the same images over and over, the media striving to give information when so little was yet known.

At some point I was able to get through on the phone to my parents. You see, September 11 is my father’s birthday.

I’m in New York today, though I’ll soon be on a train back to Boston. But there is a strange gravity in being a visitor this morning. And even still a mixture of sentiment and resilience–for in Times Square as I was leaving, there were yet people out and about, enjoying themselves, off to Fashion Week events, even as farther south many were gathered to remember. And I’ve been past the site a few times now (though not during this visit), and it is remarkable for its vacuum, even as we’ve all adjusted our sight and become used to a New York with many tall buildings but without Towers.