“St. Peter in Chains” Takes Grand Prize for Short Screenplay

. . . in Table Read My Screenplay. It will have a table read by professional actors at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

As you might imagine, I’m a bit excited. I’m very proud of this story and so, so happy to see it succeed. Next step is to get someone to produce/film it.

Well, one thing at a time. But thanks, readers, for all your support. So many of you have read the novella this script was adapted from and loved it and asked for more, and I promise you’ll see Peter and Charles again soon! And hopefully some day on screen, too!

2012 in Review

I always thought 2012 might be a big year for me, and it was in many ways, though somehow it feels less significant than I hoped it would be. I realize this sounds foolish, ridiculous even, given the huge life changes this year brought, but . . . I don’t know. Maybe because I expected the year to be important, the fact these big things happened seem small because I was waiting for them all along. Almost as if taking them for granted even before they occurred.

Here are the major milestones of my 2012:

The Move

This past March saw me moving from Massachusetts to California. I’d lived in Massachusetts for more than twelve years, but it had never felt like home to me. Meanwhile, I had been supposed to move to California back in 2001, so here I am, a bit tardy, but better late and all that. And I love it here. I now live someplace I’m glad to return to after traveling.

Which brings me to

Travel

Besides the move, which was travel in one direction, I did take a couple round trips this year. I went back to London over Easter, spent ten lovely days there to write and see a couple shows and an old friend from uni. And I visited family in Houston before attending the Austin Film Festival, where I also took the opportunity to see old friends from that area. Really good trips.

There was also a weekend away in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco.

I love to travel, am already planning a return to London in summer 2013.

“Warm Bodies”

My first play, only ten minutes long, but a success on various fronts. It premiered in February in Enfield, Connecticut, as part of the annual Lab Works, where it was a finalist. Then it got picked up for the Source Festival in Washington D.C. It would have had a showing in Texas, too, except my Source contract eliminated the possibility (because the Texas show would have been in May, and I agreed to not have it produced again until after Source, which was in June). Still, on top of all this, “Warm Bodies” was selected for publication in an anthology, which is supposed to come out some time next year.

I’m excited by this modicum of success, though I’m hoping it wasn’t just a fluke. I don’t want to be a one-woman show one-show woman.

E-Books

I put out five e-books this year, starting in late June, and they’ve done moderately well. I’ve had close to 13,000 sales and downloads in the six months since my work has been available, and my Sherlock Holmes stories have been particularly popular, were even the #1 & #2 Sherlock Holmes stories, respectively, on Amazon for a while.

Truly, I resisted self-publishing for a while, but though I was getting encouraging feedback from places that liked my style of writing, no one was taking that step to publish me. (Though, as an aside I will say that I did have four flash fiction pieces accepted to an anthology.) And it seems that these days the publishing industry is somewhat backward, where the agents and publishers want to see whether you can sell before signing you. They only publish two kinds of writers now anyway: big names and lowest common denominator trash—the stuff that sells to the masses regardless of how badly written it is. The “middle class” of writers has fallen through the cracks, and self-publishing seems to be the net that has caught a good many of them.

In any case, I’ve been pleased to get my work out there and have it find an audience. And I’ve enjoyed the occasional fan e-mail, too.

Scripts

I was prepared to write off 2012 as a bad year for my screenwriting. Though I’d had a couple agency nibbles for my Sherlock spec, they came to nothing. And I spent the entire summer fielding rejections from various screenwriting competitions. Then, in October I got one really positive read for my short film script St. Peter in Chains (based on one of my novellas), and just a few days ago it made semi-finals in the Table Read My Screenplay competition. I have not been able to get anyone interested in actually making the film yet, but I’m still hoping it might happen. In any event, the year in screenwriting ended better than it began. Perhaps my strength is in prose, and maybe a little bit too in playwriting, but I’ve wanted to work in film and television since I was a child, so it’s tough to let go of those dreams.

***

. . . And those have been the major features of 2012. I’m not sure what to think about 2013; I’ve had 2012 in the back of my mind for so long, always knowing it would have some weight, I haven’t thought ahead to anything else. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe going in with no expectations is better than being disappointed in the long run.

“St. Peter in Chains” Short Screenplay a Semi-Finalist

. . . in Table Read My Screenplay. I’m very pleased to have it recognized, as the story is one of which I’m quite proud. (Curious? The novella it’s based on is available on Kindle from Amazon. And I’m currently working on the sequel—novella, that is. Though I may script that one, too, or make it all into one full-length screenplay.)

Odds & Ends

What does it say about my 7-year-old son that he was that excited to get a periodic table for his birthday? (In fact, he got two, so he hung one in his room and one in the playroom.) He was also insanely happy about: a diagram of atomic structure, a map of the solar system, and a globe. Well, and that remote-controlled helicopter. Now what does it say about me that I was equally excited about all these things? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I’ve sent off some submissions to a writing competition. This is the first time for either of these particular pieces, so I have no idea what might happen. But it’s a tough job, so I have to stop myself from getting my hopes up and remind myself to simply keep forging ahead.

Meanwhile, I continue to have dreams that feature my regular cast, including one in which Rob Thomas was telling me how painful tattoos are and another in which Benedict Cumberbatch was shampooing my hair. (Never fear; we were clothed and in a gymnasium.) Hmm. I wish I could untangle these threads and make some kind of sense of them. (The dream in which Steven Moffat double-crossed me, however, was quite clear.)

Judges, Gatekeepers & Independence

I entered one last screenwriting competition. I don’t even know why, what I hope to prove or accomplish. I just really feel like this script was a good one, and I can usually trust my instincts, but . . . Anyway, I e-mailed the competition to ask about the judges. The site says that key industry people (agents, producers) do the judging. But I’ve learned, after so many competitions, that this kind of statement can be misleading. So I asked whether the industry people read ALL the rounds or just pick the winners. And of course the answer is that the industry people only read the finalists. The competition’s “staff” does all the initial reading.

One has to wonder, then, who these staff members are and what qualifications they have. I don’t necessarily want to antagonize the competition’s organizers by e-mailing back and demanding to know. But to think whether I get my script in front of a major industry insider rests pretty much on whether one little underling likes what I wrote . . . But then again, it’s the same in any agency office: interns and assistants reading scripts and tossing aside the stuff they don’t like or don’t think (in what? their great experience and understanding of the market?) will sell. It’s all pretty stupid. And it’s one of the reasons a lot of bad movies, and a lot of the same kinds of movies, keep getting made.

I suppose gatekeeping is a problem in any creative industry where there is more material than money to publish or produce it all. Just as Hollywood producers and agencies haphazardly sort scripts, so do literary agents and publishers sort manuscripts. There’s this sort of arbitrariness to “worthy” versus “not worthy.” A crappy book by a bestselling author can get published, but a really great book by a no-name gets the boot. And so it goes.

I’m glad to have an outlet for my books. Indie publishing has certainly allowed me to find a kind of niche, an audience. If I had the money, I’d go make my little indie movie, too. But movies are still too expensive and labor intensive for me to do by myself. A writer can work alone, but a movie requires a crew. And even “cheap” ones cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce.

Still, it would be awesome to see my mental vision come to life. That’s why one writes plays and screenplays, after all. It’s like getting to play pretend with real people.

But I can’t say I hold out much hope for this competition. Given my past performance in such, the odds of finding a reader who likes and “gets” the stuff I write seems pretty small. And I could pay for “notes” but from whom? Some underling? It’s not worth the cost. I’m not above rewriting, learning, developing, but I’d like to know the teacher is someone who can honestly help me.

Meanwhile, I have two big projects facing me: a full-length play due at the beginning of October, plus I need to finish The K-Pro because I have a publisher waiting to read it. No promises in either case; I was “invited” to submit the play, but that doesn’t mean it will be selected for production, and just because someone wants to read my manuscript doesn’t mean they’ll want to publish it. I gotta stay realistic. But I also gotta keep moving.

2012 Thus Far

Thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of all that’s happened thus far this year. The good and the bad.
 

  • Scott interviewed for a new job (mid-January).
  • I made travel arrangements for my trip to London (mid-January).
  • I wrote and finished my novella “St. Peter in Chains” (January).
  • Scott was offered the job in San Francisco and accepted (early February).
  • My play “Warm Bodies” was produced and was a finalist at the Valley Repertory 3rd Annual Lab Works (late February).
  • Movers packed up our house, and after a couple nights at a hotel we flew to San Francisco and moved into temp housing (mid-March).
  • I flew to Boston for a night, then on to London for a 10-day stay, then back to Boston and home to San Fran (March-April).
  • While in London I: converted “St. Peter in Chains” into a short screenplay, saw two plays, and celebrated Easter alone.
  • I submitted the screenplay version of “St. Peter in Chains” to the Nicholl Fellowship (April).
  • An area agent and an agency in the UK asked to look at my Sherlock spec; the UK agency also asked to read “St. Peter in Chains” (April)
  • We sold our house in Massachusetts (April).
  • I found out three pieces of my flash fiction had been accepted to be published in a 2013 anthology (May).
  • The agent declined to represent me and the UK agency did not respond to my follow-up query (May).
  • Scott’s parents visited and Scott and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at El Drisco, eating at a fancy restaurant, and seeing Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers play at the Red Devil Lounge. Scott also gave me a gorgeous ring (May).
  • We moved out of temp housing and into a new house in Livermore (May).
  • I flew to Washington D.C. to see “Warm Bodies” produced as part of the Source Festival, and also got a chance to meet and spend the day with one of Scott’s high school friends who until then I’d only known online (June).
  • Scripts sent to Script Pipeline and the Page Awards did not advance (June-July).
  • After repeated rejections, I self-published the novella version of “St. Peter in Chains” as an e-book; it’s had steadily increasing sales (late June).
  • Encouraged by the success of “St. Peter in Chains,” I also self-published “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line.” It has outpaced “St. Peter” by a large margin and has been especially popular in the UK (July).
  • I did not advance in the Nicholl Fellowship (early August).
  • I self-pubbed my Star Signs Operating Manual (August).
  • I found out my play “Warm Bodies” was to be published in an upcoming anthology of short plays (August).
  • I was invited to submit a full-length play to a competition that only accepts full-length plays via invitation (August).
  • I did not advance in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition (August).

So . . . A mixed bag. I’ve left out the fact that a small army of query letters has gone without response. I’m chipping away, you see, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more success. The year is two-thirds over. Not sure what else I can hope to accomplish. I am working on another Sherlock Holmes story, and I am hoping to submit something to that playwriting competition. I’m also hoping some other plays I’ve submitted to various venues get selected for production. And more than anything I’d like these scripts I’ve written to get some notice. That, for me, would be the big win.

Writing Opportunity: AACT New Play Fest

Just a heads up since the actual call for scripts isn’t expected to come until the fall, but the American Association of Community Theatre is putting together a New Play Festival (AACTNewPlayFest) in which selected community theatres across the country will produce new works by unpublished playwrights. Details here; keep checking for updates.

Writing Opportunity: Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2012

Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2012

The details of the prize are as follows:

Categories: Fiction; Poetry; Life Writing
Word limit: 3000 (or five poems)
Deadline: 27 July 2012 5pm GMT
Prize: £300 and publication in Wasafiri magazine
Fee: £6.00 if entering one category, £10 for two and £15 for all three

The prize is open to anyone worldwide who has not published a complete book in the category they wish to enter. Other terms and conditions apply, please visit www.wasafiri.org for further information and to download the application form, or email wasafiri@open.ac.uk

2012 Goals Update

Here were my goals for 2012, which I posted at the beginning of the year:

  • Finish “St. Peter in Chains”
  • Finish “The K-Pro”
  • Finish the spec script
  • Get at least one more play accepted for production somewhere

Items in green have been completed. Items in yellow-orange are . . . not quite? Let’s put it this way: “Warm Bodies” was accepted for another production (I’ve mentioned its forthcoming Source Festival run), but none of my other plays have been, and that was really my goal. On the flip side, however, I’ve had three flash fiction pieces accepted for publication. That’s something. And “The K-Pro” is half done. I thought it would be a novella, but it’s looking to be a novel, I think.

Now, though, I’ve had a spate of rejections and am also waiting to hear about various screenwriting competitions and such, and I’ve decided to go into a sort of semi-retirement. I haven’t decided yet what that really means for me except that I’m breaking from submitting and probably also from writing, at least at the rate I had been going. I’m teetering on burnout and a bit of depression, so I think it’s better to back away from the cliff. I may write from time to time—more likely dabble than take on anything serious—but I’m not going to make myself feel too guilty if I don’t, either.

This retirement kicks off this coming weekend. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Drisco and going to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at the Red Devil Lounge. Maybe I’ll get inspired. Probably, though, just sotted with wine.

Writing Opportunity: Call for 10-Minute Plays (or excerpts)

Call for scripts / Galwad am sgriptiau
We are accepting ten minutes plays or excerpts for Script Slam on May 31st 2012.
Five plays will be chosen, developed and performed script-in-hand by professional actors. After each play is performed a panel of industry experts—writers, actors and directors—will be on hand to offer their advice. The audience will then get to vote for their favourite. The winning writer will then have the opportunity to work with Sherman Cymru’s Literary Team to develop their playwrighting skills.

Rydym yn derbyn dramau neu ddarn o ddrama deg munud o hyd i SgriptSlam ar Mai 31ain 2012.
Fe fydd pump drama yn cael eu dewis, datblygu a’u perfformio sgript-mewn-llaw gan griw o actorion proffesiynnol. Wedi i bob drama gael ei pherfformio bydd panel o arbenigwyr o faes y theatr – awduron, actorion a chyfarwyddwyr – yn cynnig eu barn a’u sylwadau. Yna bydd y gynulleidfa yn pleidleisio dros eu hoff ddrama. Fydd yr enillydd wedyn yn cael cyfle i weithio gyda Thîm Llenyddol Sherman Cymru er mwyn datblygu ei sgiliau ysgrifennu ar gyfer y llwyfan.

Deadline / Dyddiad cau: Monday April 9th / Dydd Llun Ebrill 9fed
If you would like to take part please send your work to / Os hoffech chi gymryd rhan plis gyrrwch eich gwaith i:
sarah.bickerton@shermancymru.co.uk or/neu
Sarah Bickerton
Cynorthwyydd Llenyddol / Literary Assistant
Sherman Cymru
Theatr y Sherman / Sherman Theatre
Ffordd Senghennydd / Senghennydd Road
Caerdydd / Cardiff
CF24 4YE

For more information please contact / Am fwy o wybodaeth plis cysylltwch a: sarah.bickerton@shermancymru.co.uk 02920 646 983