I've had a great time:
- Toronto is a lovely city. We stuck mostly to the Queen West area, with a trip to Greektown. The neighborhood is chock full of quiet side streets off of a bustling main street, with great restaurants. This is also the quietest city I've been in. And what folks say about Canadians being super polite? It's true. I don't think I heard a Canadian interrupt anyone in six days!
- I've learned and reaffirmed a lot about writing/creative endeavors, both through experience and inspiration:
- Be passionate.
- Be tough--as in, don't give up or become embittered by gatekeepers or 'no's.'
- But don't be so tough that you aren't flexible; flexibility (physical, mental and spiritual) are key.
- LISTEN more than you talk when getting feedback. Actually, don't talk when getting feedback. Just listen. Take notes. Then, at the end, don't explain your work (after all, you're not going to be perched on your readers' or audience members' shoulders to explain the work). Just ask polite questions to clarify and get more feedback.
- Support one another.
- I've made new friends... always fun!
Here are two new friends. To my left is Jen Frankel, a screenwriter and novelist from Toronto. To my Patricia Delaney eGumshoe Mysteriesright is Gena Ellis, a screenwriter from St. Louis. I also really enjoyed getting to know Angela Garcia Combs (not pictured here.)
Funny story about me and Gena... she went to the writers' workshop that I now direct, Antioch Writers' Workshop, in 1994, long before I was the organization's director. She remembered me from my "First Book Talk" for Angel's Bidding! We had fun getting to know each other again.
I'm looking forward to keeping up with these two--and more wonderful folks.
The festival wrapped up with an awards ceremony. To kick that off, festival founder and executive director Leslie Ann Coles spoke about community. That is a powerful word that really resonates with me, because that's what we're all about at Antioch Writers' Workshop, too, and it's a concept I try to live every day.
We didn't see all 90 (!!!) films, but it was a delight when the ones we'd really loved were nominated and/or awarded best in their categories. It was also fun to see the enthusiasm the filmmakers had for each other's achievements.
I'm also proud of my fellow screenwriters, and was tickled that my screenplay adaptation of "My One Square Inch of Alaska" was selected by the script development team as the best crowd pleaser/fan favorite of the week's script reading series. I received a "female eye" necklace (pictured here, and which I'm wearing right now!) and was buoyed by the applause and congratulations of the filmmakers.
Finally, for the past few months, I've been thinking about how ridiculous humans are. Perhaps my thoughts have gone this direction because of the political climate. Or because of recent news events. Or just because of the foibles of middle age.
But stick with me a minute. We humans ARE ridiculous, even biologically. No matter what anyone says, we all have very thin skin. Physically and often otherwise. Makes it easy to get hurt. We don't have sufficient fur/hair/scales/shells to protect ourselves from the elements. We aren't naturally equipped with talons/teeth/tusks to fend off predators. We walk on two legs, which we're proud of as proof of our ascent up the evolutionary scale, but while that's true, it's also ridiculous to walk on two legs. There is a reason we build tables with four legs. Sure, birds have two legs, but they also have wings for mobility.
Hell, we don't even hibernate. Or have cool markings for camouflage to trick predators.
See? Ridiculous, we are.
But maybe our physical ridiculousness is what necessitated our most unique trait. Not just opposable thumbs.
And yet, look how ridiculous we can be with that. We have this amazing god-like gift, and create ways to compensate for our ridiculousness--our vulnerability--but yet, we use it so often in ways that hurts the world around us. We create reasons to hate one another. Reasons and ways to kill and torture one another. Ways to see one another as not simply a lovely, beautiful variation on our humorously ridiculous physical selves, but as reasons to see one another as objects or types... and use that as justification for atrocities of our own imagination and creation.
See? Bad ridiculous.
Current events have had me focusing on the bad ridiculous of humanity. I've gotten a little blue, thinking about it.
Then... off I go to a film festival.
And I'm reminded of other ridiculous ways in which humans use their creativity.
We invent medicines and tools that improve human life.
And we make art. Films. Visual art. Novels, stories, poems, essays. Music. Dance. Theatre. Making art is, in itself, one of the most ridiculous things we can do, if judged against probable, logical pay off. The sheer amount of effort that goes into any single creative endeavor... the challenges, trials, fears, costs... is staggering, whether we're talking about a photograph, a barbershop quartet performance, a novel, a film... pick an art, any art. Maybe just a few people will experience what we create. Maybe some or most or even all of them will not like it, will just give a dismissive wave of the hand or shake of the head.
And yet.... we ridiculous creatures create these things anyway, I think, because it helps us understand our own ridiculous selves. Our gawky, lovable, goofy beauty. Our horrible selves. It's how we create community and compassion to nurture and understand our humanity.
See? Good ridiculous.
So... go forth. Be good ridiculous. Create something artful. However it turns out, know you've made yourself and your community and humanity in general better and more beautiful, because that's what good ridiculous does.
Here's a little inspiration my friend, Heather Webber, sent to me at the beginning of my Toronto Female Eye Film Festival adventure. I hope it helps you be Good Ridiculous.