Read the rest of my column remembering Sue Grafton by clicking here.
NOTE: This originally ran as my Literary Life column for the Dayton Daily News on January 7, 2018.)
"Those comments were pure gold. By giving me a critique that both affirmed what I was doing well and provided specific areas to improve, Sue not only helped me with my manuscript, but taught me how to teach. I went home and studied everything I could about dialogue..."
Read the rest of my column remembering Sue Grafton by clicking here.
NOTE: This originally ran as my Literary Life column for the Dayton Daily News on January 7, 2018.)
NOTE: This originally ran as my Literary Life column for the Dayton Daily News on August, 20, 2017.)
Here in the Greater Miami Valley, there’s a not-well-kept secret among writers (as well as those who love to read and are fascinated by the writing life).
And here it is: you want to subscribe to Fred Marion’s email newsletter.
Now, that may seem a little odd. Who in the world wants *more* email, and why, of all things, a newsletter?
Because Fred’s weekly email newsletter is part poetic homage to the writing life, part insight into the creative process, part inspiration, and part events calendar. And it adds up to a whole that is a love letter to writing and the creative process. Not in a goopy, drippy way. Remember, being in love can include some angst.
His email newsletter—the one bit of email I eagerly and actively look for each week—covers everything from an ode to libraries, the “paradox in art” of needing to look both inward and outward, family life and art, the danger of fear leading us to live lives we never wanted, and oh so much more.
Fred grew up in the Dayton area, attended Wright State University, graduating with a degree in English with a focus in creative writing in 2002, spent seven years as a journalist, and now works as a freelance marketing writer and web designer.
He always loved creative writing, but says he became serious about it when his wife became pregnant
with their first child.
“Knowing we were going to have a kid was a huge wakeup call for me. I always wanted to write a book,” Fred says. “I thought, how can I say ‘follow your dreams!’ to our child, if I wasn’t doing it myself? Somehow, I managed to crank out a draft before our daughter was born. I shopped my book around, but didn’t get great results. I decided I needed a community.”
Fred, who lives in Bellbrook with his wife and children, says he started going to literary events in the area. At an Antioch Writers’ Workshop event, he met author Kristina McBride (www.kristinamcbride.com) and hired her to review his book through The Write Sisters (www.writesistersconsulting.com). (Disclosure: I am a member of The Write Sisters.)
“Her feedback helped me know how to revise my novel, a middle grade story about orphans with super powers,” Fred says. “That revision was good enough for me to land a good literary agent. I’m working on another round of revision with my agent.”
But based on Fred’s sentiments in his email newsletter, the journey is as important—if not more so—than the results.
“When I started going to literary events in the Dayton area, I found myself almost overwhelmed by the opportunities to meet other writers, whether as a writer or reader,” Fred says. “I started a website, DaytonLit.com, almost as a calendar for myself to keep track. Then, a few people wanted the information in an email newsletter. And I thought I’d add some of my experiences and thoughts about my writing journey.”
Fred’s email newsletter started with three subscribers two years ago. Through word of mouth, it now has 235 subscribers.
“My style as a writer is confessional and vulnerable,” Fred says. “I remember going to a talk by Richard Paul Evans and his book The Christmas Box at Books & Co. and someone commented his writing was too confessional, putting too much out there. But he said that’s what a writer does, and if a writer isn’t willing to do that, they should get a different job. I hear that in back of my mind a lot. I want my writing to be true and honest. I apply that to my life and turn that into a brief essay in my newsletter.”
“My dream,” Fred adds, “is that a someday, someone will say, ‘Fred, I’ve been a subscriber and your newsletter inspired me to take art class or write first book.’”
Read some of Fred’s work and subscribe to Fred’s email newsletter at his website, www.DaytonLit.com, or his website http://fredrickmarion.com.
And that, as the cliched movie saying goes, is a wrap.
I've had a great time:
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.
A sweet memory
Years ago... and I mean years ago in high school... I decided to write a play. A musical. It was called "Just An Old Ballad," inspired by the Appalachian ballads I'd grown up hearing and sometimes singing. I wrote the play and the music, and convinced my high school theater teacher that it should be produced as part of the high school's season my senior year.
I also directed the play.
And happened to cast this handsome young man named David Short, who I kind of knew (we went to a huge high school, but I admit, I'd been eying him from afar), in the male lead role. I realized that I truly was attracted to him when his character had to kiss the female lead character, and in a fitful surge of jealousy, I called "cut!" on the rehearsal, and came close to writing that scene out of the play.
Hey, I was 18.
Turns out, I married that handsome young man four years later. We've been married 32 years.
So, I can say that the best reward I've ever received for my writing was falling in love with my soul mate.
Which was a pretty sweet memory to consider yesterday, as I sat next to that same fella, awaiting the live script reading of the opening 20 pages of my screenplay adaptation of "My One Square Inch of Alaska."
And now for the live script reading...
Now, I've given plenty of readings of my own work to audiences at book signings and book festivals.
I've pitched my work to agents and editors (and as of a few days ago, producers!) in one-on-one settings and received feedback.
But this would be the first time in 36 years I've heard my words interpreted by actors.
In this case, the actors were via the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), Toronto.
The Female Eye Film Festival's Script Development Track coordinator, Lindsey, did a great job organizing actors to read from 20 pages of the festival's nine selected screenplays. Each actor played a role, or sometimes several roles, depending on the screenplay excerpt. (I admit, I've tried to imagine what THAT spreadsheet must look like...) One actor serves as narrator, to read action blocks.
An hour is allotted for each reading. The reading itself takes about 20-25 minutes, and is done in front of an open-to-the-public audience, as well as a panel of producers/script editors/other film professionals.
After the reading, the panel gives notes, or feedback, on what works in the piece and what could use some improvement. Some panelists will have read only the excerpt; others, the full screenplay. Then, if there is time, the audience is free to make comments or ask questions about the work.
Someone please remind me: how does this thing called "breathing" work, exactly?
It seemed easy enough... until it was my turn. I will admit to sudden forgetfulness about just how does one breath, anyway? Is it exhale, inhale... or inhale, exhale...
Then I met the actors who would play my Donna and my Will, the siblings at the heart of My One Square Inch of Alaska, and I found myself thinking, awwwww! The actors, who'd never met before, looked like they COULD be siblings. They wanted to know my take on the characters' motivations, and so on. I met the other actors as well--the narrator, MayJune, Bettina, Gina, Jimmy, Hank and Charlie.
(Trusty, the canine star of the story is left, alas, to the imagination. Later though, dining al fresco, a big goofy smile came over me as someone walked by with a beautiful husky.)
Ahhh. I remembered, it's inhale, exhale, and repeat as needed.
I'm not going to be modest here. It felt magical to hear my words come to life, to sit in the front row and hear the actors fall into the roles and relationships that had, at one point, only existed in my imagination. The audience gasped at the right spots, and laughed at the right spots, and at the end burst into enthusiastic applause.
Then it was time to hear the panelist's views. (Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale...) Their comments were overwhelmingly positive. I was eager to hear whether or not the dual time track of Donna and Will on the road, going back and forth with Donna and Will in Ohio, worked for them. It did! I got some notes on filling in a few gaps--ones that didn't exist in the novel, but I've learned that in an adaptation, one leaves a lot out--but those are easily fixed.
The audience had glowing comments, too, and wanted to know more about my inspiration for the story and my background.
I was particularly pleased by the reaction of one of the screenwriters whose work was read and reviewed before mine. This screenwriter is also a director, and has produced movies under her belt. Her current screenplay already has A-list actors attached. Plus, she looks like Sigourney Weaver, As in, I thought, oh my, this is Sigourney Weaver's twin sister! (When we chatted, she told me that she gets told this all the time. I refrained from telling her that in my first mystery series, Patricia Delaney looks like Sigourney Weaver in my imagination.)
When I turned around to take audience comments and questions, this screenwriter was beaming at me, clearly pleased on my behalf. Later, she found me and said "Here's how you're going to make a 60-90 second promotional film to go out as part of your pitch package." And then she gave me an outline and tips.
Well. Okay. If I've learned anything over 30 plus years in trying to create stories that might have a shot at reaching readers (and in this case, viewers), it's when to recognize a professional who knows what she's talking about, and to shut up and take notes.
So, I took notes.
Community Shout Outs... I'd like to thank...
You know, looking back at the experience, my momentary forgetfulness of how to breathe notwithstanding, I realize it was a great experience because I was prepared. I was prepared by many years of being a novelist and knowing how to take notes from agents/editors. I was prepared by knowing what I don't know and learning, with the help of great people and books, how a screenplay is a different beast than a novel. I was prepared by getting feedback from two readers--one a friend, Ron Rollins, and the other a film producer/screenwriter and new friend, Ann Rotolante.
And at the risk of sounding like I'm giving a speech, I have to say that I was prepared for this experience in Toronto because of how supported I feel by my creative community in my hometown. I still think about Megan Cooper, a friend and the former director of FilmDayton, meeting me for coffee to chat about the possibility of my writing a screenplay, and her saying, "Of course you're going to write a screenplay. It will be good for you!" and about Beth Duke, a local producer, also meeting me for coffee after reading the novel and saying, "You're going to write this as a screenplay. How soon can you do that?"
Then there are all the writer friends who reassure me I'm NOT nuts, well, at least not for pursuing creative dreams, and writers, readers and fans from beyond my hometown who cheer me on, too.
The realization of all of that, plus the joy of hearing actors bring my characters to life, made for a mountain-top experience!
The plan for getting to the Female Eye Film Festival was to drive from our home in Ohio to Windsor, Ontario. There, we'd park our car, and board the VIA train. I had visions of settling into our seats, looking up from our respective books to chat or to watch the countryside roll by. Then we'd emerge at Union Station and take the subway to a stop near-ish our Air BnB...
Scratch that. Canada's VIA workers were threatening to strike... starting on the day we were to travel.
Now, I'm a planner. I like a schedule on a spreadsheet AND in my calendar, a day-by-day itinerary (preferably in 30 minute increments), and a folder that contains printouts of all necessary documentation.
So I was not happy at this change in travel plans.
NOTE: I must say, though, that I received a very clear, polite email from VIA with easy instructions about how to refund my usually non-refundable ticket. The refund was simple, easy and prompt... and came with another polite note. Followed the next day about how the strike had been averted and VIA operators were standing by... Canadians might know how to out-polite Midwesterners, and that's saying something.
Given the last minute nature of the above, we decided we'd drive.
After we crossed the Ambassador Bridge and went through border patrol, we settled into a long-ish drive on the highway.
A sense of Deja Vu...
And I had to chuckle to myself, because here I was again, traveling to pursue the dream of My One Square Inch of Alaska--this time the screenplay version, and, again, the world really didn't care about my spreadsheets, itineraries or folders. To get to my destination, I'd have to adjust my travel plans.
I remembered this also happening as I pursued the dream of My One Square Inch of Alaska--the novel version. That time, I'd won a Montgomery County Arts Council and Ohio Arts Council grants, and decided to attend a Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in New York City. I thought, then, of the novel as purely Young Adult. Though appropriate for Young Adult, it ultimately was published as literary coming-of-age book club fiction.
It just happened that that conference was at the end of January. And a blizzard hit. And New York City was under several feet of snow. My flight was cancelled. Heck, all flights to the city were cancelled. Somehow, miraculously, I convince United Air to return my airfare.
But I couldn't get the money back from the hotel or the conference, and heck, I'd spent money that my COMMUNITY had given me, and my Midwestern sensibility couldn't let that all go to waste, so... I figured I was packed anyway, tossed my suitcases in the trunk of my little car, and took off.
I still remember my husband's face as he waved from the garage. He looked a bit shocked. I've since learned he texted our daughters about the situation, but tried to assure them that of course I'd turn around after an hour or so. They each texted back something along the lines of "Hello? Have you met our mother?"
Anyway, I drove for ten hours to New York, which wasn't so bad until I entered the city, at which point:
I remembered that, oh, yeah, I have zip, zero, nada sense of direction.
All this came to me as I sat at an intersection, my wee little turn signal clicking away, cars around me honking. A fellow on a bike rolled up, stopped in front of me, pointed to my Ohio plates, looked at me through my windshield, and shook his head in disgust.
That's when I thought:
OK, the last thought was only semi-logical (my hotel was on a major street, though), but I was stressed, and it was nearly 11:00 at night, and so... well, that's what I did. I tailgated that taxi right through Times Square, past cops, through traffic... all the while chanting Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God. Soon enough though, there was my hotel.
Want to Achieve a Goal? Make a Plan. Then Be Willing to Change It.
The next morning, I went to the conference and on a 'speed dating with editors' event, and the first editor told me--based on one page of the novel--this will never get published. No one cares about stories set in the fifties. And your heroine is too wimpy. A wave of the hand, a roll of the eyes. Next.
To say I felt devastated is putting it lightly. The next editors were kinder and more helpful. I had lunch with my former editor of the Josie mystery novels, and she was helpful too. But that first editor's comments really stuck with me.
Later, I was calm enough to remind myself of guiding light I've tried to follow: toss out bad advice (e.g., no one reads anything set in the 1950s) and pick out, even from advice delivered poorly and meanly, whatever is useful, which in this case was that my heroine, Donna, needed more agency and desire for herself. (Well, that's how I chose to interpret 'wimpy.') That's when I made Donna's desire to be a much bigger part of the novel.
Fast forward to now, as I'm driving along the highway in Ontario. No snow storms--just a simple drive with my husband instead--but I had to think. Well. Here I am. On the way to a film festival. Where I will be 'speed dating' with producers with the screenplay adaptation of this novel.
When I was pursuing the novel, my travel plans to New York had to change... and once I arrived at my destination, I learned that my vision for the novel had to change, too.
I had to wonder if the universe was, in some way, telling me the same thing... again.
As it turns out... maybe. For the screenplay adaptation to become a produced film, I think I may need to make some changes. But, reader fans of the novel, don't panic. As a producer wisely told me: "Agree to changes that will get your movie made. Film making is collaboration and compromise. But never, ever agree to changes that change the heart of what you're saying with your story."
Of course, this trip isn't all work and no play. We've enjoyed visiting Greektown. We took the subway from near our Airbnb, got off at Chester Street, and walked a few feet up to Danforth. So many fun shops and restaurants. We had an al fresco lunch at Ouzeri's. Note the street sign in English and Greek.
I've also become a convert to AirBnB. Admittedly, this is our first experience... but we have a walkout basement apartment, with plenty of natural light, about a three minute walk from the film festival venue. We're on a cozy neighborhood street (Lisgar) off of a main street (Queen) which is chock-full of great restaurants, bars, etc. Plus... our hosts have a tiny courtyard with two chickens. Chickens! I love saying 'hello!' to the chickens each morning! The cost for six nights is $500 total... versus about $200 a night for the nearby hotels.
Confession: this is my first time attending a film festival.
So, I wasn't sure what to expect other than, well, a lot of films.
My husband, David, and I have definitely watched a lot of films already--some features, and many shorts. After the screenings (usually a few shorts followed by a longer film or feature), the directors come on stage and take questions from the audience.
The films at this festival have one specific criteria: directed by a woman. (Screenwriters entering the screenwriting portion of the festival could be male or female, but the protagonist must be female.)
Five hundred films from around the world were submitted; 90 were accepted. Of course, we're not going to watch all 90. (Fifty screenplays were submitted and eight selected.)
But we've enjoyed, been moved by, and discussed many. The website for Female Eye Film Festival has descriptions of the films, but I'd like to particularly point out a short called "Diving Within," directed by Hanan Dirya. It's a short documentary about Sherena, a Muslim from Malaysia, who moves to Ireland with her husband and sons, and her challenges in balancing her faith practice with finding community in a culture so foreign to her. She finds courage, peace and faith not only through her personal religious practices, but through slowly learning to swim in the Irish Sea... year round.
Watch the trailer at the end of this post. Frankly, in our current culture, I think everyone should watch this.
After the screening, I ran into Hanan in the lobby and told her that I found her short to be beautiful and important. I learned that Hanan herself is an immigrant to Ireland from Somalia.
Hanan told me that Sherena insisted, before agreeing to be the subject of Hanan's short, that Hanan go swimming with her. So Hanan went swimming in the Irish Sea. In February.
I'm touched by how hard artists fight to make their work and share it with others. I've been particularly awed by the women I've met here. Now, writing a novel is a challenge. A climb-Kilamanjaro effort, if you will. But for artists like Hanan... who find their subjects (or for others, write a script), AND direct AND produce AND promote? Well, their efforts strike me as build-a-ladder-to-Pluto effort.
So the next time you meet an indie filmmaker, male or female, offer them a delicious beverage of their choosing, and say, "My hat's off to you, oh indie filmmaker."
Acing the Bechdel Test
I'm also happy to report that every film has aced theBechdel test. (In which two female characters talk to each other about something other than... wait for it, wait for it... a man. Sometimes, these female characters even have names! Apply this test to the mega-movie-at-the-mall standard fare and see what you come up with.)
The founder and executive director of the festival shared, during a "meet the directors" panel yesterday that fourteen years ago, when she started the festival and began screening submissions, she was struck by how startling it was to see stories told from so many different female perspectives--old, young, wise, not-so-wise, poor, wealthy. Even as a feminist filmmaker and director, her eyes went wide at all the voices and points of view that she hadn't even realized she was missing.
While I'm a writer, I'm not a filmmaker. I have no desire or aspirations to direct films. (I could kind of see doing some aspects of the production side, since that's much like what I do as director of the Antioch Writers' Workshop.) It's always good, though, to hang out with artists who work in other mediums.
A Few Insights For Artists of All Stripes
So far, here''s what I've realized and/or re-realized from hanging out with and listening to filmmakers:
Coming up: Toronto, Live Read, pitching, etc.
So a novelist walks into a film festival as a screenwriter, and...
This phrase traipsed across my brain (sometimes a tickle, and sometimes a big stomp, stomp, stomp) for weeks before I finally arrived in Toronto for the 14th Annual Female Eye Film Festival.
Here's where I'm going to do the forbidden and dump some backstory: my most recently published novel, My One Square Inch of Alaska, was published a few years ago by Penguin Plume. It is different from my previously published novels (all mysteries)--an historical coming of age story. I think of this as the story of my heart.
And here's where I plop on my screenwriter hat and give you, as they say in the biz, the story's logline: In a gritty 1953 Ohio town, a scrappy teen girl breaks free from family tragedy and conventional expectations so she can help her terminally ill younger brother achieve his dream, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Alaskan Territory, all while learning to embrace her own dreams.
Imposter Syndrome and Mule-ish-ness
And here's where I tell you that even using the words "screenwriter," "biz," and "logline" makes my tummy flip. I have chronic imposter syndrome-itis. My first published novel came out in 1993. I'm still a little tremulous about claiming the title "novelist." Heck, sometimes I have imposter syndrome about being a human. (Really? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I was meant to be a mule... or donkey...)
But here's yet another thing: if you write a story about the power of embracing your dreams--because it makes you a better human (or donkey) and because it helps you want to help others with their dreams--and your dream is for that story to take form not only as a novel but as a film (preferably indie, but with Mark Ruffalo in a cameo role as Donna and Will's dad... hey, just putting that out there...) then you've rather forced yourself into the position of having to chase your own dreams.
So after a former TV actress expressed interest in the role of Miss Bettina (one of Donna and Will's helpers) but nothing came of it, and an indie production film nibbled but nothing came of it, I thought, fine. I'll just write the adaptation of my novel myself. (See why I might really be a mule?)
Learning and Contests--Discovering What You Know (And Don't)
I took a weekend screenwriting class with Marisha Mukerjee at FilmDayton. I asked Marisha for her recommendations about screenwriting books. I read them... and more, too. I bought FinalDraft software and learned how to use it. I googled 'screenwriting' and 'adaptations' and more, and read what made sense, and ignored what didn't.
Finally, I submitted my screenplay to several contests that another screenwriter, Brad Riddell, suggested to me. Brad taught at a one-day class on "Story For All: Stage, Screen and Page" at the Antioch Writers' Workshop, at which I'm employed as Director. I discovered a few other contests via Film Freeway. The goal of entering most was to get 'notes,' (there I go again, slinging around film biz lingo...), or feedback. After I received that, I revised my screenplay, and entered a few more--wanting more feedback, but also hoping that I might, well, place, if not win.
To my joy... and, no, this isn't false modesty, surprise... I did! One of those joyous surprises was having my screenplay be one of eight chosen as an official selection of the Female Eye Film Festival.
Women in Film
I entered this festival's competition because I liked that all the films at the festival must be directed by women; screenplays must be written or co-written by women. In the United States (and I'm guessing it's similar for other countries) only 5% of films are directed by women. The goal of this particular festival is to raise the awareness of the work women are doing in film. Given that this festival is designated by Movie Maker magazine as a top 50 worth entering, and is in its 14th year, the festival seems to be achieving its goal.
It's been interesting--after just one day--to talk with women directors who have been in the industry for a decade or more and hear their stories of being the ONLY female director at a festival.
Speed Dating Producers (My "Good to Go" Session)
Anyway... one of the great aspects of this festival for screenwriters is that being selected doesn't just give you a nice line for a bio. At the festival, we screenwriter delegates (that's the festival's term! I'm not being an imposter! I swear!) have two major programming events: "Good to Go" session. Live reading of 20 pages of our screenplays.
Yesterday was our Good to Go session. Think of it as speed-dating for screenwriters and producers/film executives. In this closed session, each screenwriter (eight total) gets a 15-minute one-on-one with a producer/executive (six total). The time ends; the screenwriter moves on (or takes a break since we didn't have a one-to-one ratio.) I expected to be terrified, because that is my usual modus operandi. But... I wasn't. I think that's for several reasons:
So how did it go? Well, part of my results are due to talking to producers/execs in Canada, where the film industry is supported by the government. The tax incentives are so strong for producing work created by Canadians, that there's a bit of a challenge for a non-Canadian's material in terms of financing. (If I'd co-written the adaptation with a Canadian screenwriter, the resulting intellectual property would qualify.) However, there are other tax incentives for non-Canadian companies to film in Canada, and that leads to some benefits for Canadian co-producers, and... amazing what you can learn in 6 speed-dates.
Here are my results:
It was also fun to meet the other screenwriter delegates. For my novelist/short story writer friends out there, by the way, screenwriters are just like us. Story-tellers. Maybe a little bit of imposter syndrome. And, given the challenges of both publishing and film industries, a bit like donkeys.
Coming up: Toronto, the films at the festival itself, and the live reading.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing John Scalzi--author, supporter of fellow writers, and all-around nice guy--for my "Dayton Reads" feature on mydaytondailynews.com. May seemed fitting timing to feature John in this monthly series, because this month John is a recipient of the 2016 Governor's Award for Arts in Ohio.
The interview reveals a lot about John's background, working process, and just how he ended up choosing science fiction as his genre. (The answer is a bit surprising.) Read the interview by clicking here.
John also generously shared a short story for the online feature, a story that is both wry and (at the end) just a bit poignant, too. Read "When The Yogurt Took Over" by clicking here.
And click here for a brief video at the Dayton Barnes & Noble in which I talk about John's work as well.
I'm a goal-setter and planner.
But occasionally, the opportunities that are the most fun are ones that I couldn't possibly plan or anticipate.
A few months ago, I was one of many authors at a fundraiser for my local Washington-Centerville Public Library. Barnes & Noble Dayton supported the book-sales portion of the event. Ian Charles Kirk, the Community Business Development Manager of the store, handles the sales. Of course, I didn't just sign copies of my own titles... I bought books, too, and briefly met Ian.
Shortly after that, Ian contacted me with an idea: a shelf featuring authors from the Dayton area and Southwest Ohio at the Dayton Barnes & Noble. Since I write a weekly Literary Life column for the Dayton Daily News, as well as a monthly Dayton Reads feature, Ian suggested I'd be a good fit for picking titles by one or two area authors each month. The Dayton Barnes & Noble helping with an idea he'd had for awhile--a shelf featuring authors from the Dayton area and Southwest Ohio.
Ian's management not only approved a shelf... but an entire end cap bookshelf!
We had a soft launch in April, focusing on area poets including Heather Christle and Herbert Woodward Martin.
For May, the "Sharon Recommends" bookshelf focuses on John Scalzi and Kameron Hurley. John, a science fiction writer from north of Dayton, is a recipient of the Ohio Governor's Award for Individual Artists; he will receive his award at a special luncheon in Columbus, Ohio on May 18. I'm delighted that, as his nominator, I'll be at the luncheon. Kameron Hurley, a Dayton area science fiction writer, was one of several publishing professionals who wrote a letter of support for his nomination.
Starting with May, we're creating brief video interviews to introduce the books on the Dayton Barnes & Noble Sharon Recommends Shelf. Here's May's, where I explain to Ian my thoughts about my book picks on the Dayton Barnes & Noble Facebook Page.
Learn more about John and his work on his website, Whatever.scalzi.com.
Learn more about Kameron and her work on her website, KameronHurley.com
Yesterday, my husband and I drove our younger daughter back to her college town to help her move into the house she is renting with several friends for her senior year of college.
We know we're blessed; still, we felt a bit sentimental as we pulled out of Athens, Ohio, our daughter's college town set in the foothills of Appalachia in southeastern Ohio.
So, my husband and I decided to stop at the gas station on the outskirts of town, ostensibly to get gasoline for our trip home, although our tank was just over half full. We didn't really need the gasoline, but we stopped at that gas station anyway, mostly because the stop delayed pulling away from the town too fast. Also, candy bars. That particular gas station has a nice selection. Never underestimate the healing power of candy bars, even for 50-something parents.
That particular gas station, on the corner of State Route 32 (also known as the Appalachian Highway) and a narrow country road, also has something else: pumps. Gasoline pumps, of course. But also an old-fashioned hand-powered water pump, right by the side of the road.
We'd noticed the water pump before and wondered why it was there. Yesterday afternoon, we found out.
As we pumped gasoline into our automobiles, a horse-and-buggy clip-clopped up the road to the pump. An older Amish man got out. My husband and I knew that Amish folk live in the area--we'd once had a rather harrowing late-night experience of coming up on two Amish horse-and-buggies trotting along the Appalachian Highway as we came around a bend. Fortunately, we slowed in time and passed them safely.
But we never made the connected between the hand pump at the gas station and the Amish, until yesterday, when the Amish man got out a bucket, pumped it full of water, and gave his horse a long drink. His wife stayed in the buggy, rearranging a few things in a built in box in front of her. A buggy version of a glove compartment.
For a moment, the afternoon seemed to hang in surreal stillness. My husband pumping gas for our automobile. The Amish man pumping water for his horse. Me fiddling with change to get candy bars. The Amish woman fiddling with whatever was in the buggy box.
By the time I came out with our candy bars, the Amish man had finished watering his horse. The horse, buggy and Amish couple disappeared up the narrow country road. We headed up the Appalachian Highway back toward our home a few hours away in southwestern Ohio. We munched our candy bars, and commented on the kindness of the gas station having a water pump handy for the Amish, or for anyone else who might just need water.
As we fell into silence, then, I thought for a moment how the sight of a horse and buggy seemed to make time stop. Then I though about how of course, it doesn't. Though we can pause, to refill in whatever way we need to, soon enough we must travel on.
...is a novelist, columnist, workshop director, instructor, and a pie enthusiast. As such, she blogs about the literary life, life in general, and pie. Definitely, pie.