Monday, March 18, 2013

Light House Studio Saturday Workshops


Eva wrote about a scene that really happened.  Steven wrote two scripts and changed his mind at the last moment about which one we would read.  Caleb brought it on his computer, but doesn't have an ending.  Almost no one had decided on a title.  Titles or no titles...I'm impressed.    

I'll type in Courier font in honor of the standard screenwriting font that everyone is supposed to use.

I'm teaching a series of three workshops on screenwriting at Light House Studio.  I met 11 high school students for the first time 2 Saturdays ago and they started their own original 5 minute scripts.  They came up with their scenarios and rough ideas during the first class, then they brought back formatted scripts for a table readings and discussions last Saturday. 

Discussing plot, character, dialogue, etc.
 We read as many scripts as we could get through in the two hours and then we discussed each script. 
listen, discuss, listen, discuss

Eva (center) listening while her script is read

The dreaded (but wonderfully productive) warm-up writing exercise
Two of the scripts will be chosen for upcoming in-depth workshops and full productions by Light House. The screenplays not chosen will still be considered for future development.  

I can't wait to see the final drafts or next-to-final drafts this Saturday.  If you have a young person interested in film and you live anywhere near Charlottesville, send them to Light House. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Case of the Mondays

 In October of 2011, I became a renter at a writer's cottage.  There are five of us here most of the time.  It's a shared space which just means (for us) that you need to pack up your junk at the end of the day and that you should try and take your phone calls on the porch.  It also means you're less alone, and less likely to sit around in your pajamas.  

I like being alone in the cottage, the almost total silence and coldness of it first thing in the morning and the satisfaction that a boiling kettle gives to a woman alone in the winter.  I like to stare at people out of the window -- cars slowing down, children walking to the park, mothers pushing strollers, people waiting for the bus. 

Now and then I drift off to times that I worked more formally, when I had official bosses, places where there were no cats dropping by and crying at my window.  Moments when I'm struggling to stay focused, to not be sad, to not Google "ADD symptoms", I feel a painful urge to go buy coffee, to go interrupt a friend, to go run an errand, to go eat.  I'm not alone.  Other people want to bail, too.  If I'm smart, I'll just sit right here and watch the chimney smoke from the house next door and I'll keep writing. 

A teenager walking home from school is so much happier this afternoon than he usually is.  His shoulders back, almost lunging with his steps. I need to know why this Monday was so much better than the other Mondays. 

I like having company in the cottage, the sound of other people typing, their children in the corners working on math and wearing headphones, singing lightly.  

At five o'clock or six o'clock or sometimes seven, when I'm hungry or I've just gotta go, I wash my dishes and pack up, turn the heat down. When I think I should've gotten more done, I feel my chest bind up like fists, and then I turn off the lights and lock up.  Last night I smelled pipe smoke when I was leaving. I looked around in the dark at the porches, but couldn't find the smoker.  

Thinking that I, too, better get home for some relaxing moments with vices, I get in my car and drive off.  

Other spaces similar to this in Charlottesville include Open Space ,
Shared spaces for creative types are becoming more and more common, such as this group in Austin, TX, in New York City, and this article listing lots of shared spaces in cool citiesIf you need a shared space, find a cool house that needs renting and get a bunch of writer/artist-types to share the rent!

Friday, March 8, 2013

When Children Roamed in Snow

We made the most of snow days.  We were passionate about snow.  There was almost a clawing to get outside from the moment no school was announced.  I remember the large dial on the tv and channel 3, the news out of Charlotte.  I remember cereal and nightgowns and begging and dying and praying and holding my breath waiting for the line to go across the bottom of the screen:  Mooresville City Schools -- Closed.  Baskets were raided for gloves.  Mismatched gloves were okay.  Too small boots were okay.  Jeans were okay.  Thermal underwear was forced.  

Every possible downhill was tried -- driveways, backyards, front yards, schoolyards.  It was an outside world all day long with breaks only when jeans were soaked and thighs were numb.  There were breaks only when my brother hit me so hard in the face with a snowball I cried.   Breaks only when they made you come inside.  I don't remember new sleds.  I remember cracked sleds and old sleds from neighbor's basements.  I remember Mrs. Cooke saying her wooden sled needed wax, but we could try it anyway.  I remember the trophies and plaques all over the basement walls from her athletic children who were all grown up.  I remember cardboard boxes and trash can lids.  I remember all the best hills.

Chuck Kory built forts.  He and his brother pushed so hard.  Pushed you right down in the snow.  Tackled you.  Called you a baby.  Ran you off.  Let you come back.  They abandoned their forts too soon.  I don't know where they went.  We passed their cruel snow world on.  We would lie near the edge of the creek bank pretending we were dead until Kathryn's little sister ran screaming back up to the house.    

Our neighborhood days were always parentless, but especially on snow days.  Parents did not play with you.  The streets were abandoned except for the random Buick or Pontiac swerving slowly, trying not to kill us. My mother would say, "Why do you idiots sled right down the middle of the street?" 

I remember walking through the woods.  An old, well-marked daily world made new by snow.  There were rallying cries and tactics, walkie-talkies and winners.  Important wars were fought in those woods.  There were bb guns and snowballs filled with rocks.  There was vengeance and freedom, romance and treehouses and things that were red.  I loved everything red in the snow -- mittens, coats, doors, buckets. 

Walking through the neighborhood, you could not leave a single yard pristine, un-tromped on.  Footprints and snow angels were fascinating.  We made snowmen out of the ugliest, nastiest, most unclean snow.  We tried, you know?  We tried to make snowmen in the driest, most un-fun snow.  We collected icicles.  We tried to make ice skating ponds on sidewalks.  Even in the lightest of snows, we made the most of it.  

All the food was just what you think it was: cocoa and grilled cheese and tomato soup and raviolis and chocolate chip cookies.  There was HBO at noon over fish sticks and tater tots in your pajamas with your face on fire. There was staring at the dryer, impatiently opening the door so you could layer back up and head back out.  There were phone calls and plans made.  I'll meet you at South School.  

There was that moment when you knew you'd stayed out too long.  We always pushed our curfews too far, past dark.  Dragging a sled home past Mr. Field's house, he'd be out in his driveway -- shoveling...working.  He was on the school board.  He had some influence on whether school got called.  He'd see me trudging home late.  He'd nod and wink and smile and say, "I thought you'd be happy."    

I was.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Miller Murray Dorothy Parker

at Blue Moon Diner:  where the cool kids obviously get better service

Quotes from Miller Murray Susen over omelet and veggie burger:
"I'm building my brand, motherfucker."
"She's playing my evil stepmother and she looked at me and said, 'WHAT have you been doing?' and I told her I'd eaten an onion bagel from Bodo's."
"I'm pessimistic, I'm fatalistic, and I'm not that nice."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Self-Portrait in a Sweatshirt

In January I set up camp at the dining room table in order to finish my wellness manual in the evenings.  Like kudzu, I have been creeping across the land and now it seems unlikely that my stacks of books and I will be leaving the dining room anytime soon .  I like writing at tables.  Right now, except for the sound of heavy branches hitting the roof and agitating my PTSD, it is an idyllic spot to write and watch the snow fall.  At night, though, while I'm typing, if I look up, I can only see myself in the window.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

8 Writing Prompts Inspired by My Eggs (and my day)

Need a break from not writing?  Tip:  Walk around the cottage where you rent and take pictures of it for your blog!

It's been a quiet day to contemplate a comeback.   A comeback to my blog, I mean.  I plan to write on it all the time...then I don't.  I've found this common in blogging circles, but knowing this doesn't help (the disappointment).  I write harsh journal entries about how my life emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually would greatly improve if I wrote on my blog regularly.  That's probably too much to expect from a blog, but it's not too much to expect from writing. If you're like me, it's nice occasionally to have a writing prompt.  Since I could not think of what to write on my blog today for my fabulous comeback, the fabulous comeback will have to wait.  Instead, I came up with writing prompts (inspired by my day) that other people might feel so motivated that they could just...write... 

1.  Free write for 20 minutes about how you are a worthless sack of shit.  If cats fighting outside your window at 4:30 a.m. freezes your writing, breathe in their violence and then use it in your work.  Stay with it! 

2.  Pretend you are in a cycle class and all the booty songs are bothering you.  Pretend that's funny because they never bothered you before.  Then, write honestly (do not lie) about whether you like big butts.  Decide whether or not you make Sir Mix-a-Lot horny.  Decide that you'd like to kick some nasty thoughts.  Try to remember that scene from UNCLE BUCK when "Wild Thing" is playing.  Suddenly connect your desire to cycle to more U2 songs to the fact that you are turning 40 soon.  Make it VERY interesting -- the connection, I mean. 

2.  Write an action sequence about a woman buying cat food and cold rotisserie chicken at Kroger at 9:30 a.m.   

3.  There is a way of cooking eggs so that they are good and there is a way of cooking eggs so that they are slimy and nasty and need to be buried under the spring greens and avocado.  Write a recipe card to a bridal shower with very clear instructions on how not to undercook eggs.  Maybe don't write it in the negative, but don't not make your point.  Use your stamping collection to make it look real pretty. 

4.  Prepare a short but friendly lecture on how actors/writers should call people back in a timely fashion (make sure to point out that a week and a half is not a timely fashion).  Give it a happy ending by giving the needy actor the work anyway.  

5.  Writing exercise in non-writing (plan accordingly because this one could take 2 hours) :  stop writing for a moment and see how many cashews you can chew at one time.  Then watch the cop car sitting outside.  Count up how many cop cars you've seen that day and contemplate if that is a sign for you.  A bad sign?  Get irritated at the dogs barking.  Take a phone call.  Watch the couple moving furniture across the street and wonder if they are fighting.  Try to guess how heavy that dresser is.  Write back to a text.  Go outside and look for the cat that doesn't belong to you in case he wants you to hold him (just for a moment).  Come back in and make yourself a cup of tea.  Eat three blackberries.  Brush your teeth to prevent staining.  Sit back down to write.  Pop up again to look for some lotion for your dry hands.  Check your email.  Take this quiz to see how long you'll live.  Daydream (worry) about what you're supposed to do between living healthily to 78.2 and your expected death at 92.  Maybe you'll write books then. 

6.  Imagine you are coaching someone about weight loss.  Ask them all the right questions (for example:  ask them if they'd like for you to make them a badge to wear that says "Lil' Asskicker").  

7.  Make a list of all the calamities that you regret.  Imagine what a good screenplay that would make.  Kind-of sketch out the plot in your mind.  Go ahead and cast it, but DON'T WRITE ANYTHING.  You may think of a better idea tomorrow.  

8. Pretend you are an actor who just got a casting notice for a Pizza Hut commercial.  Think back to the time you worked at Pizza Hut and how you used to smell at the end of every shift.  Try to recall all the details...maybe throw in a Nigerian dishwasher who loves to say your name every time you walk by him.  Make it like a fantasy story of getting the part and getting paid buttloads of money.  Put in obstacles to making any of the fantasy come true like scandals and flat tires.  Make it believable. 

Hope these help!  You're welcome!  Happy writing!