Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pajama Party

I had a parent-teacher conference with Cassandra's kindergarden teacher yesterday. The teacher enjoys writing and has been in a library-based writer's group for some time. She was interested what I wrote, asked intelligent questions, and was generally curious as to how someone could make a living with words. (A subject I have been known to wonder about myself, from time to time.)

While it's true that I love what I do -- putting words together in interesting new ways, helping people connect with a larger audience, and trying to get the movies in my head on paper and (ultimately) on screen -- I have to admit that one of the major perks of my profession is the fact that I don't have to dress up to do it. If the muse strikes, I can work all day without even getting out of bed.

A friend of mine has a 6 year old granddaughter who already understands such fringe benefits. For Halloween at school this year, all she wanted for her costume was a pair of pajamas. She's going as a writer. Smart girl!

Today I'm working on drafting the next few sections of Ryan's book. I have some transcription work to do of content that he has dictated. Then I need to sequence it and polish it. He's quite articulate, so the process generally goes quite smoothly.

Later this afternoon, I have a conference call with a director friend who I'm working with to develop an independent bio-pic. We've been wrestling lately with the best way of taking a very compelling true life story and forming it into a workable screenplay. Depending upon the angles we decide to focus on, the story could be a sports drama, an underdog story, a tragedy, a comedy, a coming-of-age piece, a character study, or fit into any one of several other genres.

The process of determining the "angle" has been quite lively at times, as we both tend to be quite opinionated, and we both have certain scenes that we'd like to highlight in the main character's life journey. How to sequence those scenes, and what weight to give them in the overall story has been a challenge. I have a sequencing plan / story line that I'm currently championing. It remains to be seen whether or not I've done a good enough job of convincing him that it's the right choice.

Once we have a handle on the overall story line, writing the screenplay (my favorite part -- and his most dreaded) can begin.

Still no word from the producer who has "Shutters." Not certain whether that's good or bad news at this point. But I don't have time to sit around worrying about it.

Now it's time poof my pillow and get back to work...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Break from Utah

Am I the only person in the country who is genuinely disturbed by the fact that Megaplex Theatres, which operates theaters in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah, has refused to show the astoundingly silly Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but has readily booked the ultra-icky "Saw V?"

Larry Miller owns both the theatre chain and the Utah Jazz. Remember him? He's the same enlightened soul who refused to screen "Brokeback Mountain" two years ago because it "crossed the line."

The theater manager is the morally uptight Cal Gunderson who takes exception to Zack and Miri's "graphic nudity and graphic sex," but refuses to comment on his decision to make a film that involves people putting their limbs in table saws available to Utah movie lovers.

Now, I'm hardly endorsing Zack. Or Miri. But I do think that posturing, censorship, and moralizing fall a bit short when sex porn is out, but torture porn is a-ok.

Frankly, if forced to choose, I'd pick "Z & M" any day of the year! Unlike Mr. Miller and Mr. Gunderson, I just don't consider watching gross dismemberment and extreme agony all that entertaining.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Writing for Royalty

Or, Long Live the King!

Today was a banner day in the Hendrickson Writing World.

* I had a producer who has asked to read one of my screenplays show some interest and request a release -- which is always very cool.

* I finished tying up every single loose end on my long-term V.I.P. client's Major Project. (Rah! The project is now in the client's hands, awaiting commentary and revisions.)

* I finished tying up all other loose ends, dotting i's, and crossing t's on smaller projects. (My desktop is cleared. Sticky notes are gone. To-Do lists are full of crossed-out items. The spirit soars!)

* And I did some work for a new client which was just plain fun.

This client contacted me after reading one of my articles on how to write a Foreword. (This is a perennial favorite. I regularly hear from total strangers who take the time to write and let me know that they found it of use.) He had an interesting dilemma -- after soliciting forewords from two powerhouses, both agreed. So he decided to use one for his book's foreword and the other for the introduction.

He wanted to enlist my help in polishing up the two pieces. His staff had done a fairly decent job on the first edit, so I said "yes."

(On a side note, I found it funny that in contacting these two movers and shakers, he mentioned my name and quoted my "Forewords" article. Which would have been great, except he called me "Ami Henderson." Doomed to obscurity... That's me...)

So, this morning, I found myself writing for what can only be called royalty in certain industry circles. I went through the process I always follow when ghosting:

First, I read several transcripts of interviews and short articles by the person in question.

Then, I made note of any turns of phrase or consistent speech mannerisms I could find.

Then I read a few of the person's actual interview transcripts aloud to get a feel for cadence, tone, and sentence structure.

Armed with that information, I approached the Foreword. It was already structured fairly well, so I just worked it over with an eye toward duplicating the Royal Voice.

As an exercise in dialogue, character, and voice, it was truly fun. Plus, it was all billable. If the Powers That Be decide to use my work, it will be icing on the cake to look at the Foreword when the book is in print and know that I wrote for royalty.

Finding Followers

Imagine my surprise the other day when I discovered that this blog had a follower! I didn't even know such things were possible. Now that I do, I've made it easy for my loyal readers (both of you... you know who you are!) to make themselves known. Just click on the "follow this blog" text on the left hand side of the page and -- voila! you're on the list of the Chosen Few. Welcome!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making Mini Miracles

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
– Mark Twain

For the past year, a friend of mine has been keeping her horses here at our place. Earlier this summer, she felt very strongly that God was leading her to start up an animal visitation / therapy program using miniature horses as well as dogs.

She has little money, less time, and -- because of her husband's work demands -- is for all intents and purposes a single parent. Yet, she stepped out in faith and decided that if God was telling her to do this, then He would find a way for it to happen. It wasn't too long afterwards that two wee equines came to our place, and Mini Miracles became a reality.

When the horses came here, they were in rather sad shape -- undernourished, under exercised, and just generally in poor condition.

In the time that they've been here, they've bloomed. (Literally. One, we discovered, was -- surprise! -- expecting.) They have brightened the lives of people in nursing homes, elder care facilities, elementary schools, church gatherings, and women's shelters. They have more of a purpose than most horses, and they have risen beautifully to the occasion.

Not only am I immensely proud of my friend for responding to her convictions, but I am almost as proud of the fact that she has begun a Mini Miracles blog documenting her experience. This is huge.

I've known Chari for years. When you think of people who would leap at the chance to keep a running chronicle of the goings-on in their lives, her name is not one that would generally be at the top of the list. She's much more happy doing a thing than writing about it.

So, for her to choose to write about what she is undertaking -- beginning a non-profit from scratch, wearing her convictions on her sleeve, and documenting the on-going therapy horse ministry -- only serves to underscore her commitment to the project. In a sense, her blogging is a mini miracle in itself.

Writing is like that. When things matter -- when they count -- we often feel compelled to commit them to paper (or, in the 21st century, to pixels). It is as if doing so makes a thing somehow more significant, more meaningful, or more real. It has the added benefit of allowing others to peer into the windows of our souls and see the mechanism that drives the Great Undertaking. It encourages people to share in our experience, to sympathize with our setbacks and to rejoice in our triumphs.

Not everyone enjoys writing. Chari would be the first to tell you that she is "no writer." Ah, but she would be wrong. Because, you see, she has something to say. And she is choosing to write it down -- regardless of whether or not it is perfectly phrased or punctuated. She wrestles with the same words every other writer has engaged in battle. And in doing so, she joins the rest of us poor saps who can't stay away from the fray.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Muzak, Squirrels, and Mega-Mouths

Ernest Hemingway wrote an immortal ode to "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." One would think that clean and well-lit is all one should require for getting decent work done.

One would be wrong.

Every day I take my little girl to kindergarden and sit in a nearby cafe that, blessedly, has wireless internet access, where I work for the few hours she's in school.

On the surface, this is a great plan. I get three hours of billable work, uninterrupted by the distractions of home, dog, laundry, well-meaning friends, and political telemarketers. In reality, however, it has some very real snags that I had failed to take into consideration beforehand.

For one thing, the configuration of the server / internet access allows me to receive e-mail and get online to do research, but it prevents me from sending anything. If I know that my work will require on-the-spot messages, I have to plan ahead and drive 10 miles down the road to Panera's. Inconvenient, but not insurmountable.

Another thing involves the twin evils of fluorescent lighting and it's bigger, more annoying brother Muzak. Oh. My. Everloving. Head! Some days I just HAVE to leave. I have no idea how the poor saps who work here can stand it. It's insidious. It's persistent. It gets into your head, into your subconsciousness, and sucks your soul dry. The cafe here at Apple Valley plays the same CD over and over and over and over. Until you know that "Lara's Theme" is followed by "Memories." And driving off a cliff suddenly seems like a warm and fuzzy alternative way to spend an afternoon.

These glitches are nothing, however, compared to The Mouth. I don't know his name, and I don't want to. But he works here, and EVERYTHING that goes on in his head comes out of his mouth for others to share and enjoy. Unlike most sound projecting equipment, he does not come equipped with a volume control. And he is incapable of speaking a sentence -- any sentence -- without using the word "like" more than twice.

Today was no exception.

I, and every other person in the cafe / store within a 100 foot radius, was treated to a lengthy story about a friend of his who, like, stayed at this friend's house and, like, went to eat, like, breakfast, but, like, the milk was kind of lumpy. And he thought, like, "Well, maybe this is buttermilk, and they, like, like it that way." So he, like, poured it on his cereal and was, like, eating breakfast when his friend came down and was like, "Dude, that's disgusting..."

This narrative gem was immediately followed by, like, a story about this flying squirrel that was, like, trapped in a garage and these two friends were, like, trying to get it out. And they, like, moved into one corner -- but the squirrel, like, moved past them into the other corner.

I tried headphones and iTunes and favorite songs. But even Bon Jovi's version of "Hallelujah" couldn't win over Muzak and, like, squirrels.

Clearly, I need to find another place to work. Which sucks. But I guess it's better than, like, eating breakfast with spoiled milk.

Project Updates

The Major Project for the V.I.P. client continues and appears to be on track. A major segment of it should be out of my hands by Friday, which leaves only two other major components to be completed.

Earlier this week, I did a "help me in a hurry" infomercial script for a client who throws small jobs my way from time to time. I've written several of them for the client over the years and, must confess, I've never seen the final product. It'd be kind of interesting sometime to see how they turn out. Maybe I'll ask for the YouTube version -- just for grins and giggles...

Also earlier this week, I had a producer ask to see one of my screenplays. Which is exciting, but I'm holding off on the yee-ha'ing until an honest-to-God option comes along. Crossing my fingers and holding my breath, but refusing to turn blue.

I also did a little work for a director / independent producer friend of mine. We're trying to come up with the best way to sequence his current project. I had some ideas and sent them his way. I plan to talk with him tonight, to see what paths he wants me to pursue.

Finally, my friend, who I've been mentoring as she puts together a proposal for a riveting memoir, has finished the proposal and is awaiting my edit / commentary / polish on the project. I'm very excited about the possibilities for her book, and am honored to be involved in the creation of it. I'm also terribly impressed with her work ethic and her stick-to-it-iveness as she learned everything she could about putting a proposal together. She followed my instructions (imagine!) and has created a very professional looking package. Further bulletins as events warrant on that front.

That about covers the writing end of things here. The eternally growing "Sera Bear" got spayed and microchipped this week, so she's laying about the house recuperating. And Robert has been working on developing several websites for various clients, so there is no shortage of things to do in a day.

Thank God I don't have to, like, capture a squirrel. I wouldn't, like, have the time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fun Reading "The Fine Print"

I am in the midst of reading Mark Levine's excellent book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, and am thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Mr. Levine was a practicing corporate and entertainment attorney for nearly a decade. He is now CEO of Click Industries, Ltd..

In "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing," Levine not only demystifies the process of skipping the rejection-letter collection game once one commits to getting one's book in print, but he also does the unthinkable. He talks dollars and cents. He decodes standard publishing contracts. And he names names. Real names of real self-publishers, complete with website URLs, contact information, and standard publishing services offered.

A significant portion of the book (now in its third edition) is committed to evaluating 45 self-publishing companies -- analyzing what they offer and ranking them for service, production, value, and ethics.

Eight companies earn the rank of "Outstanding."

Nine are "Pretty Good."

Seven are "Just OK."

And readers are warned to "Avoid" a frightening 21!

Levine's style is engaging, humorous, self-deprecating, and straight-forward. By page 35 (the book is over 300 pages), the information in the book has more than paid for the purchase price. I was especially impressed with his no-nonsense approach to marketing, his debunking of unrealistic expectations, and his advice on how to know when self-publishing is the right step in a writer's career.

This is an excellent resource for anyone entertaining the thought of "going it alone" in the publishing world. I consider it an invaluable addition to my reference books.

When Worlds Collide

In a few days, I leave for a multi-day meeting with one of my Major Clients to discuss the progress and future of the VIP project that has been occupying many of my waking thoughts (and a few of the slumbering synapses as well).

Ryan's book is still in a holding pattern, but I spoke with my publisher the other day, and am in the process of considering what appears to be a very exciting new book project. I just received an outline / book idea / proposal, and will spend some time looking that over this afternoon. But what I've heard is exciting -- especially because it would involve working with an industry legend. Heaven knows how I love to do that!

Further bulletins as events warrant on that front. In the meantime, there is no shortage of things to be done. So I'm reluctantly going to put "The Fine Print..." aside for the moment, and attend to the "Fine Art" of writing for the rest of the day.