“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story.” ~Hannah Arendt
As a fiction writer, I create worlds and characters who are as real to me as anything and anyone outside my door. They’re my friends. They’re my lifeline right now. As always, they’re helping me write my way out. This doesn’t mean I’m not scared or worried or anxious. I am all those things. My writing gives those emotions and feelings and thoughts some place to go, it gives me a tool that helps bear the burden so my own heart and mind and shoulders don’t have to bear them alone.
I hope you’re all well and safe in these ever-changing times.
I have some good news in the midst of a lot of difficulty: I made it into the second round of the Sundance 2020 Episodic Lab program with a TV pilot that I wrote. I’ll know by August if I’ll be invited to their Lab in October. Just making it to the second round feels wonderful.With all the tough news in my city of New York, this is a bit of light and I’m so grateful.
Special thanks to John Bucher, Script Pipeline, Ruth Sabin, ScreenCraft, Ed Freeman, F.J. Lennon, and Ken Lacovara for their invaluable notes on my scripts and their endless stream of encouragement for my writing.
In the worst situations, I acknowledge how difficult things are and also try to find some kind of value. In New York City (where I live), coronavirus is a serious issue. We all take public transit and it’s a crowded place. A virus that has community spread is not an issue to be taken lightly here. My inbox is filling up with cancelled events, happenings that I was really looking forward to in the coming weeks and month. I understand—it’s for our safety and I know event organizers don’t take these decisions lightly. As a producer, I feel their pain.
To keep myself motivated, I’m reminding myself that coronavirus, for better or worse, is giving me a lot of dedicated time at home and that means I have a lot of time to write, read, and research. I set some very ambitious writing goals for myself this year to complete a number of large projects. I’m committed to making good use of this time. I’m reading a lot, writing a lot, and doing everything I can to keep up the spirits of others during this time.
Has the coronavirus impacted your daily life, work, and writing? How are you doing? Let me know in the comments.
This week I had an interesting turn of events: a publisher contacted me about the possibility of writing a new book. It’s a book I’ve been thinking about writing for a while so I already had a lot of thoughts about the topic and the book. It was one item on my very long to-do list of writing that shot to the top of the list because of this inquiry. The publisher asked me to pitch my idea for the book so I did and we’ll see what happens. Could be something. Could be nothing. It taught me a lot.
Many times, this is where the story ends and it may just seem like a wonderful stroke of luck to get an email like this from a publisher. It is and it isn’t. The serendipity springs from a lot of hard work over a very long time, much of it a labor of love. First, the book idea is based on my long career in product development that had had very high highs and very low lows. It’s also a result of my work as a writer (also with its peaks and valleys), and most recently in going back to graduate school (for the second time). The publisher’s note to me happened after they saw that I shared a post on LinkedIn with a relevant hashtag about some of my recent writing of a TV pilot script that was entirely unpaid and that I don’t even know will ever get off the ground.
This recent interaction taught me that we have to make our own luck, that we have to talk about the work we’re doing to find people who share our interests and passions. Many times, we talk into the void. Sometimes, that void ends and we find an audience. Working in secret and staying quiet about our work is a completely fine and personal decision. If we want our work to have impact, to inspire and reach other people, to build a better world, then sharing it (when we’re ready) is key. The creative world is weird. The publishing world is weird. Life and career is a wild ride, and I think it’s absolutely worth the price of admission.
Do you have a story about how sharing your work led to an unexpected opportunity? I’d love to hear it.
Take a ride through the underworld with me! I wrote a piece about Prohibition & organized crime in New York City for Inside History magazine’s latest issue called Crime and the Underworld. The piece is titled If Organized Crime Could Make It In New York…It Could Make It Anywhere! If you’d like to read just my article, click here.
The entire magazine is filled with juicy true crime stories throughout history so if you’d like to get a copy, here are the order links:
My heart’s pumping after hitting send on a consulting statement of work that significantly increases my client fee. It’s challenging to do that, especially for a client I love, and it’s absolutely necessary to price our work for the value it brings. Know your worth, writers, and don’t be afraid to price accordingly.
Are you in the messy middle, at the gateway of contemplation (which is my tattoo!), in the space between “no more” and “not yet”? Then listen to my brilliant and inspiring friend and writing mentor, John Bucher, on the Story Gatherings podcast. Link to podcast episode here: http://storygathering.libsyn.com/a-conversation-with-john-bucher-on-liminal-space
I’ve been a huge fan of Walt Disney’s tenacity ever since I first learned his story. Of all his marvelous quotes about creativity and creative work, this one is my favorite. May you sleep to dream.
“And just like that, after a long wait, a day like any other, I decided to triumph, to look for the opportunities, not to wait. I decided to see every problem as the opportunity to find a solution. I decided to see every desert as the opportunity to find an oasis. I decided to see every night as a mystery to solve. I decided to see every day as a new opportunity to be happy. I stopped caring about who was the winner and who was the loser. Now I care only about knowing more than yesterday. I learned that the best triumph that I can have is to have the right of calling someone ‘my friend’. I discovered that love is a philosophy of life. That day I stopped being a reflection of the few triumphs in my past, and I started to be my own tenuous light of the present. That day I learned that dreams only exist to be made to come true. Since that day I don’t sleep to rest. Now, I dream just for dreams.”
As I’m working on my screenplay, I’m listening to the language of The West Wing and the Hamilton soundtrack. The rhythm and beat of the words, and the power of that language, are inspiring. Not a single word or line is wasted. They all matter. It’s writing we should all aspire to as writers and seek out as audience members.
What do you watch and listen to when you want to be inspired to write dialogue?
Yesterday was the first true workday back after the holidays so you know what means—many agents are open for queries again! I started sending queries for my second Emerson Page novel. Here are some tips for those new to queries:
– Follow every single guideline to the letter. Agents are flooded with queries so make yours stand out by following all their specifications. That might sound like a no-brainer but the number one complain I hear agents make is that people don’t follow their guidelines. Follow them, and you’re already ahead of many other submissions!
– Remember every query you send is one step closer to your dream agent. Querying can absolutely get discouraging. The process alone can be exhausting. And yet, unlike many fields, it’s the defined road to an agent which could lead to a possibility to get published. Do a little at a time. A few a day or a few a week. Whatever you can manage. It’s a long road so keep your spirits high and stay positive. We’ll get there.