NaNoWriMo and GO!

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There’s not a lot that can distract me from America’s impending doom if Donald Trump takes the “win” in less than a week from now.

I’ve already started researching Visa laws in Canada and England–there are burgeoning entertainment hubs in both of those countries. I wonder if I can qualify as a refugee…I’m multi-racial (all minority races) and I’m a woman so it’s not looking good for me in a Trump version of America.

I’m renewing my passport tomorrow.

Enough about my possible immigration–the one thing that’s keeping November from being a gigantic mess of a month for me is an incredible program for writers (and aspiring writers) called NaNoWriMo.

That crazy word is actually a shortened version of the real name: National Novel Writing Month.

As such–the “Wri” part of that word should be pronounced “Rye” as in the bread not “Ree” as an idiot might consider pronouncing it. You may think that sounds overly cruel/judgmental, but if you YouTube and google Vlogs about the event and then someone pops up with the “Ree” out of nowhere, it’s like freaking nails on a chalkboard.

THIS GIRL KNOWS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT and she is MAD.

The overall goal of the entire shindig is to write 50,000 words of a novel from November 1st until November 30th at midnight.

If you reach that goal, you “win”–if you don’t reach that goal, you still have thousands more words of a novel written than you did in October/than you would if you had spent the month sitting in front of a television screen procrastinating.

The cool thing about the website is that you can log on and create a profile, then create a profile for your novel and use their daily word counter to track your progress. They even stick it into this really neat graph to let you know what you need to do to meet the minimum daily goal (1,667 words a day). It even averages out your words per day, shows you how much more you have left to type before you reach 50k, and when you’ll finish at your current rate of writing speed (among many other very interesting facts).

I learned long ago that, in order for me to accomplish any sort of writing, I have to have some sort of deadline hanging over my head. As a screenwriter, it’s usually the submission period for a competition. For NaNoWriMo, it’s getting it all complete within those 30 days–and if you don’t stay on track at at least a rate of 1,667 for day, BOY can you fall behind really quickly.

Last year, I made it to day 10 and 16,752 words. Somehow, I got distracted or ran out of steam of SOMETHING–but I stopped because that’s where my bar graph caps off for the remaining 20 days. The fact that I can’t even remember why I stopped says a lot about what’s happened in the last 365 days since NaNo 2015. At this point, I can barely remember what I did yesterday, so I couldn’t tell you what slammed on the creative breaks a year ago.

But this year, I AM DETERMINED.

I put the call out en masse to my Facebook friends to see who would be up to the challenge and many replied with the courage of a thousand word warriors.

One of my grade school pals hooked me up with a small group of women that are all set to conquer NaNo 2016 and we’ve got a nice little FB group chat going on to encourage one another. And that really is the key to keep going–

ACCOUNTABILITY.

When you have someone else cheering you on and harassing you (in a positive way) to put your butt into the seat and start typing (or hand writing, if you prefer–or dictating, even!) you’re much more likely to be successful. And this is because, inevitably, halfway through the month your writing motivation will begin to peter out. You’ll wonder why you’re “wasting your time” and you’ll ask yourself in the harshest manner possible: “Why did I even THINK that I could write a novel?! Who do I think I am?!”

The answer, of course, is that you’re a writer. If you’re engaging in the act of writing, you are, indeed, a writer. Perhaps not a very good one (I’m just being honest!) but on the off chance that you are, that you’re even possibly spectacular, you’ll never know unless you give it a whirl.

So get your butt in that seat and try!

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Hollywood Throws Me a Bone

In high school, I applied to a state run (I think?) residential summer language arts immersion program. I applied to study French, a language I hadn’t studied a day in my life but for which I had always harbored a secret love.

This was pre-email notifications, so when I got a letter in the mail, I can remember thinking, “This is my Harry Potter Hogwarts letter!”

I got rejected.

That’s not the worst part, though. The worst part came a week before the program was supposed to start. I got another letter in the mail. Curious, I thought, since they had rejected me. It was with great excitement that I read it and saw directions to the campus!

I called the number provided on THAT letter to ask for more information and was promptly told that I had been mailed the map by accident, that I was still rejected, and I didn’t even receive an apology.

BITCHES.

Y’all keep that little trip down memory lane in your locker because I need to divert down a more contemporary path for a moment.

In the last few months, I experienced (I can now see from the other side) what was one of the deepest depressions I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing in the last decade. I blogged about it here and here if you need to get up to speed.

Some of the things that lifted me from the muck were:

  1. Being flown out to Texas to visit my goddaughter and her parents…errr…I mean my best friend, her loving husband, and their kid,
  2. Getting accepted into the next round of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab,
  3. Getting asked to audition for a Network’s comedy showcase.

And all of that literally happened on August 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

INSANE the way the universe works sometimes.

I had a great time with my peeps, wrote the final draft of my screenplay submission, and developed several characters to present at my audition.

At the audition, I killed it. I don’t say that lightly as I’m usually self-deprecating when it comes to original comedic material. But all of The Network people listening to my audition were laughing continuously and even stated how impressed they were at the end. Usually, if you don’t do so well, you get a kind (yet pitying) “thanks” and you leave.

This time, though, they asked if I was also a writer and mentioned they had a writing program, as well.

“Yes. Yes, I am a writer and an actor. Both. I do both,” I managed to stutter out while gathering my bag.

“Great, we’ll be in touch!”

Whoa. Never before had I ever heard an audition committee make a rock solid commitment to follow up with me.

So I settled in with fingers crossed and the expectation to NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN. In The Industry, after you audition, you ONLY hear back if you’ve made it through to the next round or booked the job. Otherwise, you can assume from the silence that you didn’t get whatever it is that you just spent a massive amount of time preparing for.

It’s sad, it’s anxiety inducing, it’s depressing.

IT’S HOLLYWOOD.

did hear back, though, and submitted the requisite sketches I needed to, along with a bio and resume, and settled in with the expectation to NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Weeks went by and not a peep.

I woke up this morning sweating from my lack of AC in a Los Angeles heatwave, in pain because mother nature sent “Aunt Flow” in for a visit at 2 a.m. (I must’ve displeased her last month because she is TEARING SH*T UP), and more than vaguely imagining my life on an isolated island somewhere far away from Tinseltown. Though nothing like the last few months, I still have waves of ennui that knock me into daydreaming about deserting my astronomical career goals and going to find some poor schlub that wants to take a go at domestic bliss.

And then I got an email from The Network with instructions for writing that I didn’t understand because I’d never heard back from them about moving forward.

Do you remember the story from earlier?

DO YOU?!

Deja vu, my friends, in the worst possible way.

But I guess I’m a bit of a masochist, because I wanted that confirmation of rejection. I needed it, needed to get some closure for another failed audition and submission, like any good LA actor and writer.

I typed a short email letting them know that they had accidentally emailed me the instructions.

Within half an hour, I got a return email.

I was expecting: “Oops, sorry about that. Thanks for applying, try again next year.”

Instead, I got: “You are most certainly in. I think we accidentally left you off of the original email! Are you still interested?”

My eyes went blurry and, I swear to you, I thought I was going temporarily blind and/or having a panic attack.

Nope, just tears. Tears of unadulterated joy, relief, satisfaction, vindication, whatever positive emotion you can think of, those tears were saturated in them.

My first move was to get in the shower because sending emails to people at The Network requires me to be presentable, even though they can’t actually see me.

The next was to go get a piece of cake from The Alcove. Their cake is amazing (though, at $7 a slice, you have to really want it).

But I was so flabbergasted by this awesome turn of events that I couldn’t focus enough to find my pants! If that isn’t comedy seeping out of my veins, I don’t know what is.

4 minutes later, I located a clean pair of shorts (well, they passed the smell test) and jumped into my car.

And I got a slice of a really gorgeous Princess cake.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I also walked home with a slice of Chocolate Godiva cake:

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Because I can’t think of a better day to spend $15 on celebratory cake.

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For When Your Heart is Willing but Your Brain is Dead

I swore that when I found a 3-day-a-week nanny job, I would bust my butt writing EVERY SINGLE DAY that I had off.

I had fanciful ideas of waking up the morning after my 72 hour shift (some of those sleeping hours, I should mention) hitting the shower, getting dressed, grabbing the laptop, and typing away until my fingers were cramping and bruised.

Sadly, that’s not been the reality these last few months.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I was able to punch out the first draft of a feature length script in a week. This is while I was working 50+ hours a week with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I literally had “little to no time” but I knew what story I wanted to tell, I identified so deeply with the characters that the dialogue just spilled out onto the paper, and I felt no pressure to get it done.

Now that I have 4 solid days of the week that could be almost entirely dedicated to writing, I should be producing more.

I have a handful of excuses I’ve bandied out to justify my lack of creativity, some are as follows:

  • By the time I get off of work on Monday evening, my brain is so fried and frazzled that it takes several days to recover. Not only is nannying physically exhausting, it’s mentally and emotionally tiresome as well. So many tantrums, so much whining, so many emotions and angry words are hurled at you in that profession. I’m not sure how nannies keep their sanity. Mothers HAVE to love their kids, but us, we’re a rare [read: insane] breed of people that are capable of loving someone else’s spawn, even when they launch insults at us.
  • I’m switching my focus between writing and acting and this is prime time when it comes to finding an acting agent for the unrepresented.
  • I’m tired. Like, REALLY TIRED.
  • No one’s going to read this shit, why am I even writing it??

Some excuses are more justifiable than the others, but HEY, I’m being honest, here.

I need to find a way to work through all of these roadblocks. A smart idea would be to set up a writing schedule with concrete goals and deadlines. Holding myself accountable is the dark-side to that new moon (I tried really hard to make that analogy work, right there. Did it?).

I could try to organize writing groups to motivate me and my writing pals.

Or I could just drive to Santa Monica, saunter into Dunkin’ Doughnuts, get a double chocolate doughnut and a strawberry glazed doughnut, drive back home, sit on the couch, turn on Netflix, watch as many episodes of Parks and Rec as my attention span will allow, cry because that show is done and gone forever, and wallow in self-pity.

I love having options.

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Applications Out the Wazoo

One of my favorite pastimes senior year of High School was applying to colleges.

I’m not even kidding a little bit, as weird as it sounds.

Filling out applications combined two of my favorite things: talking about myself and office supplies. Way back in 200-, when I was attempting to further my education, applications hadn’t been fully converted to the internet. Cracking open the plastic and paper wrapping surrounding my brand new G-2 Gel pens to meticulously pen my information into tiny little boxes was pure gratification. I seemed to have a knack for finding colleges and universities that had NO application fee (very rare) and I filled those out with reckless abandon, never intending to actually attend any of those particular institutions. I knew I needed to go to a state school (much more affordable), but that didn’t stop me from seeing where else in the world I could’ve possibly attended school.

SO YOU WOULD THINK that filling out applications for script writing competitions and network writing fellowships would be right up my alley.

WRONG.

For some strange reason, almost all of the competitions and all of the fellowships have entry periods and deadlines that overlap, and in some cases almost entirely coincide–to the date, with one another.

“Oh, that’s actually convenient,” one might think to oneself, “you can just submit the same thing over and over to each competition.

WRONG AGAIN.

Each and every one of them has different criteria–most require a “spec” script which is a script you write using characters and stories from a show that’s currently on TV. HOWEVER, some require a 30 minute comedy spec, some require a 1 hour drama spec, some allow you to spec shows that are available only through streaming (Hulu, Netflix, etc), some require that the show you’re spec-ing be in at least it’s 2nd season, some allow you to spec an animated show, etc etc.

Some competitions require you submit a pilot–which is a show completely originated by you. Some require the pilot to be in the exact same genre as the spec script you are submitting (which does nothing to show your range as a writer).

For the feature length competitions/programs, some allow adaptations, some only original work, some have a minimum page count, all have a maximum page count (yet, they’re not all the same) and all of them cost money!

Most require some sort of bio, some require a resume (even if nothing on it says that you’ve been paid to be a part of the entertainment industry) some want an “artistic statement”, some want photos of you drinking a glass of water upside down while ASL signing the National anthem*.

*No, they actually don’t want that last part, but sometimes it seems like they stop the requirements just short of that!

To Date: I’ve submitted to 2 network fellowships, 2 feature length competitions, and I’ve still got more to go. So until the end of May, I’ll be trucking along, submission after submission until my fingers fall off and hit the floor. Pray for me.

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Throwback of Throwbacks!

I recently rediscovered my original “Short and Feisty” blog–the one before I switched over to this shiny new model in December of 2012. It’s been pretty eye opening traveling back in time to discover what 2009 “Me” thought of her world as a college junior. It’s also pretty cringe-worthy when I look back at the awfully written prose (though, it’s nice to see how far I’ve come!).

My life is a bit up in the air right now with lots of transitions and long, long 10 hour days–7 days a week, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my oldies but goodies (with absolutely no editing allowed!).

It’s also been pretty funny to see where I thought my life was headed back then. Take, for instance, this blog from July of 2009. Much has changed in my life since then, but I think I’d still be a tad disappointed to realize I am still wiping butts for money:

“Why I Researched Child Exorcism”–July 22, 2009

As shown in my previous blog, I could very easily don the title of professional babysitter if I wanted to spend the rest of my life cleaning snotty noses and changing dirty diapers. Instead, I’ll hold off on that job description for another 10 years and eventually inherit the title “Mom” and do all of those things without getting paid (gee whiz, my best idea yet!). Most of the kids I babysit are pretty run of the mill as far as entertainment goes. A lot of the older kids just want to be left alone or just want to watch a movie. The younger ones enjoy wholesome games like Leggo building, reading, or coloring. All in all, babysitting is probably the easiest money I have ever made. I am paid to have fun! But babysitting Baby W was like babysitting a resident of the Gotham Asylum.

Everything started off normally. Well, it was a little off kilter in that I was babysitting Baby W at a resort time share instead of his house. His mother was throwing a baby shower at the house and didn’t want Baby W around (which I didn’t understand because he was so calm when I met him :P). So get to the time share and meet Mr. W (which is weird because usually the moms do the baby exchange) who is incredibly nice and gives me the run down of what is going on for the night: Baby W is 3 years old, the baby shower is at the house, they’ll be gone until about 8, the resort has a pool that Baby W might like to swim in, and he needs help going potty because he isn’t yet potty trained. CHECK! I am ready for the night.

Baby W and I successfully swam in the pool and he was unusually quiet for a 3 year old. He couldn’t swim, of course, so it was mostly just me sitting on the pool stairs with him. I wasn’t taking any chances going any further; babies are slippery little suckers and he didn’t have any floaties. We get back to the room and I feed him his dinner according to the “special diet” that his mother has him on (don’t ask me what it is because I couldn’t tell you from just looking at the hamburger helper and assorted Gerber products). Then, I swear one of Satan’s helpers flew in through the glass sliding door and took possession of this child. First, he started screaming as loud as he could in a shriek that would shame a banshee. He wasn’t upset, in fact he laughed hysterically after every squeal. When I told him to stop, he would just get louder. When I tried to distract him with a toy or TV show, he would spit at me-yes, I said spit. He thought that was hilarious and started spitting, literally hocking loogies, on the furniture. I put him in the corner for “time-out” and he thought it was a game. This kid obviously had never been disciplined and immediately reverted to his previous psychotic behavior. I wouldn’t normally worry about the decibel of his voice, but we were at a resort with really paper thin walls and I didn’t want anyone calling social services. Unfortunately, the happy resolution is that when he stopped screaming for thirty seconds, his dad showed up and it was all over. A tidy ending to a messy experience.