Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pig Iron Blues

Last week someone asked me, “If you knew you’d never sell a script, would you keep writing?”

Would I?

Realistically, that is the truth for most of us. Odds are against an unknown selling a script to Hollywood.

So, would I?

What would be the point of continuing to write screenplays if I knew they would never come to anything except an expensive finger exercise?

What would be the point?

Since odds are that is the truth, why do I persist?


Hope that in the odds, though they may be a million to one, in that one, there’s room for me.

One chance in a million.

I have always had the impression that hope was a fragile thing like soap bubbles or fine crystal, teetering precariously in a world of sharp edges and steep drops.

Today I think hope is cast iron. Hard and heavy. Ballast that keeps my dream stable over a long, rough haul.

So, would I continue to write scripts if I knew they’d never sell?

I don’t live in a hypothetical world where reality is writ in absolutes. I exist in the real world where weird stuff happens every day. Weirder than beating the odds.

And I have cast iron hope.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rites of Spring

Ah, springtime, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of … Screenwriting Contests.

Conventional wisdom goes back and forth as to whether they are a waste of time and money or an invaluable aid to the neophyte career.

When I began writing screenplays, lo those many years ago, I entered contests just to see what would happen.

I had the good luck to win a small contest with my fourth script.

With that taste of success came determination, and I've been entering script contests ever since.

Sending something to the Nicholl has become a springtime ritual for me. A sure sign that May approaches, especially when it's still snowing in Montana.

And like springtime in Montana, I've had varied results in the Nicholl, from being in the top 30 to not making the first cut.

However, I continue to plug along, determination unabated, although enthusiasm waxes and wanes. Depending.

One year I only entered contests that offered feedback.

Now I'm winnowing them by prize money. One must draw the line somewhere.

Yesterday, I mailed my contest submissions for this year.

It has to stop snowing sometime.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Journals and Pens

With one notable exception, I cured my notebook acquisition obsession by learning to make my own.

I took a class in Coptic book binding, and began constructing my own journals.

Coptic book binding consists of sewing groups of pages called signatures to a thick cardboard cover.

This is the book binding invented when ancient people stopped rolling up their manuscripts. A book thus made will lie flat when opened making it less likely to incur the wrath of someone trying to write or draw on the pages. Choice of paper and cover decoration is limited only by creativity and imagination.

My most recent journal is covered with papyrus paper and a photo collage. The paper inside is Mohawk Superfine. The pages are blank. If I'm ever magically transported back to ancient Egypt, at least I'll have a job skill.

Since I've learned trying to replace the perfect pencil is the path to heartbreak, most of the time, I use a fountain pen.

The smoothness of a fountain pen is what other pens aspire to, so why settle for an imitation? This pen is a Namski retractable point fountain pen. The barrel is thicker than most to allow for the retractable mechanism. Still, way cooler than the average ball point.

Except for art paper, Davey board and Irish linen thread for binding, building my own journals has saved me tons of money.

Now I am no longer lured down the notebook aisle in every stationary store in America, perpetually seeking the perfect notebook for this project or that.

I already have one at home.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How Not To Say What You Mean

How Not to Say What You Mean: A Dictionary of Euphemisms

This book practically flung itself off the shelf at me.

After years of reading how to do it write, keep it simple, follow all the friggin' rules or else writing craft books, this one struck me funny.

A dictionary of euphemisms, those little phrases employed when we're too restrained to say what we really want to say. Or too shy. Or just plain chicken.

Here's a taste.

What you don't want your doctor to call you -- negative patient care outcome.

Dead, in other words.

Don't go here -- Irish vacation.


I think they may be confused -- Irish toothache.

Either pregnant or an erection.

Some of these cross the border into rude, perhaps even, beyond the pale, and may not be for faint-hearted or politically-correct leaning individuals.

Writers, on the other hand, must stay abreast of society, language and every other thing that might be fun to look up.