Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kelly Link Introduction

The following are a couple of questions from an interview with Kelly Link on writing. But mostly this is just an introduction to Kelly Link. I've never met her, but LOVE, her writing - it's not screenplays, but her short stories are so visual that they feel like little romantic, horror, mythical, dark short films.

The website where you can read a few of her short stories for free is www.KellyLink.net

And here are the couple questions on who she is, and even better, her writing process...

"KK: When I first read Pretty Monsters, I was struck by how effectively you captured the darker side of being a teen- the cruelty of the boys in “Monster,” Miles’ self-absorption in “The Wrong Grave,” Clementine’s self-delusion in “Pretty Monsters,” the violent anger in “The Cinderella Game.” It is a very powerful technique. How do you tap into the emotions of teens, and how do you express it in writing in a genuine way?

KL: The height of my popularity was probably when I was in kindergarten. I’d have to check with my mother, but the way I remember it, I was in charge. I told other kids what to do, came up with games to play, or suggested doing things that we weren't supposed to do, and everyone pretty much went along with it. But by the time I knew how to read -- somewhere between 1st and 2nd grade -- my star was declining. Maybe reading was my downfall?

We moved from Pennsylvania to Miami when I was in fourth grade, and when I was in 10th grade, we moved again, to Greensboro, NC. I had fewer and fewer friends each time we moved. Not to mention, by the time I was in fifth grade, I was wearing headgear to school. Sometimes I’d also bring along my pet boa constrictor, Baby. I could wear her as a belt, and at the time that seemed really cool -- even though, of course, it wasn't. I spent a lot of time catching geckoes and anoles, and I didn't always have the good sense not to do this in front of other people.

The short version is, I was a weird girl with funny teeth who had a pet boa constrictor and spent most of her time reading fantasy and science fiction. Oh yeah, and I also wet the bed until I was in sixth grade. And I’m also pretty sure that I was awkward, socially inept, etc. etc. When you’re not popular, you spend a lot of time observing the people who are popular, for a couple of reasons: you are trying to avoid being noticed/made fun of, and also, you are trying to figure out how they do it. You spend a lot of time thinking about why people are the way they are. You imagine unlikely scenarios in which you might be friends with the people who are making fun of you.

When I write, it’s very easy to access all of those emotions again. I’m still the same person. I care much less about what people think of me now, but I still care about what people thought of me then. And in the end, I care about all of my characters -- the ones who are brave, the ones who are mean, the ones who do stupid things, or who never figure things out. I can imagine being all of them.

KK: Your bio on the book is brief- it mainly lists the awards you've won. Can you tell us a little about yourself, beyond the bare facts?

KL: I'm 41 years old, and married to Gavin J. Grant, who is also a writer. We run Small Beer Press together, and until last year we lived in a small farmhouse with a big, overgrown backyard in Northampton, MA. Earlier on this blog tour I wrote about our daughter, Ursula, who was born at 24 weeks and 1 and 1/2 lbs in February 2009. We've spent the last year in hospitals, with her, because of complications due to her prematurity. A couple of months ago she finally came home with us to an apartment in Brighton.

Before we started Small Beer Press, I'd mostly worked in bookstores, or done various freelance projects, partly because I wanted to avoid any job where I would have to wear panty hose, or answer a phone. I had a fear of jobs involving call buttons. My father was a Presbyterian minister who went back to grad school, when I was a kid, to get a degree in psychology. He now lives on a farm in North Carolina with my stepmother, and gardens, builds barns, and practices as a psychologist. My mother and I worked together in a children's bookstore for a few years while I was in graduate school. She's a teacher. I'm the oldest of three children. I have one brother and one sister.

I'm a feminist. I like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate. I like roller coasters and German board games. I spend too much time online reading posts on Apartment Therapy, Fandom Wank, and Jezebel. I like roller coasters. I'm left handed, I like Burmese food, and I really wish that at some point I'd managed to live on the West Coast -- Seattle, or San Francisco. I've lived all up and down the East Coast, and I'd love to live even closer than I do to an ocean, preferably one that I could swim in. The two best vacations I've ever been on were ones where I went swimming every day: in Jamaica, on a writer's retreat, and in Byron's Bay, in Australia. A perfect day would be one that involved swimming, some writing, dinner with friends, and a stack of good books waiting to be read.

KK: How did you get started in writing? What was your path to publication?

KL: Here's a pretty complete history: I took three workshops with the writer Raymond Kennedy at Columbia College. In the last workshop I turned in three chapters of a novel, and he gave them to his agent, Binky Urban, as well as to his editor. They both asked to meet with me, to see if I was planning on writing more of that novel. I was about to graduate and go traveling -- I'd won a free trip around the world -- and I wasn't sure whether or not I could finish a novel. When I came home, I still didn't want to finish the novel, but I did decide to apply to the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In my second year, I started submitting stories to magazines -- before that, I'd entered The Writer's of the Future contest, and maybe also submitted something to The Twilight Zone, which was a magazine, along with Night Cry, that I loved. I submitted "Flying Lessons" to Ellen Datlow at Omni, and something to a literary magazine -- I can't remember which magazine, or what story. Those stories were rejected, but I also submitted "Like Water Off a Black Dog's Back" to a new magazine, Century, and was amazed when the editor wrote back to accept it. I also applied to the Clarion Workshop, and got in.

While I was at Clarion, Asimov's bought "Flying Lessons" and Realms of Fantasy bought "Vanishing Act." All of this was thrilling -- but then I didn't sell another story for the next two years. I was very slow to submit work before 1994. I thought that what I was writing was pretty good, but I also thought that as the author, I probably wasn't the best judge of whether my work was publishable -- or interesting to other people. So I didn't submit anything until I was pushed to do so. Ellen Datlow ended up being the editor who really championed my work -- even that first rejection was very encouraging -- this is what I tell writers who haven't sold their fiction yet. You may or may not be a good writer, but even if your work is publishable, it may take a while to find the editor who is the right reader for you.

The best thing to do is to keep on submitting to the places and the editors that you most admire, that you most want to be published in & by.

KK: When you write, what’s your routine? For example, do you need peace and quiet, or do you prefer to work with music playing?

KL: I have a mix on my iPod that I listen to, but I also like to sit in a cafe and have other people around me, talking and eating. I like a certain level of background noise. I like to work in the afternoon, and to have at least two or three hours to settle in. I love to work at a table with other writers. At a certain point in a story, I am still writing on my computer, but I also carry around a pad of paper so that I can put down notes or ideas or sentences that will go into the story the next time I'm at the computer.

KK: How do you write? For instance, do you use an outline, or write a certain number of words each day?

KL: I haven't written anything in the last year or so -- I've hardly managed to write even very basic emails, or to keep in touch with friends. But before that, I was starting to realize that I'm a writer who likes to have a fixed routine of some kind. And then, after a year or two, I need to find a new routine, because the old one doesn't work so well anymore -- I've started to come up with ways of avoiding writing. A lot of the time I'd rather do anything than write.

When I am writing, I start at the beginning of a story every time I sit down, and make revisions -- small and large -- until I get to the place where I left off. And then I do a little new work, and then go back to the beginning again, or to a part that doesn't yet feel right. I'm continuously revising. This method probably works better for stories than for novels, although sometimes, even with this process of revision, I can get a story done quite quickly, say in a day or so. Other stories take months, or even a year." -Interview by by Kirsten Kowalewski on the site www.monsterlibrarian.com

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can."
- Samuel Lover (Irish songwriter, novelist, painter)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spread Love

A Course In Miracles says "Only what you are not giving can be lacking in any situation." So if you want to be a filmmaker, help a sister out!

Filmmaker Tchaiko Omawale is making a short film and needs a few more $ to finish it. Anything you can give helps - oh, and she needs it like right now, so don't delay, send it as fast as you would want someone to send it to you.

"Please click on http://kck.st/cI0EUB - donate what you can, and ask a friend to donate as well! See which of your friends are already backers, its kinda fun to see how small the world is. Every bit really does help us get this film made! Tweet about the project, Blog about the project, Follow us and support in anyway you can.

The film is about the unlikely friendship that develops between two
girls- Sole, who has an eating disorder, and Jasmine the seemingly
perfect girl who Sole admires through her bedroom window (a la Rear
Window), who has her own dysfunctional ways of dealing with her issues.

Our lovely casting director Aisha Coley has led us to a wonderful young actress Hope Olaide Wilson of Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself". We are still casting for the role of Jasmine, and will be contacting Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) this week.

the films blog:
at the blog you can see my past work, learn about folks involved and be a part of the process of getting this film made.

We are still looking for a Rear Window location so any referrals are appreciated.

Thanks again for any support - whether its $$, prayers, well wishes, or a phone call to say you love me and support me.

Ciao Ciao,
Tchaiko Omawale"

Thursday, June 10, 2010


These deadlines have taken me totally out of the loop...

Here's a great posting though from another writer (& even better a screenwriting teacher). Hopefully I am writing a page turner, sadly enough don't even have time to finish reading the article! I'll post Part 2 tomorrow...

"Writing Page-Turners, Part 1
by Hal Croasmun

Scripts that are labeled "a page-turner" almost always have more success. They move up in contests, get more recommendations, and quickly gain a reputation in Hollywood.

A real "page-turner" causes the reader to wonder what will happen next. Each page is somehow connected to the future. In fact, each page creates a possible future.

It has us live the present and worry about the future.

Every scene should send a person into the future of the script or at least to the end of the scene. You may have heard this saying;

"In a script, it's not what's happening now, it's what's happening NEXT that matters."

You need to cause readers to worry, wonder, anticipate, and fret over what will happen next in your script. And, believe me, any script worth producing is going to be full of page-turner techniques.

EXAMPLE from the movie OUT OF SIGHT:

As you read this scene, watch how Scott Frank, the writer works to propel our minds into the future of the scene and the entire story.

George Clooney plays "Foley" and Jennifer Lopez plays "Karen." Karen has just pulled her car into the prison parking lot to serve court papers on a prisoner. Unknown to her, an escape is in progress and Foley is the one who engineered it.

Pay close attention to my NOTES as you read this scene. You'll see that there are many times when we are propelled into the future of the script.


As Karen grabs the court papers off the seat, opens her car
door, glances at the fence and pauses as she sees A FIGURE
there, crouching down.

Karen turns on her headlights. No, not crouched. The guy is
coming out of the ground. On this side of the fence.

NOTE: A guy coming up out of the ground is an striking visual. Especially in front of a prison. Obviously, this opens a series of questions.

It also means there's going to be a chase scene and possibly, someone is going to get caught or killed.

Head and shoulders appear and another guy comes out of the
ground. Right in front of her.

Karen leans on the horn, holds it down and sees the two guys by
the fence -- Chino and Lulu -- look into her headlights, poised
there for a moment before taking off into the dark. Karen gets
out of the car...

NOTE: Karen using the horn to warn prison guards instantly causes anticipation. Now, we know that the guards will at least suspect that something is happening and will move into action.

Her getting out of the car puts her in danger. Once again, a possible future is created and we're worried.


As Buddy watches a spotlight from the tower come on and
follow the two cons as we then hear the sound of RIFLE
REPORTS before the men disappear into the dark.

Then Buddy sees Karen in his headlights, whistles softly as he
gets a good look at her long legs as she raises the lid to her


What's she doing?

NOTE: If you weren't already wondering what she's doing, Buddy's dialogue will make sure you do. It's a simple hook. The rifle reports also creates interest, making us wonder if someone got shot.

He watches her duck her head in the trunk and come out with a
holstered pistol.



But then she throws the pistol in the trunk, ducks in there
again and comes out this time racking a shotgun.



NOTE: We know from earlier scenes that Karen is a U.S. Marshal. So her emerging with a shotgun means Foley is in danger. Suspense and worry about the future. But there's also the pistol she just threw in the trunk. What part will that play?

Keep noticing how every action creates a possible future. This is well written.

And now Buddy watches her hurry to the front of her car and
raise the shotgun as we hear A WHISTLE BLOW IN THE
COMPOUND. Buddy gets out of the car...


As Karen puts the shotgun on two more cons, both filthy dirty,
standing by the hole they just crawled out of.


Get your hands in the air!

Buddy watches the two cons, both Latins, make up their minds,
start edging away -- shit, they've come this far.

NOTE: So Karen is facing down these two cons who have little to lose. Will they respect her "authority?" Is she in danger?

They look out at the spotlight sweeping around in the dark,
then look the other way, along the fence towards the main gate,
to see armed hacks coming out on the run, and that decides it
for the cons. They take off running...

Now Buddy watches as Karen puts her pump gun on them, but
doesn't fire...

NOTE: Of course, we're wondering what will happen to the two cons. But also, why didn't she fire? This creates uncertainty about whether she is really a threat.

The hacks running from the gate with rifles beat her to it,
open up all at once and keep firing until the two convicts are
cut down as they run.

NOTE: Now we know the possible fate that could come to Foley. Intensifying our need to find out what will happen to him.

The hacks glance at Karen, but don't bother with her, more
interested in the hole the convicts had come out of. Now they're
standing by it peering in, edging closer with their weapons
ready, then they all step back at once, bump into each other

A head appears wearing a guard's baseball cap, the guy now
saying something to the guards, his face smeared with muck,
excited, pointing towards the orange grove.

NOTE: What's he pointing toward? Are there escaped convicts in the orange grove.

They run off, pausing briefly to kick the convicts they shot to
see if they're alive, then keep going.

The man in the hole, Foley, climbs out. He takes his time,
puts on a show, standing with his hands on his hips like an
honest-to-God hack, that serious cap down on his eyes.

Buddy waves to Foley to come on and Karen turns and puts the
shotgun on Buddy. Buddy raises the palm of his hand.


It's okay, honey, we're good guys.

NOTE: Since we know Foley is a con, we're wondering if the prison guards will catch on. And now that he is confronting Karen, will she shoot? We also know that Buddy is there to break Foley out. So that creates a question about whether Karen will buy their scam or not.


What're you doing here?

Not so much asking, but putting it to him the way cops do when
they're already pretty sure what you're doing. She glances
around to include Foley, now coming at her like some creature
out of the swamp, giving Buddy time to take her around the neck.

She fights him, jabs him in the gut with the butt end of the
shotgun before Foley wrenches it from her grip.

They drag her to the rear end of her car, the trunk lid still
up, and crouch there as some hacks come running along the fence,
past the dark gun tower and cross the road towards the orange
grove. A moment later, they hear bursts of gunfire, then silence.


I bet that's all the hacks they send
out. Otherwise nobody's left to mind
the store.

NOTE: There's now the hope that they may get away with it and the fear that Karen will get hurt. Also, did another con just get shot? There's clearly danger all around, but these guys are having calm conversation which creates even more interest. Are they so good that this situation isn't stressful or are they so unaware that they don't understand the danger?


Why don't we talk about it later?

He turns to see Foley and Karen staring at each other in the
headlights from Buddy's car; Karen not at all afraid.


Why you're just a girl. What do you
do for a living you pack a shotgun?


I'm a federal marshal and you're under
arrest, both of you guys.

NOTE: Of course, every moment here, we're wondering about Foley's fate. Will he get away or die like the others? But now Karen is trying to arrest them through sheer will and courage. Here, she appears to be a force in their way. What will they do? Also, we've seen a small amount of violence toward her when they took the gun. Will that continue and/or end in her death?

Foley keeps staring at her like he's giving the situation serious
thought, but what he says is...


I bet I smell, don't I?
Listen, you hop in the trunk and we'll
get out of here.

Karen looks at him, then gets up, climbs into the trunk. She's
reaching around, trying to find her pistol, when...

Foley gives her a shove and gets in with her, wedging her against
the wall of the trunk, pressing against her back like they're
cuddled up in bed.

NOTE: Okay, she's got the gun and Foley is in there with her. Both are in danger. There's many questions created here that take us into the future. Will she shoot him? Will he take the gun from her? Will the two cons harm her? The last phrase "cuddled up in bed" is a hook that makes us wonder if something sexual will come from this.

So far, we've seen at least 10 ways the writer Scott Frank creates a future with this action scene. In the conclusion of the scene, we'll see even more. But that will have to wait until Part 2."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I'm now in the middle of two re-writes and both are going well, or at least they're going. While writing the first drafts, I thought both would be a walk in the park, and a year later (!) I'm having to pull up much of the foundation of both and start from scratch.

On one, I thought I was super clever, writing off the top of my head (as if that has ever worked for me) in my goal of writing a finished screenplay in 10 days. It ended up being closer to 2 weeks - but still quite a feat. And while I did get a major comedy producer attached, all of their development notes are things that had I let the process take the time it should take, I might have noticed on my own and wouldn't have to re-start by doing all that character work, mapping out all the relationships and how they work, getting to the heart of the theme, etc... now (when I'm blindingly busy).

I'm also writing a script for Lifetime, which I did thorough prep work on, but it was all "required" prep work, meaning the network needed those outlines. I should have down much more extensive character work for myself until I loved each character and knew everything about them. Now, it's the same deal, the re-write is really in developing all of the "secondary" characters. And even though they don't know the problem is I wasn't in love with all of those characters to begin with. I know it. So... back to the drawing board.

I remember Toni Morrison once saying she doesn't start writing until she knows what soap the characters use. So this week when I write, I'll remember it's okay for it to take longer so I can do all of that character work, it's okay to spend a month or longer notecarding so that I get rid of all of those stale ideas I got from other movies and get underneath them to the ideas that are fresh - and mine, it's okay to outline until I get it right, then pitch that to all my friends until I have a story that keeps people's interest.

Do the work now, don't take the shortcut, or I'll have to do it all over again anyway...

This is me not taking the shortcut in Mexico...

... and a couple more from the weekend in Mexico