MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

INTRODUCTING KEN ATCHITY'S MASTER CLASS



REGISTER NOW! For Every Author Who Wants To Master Storytelling





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

5 More Black Authors Everyone Should Read

They are poets, playwrights, novelists and scholars, and together they helped capture the voice of a nation. They have fearlessly explored racism, abuse and violence as well as love, beauty and music. While their names and styles have changed over the years, they have been the voices of their generations and helped inspire the generations that followed them. What follows is a list of prominent Black authors who have left a mark on the literary world forever.


Alex Haley
Alex Haley’s writing on the struggle of African Americans inspired nationwide interest in genealogy and popularized Black history. Best known for The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the novel Roots, Haley began his writing career freelancing and struggled to make ends meet. Eating canned sardines for weeks at a time, his big break came when Playboy magazine assigned him to interview Miles Davis. Proving to be such a success, the magazine contracted Haley to do a series of interviews with prominent African Americans. Known as “The Playboy Interviews,” Haley would eventually meet Malcolm X and ask permission to write his biography. The Autobiography of Malcolm X would soon become an international bestseller and Haley became a literary success.

Embarking on a new ambitious project, Haley was determined to trace his ancestor’s journey from Africa to America as slaves, and tell the story of their rise to freedom. After a decade of research and travel to West Africa, the epic novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family was published in 1976. The book was a national sensation and won the Pulitzer Prize, eventually becoming a television miniseries that would shatter television viewing records when 130 million viewers tuned in. If you enjoy reading Alex Haley, consider reading Jesmyn Ward and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Image: Mickey Adair/Getty Images


Langston Hughes
A primary contributor of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was one of the first to use jazz rhythms in his works, becoming an early innovator of the literary art form jazz poetry. While many American poets during the 1920s were writing esoteric poetry to a dwindling audience, Hughes addressed people using language, themes, attitudes and ideas that they could relate to.

Influenced by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, his poetry caught the attention of novelist, critic and prolific photographer Carl Van Vechten. With Van Vechten’s help, his first collection of poetry was published in 1926. Establishing Hughes’s poetic style and commitment to Black themes and heritage, The Weary Blues had popular appeal. When his first novel Not Without Laughter was published in 1930, it won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

A prolific writer known for his colorful portrayals of Black life from the 1920s-1960s, Hughes wrote plays, short stories, poetry, several books, and contributed the lyrics to a Broadway musical. In addition to his extensive body of work, he inspired other artists and highlighted the power of art as a catalyst for change. Seen as a voice for their own experience, writers during the Harlem Renaissance often dedicated their work to Hughes. The play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry was named for a line from a Langston Hughes poem.
Image: Langston Hughes, 1936 Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress 

Zora Neale Hurston
In 1925 as the Harlem Renaissance gained momentum, Zora Neale Hurston headed to New York City. By the time of its height in the 1930s, Hurston was a preeminent Black female writer in the United States. It’s said that her apartment was a popular spot for social gatherings with the well-known artists of the time like Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.
Of Hurston’s more than 50 published novels, short stories, plays and essays, she  wrote her most famous work Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Unlike the style of contemporaries Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston did not write explicitly about Black people in the context of white America. She focused on the culture and traditions of African Americans through the poetry of their speech.

Despite her earlier literary success, Hurston would suffer later in her career. Having difficulty getting published, she died poor and alone. Years later, Alice Walker would help revive interest in Hurston’s work with her essay, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," published in Ms. magazine in 1975. This essay, alongside her edits of notable works like “I Love Myself When I am Laughing and Then Again When I am Looking Mean and Impressive,” brought Hurston to the attention of a new generation of readers.  
Image: Zora Neale Hurston, Photo by Carl Van Vechten (1938) Library of Congress 

Richard Wright
Born in Mississippi in 1908, Richard Wright is best known for his novels Native Son and Black Boy, that mirrored his own struggle with poverty and coming of age journey.  A staunch critic of his literary contemporary Zora Neale Hurston, Wright’s work was overtly political, focusing on the struggle of Blacks in America for equality and economic advancement.

Wright’s dreams of becoming a writer took off when he gained employment through the Federal Writers Project and received critical attention for a collection of short stories called Uncle Tom’s Children. The fame that came with the 1940 publication of Native Son (not to be confused with James Baldwin’s titular essay: “Notes of a Native Son,” which criticized Wright’s work) made him a household name. It became the first book by an African American writer to be selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club.

His novel Black Boy was a personal account of growing up in the South and eventual move to Chicago where he became a writer and joined the Communist Party. While the book was a great success, Wright had become disillusioned with white America and the Communist Party, and moved to Paris. He spent the rest of his life living as an expatriate and he continued to write novels.
Image: Carl Van Vechten Collection, Library of Congress

BONUS | Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison is considered the voice of African American women. Growing up in an integrated neighborhood, Morrison was not fully aware of racial divisions until her teenage years.
Dedicated to her studies, she went on to earn her master’s degree before moving to Howard University to teach. It was in the 1960s when Morrison became an editor at Random House that she began to write.

While she had published The Bluest Eye in 1970 and Sula in 1973, The Song of Solomon was the book that set her on the course of literary success. It became the first work by an African American author since Native Son by Richard Wright to be a featured selection in the Book-of-the-Month Club. The publication of Beloved in 1987 is considered to be her greatest masterpiece and won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Young authors Danielle Evans and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins cite Toni Morrison as one of their influences.
Image: Toni Morrison, 1986, MDCarchives

Read more 

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ken Atchity Will be the Keynote Speaker at The Dublin Writers' Conference, June 23-25, 2017



 


If you are new to writing, an old hand, or someone interested in how writers can
Laurence O'Bryan, Miriam O'Shea 
improve their craft, self publish successfully, or undertake the marketing necessary for any author to achieve success, this conference is for you.

Designed By Experts

Our instructors are renowned, highly-experienced, published authors, and world class experts in writing craft and online marketing, specifically for authors. This weekend conference provides practical support, valuable training and an opportunity to meet and get to know fellow writers in one of the world’s great literary cities. ..

Focused On Helping Authors

Our expanded conference takes place at the landmark Gresham hotel, in the heart of Dublin’s city center. Our goal is to help you succeed. Our digital marketing sessions for writers will show you how you can find readers in a rapidly changing world. Our writing craft sessions will help you broaden your writing skills. Our pitch session could help you to sell your story to Hollywood.

Come for just the Saturday sessions or join us on each of the three days. Anyone who books is welcome to our opening session on Friday evening, where we will introduce the instructors and welcome you. .


This event is provided by the training division of Advanced Social Media Services LTD, 5 Dame Lane, Dublin 2, Ireland.

All sessions are delivered by qualified and experienced instructors.

For our conference awards, the decision of our judges is final. We look forward to meeting you. For all our services, including our conference, in the event of any dispute, our liability is limited to a full return of fees paid only.

SIGN UP NOW – EARLY BIRD PRICING AVAILABLE


Friday, February 17, 2017

The Dawn of the Post-truth Age by Nathan Stone, S.J.

Richard III was the last monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty. His death in 1485 marked the end of Medieval England. His body had been lost for centuries, but it was discovered in the backlot of a churchyard, authenticated with DNA testing and subsequently reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015 with royal pomp and dignity. Members of the American press corps asked British subjects who attended the interment why they paid homage to a monster with a hunchback, a withered arm and a perversely twisted character, who usurped the throne and murdered his young nephews in the Tower of London so that there would never be any pretender with the slightest claim to legitimacy. The mourners, though five centuries late with their tears, responded, Because he was our king. And we left it at that. Brits are die-hard monarchists and democratic Americans will never understand that.


 England's King Richard III. Was he or wasn't he?

The problem is that Richard was not a hunchback. He didn’t have a withered arm. There always was a portrait, but now we have a body. I believe he was a good family man and a courageous soldier who gave his life in battle. He might have been ambitious, but despite the claims of most modern sources there is no evidence that he usurped the throne, as Harvard University Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber has pointed out. Instead the throne was offered to him after his dead brother’s marriage was annulled. Edward IV had married his widowed sister-in-law, so there was an issue of canonical consanguinity. That made the boys illegitimate. There is no evidence that Richard murdered them. They disappeared after Richard’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field. It’s worth noting that the new king, Henry VII, first of the Tudors, stood to benefit the most from there not being any little Plantagenets lurking in the wings.

The Tudors created the myth of Evil Richard III. The victors write the history. Call it patriotism, or call it loyalty, but even St. Thomas More was called upon to write a tract demonizing Richard. Thomas never knew Richard. He was only 7 when Richard died. He skillfully reiterated the politically expedient lies of his day, what we now call spin. It was necessary in order to legitimize the Tudors, his patrons. These days, we would call it national security: Henry VIII could only lead England against the threat from Spain and France if, and only if, his somewhat dubious claim to the throne could be made to seem authentic.

The image of twisted Richard and his vile deeds is not going away any time soon. Most of us have only heard of Richard III because of Shakespeare’s play about him. Shakespeare is, after all, the Bard. The poet wrote his play more than 100 years after Richard’s death based on the accepted narrative of his time. How could he do otherwise? He was no less dependent on Tudor goodwill than Thomas More had been. Staging the party line kept the money flowing and the playwright’s head attached to his shoulders. All the world is a stage, my friend, and we are the players. More often than not, like it or not, we are often being played.

Spin is not new. Machiavelli shocked people in his day by being forthright and explicit about how things got done in the courtly centers of power. The Renaissance was, among other things, a rebirth of certain ancient traditions of treachery and deceit.

Karl Rove is regarded as the modern master. Like Bill Gates, President George W. Bush’s longtime senior policy advisor never finished a college degree, but he had a knack for how to get the story out there until it sounded true, even if it wasn’t. Inheritance tax for the wealthy went away when it occurred to him to popularize the conception of it as a death tax. Saddam Hussein became responsible for the 911 attacks because the right people said it loudly and often. So, there was a war. Rove was a genius at making the worse argument seem the better. That made him an invaluable right hand man for the commander in chief.

Until quite recently, however, there was such a thing as a counterargument. Facts, those illusive points of undeniable information on which interpretations and judgments should be based, could be invoked and agreed upon by men and women, black and white, left and right.

Facts did not depend on party lines. Matters of fact were not open to discussion. Matters of opinion were. Facts could overcome unfounded discourse, given time and space. The Red Scare of the 1950s was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s paranoid conviction that there was a communist under every bush, out to destroy life as we know it. His persecution of those he considered suspicious was very popular. It took time, but the Red Scare was argued into a corner for lack of evidence. It just wasn’t true. We have journalist Edward R. Murrow to thank for that.

My perception is that, today, some sort of critical mass has been surpassed. We have somehow tipped the scales in favor of fiction. We have chosen deception over perception. We have set myth on the all-powerful throne where truth once sat. Prejudice and irrational acrimony seem to have displaced the careful and objective regard for clear thinking and solid judgment.

That’s bad. Perhaps this is due to radicalized individualism. We live in what seems to be one great big politically correct kindergarten where every child has the inalienable right to choose what he wishes to consider true, even if there are no facts to support it, and many to contradict. We wouldn’t want to hurt little Johnny’s feelings, or stifle his creativity, now, would we?

The Oxford English Dictionary made an outrageous choice for its 2016 Word of the Year: “post-truth.” A play on “post-modern,” it would seem to indicate an age in which truth is nothing more than an eccentric personal obsession, a dated fashion from long ago. The venerable OEDdefines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The editors have observed a 2,000 percent increase in the use of the term, and they attribute that to the Brexit vote, over there, and to the most divisive political campaign in history, over here.

The Washington Post reports, half in jest I hope: “It’s official. Truth is dead. Facts are passé.” Politicians have always lied, perhaps, but now it’s mainstream. David Frum of The Atlantic described the dishonesty of the president elect as “qualitatively different than anything before seen from a major-party nominee.” None of that, Post reporter Amy Wang commented, mattered to his supporters.

Ten years ago, comedian Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” — which is not to be confused with “post-truth,” according to Stephen. He defined it as the phenomenon of believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact. He was poking fun at right-wing pundits. But now, truthiness is not a joke anymore. Now that unreasonable feelings of racism, sexism and nationalist xenophobia appear to possess the keys to the kingdom, we will be ruled not by truth, dialogue and dignity, but by fear, scapegoating and finger-pointing. The powerful now have the authority to act on whatever feels true to them. No point in checking your facts. You can just make them up. If you are rich and famous, you will get away with it. If it fits your agenda, who cares?

The real problem with the post-truth era is not what happens in the White House, Trump Tower or Windsor Castle. The real problem is that the way in which power is exercised at the golden pinnacles of glory tends to replicate itself all the way down the food chain. In the workplace, at school, even in our families and among friends, what feels true will win out over what can be supported by fact. Machiavelli and Karl Rove are the new prophets. Hail, all hail.

After his dismissal as director of the CIA in 2005, Porter Goss was invited to deliver the commencement address at Tiffin University, near Cleveland. He told the graduates, “If this were a graduating class of CIA case officers, my advice would be short and to the point. Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter accusations.”

I guess that was meant to be funny. It’s not, at least, not anymore. I once heard a Boy Scout leader say almost exactly the same thing. It wasn’t funny then, either. It’s not the scouting tradition: scouts promise to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. This renegade was saying, Learn the arts of treachery and spin, my boy. Become a player or you will be played. I could never teach my children that. But I guess I am getting old. My world is probably gone for good.

Pessimism is not good, but realism is. Perhaps the truth will survive in the catacombs of society. (I hope there is room for me down there.) If it does, perhaps there will be a rebirth, and perhaps we will have learned a valuable lesson. It might take a while (I might not live to see the day) but anything worthwhile usually does.




Read more

________________________________________
Nathan Stone, a member of the Chilean province of the Society of Jesus, is on sabbatical from his work in the Amazon region of Brazil while he cares for an ailing relative. His essay, “The Boys of Brazil” will appear in our Winter 2016-17 issue, in which other essays explore themes of credibility, truth and civil discourse.

A Screenwriter's Life in the Waiting Room by Kenneth Atchity Featured article on InkTip



How long can I wait?

Screenwriters ask me that all the time, becoming impatient and anxious that their script is taking so long to make it to the screen.

My answer surprises them:

Don’t wait at all.

Waiting is a massive waste of time and can lead to depression and/or existential despair, and who knows what else. Write something while you wait. Plant another seed, cultivate it, and train it to grow straight. And while it’s taking its sweet time to bud and then bloom, do something else. Start a new spec script!

Back in my own “waiting room” in the sixties, I reviewed a great book by Barry Stevens: Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself. I translated Stevens’ Zen advice to Hollywood where every project has its own clock and will happen when and only when that clock reaches the appointed hour. Other than keeping that project on track the best you can by responding when asked to or when appropriate, there’s nothing much you can do—other than financing it yourself (a serious option, by the way) to speed up that project’s clock. By the nature of things, the project clock is invisible, which means extra frustration for the creator—unless you refuse to wait.

Recently, I, and my dear producing partner Norman Stephens, produced a sweet little Christmas movie called Angels in the Snow. I had only been trying to get that movie produced for twenty years! I sold it to TNN once and came close to a deal at Hallmark another time. My client Steve Alten’s Meg is currently, after twenty-one years, shooting in New Zealand. What was I doing for the last twenty years? Writing twelve scripts and producing other films for television and cinema, managing hundreds of books, writing and publishing ten of my own, playing tennis, traveling, having a wonderful life. Not waiting.

Waiting makes writers neurotic. If I allowed myself to express my neurosis, as many writers have not yet learned not to do, I would drive those involved in making my or my clients’ stories into films crazy—and risk losing their support or return calls. The question I personally hate hearing the most, “What’s going on?” is one I have to force myself to refrain from asking. Your job, when it’s your turn to move your story forward, is to “get the ball out of your court” as efficiently, as well, and as soon as possible. Then, on that particular project, you have to wait for it to be returned to your court. Very few actual events requiring your help occur along the way, leaving a huge gap of dead time in between them, like super novae separated by vast time years of space. But it’s not dead time if you use it for something else creative.

If the glacial pace of the Hollywood creative business fills you with dread, you’re in the wrong business or you’re dealing with it the wrong way. Don’t wait. Do. As the great photographer Ansel Adams put it: “Start doing more. It’ll get rid of all those moods you’re having.”



Writer/producer/literary manager and former professor Ken Atchity’s most recent book for writers is Sell Your Story to Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide to the Business of Show Business (to accompany his online course realfasthollywooddeal.com. This article is adapted from that book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Black Authors Everyone Should Read

They are poets, playwrights, novelists and scholars, and together they helped capture the voice of a nation. They have fearlessly explored racism, abuse and violence as well as love, beauty and music. While their names and styles have changed over the years, they have been the voices of their generations and helped inspire the generations that followed them. What follows is a list of prominent Black authors who have left a mark on the literary world forever.

Maya Angelou

Acclaimed American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. Often referred to as a spokesman for African Americans and women through her many works, her gift of words connected all people who were “committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” [1]

“I want to write so that the reader … can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’ ” [2]

Influenced by Black authors like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, her love of language developed at a young age. Her most famous work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969 and became the first in seven autobiographies of Angelou’s life.

A prolific poet, her words often depict Black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, and the demand for social justice. Her first collection of poems Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972, the same year she became the first Black woman to have a screenplay produced. Writing for adults and children, Angelou was one of several African American women at the time who explored the Black female autobiographical tradition. Other female authors and contemporaries include Paule Marshall who published the novel Brown Girl, Brownstones and Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, many of whose poems lyricize the urban poor.
Learn more about Maya Angelou.


 [1] Southern Women Writers: The New Generation,” Carol E. Neubauer
 [2] "10 Questions with Maya Angelou," TIME Magazine 
Image: 1970 Photo of Maya Angelou by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

James Baldwin
Though he spent most of his life living abroad to escape the racial prejudice in the United States, James Baldwin is the quintessential American writer. Best known for his reflections on his experience as an openly gay Black man in white America, his novels, essays and poetry make him a social critic who shared the pain and struggle of Black Americans.

Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin caught the attention of fellow writer Richard Wright who helped him secure a grant in order to support himself as a writer. He left to live in Paris at age 24 and went on to write Go Tell it on the Mountain which was published in 1953, a novel unlike anything written to date. Speaking with passion and depth about the Black struggle in America, it has become an American classic.

Baldwin would continue to write novels, poetry and essays with a refreshingly unique perspective for the rest of his life. In 1956, Giovanni’s Room raised the issues of race and homosexuality at a time when it was taboo. And during the Civil Rights Movement, he published three of his most important  collections of essays, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955), “Nobody Knows My Name” (1961) and “The Fire Next Time” (1963).

James Baldwin provided inspiration for later generations of artists to speak out about the gay experience in Black America like Staceyann Chin and Nick Burd.
Image: Baldwin, 1982, MDCarchives

Amiri Baraka
Born in 1934, poet, writer and political activist Amiri Baraka used his writing as a weapon against racism and became one of the most widely published African American writers. Known for his social criticism and incendiary style, Baraka explored the anger of Black Americans and advocated scientific socialism.  Often confrontational and designed to awaken audiences to the political needs of Black Americans, Baraka was a prominent voice in American literature.

Inciting controversy throughout his career, he was accused of fostering hate while at the same time being lauded for speaking out against oppression.

Often focusing on Black Liberation and White Racism, he spent most of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans. With a writing career that spanned nearly fifty years, Baraka is respected as one of the leading revolutionary cultural and political leaders, especially in his hometown of Newark, NJ. His representations of race and wisdom have made him an influential part of the Black Arts Movement along with Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and Maya Angelou. Together they have gone on to inspire younger generations like Terrence Hayes.

Image: Poet Amiri Baraka on May 10, 1975 (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Octavia Butler
In a genre known for being traditionally white and male, Octavia Butler broke new ground in science fiction as an African American woman. Born in California in 1947, Butler was an avid reader despite having dyslexia, was a storyteller by 4, and began writing at the age of 10. Drawn to science fiction because of its boundless possibilities for imagination, she was quickly frustrated by the lack of people she could identify with so she decided to create her own.
Butler took the science fiction world by storm. Her evocative novels featuring race, sex, power and humanity were highly praised and attracted audience beyond their genre. They would eventually be translated into multiple languages and sell more than a million copies. One of her best-known novels Kindred, published in 1979, tells the story of a Black woman who must travel back in time in order to save her own life by saving a white, slaveholding ancestor. Over her career, she won two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur fellowship. The self-described “outsider’s” legacy inspired future generations of women including Valjeanne Jeffers, Nnedi Okorafor and even singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe.
Image: Butler at book signing, released by Nikolas Coukouma

W.E.B. Du Bois
As an activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian and prolific writer, W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the most influential African American thought leaders of the 20th century. Growing up in Massachusetts as part of the Black elite, it wasn’t until attending Fisk University in Tennessee that issues of racial prejudice came to his attention. He studied Black America and wrote some of the earliest scientific studies on Black communities, calling for an end to racism. His thesis, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 remains an authoritative work on the subject.

The horrific lynching of Sam Hose in 1899 prompted Du Bois to begin writing The Souls of Black Folk. Calling for organized action and an end to segregation, Jim Crow laws, and political disenfranchisement in America, the prophetic work was not well received at the time of its publication. Du Bois eventually went on to help to establish the NAACP where he became editor of its newspaper the Crisis, and a well-known spokesman for the cause. Many of his essays from Crisis were published in book form under the title The Emerging Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois: Essays and Editorials from "The Crisis."

In addition to The Souls of Black Folk and the articles and editorials for the Crisis, Du Bois wrote several books. While these attracted less attention than his scholarly works, the also focused on the Black race covering the topics of miscegenation and economic disparities in the South. Most respected for his scholarly writing, Du Bois’ concepts such as the psychology of colonization explored by Frantz Fanon continued being researched years later.
  Image: W.E.B. Du Bois, 1919, Library of Congress 

Ralph Ellison
Born Ralph Waldo Ellison after the famous journalist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ellison was known for pursuing universal truths through his writing. A literary critic, writer, and scholar, Ellison taught at a variety of colleges and spent two years overseas as a Fellow of the American Academy. In an effort to transcend the starkly defined racial categories of the 1950s, he was sometimes criticized for choosing white society over his African American identity. Identifying as an artist first, Ellison rejected the notion that one should stand for a particular ideology, refuting both Black and white stereotypes in his collection of political, social and critical essays titled Shadow and Act.

However, it was Ellison’s first novel that established his place as an important literary figure in America. Published in 1952, the first lines of Invisible Man struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of readers, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me . . ." Considered one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century, Ellison was heavily influenced by Zora Neale Hurston and is often cited as an influence with many writers today such as ZZ Packer and Toni Morrison.
Image: National Archives, United States Information Agency staff photographer

 Read more 



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

Are we not like two volumes of one book? 

 – Marceline Desbordes-Valmore



Monday, February 13, 2017

EARLY BIRD PRICING for AUTHOR 101 University with Rick Frishman APRIL 6-8, 2017, HYATT REGENCY LAX



 THE EARLY BIRD PRICING IS ON!

YOU CAN GET A TICKET FOR YOU AND YOUR GUEST FOR ONLY $297…MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR TICKET BEFORE THE PRICE GOES UP.

One of the biggest mistakes I see authors make is thinking too small with their book.
If you get your book done and sell 100,000 copies have you succeeded? In many respects, you have done what very few authors do, yet there is so much more business that can be generated from your book that you will not realize unless you take my advice.
I’ve seen very few authors do what I think is one of the most important things you can do when writing a book. They miss it because they believe once you have a book everything else takes care of itself, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It’s certainly true that when you have your book done and published it positions you for success above someone who doesn’t have one, but that’s actually when the real work starts.
At Author101 University we believe strongly in everyone putting their message in a book, but what most people miss is why we are so passionate about you having a book.
The answer is: it adds value to you, what you do, and your brand.

THE EARLY BIRD PRICING IS ON!

YOU CAN GET A TICKET FOR YOU AND YOUR GUEST FOR ONLY $297…MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR TICKET BEFORE THE PRICE GOES UP.

Authors don’t realize how important it is to have a brand around you, what you do, and your book. In fact, think about the books that were really successful: Rich Dad Poor Dad, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Think and Grow Rich etc. What do they all have in common? They have become solid, trusted brands.
We want to help you turn your book into a brand – a movement that not only impacts people but also generates a significant income.
You’ve probably heard by now that on April 6-8 we will be having Author101 University. What you may not have heard is I have invited my good friend Perry Yeldham, the founder of 21Thirteen Design, who is an expert branding consultant, to speak and teach you how to turn your book into a powerful brand.
This will be one of the most important things you learn at Author101.
Not only is Perry going to teach you how to turn your book into a top selling brand we are going to have other expert speakers showing you how to:
  • “Architect” your book
  • Make your book a best-seller
  • Use your book to land speaking engagements
  • Set up an automated, online funnel to generate revenue
  • Leverage YouTube and other Social Media for book marketing
  • Get yourself on Radio and TV And much more.

THE EARLY BIRD PRICING IS ON!

YOU CAN GET A TICKET FOR YOU AND YOUR GUEST FOR ONLY $297…MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR TICKET BEFORE THE PRICE GOES UP.

The last Author101 University sold out well before the event, so you need to enroll before it’s too late… and don’t forget you can BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE.
Again, Author101 University is in Los Angeles, April 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency LAX
See YOU there!
 
Rick Frishman 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to Write Your Screenplay in 24 Hours - Advice From Kenneth Atchity

Norman Mailer once said that “writer’s block is a failure of the ego.”
I’d rather say it’s a failure of motivation, preparation, and discipline—a failure, in other words, of time-management.

The method I describe here, based on nearly thirty years’ experience in film and television, is all about motivation, preparation, and discipline.
If you follow this system, you will be able to write a professional screenplay in 24 hours.

writing a screenplay image

Sitting in front of your computer agonizing over the next word is always counterproductive.

Start by taking a solemn oath that you’ll never again sit at your computer without knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down.

By simply preparing your thoughts and ideas ahead of time, you can ensure that when you do sit down to write, you’ll have something dramatic to say. This simple change in your writing habits can help you write more and stress less.
But first, let’s analyze what you’re trying to construct when you write a screenplay. It’s not a nebulous, monumental, or overwhelming task.
It’s just producing 115 written pages—with not that much writing on each page, at that.


Outlining Your Screenplay


Let’s start by mapping that simple and unintimidating reality out on a single page, starting with your screenplay’s page 1 (an opening that hooks the audience) and ending with its page 115 (that satisfies their expectations of good storytelling):


Page 1


Act 1: Compelling beginning (Hook), dragging your audience into the midst of action.


Page 5


End of introduction of the protagonist.

Note: Make him relatable to the audience. A protagonist is convincing when all of the following four dimensions of his or her makeup are clearly focused:
  1. His motivation
  2. His mission in the story
  3. The obstacles he faces in pursuing his mission
  4. The change he undergoes from the beginning the story to the end.
Introduction of your story’s theme (emotional mood and viewpoint of the film).


Page 20


End of introduction of antagonist.

Note: Make the antagonist worthy of your protagonist. The stronger the antagonist, the stronger your protagonist will look.

Major event launches your character into action, (inciting incident also called the inciting event) into Act 2.

Act 2: Rising and falling action (not just action, dramatic action), plot twists and turns, obstacles to his mission—constantly keeping the audience in suspense, and surprising them.

It helps to break up your dramatic action into three acts within Act 2.


Page 35


First meaningful encounter between protagonist and antagonist. The protagonist succeeds or fails to advance his or her cause.


Page 50


Turning point:  New information, or the triumph over a major obstacle, turns everything 180 degrees.


Page 70


Twist & turn: Build to a climax. Darkest moment for hero. At the crossroads. Will he win or lose?


Page 85


Act 3: Protagonist at lowest point. Begin resolution as character breaks through with a final decision.


Page 95


The story draws to a dramatic close, underlying its theme or moral impact.


Page 115


Mission accomplished, Change occurs. Conclusive ending that satisfies the audience and sharpens their mood as they leave the movie. Answering the question, what was this story about?


Using Final Draft to Write Your Screenplay


It helps to have an idea of how many pages you type an hour in Final Draft. That way you can budget time accordingly.

For example, if you can type five pages an hour and can allocate two hours a day on weekdays (take weekends off to recharge your batteries and let the story build up pressure in your mind), that means you’ll be able to produce 10 pages per day or 50 pages per week. At that rate, it will take you exactly 12 work days (allowing 2 days for those last 15 pages). A total of 24 hours of actual writing.
My advice is to schedule the same time to write each morning or evening, and stick to it religiously, not stopping until you’ve spent the time you’ve allocated—let’s say two hours on the stopwatch.


7 Steps to Prepare Your Story for Writing


Before you sit down to “fill in the blanks,” prepare yourself by making sure you’re ready with the following items:
  1. You’ll need to start with a story that’s well-worked out in your mind already, so I’m assuming you’re writing a screenplay based on your own book or unpublished story.
  2. Read five of your favorite screenplays based on movies that did well at the box office. Consult www.boxofficemojo.com to make sure the ones you choose did well; and consult www.script-o-rama.com to download the screenplays free. Studying screenplays from successful movies can help you see what to do, and what not to do, when you write your screenplay.
  3. You’ll need to create your screenplay in Final Draft, the professional standard of the Hollywood entertainment marketplace. So don’t set your start-clock until you’ve mastered the program; which shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
  4. Unlike a novel or nonfiction book, a screenplay is nearly all action,and action consists of either physical action (she slams the door behind her; when she turns around he’s holding a gun) or active dialogue. The missing “nearly” part is narrative, simple and direct transitions from one action to another, setting the stage and clarifying the movement of the actors who are doing the action.
  5. This means all you need for your screenplay is action, and you start by asking yourself what are the obligatory actions of your story, the actions without which the story makes no sense. Those are the ones you use to fill in the blanks, above, estimating where they should come in the story.
  6. If you need help deciding what goes where in the story, reduce all the most important actions, whether they’re physical or verbal, to a single 3×5 card for each.  Make all the cards you’ll need for your screenplay, and I can tell you from experience that you’ll rarely need more than 100. When you’ve finished the cards, sort them in terms of where in the story they should go. Then re-sort them with the power of hindsight (gained from doing the first sorting). Now you should be ready to list the obligatory actions in the page outline, above.
  7. Spend as much time as you need to fill in the page spread until it has a clearly visible through-line. That’s another way of saying “the story flows.” Here’s a tip from one of my books that helps you assess the intensity-level of the various moments in your story so you can rearrange them to make sure you’ve built a rollercoaster of rising and falling action:
How to write a screenplay image

This chart is easily constructed:
  1. Summarize action in a few words.
  2. With a single hyphen for each degree of intensity, rate each action, ending with an arrow after each action’s line.
  3. Draw a line from one arrowhead to another. That gives you a graph of rising and falling action.
  4. Turn the graph on its side to see whether the rollercoaster is dramatically effective enough. In this example, the story could use more dramatic variation between Act 1 and Act 2, and especially in Act 3 where falling action needs to be enhanced to make the rising action more compelling to the audience.
  5. Now’s your chance to vary the scenes to make for a more satisfactory rollercoaster ride.
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to finish filling out the page spread, if you haven’t done it already.


When You Sit Down to Write, Everything Should be Prepared


Once your page spread is filled out, you’re ready to start your clock on the actual “writing.” But note that you now already know what you’re going to write, so it’s time to sit down and just do it.

At this point you should have such a clear idea of where your story is going it should be a lot easier to write your screenplay than if you were simply sitting down and writing a brand new story from a blank page.

One more practical tip: get a ream of paper ready for use. Five hundred blank pages are way more than enough to write a screenplay with plenty of waste allowed along the way. But at least you know as you stare at your ream that it’s not an insuperable, monumental, mountainous task. It’s just filling out as much of that ream as your story needs.

Time to sit down at the computer and type, following your page spread outline and aided by the cards on which you’ve recorded the details of each action required to tell the story.

Don’t worry about transitions between one action and another, and definitely don’t worry about “CUT TO,” “FADE OUT,” etc. Directors reading your script will only be annoyed by your attempt to dictate to them how to use the camera.
Just tell your story without telling us about it—just showing it.

No stopping to worry about research, spelling, or even grammar—that can all be checked automatically by Final Draft when you’ve gotten the draft down. You do that checking on Work Day #12.

Now all you have to do is revise (including checking your research). Give yourself at least as much time for that as you did for your first draft. Then send it out for a “friendly read,” and revise accordingly.

Good luck.

Read more 


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Success lessons from Paulo Coelho – “The Alchemist”




1. Rejection doesn’t matter

Paulo believed in himself. He believed that he was a good poet and that his poems were not suitable for small magazines. So he sent his poems to the ‘Escritores e Livros,’ a reputable literary column in a newspaper called Correio da Manha. But the newspaper humiliated him.

Like any normal person, he took it personally, but managed to regain his confidence and write his own version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If…”. In the case of Paulo, his self-belief won and this is because of a certain obsession of his.

 2. Always take action

“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action.”

You can study, read, and listen until you turn blue in the face, but the full experience is when you take action, and let the rubber meet the road. Once you’re done aiming, pull the trigger.

3. Be obsessed with your dream

Paulo was obsessed with the idea of becoming a famous writer. Yet, it was funny that the obsession only bore fruit in his later years. This is because he was always changing his art: from poetry to acting, directing, writing about the occult, and lyric writing.

Although he gained success in some of his ventures, he kept reminding himself that he wanted to be a famous writer. That obsession made him what he is today.

4. Good things come to those who persevere

In The Alchemist, Coelho’s most popular novel, a young Spanish shepherd named Santiago has a prophetic dream that treasure awaits him in some distant land. After consulting with a gypsy who tells him the treasure lies under the Pyramids of Giza and Egypt, he embarks upon a long and arduous journey across Africa. The obstacles he encounters in the desert—he struggles to secure food and shelter, crosses paths with armies, and even falls in love—make him second-guess his dubious quest.

But for every hurdle discouraging him, there’s a signpost reminding him to keep his faith alive. Early in his journey an old king tells Santiago: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

5. If you have a weakness, learn to compensate for it with your strength

Paulo was weak physically. According to his biography he was “very thin, frail and short.” He had a nickname – Pele – which means ‘skin. It was given only to those who were always being bullied by their classmates.

Considering his physical weakness, it was hard for Paulo to gain the respect of his peers. Yet he found out that despite his weakness, he managed to gain their respect.By knowing things no one else knew and reading stories none of his peers had read was one way of gaining respect.

6. Your past doesn’t make the future

Paulo failed in his studies, almost killed a boy because of his driving, was forced to stay in a psychiatry clinic because of his escalating problems, took drugs, was kidnapped by a secret organization and embraced Satanism.

The problem with most of us is we focus on things we can’t change. It is true that our past can influence our future, but we don’t want to let that influence spread too much and work of its own accord.

7. Listen to your heart

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” —The Alchemist

8. Your success has a ripple-effect

“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

Growth, change, and evolution are weaved into the fabric of reality. Becoming a better version of yourself creates a ripple effect that benefits everything around you: your lifestyle, your family, your friends, your community.

9. Don’t be afraid to be different

“You are someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness. God chose you to be different. Why are you disappointing God with this kind of attitude?” —Veronika Decides to Die

10. You don’t have to work in a corporate job

It’s not safe anyway, despite what they tell you. There’s much more fun and money to be had if you can handle a little uncertainty (warning — most people would choose misery over uncertainty, but you don’t have to be one of them). Doing work that you truly love is the best gift you will ever give yourself.