MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

INTRODUCTING KEN ATCHITY'S MASTER CLASS



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Monday, February 27, 2017

Time Management for Writers: The Stopwatch Method for Massive Creative Productivity

Managing your work is a fool’s game because work is infinite. Good work only creates more work; in fact, bad work creates more work too.

So the more you work the more work you will have to do. It’s basic common sense that you can’t manage an infinite commodity.

What can you manage? Time.

You not only can, but must, manage your time because time is all too finite.
They say, “If you want to get something done, find a busy person.” The busy person succeeds in getting things done because he knows how to manage his or her time.

We all have the exact same amount at our disposal: 60 minutes each hour, 24 hours each day, 168 hours each week, 8,736 hours each year. If you put one hour into a project each day for a year, you’d have worked on it for 365 hours—more than enough time to write a book, and a screenplay, and a treatment or two.
“If you place a little upon a little,” explained the ancient Greek almanac writer Hesiod in his Works and Days, “soon it becomes a lot.”

Time Management Stopwatch image

Time Management Should Be Easy

Where do you find the time to get your most important work done every day?

One memorable day in Manhattan I was delivering a broken antique wall clock to my favorite repair shop. As I completed my drop off and turned to leave, I noticed an ultra-modern stand-up clock constructed of shiny pendulums, a different metal each for hours, minutes, and seconds, all enclosed in a sleek glass case. It was simply the most beautiful timepiece I’d ever seen.

Then I realized: it had no hands. At first I thought, No wonder it’s in the shop. It’s broken. But I studied the clock more closely.

Clock for time management image

No. It was designed without hands. It was a timepiece that Salvador Dali would have been as thrilled with as I was. Time moves in its own way unless we somehow capture it.

It reminded me that time is a free force. It just happens, whether you do anything about it or not. It’s up for grabs. It doesn’t belong to your family, or to your friends, or to your day job, or to anyone but you! What you’re working on at any given moment is how you control it.

The trick is where do you find that free time?—a question busy people are asked regularly. Here’s their secret: busy people make time, for the activities they decide to prioritize. One good way to wrestle with the problem they’ve solved is to ask yourself, “Where do I lose it?” When you find the answers to that question they may shock you.

I ask writers to make a chart of their weekly hours and use it to determine how many hours they devote to each activity in their cluttered, over-stimulated lives.
Maybe you’d be surprised—or maybe not—that most people have no idea where the time goes.

They come back to me with a grand total of 182, or 199, or 82 hours of activity—until I remind them that they, like every other human, have the same 168 hours each week to spend.

Then we get serious and analyze exactly where they’re lying to themselves about the time: forgetting about the endless phone calls with friends, or the true amount of time in front of the television, or the accurate time devoted to the daily commute, or the time doing absolutely nothing but staring out the window. When we get the time inventory accurate most people are surprised at the truth. But truth is the first step to freedom, and managing your time effectively is the greatest freedom of all.

I call it “making the clock of life your clock.” I believe in this philosophy so much I haven’t worn a regular watch for nearly thirty years, despite owning a vintage wrist watch that belonged to my father and an even older pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather. The only chronograph I carry around with me is one that allows me to make life’s clock my clock:a stopwatch.

The stopwatch makes the Spanish proverb, la vida es corta pero ancha (“life is short but wide”) come true.

You can get a free stopwatch app on your cell phone! In fact, most smartphones come with a built-in stopwatch app like the Clock app on iPhones.

The Stop Watch Method of Time Management

The stopwatch method of time management is simple. You use it to capture time, to make sure that your Priority Writing Project is getting the amount of attention you want to give it to move it—and your career success–ahead with certainty.
You know that the wall clock, or the one on your wrist or displayed on your cell phone, has a way of running away with your day. You say you’ll work on your Priority Writing Project from seven to eight a.m. and something is certain to come along to disrupt that hour almost as though life were conspiring against you.

What’s really happening is that you’re letting life interfere with your personal time management.

Of course when the interference occurs, you tell yourself I’ll catch up later,or say, “I’ll start again tomorrow and this time protect myself from interruptions.” But over the years we discover that life usually runs rampant over any and all such resolutions.

The stopwatch method works best in a life jam-packed with stimuli and distraction. It allows you to steal time. While clocks on wrists and walls record public time, your private prime time happens only when your stopwatch is running. The stopwatch allows you to call “time out” from the game everyone else is engaged in.

Simply promise yourself you won’t go to sleep at night until, by hook or by crook, you’ve clocked on your stopwatch one hour (sixty minutes) of working on Priority Writing Project.

Turn the stopwatch ON when you’re working on it, and OFF when you get interrupted.

Your stopwatch minutes may be harvested over a six-hour period, or over a twenty-four-hour period. You steal them when you can: waiting at the dentist’s, commuting to the ferry, when your lunch appointment hasn’t shown up yet, when your cell phone dies and no one can reach you until you’ve replaced or recharged the battery, when your date for the evening calls in sick.

It takes a few days to get used to this process, but once you do you’ll recognize the power it gives you over time.

If I could give you a magic pill that guaranteed you would work on your most important goals and dreams in life for one hour each day, would you take it?
Of course! And that’s exactly what the stopwatch method of time management does—it guarantees that your most important work gets done each day if you stick to the plan.

Optimum Attention Span (OAS)

How do you know how much time to devote to your Priority Writing Project—or to any activity, for that matter?

That’s a function of what I call Optimum Attention Span (OAS). For some activities, like watching your favorite sports event or shopping, your OAS might be extremely wide; for others, like listening to your boss complain or to your domestic partner nag, it might be miniscule. The trick is to determine what the OAS is for that Priority Writing Project.

At the start of any project, OAS tends to be smaller; as the project gains momentum and begins to appear reachable, your OAS expands. So when you start planning to write that novel, nonfiction books, or screenplay, give yourself 30-45 minutes on the stopwatch during the first week.

But reassess OAS at the end of each week because OAS changes and evolves. By the fourth week you may well be up to an hour and a half—ninety minutes on the stopwatch.

Increasing Productivity with “Linkage”

Isn’t it hard to work in fits and starts?

You might very well ask that very good question. The answer is that it’s actually easier to work that way than it is to work without stopping if you employ my time-management technique of linkage, what Hemingway referred to as “leaving a little water in the well.”

Here’s how linkage works. The phone rings, so you have to turn off your stopwatch. But you let it ring one or two more times, taking that time to make a mental decision about what you’ll do when your stopwatch is running again—that is, in your next Priority Writing Project stopwatch session.

And here’s an interesting secret: it doesn’t matter what decision you make when you turn the stopwatch back on.

The minute you make that decision, as you answer the phone and go on from one activity to the next, your mind starts thinking of better decisions than the one you just made; in fact, your mind becomes increasingly motivated to get back to that Priority Writing Project because it knows exactly what it will do when the next session begins.

You’ve created an automatic linkage—that makes restarting when your stopwatch is next running no longer an occasion for blockage.
Instead, you’re fully ready to jump in and get as much out of that next session as possible before it’s interrupted by life’s next distraction.

And, yes, have a desk drawer filled with stopwatches so you can employ a different colored one for each major project you’re engaged with. Or you can use different stopwatch apps on your phone.

The stopwatch method will truly make the clock of life your clock.It’s the magic writing pill.

Dr. Kenneth Atchity (Georgetown B.A., Yale Ph.D.) has been teaching time management throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe for decades.

Books include A Writer’s Time: Making the Time to Write (ebook: Write Time: Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision—and Beyond); How to Quit Your Day Job and Live out Your Dreams; Writing Treatments that Sell (with Chi-Li Wong), Sell Your Story to Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide to the Business of Show Business and, with Ridgely Goldsborough, Why? Marketing for Writers. Dr. Atchity’s more than thirty films include Meg, the Emmy-nominated Kennedy Detail, Hysteria, Erased, Joe Somebody, and Life or Something like It.

Companies serving writers include www.thewriterslifeline.com, www.storymerchant.com, and www.storymerchantbooks.com. and teaching sessions can be accessed at www.RealFastHollywoodDeal.com.


 



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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscars: Hollywood Therapist, Dennis Palumbo, on How to Relieve Anxiety Over Losing, Guilt Over Winning

As nominees hit their Hail-Mary cleanses and agents lay the groundwork for post-Oscar quote hikes, the town's army of shrinks is soothing the roiling emotions that lie beneath the just-glad-to-be-nominated miens of Oscar hopefuls. Dennis Palumbo, a Sherman Oaks-based licensed psychotherapist who specializes in treating Hollywood creatives, recalls one memorable Oscar session: "I had one patient, a big-name director nominated for an Oscar, whose psychic predicted he'd win. The day before the show, he told me that another nominated director — a friend of his — was told by his psychic that he'd win. Turned out to be the same psychic. And neither man won. My patient's response? 'Now I don't know who to trust.' " He continues: "We all know that thing where you see the five nominees and then watch the frozen plastic smiles on the faces of the losers," says a sympathetic Palumbo. "I've had patients with that frozen smile and thought, 'It's going to be about six weeks here in the office with this guy.' "

Working in Hollywood is stressful, but when Oscar season rolls around, a heightened wave of anxiety sets in for even the most seasoned veterans. "I have been to a lot of these ceremonies, and each time it feels like I had never done it before. The flashes seem brighter, the carpet seems crazier," says best supporting actor nominee Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), who took home the Oscar for best actor for 2010's Crazy Heart. "I still get stressed out at the idea of saying something. My mind overloads."

Bridges is not alone. Whether you're an actor or an agent, the Oscars can bring on a set of anxiety-ridden behaviors, starting with nomination announcements and continuing through campaigning, awards shows and the aftermath. "I have tremendous compassion for people both nominated and not nominated, because it's like getting a report card when you're a kid," says Palumbo. "Some people find that [the Oscars] is the arbiter of how they can feel about themselves."

HOW OSCARS STRESS MANIFESTS IN HOLLYWOOD

'The most common form of anxiety across the board at this time of year is insomnia, says Philip Pierce, a clinical psychologist with Oscar winners among his patients who sees them "waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep over the uncertainty and the stakes." Other symptoms include substance abuse, low-grade depression, disturbed appetite and spending sprees — which can simulate a low-grade version of the adrenaline rush that comes with winning an award. "There's this thing where they just zone out, and it's all across the board — it could be producers, actors, directors — they sit there in front of their computer and just go shopping," says psychotherapist Larry Shaw, who treats patients across the industry spectrum. "[It gives them] control. Whether it's on eBay or Amazon, you stick it in the cart and you've 'won.' "


Illustration by Luci Gutierrez
THE BIG PSYCHE DIVIDE: ACTORS, AGENTS AND EVERYBODY ELSE

Nominees who don't spend time in front of cameras, including writers and producers, are typically the most anxious about awards season, according to Pierce. "They're very much worried about the public aspects, talking to people they don't know and being in a strange situation," he says. "My directors, on the other hand, just assume they're going to win."

Actors generally are less stressed about campaigning, though there is the sheer physical exhaustion involved with engaging in endless red carpets, awards shows, junkets and photo shoots. "It seems like there is a lot more campaigning these days," says Bridges. "There ought to be a special award for the best campaigner." But high visibility also puts talent at a greater risk for emotional distress, according to David Levy, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. "When you're the actor, you are the product. If you've written a screenplay, you're attached to your baby. If you've directed a film, it's your product. But when you're a performer, you are the commodity. So when you get rejected, it's you." For some talent, "ironically, they have conflicting feelings about being in the spotlight," adds Mari Murao, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist with nominated patients. "A part of them seeks it out, and often nothing terrifies them more."

Even agents and managers have their issues. "It would surprise my creative patients to know how much fear reps have, fear that their client is going to leave them if they become successful," says Palumbo. "Creative types never see their reps as fear-driven. They transfer parental feelings on to them. I can't tell you how many times I've had to say to a patient, 'She's your agent, not your mother.' "
Levy also sees some reps taking their clients' nominations personally. "Part of it is financial. If they're an agent or a manager and their client wins an award, it means more work and a higher asking price, and they're going to make more percentage on the next job." But it's ego-driven, too: "They feel personally let down if things don't work out the way they want them to."

THE AGONY OF DEFEAT

When it comes to Oscar night, Palumbo says some patients ask their families not to watch the broadcast because they can't bear to have them see their reaction if they lose. One A-list patient, nominated for best supporting actress, asked him to "let us use our session to practice her 'good loser' face in case the camera was on her when one of the other actresses won," says Palumbo. (A new low-downtime surgery is also an option; see page 102.) "I suggested we concentrate on her self-esteem issues instead."

Losing sets off feelings of failure and lack of self-worth — "a lot of negative self-talk," says Shaw. But "most of this stuff is beyond your control," cautions Levy. "A lot of this is luck, happenstance. And some of it is politics." Levy encourages his losing clients to talk about feelings, "but certainly not in the public arena." It's an ego issue, he says, "and that's what I try to help them reduce," using therapy to get his patients to not take things personally. "They're too attached to the winning and losing."


THE ANXIETY — AND GUILT — OF VICTORY

Winning a coveted statuette comes with its own unique stresses. The acceptance speech is the star of many a session on the couch. Even confident directors ask, "What if I win and I've got to go up?" says Jeffrey Blume, a licensed psychologist in Beverly Hills who has worked with creative talent for 25 years, adding that he deploys hypnotherapy or deep relaxation to "try to help them imagine going up onstage and practicing while they're relaxed. So when they actually get up there, they can be relaxed."

Some people feel survivor's guilt, that they won and deserving others didn't. "It's hard sometimes for people to take in success and they feel guilty. Their friend or colleague didn't win," says Blume. Adds Pierce, "Many very successful people in the business have the deep-seated fear that they're a fraud," he says, adding that these patients often see their anxiety increasing after an Oscar triumph, "as they believe now they will surely be exposed."

After all the excitement and celebration, post-Oscar blues can be common, followed by stress over ever measuring up again. "I had a writer come in a year ago with their award," says Blume. "He had the anxiety of, 'Now I'm supposed to write another masterpiece and I don't have any ideas.' " Directors might apply extra pressure to themselves "because of the auteur theory — if you are nominated or win an Oscar for best director, you're in the company of Billy Wilder, John Ford, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, the real heavyweight pantheon," says Palumbo. The sentiment that you're only as good as your last Oscar, says Levy, and the expectations can be tremendous: "How do you top that? For most people, you can't." Levy suggests clients look to past winners and losers to see how they conducted themselves. "This is uncharted territory for most people, but if you look at who has been in that situation, they all have similar struggles, so the commonality in that is helpful." In fact, says Palumbo: "I think it's better to be nominated than to win. When you force the town to up your fee because you've won an Oscar, the expectation is, the next project better be great, or we're being taken advantage of. You're setting yourself up for failure."

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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

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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.




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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

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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