"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."


—Muriel Rukeyser

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Kenneth Atchity Featured in The Visionary


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"You cannot fail at being yourself, which means doing with all your might what you were born to do with your light, your vision, and your time.”


There is no such thing as was—only is,” William Faulkner wrote. “If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow.” Time is a human creation.


Time keeps then now. Time causes aging, not age. A mayfly has no time to realize its lifecycle is mere hours; fellow mayflies don’t remind it or post countdown clocks on its walls. By and within ourselves we are ageless. And time is what we make of it. We must make the time to do what we do best, what we were born to do.

Light is the universal mind revealing its potential. “Let there be light,” the creator said, and his very words were the light “that shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Without the darkness whence it came, there would be no light; darkness is the chaos created by fear, unease with the universe—but also the womb of love and light. Light begets perception, and perception at its brightest is what we call vision.


Let your voice rise to the heavens called the Elder and the voices of the group rose strong and clear to greet the First Ray to celebrate its arrival in the cycle of this new lifetime as the ancients called the day this new journey of the Earth around the axis of its heart, to welcome it with outstretched arms and hearts wide open yes here the Light loved to shine


Reading Birgitte’s words makes me rejoice anew in that time of first light that I’ve sought throughout my life to dedicate to vision. Born on a farm, I’m happiest when I awaken an hour or two before dawn. This is my time, spent with a cup of savory coffee and a half-hour of reading inspirational words like these; followed by attending to my latest “visionary” project. Currently, that’s the completion of a family chronicle; prior to that it was my novel The Messiah Matrix, which explores the origins of Christianity from an unusual and little-discussed historical perspective.


I believe in the power of stories to change the world. My passion for stories has not only changed my life; it has been my life—hundreds of books sold to publishers or published by Story Merchant Books, two dozen New York Times bestsellers, thirty movies produced to date, several television series sold. All stories I felt needed to be told. It’s been my beloved vocation to inspire storytellers to reach for their maximum audiences. The books and movies we’ve developed have reached millions worldwide and it’s the best feeling to hear, on a plane from Hong Kong to Tokyo, that a complete stranger saw “Hysteria” or “The Kennedy Detail” and loved it.


Each day I’m ready for the sunrise, facing it with an exhilarating sense of promise and potential—and the power to choose how I fulfill it.


Vision weaves light and time into patterns, drawing our attention to them as confidently as male peacocks spread their tail feathers, young bucks clash with their antlers, or sea anemones vibrate color, drawing attention to the lifeforce’s need to replicate itself, thereby overcoming time and dancing with love and immortality. 


What is the purpose of this cosmic dance? we wonder. What is the purpose of life? Just as a California poppy bursts open with hues brighter than the rainbow, an antelope leaps across the Colorado prairie because she can, or the alpha lion’s mane grows shaggier with power, the purpose of life is simply to fill our human experience with forms we create to celebrate the splendor and beauty of the universal mind.


One of those forms is time, the first expression created by humanity in response to the universal creation of light. While we wait for life to make its ultimate expression known to us, we ourselves reach for it by bathing in the light the universe sends to remind us of its eternal promise.


No matter how far we ever are from reaching that highest expression of ourselves, let us remember the words of Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: “I think the only immoral thing is for a being not to live every instant of its life with the utmost intensity.” That’s what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he declared, “Full effort is full success.”


Birgitte’s mellifluous prose reminds us that you cannot fail at being yourself, which means doing with all your might what you were born to do with your light, your vision, and your time.

~ Ken Atchity

Dr. Kenneth Atchity is an American producer and author who has worked in the world of letters as a literary manager, editor, speaker, writing and career coach, columnist, book reviewer, and professor of comparative literature. Called a "story merchant" by a visiting ambassador to the United States, Ken's life passion is finding great storytellers and turning them into bestselling authors and screenwriters.

A member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Ken has made numerous radio and television appearances and given keynote speeches at conferences throughout the world. He has produced over 30 films, including the Emmy-nominated “The Kennedy Detail,” and received awards and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation.

Following studies at Georgetown (A.B., English/Classics) and Yale (M.Phil. Theater History, Ph.D. Comparative Literature), Ken has served as professor and chairman of comparative literature and creative writing at Occidental College; editor of Contemporary Quarterly: Poetry and Art; columnist-reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review; Distinguished Instructor, UCLA Writers Program; and Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Bologna.  

Learn more about Ken and his work at www.storymerchant.com.

Samuel Bernstein's New Play Runs through December 15 at Pacific Resident Theatre!

Sometimes a death in the family is the beginning of everything.



The Hoffman family meets to sell their late mother’s Upper East Side brownstone and divide a houseful and lifetime of memories. Ancient dramas of childhood run smack into the fresh grief of mourning. The questions that arise are not easily answered. What does it mean to be in midlife and fear you’ve made all the wrong choices? What does it mean to carry unbearable burdens? What does it mean to trust in everything that family is, but also accept everything it isn’t and can never be…

Runs the first two weekends of November and December.  TICKETS 

R.I.P. Kennedy Detail SSA - WINSTON LAWSON


In June 2010, seven Secret Service agents who were on the Kennedy Secret Service Detail reunited in Dallas along with their wives, for the emotional filming of a Discovery Channel Emmy nominated documentary based on the book, The Kennedy Detail. It was an unforgettable experience that brought back fond memories of the brotherhood of this close-knit group, but that, of course, also forced them to relive the most tragic day of their lives.  Win Lawson was one of them.





With Jerry Blaine


Win Lawson was commissioned by the Secret Service in 1959 as a Special Agent and in 1961 was transferred to the White House Detail. SA Lawson served under Presidents Kennedy & Johnson, and Vice Presidents Humphrey & Agnew before being transferred to Secret Service Headquarters in various jobs.

Win Lawson retired in 1981 as Deputy Assistant Director of Inspection.



Interview - WTVR - November 2013




RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – His job was to protect the President of the United States. Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it is a job that still haunts Secret Service Special Agent Winston Lawson to this day.

“You knew it was an important job. You couldn’t let it get to you too much,” Lawson said in his first television interview since the assassination.
















Ken Atchity Quotes...

“Write to make a difference. Write because you have something to say to us all. In dramatic writing, fiction, and nonfiction, this means knowing exactly what your work is about and being able to tell the publisher in ten words or less..."

― Kenneth Atchity, Write Time: Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision-and Beyond





Martin Scorsese: Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema.

Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.

“It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever,” says Martin Scorsese.



Cinema is an art form that brings you the unexpected. In superhero movies, nothing is at risk, a director says.

“It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever,” says Martin Scorsese.

“It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever,” says Martin Scorsese.

When I was in England in early October, I gave an interview to Empire magazine. I was asked a question about Marvel movies. I answered it. I said that I’ve tried to watch a few of them and that they’re not for me, that they seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.

Some people seem to have seized on the last part of my answer as insulting, or as evidence of hatred for Marvel on my part. If anyone is intent on characterizing my words in that light, there’s nothing I can do to stand in the way.

Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. You can see it on the screen. The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.

For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.

It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form.

And that was the key for us: it was an art form. There was some debate about that at the time, so we stood up for cinema as an equal to literature or music or dance. And we came to understand that the art could be found in many different places and in just as many forms — in “The Steel Helmet” by Sam Fuller and “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman, in “It’s Always Fair Weather” by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and “Scorpio Rising” by Kenneth Anger, in “Vivre Sa Vie” by Jean-Luc Godard and “The Killers” by Don Siegel.

Or in the films of Alfred Hitchcock — I suppose you could say that Hitchcock was his own franchise. Or that he was our franchise. Every new Hitchcock picture was an event. To be in a packed house in one of the old theaters watching “Rear Window” was an extraordinary experience: It was an event created by the chemistry between the audience and the picture itself, and it was electrifying.

And in a way, certain Hitchcock films were also like theme parks. I’m thinking of “Strangers on a Train,” in which the climax takes place on a merry-go-round at a real amusement park, and “Psycho,” which I saw at a midnight show on its opening day, an experience I will never forget. People went to be surprised and thrilled, and they weren’t disappointed.

Sixty or 70 years later, we’re still watching those pictures and marveling at them. But is it the thrills and the shocks that we keep going back to? I don’t think so. The set pieces in “North by Northwest” are stunning, but they would be nothing more than a succession of dynamic and elegant compositions and cuts without the painful emotions at the center of the story or the absolute lostness of Cary Grant’s character.

The climax of “Strangers on a Train” is a feat, but it’s the interplay between the two principal characters and Robert Walker’s profoundly unsettling performance that resonate now.

Some say that Hitchcock’s pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that’s true — Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.

They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.

Another way of putting it would be that they are everything that the films of Paul Thomas Anderson or Claire Denis or Spike Lee or Ari Aster or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson are not. When I watch a movie by any of those filmmakers, I know I’m going to see something absolutely new and be taken to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience. My sense of what is possible in telling stories with moving images and sounds is going to be expanded.

So, you might ask, what’s my problem? Why not just let superhero films and other franchise films be? The reason is simple. In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.

That includes me, and I’m speaking as someone who just completed a picture for Netflix. It, and it alone, allowed us to make “The Irishman” the way we needed to, and for that I’ll always be thankful. We have a theatrical window, which is great. Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.

But, you might argue, can’t they just go home and watch anything else they want on Netflix or iTunes or Hulu? Sure — anywhere but on the big screen, where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen.

In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.

For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.

Read more

My personal, tiny, attempts at helping our poor planet by Dave Davis

There are little things that we can do, not drifting helplessly in a sea of worry


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Cows are not great for the environment, writes Dave Davis, but they are deserving of a dignified life regardless. - Rich Pedroncelli , The Associated Press

It was Lent or something close to it, and we were visiting our good friends-friends for life in Virginia for a few days. Wonderful couple, two fine sons, grandkids, the most hospitable people on the planet, with one slight difference from most of our friends: they were and are strict vegans. Soy milk, grains, veggies and fruit vegans. With good cause too, they said.

They had both read (digested you might say) the book, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by Thomas M. Campbell. They were firm believers in its conclusions, namely that our current eating habits were a major cause of cancer and other health problems.

Plus, it wasn't good for the planet.

I read it too. My wife and I decided we'd give up our regular diet (it was Lent after all) and, for 48 hours for her, longer for me, we did. Soya milk, faux-cheese, plant-based foods. Finding out where the vegan food shelf was in the local grocery store (there are actually several shelves now). I lasted maybe two weeks as a vegan, disturbed by dreams about chicken legs and cheeseburgers; I've slowly added back things like fish and chicken. A lot of chicken, I must say: my wife thinks I'll grow feathers one day.

Fast forward 10 years. The diet has slowly morphed. I'm certainly no vegan — more like a vegetarian who eats fish and chicken — but I've never returned fully to a regular North American diet. For the most part, I avoid red meat, thinking a couple things. One: most, though not all authorities, say that too much red meat isn't good for your body (there's evidence about heart disease, cancer and gout. Check out what the World Health Organization has to say.) Two: mostly now, I have to say, if a little sheepishly, it's my bit for the planet. Take cows for example: the amount of grain it takes to feed them, and the amount of gas they expel make them contributors to the greenhouse effect. And then there's this: I like to think they're sentient, deserving of life as much as we are.

Recently I read something in The New Yorker, a brilliantly crafted piece by Jonathan Franzen, an awesome writer. "What if we stop pretending?" he asks. Pretending what? Pretending that a global apocalypse of climate change will not engulf us all, and if not us, then our kids or grandkids.

Words are powerful tools. He makes a convincing case about climate change and our hurtling headlong into planetary disaster, as though that were a certainty. There are other opinions of course: my daughter, for example, thinks the planet will survive, thank you very much. I agree with her; it's us that I worry about. Franzen makes one very good point: faced with annihilation (in fact, faced with anything out of our control), we do two things. First, we deny the fact, since there's so little we can do; take our death for example. We only think about it episodically, not focusing on it. Breakfast though, Franzen says, breakfast he can focus on. I can relate to that (no bacon, though).

Or we do little things — not only in the planet-preserving, recycling, plastic-sparing mode, but also in little things that build friendships, equity and social justice. Regardless of the details, his piece is provocative, worth a read, and debate. And I agree with him about little things that we can do, not drifting helplessly in a sea of worry or self-pity (or worse, he says, denial).

That got me thinking about my dad. He was another Dave Davis (there are actually a lot of us out there) but to his many friends and even us he was "D.O.," a unique guy. In the 60s, faced with retirement from Dofasco, he started something called Third Sector, geared to recycling newspaper, kick-starting the blue box phenomenon locally, taking men off welfare rolls and giving them employment. The third way, he called it, involving the public sector and the private, a kind of collaboration. Ahead of his time, that D.O., even ahead of global warming.

Maybe that's what the not-really-vegan diet is: a kind of personal if tiny attempt to help the planet, by helping myself. It's not really very much but it's something we can do, like washing out the plastic to recycle it. Like turning lights off when we're not in the room. Like walking wherever we can, avoiding the oversized, cumbersome, gas-guzzling things that clog our roads.

And like us, even if we don't join them, we can admire our vegan friends (who continue to be amazingly hale and hearty, thanks for asking). Oh, and one more thing: maybe growing feathers, or gills — gills might be good for the high-water, flooding apocalypse thing.

Dave Davis, MD, is a husband, father and grandfather, a retired family doc and medical educator. His first novel, "A Potter's Tale," published by Story Merchant Books, Los Angeles, is available on Amazon in Canada, CA, the US and the UK. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, follow him @drauthor24, or write him at drdavedavis.com.

Dave Davis, MD, is a husband, father and grandfather, a retired family doc and medical educator. His first novel, “A Potter’s Tale,” published by Story Merchant Books, Los Angeles, is available on Amazon in Canada, CA, the US and the UK. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, follow him @drauthor24, or write him at drdavedavis.com.

New From Story Merchant Books Stressed in the U.S. by Dr. Meg Van Deusen

It seems like the American public is more “stressed out” than at any time in recent memory. But why? Is this seemingly sudden increase in stress due to current events in our world? Is technology to blame? Perhaps financial strain or increased pressures at work? Or is it all simply a coincidence? 

Host David B. Feldman interviews Dr. Meg Van Deusen, psychologist and author of Stressed in the U.S.: Twelve Tools to Tackle Anxiety, Loneliness, Tech-Addiction, and More, due out December 1st, 2019.



Ken Atchity Quotes ...

“Discipline, not the Muse, results in productivity. If you write only when she beckons, your writing is not yours at all.”

― Kenneth Atchity, A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write