"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped

Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly, 4/14/2010 9:22:53 AM

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

Among the traditional titles, fiction remained the largest segment, although output fell 15%, to 45,181 titles, marking the second consecutive year that fiction production declined. The nonfiction segments were mixed with growth coming in educational and practical areas such as technology (up 11%), science, and personal finance (both up 9%). Categories that depend more on discretional spending fell with the production of cookery and language titles falling the most at 16% each. The travel and sports and recreation segments had declines of 5% and 4%, respectively. Other major categories where output rose included children's, up 6%, to 32,348, biography, up 8% to 12,313, and religion, up 6% to 19,310.

Changes in growth rates in the traditional book segments, however, were overshadowed by the explosive gains posted by what Bowker calls the unclassified titles. The category consists largely of reprints, including those of public domain titles, plus other titles that are produced using print-on-demand production. According to Bowker, the largest producer of nontraditional books last year was BiblioBazaar which produced 272,930 titles, followed by Books LLC and Kessinger Publishing LLC which produced 224,460 and 190,175 titles, respectively. The Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace produced 21,819 books in 2009, while Lulu.com released 10,386. Xlibris and AuthorHouse, two imprints of AuthorSolutions, produced 10,161 and 9,445, title respectively. In something of an understatement, Kelly Gallagher, v-p of publishing services for Bowker, said that given the exceptional gains in the nontraditional segment the last three years, growth in that area "show[s] no signs of abating."


Guest Post: The Joke that Wouldn't Die 2... by Mark Evanier


The Sound of Silence

In his latest column, my friend and former partner Dennis Palumbo discusses the tendency for a writer to hold onto a line and to keep trying to find a place for it. This is absolutely true with most of us who write for a living.

And Dennis's piece reminded me of a joke that Evanier and Palumbo once wrote, managed to get into a script...and then we couldn't get rid of it fast enough. Every writer has a couple of these, too.

It was while we were working on Welcome Back, Kotter. There was an episode in which Vinnie Barbarino (the Travolta character) was making his acting debut. Around 3 AM one morning, a day or two before we taped, Dennis and I found ourselves punchy from lack of sleep and desperate from lack of a funny line for Mr. Woodman, the surly vice-principal. We needed to have him say something, get a laugh and then get out of the scene. We had to come up with it before we could get out of the office and go home.

One of us said, "Let's have Woodman say something about how he used to be a great actor."

The other one of us said, "Yeah...He could say, 'Y'know, Kotter, I used to be a pretty good actor. In college, we did Of Mice and Men.'"

And then in unison, we finished the line: "I played Mice."

We laughed for about six minutes. If you'd been that tired, you would have laughed, too. Then I typed it into the script, we laughed for three more minutes and we finally got the hell out of there. We thought it was the funniest line in the world...and at 3 AM, it was. In fairness to us, the next day the cast and the rest of the staff liked it a lot — enough that it stayed in, all the way through Tuesday afternoon. That was when we did the "dress rehearsal" — the first of two tapings that day — in front of very live audiences.

Mr. Woodman was played by a lovely little man named John Sylvester White. John was very funny on the show but he suffered through moments of pure stage fright. About ten minutes before he had to go before the cameras, he would become convinced that none of his lines would work, that the audience would hate him and that his career was but seconds from total ruination. This never came close to happening but it was often necessary to reassure him that he'd get laughs, that the audience would love him, etc. That afternoon, just before the show was to be performed the first time, Dennis and I wandered onto the set and John, in a state of panic, grabbed us.

He was in full make-up but he still looked pale. "That Mice and Men joke," he said. "Is that really funny?" We promised him the viewers would howl and he took us at our word and went out to do the show. Things went pretty well up until that moment, the moment when Mr. Woodman turned to Gabe Kaplan and said, "Y'know, Kotter. I used to be a pretty good actor. In college, we did Of Mice and Men. I played Mice!"

And then there was silence.

Absolute, dead silence. Not a laugh, not a chuckle, not a snicker. You would hear more noise if you were floating in the orbital path of Mars...and wearing earplugs.

And then because, I guess, he felt he had to say something before his exit and didn't particularly want to take the rap for the Mice joke, Mr. Woodman announced to Mr. Kotter, "Evanier and Palumbo told me that would get a laugh." The audience exploded in hysterics. Maybe the biggest laugh I ever heard on that stage. They didn't know who the hell Evanier and Palumbo were but they knew exactly what had happened.

Needless to say, the line was changed before the final taping...changed to something that the second audience actually laughed at. In-between the two tapings, there was a dinner break and everyone on the crew looked at Dennis and me and shook their heads, though a few were kind enough to say, "Well, I thought it was funny." When we worked on the following week's script, Dennis talked me out of a line I wanted to put in. I wanted Woodman to say, "Y'know, Kotter. I used to be a pretty good actor. In college, we did Of Mice and Men. I played Men!"

Like Dennis said in his article, some of us just don't know when to give up. I still think the Mice line would have killed if we'd aired the show at 3 AM.

Guest Post: The Joke that Wouldn't Die... by Dennis Palumbo

Dennis Palumbo

If you're a writer---whether of novels or short stories, articles or essays, TV scripts or screenplays---you definitely have them, and keep them close to your heart.

What am I talking about? Those great lines of dialogue, that particularly vivid descriptive passage, the one stubbornly insistent joke that never fails to crack you up whenever you insert it into a story or script. Whether it belongs there or not.

I'm referring to what William Faulkner called a writer's "precious darlings," those favorite phrases, sentences or even whole scenes that---no matter how well-written, how ground-breaking, how personally gratifying---simply don't work in the piece you're writing. They're either repetitive, beside the point, or else distract from the tone and/or narrative flow of the story. For whatever reason, they've got to go. Blue-penciled out. In Faulkner's famous advice, you've got to "kill" them.

But, man, do they die hard! I remember, during my years as a Hollywood writer, one joke in particular that I just loved. I originally wrote it for an episode of the ABC series Welcome Back, Kotter. It didn't get past the first re-write. This didn't stop me, as a writer on the show's staff, from pitching it in the writers' room every couple weeks. With the same result.

Undaunted, I resuscitated it again for a screenplay I did a few years later. The producer hated it, and out it went. I swear, for the next ten years or so, I tried to shoe-horn the damn thing into almost every script I wrote. It was like the Flying Dutchman, the Brigadoon of jokes that kept reappearing out of the mists. "The Joke That Wouldn't Die."

Even I knew, after typing it in (and crossing it out) over a dozen times, that there was something perverse in my continuing to try to make use of it. Yes, I thought it was funny---though, now that I recall, it wasn't that funny. But there was something else going on...and it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me what it might be.

A writer patient of mine was describing a descriptive passage she really loved, one that she'd used in a number of short stories (whose editors had routinely deleted it), and that she was determined to use again in a novel she was writing.

As we explored her seeming unwillingness to discard this "precious darling," we discovered that a number of deeply-felt meanings were associated with this particular piece of writing. In her mind, it was the first "strikingly original" (her words) description she'd written; the first that made her feel less derivative of the writers she'd always admired; the first thing she'd written, in fact, that made her feel "like a real writer."

Given these powerful feelings of validation for both her craft and ambition, was it any wonder she'd be loathe to "abandon" the words that had provided it?

As I thought about this, I came to understand why writers often report in therapy the need to continue submitting stories or article ideas that have been repeatedly rejected; or why they keep pitching the same movie or TV series concept year after year, despite having failed to find a buyer. The meaning these particular stories or ideas have for these writers lies much deeper than their artistic worth: it has to do with the associations the writer makes with them.

Maybe it was the first comedy the writer came up with, confirming that he indeed was capable of doing so. Maybe the novel represented the first time the writer revealed some intensely personal aspect of his or her own life, and a sense of loyalty to the courage required to do so keeps the writer steadfastly committed to seeing it published.

Even in my case, with The Joke That Wouldn't Die, I finally found a hint of the underlying cause of my apparent unwillingness to just "let it go." Thinking back to my days on staff at Welcome Back, Kotter, I recalled one writer-producer whose joke-writing ability really dazzled and intimidated me, and whom I desperately wanted to impress. And though my joke didn't make it past the first re-write (it didn't belong in the scene, and was a good cut), this guy had found it hilarious. He even mentioned to me the next day how much he'd liked it, and how sorry he was we'd had to cut it.

Now, as I reflect back with some embarrassment on all those times I tried to slip that joke into some poor script into which it didn't belong, I think I understand more about that joke's staying power with me. After all, it had made one of my joke-writing idols laugh; it had represented my entry into that august company of writers I admired; it had evidently proven, at some level below my conscious awareness, that I was funny. No wonder I'd been so faithful to it in return. I owed it, big time.

Maybe you can remember that the next time you're having a tough time killing a "precious darling." Don't be too hard on it, or on yourself. And when you do finally have to kill it---and you probably will---try to make it as painless as possible.

Some part of yourself, small though significant, may be going with it.


The Sharelord® Project, founded by Nik Halik, is working with communities in Central and South America to build schools from discarded plastic bottles and non-biodegradable trash.

Three key reasons why The Sharelord® Project supports the Bottle School projects are as follows:

  1. To teach the youth environmental education: to recycle, and to respect and care for nature.
  2. The Sharelord® Project is fulfilling major infrastructure needs in a manner that is very cost-effective.
  3. The Sharelord® Project makes it a major priority to involve the entire community, so they take ownership of the project and empower themselves.

By building walls with plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash, we find this method of construction to be both eco-friendly and economical. Instead of the cinder-block walls usual in Central America, “eco-blocks” are stacked in between chicken wire, and covered in cement. Independent structural analysts have testified to the strength and safety of this method of construction. An entire community can get involved in the building of a Bottle School and benefit from it.

In remote villages across Guatemala, the average school consists of four wooden plank shacks and a series of roofed out-structures for outdoor test taking. The demand for attending these type of primitive schools have quickly outgrown their capacity. The serious need for infrastructure coupled with a trash management problem in the remote village at large makes them a perfect candidate for our “Bottle School” Project.

As the new school year gets started this year, The Sharelord® Project will begin environmental education classes. We will focus on recycling and begin saving bottles. The village community will collect all inorganic trash needed to fill them. This will be done in the high school as well as the primary school, as the next generation stands to benefit much from this project and wants to contribute.

Read More and See Video Here!

Visit The Thrillionaires website: thethrillionaires.com

AEI Ally Informant crazy for more projects

Banner eager to take advantage of Oscar wins


There's life after "Crazy Heart" for Informant Media, which produced the indie hit for a mere $8.5 million as its first feature.

Informant, headed by partners Judy Cairo, Michael A. Simpson and Eric Brenner, has assembled a slate of similarly priced projects -- in the $8 million to $10 million range -- in the aftermath of seeing "Crazy Heart" break out. It grossed more than $39 million domestically for Fox Searchlight and won Oscars for Jeff Bridges and the song "The Weary Kind" by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham.

Informant is prepping Victorian-era romantic comedy "Hysteria" to shoot this summer with Rupert Everett and Jonathan Pryce starring, followed by a pair of thrillers -- "Boobytrap" and "The Expatriate." In each case, the banner's using a combination of private equity, gap financing, foreign presales and government incentives to cover the costs.

"That price range is really the sweet spot for us," Cairo told Daily Variety. "And we didn't want to take a break. We want to take advantage of how well 'Crazy Heart' performed."

Cairo and Simpson produced TV pics prior to selecting Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" screenplay. Informant arranged financing for the pic, which included $1.5 million in New Mexico production incentives, and produced alongside Robert Duvall and Rob Carliner of Butchers Run Films, Cooper and Burnett.

"Hysteria," written by Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer about the invention of the vibrator, will be shot in London and Luxembourg with Tanya Wexler directing. Informant's producing with Beachfront Films' Tracey Becker ("Finding Neverland") and Forthcoming Films' Sarah Curtis ("Mansfield Park").

"Boobytrap" is a suspense thriller penned by Simpson and based on the novel by Bill Pronzini about a young prosecutor's wife and child who are trapped inside their home. That project will be produced by Informant in association with production banners Atchity Entertainment, Original Pictures and Fierce Entertainment.

Stunt coordinator and second unit director Nick Powell ("The Bourne Identity," "The Last Samurai") will make his directorial debut on "Boobytrap," which is out to potential cast.

"The Expatriate," written by Arash Amel, is an international action thriller about a father and his estranged daughter who have to rely on each other as they run from a kill squad. Film, packaged by CAA, will be shot in Europe with Informant producing with Harry Winer's Smash Media.

Informant's also added a new partner, producer Howard Meltzer ("Tenderness").



Download Mary B. Morrison's excerpt.
Download Noire's excerpt.

Check out Noire's Site

AEI Ally Renegade83 Announces New Discovery Series!

Discovery Channel series 'Construction Intervention' saves The Blarney Stone

Sunday, April 11th 2010, 4:00 AM

Charlie Frattini, who is working on a construction renovation show  for the Discovery Channel, at The Blarney Stone.
Braganti for News Charlie Frattini, who is working on a construction renovation show for the Discovery Channel, at The Blarney Stone.

A lower Manhattan bar was facing last call - until a reality show stepped in to save it.

The Blarney Stone, which opened while the twin towers were being built and later fed the rescuers at Ground Zero, never fully recovered from the attacks of 9/11.

Now, thanks to a new Discovery Channel series, the family-owned pub on Trinity Place is getting back in the black with a complete renovation.

On "Construction Intervention," host Charlie Frattini, a 25-year construction veteran from Brooklyn, uses his talents to help small businesses in danger of closing because of bad contractors and botched building.

In Tuesday's series premiere, Frattini's crew has its work cut out for it with the Blarney Stone, which was opened in 1968 by Irish immigrant Michael Keane.

Forty years later, the restaurant's bar was overrun with termites, the sinks and steam tables leaked, and the stools were held together with duct tape.

"The rent and expenses were going up and up, and we didn't have the money to fix things ourselves," explained Joe Keane, 41, of Woodside, Queens, who took over the business with his brother Teddy in 2005. The bar had fallen into disrepair after their father died, and business dropped off 60% after 9/11.

"The fact that it got that bad, it was so embarrassing," said Joe Keane. "But to get a chance to make it better was amazing."

The Keanes handed over the keys to Frattini on Nov. 9 and let the Discovery crew tear the place apart.

"This was our first project, our guinea pig, and we didn't even know that we could do this in four days," admitted Frattini, a Marine who set a tight deadline because he knew the bar lost money each day that it was closed. "This was probably a six- to eight-month project, but we did it in time."

The tough-as-nails Frattini worked his men around the clock to build a brand new bar, install new ceiling beams, replace the air duct and add a new vestibule.

The pub was also fitted with new wall sconces and tables, a state-of-the-art steam counter and new refrigerators, plus a new dining area for private parties.

Even more importantly, a mural of the twin towers that a friend had painted for the family was restored on the back wall.

"When 9/11 happened, the Blarney Stone opened its doors to the rescue workers, and they kept this place open for nothing," said Frattini, who said he also worked at Ground Zero. "And that's one of the reasons I just had to come down here, because it was time to give something back to them."

Just three weeks after construction, the Blarney Stone's business was up 10%, and the bar had one of its best nights ever this past St. Patrick's Day.

"These guys kept us open," said Joe Keane, raising a glass with Frattini in his shining new bar.

"I never, ever dreamed that it would look like what it looks like now."


Dede Allen dies at 86; editor revolutionized imagery, sound and pace in U.S. films

Dede was fun and funny. A friend and neighbor both here in LA and Palenville, New York. Her big, big laugh and the personality that went with it will be missed. - CLW


Her work on 1967's 'Bonnie and Clyde' ushered in a new aesthetic that's now the standard in American film. She earned Oscar nominations for 'Dog Day Afternoon,' 'Reds' and 'Wonder Boys.'
Dede  Allen | 1923 - 2010

Dede Allen's techniques included a staccato tempo sometimes called shock cutting, and beginning the sound from the next scene while the previous scene was still playing.

Dede Allen, the film editor whose seminal work on Robert Rossen's "The Hustler" in 1961 and especially on Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" in 1967 brought a startling new approach to imagery, sound and pace in American movies, died Saturday. She was 86.

Allen, who was nominated for Academy Awards for "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), "Reds" (1981) and "Wonder Boys" (2000), died at her Los Angeles home days after having a stroke, said her son, Tom Fleischman.

Allen was the first film editor -- male or female -- to receive sole credit on a movie for her work. The honor came with "Bonnie and Clyde," a film in which Allen raised the level of her craft to an art form that was as seriously discussed as cinematography or even directing.

"She was just an extraordinary collaborator, and in the course of editing that film, I came to develop confidence in Dede," Penn told The Times on Saturday. "Indeed, she wasn't an editor, she was a constructionist."

The two were "not just collaborators," Penn said, "but deep family friends. We made six films together."

Greg S. Faller, professor of film studies at Towson University in Maryland, said "The Hustler" and "Bonnie and Clyde" "must be considered benchmark films in the history of editing."

"It's hard to see the changes she made because most of what she did has been so fully embraced by the industry," Faller said.

Allen departed from the standard Hollywood way of cutting -- making smooth transitions starting with wide shots establishing place and characters and going on to medium shots and finally close-ups -- by beginning with close-ups or jump cuts. Although these editing methods had been pioneered by the French new wave and some British directors, Allen is generally credited with being the first to use and shape them in American film.

In Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon," she employed a staccato tempo, sometimes called shock cutting.

"She creates this menacing quality by not cutting where you'd expect it -- she typically would cut sooner than you might expect," Faller said. "You weren't ready for it."

She would also begin the sound from the next scene while the previous scene was still playing, a technique now standard in film editing.

In all, Allen edited or co-edited 20 major motion pictures over 40 years, but she was most closely identified with Penn and a handful of A-list directors such as Rossen, Lumet and George Roy Hill and actor-directors Paul Newman, Warren Beatty and Robert Redford.

Besides "Bonnie and Clyde," which was produced by Beatty and starred Beatty and Faye Dunaway, Allen's films for Penn included "Alice's Restaurant," "Little Big Man," "Night Moves" and "The Missouri Breaks."

She edited Lumet's "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "The Wiz"; Hill's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Slap Shot"; Newman's "Rachel, Rachel" and "Harry & Son"; Beatty's "Reds" (with Craig McKay, who shared the Oscar nomination) and Redford's "The Milagro Beanfield War."

But it was the violent tale based on the true story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow -- lovers and robbers on the run during the Great Depression -- that secured her place as a pioneer in film.

Hardly a chase scene or violent sequence filmed since "Bonnie and Clyde" has not been a reference to Allen's distinct style, which she developed under Penn's direction.

"What we essentially were doing," Penn said Saturday, "was developing a rhythm for the film so that it has the complexity of music."

The famed final ambush scene in which Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down on a gravel road in rural Louisiana contains more than 50 cuts, though it lasts less than a minute. At Penn's urging, Allen and her assistant, Jerry Greenberg, employed slow motion at some points and faster speed at others, creating a tense, violent and balletic conclusion.

Although the film initially left some movie critics in near-apoplectic disapproval of its mix of comedy and graphic violence, Pauline Kael, writing in the New Yorker magazine, called it "excitingly American."

Kael had special praise for the movie's editing, especially the "rag-doll dance of death" at the end of the picture, which she called "brilliant."

"It is a horror that seems to go on for eternity, and yet it doesn't last a second beyond what it should," Kael wrote.

In his review in 1967, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert called it "a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance."

Kael's review and other critical praise prompted many to reevaluate the film, which in 1998 was listed at No. 27 on the American Film Institute's list of the "100 Greatest American Movies of All Time."

Dorothea Corothers Allen was born in Cincinnati on Dec. 3, 1923. She attended Scripps College in Claremont but left to take a job as a messenger at Columbia Pictures, hoping she could someday fulfill her dream of being a director.

Within a year, she was an assistant in sound effects, working on three-reelers. After long hours at her job, she would sit beside Carl Lerner, then an editor in television who later edited "Klute" and other films. With Lerner's guidance, she learned the craft of editing: the assemblage of various scenes to create a coherent film.

In the early days of Hollywood, the cutters, as they were called, were often women, perhaps because, as Allen once commented to author Ally Acker, "women have always been good at little details, like sewing."

But later those jobs mostly went to men, especially after World War II when military veterans returned to the film industry.

Unable to get a stronger foothold in the movies, Allen went with her husband to Europe and then New York City, where she took various jobs, including editing commercials, while raising her two children.

Working on commercials helped shape her style of editing, she often said.

In the late 1950s, Lerner recommended her for her first major editing task -- for director Robert Wise's "Odds Against Tomorrow," the taut film noir starring Harry Belafonte.

Allen credited Wise, who had been a film editor ("Citizen Kane"), for giving her the confidence to find her footing in the profession. She began experimenting with using sound to move the action forward, the precursor to her method of initiating sound from the next scene while the previous scene was still running.

"The overall effect increased the pace of the film -- something always happened, visually or aurally, in a staccato-like tempo," Faller wrote in "Women Filmmakers and Their Films."

"Odds" led to Rossen's "The Hustler," which gave Allen her first real opportunity to demonstrate what she had learned, including the use of cuts instead of dissolves between scenes.

"I think it surprised Rossen, but he left it," she told the Film Quarterly in 1992 of her way of editing. "He used to say, 'It works. It plays. Leave it. Don't improve it into a disaster.' "

Ebert wrote of Allen's work on "The Hustler" that she found the rhythm in the pool games -- "the players circling, the cue sticks, the balls, the watching faces -- that implies the trance-like rhythm of the players. Her editing 'tells' the games so completely that if we don't understand pool, we forget that we don't."

When "Bonnie and Clyde" came along several years later, Allen employed her well-honed techniques and instincts about performance and story to help Penn deliver a film unlike any made in America before.

In 1994, Allen received the highest honor from her peers, a career achievement award given by American Cinema Editors. In November 2007 she received the Motion Picture Editors Guild's Fellowship and Service Award.

For seven years during the 1990s, Allen was an executive at Warner Bros., overseeing pre- and post-production on many films. She returned to editing with "Wonder Boys" and was co-editor of Omar Naim's "The Final Cut" (2004) and editor of "Fireflies in the Garden" (2008).

In addition to her son, Tom, a sound recording mixer, she is survived by her husband of 63 years, Stephen E. Fleischman, a retired TV news executive, documentary producer and writer; daughter Ramey Ward; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Claudia Luther is a former Times staff writer


GUEST POST: Dennis Palumbo, writer, therapist, blogger

"From Crime To Crime: Mind Boggling Tales of Mystery and Murder" (Tallfellow Press)

My Favorite Quote

It's a growth industry--the hundreds of books, tapes and videos available on the craft of writing; the multitudes of conferences, seminars and workshops (some of which I've taught myself over the years); the teachers and coaches and gurus promising to reveal the secrets of the "can't-miss" premise, the "never-fails" plot structure, the "you-can't-help-but-love-'em" lead characters.

But in the cacophony of instruction and inspiration competing for the writer's ear, it seems to me a quote from Ray Bradbury emerges from the din. "There is only one type of story in the world--your story."

In all the writing classes I've ever taught, it was always the first quote I put on the blackboard. And now, as a therapist, the essence of that quote is what underlies my support for creative patients struggling to write out of the depths of their own particular truths, no matter how painful or contradictory.

I recall an incident, years ago, when I was Screenwriter-In-Residence at San Francisco State University. I was working with a group of young writers-to-be, one of whom had just read a scene from his script, a political thriller, to the rest of the class. Unfortunately, the scene--in which the hero is trapped by bad guys in a dingy back alley--was flat and uninvolving, though the writer clearly had talent. Moreover, the writing itself seemed tentative...careful, somehow.

I asked the writer what would happen if, instead of his hero, he himself were the guy trapped in that alley.

"You mean, if that were me?" He suddenly became quite animated, as he described the sequence of scary, funny incidents that would befall him. A scene that was unique and particular to a very specific sort of individual--a guy like himself. A human being.

"But this guy's gotta be a hero," he said afterwards. "Like in the movies."

"He is," I replied. "Your hero."

The problem with this student's scene was his attempt to portray what a hero "should" be like. The writing seemed tentative as a result of the tension within him caused by the effort to exclude his own feelings, doubts, and impulses, as though they were inappropriate for a movie hero.

The irony--and the point of Bradbury's quote--is that all writing is autobiographical. Even the student's attempt to write a hero "like in the movies" revealed an aspect of his autobiography, namely, his belief about how a hero needed to behave.

Like it or not, our writing reveals who we are. The story doesn't matter. The genre doesn't matter. Even if you're writing a pirate movie, taking place two hundred years ago, your autobiography informs that script: your own attitude toward heroics, vague memories of some pirate movie you saw as a kid, your fantasies about the "freedom of the seas" or whatever. Even your concern about whether or not your pirate movie is commercial is part of your experience writing it.

On the plus side, it's one of the paradoxes of writing that the more particular and personal a detail in character or story, the more powerfully its impact generalizes out to the audience.

(The specifics of Rocky Balboa's life in the first Rocky film were shared by few in the audience, I'm sure, but everyone understood what he meant by "going the distance." Nor did the reader of Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes have to grow up in the slums of Dublin to relate to that family's struggle with poverty. Nor did the viewers of the recent film The Blind Side need to have had any life experiences similar to those of the young black athlete to identify with the yearning for someone to appear who believes in you, even when you don't.)

I repeat: All writing is autobiographical. The more you can accept and acknowledge this, the greater the extent to which you can mine your own feelings and experiences to give shape and texture to your work.

Of course, to write from this place, the core of who we are, is damned hard. Often the results are just painful, ambiguous, unformed. Maybe there's something wrong with me, the writer thinks. Maybe I'm not enough...

That's why writing seminars and workshops flourish; why "how-to" books on writing are perennial sellers. Intentionally or not, they validate our belief in some "key" or technique that ensures success; some thing outside of ourselves that we need to learn, or to become.

And, yes, every writer needs to learn story construction, needs to develop craft. But the most important thing a writer needs is the awareness that he or she is enough. That one's feelings, enthusiasms, regrets, hopes, doubts, yearnings, loves and hates are in fact, the raw materials of one's writing talent.

"There is only one type of story in the world--your story." Which means only you can tell it, no matter what form--thriller, romantic comedy, sci-fi adventure--it takes.

It reminds me of another quote I like, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, a pretty fair writer himself. He said, "To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone--that is genius."

Buy it through Amazon.com, from the publisher, Tallfellow Press, and from fine bookstores everywhere.

Dennis Palumbo's Blog: http://dennispalumbo.blogspot.com/