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


—Muriel Rukeyser

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In Conversation with Marilyn Horowitz: 4 Magic Questions of Screenwriting



Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, TV show creator, producer, and Manhattan-based writing coach, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She completed her tenure as a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students in 2013 and as a judge for the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) Ravenal Foundation Grant. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Listen to the Podcast here!


Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, TV show creator, producer, and Manhattan-based writing coach, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She completed her tenure as a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students in 2013 and as a judge for the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) Ravenal Foundation Grant. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has a created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach. Two of her books have been used in the Lights, Camera, Literacy! program taught to over 1,000 children in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public School System (a recent recipient of the “Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award” for outstanding scholastic performance).

Professor Horowitz writes articles for Script magazine, and she pens a monthly column for MovieOutline.com, an online magazine with 30,000 subscribers. She is featured in Now Write! Screenwriting anthology published by Tarcher/Penguin edited by Sherry Ellis and the 2014 edition of The Expert Success Solution. Marilyn’s latest novel, The Book of Zev, reached Amazon Best Seller status when it was released in December 2014.

Professor Horowitz has taught more than 100 classes, seminars, and workshops across the country for groups including the Writers Guild of America East, NYWIFT, Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, Script DC, Screenwriters World East, and the Great American PitchFest. In addition, she also hosts periodic writers retreats in Tuscany, Italy.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007), starring Vanessa Williams and distributed by Warner Bros.; Caleb’s Door (2009), distributed by Around the Scenes; Found in Time (2011); Nocturnal Agony (2011); and The One(2011).


New York Times on Kennedy Detail Secret Service Agent Winston Lawson

SSA Win Lawson, the advance man for the Texas trip, he rode ahead of Kennedy’s limo, helped lift the president onto a stretcher and then lived a half-century with regrets.

Mr. Lawson, left, was on duty during the burial of President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 25, 1963, three days after the assassination. Credit...Cecil Stoughton/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Winston Lawson had been a Secret Service agent for four years when, on Nov. 22, 1963, he was in an unmarked police car in Dallas just ahead of President John F. Kennedy’s open limousine.

Within an hour or so, Kennedy would be dead, leaving Mr. Lawson to wonder for the next half-century whether he had done everything possible to keep the president safe.

“At times I wish I had never been born,” he said in an interview in 2013 with WTVR, a television station in Richmond, Va., on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Mr. Lawson, who died on Nov. 7 in Norfolk, Va., at 91, had not only been guarding Kennedy in Dallas; he had been the advance agent for the presidential trip to Texas. Known for his attention to detail, he had planned security and travel routes for the trip, as he had for Kennedy in other cities in both the United States and Europe.

In Dallas, he worked with the local police to choose the route the motorcade would take from Love Field, where Kennedy had landed that morning from Fort Worth, through downtown Dallas and on to the Dallas Trade Mart, where Kennedy was to speak.

“It allowed us to go downtown, which was wanted back in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Lawson said in 1964 in testimony to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. “It afforded us wide streets most of the way, because of the buses that were in the motorcade.”

He calculated that the trip from the airport to the trade mart, about 10 miles, would take 45 minutes, given how slow the motorcade would proceed.

Credit...Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Mr. Lawson — who rode in the front passenger seat of the lead car, a light-colored sedan being driven by Jesse Curry, the Dallas police chief — scanned the thickening crowds for potential trouble and kept turning around to check on Kennedy through the rear window, he told the commission.

After the motorcade turned onto Elm Street along Dealey Plaza and passed the Texas School Book Depository, Mr. Lawson heard the first shot from behind. In his testimony he was asked by the commission member John J. McCloy, a banker and diplomat, if he had seen anyone in the windows of the building. (Oswald had shot the president from a sixth-floor window.)

“No, sir,” Mr. Lawson said. “Just as we started around that corner, I asked Chief Curry if it was not true that we were probably five minutes from the Trade Mart.”

When two more shots were fired, Mr. Lawson turned around to see another Secret Service agent standing in the car behind Kennedy’s limo holding an automatic weapon. Had the agent just fired?

A motorcycle officer then pulled up to the lead car, telling Mr. Lawson and Chief Curry that the president had been shot. An order immediately crackled over Mr. Lawson’s two-way radio: Rush to the nearest hospital.

When the lead car and the limousine arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Mr. Lawson dashed into the emergency entrance and saw medical personnel pushing two stretchers toward him — one for Kennedy and one for Gov. John B. Connally of Texas, who had been in the president’s limousine and also wounded.

When he reached the stretchers, Mr. Lawson testified, he “put one hand on each one as they pushed and I pulled.”

Mr. Connally was placed on the first stretcher. Mr. Lawson and three others, including the Kennedy aide Dave Powers, lifted the mortally wounded president from the back seat of the limousine onto the second stretcher.

“They really couldn’t do much,” Mr. Lawson recalled in the WTVR interview. “He was quite gray.”

He waited outside Trauma Room 1 as doctors worked unsuccessfully on Kennedy’s neck and head wounds. At 1 p.m. they declared the president dead.

Mr. Lawson later rode in a police car that escorted the Kennedy hearse — carrying the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, as well — to Love Field for Air Force One’s flight back to Washington. He stood guard outside the plane until it took off.


Returning from Love Field, Mr. Lawson went to the Dallas Police Headquarters. By then Oswald had been arrested and interrogated by detectives there, but Mr. Lawson arrived in time to observe as Forrest Sorrels, the Secret Service agent in charge of the Dallas district, interviewed the suspect.

“What was the attitude of Oswald during this period?” Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, a member of the Warren Commission and the future Republican president, asked Mr. Lawson.

“Oswald just answered the questions as asked to him,” Mr. Lawson testified. “He didn’t volunteer any information. He sat there stoically, not much of an expression on his face.”

Winston George Lawson (who was known as Win) was born on Oct. 15, 1928, in Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie, and raised in nearby Portland, N.Y. His father, Merle, was an accountant, and his mother, Cecile (Post) Lawson, was a schoolteacher who worked as a guard in a machine gun factory during World War II.

After graduating from the University of Buffalo (now part of the State University of New York) with a bachelor’s degree in history and government, Mr. Lawson worked as a carpet salesman and sales representative at the Carnation Milk Company before serving in Army counterintelligence.

After his discharge he returned to Carnation and had several other jobs before the Secret Service accepted him as an agent in 1959 in its field office in Syracuse, N.Y. He was assigned to the White House detail in 1961 and remained with the agency for the next 20 years.

He later worked for the Defense Department, doing background checks, and provided security for the evangelists Billy Graham and his son Franklin.

Mr. Lawson’s death, which was not widely reported at the time, was caused by coronary artery disease, his son, Jeff, said. Mr. Lawson is also survived by his wife, Barbara (Barrett) Lawson; a daughter, Andrea Lawson; four grandchildren; three step-grandchildren and his brother, Merlin.

Mr. Lawson said that his lingering anguish over Kennedy’s death had been assuaged by support from fellow agents.

“They would say to me — and it’s hard for me to say without breaking down or tears coming to my eyes,” he told The Dallas Morning News in 2003 — “‘Win, if it had to happen to anyone, we’re glad it happened to you.’

“Because I was known for doing the best, most thorough advance in the entire agency.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He previously wrote about sports media and sports business. He is also the author of several books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.” @RichSandomir

Reposted from The New York Times

NEW From Story Merchant Books! FATHER CHRISTMAS: A TRUE STORY by ROWDY HERRINGTON



Father Christmas is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will bring families together with inspirational holiday cheer and nostalgia for the comfort of Santa Claus.

In the coal mining town of Brilliant, Ohio during the Great Depression, 10-year-old Annie O’Neill is finally allowed to stay up on Christmas Eve, bursting with excitement and wonder at finally catching a glimpse of Father Christmas himself! Though her family struggles to make ends meet, Santa Claus always leaves Annie and her siblings presents that bring joy and laughter for the whole family.

When Annie’s Father returns home from a long shift at the coal mine on Christmas Eve, Annie makes a life-changing discovery about who Santa Claus really is. As her heart wrestles with reality and make-believe, Annie’s profound discovery about the real Father Christmas will touch the hearts of people everywhere. As she gracefully releases her innocence, Annie learns the true meaning of Christmas is what lies in your heart.

“A beautifully-written tribute to fathers and their daughters, mothers and their sons, and the true spirit of Christmas. It will touch your heart.”— Malcolm McDowell

"This beautiful family story makes me believe in Santa Claus." — Norman Stephens, former head Warner Television, Village Roadshow

"Herrington is a born storyteller. His skills are in full display here as he reminds us all, in the tradition of O’Henry, Dickens, and the Grimms, how the Christmas season can restore our faith in each other." — John Harrison, writer/director Frank Herbert’s Dune


Op-ed: After 200 years, Herman Melville is still relevant By: Aaron Sachs, Cornell University



This issue of Classics Illustrated, published by the Gilberton Company, Inc. in April 1947, contains an adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The cover art by Louis Zansky depicts the crew of the Peoquod battling the white whale Moby Dick. (Gift of Olivia V. Crisson and Phillip M.S. Crisson in honor of Peter Bozzer, now in the collections of the National Museum of American History)
Outside of American literature courses, it doesn’t seem likely that many Americans are reading Herman Melville these days.

I propose that you pick up one of his novels, because his work has never been more timely. This is the perfect cultural moment for another Melville revival.

The original Melville revival started exactly a century ago, after Melville’s works had languished in obscurity for some 60 years. In the immediate aftermath of World War I, scholars found his vision of social turmoil to be uncannily relevant.

Once again, Melville could help Americans grapple with dark times – and not just because he composed classic works of universal truths about good and evil. Melville still matters because he was directly engaged with the very aspects of modern American life that continue to haunt the country in the 21st century.

Melville’s books deal with a host of issues that are relevant today, from race relations and immigration to the mechanization of everyday life.

Yet these aren’t the works of a hopeless tragedian. Rather, Melville was a determined realist.

The typical Melville character is depressed and alienated, overwhelmed by societal changes. But he also endures.

Ultimately, “Moby-Dick” is about the quest of the narrator, Ishmael, the story’s lone survivor, to make meaning out of trauma and keep the human story going.

Ishmael goes to sea in the first place because he’s feeling a particularly modern form of angst. He walks the streets of Manhattan wanting to knock people’s hats off, furious that the only available jobs in the new capitalist economy leave workers “tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks.” The whaling ship is no paradise, but at least it affords him a chance to work in the open air with people of all races, from all over the world.

When the crewmen sit in a circle squeezing lumps of whale sperm into oil, they find themselves clasping each other’s hands, developing “an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling.”

Then there’s Melville’s novel “Redburn,” one of the author’s lesser-known works. It’s mostly a story of disillusionment: A young naïf joins the merchant marine to see the world, and in Britain all he finds are “masses of squalid men, women, and children” spilling out from the factories. The narrator is abused by the ship’s cynical crew and swindled out of his wages.

But his hard experience nonetheless broadens his sympathies. As he sails home to New York with some Irish families fleeing the famine, he remarks:

“Let us waive that agitated national topic, as to whether such multitudes of foreign poor should be landed on our American shores; let us waive it, with the one only thought, that if they can get here, they have God’s right to come…. For the whole world is the patrimony of the whole world.”

Melville’s fall and rise

In November 1851, when “Moby-Dick” was published, Melville was among the best-known authors in the English-speaking world. But his reputation started to decline just months later, when a review of his next book, “Pierre,” bore the headline, “Herman Melville Crazy.”

That opinion was not atypical. By 1857, Melville had mostly stopped writing; his publisher was bankrupt; and those Americans who still knew his name may well have thought he’d been institutionalized.

Yet in 1919 – the year of Melville’s centennial – scholars started returning to his work. They found a writer of grim, tangled epics delving into the social tensions that would ultimately lead to the Civil War.

It just so happened that 1919 was a year of labor strife, mail bombs, weekly lynchings, and race riots in 26 cities. There were crackdowns on foreigners, privacy, and civil liberties, not to mention the lingering trauma of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic.

Over the ensuing three decades – an era that included the Great Depression and World War II – Melville was canonized, and all of his works were reprinted in popular editions.

“I owe a debt to Melville,” wrote critic and historian Lewis Mumford, “because my wrestling with him, my efforts to plumb his own tragic sense of life, were the best preparations I could have had for facing our present world.”

"Moby Dick," a collection of nose art from B-24s from the 90th Bomb Group. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive


Why Melville still matters

America is now dealing with its own dark times, full of foreboding over climate change, extreme class divisions, racial and religious bigotry, refugee crises, mass shootings, and near-constant warfare.

Go back and read Melville, and you’ll find apt depictions of white privilege and obliviousness in “Benito Cereno.” Melville paints consumer capitalism as an elaborate con game in “The Confidence-Man,” while excoriating America’s imperial ambitions in “Typee” and “Omoo.” He was even inspired to break his silence at the end of the Civil War and write an earnest plea for “Re-establishment” and “Reconstruction.”

“Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical iniquity,” he wrote, “gladly we join the exulting chorus of humanity over its downfall.” But now it was time to find ways for everyone to get along.

His 1866 book “Battle-Pieces,” though full of bitter fragments, has a final section dominated by idealistic nouns: common sense and Christian charity, patriotic passion, moderation, generosity of sentiment, benevolence, kindliness, freedom, sympathies, solicitude, amity, reciprocal respect, decency, peace, sincerity, faith. Melville was trying to remind Americans that in democracies there is a perpetual need to carve out common ground.

It’s not that society doesn’t or shouldn’t change; it’s that change and continuity play off each other in surprising and sometimes bracing ways.

In dark times, the rediscovery that human beings have almost always had to confront terrible challenges can produce powerful emotions.

You might feel like knocking someone’s hat off. But you might also feel like giving the Ishmaels of the world a gentle squeeze of the hand.

And in doing so, you might help to keep the human story going.


Dr. Aaron Sachs is a Professor of History at Cornell University, but his doctorate is in American Studies, which means he brings an interdisciplinary approach to his scholarship and teaching — History, English Literature, Science, Technology, Urban Planning and other fields. His views might not represent those of Navy Times or its staffers.


Read more 




The Brontë Society paid big money for a tiny, tiny book by Charlotte Brontë





After “years of chasing [it],” the Brontë Society has at last acquired the last in a series of very tiny books that Charlotte Brontë wrote in 1830, when she was 14. The Society paid €600,000 for the book at auction, after losing out on it to an “investment scheme” in 2011. This time, the Brontë Society received public donations thanks, in part, to an appeal from Dame Judi Dench.

The book measures 35mm x 61mm, and was part of a series of six entitled “The Young Men’s Magazines” (one of which has been missing since 1930). The books were written for the Brontë siblings’ toy soldiers (adorable), and the most recent acquisition contains three handwritten stories.

All five surviving tiny books will be reunited at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire. Tiny congratulations to all!

[via The Guardian]


Ken Atchity Quotes...

“If you have a dream, you have a responsibility to yourself and to us to make it come true. That’s the most important thing in your life. Don’t let anything stand in its way.”

― Kenneth John Atchity, The Messiah Matrix



Guest Post: Prevention — the goalie of the health care world by Dr. Dave Davis

My worry is that the current provincial government may reduce health-care costs without consideration for long term, down-the-road consequences

Hospital staff during the 2003 SARS crisis. Dave Davis worries that the current Ontario government could be putting cuts in place that jeopardize our ability to handle the next SARS-like crisis. - NYGH Archives


On the phone, my patient sounded as though her nose was plugged. Nasally. She said, "I've been sneezing, you know, Doctor. Runny nose, sore throat. Coughing a lot. I feel silly calling, but I heard about that poor nurse who died this week."

There was something else in her voice too: worry. The patient's daughter was a nurse, one of many who worked at the hospital where a second outbreak of SARS had claimed a staff member. Her daughter was unaffected, but she, my patient — well, you hear her.

I want to tell you two things about the call. Maybe three. OK, three.

The first: it was 2003, toward the end of the outbreak of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. Apart from the killer commute, I loved working in the large University of Toronto teaching clinic, seeing patients, teaching (and learning from) students and residents. I was as sleepless as my patient I think, but for a different reason: I was angry, frustrated that we had to close the clinic. And frightened too, a bit.

I still am. I'll tell you why in a second.

It was surreal: the clinic was closed for weeks, the product of the sinister, infectious, cold-mimicking SARS. Based in outpatient clinics and doctor's offices, most Ontario physicians were tied to their phones, as frustrated as I was. When we did return to work, we were gowned like astronauts, strangers in a strange land, our temperatures recorded outside the building before we were allowed in. SARS was a tragic thing: 40-plus deaths, many seriously harmed. It held many lessons, perhaps best captured by the calm, competent, late Donald Low:

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92467/

It was also, to a large extent, preventable.

Ontario didn't fare so well with SARS at the outset: our public health and regulatory framework had been seriously damaged by an overly cost-conscious government in the late nineties. In the town of Walkerton, for example, fiscal conservatives had reduced or privatized many inspection services, compromising water safety: seven people died, hundreds became ill. A false economy, a tragic outcome.

And something like SARS could happen again: take MERS for example. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a viral illness with a fatality rate of over 30 per cent, especially among the young. Caused by direct physical contact with camel saliva (so, pretty unlikely to affect us), this virus, like many, can morph into an illness spread by sneezing or coughing. That spread would be something to watch (and watch out for), like a wildfire spreading across the globe. Not a probability, but clearly a possibility: from the camel markets of Oman, to the huge nexus of Dubai, one of the world's busiest airports, to every point of the globe.

That brings me to the second thing — anxiety. In 2003, my patient and colleagues had reason for worry: patients made seriously ill from something that started out like a harmless cold; health-care workers and others dying from contact with patients. I remember one death in particular, a family physician who attended our University of Toronto's continuing education events. Like the firemen of 9/11, he was a brave first responder, who, as they say, "had to go back in," to look after his patients.

Anxiety is important, so much so that we teach family doctors to be aware of the one — diagnosis trap: identifying and treating only the biological or medical aspects of a patient's illness may be necessary, but certainly not sufficient for complete patient care. For almost any problem, there's an accompanying (often underlying) emotional component — worry, anxiety, depression. Even a broken arm has psychological and social implications: will the patient be able to work? Will she be able to afford her rent? How, exactly, did the broken arm happen?

Many of us carry that second element with us, silently, often unaddressed, bringing me to the third point. Today, a decade and a half after SARS, my worry is that the current provincial government may reduce health-care costs without consideration for long term, down-the-road consequences, without the awareness of the false economy of Walkerton. SARS speaks to us today as clearly as it did then: prevention, the unsung hero, is not sexy. It's also crucial. It's easily ignored or reduced to denigrating important things like restaurant inspections.

Prevention is the goalie of the health care world.

Let's hope — maybe demand is a better word — that no patient has to worry that a common cold, or any other virus, can kill her.


Dave Davis, MD, is 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 and the US. You can visit him at www.drdavedavis.com, or follow him @drauthor24





The Music Man Robert Kraft!

Robert Kraft, discusses career killers, writing TV theme songs, and his climb to becoming the Executive in Charge of Music for more than 300 Fox feature films.

 


Kenneth Atchity Featured in The Visionary


Get The Visionary in print or for your iPad, Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.



"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 “The Meg” 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.

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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






tbt - Lila French's "Birdbath" NOFF in Review

Back in October, 2014, Lila French's "Birdbath" had its festival debut at the NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL. The film screened twice (at notable venues The CAC nd The Prytania), and each screening had a full, energetic audience who responded positively to the film. There was laughter during the screenings and great questions after.


 

New Female-driven Action Thriller Series by A.M. Adair from Story Merchant Books!



Elle Anderson waited until he was right on top of her. When he turned to yell for security, she shot her blade across the back of his ankle, cutting his Achilles tendon. The shock robbed him of his voice, and his body went crashing to the ground. She covered his mouth and slit his throat.

His body convulsed, making it harder to drag him into the shadows, but she needed to buy herself some time. She couldn’t risk one of the other men spotting him lying on the ground. It wasn’t perfect, and the man was still in the throes of death, but she had to go. Even if help were to arrive in the next couple of minutes, it would be too late. The only question was: How much time did she have before she had pursuit?

Sent in by the CIA, Elle Anderson leads a small, elite team charged with destroying the most dangerous terrorist organization the world has ever known. She is intelligent and resourceful and capable of anything, but she works in a world where emotions and distractions are unacceptable.

It’s a world with no set rules and where the game is driven by will. This sometimes means acting more like the villain than the hero, because it could mean the difference between life and death.

Ken Atchity Quote...

“If you have a dream, you have a responsibility to yourself and to us to make it come true. That’s the most important thing in your life. Don’t let anything stand in its way.”

― Kenneth John Atchity, The Messiah Matrix



Build your brain. Read a book.



I've read some truly excellent books lately. The kind where you grow attached to the characters, miss them when they're gone. The kind where the haunting, lilting quality of the prose lifts you up, makes you think, expands your consciousness, has you emit little gasps of astonishment.

The kind you remember.

I am a voracious reader. I go through probably two to three books a week. Reading is my escape, my haven, my inspiration, my fascination.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to come across research from the Yale School of Public Health demonstrating that reading books likely extends your lifespan by two years or more.

("Great!" I thought, "I'll have two more years to read.")

The Yale researchers were reviewing 12 years of data from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The HRS is a longitudinal panel study that administers surveys to around 20,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years. It is supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration, and is one of the largest longitudinal studies of its kind.

What the Yale researchers discovered was that in analyzing the health statuses and reading habits of over 3,600 men and women over the age of 50 in the HRS, a distinct pattern came to light.

It turned out that people who read books for at least 30 minutes a day were living, on average, two years longer than those who didn't read anything. Plus (and this part is important), the book readers were 23 percent less likely to die than people who were only reading newspapers or magazines.

In other words, if you want to live longer and have a more resilient brain, read books. Not just newspapers, magazines, tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram posts, or online articles. It doesn't matter whether the books are fiction or nonfiction; it just matters that they're books.

The Yale team had the same question you're probably asking right now: What is it about reading books specifically that boosts brain power and overall health, when things like newspapers and magazines don't?

The researchers had a few theories. First, books encourage what they deemed "deep reading." Rather than just skimming over a headline and the bite-sized information in an article or social-media post, reading a book forces you to make connections between chapters--and to the outside world.

When you make those connections, you forge new neural pathways between regions in both hemispheres of your brain, as well as in all four lobes. (It has been repeatedly demonstrated that establishing new neural networks is one of the best ways to stave off dementia and other cognitive decay.)

This concept was backed up by research out of Stanford that looked at the fMRI images of study participants tasked with reading a novel by Jane Austen. The researchers had participants first leisurely skim a passage (like you might do when deciding whether to purchase it at a bookstore), and then perform what they called "close reading"--reading as if you were studying it for an exam.

According to Natalie Phillips, the literary scholar leading the project, brain scans showed significant increases in blood flow during close reading. This, she suggests, shows that "paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions."

This makes sense to me on an intuitive as well as intellectual level. Because I feel different after reading disparate Instagram posts versus spending 30+ minutes reading a book. It's much like the difference between eating junk food and having a real meal; the shorter posts are fun and pleasurable to read, but I feel empty after scrolling. When I read my book, on the other hand, I feel filled up. Nourished.

If you're like most people, you want to live a long, healthy, and meaningful life. You want to contribute to the world. You want to be a leader.

But if you're constantly running around, scrolling through feeds, and never actually sitting down to relax and focus on something like reading a book for half an hour--half an hour!--you're doing your body and brain a disservice.

Taking care of yourself means more than just making sure you don't have three venti coffees in one day.

Build your brain. Read a book.

For those interested, here are the three best books I've read lately. They've each touched me in a different way, but they've all had a lasting impact...and likely added years onto my life:

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith (fiction): Some of the best writing I've seen in years. Stunning. Themes of redemption, aging, class, theft of all kinds, and love.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson (nonfiction): The true and riveting story of the 1893 Chicago World Fair, told alongside the story of a serial killer operating in the city at the same time. If you're from the U.S., you'll be stunned that didn't know more about this major part of American history.

The Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique (fiction): You have to pay close attention to this one--its themes are many and its eerie, lovely prose is as melodic as it is disturbing. Highly recommended.
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"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." --Lemony Snicket


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