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


After the success of  Little Women readers and aspiring writers began to send Alcott letters in droves. She replied to one of those writers with some valuable advice on Christmas Day, circa 1878:

My Dear Miss Churchill,

I can only say to you as I do to the many young writers who ask for advice—There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long & patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties & trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort & the most enduring.

I worked for twenty years poorly paid, little known, & quite without any ambition but to eke out a living, as I chose to support myself & began to do it at sixteen. This long drill was of use, & when I wrote Hospital Sketches by the beds of my soldier boys in the shape of letters home I had no idea that I was taking the first step toward what is called fame. It nearly cost my life but I discovered the secret of winning the ear & touching the heart of the public by simply telling the comic & pathetic incidents of life.

Little Women was written when I was ill, & to prove that I could not write books for girls. The publisher thought it flat, so did I, & neither hoped much for or from it. We found out our mistake, & since then, though I do not enjoy writing “moral tales” for the young, I do it because it pays well.

But the success I value most was making my dear mother happy in her last years & taking care of my family. The rest soon grows wearisome & seems very poor beside the comfort of being an earthly Providence to those we love.

I hope you will win this joy at least, & think you will, for you seem to have got on well so far, & the stories are better than many sent me. I like the short one best. Lively tales of home-life or children go well, & the Youth’s Companion is a good paying paper. I do not like Loring as he is neither honest nor polite. I have had dealings with him & know. Try Roberts Brothers 299 Washington St. They are very kind & just & if the book suits will give it a fair chance. With best wishes for a prosperous & happy New Year I am your friend.


If Miss Churchill was expecting any discourse on how wonderful writing is, she was disappointed. But I love Alcott’s practical take: write what makes you money, because that’s how you’ll be able to provide for your family. It’s also notable that Alcott gives direct publishing advice, even an address. As far as Loring goes, this is most likely A. K. Loring, who published Alcott’s Moods in 1865, and then reissued it in 1870 after Little Women became a hit. And now I suppose I’ll have to go seek out their correspondence to see just how impolite he was.

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How to Option a Book for Film Adaptation

“In the motion picture business, nothing is more important than rights.”
–Prominent Business Affairs Executive

Hollywood has loved books ever since the days of silent films. It always will. 

Sometimes you will hear grumblings from studio executives and producers that acquiring motion picture and television rights to books costs too much. They vow to cut back on it. Pay no attention to this babbling. 

Hollywood’s love for books will endure for two simple reasons: First, books offer built-in wonderfully developed stories with fascinating plots and compelling characters; second, popular books (think the Harry Potter series as the ultimate example) have throngs of rabid fans (often teenagers and nerdy adults) who will be rushing to the box office to see the motion picture based on their beloved book. Five of the nine films nominated for this year’s Best Picture Oscar were based on books, including the winner, Argo. For these reasons, it is inevitable that you, the independent film producer, shall at some point want to acquire the motion picture and television rights to a book. This article will set forth the basic deal points of a book option agreement and hopefully provide some guidelines.

Read more of this post by veteran entertainment attorney Robert Zipser. It originally appeared on his official website.

The last surviving member of the Babe Ruth Household by Jery Amernic

The oldest person I ever interviewed was Helge Ingstad, the famed Norwegian explorer who discovered the old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. That put to rest Christopher Columbus discovering America since the Vikings had beat him by 500 years. Ingstad was 100 years old when I met up with him at his home just outside Oslo, and he would pass away the following year.

But of all the people I have ever interviewed the one who lived the longest was Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth. Julia, who passed away last week at the age of 102, was the last remaining member of the Ruth household.

She was a neat lady with a razor-sharp memory, keen sense of humor, and passion, especially where it concerned the man she called Daddy.

Portions of my lengthy interview with her when I spent an afternoon at her home are up on www.BabeRuthLegacy.com under Babe Ruth Legacy interviews. And as they say on CNN, it’s worth a listen.

Babe Ruth was a big part of Julia’s life until his death in 1948 when she was 32, and her insights into the kind of person he was are precious. She told me about the fun-loving, outgoing Babe who adored kids, who never had a chance to be one himself, and who just had this uncanny knack for doing everything he did … well.

He would wake her up at 5 a.m. when she was a young girl to join him for breakfast. Just the two of them. He taught her how to dance. He gave her his blood when she was in hospital and needed a transfusion. He gave her away when she got married. And, said Julia, “he would never fail to keep a promise.”

Maybe the funniest part of my time with her was when we were talking about the incredible value of Babe Ruth-signed baseballs, and the fact she didn’t possess any of those baseballs herself.

“The only signature I ever got was on a check,” she said, and then laughed.

You can tell a lot about people by their laugh. Julia’s laugh was one that said she enjoyed life, she enjoyed people, and she certainly liked having fun.

I am so glad I got to meet her.

A Dark Mirror | Dennis Palumbo with Barry Kibrick

A great interview with Dennis Palumbo and Barry Kibrick about how good crime fiction both reflects and reveals the society in which it is set. From Conan Doyle to Raymond Chandler to Gillian Flynn. 

CinemaBlend Update on The Meg 2

What's Happening with The Meg 2?

One of 2018’s most successful movies was the Jason Statham giant shark movie The Meg. The film made over $500 million worldwide, making a sequel a no brainer, but we haven’t heard much about where The Meg 2 stands since then, other than the fact that it’s in the works. Well, at the press junket for Pet Sematary in Austin, CinemaBlend's own Sean O'Connell asked producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura for some insight about what’s happening with The Meg 2. He responded:

When we first heard that The Meg 2 was actually happening, it was said that the sequel was in the very early stages and while it is still early and we are a ways off from a release date, it sounds like there is work being done. As Lorenzo di Bonaventura told Sean, they are currently working on a script for the film and seemingly taking their time to get that right before moving forward.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura did seem to hedge things a bit with “you never know,” seemingly not wanting to commit to anything firm on The Meg 2 until there is a script. There doesn’t seem to be a major rush and the focus at the moment is on getting that script and having it be good before the sequel moves to the next stage of development. But, it's encouraging to hear that the script is the primary driver of what happens next.

The other thing that Lorenzo di Bonaventura expressed to Sean was gratitude about the first film’s success and that the audience last summer really embraced The Meg and what it was going for. I think when the film was announced and we began to see trailers for it, the tone wasn’t entirely clear.

Some initially thought that The Meg was going to take a more serious approach than it ultimately did, but audiences, especially those internationally, really embraced it and showed up to have fun with a ridiculous giant shark movie that didn’t take itself seriously. Lorenzo di Bonaventura seems happy that the quintessential summer movie connected in that way.

What’s interesting about this is that although the silly approach worked at the box office, it didn’t work for everyone. Some people would have preferred the bloodier, R-rated cut that director Jon Turteltaub teased. One person who seemed to lament the gorier, adult film The Meg could have been is actually the film’s star Jason Statham.

As far as where a sequel could go, The Meg is based on a series of novels by Steve Alten and that could provide a pathway forward for the franchise. The sequels up the ante even more, introducing more creatures long though extinct that could delight summer audiences. Director Jon Turteltaub just wants to make sure that the franchise doesn’t turn into one with successively worse sequels where everything gets bigger, not better.

Read more at Cinemablend

Ismael Martín Venegas Interviews Lila French. Promising auteur filmmaker.

Tell me a little about yourself, Lila. (Where do you get the taste for cinema, your cinematographic influences…).

I grew up in New Orleans, studied Computer Science at MIT, later studied acting in Los Angeles, and a few years ago moved to Spain. As a kid, I always liked performing (plays, dancing, reading aloud in class, whatever), so my initial interest in film came from a desire to perform and a curiosity about what the actors were doing. In my adult years, after having studied acting, my life took a more spiritual turn. Yoga, meditation, and my journey as a human became more important, so my taste in films kind of followed. I like stories about personal growth, and stories where the characters express humanity, and I admire actors who can do that in a genuine way (like Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project”, for example). I don’t like movies that make me feel bad for no reason, but I can definitely appreciate good “feel bad” movies with a bottom line. “Loveless”, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, is one. That movie makes me sad every time I think about it, but it’s because it so unapologetically expressed how poisonous the inability to express love can be, which is a powerful point to make.

I’ve seen in your IMDb profile that you’ve done various film projects with a style of their own. It’s admirable. What experiences have your work given you?.

I think I’ve learned to trust my instincts more. When doing something for the first time, it’s natural to have doubts, but many times I second-guessed creative choices, only to realize later that yes, the thing that I thought I wanted, I did indeed want. I still listen to the experts and people I’m collaborating with, but now without downplaying my own vision or opinion.

What do you think of today’s film industry? Do you think it considers emerging talent?.

Well, it’s becoming easier and less expensive to make films, so it’s easier for emerging talent to create their own projects and get in the game without having to wait for an invitation. Any film project still takes an immense effort, but if you have a story to tell, there are fewer obstacles to telling it. I like that things are moving this way, because it allows for more variety, and it enriches us as humans to hear stories from a variety of perspectives.

Even the figure of the male director or screenwriter predominates in most films. Do you think there is a change in the professional role and is the woman being better considered or not?.

Yes, I see more women and more variety in general in all areas of life (film, business, politics, …). I wish it would happen more quickly, but at least it’s happening. I see a lot of great and varied work at film festivals, so I think, little by little, stories about and/or by women, people of color, LGBTQ, and other previously underrepresented groups are making their way into the mainstream. The more we see variety on and off the screen, the more we lose our misconceptions of who should be doing what.

Tell me about your next projects.

I’m currently finishing a narrative short that I shot in Conil last year. It’s called “Winter in a Beach Town”, and it’s about the changing of seasons, literal and metaphorical, of course. I’m editing, working with the composer on the score, and with the colorist on the color. I’ve also written a narrative film, which I’d like to shoot after finishing “Winter”. It explores solitude and the need for others, and I plan to act in that one as well.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a screenwriter?.

I don’t feel qualified to give screenwriter-specific advice, but what I think is important in any creative endeavor is the following. When creating something, there always seems to be a pull to try to please an audience. I think if you do this, your work not only becomes inauthentic and watered down, it makes you care about the praise and criticism your work receives, which are really not important. The most important thing is to tell an authentic story in the precise way you know it to be. Make sure you’re communicating clearly, sure, but don’t aim to please. I find that if I create something that’s honest and authentic, and if I’ve done it to the best of my ability, I’m mostly immune to praise and criticism. I don’t care how it’s received, because I know what story I was trying to tell, and that that film/poem/painting/etc. tells it in the way I intended. It’s beautiful to see art that reveals the hidden depths and nuances of its creator(s). So, let’s do that.

Could you tell us a professional anecdote that was special to you?.

Before making the film “Birdbath”, I performed in the play, and at the end of the play’s run, something special happened. It was a Sunday afternoon in the aptly named Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles, and I was there in the theatre alone after the final performance, packing up my things. The skylights and doors were open, there was a nice breeze flowing through the room, and I took a moment to acknowledge having just completed a successful run of this play we had worked very hard to get done. I then left and began walking down the street to where my car was parked. I cut across the street at a random spot, and there at the base of a tree was a dead bird. And not just any bird, but a small bird with a bright orange and yellow body and black and white wings. “Birdbath” ends with a poem about a dead bird, written to my character as a gift by the male character, conveying the tragedy of her situation and beauty of her spirit. Seeing that particular dead bird—that particularly beautiful dead bird—that day, for me, was beyond coincidence and was a very special and unforgettable gift.

LINK: http://lilafrench.com/

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The Meg - VFX Breakdown By Imageworks

Check out previous article The Meg: How Imageworks Helped Make a Massive Megalodon 

Visual effects studios are constantly being asked to deliver more shots more quickly than ever before. It can be a major challenge to get effects out the door for review, work to final them, and then deal with inevitable changes. Which is why Sony Pictures Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor Sue Rowe decided to tackle things slightly differently when she took on the challenge of helping to craft the third act of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, the tale of a previously undiscovered prehistoric giant shark, or megalodon.

“When the Production Supervisor Adrian De Wet and Visual Effects Producer Steve Garrad came to us, they knew this third act was going to be tricky because story points in the climax of a film are always developing, and they knew they would need a really powerful engine behind them to get that work done,” Rowe tells VFX Voice.

“So the deal we entered into at the beginning was, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you perhaps 400 shots, and we want you to turn them around really fast and then give them to editorial, and then we’re going to hone it down from there.’”

Alex Honnold: How I Climbed A 3,000-Foot Vertical Cliff - Without Ropes

Imagine being by yourself in the dead center of a 3,000-foot vertical cliff -- without a rope to catch you if you fall. For professional rock climber Alex Honnold, this dizzying scene marked the culmination of a decade-long dream. In a hair-raising talk, he tells the story of how he summited Yosemite's El Capitan, completing one of the most dangerous free solo climbs ever.

Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the world's most recognized climbers.

Vincent Atchity Equitas Executive Director Interviewed on Wrongful Conviction

In this compelling interview, Vincent Atchity and Kelly Grimes join Jason Flom for a candid discussion about the criminal justice system and how it fails to support Americans with mental health challenges.

Vincent Atchity has served as Executive Director of The Equitas Project since 2015. Vincent is an advocate for public health and health equity, a population health management strategist, and a builder of communications bridges connecting communities and community partners with better health outcomes and more efficiently managed costs.

Kelly Grimes is a graduate of the Manhattan Mental Health Court, where CASES provides case management services, including treatment, planning and reporting on clients’ progress to the court. Kelly is now a certified peer specialist with CASES, as the peer specialist for the Manhattan Mental Health Court team. She has moved from being a client of the court to serving clients of the court.

The Equitas Project, an initiative of the David and Laura Merage Foundation, envisions an America rededicated to liberty and justice for all, where there is a commonly held expectation that jails and prisons should not continue to serve as the nation’s warehouses for people with unmet mental health needs. Equitas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which promotes mental health awareness, and champions laws, policies, and practices that prioritize improved population health outcomes, sensible use of resources, and the decriminalization of mental illness. We are committed to disentangling mental health and criminal justice. To learn more about our work and mission, please visit www.equitasproject.org, and follow us on Twitter @EquitasProject and Instagram. *This episode was edited by Conor Hall.

How to Write a Pilot for a Television Series By: Yvonne Grace

A well-written pilot for a television series opens the door to the world you want to explore further. Yvonne Grace shares tips to set up your storylines, create jump off points for your characters and grab a producer’s attention.

Writers working with me at Script Advice Towers, learn very early on that I am obsessed with structure. This is a good thing, because storytelling for Television is entirely dominated by this knotty problem. A weakly structured series storyline will not deliver the emotional clout nor the dramatic impact required to make a dent in the story hungry mind of the savvy series binge watcher.

So, first, nail your structure. I have blogged about this here.

Once you have the series arcs down in broad stroke, you will be able to tackle the pilot with confidence.

I strongly suggest starting with the series outline of your TV idea before you hit the script writing stage. This is because at all times, when writing for television, you need to be aware of the series elements of your story and each episode, although important in their own right, must also link and connect with the episodes following on after—like the beads in a necklace.

The first 10 pages are crucial in the writing of any pilot for television. I outline six essential elements to the construction of your first pages below, but also keep these headings by your writing desk, as a reminder to ensure you have the key facets in your pilot:

DRAW IN YOUR AUDIENCE—remember the visuals!

ENGAGE THEM—plant the story seeds here.

HOLD THEM—explore character and introduce intrigue or questions.

CHALLENGE—deliver a great plot twist or observation via character.

PUSH ON—use the pace of this reveal to move the narrative onwards.

The story is starting. Set the scene.

Geography; a panoramic landscape or a cosy tete a tete in a suburban sitting room, a graveside, a roof top, or the inside of a rapidly packed suitcase, begins the story for you.

You may need to establish the way a character behaves, or show the essential dynamic between a family. Do this visually. This visual can be a strong natural image, or series of images, or it can be an action packed traveling sequence or we could be following your main character at their job, but in this visual, we need to see the essential elements of what you will be exploring later.

Start the audience wondering what’s going to happen.

Examples of visual starts in scripts, picked as randomly as possible:

Roof tops of a Northern town. We pick up a central character putting the bins out. They look up and we see what they see; their ex wife doing the same; they stare across the cobbles at each other. Coronation Street.

Wind swept moorland and a galloping horse. A man is riding very fast to somewhere but we can be sure it will be where the next bit of the story will start so we are keen for him to get there. Poldark.

A man stands in a desert in his underpants. He is holding a gun. There’s a Winnibego next to him. It looks very hot and he looks very upset. Breaking Bad.

Two elderly people in a cafe. Quintessentially English. Their conversation soon encompasses their respective spouses and off spring. They appear to be strangers at first but we realise they are actually flirting. Last Tango In Halifax.

The back garden of a local house in rural Yorkshire, grumpy Cop realises there’s nothing she can do about the mauled sheep found dying on the nice old lady’s neatly mowed lawn. She accepts a cup of tea and when the lady pops back to her kitchen, she staves the sheep’s head in with a brick. Happy Valley.

A jaded journalist is a reluctant part of a discussion panel for a room full of young journalists and students on the nature of America and its place in world politics. He sees his ex in the audience with a prompt card. He decides to tell the truth. The News Room.

Every second counts on the screen; translate that directly to the page—there should be no extraneous action or dialogue in your pilot and this is even more important in the first 10 pages.
Motivate dialogue by subtext.

The subtext  will push the narrative forward. It is not only what a character says that is important in informing us about them. It is how they say it. So remember the action; ‘see’ how your characters move and interact.

If the subtext is deep and solid in all your characters’ motivation, you will no problem moving the plot forward. But it is essential that you keep up the pace here. In the first ten pages the plot; or text, motivated by the subtext of your characters must get to a point whereby your audience will want to get to the next 10 minutes. So you need to set up the main frame of your story in these pages and also introduce a twist, or an added point of engagement that will jettison the narrative forward.

All your characters want something. Set this up in the first ten pages.

The truth and therefore the point of dramatic engagement from both your reader and ultimately your audience, will come from the interplay between what your character wants and how you, the writer choses to stop them getting it.

Write from your own personal centre of truth. We all have emotions, conceits, ideas and mantras that we follow in life. Things that matter to us.

Writers need to tap into that complex, dense, often not very savoury centre of ‘us’ and then the story unfolds in a truthful way, then the real connections can be made between those that create these scenarios for our screens and those that watch them.

We are in the business of bringing a 360 degree experience to the audience. So if you don’t personally feel it. They won’t.

Tap into what you know about your world. Not what you think we want to know.

Beyond the first 10 pages mark, if you’ve got the key elements in place, your pilot should have a strong sense of place, the characters will be established and the key story elements will have been seeded. There will also be a sense of tone and pace to this script – even at this early stage.


Television stories are most often constructed in a five act format. However, nothing is truly set in stone here. I am of the school of thought that does not hold to a prescriptive view of the act structure. Nothing is guaranteed to make me want to put my head in the paper shredder more than a script that has clearly been written to a formula. Audiences (like your reader) are sophisticated in terms of story appreciation. If the story has a natural pace, if the scenes engage and the narrative is moving across your time frame then you can be confident your act structure is working.

ACT ONE: Set up, seed story points, use the five pointers for your first ten pages, move the plot on.

ACT TWO: Establish a twist part way which will lead to ….

ACT THREE: Explore what you have set up, build your various story lines to peaks—so there is a sense of climax and don’t forget the pay off, which is the down ward slope of your story ‘peak’.

ACT FOUR: Pulling everything together now, with a twist to create ….

ACT FIVE: Now build to the end point and the crucial ‘out’.

The Pilot is the first step along the series path for your Producer and also ultimately your audience.

Written well, it opens the door to the world you want to explore further. Here, you will set up your storylines, create jump off points for your characters, set them on course, establish the world in which your characters live, and begin to explore the message that you are presenting through your interplay between the text and the subtext. The Pilot is the first step along the series path for your Producer and also ultimately your audience.

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What Stands in the Way of Achieving Your Dreams?

How to Quit Your Day Job and Live Out Your Dreams based on my own experience and that of others.

One of my favorite stories…I was on Dr. Joyce Brothers television show years ago with a couple of other people and one of them who was a man who was then in his 80’s and had just received his law degree from The University of Chicago. He told her that he was standing in line for registration four years earlier and one of the young people in line behind him said “Sir, are you sure you’re in the right line?” And he said “And I turned around and I said what line should I be in?”

And I thought “That is America. That’s the essence of America,” you are in whatever line you want to be in this country. And he fearlessly walked up and stood in the line and got his law degree at the age of 86 or whatever he was. And to me, what stands in people’s way is fear and their friends inflict it on them.One of the chapters in my book has to do with distinguishing between friends and friendly associates because when I left the academic world I had a few friends and I had lots of friendly associates. I learned the difference when I decided to leave because I retained a few friends. But most everybody I did not retain as friends because they thought I was absolutely crazy. They either thought that in kind of a benign way or they were just extremely angry that I was leaving a tenured position.

They thought that was completely ungrateful and crazy. I can also say that they were fearful about it and I knew them well enough to know that they were envious. They wished they could do it but they wouldn’t do it because they were set in their ways.