MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT



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

Kevin Flanagan of District Magazine talks to Ken About the Art of Storytelling!



It was a great year for Irish film with The Room and Brooklyn receiving Oscar nominations. Kevin Flanagan talks to Hollywood producer and author Kenneth John Atchity, about the importance of story and why the Irish are good at telling them.

Kevin met Ken Atchity at the international writer’s symposium held recently in Dublin. There he was able to get the producer’s views on the magic of story from the man who is known internationally as a “Story Merchant.”

I love Hollywood.

In 2003 I spent a month in Los Angeles attempting to sell my script to a Hollywood agent. It was memorable queuing at the local Kinko’s store where they had a photocopying machine that only copied film scripts and the queue was long! People are friendly, once they heard I was from Ireland our individual projects were discussed and phone numbers were swapped. As they say, you have to be friendly in Tinseltown because you never know who you will need on the way up (and down).

The other thing I loved was sitting in my favourite coffee shop Urth Caffé on Melrose Avenue watching drop-dead gorgeous waitresses serve us coffee. They all looked, to my naive eye, like film stars. My cynical Irish friend burst my bubble. He had been working in Hollywood for years and said, between sips of his soya latte, ‘beautiful people are two-a-penny here!’.

As I continued to sit with my mouth wide-open my friend nudged me. A famed Hollywood producer had arrived outside the patio in an open-topped Bentley. Heads swivelled as he took a table, surrounded by a group of acolytes dancing attendance. Certainly the waitress perked up.

Everyone in Hollywood, I soon discovered, was climbing the greasy pole. Actresses, writers, directors, but at the top, wielding the real power, was the fabled Hollywood producer who can make (and break) anyone. You could smell their power and sense their arrogance.



My impression of Hollywood producers had not changed over the years till I meet Ken Atchity in Dublin this June past. Atchity has produced over 30 Hollywood movies and is known in the book world as the ‘Story Merchant’ because he also sells stories to publishers–and publishes them through Story Merchant Books. Soft spoken, educated, he is not at all like the usual hustler I saw on a daily basis in Hollywood. Ken Atchity is above all a reflective man who has built his life around the concept of “story.” He has been an academic, a writer, before he became a movie producer. He loves “story” and wants to share that love.

He certainly did that in Dublin when he spoke this summer to a group of writers, and what he said has stayed with me and helped inform my own work. According to Atchity, whatever the genre – movie, TV series, book or computer game – its core chances of success all come down to story. But story is not confined to the creative arts.

“Look at Brexit,” Atchity says as we sip a drink after his lecture in the bar of the famed Gresham Hotel, “the day after the referendum a lot of British people wanted to have another vote as they were led to believe Brexit was a story about the immigration crisis. But it was also about 200 other things as well: the value of pound and the stock market. But the story was moulded around immigration and national identity and people bought into it.”

Ken lowers his glass and smiles, “Lying is an old Catholic word for what we all do all day – another form of storytelling. If your wife walks down the steps after a long night out and asks “how am I looking?” do you tell the truth or a story to get by and not stir up a row?” He takes another sip. “Everybody is telling a story!”

Storytelling goes back to the dawn of man, Atchity insists, and Homer was the greatest storyteller of them all, probably as product of the oral tradition of storytelling having to be committed to memory. It becomes deeply ingrained.

“Stories are there to warn us what happens when people bring disaster on themselves and their people. To this day story still acts as an exhortation and a warning as what happens when someone brings destruction on all around him. Great stories are changing the world by changing the perception of people.”

Atchity believes storytelling impacts profoundly on both young and old.

“You hear parents saying disparaging remarks about groups of people – say Poles or black people – and you wake up one day as an adult and you believe fully in them.”

But despite this pessimistic view Atchity thinks things in the world are actually improving.

“Fewer people are dying in wars. People are giving up smoking. Communication is helping us. As the saying goes, living well is the best revenge and we are slowly learning to leave things behind. Optimism is the more logical of two options. I love the story of the optimist who was pushed off Empire State Building and half way down says, “Well, so far, so good!”’

Atchity has always believed in the power of “story” and I ask him why that is.

“I think it all goes back to my childhood growing up on front porches in my Cajun Louisiana (maternal) family. My uncles and cousins were storytellers – some accomplished, some not so good. I loved the feeling of community that happened when they began swapping stories and jokes. And though I studied analysis and logic in Jesuit classrooms my heart was with the storytellers. As an Italian friend of mine said one day, trying to explain his new wife’s erratic behavior, “Let me tell you a story instead–isn’t life, after all, just a story?” It’s the power of stories that change the world more than anything else.”

Among a vast oeuvre Atchity has produced his share of horror movies, including Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes. But horror is a genre in decline. Does Atchity have his views on why this is?

“Aristotle’s theory was about how audience needs catharsis. They see horror on stage, walk out of the theatre and give a sigh of relief that the “horror” does not affect their lives. But in today’s world all that has changed. Daily we hear and see horrific things – decapitations and mass murder at every turn. Horror is no longer escapism. Audiences now need to escape their daily dose of real live horror by going to the movie house. There they can watch heroes in blockbusters win and the bad guys lose.”

Despite the decline Atchity still continues to produce movies in the horror genre, “At the moment we are working on a very low budget horror spoof – Friday 31st – and that maybe is the way to go.” // We discuss our best loved horror movies. One of Atchity’s favorites was filmed on the campus he was attending at Georgetown University in Washington.

“Scenes from The Exorcist were shot at my alma mater. I remember reading the book in the early 70’s and being scared to death. Having been raised a Roman Catholic I believed it was all real! From a pure horror point of view it’s my favorite.”

The Exorcist was released in 1973 but not shown in Ireland till 1998. How things have changed! Now, according to Atchity, “horror movies are relegated to low-budget productions with an occasional excursion into brilliance. The market isn’t as robust as the general market is. It’s a selective audience, that doesn’t appear to be growing—because of the advent of alternate media such as online games, web series. Cheap ones are made because the loyal horror audience will see it and is enough by itself to make them profitable even if they don’t cross over to the larger audience.”

We move on to discussing another core shift in storytelling – the move from movies to TV mega stories, Game of Thrones being the prime example. Are these TV series successful because they allow “story” to be told in greater depth?

“A series or miniseries allows the storyteller to develop the characters more fully than the restricted time allowed for a film. The best writers and directors today are in television as well as film.”

Ken has enjoyed walking in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom while in Dublin, and I ask him for any words of wisdom for modern Irish writers.

“Tell a story with universal impact – something we all care about – and make sure it has three well-defined acts and each act is powerfully dramatic. It’s also important to make sure the main character is someone we can all relate to, even if he’s not likeable. Do all that and get someone in Hollywood to give you feedback on it.”

Irish writers get on the case – you know the right person in Hollywood to send it to!

Read more at District Magazine


Author Interview – Kenneth Atchity on is latest Release – My Obit, Daddy Holding Me

 


  • My Obit is an autobiography that explores the scenarios on family dynamics. Kenneth, what made you decide to write this autobiography at this stage of your life?

It occurred to me a few years ago that I might just end up dead. As a writer I hated the prospect that someone else might write my obit, and decided it was my job to do it myself!

  • What made you decide on throwing these into the mix?

The story of me is rich and funny and full of surprising twists and turns. One of the richest parts of life for me has been the food I loved along the way so I decided I needed to share that as well—plus my son insisted (he is an excellent cook!).

  • Which recipe is your favourite?


From a sentimental viewpoint, it’s the recipe for my Lebanese grandmother’s beans, “Tata’s beans.” For sheer culinary delight, it’d be the recipe for kibbeh nayah, tartare mixed with wheat.

  • Who was the biggest influence in your life?

Aside from my father and mother, I’d have to say it was the Jesuits, starting with Edmund Ziegelmeyer who stopped by our house every day beginning when I was 10 to teach me Latin and to inspire me to learn many languages.

  • If you could go back, what is the one thing that you would change in life?

I would have liked a role in The Godfather!

  • Would you say that all families are dysfunctional in a way?

Absolutely! Ambrose Bierce (Devil’s Dictionary) defined a family as, “a random group of characters who one would otherwise encounter only in a prison break or a train wreck.” So, to idealize the situation, it’s up to us to go out there and build a family in our own image and likeness—and that becomes your true family (though it may include a couple from the bloodline).

  • Would you say this book is a journey for yourself on self-reflection?

Yes indeed, in every way. That’s why it took so long to write it because it’s all about getting my story straight and recognizing that the happiest life is the one whose self-narration is the strongest and most heroic.

  • If you could go back, what is one thing you would have liked to have more time to pursue?

For sure, I would have liked to study music, play the piano, and learned to dance properly! I’m proud that I’ve composed a half dozen songs (lyrics) some of which appear in my movies and could have led a happy life just writing songs.

  • For many people, family dynamics is a major part of their day-to-day life, society’s expectations etc. In a nutshell, it’s a serious issue. What made you decide to portray it in a comedic, philosophical sense?

It’s only serious if you’re not an optimist with a sense of humor.

  • How long have you been working on this book? Is it something you just sat down and decided to write or is it something compiled over time?

I started it fifteen years ago and have been fiddling with it ever since. It was stop-and-go because I had constantly to wrestle with point of view—from what perspective to tell my story? And, of course, what to include, what not. At one point the draft was 900 pages before I decided it MUST be cut into several books. I’m hoping to publish Vol. 2 by the end of 2022.

  • What do you hope readers gain from reading this book?

I hope they enjoy it, learn something, and laugh a lot. And I hope they learn to take charge of their own stories and realize that power is life’s greatest gift. If you want a happy ending, you have to shape it.

  • What is next for Kenneth?
Aside from producing movies and series, which is ongoing, I’m gearing up to write a novel about the new age we live in, a post-truth age in which heroism is being redefined and communication tested to the maximum.

Read more

DENNIS PALUMBO on “Writers' Block is GOOD News for a Writer” at the APA Caucus on Medical Humanities in Psychiatry - May 24th

INAUGURAL MEETING APA Caucus on Medical Humanities in Psychiatry 
Co-Founders and Co-Chairs: Vincenzo Di Nicola and Andrei Novac 
 APA Annual Meeting – New Orleans, LA, USA 
Grand Ballroom B Tuesday, May 24, 2022 9-11 am EDT 


 A special inaugural lecture for our founding members by Dennis Palumbo 

 A psychotherapist and successful writer addresses an occupational hazard – the writer's block 

 DENNIS PALUMBO, M.A., MFT 
 “Writers' Block is GOOD News for a Writer” 

 In this short talk, author and licensed psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo addresses some conventional misconceptions about so-called “writers' blocks.” He’ll explore how and why such “blocks” create anxiety, reinforce negative self-concepts and undermine creative potential in a writer. Then he’ll present a new way to frame what a “block” actually is, and how successfully navigating it results in deeper, more personally relevant writing.



DENNIS PALUMBO, M.A., MFT is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private

practice, specializing in creative issues. Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery Fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of award-winning mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, Head Wounds, and the latest, Panic Attack) feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. Recently, Dennis was the technical consultant on the upcoming F/X TV series THE PATIENT, created by the writers of THE AMERICANS. For more info, visit www.dennispalumbo.com

  


A.M. Adair Author of the Elle Anderson Thriller Series Interviewed on Heroes Behind Headlines

 The First Woman To Operate With the Navy SEALs

Heroes Behind Headlines

Before 2006, no woman had ever embedded to operate within a SEAL team, nor had a non-SEAL Counter-Intel officer ever been assigned to a platoon. Until
A.M. Adair.

Listen to her amazing now.

Before 2006, no woman had ever embedded to operate within a SEAL team, nor had a non-SEAL Counter-Intel officer ever been assigned to a platoon. HBH is honored to welcome the pioneer who broke down both of those barriers at once, Chief Warrant Officer Ama Adair.


Ama discusses the immense challenges she faced and tells the incredible story of an operation where she helped a SEAL Team target and take down not one, but two of the most wanted Al-Qaeda targets in Iraq.


Not only has Ama’s career been filled with firsts, but she also continually demonstrated the highest level of skill as an intelligence officer and interrogator and has the medals to prove it.





AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Author Daniel Moskowitz

Author Daniel Moskowitz in the photo below holding his book Bronx Stagger in an unintentional shameless act of self-promotion.

Moskowitz volunteered to help his former colleagues organize assigned Family Court Attorney's rally for better paySometimes good deeds do go rewarded.  His novel takes place in Bronx Family Court, the busiest court in NYC.


Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times



Lawyers who are known as panel attorneys and who represent children and indigent adults, have been departing the system by the dozens over the past decade, leaving many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers without their constitutionally guaranteed right to counsel. The attorneys say that their ranks are thinning because their salaries have not risen in close to two decades, and they are now fighting in court to change that.

Read more

 


Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll are on the docket of Bronx Family Court, the busiest court in NYC. Schwartz the Lawyer fights for justice for families while struggling with personal demons that place his own family Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll are on the docket of Bronx Family Court, the busiest court in NYC. Schwartz the Lawyer fights for justice for families while struggling with personal demons that place his own family risk.



 Available On Amazon

A Screenwriter's Life in the Waiting Room



How long can I wait?

Screenwriters ask me that all the time, becoming impatient and anxious that their script is taking so long to make it to the screen.

My answer surprises them:

Don’t wait at all.

Waiting is a massive waste of time and can lead to depression and/or existential despair, and who knows what else. Write something while you wait. Plant another seed, cultivate it, and train it to grow straight. And while it’s taking its sweet time to bud and then bloom, do something else. Start a new spec script!

Back in my own “waiting room” in the sixties, I reviewed a great book by Barry Stevens: Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself. I translated Stevens’ Zen advice to Hollywood where every project has its own clock and will happen when and only when that clock reaches the appointed hour. Other than keeping that project on track the best you can by responding when asked to or when appropriate, there’s nothing much you can do—other than financing it yourself (a serious option, by the way) to speed up that project’s clock. By the nature of things, the project clock is invisible, which means extra frustration for the creator—unless you refuse to wait.

Recently, I, and my dear producing partner Norman Stephens, produced a sweet little Christmas movie called Angels in the Snow. I had only been trying to get that movie produced for twenty years! I sold it to TNN once and came close to a deal at Hallmark another time. My client Steve Alten’s Meg is currently, after twenty-one years, shooting in New Zealand. What was I doing for the last twenty years? Writing twelve scripts and producing other films for television and cinema, managing hundreds of books, writing and publishing ten of my own, playing tennis, traveling, having a wonderful life. Not waiting.

Waiting makes writers neurotic. If I allowed myself to express my neurosis, as many writers have not yet learned not to do, I would drive those involved in making my or my clients’ stories into films crazy—and risk losing their support or return calls. The question I personally hate hearing the most, “What’s going on?” is one I have to force myself to refrain from asking. Your job, when it’s your turn to move your story forward, is to “get the ball out of your court” as efficiently, as well, and as soon as possible. Then, on that particular project, you have to wait for it to be returned to your court. Very few actual events requiring your help occur along the way, leaving a huge gap of dead time in between them, like super novae separated by vast time years of space. But it’s not dead time if you use it for something else creative.

If the glacial pace of the Hollywood creative business fills you with dread, you’re in the wrong business or you’re dealing with it the wrong way. Don’t wait. Do. As the great photographer Ansel Adams put it: “Start doing more. It’ll get rid of all those moods you’re having.”



Writer/producer/literary manager and former professor Ken Atchity’s most recent book for writers is Sell Your Story to Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide to the Business of Show Business (to accompany his online course realfasthollywooddeal.com. This article is adapted from that book.

My Obit: Daddy Holding Me by Kenneth Atchity

  



 On Amazon 


My Obit: Daddy Holding Me a page-turner filled with poignant family experiences, explosive sibling rivalry, literary adventures, ethnic cooking, wide-ranging storytelling, the workings of the brain itself--and what can be learned about life from playing tennis for decades. 


"I’ve lived a lifetime of literary adventures by refusing to be relegated to a niche. In My Obit: Daddy Holding Me, my storytelling passion and family and professional anecdotes provide humor and insight into my hugely self-determined life."

~ Ken Atchity


Advanced Praise for My Obit: Daddy Holding Me:

“Powerful. Honest. Heartwarming. A courageous examination of the secret nooks in the soul that expose to the self who we truly are… and why. Atchity’s memoir is riveting, reflective, and revealing. A MUST read!” – Tracy Price-Thompson, bestselling novelist

 “My Obit: Daddy Holding Me by Kenneth Atchity is a compelling autobiography worthy of the analogy of Sisyphus discovering the burdens and pleasures of each push of the rock up the hill of his extraordinary life.” – Norman Stephens, producer, former head of Warner Brothers television.

Readers Are Loving Dr. Dave Davis’ A Potter’s Tale


"Has more twists and turns than a mountain stream."

"This powerful story is artfully crafted and beautifully written."

Get in on the Conversation by Leaving Your Own Amazon Review Today!

A Potter’s Tale Out Now: https://lnkd.in/g8gtJGq4

Read all about Born to Talk Radio Show's with Marsha Wietecha's interview with Ken Atchity

                   AUTHORSBORN TO TALK RADIO SHOWENTERTAINMENT

Ken Atchity

My guest on the Born To Talk Radio Show Podcast, is Ken Atchity.


LISTEN NOW


Ken is the CEO of Story Merchant.   He is the author of over 20 books.   His latest is My Obit: Daddy Holding Me. It was named the Hollywood Book Festival Award Winner for 2021.

Let’s Meet Ken.

To start with, Ken spent his first career as a professor focusing his efforts on understanding stories and helping writers get their stories told. “I believe we can change the world through stories. I believe in making a difference in the lives of others through the power of storytelling.” Ken has served storytellers since 1996 as a literary manager and producer, developing and selling hundreds of stories for film and television.  Ken is a self-defined “Story Merchant.” Not only is he an author, but he has also been a professor, producer, career coach, teacher, and literary manager. Ken is responsible for launching dozens of books, films, and brands.

Over his career, Ken has produced over 30 films.  Now Ken’s Story Merchant companies provide full-service development, management, production, and brand launch for commercial and literary writers. Atchity Productions brings stories of all kinds to the big and little screens, developing film and tv productions.

Story Merchant.

The Story Merchant Companies were formed to serve the needs of storytellers, publishers, and production companies. Each company provides a different service that is supported and supports the other three. If they believe your story has commercial potential but needs work they can use their coaching or editing services.  Through The Writers Lifeline or Story Merchant, they can bring it to market standard before pitching to publishers or film companies.

Author.

My Obit:  Daddy Holding Me.

 

When asked why he wrote his book, his answer was crystal clear, “Because I didn’t want anyone else to write my obit.”  Filled with humorous anecdotes, pictures, and a unique perspective from an immigrant’s child growing up in the south.  This memoir offers the reader a dive into childhood trauma and learning to rethink those experiences.

I love his explanation of patience.  “I learned that patience is the root of accomplishment. It can be a bitter root unless you turn it sweet. What turns patience sweet is finding something else to do while you’re waiting.”

 

 

 

 

In Closing.

Accordingly, Ken’s life passion has been finding great storytellers and turning them into bestselling authors and screenwriters. You might find inspiration in writing your own story, we all have them. Some are the same and some are entirely different, but that’s what makes life interesting.

Trust me when I say this, Ken is a very interesting man with a great story!

********************

 


The Book Commentary Five Star Review of Ian Bull's The Danger Game

Ian Bull’s Third Installment in the Quintana Adventure Series, The Danger Game, Receives 5 Stars from The Book Commentary.



Read the rest of the review here

The Danger Game Out Now on Amazon.

Check Out the Rest of the Quintana Adventure Series here

Being Bazan Spotlight Series: 'The Ally'

Dr. Nicolas Bazan during the planning of the film "Of Mind and Music" with Dr. Ken Atchity who guided the publication of Dr. Bazan's first two novels.



 


From Being Bazan Spotlight Series: 'The Ally'

Featuring 'Women of Excellence in Science'

https://awarenow.us/bazan/the-ally

Spotlight featuring "Women on Excellence in Science" a group of selected woman scientists  trained by Dr. Bazan.

Get 1 on 1 Coaching On Your Written Work




Improve Your:
- Story Structure
- Character Arc
- Dialogue Flow
- Marketability of Your Concept

Take Your First Steps Towards Reaching Your Writer’s Potential Today: https://lnkd.in/gUmYG2RY

Ukraine

 

“How lovely is the strain

Of mingled joy and pain;

It cuts deep in the breast

And cleaves the heart in twain.”


— Lesia Ukrainka (1871-1913), Forest Song




Story Merchant Books is proud to announce the third installment in the acclaimed Elle Anderson Series, Shadow War, written by distinguished author A.M. Adair

SHADOW WAR, THE THIRD INSTALLMENT IN THE ELLE ANDERSON SERIES 

FROM US NAVY AUTHOR A.M. ADAIR

2The highly anticipated and gripping follow-up to The Deeper Shadow reunites readers with CIA Operative Elle Anderson on the run after being set up by her former handler turned criminal mastermind. Elle must be smarter, faster, and more lethal to stay alive long enough to turn the tables on her enemy, all the while evading teams on both sides of the law. This means using any means necessary to destroy the man pulling the strings. There are no rules in the shadows. This game is driven by will. Nothing is going to stop Elle from finishing her war. The end justifies the means… and the end is here.


 Author A. M. Adair is an active-duty Chief Warrant Officer in the United States Navy with over 20 years in the Intelligence Community. Her experiences have been unique and provided her imagination with a wealth of material to draw from to give her stories life. A lifelong fan of the genre, her debut novel, Shadow Game, is the first book in The Elle Anderson Series, and was turned into a graphic novel in January 2022. Book two, The Deeper Shadow, was released in November 2020, and the explosive third installment, Shadow War, is coming March 2022. Autographed copies of her books, and news available on amadair.com.

“Adair keeps you breathless in anticipation in this exciting thrill ride, with new surprises galore. Action, drama, and political intrigue that can only be written by someone who has been there, done that.”

 

— Andrews and Wilson, international bestselling authors of the Tier One, Sons of Valor, and The Shepherds thriller series, as well as, Rogue Asset, their first installment in the WEB Griffin Presidential Agent Series.

 



                      

Shadow War by A.M. Adair is available on Amazon