Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tears of Elation

YESTERDAY I RECEIVED an email from the PAGE Awards, one of the three screenplay competitions where I’ve entered my script. As far as competitions go, this was my #1 pick, and it was also the one I used as my deadline to get the script finished.
Dear Milli,

2009 marks the sixth anniversary of The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards contest, and it has been a record-breaking event! We received 4,394 scripts this year, submitted by writers from all across the United States and around the world. Most importantly, our Judges are telling us that the overall quality of this year's entries is the best they’ve ever seen, and we're hearing some great "buzz" about many of your screenplays. So the next few months promise to be very exciting!

Today, we're officially kicking off The 2009 PAGE Awards announcement season and we have some very good news for you…

The First Round of competition has now been completed, and the Judges have selected the top 25% of all entries. Based on your First Round scores, we're very happy to inform you that your work was selected to compete in the Second Round:

Ghost Train

Congratulations!! Given the level of competition you faced, this is a real achievement.

When I opened the email I was only half-inclined to read it. After placing *nowhere* in a much smaller competition (one that was judged within 30 days of the close of entries), I was not nurturing any hopes—and especially not after seeing an earlier report from PAGE about how many entries they’ve received. The number was staggering. (See the 2009 Map of Contestants.)

As I lethargically skimmed the email and saw the word “Congratulations” my primal reactions took over. A flood of goose bumps roared through my body, even while my mind could not accept the news. I just could not believe it on a logical level.

It sank in slowly. I began excitedly emailing the news to friends while still in mental disbelief. When my husband came home I ran to the kitchen and told him, with tears of elation spurting.

Wow. This was an exceptional feeling. It was worth all the hard work of completing my screenplay just to experience that feeling. The feeling that I actually made it out of the slush pile and scored well enough to move up one notch.

The PAGE email went on to explain that “the top 25% of all entries are now being given an additional round of judging. (Because some scripts were entered and evaluated in more than one category, a total of 1,400 scripts have advanced to the Second Round.)”

1,400 scripts is still pretty formidable. This coming Wednesday, July 1 is when they’ll announce the quarter-finalists.

I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, if my script does not advance any further, I'll still consider that email to be validation for finishing my first script.

On the other hand, those PAGE people sure do know how to arouse your hopes!

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MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at millithornton.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunflower Ranch & the Vespa Blogger Friendship Award

WHEN I STARTED this blog my main goal was just to have fun.

Screenwriting can be intense, and the writing format—as much as I love it—is restrictive. I need other ways to express myself while I learn and grow as a screenwriter. So I was really just doing it for myself.

I barely had anything posted when my first follower showed up. The icon for Sunflower Ranch that suddenly appeared in the sidebar surprised the heck out of me. I wasn't ready to promote the blog to my friends yet, much less strangers.

I didn't think I was ready for followers. . . .

But life brings us little rewards whether we feel ready or not—and Sunflower Ranch became much more than just a silent (or even a commenting) follower; she became a friend.

Now I knew that whenever I posted something, someone was listening. Oh, and the wonderful, encouraging comments she’d leave on my posts! Then one day Sunflower Ranch left a message saying I was one of her choices for the “Vespa Blogger Friendship Award.”

As a writer and author, I love nothing more than the feeling that one of my readers also counts me as a friend.

I hope you’ll check out the Sunflower Ranch blog. It's not a screenwriting blog, but you'll find many treasures there. Everything from

fun challenges for writers

to

outdoor beauty and poetry

to

humor (Bad Day at Hallmark)

to

The Gettysburg Address.

I’ve enjoyed the short stories too. Grandma Was a Flapper is my absolute favorite, but you should also check out A Fine Irish Lad, based on a bit of family history.

I am pleased and honored to accept this award from Sunflower Ranch and I look forward to the continuing friendship.

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RELATED TOPICS

Inside the Heart & Mind of Blogger Sunflower Ranch

Milli's Picks for the Vespa Blogger Friendship Award (coming soon)

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MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at millithornton.blogspot.com.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Character Development in 2009's Star Trek

I WILL DEFEND this movie to anyone who didn't like it.

It's not that I'm a huge Star Trek fan who just has to get my fix. Like most human beings on Planet Earth, I'm quite familiar with the main characters . . . but I'm certainly not the kind of loyal fan who could reach back in my memory to identify a character from one of the early episodes in the 60s.

For instance, my husband immediately recognized Captain Christopher Pike (played by Bruce Greenwood in the 2009 movie) as being the Captain Pike—just prior to Capt. James T. Kirk—who ended up in a wheelchair operated by brainwaves.

I wasn't expecting to become so entranced with this movie. My fear beforehand was that

(a) the special effects would zap me in my sound and light sensitivities (which many big-production movies do these days)

- OR -

(b) I would not be able to relate to the characters (because I've barely watched the Second Generation and whatever else has come after that).

Neither of these fears proved true. The movie relied on strong storytelling, drama, suspense and a cohesive team of actors, rather than flooding your senses with special effects. And the character development across the generations was extremely satisfying—even for a naïf like me who has been out of touch with the way Star Trek has developed over the years.

I'm sure many Star Trek scholars could write about this with the right historical details and penetration. I just want to state how impressed I am with how skillfully this movie tied together so many threads of character development, with its theme of generations mirroring one another across the light years.

I felt awe for the massive story legacy created by the original TV series and everything that came after. It looks to me like these characters have been developed possibly more than any other characters in the history of the TV/silver screen.

And they’ve stood the test of time. Not only was I entertained throughout the movie, but I cared what happened to Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Chekhov, Sulu and Uhura, even though they were played by actors I had not seen in those roles before.

I still don't understand the bit about the middle initial “S.” for James T. Kirk (and even my husband wasn't sure about that one). But if you haven't seen this movie yet, try to see it while it's still in the cinema. This is a big story and it deserves the big screen.

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MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at millithornton.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writers, Do You Really Want a Critical Assessment?

By guest blogger Raff Ellis

Editor's note: Though aimed mostly at writers who want to publish books, this advice is worth pondering before seeking critiques for your screenplays.


I’M OFTEN ASKED by writers, aspiring or otherwise, to review their latest creation. The first time I was asked several years ago, I dove into the work and told the author many things I thought needed to be fixed. I was being frank and, I thought, helpful. I was shocked when the defenses went up and the author rationalized nearly every comment I had made.

Of course, one man’s soup is another’s slop—meaning that judgment is pretty much subjective, especially with works of art, and writing is indeed a work of art. Even with this qualifier, most writers take umbrage at almost any criticism. This is why I have become hesitant when asked to review another author’s work. It has turned into a lose-lose situation, sort of like giving stock tips—if it goes up, the buyer is a genius; if it goes down the tipster is a bum.

Many years ago I participated in a writer’s forum where the moderator was a best-selling author (you may have heard of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit). Everyone was encouraged to submit writing samples, which would be read aloud by the moderator, and commented on by the group. Some of the criticism was pretty frank but I nonetheless submitted something to be read each week. Others never submitted, something I couldn’t understand. What was the point of being timid? If you wanted to be a writer, you must have realized that your work, if you were lucky, would be exposed to a large and critical audience. Better to suffer the slings and arrows from a small group than a much larger one.

When I was finishing up my book, Kisses from a Distance, my publisher assigned me an editor and over a four-month period we exchanged some pretty rancorous eMails. In the end we became friends and my work was a much better product because of his efforts.

Speaking from personal experience I would like to tell writers to adopt a more receptive attitude towards criticism. Cultivate a group of readers who are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and honest. If all you are looking for is affirmation, there are many more who will give it than not—because most people are non-confrontative by nature.

Admittedly, publishing has changed a lot in the last few years and some really good works aren’t attracting offers. However, if everyone likes your work, and you aren’t getting to first base with publishers, it’s possible that your readers aren’t critical enough. And, by all means, before you invest in self-publishing, make sure that your masterpiece has undergone a reputable critical review. Once it’s printed, it’s too late.

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RAFF ELLIS is a former computer industry executive and prolific writer of short stories, essays, and political commentary. His first book, Kisses from a Distance, was published by Cune Press, Seattle, Wash. He lives in Florida with his wife Loretta and their faithful companion Antar.

Watch the book trailer for Kisses From a Distance on YouTube