Thursday, January 5, 2012

Moving site.

Hey everyone. For 2012 I have decided to continue this blog about writing to Tumblr. I love their format and I feel that it's very user friendly.

Follow me here:

Happy New Year and wishing you all the best for 2012

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jan 2011: Steven Reigns

1.As a writer, I find that writing about myself personally is challenging. Why did you decide to write an autobiographical book with you as the subject?

My first collection, Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat, was a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. After the book was published, the nonfictional elements began to feel a bit cheap to me. I kept hearing from readers how much the book affected them and heard stories they hadn’t disclosed to anyone else.
These experiences really shaped my idea of the type of work I want to create. Though an imagined reality can be as moving as real life events, I wanted to have my next collection focus only on my experience. Another interesting thing about Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat is that I refrained from talking about my parent’s abuse. I hadn’t noticed this until after the book came out. Holding onto family secrets was so ingrained in me that, though I was disclosing about my neighbor and being molested, I didn’t talk about how my parents treated me.

2.I want to know what you feel is both the limitations and the advantages of writing in prose/ least as it pertains to you?

I don’t feel limited by poetry. It suits my temperament. I don’t have the patience of a novelist. My writings for the past ten years have been autobiographical or based on true events. I don’t have a desire to enter into a fabricated or false world. Though I might not be patient, I’m highly attentive. This works as a writer and reader of poetry.
The biggest thing limiting poetry isn’t the form as much as it is the public’s perception of poetry. I think with more exposure, people would enjoy poetry more.

3.Why did you choose to use the real names in the book? -esp Debbie May.

I always get questions about my use of real events and sometimes not changing names. I tried to search for Debbie a few times over the years. Before the book went to print I sent out dozens of Facebook messages searching for her. I couldn’t find her and proceeded without permission. I’d like to think she would be okay with what is said about her in the poem. I think of it as an honoring. I wasn’t innocent, for quite awhile I was the one laughing with the kids who made fun of her. That changed for me the day I reference in the poem. I didn’t feel like I had the “social capital” to stick up for her. My fear was that I was on a par with her; the most hated, talked about, and teased girl in the school. What might feel like I’m dragging people’s real life into my book is really, for me, about my own life and growth.
The people are mentioned because they were a part of my life. I want to write the most emotionally and historically accurate poem I can about my life. I don’t intend on keeping someone else’s secrets but I wouldn’t write a slanderous poem either.

4.What sets your teaching apart from some of the other workshops and creative writing teachers?

I think I have a gift for articulating complexity simply. Mark Doty called my work “plainspoken.” This is accurate for my poetry but also for my teaching style. My teaching style does differ in that I use humor often and I’m forever telling analogies. Actually, I might be the kind of analogies: usually centered around baking, dating, driving, or gardening.
My enthusiasm for poetry and the writing process comes through as a teacher. I have faith in the page and process. I try hard to give that to my students.

5.How has being a teacher helped shaped your own writings?

Teaching has kept me connected with some of the basics of writing and being a writer. The advice I give my classes is the same advice I adhere to myself. It would be easy for me to continually stumble over words and expressions, taking hours to complete a first stanza. But instead, I remind myself what I tell my students, that the creative process and critical process should be separated. Get it out on the paper first, and later on you can reword, reorder, and edit.
Teaching hasn’t shaped my writing but it has shaped my life. I enjoy connecting people with information. Every time I teach a class I’m sharing something I deeply love. Teaching has enriched my life.

6. I love that you write autobiographical. I think it’s brave that you own your past and use it to teach and inspire. Because of you, am I inspired to write my second book of poetry. Any advice?

The first piece of advice I’d give for any writer is to write. So often our perfectionism or desire to “do it right” gets in the way of writing. Our judgment and concern for appropriateness is just another form of resistance. Make sure these don’t get in the way. If you want to write, start putting ink on the page.
Our lives are big and broad. Wanting to write an autobiographical collection may feel overwhelming. Start by writing what moves you, what you find interesting about you’ve experienced, felt, and witnessed. Remember those assignments in school where you had to write what you did on summer vacation? Give yourself such an assignment but designate years, a car you owned, or places you’ve lived. This doesn’t mean you create a collection of poems about your 1983 Honda Accord or about 1366 Solana Avenue; this assignment is designed to help you pull things from your past and reexamine them.

7.I completely agree with how you use Debbie’s name. I had a straight male friend recently who called me after the “It Gets Better” videos went public. He told me that when he was younger he had made fun of a gay kid when he was younger. He didn’t know how to contact him now, naturally, but he called to apologize to me saying I never realized the struggle that gay men and women have. I felt that there was power in his apology – as if perhaps he was apologizing for all those kids that had made fun of me somehow when I was growing up. It’s great that you use your writing as a way to bridge the past and the present. Do you use this when you teach? Share an analogy.

That’s a great story. I’m awed at how quickly the “It Gets Better” videos were created and circulated. I think that’s great but I also don’t want us to just give queer kids a PROMISE of a good future, I want them to have a tolerable present. I’ve taught writing in Middle Schools and to queer youth groups across the country. I was doing this over ten years ago because adolescence can be such a painful and awkward time. I really wanted to connect those youth to books that they could relate to and to the writing process.
Writing about our past automatically brings it into the present. Hopefully, we have gained perspective or insight that allows for enough emotional distance to write about it. Writing in the heat of the moment for me might feel good but it has never produced my favorite poems. As a teacher I’m interested in the experiential. It is okay for students to write about something that is emotionally urgent and possibly create a poem that will never get published. Getting out those emotions, at that time, might offer more of a sense of satisfaction than writing a prize winning poem. As a teacher, I’m happy they are connecting with writing and that they have found one of its uses. If one is only writing poetry to be published, then they have missed out on more than half of the experience. There’s a joy to writing, expressing ourselves, and finding a new narrative for old experiences.

8.What is next for you?

I still occasionally write autobiographically but most of my creative focus has been on a project of narrative poetry that does not involve me or my past experiences. I’ve been enjoying not writing about myself. There’s something about it that feels safer. My life isn’t up on a platter for people to know about or discuss. The joy of writing this new stuff just isn’t about not disclosing, I’m quite happy to have a different subject matter. Always writing about myself can be horribly boring. Only a handful of friends know what I’m working on. I’m keeping this one close to me and not revealing too much. This isn’t out of superstation but out of a desire to protect my vision for what I want. If people were to devalue the idea it would create more doubt. I also think that talking about a project can sometimes take the place of actually doing it.
9.What do you think of encouraging other writers?

Flannery O’Connor has a quote about her wish that more writers were stifled and recently Fran Lebovitz has said something similar. It’s hard for me to find the humor in it. I think published writers laugh at it in hopes it doesn’t apply to them. “If I laugh at this joke, no one will think it’s about me.” Maybe non-published writers laugh at it too. “See, my creative dream was foolish. I should leave writing to the others.” I don’t buy into the elitism that surrounds the literary world. Writers who don’t encourage other writers are self-hating or simply trying to narrow the competition. Why wouldn’t you want more and more people to share in one of your life’s loves. To me, it doesn’t matter that we’re all not going to play on the same court or in the same stadium. What maters is that we’re all participating in the craft and joy of writing. To stifle others is as ridiculous as Lebron James going to a neighborhood basketball court and telling the weekend players they should stop playing. It’s about the joy of doing it, not about where the doing it will lead you.

10.Have you experienced this kind of elitism?

Not recently. For my first book I had a publisher decline it and suggest I wait until I’m in my 40’s and “have something to really say.” That hurt and felt very dismissive. I was tenuous and kept trying to get it published. I’m glad I didn’t listen to her. That means I still wouldn’t have a book out! I’m not so sure what prompted her was elitism. She was an older lesbian and maybe she simply lacked interest in the stories I was telling.

For the most part, I’ve received extreme support from other writers. It’s nice to know that my poems have received such praise. It feels like a great pat on the back.

11.You’ve been busy this year with readings?

Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited numerous places. My book release party at Skylight Bookstore in Los Angeles was huge. Inheritance is listed as their 16th best selling book for 2010. It’s the only poetry book on their top list of 25 and it beat out these great writers like Brett Easton Ellis and Juno Diaz. I was awed after reading of my place on the list. I was sponsored by Poets & Writers grant to read at The Atlanta Queer Literary Festival. It was a great event where I shared the stage with one of my favorite poets Collin Kelly. I’ve also read at Saints & Sinners in New Orleans, Different Light in San Francisco, and numerous venues in Los Angeles. I recently read at Antioch University for a talk on Gay Male Identity. I enjoyed discussing how my gay identity inhabits the work and what it means to me to be a gay poet.

12.Are you pleased with the good reception Inheritance has received?

I’m thrilled. It has really been the best case scenario. It’s received many great reviews and I get emails from readers living in towns I’ve never heard of. To me it proves that poetry isn’t dead, this has gotten more praise and attention than some fiction books. I also love the lasting quality of a book. 2010 won’t be its only life. I’ve discovered books long after their initial publication and the late introduction never takes away from the power of the book. I’m in hopes readers find Inheritance for years to come.

13.Do you see yourself as a writer or a teacher?

I don’t think I could have become a teacher without being a writer. One of the best gifts I can give my students is my own experience. I know writing, I know the process, I know how to generate good ideas, stifle critical voices, mix up forms, and I deeply trust the process. I’m an experienced tour guide through the terrain of finding your voice and style.

14.How can someone take one of your classes?

I don’t have any classes to the general public scheduled yet for 2011. The best thing to do is keep checking my website for announcements. I’ll be teaching a workshop for GLBT Seniors starting in February and later in the year a workshop for people living with HIV. I’m sure there might be something for National Poetry Month.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jan 2010: Jeffrey Reddick

1) What is the biggest challenge you feel that writers face today?

A) I think the biggest challenge for writers is being at the mercy of an industry run by people who are more focused on the bottom line than creativity. Personally, I think you can write a great film that’s also commercially successful. But the current development process is geared towards making scripts as safe and mainstream as possible. I come from a studio background, having worked at New Line Cinema for over 10 years. And there was a real maverick spirit there back in the day. They weren’t afraid to try new things. But a lot of executives are so afraid of greenlighting a film that fails, that they hire a stream of writers to rewrite the script to death and resort to formulas that appeal to the lowest common denominator. They’ll “dumb down” a script in the name of mass appeal. Or do remakes over original content because it feels safer.

But on the bright side, with the advent of the digital age, it’s a lot easier for writers to get their scripts produced outside of the studio system and find an audience.

2) What has been one of your biggest challenges specifically?

A) My biggest challenge stems from the first question. It’s trying to find that fine line between creativity and commerce. But in regards to a particular project, it was probably writing the remake of “Day of The Dead.” That was a situation where I took the job, fully intending to make a film that appealed to the fans of the original film and brought the story into modern times. But after I was hired, it became clear that they didn’t want to make that movie. So, it was a constant struggle to keep in the themes, characters and set pieces that I knew the fans of the original would want to see. In the end, I lost that fight. Writers just don’t have the clout in the film world that they have in television. I say that was my biggest personal challenge, because it was just about me, but the fans of Romero’s original film. I’m a lifelong horror geek and I knew touching a George Romero film was a risky gamble. But I sincerely thought we could make a film that was reverent to the original and introduce a new audience his classic. And when we didn’t achieve that, I felt like I let down the fans.

3) Where do you find your inspiration to write?

A) My inspiration comes from having a story that I want to tell. The thing I love about the horror genre is that you can touch on so many universal themes and affect people on a primal level. I love scaring people, but I also try and layer in elements to make them think. (I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious.) With “Final Destination” it was the fear of death. With “Tamara” it was a female-empowerment, revenge-of-the-geek story. My latest script deals with the consequences of not helping your fellow man…or woman.

4) What current projects are you working on?

A) I’ve got several projects I’m really excited about. The first is a supernatural TV series I created with a dear friend, David Sporn. Gale Anne Hurd is producing it. She created “The Terminator” with James Cameron and produced it, along with “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “Tremors” and many other great genre films. So having Gale involved is amazing. I’m also putting the finishing touches on a new script that’s part thriller/part supernatural horror. And I’m close to locking in the financing for my directorial debut.

5) Is horror your favorite genre?

A) Horror is hands down my favorite genre. I started watching horror films when I was a wee lad. In the beginning, it was all about the gore. But over time, I began to appreciate the fact that you could scare people on a much deeper level. My friends, who write comedies, love to hear the audience laugh during their films. I love to hear them gasp and scream.

6) You, of course, are mostly known for the Final Destination franchise. Have your tried writing anything else besides horror?

A) I’ve written one thriller and I had a spooky animated series optioned by The Cartoon Network. Most of my stuff has been horror films or thrillers. But I’ve got a cool sci-fi project I want to tackle someday. And at some point, I’d like to write a comedy. I don’t know how it’ll turn out, but some of my friends say I’m funny. But I think they may just be humoring me.

7) What is your ideal writing sanctuary?

A) I usually write at home or at a coffee shop. Writing is a very solitary thing. I find that if I write at home too much, I start getting stir crazy because I’m not interacting with people. I like the coffee shop, because it’s such a cliché.  Seriously though, I have a lot of friends there, so I can get my social interaction and not feel like such a hermit.

8)Do you think that being openly gay affects your writing?

A) Every facet of who we are, and what we’ve been through, influences our writing. I think one thing about my scripts, which isn’t standard for horror films, is that I like to write strong female characters. And I don’t do it in any kind of fetish way, where the girls are dressed slutty, kissing other girls and then kicking ass. I think that’s more of a straight male fantasy of a tough chick. I’ve always respected the strength of women, mainly because my mom is one tough, Southern broad. And I never write stereotypical gay characters. For decades, gay caricitures in horror films have been set up as the brunt of easy jokes, or as someone that the male lead can recoil from in order to assert his straightness. So, I’m mindful of that.

9) What are your goals/aspirations?

A) My current goals are to set up the TV series and direct my first feature. But in the long run, I would love to be in a position where I can produce and finance films. I’ve seen too many great scripts go unmade…or worse, get turned in to crappy movies.

10) What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters and/or filmmakers?

A) The thing I constantly tell writers is do is write. It sounds obvious, but that’s the one thing you have control over. It’s also the only way to grow as artists. All my stuff isn’t gold…but over the years, I have evolved and hopefully gotten better with each script. And one last piece of advice, which applies to writers and filmmakers, is to try and finance your projects independently. The independent route is the best chance you’ll have to see your script, or film, get made right. Studios will market test and second guess the script…changing it at the whim of a director, producer, actor or test group. With all of the advances in digital, it’s gotten affordable to make your own film. That way you can have a product you’re proud of and a calling card to get more work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Genius is Next to Insanity

So a few nights ago my friend Tony Sago invited me to an advanced screening of Sherlock Holmes with a Q&A afterwards with Robert Downey Jr. This is one of the many "perks" of living in LA and working in the film industry. But as a writer it is also extremely advantageous because it allowed me a small glimpse at an actor, who I believe to be an utter genius on screen.

Now that is a huge statement to make and I know that there are people who will both agree and disagree with me but, to me, it really is hard to deny his talent. Just for the record, I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. My mother introduced me to the stories when I was kid. I'm actually half way through the second book of collected stories (which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't read them.)

I found the movie amazing. I really did. It was funny, clever, well performed, and beautifully shot. It is one of my favorite films thus far for 2009. However, afterwards, was where the real inspiration for me happened: the interview with Robert Downy Jr. Now, I won't say that it was life altering or anything like that. But I did find it inspiring in many ways. None of us are strangers to his past. His drug and alcohol abuse, the arrests. It was hard to see someone we loved on screen for so many years fall so low. But he did the unthinkable...he recovered, became sober, and began acting again and came back with such force. It was like he needed that period of his life to regain confidance or, perhaps, a better perspective on life.

Listening to Robert talk the other night was one of the few moments in life that I will always treasure. He was very witty, charming, and most engaging. He literally took over the interview with fun stories and quips of being on the set while filming the movie, what it took to prepare, how he got the role. There is no doubt that Robert Downey, Jr is zany in real life. It may possibly explain why is presence on screen is so larger than life. And I've just often wondered if Genius is next to insanity.

I suppose that could be so. I mean, look at the late Michael Jackson. He was in scandal after scandal after scandal. Near the end it seemed as if he had become just a caricature of himself. He lived an extravagant life; living in a mansion that he had turned into an amusement park. Strange as it was, we as fans were always intrigued by the way he lived his life. It was, dare I say, almost surreal. But his music, it seemed to speak to so many across the globe. There isn't a Michael Jackson song that no one doesn't know. He was an icon who had reason beyond the stratosphere when he died.

I suppose that you can still be extremely creative as an artist and NOT have to be insane. In fact, I know that you can. But I wonder if there is a fine line between the two and I wonder just exactly how they both truly affect one another.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May '09: Daniel Frank

1) What is the biggest challenge facing writers/bloggers today?
I have talked to a few people regarding their blogs and how they got them started. I would say if you are just getting started writing/blogging the biggest challenge is finding your voice. Your voice is that one hook or angle that makes your writing different and unique.

2) What has been one of your biggest challenges?
My blog is about my experiences in the entertainment industry. Often I have found myself attending the same event every month. When I choose to cover an event multiple times, I find one of the biggest challenges is finding a way to make the repeated event interesting without repeating the same experiences each time. Another challenge is actually being able to go to those events; let's face it, blogging doesn't exactly pay well and living in Orange County instead of LA doesn't too much either.

3) Where do you find your inspiration to write?
This is a somewhat difficult question as my blog is about my experiences in the entertainment industry, usually the stories write themselves. For other things I have written or help create, I find inspiration in isolation or dreams; basically any activity which allows my mind to wander.

4) What current projects are you working on?
In addition to my blog, Hollywood Nobody, I am currently writing two screen plays. Both deal with the same concept or belief of soul mates, but each deals with this idea in different ways. Another project I am working on is tentatively called, "Elementals" which is about a group of genetically altered GAY superheroes; perhaps you know my partner on this project, his name is Michael Coulombe? Currently this project is still in development. In addition to writing, I am also passionate about acting. I can currently be seen in Nick Wauters short film, "Neurotica," which is not a porno. If you go to LOGO Online you can currently watch "Neurotica" as part of the CLICK LIST - BEST IN SHORT PROGRAM. Another project I worked on as an actor, which has recently been released is the Henri Charr feature, "The Border." Unfortunately my footage was cut from the film, but I had an amazing experience working on that film. The third project I can be seen in is the upcoming directorial debut of Chris Fishel, "Chronicles of a Lonely Mind." In addition to those three films, I will begin work on a fourth film, "The Purpose of Apples," shortly.

5) What is the best benefit of journaling in a blog?
I think the appropriate answer would be the ability to look back on an amazing journey and see how I have grown as an artist and individual, but that's kind of a bullshit answer. For me the best benefit is hearing from the readers that they enjoyed what I wrote. Nothing gives me a bigger high then to know that someone enjoys what I am doing. It nice to know that I am doing this for the amusement of other people and not just to fulfill some innate narcissism

6) Have your tried writing anything else?
Yes I have tried writing poems, and song lyrics, but found that I am not that great at writing those. Again that goes back to finding your voice. I also have been working on a few screen plays, but those take forever to write so it's hard for me to remain focused on it for too something shiny!!!

7) What is your ideal writing sanctuary?
Normally I do a lot of writing in my bedroom sitting in an uncomfortable office chair with an armrest that continuously pinches my arm because it is slowly falling apart. Other than that I like to go to The Library in Long Beach. It reminds me of the Gay and/or trendy coffee houses back home in Minneapolis; Vera's, Uncommon Grounds, and Café Weird (God rest her soul). By the way I fully expect free drinks from each of those places for the plug.

8)Do you think that being openly gay affects your writing?
Definitely, but not necessarily in a negative way. Being gay myself, I have found that those are the stories that I am interested in hearing, seeing, and writing. I have recently begun to create an idea for a screen play that features a heterosexual lead; however, it's a female with a gay best friend. Hey you know what they say, "write what you know."

9) What are your goals/aspirations?
My current passion is mostly in acting; however my biggest goal, regardless of the medium I use to accomplish it, is to be a positive role model for LGBT people across the nation. I know that's a tall order, but I believe it is an important goal to have. The more positive role models our community has the more we will ourselves accepted for who we truly are. I am tired of reading in the newspaper (or more appropriately on Facebook and The Smoking Cocktail) about 11 year old boys killing themselves because their classmates made them feel like they were worthless and had no other options; there are always other options.

10) How does being an actor affect your writing?
In terms of my blog, if I wasn't for my experience as an actor, the blog itself wouldn't exist. Or it would be about something else. Most likely me being bitchy about random meaningless things. Lets be honest, bitchy is my thing. In terms of writing or creating screen plays, If I am working on an incredibly difficult scene and am struggling with dialogue, I have found that the ability to imagine myself in that scene and/or act it out can help me create better dialogue or even take the scene in a completely different direction then I had previously imagined

Daniel Frank

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poor Man Copyright

So I am struck with brilliance and I sit down to compose my masterpiece to paper (or sometimes to my computer). I know it isn't complete and there will still be many changes but I want to protect my work without having to constantly copyright it, since that can be costly. So, I put the newly written piece into an envelope and I mail it to myself so if I ever to dispute it being stolen I have a dated piece of material dated by a Federal institution: the post office!

Well that is no longer the case. According to the film production law blog a 'poor man's copyright" is a poor solution for copyright protection.'

Check out the article here:

Film Production Law Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unlikely of Places

One thing I've learned as a writer is that talent can come from the most unlikely of places. It works a lot like inspiration in that way. On April 11, 2009 Susan Boyle stepped onto the stage of the UK hit show "Britians Got Talent." She is a plain, unassuming woman who is nearly 48 years old. She is unemployed and, as she says when they talked to her, a woman who has never been kissed. She is the kind of woman that people snicker at, evidenced by the audiences reaction to her as she stood there introducing herself.

She started singing at the age of 12 and it was her life long ambition to sing to a live crowd and on April 11, 2009 she finally had her chance. She walked out there, nervous and with a cheeky grin and told the audience "I'll be singing 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables." The audience was ready to hear warbling half hit notes and the crooning of a woman who had only convinced herself she had talent. What she did though was to win over an entire nation in less than four minutes.

She is endearing, to say the least. I admire anyone who never gives up on their dream. She knew she had nothing to lose and decided, even at the age of 47, to risk everything and give it a chance. To me, that's inspiration. To me, that's a true artist. If anything, we can learn that if you 'dream a dream' then it's never too late to reach for the stars!

Here she is:

Susan Boyle