If you’re a subscriber to Audible, (or you just can’t get enough of my voice in your head) you might want to check out my 80s music and movies themed novel Love on the Big Screen as an audio book. I’m the reader and my voice is just now recovering in time for the start of the semester. By the way, I do some light singing in one scene.
It’s tough to get the word out about this audio book, and so if you think some of your friends subscribe to Audible, I hope you’ll consider sharing this post.
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Click on the Audible icon or here to listen to me read the opening.
If you don’t know the novel, here’s a little about Love on the Big Screen:
You’ll meet Zuke. He’s a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. The story is set at a fictionalized version of Olivet Nazarene University and while creating the story, I reflected on my own romantic life and special obsession for films such as Say Anything and Sixteen Candles. My adaptation of this novel won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
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Working from notes I’m going to use for a panel at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, during this podcast I talk about how I learned to write, how I try to teach writing, and how a person might be able to get something going when it comes to the business of writing, screenplays, and film.
In the podcast, I expand on the following notes.
First, how did I learn to write?
- I learned to read like a writer in an MFA program focusing on fiction. Texts can be your best teachers.
- I read and write a lot.
- I finish stuff and I send it out.
- The lessons in the stack. For example, I’ve read a lot of literary journal submissions, lit agency submissions, and stacks of student writing. The stacks show me what’s being done and what I might do that’s interesting with those stacks of ideas. The opening films of the festival are another kind of stack.
How do I try to help students write?
- by creating writing territories
- through experiencing an audience of each other
- by providing examples of many writers have a different process for how they finish their work
Some Favorite scripts:
- Diablo Cody’s Juno: her transitions
- Tarantino’s InGlorious Basterds: there is the fact that he is writing for himself, but I could see that you can just do it like you want. I can envision something on the screen and just write it so that it makes sense to the reader. Doesn’t matter if it’s unconventional. That, in fact, might be a strength.
What was the result of winning the festival prize?
- a bit of credibility at the festival, lots of little bits can add up to something substantial
- the lesson of the films I wouldn’t have seen (back to the lessons of the stack)
- the impulse to make my own short film which then accidentally became a feature documentary that will screen at the Phenom Film Festival in Louisiana
- Good talks with Elfar Adalsteins who did the short film Sailcloth
- That I won the film festival and was trying to make a film meant that I met more “like” minded people who may eventually be a part of future projects that we do together.
- Last week I met William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg from Moonbot. Their Lessmore won an Academy Award. Their company is in Shreveport. I first became acquainted with their film because I was in Rhode Island connected to the prize. So my script Love on the Big Screen isn’t a film, but a lot else has happened that’s been fun and intellectually stimulating.
Some Books that helped me write or think about filmmaking:
- Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 (practical how to that got me started)
- How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets of a Sundance Programmer by Roberta Munroe
- The Hollywood Economist by Edward Epstein
- The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide: A Down & Dirty DV Production, by Anthony Artis
- Stephen King’s On Writing
- Donald Murray’s Write to Learn
Two Podcasts I like:
- KCRW, The Business. Filmmakers are common guests and they explain how they get their work done.
- “Here’s the Thing” with Alec Baldwin. Guests include Lorne Michaels, Michael Douglass, and Jon Luvitz
- The Creative Penn: just got turned on to this one. Some interesting stories from writers and how they’ve marketed their books.
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An Important Book to Me: Donald Murray's Write to Learn
Let me start by giving the writer and teacher Donald Murray props for introducing me to the Daybook in his fantastic research for writing and teaching, Write to Learn. Along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Murray’s book was a text that caused me to think being a writer was something I could actually accomplish. For me, the daybook (think black and white Mead composition notebook) is something I use day-to-day in my life and entice (force?) my students to use during the length of the time we work together. What I love about the daybook is that it enables me to capture many of the intellectual seeds that would otherwise drift into my thinking and then go scattering off into oblivion.
I’m sure a lot of ideas still come and go, but with the daybook, I’m able snag at least a couple and jot them down for later use. Many of my ideas (especially for teaching, writing, and reading) come while I’m working on something else: I’m reading student work and I’ve got an idea for next semester or something I need to share with the class. I’m reading a story and I have an idea for a story of my own or a lesson for class or something I want to tell my wife. Pre-daybook, the idea would come and go and be forgotten. With the daybook, it’s down on paper fastened to a place where I can come back to it and take action.
Remember Knox Overstreet's poem to Chris?
As for Love on the Big Screen and Murray’s daybook, one day while writing with my students, I wrote the following sentence: “Everything Zuke knew about love he got from the movies.” That was the seed that led to Love on the Big Screen. Of course there is a lot of me in this book, but it became an act of the imagination as soon as I accepted the mental premise that Zuke did things because of movies he’d seen. That became a hook that might sell a book and something that would be a great pleasure for me to write. I’m thinking of two immediate reasons: (A) I could revisit all those movies I loved as a teenager and (B) once I made the decision to set it at a fictionalized Olivet Nazarene, I got to use my college experiences as an imaginative catalyst for a plot and characters that caused me to recall many moments I’d long forgotten. The moments go through a sort of truth to fiction converter once I give them to Zuke’s story and the controlling premise that he does things because of the movies he’s seen. For myself, back when I was making lots of love mistakes, I certainly had an overly romanticized view of love (who doesn’t?) and I was unconscious of all the influences (media and others) that had helped shaped my romantic paradigm. In fact, it wasn’t until I wrote the book that I realized what a number films such as Say Anything, Dead Poets Society, Sixteen Candles, and When Harry Met Sally did to my expectations for romance.
Saturday, February 26 Storrs, Connecticut. Saturday Seminar with the Connecticut Writing Project on Research Writing.
Tuesday, March 1 Kankakee, Illinois. Reading at Olivet Nazarene University. 7:00
Tuesday, March 8 Logansport, Indiana. Author Reading at the Nest. 11:00.
Saturday, March 5. Winamac, Indiana. Author Reading at the Town Library. 1:00.
Saturday, March 12. Fort Wayne, Indiana. Book signing at Firefly Coffee Shop. 10:00.
Saturday, March 26. Montclair State New Jersey. New Jersey Council For Teachers of English. Presentation.
Friday, May 13-15. Jefferson, Texas. The Fred McKenzie Storytelling Book Festival