COVID Summer Reading: Inspiration, Education, and Escapism

In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays

by Rebecca McClananan
(Now Write! Nonfiction contributor)
Red Hen Press (September 1, 2020)
A middle-aged couple leaves North Carolina to pursue a long-held desire: to live in New York City. As they struggle to find work and forge friendships in a city of strangers, Rebecca takes her mother’s advice to “make a home wherever you land.” She tracks the heartbeat of New York, finding in each face she meets the cumulative loss, joy, and stubborn resilience of a city that has claimed her for its own.

Racialism and the Media: Black Jesus, Black Twitter, and the First Black American President

by Venise Berry
(Now Write! Fiction contributor)
Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers (May, 2020)
In the 21st century, we need a more nuanced understanding of racial constructions and how the nature of racial ideology has changed in our society. Yes, there are still ugly racists who push uglier racism, but there are also popular constructions of race routinely woven into mediated images and messages. This book examines selected exemplars of racialism moving beyond traditional racism.

Also check out:

The A to Z of African American Cinema

by Steven Torriano Berry and Venise Berry
Scarecrow Press (September, 2009)
Covering everything from The Birth of a Nation to Crash, this book provides a deep understanding of the role African Americans play in film history, with loads of photos and hundreds of cross-referenced entries on actors, actresses, movies, producers, organizations, film credits and awards.

Shakespeare for Squirrels: A Novel

by Christopher Moore
(Now Write! Mysteries contributor)
William Morrow (May, 2020 – hardcover, Kindle and audio)
Shakespeare meets Dashiell Hammett in this hardboiled murder mystery take on the Bard’s most performed play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring Pocket, the hero of Fool and The Serpent of Venice, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff. A New York Times bestseller.

 

Wild Ride Home

by Christina Hemp
(Now Write! Nonfiction contributor)
Arcade (February, 2020)
The close-knit Hemp family believes beauty and humor outshine the most devastating circumstances, but when the author suffers a dangerous fiancé, her mother’s dementia, unexpected death and illness, a feisty little Arabian horse, with his own history to overcome, offers a chance to look back on her life and learn to trust herself (and others) again.

Burners – A Jack Daniels/Alex Chapa Mystery

by Henry Perez (Now Write! Mysteries contributor) and J.A. Konrath (June, 2019)
Jury duty is not how newspaper reporter Alex Chapa wants to spend his day. But when he learns Chicago Homicide cop Jacqueline Daniels will play a key role in the trial, his curiosity gets the better of him—with potentially lethal results.

 

 

Looking for some summer and Covid-19 escapism?

Hungry for Your Love: an anthology of Zombie Romance

Edited by Lori Perkins
Ravenous Romance (September, 2010)
Packed with Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror contributors (stories in order of appearance in Hungry For Your Love:)
“Romance Ain’t Dead” by Jeremy Wagner
“Eye of the Beholder” by Stacey Graham
“First Love Never Dies” by Jan Kozlowski
“Julia Brainchild” by Lois Gresh
“Kicking the Habit” by Steven Saus
“Some New Blood” by Vanessa Vaughn
“First Date” by Diana Fredsti

 

And for your self-care in these trying times – request a free color ePub version

Inner Yoga: 23 Simple Self-Care Tools for Peace, Healing, and Authentic Empowerment

by Laurie Lamson
(Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries co-editor/author; Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror editor/author)
JaZzyMaE Media (May, 2020)
A variety of simple tools collected and practiced over decades of research into the most effective ways to feel better.  With a little practice, these “quick fixes” can become habitual – healthy habits for the mind, body and spirit, bringing you more into alignment with the Real You. Soon you will be able to count on them as friends and allies on your journey through life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soulful Screenwriting: Empowering Interactive Workshop

Explore the soul of a screenplay and yourself as the writer:

Each Wednesday in September: 2, 9, 16, 23, & 30

4:30-6:30pm Pacific / 7:30-9:30pm Eastern

In this empowering 5-week interactive workshop, participants will receive a big running start toward beginning a project from scratch or rewriting a current screenplay effectively.
We’ll discuss crucial dramatic ingredients along with common screenwriting pitfalls and creative writing exercises and tools for solving them.
Each session includes one or two writing exercises culled from several of the Now Write! books to help you get out of your own way, get creative juices flowing, and benefit your screen stories.

This intimate workshop is a safe space to talk about your work – limited to 10 participants.

Quote from past participant, Lise Pyles, award-winning screenwriter and co-founder of San Antonio Screenwriters’ Guild:

“Your exercises have proven very helpful! It’s a good reminder to me, to keep taking workshops because there will always be new ways of looking at things. Thanks so much for a beneficial and thought-provoking workshop.”

Soulful Screenwriting was designed by Laurie Lamson, a produced award-winning screenwriter, screenplay consultant and author/editor of three Now Write! anthologies.

Eventbrite: $150 including fees
Venmo through Aug. 24: $135 – email for details

Guest Post by Pen Densham: Creative Person’s Survival Manual

Passion, Creativity and Success

A creative person’s survival manual

 (Excerpted from Pen Densham’s free eBook – link to download the whole book at the bottom.)
Our media business involves a zillion layers of invention, including every craft and art seen credited on those end-title crawls. Each credit connotes an innovator and creative problem-solver bringing his or her talent to bear in the creation of movie magic.

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Across the spectrum of vocations, whether you’re an actor, writer, director, inventor, chef, computer programmer, research scientist or, God help us, a weapons creator—we struggle with the process of bringing forth what has never existed through the mysterious process called creativity.
For many, this exploration toward the ultimate joy of accomplishment has a cost: anxiety!

FIRST RULE: IGNORE ALL RULES

I share these thoughts, aware of how ignorant I am of the true spectrum of your inspiration process. Which I consider pretty close to sacred. I want to dialogue “with” you and not at you. Please ignore everything here that goes against your instincts.They are usually right!
My observations come from the privilege of a longish career. A few wild, giant successes and many rejections (many!) Experiences that have given me the one thing I didn’t have when younger – “perspective”. I have discovered the scripts I’ve written from the heart have gotten them made more frequently than the projects the studios paid me to write. But, as an artist and businessman I have never been far from the pain of uncertainty, when attempting to make concrete what has flitted around inside my head.
images-1As a curious young documentary filmmaker, I explored some amazing game-changers in various fields. Like revolutionary Media Guru Marshall McLuhan, Master Magician and Psychic debunker The “Amazing” James Randi. Brilliant Canadian Architect Raymond Moriyama. Malcolm Bricklin, the car entrepreneur who built a gull-wing sports car before Delorean. Toller Cranston, the first international figure skater to perform his sport as Ballet on ice and not just muscular gymnastics – and my own mentor, Norman Jewison, who’s list of amazing films is humbling. People who have the habit of pushing beyond the limits in their fields.
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What did I learn? They have a universal sense to think freely and uniquely outside their current boxes, but it didn’t prevent stress and outside criticism. They cared so much about their goals that despite the negatives they headed where their guts told them. It was infectious. I don’t think of myself as particularly gifted… More a dreamer and not a great employee, but they made me feel that pursuing my own dreams was possible.

I HAVE NEVER ESCAPED STRESS

It comes from our imaginations trying to help us define the future – but without any compass for that untrod path. Stress is normal, it evolved alongside the imagination as a protective problem solving mechanism, igniting our body’s fight or flight system. A kind of psychic radar, bouncing negative things out and reflecting on how we might defend against them. But, when it is not attached to solving a real issue, it can bounce all over the place, unnerving us in the process.
UnknownI saw the world’s most renowned stress pioneer speak. The late Dr. Hans Selye. He stated that being mugged or experiencing a surprise birthday party can create an identical adrenaline rush. Heart rate increases. Tension tightens. Breathing speeds up. But, in the mugging, the effect is felt as fear and the birthday surprise, as joy. – “Anxiety” when it is in the service of something we value is embraced as “Excitement”.
Selye said, our adrenalin glands disturb us less when we are impassioned, pursuing goals that fascinate us. Even more strongly if we feel those goals benefit others!
Unknown-1Alternately, working on projects that are against my nature. (Maybe I sold out a little?) – Trying to cash in on someone else’s goal can be painful. I have done it as a writer.And it was like trying to pluck words out of my flesh. I didn’t like the end result and failed to have the incentive to fight for it.
When I am going in the direction my instincts support, the fear of failure is still there – but mitigated with the magical excitement of discovery.

The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.
-Edwin H. Land

Download your own free copy of Pen Densham’s Passion Creativity and Success: a Creative Person’s Survival Manual.

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF PEN DENSHAM’S 20 SECRETS FOR SUCCESS.

About Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror contributor: Pen Densham

PenDenshamPen Densham rode into the movies at age 4 on a live alligator and started a life-long love of cameras and story. Pen produces, writes, directs (2 Oscar Nominations and over 60 other awards.) He is partnered in the Trilogy Entertainment Group with John Watson – their breakthrough hit was ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, and they made 16 other features such as MOLL FLANDERS (which Pen wrote and directed), BACKDRAFT, TANK GIRL, HOUDINI and Trilogy’s 2013 feature, PHANTOM submarine thriller starring Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner. Pen also revived The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone series.

 

San Diego Film Week 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: San Diego Film Week 2020 has been cancelled for April and tentatively rescheduled for August, 2020.

Wishing everyone optimum health and wellbeing during this crisis, and always.

In times like these, exercising our creativity is more important than ever. It helps us remain both present and empowered. Art heals!


 

Now Write! is proud to be a conference partner of San Diego Film Week.

We are helping produce the writer’s conference on Saturday, April 25th. Visit sdfilmweek.com to learn more about it.

San Diego Film Week Dates: TBD

Here’s what we have to look forward to:

  •  Opening Night at The Lot Liberty Station

  •  Opening Weekend at AMC La Jolla

  • Whistlestop Bar, Digital Gym Cinema, Thorne Street Brewery Barrio Logan (tentative)

  • Landmark Hillcrest Cinema (tentative)

  • Closing Weekend at AMC La Jolla

  • San Diego Film Awards at the Parq Nightclub

Guest Post by Raymond Obstfeld: Poems That Move

I contributed to Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror with the exercise “When the World Turns to Shit, Why Should I Care? Character Arc in Dystopian Stories” (download here.)

I want to share a passion project: a poetry blog in which I analyze poems that have some meaning to me.

A completely useless project in the grand scheme, but I love it.

What is Poems That Move?

The goal is to introduce readers to an eclectic selection of poetry by offering some personal reactions and a line-by-line analysis that may or may not be accurate, insightful, helpful. It’s all very personal interpretations, with all the limitations that implies.​

Who Am I?

I’ve taught literature and creative writing at Orange Coast College since 1976. I’ve written over 50 published books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I’ve sold screenplays and a television show. I’ve written a graphic novel and was a writer on the reboot of Veronica Mars.
I love pop culture, which you’ll figure out soon enough through some of my eccentric notes on the poems.

How Did Poems That Move Come About?

Every other year since 1998, I have been taking a group of students to Cambridge University for a semester abroad program. During my 2016 trip, I found an anthology of poems, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry.
The collection featured a wide spectrum of famous people introducing a poem that particularly moved them. The people presenting these poems included professional writers like John Ashbery and Billy Collins as well as actors like Daniel Radcliffe and Patrick Stewart and director J.J. Abrams. I was instantly struck by how heartfelt each of their introductions was, so much so that it made me eager to read the poem.
The poems didn’t always live up to the hype. Part of the problem was that some of them had a personal connection to the poem—a context that made the poem have special meaning for them. Like Kane’s sled “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane, it’s just a sled until you get the context. Also, because many of the men selecting poems were older, a lot of the poems were about the detritus of aging: death, dying, loss of family and friends, aging, etc. So, while I very much liked most of the poems, I couldn’t read too many at once without my mood darkening considerably.
Nevertheless, I bought the companion book, Poems That Make Grown Women Cry, which had the same mix of famous people (from Joyce Carol Oates to Vanessa Redgrave to Yoko Ono.)
My experience was the same with this book: the personal introductions made me eager to read each poem and I came away with an appreciation for a whole group of poems I might not have even noticed before. Even though there were many poems I didn’t care for in both collections, I was still affected by the contributors’ candid descriptions of why those poems moved them to tears. Sometimes, those introductions were more memorable than the poems.
Because I found that experience so enriching, I wanted to make use of my many years as a literature teacher and writer to introduce readers to some poems they might not know and offer some ideas about some poems they do know.

How Are the Poems Selected?

Most of my life, I’ve focused my interest on contemporary poetry. That’s because when I was first starting out as a writer of poetry, I wanted to listen to the voices of people my age. I was under the arrogant impression that only these younger poets spoke my language, understood my emotions —indulgent crap like that.
The older I got, the more my appreciation for poets beyond my own time grew. Maybe because “my own time” was expanding at an alarming rate.
Now I am excited to hunker down with poems from before my birth because now I understand so much better how there is no “my own time” when it comes to humanity.
The poems in this blog are selected purely based on whimsy. First, I have to be moved by it on some level, have some sort of emotional reaction. Second, I have to believe that I have something to say about the poem, enough to do it some sort of justice. Some of the poems will be old, mostly within the last hundred years. Some will be contemporary.

Who Is the Audience?

I teach my creative writing students that they need to be aware of who their audience is when writing in order to maintain some consistency in tone, language, and thematic depth. When I sent my first entry (“The Cool Web”) to Bill McDonald, my former college professor and friend for 48 years, he reminded me that knowing my audience was key for the success of this blog. He was right, of course.
However, my secret power is that I’m not concerned with its success nor with being consistent. Originally, I imagined compiling an anthology of my favorite poems and short stories with hand-scrawled notes that I would pass along to my children, now 20 and 15, so that they would always have some part of me to share. Sappy, I know, but age tends to bring the sap to the bark’s surface. This blog is some sort of hybrid of that anthology for my children extended to include a larger though untargeted audience.
One of my favorite plays and movies is THE HISTORY BOYS, written by Alan Bennett. A particularly poignant scene takes place when a student (Timms) sits in a classroom with his teacher (Hector) and expresses his frustration with poetry.

TIMMS: Sir. I don’t always understand poetry.

HECTOR: You don’t always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you’ll understand it whenever.

TIMMS: I don’t see how we can understand it. Most of the stuff poetry’s about hasn’t happened to us yet.

HECTOR: But it will, Timms. It will. And then you will have the antidote ready! Grief. Happiness. Even when you’re dying. Smile! We’re making your deathbeds here, boys.

I’ve always loved that exchange because literature has been a guide to me throughout my life. It has been the antidote to maladies I didn’t see coming. I pull those works out of my mental filing cabinet and they have comforted and instructed me. I try to make students see that it can do the same for them.
The big idea is that we are all going to die, but when that time comes will it be a Good Death (we feel happy and content that we were the best person we could be) or a Bad Death (we are filled with regret at having never made those human connections) Poetry can be that third rail that powers us to the person we want to become.
It’s become something of a joke in my classes that whenever we discuss a particularly challenging poem or story about marriage, parenting, death, or other topics they find far away from their own experiences, I proclaim,

“I’m making your deathbeds here, class.”