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I have been working on a treatment for a documentary about my relative Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios. It is a big job, but a rewarding one! I am becoming a producer, a filmmaker. In the end, I am sure there will be other producers on this film too...
Anyway, I was having a conversation with my husband, who is helping direct and giving great suggestions, and something I said about "Artists" caught his attention -- and he said:
"You should put that on your blog!" So I am. This is what I said:

Artists need to be connected to people in general and not remove themselves from society too much, because artists -- writers especially -- need to write about the feelings that all humans share. That is what connects us - our ability to feel hate, love, pride, joy, envy and ...passion. All humans love another human beings usually. All feel pride if there child succeeds etc. All feel sadness and lost and dispair when things don't go so well. ART helps. It helps people feel not-alone.

Great Art -- connects to people emotionally because it is about problems that the characters have. So "Go for the jugular!" as my friend who is a literary manager says. Of course, you don't want to be a vampire and manipulate people's emotions in an unrealistic way. At least, I am not in favor of that.

But as Judy Blum said at the 40th SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles: to paraphrase, "If it makes you excited or sad or happy when you are writing your story, others will feel this way too."

Back to my point about removing yourself from society: You may see stars living in mansions, but you don't know where they came from, how they began life. The time that I personally spent hanging out in city parks and talking to homeless people served me very well. And the time I spent travelling and just bumming around is the time I learned the most about people.

The more writers can show interesting, real characters, who triumph over difficult situations, the more they will inspire (and thus sell books!) And these characters come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, in all races, genders, sexual orientations, sizes, weights, heights, levels of intelligence, skin tones, religions, economic backgrounds, and political parties, and cultures.

The more kids grow up reading stories about The Other -- about someone different than them -- someone not as pretty, not as smart, not as fortunate -- the more they will want to grow up and help the build a better world. Because they will Empathize with others who are different from themselves.

What can you to your book to make it more unusual and reflective of society?



Ursula Le Guin Accepts Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle)The Other Wind (The Earthsea Cycle)

Changing Planes: StoriesThese are powerful words from Ursula Le Guin's acceptance speech at the National Book Awards last night in New York, where she won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

She was my favorite writers as a teen -- I read every fantasy book written for children, and gobbled her books up. They were for adults technically, but I didn't care.

She is as profound here as in any of her books:

"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom."

Here is a link to the whole article, New Yorker article.
Ursula K. Le Guin"We need writers who remember freedom."
Her message about profits is aimed at the Industry.
Maybe this is the genius of science fiction, it imagines a different world and doesn't just accept the one we live in as fact.

Thank you, Ursula, for saving me from my awkward, pre-teen years, when I wanted to escape to a different world, a different planet, where every one was equal and boys and girls could live in harmony.

This was so important to me then, and somehow your worlds gave me that much-needed sense of freedom.

Any one else want to ad a few words of praise for one of America's truly great writers?




Non Fiction Research Best Practices
What is non-fiction and why don't we consider it as exciting as fiction?
The world is a strange and wonderful place that needs to be written about, so that kids may learn about it.


The Hollywood Writer's Schmooze met in October to discuss Non-Fiction --
This is the LINK here:

Non-Fiction Writing Best Practices
1.   Wikopedia can be a staring point, but it is not a reliable source.

2. Get two references for every fact you state.

3. Keep track of all your sources. Note the page number, date and place of publication. Not to mention the author and title of the work.

4. Use primary sources wherever possible. These are letters or journals or newspaper articles from the time the events occurred. As opposed to secondary sources, which are already researched pieces.

5. When using primary material, read between the lines. Try to get a feeling for the tone and point of view of the writing itself, Is it an advertisement, a folksy letter or an official document? Does the author have an agenda? What is it? 

4.    Always seek to verify and keep in mind how reliable your source is. What is the agenda or purpose?
A flier designed to recruit people into the army has a specific purpose and portrays the army in a certain light.

Most writers of FICTION already know about POV (Point of View).
In non-fiction don't create, so much as discover your point of view.

5. Every piece of information you get may have a different point of view, but eventually you may be able to start classifying your information in some useful way that will enable you to start writing and showing the various sides of your story.

5.    If you are researching a person, try to get a feeling for who the person was. What was their personality? How do their actions illustrate their beliefs?

Non-fiction writer research works in a reverse way to fiction writing. We try to not see how the person's life SHOWS what we want to TELL.

When you touch on the theme of a person's life, you will find a thread to connect to audiences today...

6.    Do not be afraid to revise dramatically.

As you research, you may be surprised and find information you never anticipated finding. Let the facts guide you. Chose to highlight certain aspects over others, but do not change or alter the truth.

If you do, you have crossed over into fiction or historical fiction.

Good luck!!

There are many great non-fiction stories out there just waiting to be written.
I am working on a project of my own, which I will divulge soon.

Hope you found this article useful.

Please forward it to those you know writing non-fiction, or interested.

What kind of non-fiction do you think needs to be written?

Are you writing non-fiction?
Let me know about it, please . . . thanks!

And happy writing!!!


Street art with a message

Some interesting street art in Hollywood these days. This artist seems to be commenting on the new cell phone posture -- 


A Bit About My Movie Family History

Here's a link to a great article on our family history and the history of the LAEMMLE THEATERS for the 75th Anniversary.

Not only to I remember seeing ANNIE HALL for the first time at my Uncle Bob's Theater, but I remember also seeing the lesser known, Allegro Non Troppo, a wonderful Italian animated spoof of Disney's Fantasia.

here's a link to that too: Allegro Non Troppo



Soon to be released: THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm

NETGALLEY REVIEW: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The latest middle grade novel by three time Newberry winning author, Jennifer L. Holm.
Release date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Why this book is great: (from a middle grade reader's point of view)
  1. It helps you think about science.
  2. It helps you learn to respect older people, who may actually have a lot of wisdom about things that you never realized.
  3. It's set in Berkeley or the Bay Area, which is just a great area.
  4. There is a Halloween part that is funny.
  5. It helps you think about science (oh, yeah, I already said that)
  6. It tells you about some of the inventions in science during the last century.
  7. It even talks about the Atom Bomb, but not in a freaky way, in a good way (which is weird but an interesting surprise).
A review from my point of view for fellow writers and readers:
THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm tells the story of Ellie, an eleven year old who "has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then, one day..." (from the books intro) 
Now, I will continue in my own words:
A gawky, science-genius shows up in the form of a teen-ager, but it's really her grandfather, who has been living nearby, but with whom Ellie does not have a super-close relationship because her mother is a drama-type, works in a theater, and her dad's (though mostly out of the picture, except when he returns to fix the toilet) is a working, stage actor.
Her grandfather has always given his daughter (Ellie's mom) a hard time for not going into science. And considers drama for flakes. But this new scientific influence, is just what Ellie needs, since she isn't the showy-extraverted type anyway.
Without spoiling anything, let me just say, that this book is a fun, cute, heartwarming and educational, and NOT SAPPY. It rang true to me, because Berkeley -- or Bes-erk-ly, as we used to call it -- is a free-spirit sort-of-place, with hippies and artists running amok, but also some amazing science going on. (Think Livermore Labs etc) and sometimes the two do collide.
This middle grade novel is excellently written and structured, and worth studying for any writer of Middle Grade fiction. I loved the way realism is enhanced just a tad with the fantasy element of the grandfather-turned-young-again. Everything is handled in a contemporary style, so it rings true. Just a little twist on reality.  The characters are introduced well. And the short preface about the goldfish is just enough to give you a feel for the character's inner life, before heading into the story. 
The theme is fairly evident in the beginning – the challenge of a young person to take her older relative seriously for his amazing accomplishments. The book creates  somewhat suspenseful premise to keep you engaged and turning pages. I was hooked from the beginning because Ellie's voice is so genuine.
The story could have been a bit more suspenseful. It could have been more dramatic during the final conflict. But the change that the main character experiences is gradual, and does not really hinge on the climax. Though, it is really the grandfather that is forced to make a tough choice.
The question of belief and standing up for what you feel is right -- an age old theme -- does often does mark a transition from childhood to adulthood that may kids experience around the age of 11 or 12.  I hope young readers love this book as much as I did.
I highly recommend this book!!
Jennifer L. Holm is a three time Newberry Honor recipient, and a NY Times bestselling author.  
You can pre-order the book on Amazon. Let me know what YOU think. Write your own review in the comment section. Thanks.



how to write a synopsis

Step 1) Start with a Hook: this should be a paragraph or two similar to the blurb on the back of a book. Mood and tone are important. Use special adjectives, but don't over do them.

Step 2) Introduction of Characters: Introduce the main characters of your book. Tell their MOTIVATION, CONFLICT and GOALS. Stay away from detailed descriptions unless this information is pertinent to your story.

Step 3) Construct the Body of your Synopsis: Using paragraphs, write the high points of your story in chronological order. Keep the paragraphs tight with only important details. Each scene should include: ACTIION, REACTION and a DECISION.  

Example: Sam takes Jeremy's lunch box at recess. This makes Sam run after him, fall down and skin his knee. Sam decides he will always take a paper bag lunch that he can throw away from now on.

Step 4) Use 3 or 4 paragraphs to write the CRISIS and RESOLUTION of the Story. Keep this simple but make sure you show your main character's reactions. Don't keep editors/agents guessing. The synopsis must include the resolution to your story.

Step 5) Rewrite, revise and polish until each sentence flows and conveys the power of your story. Strong adjectives and verbs will help. Stay in present tense. Third person -- even if the story is told in 1st person.

Step 6) Take out any extra words.

Step 7) Read through to check that the character arc is there.

And good luck! Did I forget anything? Do you have anything to add?

Extra Note: The lengths of synopses can vary. (This is the proper plural, comes from Latin.) They can be anything from one page to three or four pages or more.

Stick to what ever you are asked for.
And keep all the versions.
You may need them!

Sign up to follow -- the post will be about writing from now on. I promise. Enough ramblin', this girl's gettin' down to business:)
(Thanks to Vivian Beck for an article that inspired this.)