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All my journals...

This is only a smattering of all the journals I have written. When I was traveling overseas and teaching in Kenya for three years, I kept journals. Before that, in college, I sketched in my journals when I was bored, on trains and buses, when waiting in airports. 

It started in high school - I went to a boarding school for my last two years. A friend there, who'd lived in England and was an excellent writer, enlightened me, She said, "You don't have to write in a diary everyday, or only write about what happened that day etc. You can just write whatever you want!" Wow, I thought, and took a gold rimmed journal that I'd gotten as a present for my Bat Mitzvah and just started writing and drawing whatever and whenever.

I wrote dreams and thoughts, wishes and hopes. All my feelings went into those books. And I didn't have to say what happened that day, if I didn't want to. I had total permission to be myself inside those pages. 

I also used them to write "just for fun." 
Fun writing exercises involved just describing a scene I was witnessing somewhere -- for example, on the New York subway, Or I would draw the face of  a person on the subway. The writing I did sometimes became stories later. Occasionally a character would pop in my head and I would write a character sketch.

For a long time, I felt like the journals were not my most brave expression of myself. That they were a way to hide, to not get published, to evade the public eye, to be private. Perhaps I feared I would always stay a "closeted" writer,  But it was not meant to be. 

The journals were warm ups and continue to be. I still keep a joural nearby -- to write down thoughts, feeling, memories and dreams. 

I urge everyone who is writing and wants to write to keep a journal and share your journal stories here? How old were you when you began writing? Was it in the form of a diary or journal? What are the dangers of journaling --are there any?



Write your story and use your voice. 
Be yourself. 
This will make your story special. 
Dig deep and communicate.
Don't pontificate endlessly. 
Speak from your gut.
Think of not just what you feel you wish to share, but what you must share, because you feel it will be of value to others.
Help build a better world with your voice.



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 --