Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

My Experience with a Writers' Group

Image by Oli Lynch via Pixabay

Spoiler alert: it's fantastic! 

Fear of looking foolish, and the misguided notion that I should be self-sufficient, but mostly fear, stopped me from seeking out and joining a support group. I am also a bit shy, so it was hard to embrace the concept of joining something established where everyone knew each other.

Enter the brilliant networking and advocacy group Women in Media, which I thoroughly recommend for any woman/woman identifying person working at any level in film or television. They inaugurated a writers' program last year, just in time for the pandemic, and created a system of writer's groups. 

Here's what was neat about it - they assigned us to brand new groups of mostly strangers (in my case all strangers) taking all the hard work out of it. We then determined our goals for the group, worked out our own schedule of meeting, style of group, and the focus. I feel like our group captured lighting in a bottle. I love these women, who all have unique and beautiful points of view. A couple of folks had different preferences, but now we have settled into a routine, embraced the occasional new member, and helped each other to all kinds of writing successes. 

For me, I have been encouraged and inspired to rethink my middle grade novel, rework some aspects of my fractured fairy tale story, and to commit to making my short film. It really has been wonderful, to also feel that I have been of some use to others. Even just hearing my work read aloud by other people is valuable, let alone the golden feedback I have received. 

So my advice to new writers, of any kind, is to find and join a group - or start one. Here are some tips that I have gained from the experience of others and my own.

  • Aside from the practical considerations of time and schedule, set expectations from the start about what kind of projects you will discuss. We do mostly scripts, with some treatments (and I had my own novels that I was working on adapting to scripts.)
  • Plan the meeting structure. How many pages will you read each session? How many writers will you critique? How do you decide who goes first? Will you be reading aloud during the meeting, or reading in advance (or both)? Does the writer get to make remarks, rebut or ask questions, or are they more of a fly-on-the-wall? 
  • Embrace technology. We meet via Zoom, have a Google Drive designated for pre-loading the pieces, and have a private Facebook Group for general discussion of other matters. One person sends a group email with the reminder and the link (we meet every other week), which allows us to RSVP as well. So far we have cancelled altogether only once when it turned out that only two people were available that week. Honestly meeting via Zoom is something that I enjoy even without the lockdown. It's so much easier than getting in the car and going someplace - plus our members are all over the country. 
  • Set up a time in the future - either a date, or after a set number of meetings - to officially evaluate how things are going, and if you want to continue. In our case, so far, the idea of stopping makes us very sad. 
  • Allow a specified time for each discussion and consider adding a few minutes for other business or announcements at the end too. That works well for our group. 

Being part of a group has given me a kind of accountability that I value - you know that I also recommend a writing buddy, especially if you have a deadline. But it has also given me inspiration and what feel like a bunch of new friends. Like I said, we are all over , but I hope I can meet every one of these people and host them in my home at some point in the future. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Speaking at a Home Education Conference in May

 LIFE is Good Conference

I'm excited to be speaking once again at LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference, alongside my daughter, at the end of May. This year the conference has gone completely virtual - which will allow us to reach a worldwide audience. 

If you wish to learn about the homeschooling method and lifestyle known as Unschooling, from the point of view of parents and families who have been doing successfully for many years, this is a great conference. There will be speakers, Q&A and discussion sessions, and various entertaining virtual funshops. 

I will be speaking about our unschooling journey, and also presenting about first jobs and resumes. This is the writing that I will be thinking about for the next few weeks. As well, my daughter and will be doing a joint Q&A - something we have done before, and which people seem to enjoy.

So please check out the conference site if this sounds like an interesting event. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Latest updates including for Dervish Dust

I'm excited to tell you that we have moved into the next phase with the James Coburn biography, which is the final edit. The lovely people at Potomac Books have been utterly delightful and supportive.

We had some discussions about the possibility of changing the title, but we all agreed to keep Dervish Dust: The Life and Words of James Coburn - it really was what he wanted his memoirs to be called.

And, y'all the cover is going to be beautiful! An unusual image and really classy lettering and color choices. I will be doing a cover reveal soon, as well as announcing the new website for the book, where you will be able to sign up for pre-ordering news and what I hope will be some neat little gifts for the early purchasers. I will be showing some images that did not make it into the book on that new website, as well as some extra stories - so that will be fun for the fans. So far everyone who has read the book has been pleased overall. 

In other news, I am writing a short film script with the intention of directing it myself. I will be looking at starting pre-production by the end of the year, and will be spending the next few months putting together a team. The current working title is "Authorized Personnel Only" but don't get attached to that.

And finally the other ongoing writing projects I have are still Mermaid Lake rumbling along and working with my husband on his upcoming new textbook about Production Sound - Sound Mixing the Coburn Way. This book will not only teach people about recording sound for film, but also have some neat stories from sets and James' travels. 

About Photos and Images

In my naivete, I had no idea how tough and lengthy the process of securing permissions and licenses for photos would be. A writer is entirely at the mercy of other people's timelines. I tend to think that the Covid-19 pandemic added time too, as people were working from home, and some folks were furloughed leaving the ongoing workload to be taken on by fewer individuals. In the end we found a range of price points, and some very kind fans among both the photographers and studio licensing folk who gave us great deals, and have helped to make this book really fun. The easiest thing - working with photographers' agencies who have all the procedures in place, as well as the photos in high definition.

(The image on this post is one of Dad's last headshots - but it is not part of the book, which means I can use it here.)

It has been a learning experience about scanning quality - and more props to my daughter who knows how to do some of the graphics things like increasing image sizes for printing. Most of our images are in great condition and were able to be scanned at 600dpi - only some of the very oldest are damaged or blurry on the actual print that we have. But that sometimes adds to the authenticity of the family photo.

So the learning experience is don't leave this task until late, but start the process early, set aside some money in your budget for the purpose, and keep a good track of where you find images. Scan the backs as well if they have information on them, and remember to check your scanner settings. Lastly, it seems that publishers like TIFF files for images. Read your publisher's guidelines to confirm the sizes and settings required. You lose nothing by sending a higher definition image than the minimum. 

You will be able to buy this book very soon! Yay.