Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Vermont Playwrights Award

Here's an endorsement for Peter Miller's book (review below). Last year when I first flipped through Author!Screenwriter! he got me thinking about being a turn-coat. I knew I wasn't ready to write a screenplay, but maybe I could cross over to the stage. With that in mind I adapted WOLF into two plays and submitted the first for the Vermont Playwrights Award. ThenI did what we writers do best, well, after writing...

I waited.

This morning I got the call.

"Is this Eben? Good news. You won."

Thank you, Vermont's Valley Players of Waitsfield. I look forward to meeting you all at the upcoming production of Cemetery Club and again at the 6/10th Board Meeting. (Mind if I bring champagne?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Applause for Author!Screenwriter!

Foolishly I put off reading this book too long. Read this review and then click your way over to Amazon to order. (When you're ready to send a query to Peter Miller's Agency, mention you've read his book. Every writer appreciates acknowledgement!)

How's a Writer Like an Ex-con?
By Eben Reilly

When David, a felon twice convicted, approached me, he looked embarrassed. “Before this class I didn’t know what a resume was.” “Well,” I said, “You don’t know what you don’t know until somebody who does know, tells you.”
Then I read Author!Screenwriter! by Peter Miller, and like my ex-con student I felt humbled by what I hadn’t known, but grateful for the inside information that just might get me as a writer off the streets. Having written children literature for over ten years, freelancing stories, poems and publishing two YA novels with a quirky, independent British publisher, I thought I knew about being a writer: but you don’t know, what you don’t know until somebody who does know tells you.
And Peter Miller knows. The President of PMA Literary and Film Management, Inc. and Literary Lion, Inc, Peter has successfully managed over 1,000 books worldwide, including eleven New York Times bestsellers, and hundreds of film and television properties. Despite the stress on his agency that receives over 300 queries a week, a business that spans the desks of film producers in Los Angeles and publishers in New York City, a bridge he’s helped many authors cross, Peter Miller has time, interest and enthusiasm for writers.
Besides being informative Author!Screenwriter! reads well. Not one of these pedantic authors who list the do’s and don’ts of publishing like a guide to professional etiquette, Peter has great stories to tell to back up his advice.
Before reading his savvy guide on “How to Succeed as a Writer in New York and Hollywood”, I had never heard of an elevator pitch. That’s a description so brief and so compelling that if fate has been kind enough to toss you into an elevator with an editor or agent of note, you’ve sold them on your book by the time the doors part on the ground floor.
An elevator pitch sold Peter on the Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo. Mario cornered him on the way upstairs at a Rocky Mountain Writers Conference in Colorado with a pitch so convincing that within three weeks Peter had the manuscript on his desk in New York City, and within another week he brokered a three book deal with Harper Collins.
Not all of Peter’s stories, however, are fairy tales.
Another new concept for me was the literary auction. That’s when an agent designates a date and a time for the end of the sale of a manuscript. Peter submitted a manuscript to 14 publishers to respond in two weeks with a ground floor offer of 50,000. There were no offers. But another lesson to be learned at the hand of the master: tenacity pays. The author went back, fine-tuned the manuscript, and Peter found the right match for the book with a British based publisher.
Similarly, each section of Author!Screenwriter! : Get Published; Get Produced and Proposals That Get the Deal Done offers writers not more stagnant advice, but direction. A knowing guide Peter invites writers to cross a bridge: for prose writers to think about screenplays and for screenplay writers to think in prose. And like a knowing guide, Peter gives the information that will help you look less like a greenhorn and more like a seasoned professional when you get there.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

On True Blue, Chagall, Vigo Mortensen and the Significance of Odd Encounters

As a child I squeezed out a dab of oil paint from a tube of cobalt blue: it glistened, and I cried. That dab of blue, so unexpectedly beautiful in the palm of my hand, still remains in my mind as a touchstone for every other blue: a length of fabric, a swathe of sky, the pinpoint petals of those tiny blue wildflowers at the swampy edge of Lake Bomoseen. (Once I looked up their Latin name, but I can't recall it now-- only that fragile, vivid blue.)

But no blue has ever seemed to be true blue since that encounter with that dab of a paint.
(Except the paintings of Chagall with his levitating lovers and livestock. In Chagall I've seen true blue. )

Like those paintings I love the oddly unreal encounters or near encouters that happen (or did they?) in life.

Recently Teddy, my djembe skinning son, got a sewing machine. He is a man who moves through media. At nine he was obsessed with cutting and welding steel, at ten sheep and cow skins--we actually bought one from a slaughter house for $20 which ended up festering on a rooftop. Recently he wanted something more easily acquired: fabric.

Then I remembered passing the fabric shop I used to go to as a girl with my mother-- four store fronts across and deep with a chaos of bolts of cottons, silks, courdoroys-- every conceviable kind. So I traveled over an hour by train with him and Momo back to that street in Brooklyn-- only to learn from a passerby that it had been closed for years.

I didn't believe him.

I had seen it.

I had seen it from a car one night as we drove down that street returning from a ride to Shore Road-- but in fact I hadn't.

Or had I?

Once as a boy my brother a Tom, a painter, told a nun at St.Ephrem school that ships had sailed in and were docked at the 69th Street Pier. Now because no ships docked at the rickety 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge, strong enough only to secure the crab catch cages that local fisherman moored to its rickety pilings, the nun told my dad, and my dad grilled Tom for lying. Finally he caved in and said he had lied just to end the interrogation. But even as a man he told me that as a boy he felt certain the ships had arrived.

Odd encounters intrigue me as well.

A few weeks back I woke and recalled I had brushed up against Vigo Mortensen, the actor. I figured it was really a dream about Dr. Berryhill, our family doctor in Vermont who bares a striking resemblance to Vigo-- and the dream was probably my unconcious warning me to get health insurance.

Okay, a mundane scrap of a dream.

But two days later Teddy told me that Vigo had visited the shop of Mgbana, where he skins drums, to drop off his own son's djembe.

And then a few weeks later when his son returned to pick up the djembe, Teddy handed him
WOLF and said, "My mom's a writer."

And it's that odd encounter of my son Teddy with Vigo's son that I'm enjoying thinking about.
Primarly because Teddy thought highly enough of my talent to say to the son of a great artist--
"My mom's a writer."

That odd encounter and Teddy's endorsement of my talent, has me glowing today. I'm not big on Mother's Day-- too many are nursing dying children who could be fed and cared for by a fraction of the cost of our current wars-- but that odd encounter and Teddy's words really are a great gift.

Too all my friends with kids, male and female moms: Enjoy the day!