How do you do it all... I don't. A lesson from Shonda Rhimes

05 October 2014

    I love my life. I have three TV shows at work and I have three daughters at home. And it’s all amazing, and I am truly happy. And people are constantly asking me, how do you do it?
    And usually, they have this sort of admiring and amazed tone.

    Shonda, how do you do it all?

    Like I’m full of magical magic and special wisdom-ness or something.

    How do you do it all?

    And I usually just smile and say like, “I’m really organized.” Or if I’m feeling slightly kindly, I say, “I have a lot of help.”

    And those things are true. But they also are not true.

    And this is the thing that I really want to say. To all of you. Not just to the women out there. Although this will matter to you women a great deal as you enter the work force and try to figure out how to juggle work and family. But it will also matter to the men, who I think increasingly are also trying to figure out how to juggle work and family. And frankly, if you aren’t trying to figure it out, men of Dartmouth, you should be. Fatherhood is being redefined at a lightning-fast rate. You do not want to be a dinosaur.

    So women and men of Dartmouth: As you try to figure out the impossible task of juggling work and family and you hear over and over and over again that you just need a lot of help or you just need to be organized or you just need to try just a little bit harder … as a very successful woman, a single mother of three, who constantly gets asked the question “How do you do it all?” For once I am going to answer that question with 100 percent honesty here for you now. Because it’s just us. Because it’s our fireside chat. Because somebody has to tell you the truth.

    Shonda, how do you do it all?

    The answer is this: I don’t.

    Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.

    If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

    Something is always missing.

    And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.

    – Excerpted from Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth College commencement address, June 8, 2014

10 Day Scriptwriting Challenge - July 19th - Aug 2nd

10 July 2014

I will have a finished script on August 2nd. How, you ask? I'm participating in a 10 Day Scriptwriting Challenge with some of my Blackboard writer friends. I think this is just the kick in the pants that I need to FINISH A SCRIPT!

The goal 10 pgs a day for 10 days on a script. Yes, it's like NaNoWriMo on crack and I'm up for the challenge. On the first day of the challenge I will make a post with my title and logline and then will check in on twitter every day after to post my progress with the hashtag, #10DayScript. Feel free to join in...IF YOU DARE.

Write Scenes & Get Free Screenwriting Classes from Scott Myers of Go Into the Story

20 June 2014

Scott Myers from the wonderful screenwriting blog, Go Into the Story, has a screenwriting mantra of, Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

In order to motivate you to write more pages he is offering the chance to "attend" one of his Core classes to those who participate in his Scene Writing Challenge.

To qualify to take one Core class for free, all you need to do is write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts. If you complete all twenty [20] Scene-Writing Challenge exercises, you get TWO Core classes for free.

Here's the deets:
  • Starts July 1 - July 28 (Mon - Fri)
  • Writing prompt will be on the blog at Noon EST.
  • Write a 2-3 page scene.
  • Copy and paste into comments.
  • Keep a running tally of your posts.
  • When you hit 10 daily scene-writing posts, you qualify for a free Core class of your choice.
  • Write all 20 posts, you get two free Core classes. 

For more info, visit the Go Into the Story blog.

Use the skills you learned from yesterday's post to create your scenes.

How to Write a Scene by John August

19 June 2014

One of my virtual screenwriting mentors is John August, I listen to his podcast with fellow screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Identity Theif) every single Tuesday and have even bought a thumb drive with all of their past episodes that I've missed, the only thing I haven't done yet is buy one of his great t-shirts.

Well he's been so kind as to offer a two page How to Write a Scene PDF for download. Great resource for all the writers out there.

Movie: Belle

11 June 2014

Although I have yet to see the film, Belle, it's good to see a film with both a black female screenwriter & a black female director getting such a warm reception.

This film is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield and his wife, Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. After meeting an idealistic young vicar's son bent on changing society, he and Belle help shape Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

This week Scott Myers at Go Into The Story has an interview with screenwriter, Misan Sagay. He also previously interviewed director, Amma Asante.

For more reading on the mysterious Dido Belle and the painting of her that inspired the screenplay, Dido Belle: the artworld enigma who inspired a movie.

Jackpot (A Kyra Walker Flash Fiction Piece)

24 January 2014

 This piece was spurred by Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge. I chose amateur detective/waitress at a casino and an encounter with a nemesis/unsolved murder.

When Red suggested we ditch our normal daily lives, her stripping, and me slinging drinks to the lusty patrons watching her stripping for an impromptu trip to a casino I thought she had a wonderful idea. Now, previously I'd only seen casinos on television and was imagining the glamour and excitement of Las Vegas, but Charlestown, W.V. was not full of glamour and excitement by a long shot. Had I known, I was playing hooky from work to traipse around a dimly lit, cigarette smelling, wasteland of retirees with a death grip on their slot machines, I probably would have passed. But since I was already here, I decided to make the best of it.

Red stood out in the casino like a sequin spangled sore thumb, part of that was her natural good looks, but the other half was that she insisted on wearing a portion of her dancing attire as her casino going outfit. Hey, if she wanted to wear a red sequin tube top, who was I to stop her. I was just afraid that she was going to give one of the seniors a coronary. With every step we took gentlemen who ranged in the age from geezer to old coot stared at Red like they were seeing the second coming. Needless to say the geezerettes weren’t as smitten by her attire.

As we walked past the gazillionth slot machine looking for open seats I heard someone cough, “slut” as we passed. Looking around for the offending senior citizen, I saw a woman that looked more like a helpless grandma than a woman blurting out profanities, but I saw the look of disgust cross her face when Red sat next to her. “This here’s my machine,” she said as Red slipped a twenty into the bill slot.

“Sorry, but you’ve already got a machine,” Red stated politely. To that Grandma spit onto the magenta and red swirling pattern of the casino carpet.

“I’m sure that’s not sanitary,” I whispered to Red as I slipped onto another stool next to her.
“Whatcha say half-breed?” Grandma replied. Man, her hearing aide must have been ratcheted up to one hundred. Not being accustomed to arguing with women older than my own grandmother I ignored her racist comment and slipped my own twenty into the machine I’d taken up. “Thought so,” Grandma said confidently. Although, I had just given up swearing for Lent, this woman was about to make me curse her up and down this windowless cavern of a casino.

“Look Grandma, I don’t have the time or energy to deal with your octogenarian antics.” I replied rather nicely in spite of the desire to rip her casino card with its spiral cord attached to her collar off her neck or better yet hang her with it. Grandma rolled her eyes and went back to her arduous task of pressing the button to “Spin Again”. I guess it was too much work to actually pull the level of the slot machine for someone so close to death’s door. For the next fifteen minutes I ignored the huffing and puffing of Grandma’s raucous losing streak and focused on scoring some extra coinage myself. My seven year old son Marcus was intent on raising half the money towards the newest game system du jour that he claimed he must have.
I was starting to resent the deal I brokered with him wherein if he raised half the money I’d kick in the other half, with rent being due next week and him mysteriously getting an infusion of cash. Although, it wasn’t really a mystery because I knew that his father who was loathe to pay child support was wont to sneak Marcus money during his court appointed visits.  Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t bitter about him giving money to our son, but I wasn’t the least bit happy that he thought child support meant video games, Air Jordan’s, and fast food, rather than childcare, groceries, and the other household expenses I had to shoulder alone.

Hearing the sound of Red’s machine start to emit a whooping sound, I surmised that she must have won something and snapped out of my reverie to look over at her machine which was lighting up like a Christmas tree. Red jumped up and down in excitement almost flashing the casino in the process. “I’m a winner bitches!” she screamed at the casino. Besides the men who were hoping to get a glimpse of nipple no one seemed to pay her any mind, except for Grandma herself.

“You owe me ten percent for stealing my machine,” Grandma said as she poked her skeletal finger at Red’s ample chest.

“Old lady if you don’t get your hands off of me,” Red started. I eased myself into the middle of the two in an attempt to calm Red down. I don’t think Grandma knew how close she was to getting a stiletto to her larynx.

“Ma’am you can’t have more than one machine and my friend doesn’t owe you anything,” I started to explain.

“Ain’t talking to ya, mutty. Talking to your slut fire crotch friend over there.” At this Red lunged for Grandma’s head and inadvertently knocked off the dusty wig, Grandma was using as a hair hat. At this Grandma pulled out a rape whistle and gave it a sharp blow, which lead to casino security quickly scampering our way.

“Ladies, if you can’t behave you need to take it outside,” the guard said while he attempted to not sneak a peek of Red’s cleavage.

“Sure thing stumpy,” Grandma retorted as she gathered up her insanely large handbag and her wig from the floor. Grandma then defiantly placed the wig atop her head and marched down the corridor of slot machines as Red and I looked on with amusement.

“So how much did you win, big Spender?” I asked.

“Five hundred dollars. Not too bad.” Red then pressed the button for her claim ticket and I watched with a twinge of jealousy for her good fortune. “You wanna play some more?” she asked playfully. I shook my head in the negative and we made our way to the "Winner's Cage" so she could cash out. I watched the cashier count out the five hundred dollars to Red in crisp hundred dollar bills and thought about how much groceries that could buy for me and Marcus. Red turned to me with her winnings in hand and peeled off three of the pristine Franklin’s and pressed them in my palm. “For being my good luck charm,” she explained.

We walked out of the casino into the darkened covered parking garage with our winning burning a hole in our pocket. Finally, Marcus and I could go out to eat to his favorite restaurant Olive Garden and although I was also cutting out carbs for Lent, I argued with my conscience that this was a special occasion.  I was so loss in my thoughts of the Tour of Italy special that I almost tripped and fell over a tennis shoe laying on the ground. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t just a shoe, it was a foot and a leg peeking out from under a twenty year old beige Cadillac. I bent down to inspect the presumably dead body and recognized the support hose and flowered capris belonging to none other than Grandma-Crotchety Pants. Red stopped walking to see what was holding me up and screamed when she saw the body underneath the car.

Red’s scream had the entire casino security force scrambling our way within seconds. “Step away from the body ma’am,” an officer shouted at me, leaving his words to echo off the concrete of the cold parking garage. I raised my hands to show I was harmless and backed away. At that instance Officer Stumpy from before ran up to me and placed zip tie cuffs on my wrists.

“Whoa buddy,” Red exclaimed at the officer as he ushered me towards the casino with my hands behind my back.

“Ma’am do not interfere with a police investigation,” the diminutive guard stated to Red’s double Ds.

“First of all you’re not the police and secondly my friend didn’t do anything,” Red exclaimed.

“Calm down, Red. I’ll go with him it’s no big deal.” I said in an attempt to soothe Red’s fears.

“Well, I’m going with her, too,” she said huffily to the guard. We all marched down a darkened hallway to the casino’s security office where I was sat at a stainless steel table by Officer Stumpy.

“Looks like we got a murder here,” he stated as he paced back in forth in front of me like a bad version of Columbo.

“When are we going to call the real cops?” I asked him with a bored look in my eyes. “I’ve got to pick my son up from after-care by six o’clock and it’s already three.”

“I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this crime Miss,” he said as he slammed his Lilliputian hands on the table. He winced at the impact of his palms against the hard table. Served him right for trying to play bad cop with me.

"I certainly do, I'm the one that tripped over a corpse." I said as I narrowed my eyes at Officer Short Stuff. He seemed to be challenging me in a staring contest because he said nothing and gave me a look that I'm sure he thought was intimidating. Clearly, he'd never met my ex-husband who could make Hitler cry with a glance. Before we could declare a winner of the starting contest a rap sounded at the door. Rent-A-Cop Shorty walked over to the door and opened it, revealing the most handsome man I'd seen in at least a year. Surprisingly, all the male models aren't beating down the door to the local strip club.

"Is this the witness?" Mr. Handsome asked. I guessed from his suit and manner he was a detective from the local precinct.

"The suspect," the guard countered.

"Suspect, my ass," I replied.

"Please take the zip ties off this woman." Shorty grudgingly obliged and I rubbed my wrists which had now reddened from the overzealous cuffing/ "Can I see your surveillance tapes?"

"We've already checked them; the area where the woman was killed was in a blind spot."

"Mighty convenient," I responded.

"What do you mean?" the detective asked.

"Who'd know about the blind spot, other than someone who worked here?"

"What are you trying to say?" the guard asked.

"I'm saying a murder is on the loose and it's not me. It's someone who works at this casino."

"You were the last one seen arguing with the victim." Shorty responded.

"If you met this woman you'd be arguing with her, too. I'm sure she's never met a person she hasn't hated. But I am not the one who killed her. Did I want to kick her once or twice, of course, but I'm no killer."

"Please lock down the casino. I don't want anyone entering or exiting." the policeman stated to the guard.

"I guess I'll have to find a babysitter for my son, huh?"

WANT MORE? I'll include the short story in the next Kyra Walker Mystery.

Some Great Articles on Writing and Publishing (Hugh Howey & Chuck Wendig)

15 January 2014

Those of my readers who are writers might be interested in these blog posts from some well known writers who I admire:

1. Hugh Howey's "DOn't Anyone Put Me in Charge" a post on what he'd do if he ran a publishing house.

2. Hugh Howey's follow up post, My Second Month on the Hypothetical Job"

3. Chuck Wendig's "The Author Publisher and the Almighty Dollar"

Talk to you later! And keep reading and writing!

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