Category Archives: Writing

Being a “Useful Writer’

Perhaps it’s the human predilection for pattern recognition, but because of the recent passing of William Goldman, I’ve been thinking a good deal about writing as it relates to getting one’s writing produced in Hollywood… and how random the process can sometimes be.

In Mark Evanier’s latest intallment of his “Rejection” series (which is worth checking out if you haven’t already, he notes that elusive, yet absolutely real writer quality of being “useful.”

You absolutely want to be a useful writer.

Inconceivable! William Goldman Dies at 87

I’m still reflecting on all I got out of the characters created and championed by Stan Lee and now another epic storyteller, novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, has died at the age of 87.

Goldman was, and will continue to be, enormously influential for writers and his book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, is one I’ve given as a gift to several fellow writers, not only for its insights about writing and the writing process, but of that crazy fantasy land known as Hollywood.

There’s a nice piece in the New York Times and also CNN about him. I know there’s more, but I need to go and watch The Princess Bride just now.

Stan Lee: The Once and Future Pop Culture King

Stan Lee has died at the age of 95. Tributes, remembrances, and obituaries have come from the New York Times, the Hollywood Reporter, NPR (and a longer piece here), Variety, a nice one from Marvel, and even one from The Onion.

Like countless others, my connection to “The Man” now best known for cameos in the films of a billions-dollar film franchise came early on. He represented my “ur-fandom.” Before Star Trek or Doctor Who, there was Stan Lee.

Me and Stan Lee, 2011

I am given to understand I am but one of many billions who met Stan. It was still wonderful to do so.

Even though films dominated my childhood, trips to the movies were not as frequent as trips to the library. And more often than not I would go straight to a well-remembered section of the Cherrydale branch library and check out Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, and, the perennial favorite: Bring on the Bad Guys.

Within those tomes were just not the stories of heroes and villains, but insight into Stan Lee’s origins as well. In his writing, he created the accessible yet aspirational persona of “Stan Lee” as surely as he conjured any of a seemingly infinite number of characters that appeared in Marvel Comics. “Stan Lee” was the indefatigable image of a creator and a writer: someone who used all the history and mythology and tales they’d grown up with and channeled them into his own stories. What kid couldn’t help but love that?

This persona became bigger for me and a whole Saturday morning cartoon generation with his narration of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. And “Stan’s Soapbox” in comics. And all the other small ways we fans were able to piece together information back when Chrome was a 50s car characteristic and before Netscape navigated a single web page. Okay, I’ve lost the younger folk.

Long story short: the character of Stan Lee was like a slightly dignified, but just goofy enough cousin of Uncle Grandpa. His passion was pure, his heart was consistently in the right place, and his enthusiasm was infectious. One of his superpowers was validation: you were right to be a fan, you were right to enjoy these stories, and for scores and scores of us, you were right to be an aspiring creator. That’s a hero to look up to. All the entertaining alliteration helps too.

Of course, the human Stan Lee had more nuance and shades of grey. As much as I and the all the remembrances of the past day cast the Stanley Lieber himself as a hero, that’s not ’nuff said. This long-form exploration of Stan Lee’s legacy from early 2016 by Abraham Riesman in Vulture nails some of the complexity behind Lee’s legacy. I promised myself when I read it, I’d include it in the remembrance I knew I’d one day write. It’s important to know that the creator of so many iconic heroes had flaws of his own. So do we all. In a sense, that’s the Marvel way, isn’t it?

Stan Lee was and is a legendary creator, but he didn’t create alone. As Mark Evanier points out, “Los Angeles Dodger Clayton Kershaw” does not mean that Clayton Kershaw is the only Los Angeles Dodger. But you can still have Kershaw’s poster, if you follow the example. And Stan Lee, in so many ways, is an extraordinary example to follow. May his memory be a blessing.

Self-Publishing in Five Steps

It’s been a little while since a “Motivation Monday” post, so let’s just dive right in with UK author Mark Dawson’s piece on how to approach self-publishing, amply referencing his own experience from traditional publishing to now.

It’s recent (from August of this year) and I appreciate how it’s not paint-by-numbers. The five steps aren’t particularly easy, in part because none of them can ever be fully completed (perhaps “five processes” might more sense to some). I especially like that the last part is to “never stop learning”– which for a writer who enjoys research should, on one level be fun (though your mileage may vary with such paint-drying excitement like editing DKIM values to help your mailing list).

In any case, I found it to be a good reminder of what I’m doing and what I’ve yet to do in the creative entrepreneur realm… and perhaps you’ll find it useful too.

And Now For Something Completely… Enjoyable

As much about writing as it is about acting, here’s a 20-minute video for GQ with Monty Python’s Eric Idle explaining many of his acting roles over the past 50-odd years.

Speaking for myself, this makes me want to go out and create something.

The Judicious Use of the Word that Rhymes with ‘Duck’

Many a creative doesn’t want to wear the business hat. I know, that’s me too a lot of days. But it helps to be confident in wearing the hat when it’s needed and when to bring in the hired gun (e.g., a lawyer) for the right situations.

A legal eagle I use, Seth Polansky, posted this in a thread related to a particularly ridiculous film festival. I’ve seen it before, but in a sense, this about-40-minute video is evergreen and worth re-watching even if you’ve seen it before.

But People Don’t Still Ban Books, Do They?

Continuing Banned Book Week, Ron Charles and his editor conspired to give Ron’s essay the incendiary title “Do we really still need Banned Books Week?

In fact, he even starts giving you umbrage fuel in the first paragraph, but then he talks to the people who and whaddya know?

Yup. People will be people and some people will always think that your dainty mind needs protection (see also, Monday’s post).

Image via EmilyQuotes.com

 

So Many Banned Books, So Little Time…

As friends know on social media, I’m a big fan of Banned Book Week that occurs every Fall. Given that people continue to challenge books and, really, are only looking out for you, whomever you might be, I find it a good tradition to continue. Several members of my family are or were librarians — and I well remember challenges to books growing up from parents who were worried our dainty minds would be perverted by various books.

I generally always try and read a banned or challenged book during this week. Last year, it was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, which is delightfully profane in the best possible way you want from a book. It left me thinking a lot about identity, masculinity, and race that I’m sure made many people concerned. I mean what if someone younger had asked the wrong question or came up with the wrong answer? More than that, conversations might have erupted, including two-way conversations. Very troublesome.

A lot of libraries have a display up this week to give you some ideas about a banned book to pick up, so do drop by. Ask a librarian for some recommendations. The equivalent of a Jane Austen villain will be entirely put out by you doing so, and isn’t that reward enough?

Write the Dang Thing

Look, writers are gonna write… except when they come up with voluminous excuses not to. So, periodic posts like this one to help motivate people are always handy.

In other words, enjoy this piece about how Laura Vanderkam gets her writing done while having 4 children, blogging, speaking, and presumably breathing and eating.

Increasing Writing Motivation by Increasing Joy

For this Labor Day, a day where many of us are sure not to labor, it somehow seems appropriate to share this piece by Mark Marino about how to have more joyous writing exercises.

Sounds like pretty good motivation to me.