Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I really like Drew Barrymore.  Who doesn't?  She just seems like a sweet person.  I was blown away by her recent HBO performance in "Grey Gardens" co-starring the fabulous Jessica Lange.  Drew Barrymore did a fine job with a tough role -- bringing sympathy and compassion to a very eccentric character -- Little Edie.  It earned her an Emmy nomination. 

Now Drew is ready to open her first feature film as a director.  She's been brilliantly successful as a producer in Hollywood with the "Charlie's Angels" franchise and other big hits.  She went through her troubled teen days and came out on top and continues to grow as an actress and filmmaker.  (Are you listening Lindsey Lohan?  It's never too late to get your act together until it's... well, too late.)  Drew's set to make her directorial debut with the female ensemble cast of "WHIP IT".  This is a Fox Searchlight film.  It's about a young woman (Ellen Page of "Juno") who joins her local roller-derby.  It's a definite girl-power movie.  Drew packed the theaters with women for "Charlie's Angels" and intends to do it again here.

I hope it does well.  We need more movies about young women willing to take their lumps to move forward with their lives.  Drew knows something about that.  She's a survivor and a fighter.  She's also only 34 and talented.   She's a Barrymore. 

"WHIP IT" opens on October 2nd.  Get your popcorn ready and dust off your knee pads.   It's roller-derby time.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Now that summer is officially over, I have to say it was a very productive one for me as a writer. 

I completed my second short play and the first draft of a book (treatment/possible screenplay down the road).  I usually only write screenplays, but I'm trying my hand at other markets and styles -- this year I wrote television news copy for New York City news anchors and for a website -- so it's been all about stretching new muscles creatively.  Stepping out of our comfort zone -- whether it's writing a novel, or non-fiction, or a play, or a script, or a short story -- all take time and courage.  It's important to try new things along the way.

The last few weeks I've visited with lots of family and friends.  When the hot weather turns cooler, everyone wants to "get together" for that last BBQ, picnic, summer movie or dinner date.  I've been so diligent about writing every day (except on weekends), that when I go into "social mode" it makes me feel a little guilty because I'm not working on my projects.

Well, this morning I attended a funeral for a lovely woman of 93.  Her name was Phoebe Fleisher and she's my second cousin's mother-in-law.  I didn't know her, but I know Phoebe's daughter Doris and she's a sweetheart of a person.  The funeral was a celebration of this woman's dynamic life.  Phoebe served for 50 years in the Salvation Army here in New York City.  She served at her church on Sundays and throughout the year for special events.  Friends spoke at the service and said Phoebe  never forgot their birthdays and always had the card in the mail early (enclosing a book of U.S. stamps as a gift).  She raised two fabulous daughters and many grandchildren.  She enjoyed life and always offered a hand to a neighbor in need.  One woman at the service had by chance moved into Phoebe's building years ago... and it was a blessing to this woman because she said she desperately needed a stranger's kindness and Phoebe offered it generously. 

As I walked home from the funeral this morning,  I thought about Phoebe.  And, I thought about my own life.  I shouldn't feel guilty if I take time away from writing to visit a friend, or attend a party, or meet a relative for a Broadway show.  That's what life is all about -- connecting, sharing and loving.  That's not to say we get to skip our work commitment, but we can't become so self-absorbed to lose precious times and days with our loved ones and friends.  Our characters are fictional -- our family and friends are real. 

I think we become better writers by being out in the world as well as parked at our desks.

Thanks, Phoebe, for that reminder.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I recently purchased a new Mac computer for writing and video editing.  Is it possible to be in love with your computer?  If not, then I'm definitely infatuated.  We bonded as soon as I lifted that new computer, monitor and slim keyboard out of that pretty white Apple box.  

It was like Christmas in September! 

All the hard work is over -- the connecting of cables, installing the software and disconnecting my poor old HP Desktop that I banged on mercilessly for five years (it contacted a nasty virus this summer and never fully recovered I'm sad to report).  We had to have the old reliable lady fully erased.  She's since been donated and has found a new home.  

After getting my new computer running, I completely updated my iPod and looked into what's going on out there in the iTunes world for writers.  Wow, a lot.  There are some amazing podcasts for screenwriters (I recommend all the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcasts, On the Page podcast, Meet the Filmmakers podcasts (these are Apple's in-store interviews done here in New York with folks like Francis Ford Coppola, Spike Lee, Sam Mendes and many others).  Today my iPod is chuck full of fresh interviews (Oh, and I also recommend Times Talks.  It's a great podcast featuring top artists of every walk interviewed by editors from the The New York Times.  The interviews with Tom Cruise, Jane Fonda and Annie Lennox were absolute gems).  

This is all for free!  It's amazing how much helpful media is out there for us writers to consume at no charge.  We can learn a great deal through the Internet now, even from YouTube (no, not about skateboarding squirrels, but those how-to videos that experts post on any subject, even writing).  

Of course, the problem I have is finding the time to listen or watch all these podcasts, plus read magazines, read the news online and see the latest movies or TV shows.  I get most of my reading and listening done on the subway commuting back and forth from Queens into Manhattan, or standing in line at the movie theater or at the post office or working out.  

Consuming free media is a lot like doing research for my projects -- it's important to do, but it's more important to get your work done for the day and not use it to simply procrastinate.    

Today, I wrote my ten pages so now I get to go play with my new Mac (toy) for a while and then maybe watch Charlie Rose that I recorded on DVR (see what I mean, it never ends!).  

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Recently here I posted about how much I enjoyed reading the book "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.  It's a cool read about working through resistance and procrastination when it comes to writing or starting any project (that small business, a new workout, the latest diet, etc).  "The War of Art" offered me some practical tools on how to push through those obstacles that can slow, and even kill, my creative ideas.  

How many unfinished manuscripts do you have in your desk or stored on your computer?  We've all been there.  So I was curious about Steven's creative process.  (He's also the author of "The Legend of Bagger Vance" and numerous other novels.)  I asked him three questions and he was kind enough to take time from his day to answer them.  Bloggers, pay attention and feel free to take notes... there will be a short quiz  on Friday.

JANET:  I liked how Robert McKee said you'll pass up on a golf invite because you're too busy "working".  Obviously, Robert knows you're a professional writer and also a paid writer. How do you advise the unpublished/unproduced/unpaid writer to find that same focus and commitment when family and friends (or perhaps even a spouse) don't consider unpaid writing "real work"?  

STEVEN:   The hardcore answer would be "Get new friends and get a new spouse."  The more realistic answer is to solidify the commitment internally and forgive the spouse and friends' understandable doubt.  It's an odd fact but true that no one resists our growth more than the people closest to us, who fear (unconsciously usually) that we will move away from them if we grow and change.  They are dealing (again unconsciously) with their own Resistance, so that our hard work becomes a silent reproach to them.  There is no substitute here for will power and true, hardball commitment.  Nobody said it was easy.

JANET:  What is your revision process like on a book?  Do you go from Chapter One right through to the end for each rewrite or polish?  And how many passes do you usually make before sending it out to your agent or publisher?

STEVEN:    I revise in a kind of scattershot way.  Sometimes I'll work on a particular section, maybe near the end of the book, then go back to the start and revise there for a while.  Whatever feels right.  I usually do 12 or 13 drafts before sending it in.  These days, I've found, editors don't have time to do the old-time work that 
Malcolm Cowley and the legendary editors did.  Pretty much the writer herself has to self-edit.  So I do a lot of passes.  As soon as it stops being fun, I turn it in.

JANET:   How do you celebrate upon finishing a project?  Do you have any set ritual and is it when your last draft is done or when the book is actually published?

STEVEN:   This is a really good question, Janet.  I find that one of the great perilous moments is right after a project is completed.  Post-partum depression can get to you if you're not careful and really screw you up.  Here's what I do: the instant I'm done with one project, I start another.  The next day.  In fact usually I've already started.  I'll keep working on the new one without a break (and without any celebration of completing the prior one) until I feel I've got a beachhead.  Know what I mean?  Like I've got my troops ashore and plenty of ammo and a few tanks and guns to back me up.  The main thing is having MOMENTUM on the new project.  Then and only then will I let myself celebrate completing the old.  I'm not much of a celebrator, I must confess.  Did you ever see the movie "Das Boot" about a German U-boat in WWII?  The captain's praise for his men (who had gone through hell) was, "Okay, men, half a warm beer for each of you!"  

Well, there you have it, folks.  Bottom line -- writing is friggin' hard work.  It's not for the faint of heart.  But with a set schedule and focus (and less golf) we can all make our dreams a reality.  Dig out that unfinished manuscript, blow the dust off, or jump start whatever it is you've been putting off for too long.   Write on.

Until next time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Photo:  Ken Hively, L.A. Times

Army Archerd died this past week at age 87.  

He was a reporter.  He wrote a well-known and well-regarded column for Variety (until 2005) and later continued writing his column for Variety.com.   

He was one of the original bloggers, you might say, giving us the latest news about Hollywood deals, casting and things he felt we needed to know, for better or worse.  He was the columnist that broke the news to America and the world that Rock Hudson was dying from AIDS.  Those who knew Army Archerd said his intent was never to be malicious, but to speak the truth when it needed to be told -- he also stood up against the blacklisting of the 1950s.  He served in the United States Navy during WWII.  

I grew up watching Army Archerd interview stars on the red carpet for the Oscars.  This was long before Joan Rivers and the more snarky personalities came along to do it.  He seemed to know everybody in Hollywood and they knew him.  There was a mutual respect for each other and the movie business.  

Just recently I discovered that Army Archerd was born in the Bronx, right here in NYC.  Hey, that's where I was born.  But, Mr. Archerd touched my life in a more profound way that was much more unexpected... 

Back in 1999, my original screenplay "Brutal Pattern" was optioned by a Hollywood production company and Mr. Archerd wrote the following about it in his column:

Posted: Wed., Jan. 13, 1999

Heche won't quit before shooting NYPD pic

GOOD MORNING: As for Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres quitting the biz, Heche called "Brutal Pattern" producers Mike Farrell and Marvin Minoff to tell them, "I didn't mean you!" Heche is set to star as an NYPD detective in their pic, in which she and her male partner (yet to be set) are tracking a serial rapist. The tough story is scripted by Janet Lawler.  The producers are enjoying the success of "Patch Adams," now over the $84.2 million gross mark. 

The producer Marvin Minoff later sent me that original Variety magazine.  I still have it and treasure it.  The script never got made into a movie like planned, but it was still a wonderful day when my unknown name and script got a mention in Mr. Archerd's column.  My mother was thrilled.

We also lost another great writer in Hollywood -- Larry Gelbart.  He wrote gems for the screen, theatre and television.  He wrote the TV series "M*A*S*H" and "Tootsie" among other well-known projects.  I grew up watching those doctors "Hawkeye" Pierce, Trapper John and B.J. Hunnicut on CBS.  Their wisecracking dialogue sung through my TV set back in the Seventies.  I didn't always get the jokes at the time, but I knew what I was hearing belonged to a unique voice -- that voice originated with Larry Gelbart, on the blank page.  Unfortunately, I never had the honor to meet Mr. Gelbart, but B.J. Hunnicut went on to someday option my script (actor Mike Farrell).  

What is it they say about those Six Degrees of Separation?

Both of these men, Army Archerd and Larry Gelbart were giants in Hollywood.  They touched all of our lives, in one way or another.
Until next time.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11, 2009

It's raining here in New York City today and on TV the names of the victims of 9/11 are being read aloud while family members cry and carry pictures of their loved ones protected under umbrellas.

It's eight years since this great city and country came under attack.  How has your life changed in those eight years?  Did you get married?  Have a child?  Graduate? Write a book?  Travel?

I think back on how much my own life has changed.  I can't help but wonder how the thousands of lives taken that horrible day in NYC, Washington, D.C. and PA would have changed too -- how all those men and women would be living out their lives today if things had only been different on that September morning in 2001.  Like us now, they might be bemoaning the end of another summer, seeing their kids off to the first days of school, getting ready for football season, and enjoying every day life.

We have that opportunity today on 9/11/09 to live our lives just a little better for them.  We can hug and kiss our loved ones, call someone we miss, and through our words and actions contribute to our country again to make it stronger and united (and not only through days of tears).  Eight years went by in a blink.

Life does go on for sure, and we've all changed as individuals and as a nation, but it's important every year for us to look back, to remember and to never forget .

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I usually digitally record a TV show on Fox Movie Channel called "Life After Film School".

It's a half hour cable program where one celebrated director, writer or producer sits down with three grad students and answers their questions about the business and art of filmmaking.  It's not the most spontaneous show in all the world, but the guests are generally interesting and offer mentoring advice to students.

This week's guest was Diablo Cody.  She is the Oscar-winning screenwriter for the movie "Juno".  She also has written the soon-to-be released movie "Jennifer's Body" (a horror movie with a vintage wink).

Diablo Cody is well-known as a writer, but said she feels more comfortable being off camera and that winning the Oscar was basically terrifying and an out of body experience.  She says an Oscar winner should have a body of great work and she feels undeserving of having won one ("I'm this buffoon").  She doesn't keep the Oscar around because it just seems weird to have one.  She's very self-deprecating and cavalier about the business because she says she never tried to get into "the business" like a gazillion writers.  She stumbled into it by writing her blog "The Pussy Ranch" when a Hollywood producer read it and called her up.  Diablo Cody (her real name is Brook Busey) says that her super fast launch in Hollywood just doesn't happen to most writers and she doesn't know why it happened to her, but it did.

But Diablo Cody was doing something important all along before being discovered and eventually writing her Oscar-winning script.  She was WRITING.  She loves to write and can't believe she's now getting paid to do it, but the point is, she did it even when she was down on her luck.  She believed in her voice and what she had to say, whether someone was going to read it or not.  The whole blog thing and Internet craze was fairly new when she first delved into it as a way to express herself.

She found an audience any way she could and now she writes movies.  Not bad.

I also liked that Diablo suggested for women writers to band together and help each other along.  She has an informal group of women screenwriters in Hollywood that she  pals out with and they give each other pep talks, notes, a shoulder to cry on and professional tips.  Find your niche and unite!

Until next time.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Have you ever paid for one movie but once you got inside the theater you went to see something else?


It happened to me today.  I plucked down my $12.50 at Regal in Union Square to see the new Sandra Bullock movie "All About Steve", but once inside the lobby, I decided to go see "Inglorious Basterds" instead.

I wasn't planning to ever seeing "IB" in theaters.  I get a kick out Quentin Tarantino's movies, but was going to skip this one for its scalping scenes.  But today, after I read the NY Times' horrible review of Sandra Bullock's new comedy -- I decided a scalping might be easier to take.  Sorry, Sandy.

"Inglorious Basters" was better than I expected.  It could stand to be edited by about twenty minutes (some scenes go way too long), but the characters were terrific and the story riveting.  I really could have done without all the scalpings, stabbings, choking and Brad Pitt's accent (I didn't buy him in this role.  He acted through the whole movie with his eyebrows like he was doing an impersonation of Rhett Butler.)  I liked his character, just not the way Brad portrayed him -- he never seemed authentic to me.  A little too clever and over the top.  But, hey, he's a A-list movie star and I still love looking at him (rope burn and all).

And for all you Sandra Bullock lovers, don't despair, my movie ticket will go toward her box-office totals instead of Quentin Tarantino's this weekend.  Will someone please write a great script for Sandra Bullock?  She needs it.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  Enjoy your BBQs and take a break from writing.  We all need to recharge and a three day weekend is the perfect excuse to slack a bit without guilt.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Until next time.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


In a follow up to my last post about Steven Pressfield's terrific book "The War of Art", he writes about artists being open to a nudge from our muse or angels or some divine, subconscious inspiration that might whisper something to us in the creation process.

Do you believe in a muse of sorts in your process of creating?  Do you lose yourself in a trance-like state when you're writing?  When you've had an incredible writing session -- do you feel absolutely drained -- as if you weren't present when writing, but somewhere else for that time?

In his book, Pressfield quotes William Blake's "Eternity is in love with the creations of time."  Wow, I love this.  Does eternity care about what we're writing?

Paul McCartney says that he "woke up one morning with the tune in my head."  That tune turned out to be "Yesterday".  Where did that tune originate?  Was it a gift to us through another creative source?

This is deep stuff, I know, but I wonder.

Have you ever experienced divine intervention when writing?  Do you believe something untapped comes from a higher energy when you're writing or dreaming?  Or do you feel alone and on your own to pound out that next bad draft or masterpiece?

I've heard countless musicians, writers and painters say they awoke from a dream and had the beginnings of what later became an iconic song, book or painting.

What are your thoughts about your muse?  

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


So I'm reading this book I got from the library called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it's just what every writer needs -- a kick in the tush.

The book states how it's human nature to allow resistance to delay our dreams or to discourage us from action.  Resistance's best friend is Procrastination.  Don't we all hang out with these two more than we should?  Their like negative friends that keep a lock on our lives as artists. 

It's beyond difficult to start a novel, screenplay, play or article as a writer.  Some days it's hard for me to write this blog!  We sit around a wait for our muse or for that BIG idea or that block of time when we can do it.  Well, The War of Art says we'll never get anywhere if we allow ourselves to be talked out of working or delaying it until TOMORROW.

What Pressfield says is be a pro about your dream -- do the work.  Sit down and write.  Make it part of your day and no matter what get those pages, minutes or hours in.  If you do that every day, the pages will pile up and your book or script or play will materialize before yours eyes.  Don't be critical of yourself or foresee failure or obstacles -- just concentrate on the work of the day.

It's like working out.  If we say "I'll do it later" or "starting Monday"... we let ourselves off the hook today.  So breathe and sit down and write.  Then go celebrate by watching a movie, or spending time with your kids, or taking the dog for a walk, or whatever it is you do to reward yourself!   You deserve it.

(BTW, Steven Pressfield has written many other books like "The Legend of Bagger Vance",  ""Gates of Fire" and "Last of the Amazons.")

And special thanks to Jennifer J. Bennett who gave this blog an award for one of her recommended blogs!   Thanks, Jenn!  Check out her blog at... jenniferjbennett.blogspot.com 

Until next time.