Tuesday, October 15, 2013

by Janet J. Lawler
New York
Oct. 15, 2013
Robert Redford in All is Lost
All is Lost.  Gravity.  Two awesome new movies.  Both dealing with catastrophe and survival.  So why are these movies coming out now and receiving strong responses from audiences?

Are we feeling a little more lost these days?  Losing hope in our government, leaders, careers and world?  What are these popular movies teaching us?

Something is definitely in the Zeitgeist.  And it's not only the whiff of movie popcorn.

Gravity brings us to the vastness of space and All is Lost to the isolation of the sea.  Both worlds of mystery and wonder to human life.  Male (Robert Redford) and female (Sandra Bullock) heroes.  They're character are smart, top at what they do, yet find themselves unable to control their environments.   They find themselves spinning out of control.  No way out.

They're alone.  

They must fight to make it back.  And besides the elements and situation pulling them deeper into the abyss -- they must confront something even worse:  their own demons. 

Without spoiling either movie, All is Lost and Gravity teach us about perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, spirit and soul.  They show us what it is like to face our deepest fears, our long buried grief, our insecurities, the mysteries of the world and not quit. 

Life, and movies, don't always turn out as we hope. 

It sounds corny to say it's the journey and not the destination.  When we're in danger -- lose hope like Redford and Bullock on screen -- we just want stability again and to return to our normal lives.  But sometimes, the story (script) or our own life trials have other obstacles we must first overcome. 

We can crumble or face those challenges like Redford and Bullock do as their characters on screen.

These movies seem to teach us that the human spirit at its best never quits.  It falters, it hits its knees in pain, sorrow, loneliness, but then it's get back up.  Figure it out.  Try something else.  Obstacles are what make great movies.  We relate to them because we face our own every day.

Find a way, anyway, to keep going.
Go with the flow
That is the motto of champion swimmer Diana Nyad.  She's the 64 years old woman who recently swam from Cuba to Florida.  The first person to do it without a protective cage.  She talked to Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and said if you have a problem, no matter what it is, or how challenging it is, or you can't reach your goal and you've tried and tried... and maybe you have failed once, twice, three times... don't EVER give up.  Find a way to be a champion.  Nyad failed for decades at her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida.  People doubted her.  They made fun of her.  She put her head in the water, focused, moved through the pain and accomplished her DREAM.   She got the last laugh.
This is what Diana Nyad recently told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta:
"It's all authentic. It's a great story. You have a dream 35 years ago -- doesn't come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it's somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you're looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination." 

America loves a comeback story.  We respect and root for those who get knocked down but return to the ring better than ever.  Think of Sandra Bullock and Robert Redford again.  Two mega stars who have had their share of highs and lows, career ups and downs, personal challenges, hit movies and flops... but they continued to move forward... to work through difficult times... and now each is at the top of their game, in life and in Hollywood.  Life is funny.

Somehow they found their way.

Janet J. Lawler is a screenwriter, playwright and published author.  Her debut novel From the Ground Up is now available on Kindle and Amazon.com   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F3CYSU8

Here are the trailers for Gravity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufsrgE0BYf0 and All is Lost http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk_R04LfUQU

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Do you have the ability to do something that nobody else can do? 

Think about that. 

Do you do something unique? 

Sure you do.  Maybe you don't know what it is yet.  The new book The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield is a little gem to help you discover your swing/gift/voice. 

Like a golfer, everyone has an authentic swing.  Maybe it's the way you cook, garden, write screenplays, raise your kids, sing songs or play a sport? You're on this planet for a reason.    

To share.  To give back.  To discover.  To teach.

Steven is a successful novelist (The Gates of Fire, The Legend of Bagger Vance).  He also writes wonderful non-fiction (The War of Art and Turning Pro).  I have a shelf of his books at home.  He inspires me to write, to trust my Muse and to treat my creativity like a pro.  He's my inspiration. 

This weekend Steven will appear on the OWN network to sit down with Oprah Winfrey on her show Super Soul Sunday.  Set your DVR.  This hour interview you won't want to miss, especially if you are seeking to find your purpose or a way to stay on course with your passion in life.

Steven Pressfield visits Oprah on Super Soul Sunday
Steven wrote for 30 years and went unpublished.  He never quit.  He worked successfully in Hollywood for awhile, had an agent and wrote movie scripts.  But then he realized he wanted to write a book.  He bailed on Hollywood and his agent (or the agent bailed on him) and he sat down and wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance.  It changed his life.  That novel about golf became a hit and eventually was turned into the movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith.

Steven's new book The Authentic Swing gives tips to writers (but you can apply it to whatever your  goal is) that will guide us to finish a book or novel.  His advice to "cover the canvas" means to begin.  Just start your project.  Throw it all up on the canvas.  Don't hold back.  Don't judge.  Just get it out of your head or soul or heart.  Be free.  Get it down on paper as fast as you can.

Then, like a golfer, you can focus on your game -- refine it -- develop it -- your God-given talent and acquired skills.  You can focus on your concentration, techniques, keeping your head in the game, overcoming the sense to choke and quit under pressure or to take your eye off the ball.    

Who are you without your labels or self-judgements?  Who are you, Pressfield asks, when you're not a wife, husband, mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend, employer, son, daughter -- insert any label.  Who are you deep down inside when you strip away all of that?

Who are YOU?

That is where your authentic swing comes from.  Your voice, talent comes from places none of us can fully explain.  Is it in our DNA?  God-given gifts?  Luck?  The most important thing is to let it be free -- not to confine it, or judge it, or abandon it when times are tough.   Just believe and get busy.

Swing.  Swing big.  Find your authentic swing and let the world be awed.

Until next time,

Janet J. Lawler is a screenwriter, playwright and published author.  Her debut novel From the Ground Up is now available on Kindle and Amazon.com   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F3CYSU8

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I published my first novel From the Ground Up this month on Amazon.

Most people ask me "How did you find time to write a whole book?"  They looked amazed.  They know I work full-time and have a busy life. Answer: It wasn't easy.  It was hard writing a 298 page novel and it took over three years to complete.

Are you a writer?  Do you want to write a book?  A blog?  A poem? 

Don't limit yourself to one medium -- try them all.  But first, you have to start with one -- and aim to finish your project.

I found some tricks that helped me.   Maybe they'll help you.

I kept a journal (a day planner actually).  When I first started writing my novel From the Ground Up, I was between full-time jobs.  Perfect.  I had time.  What does every writer say?  "If I only had more time, I'd finish that script... book... song." 

No more excuses.  You have to make the time.  It's like going to the gym.  The hardest part is going -- once in the zone, you're fine and excited.  Same with writing.  You have to start.  So keeping a journal was a good idea because I could mark off how much I wrote that day: 2 hours, 3 hours, 30 minutes.  At the end of the week, I could flip the pages and see what I'd accomplished in black and white.

Another trick -- I told friends I was writing a book.  Why?  Accountability.  If you put it out there, you better back it up.  There will be that one friend who asks months later, "So how's that book you were writing?"  You'll feel wonderful if you can say "I'm half way done.  Or, it's finished."

Every artist faces resistance.  One of my favorite writers is Steven Pressfield (The War of Art).  He's written tons of novels, but also short non fiction books about writing.  He says resistance shadows every artist.  The muse is strong, but the shadow of resistance is stronger some days -- she'll tempt you by saying, "Who do you think you are to write a book?  Who's gonna read that?  You're wasting your time?"

Sound familiar?  Ignore the resistance.  Hear it and keep working anyway.  Don't let any judgments discourage you from the work ahead.

Be professional in tackling your project.  Block out time for it.  Put it on your calendar.  Prepare your place to create.  Just do it.  Sit down and work.  You'll see the pages piling up in time.  Paragraphs turn into chapters.  Chapters turn into a book.

Nobody said writing would be a breeze.  That's why most people quit.  They have unfinished novels, scripts and poems on their desktops or tucked away in drawers.
Be brave.  Take small steps and you'll be publishing your first book in no time.

From the Ground Up is available for sale on Amazon.com.  Order your copy here.  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F3CYSU8

Sunday, September 15, 2013


My novel From the Ground Up is officially in the world.  Hooray!  My friend says it's in the genre of Bridget Jones or Confessions of a Shopaholic.  I should be so lucky!  Anyway, it's a tale about a Lea Lawson, a troubled young actress, who can't seem to stay out of the press or a courtroom.  When she crashes a stolen town car through the front window of Saks Fifth Avenue, her life spins out of control.  A judge sentences her to rehab on a working farm in upstate, NY.  Can the pampered movie star change her life around out of the spotlight?  She's about to find out the hard way from the ground up.

Why write a book?  

Why do people climb mountains?  Or enter triathlons?  It's a challenge.  I like writing plays and scripts.  I'm familiar with the structure and format.  Writing a novel is another animal.  It's a wonderful, freeing experience too.  Most screenplays are 90-120 pages.  They're lean.  Clean on the page.  Screenplays should contain only what the reader/characters can see and hear.  No filler.  No flowery prose.  No extra anything.  

With a novel, it's the opposite.  A novel can run over 300 pages.  What's the hurry?  It's not like there are any act breaks.   You can slow down, write what you like and get inside your characters' heads.  You can tell the reader what the characters are thinking unlike in plays and scripts.  It's liberating!  It's amazing!  It's not screenwriting!

Until it's time to rewrite and revise.   Then you pay the price for all that freedom. Revising my novel was a huge undertaking.  It took about five drafts of the entire book and some polishes here and there.  It took nearly three years to write the book.  Where screenwriting feels like dating, writing a book feels like marriage.  It's a commitment.  You have to be in it for the long haul.  It's not as much a collaborative medium as film.

As an author, you're on your own.  You may have an editor or proofreader, but basically, it's you deciding what stays on that page.  With screenwriting, you know while writing it that a million eyes will pull the script apart -- agents, directors, producers, studio executives and actors!  People will give you notes.  They'll want changes.

What else was exciting about writing a book?

It's a big digital, connected world out there now.  A writer can't afford to be a recluse anymore -- typing out manuscripts and not communicating with the outside world.  Those days are over.

Today, an author has to be a social media whiz kid -- with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, online marketing, author profiles, and digital outlets.  Kudos to my dear friend -- and writing comrade -- Barbara Forte Abate for steering me through the digital waters of publishing.  She's had two novels published The Secret of Lies and Asleep Without Dreaming (both on Amazon).  Thanks, Babs, for all your help and support!

If you enjoy reading about love, celebrities and farming (foodies unite!), you'll enjoy this novel as your autumn read.  It's in e-book now and will be in paperback before the holidays.  Purchase and download to your Kindle, Mac, PC, iPhone... whatever device you prefer.
Happy reading!

Buy My Book nowhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F3CYSU8

Link to Download Kindle to your PChttp://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000426311

Link to Download Kindle to your iPhonehttp://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000301301

Until next time. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


Ah.  Springtime. It's here after a long winter wait.

Everyone raves about autumn in New York... but spring in New York has its own beauty.  What's more uplifting than seeing that first Cherry Blossom tree in full bloom in Central Park?  Or yellow daffodils?  Or tulips on Park Avenue?

Cherry Blossoms in Central Park
Spring is off to a great start.

I attended the TV show Live with Kelly & Michael at WABC last week.  Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan have a wonderful, energetic, brother-sister chemistry going on and it shines through (explaining the high ratings for their show).
Live with Kelly & Michael
Michael met with a group of fellas who wore his NY Giants jerseys... he brought them out of the audience to sign their shirts (right on their backs!) and take photos.  Cool guy.  Very, very talented man.  A natural on TV.  
Michael Strahan with NY Giants fans
Kelly Ripa is super friendly, bubbly, energetic (she's a twig and has run to the top of the Empire State Building, no wonder) and she interacts one on one with the audience.  Fun time.  If you're in NYC, get tickets to see the show... it's a blast.
Commercial break during Live
Another great event right now in New York is Holland Taylor in the one-woman show ANN.  Taylor wrote and stars in this solo show that pays tribute to the life of one-time Texas Governor Ann Richards.   It's a terrific performance from a talented actress mostly known for being on TV, playing Charlie Sheen's mother on Two and Half Men and a slew of other parts.  If you like politics, straight-shooting humor, than don't miss this one.
Holland Taylor as ANN (Richards)
Being in the theater district, swing by the Drama Book Shop on 250 W. 40th Street.  It's a New York treasure for actors and writers and theater-lovers. They carry the latest and greatest in plays, magazines and books focusing on the performing arts.  I can spend hours reading in there. http://www.dramabookshop.com/

One other springtime hit is Bette Midler in her new one-woman show I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers.  It's written by John Logan ("Red" and "Skyfall").  Bette Midler plays Sue Mengers, the 70s Hollywood super agent, who represented everyone from Barbra Streisand to Faye Dunaway to you-name-it.  Better Midler's delivery of this chat is priceless and not to be missed.

When the curtain went up, and Bette Midler sat there on stage with a slight grin, the audience erupted to the rafters.  Midler last appeared on Broadway over 30 years ago.  She's come a long way since those days... in her music and movies... and the audience loved every minute of her name-dropping, F-bomb blasting monologue.  If you grew up paying attention to Hollywood in the 60s, 70s and early 80s -- this tribute to Sue Mengers is hilarious.  If not, you may get lost with all the movie references, name-dropping and inside jokes... but still, seeing Bette Midler is a win-win.  Get tickets while you can.  It's a short run. 

And by the way, everyone knows Midler is a true environmentalist, helping to keep New York City green with her gardens and endless financial support, but did you know she gets driven around in a hybrid compact car right after the show?  No big gas-guzzling SUV waiting for this superstar at the stage door.  She's the real deal.

Bette Midler as Sue Mengers on Broadway
My one act play NETFITS had a 3-night performance at the LIC One Act Play Festival in Long Island City in March.  The audience voted and NETFITS is moving to the April semi-finals.  Fingers crossed we make it to the finals in late April.   http://www.secrettheatre.com/licfest_info.html

And my screenplay HARK & HAROLD, with co-writer Chris Keller, is now making its way to agents and producers in LA and NY.  It's a Christmas comedy movie script.  This script keeps us in the Christmas spirit even in spring.

Happy springtime, All!  Soak up the sun, play in the grass and smell some flowers.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  Much love to you from New York City.

Until next time,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

by Janet Lawler
March 13, 2013
New York
Lucky Guy on Broadway
 Nora Ephron's final play LUCKY GUY is in previews on Broadway.  It stars Tom Hanks. 

It's a terrific play.  It's about New York columnist Mike McAlary and his cohorts in various NYC newsrooms as he climbs to the top in a tough-as-nails city.  It's a witty tale about tabloids, marriage, Irish pubs, good cops, bad cops and the grit of making your living and name in NYC between 1985-1998. 

The play even has some singing, but it's definitely not a musical.  And since it's about the newspaper biz in its golden days, it's got men (and one woman) who swear like sailors, smoke cigarettes at their desks while banging out a story on deadline and they all congregate at the local bar.

Tom Hanks is charming in a not so likeable part.  On stage, it's hard to take your eyes off him just like on screen.  His cadence is so familiar -- and in one particular scene, while in physical therapy recovering from a car crash -- he talks a lot like Forest Gump.

The entire cast is top notch.  Maura Tierney, best known for ER, plays Hanks' wife and has an opening scene where she pretends to be a train conductor on the Long Island Railroad rattling off all the local stops... it's hilarious... and the audience, packed with Long Islanders, gave her a round of applause... especially for the way she pronounced Ronkonkoma.

Director George C. Wolfe's creates excitement through pacing and quick changing sets from newsroom, to Long Island bedroom to the local bar.  

Nora Ephron's writing crackles.  Her wit and timing with a joke rarely miss.  It's not jokes for joke sake, but makes you laugh with its truth.  She knew about journalism.  Before her movie career, Ephron wrote for the New York Post.  Her first husband was Carl Bernstein, a reporter who helped topple a U.S. president.

There are tough scenes to watch capturing the brutality NYC city can dish out... along with facing aging and disease.  It's also about cancer.  Nora Ephron knew what she was writing about... the lines Mike McAlary delivers at the end have that much more meaning because now we know the author was facing her own battle with cancer.

The play reminds us that life is so damn fragile -- as are fame and big egos.  New York City will build you up and tear you down like no other town.   That's a fact, as they say in the newspaper biz.

On a lighter note, the cast reunites Hanks with his Bosom Buddies co-star Peter Scolari.  It's great to see them together.  And actor Courtney B. Vance as Hanks' newspaper editor deserves a special shout out for a super performance.  He has some of the best lines in the play.

Playwright Nora Ephron
 In a recent NY Times article by Jacob Bernstein, Nora's son, he said that while his mother lay dying in the hospital, she had a vision that her last play was on Broadway and she saw a filled theater.

Her vision came true.  Every seat was sold out.  Yes, many came to see Tom Hanks on stage -- but most were there to pay tribute to Nora Ephron.   

Go see Lucky Guy if you can. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Valerie as Rhoda
I wrote a letter to Rhoda when I was 15. 

Valerie Harper was one of my favorite actresses on TV.  For some reason, she reminded me of my big sister.  My sister, Catherine Mary, who preferred Kathy, had Rhoda's sense of humor and fashion style... like wearing a bandana in a new way I'd never seen before  in the 70s. 

My sister and Rhoda (Valerie) were my  heroes... two beautiful, strong women, one in real life and one on TV, both that I tried to copy in dress (oops... the bandana thing really didn't quite work for me in high school.  I looked like the cleaning lady.) but I did  "tawk" like Rhoda (since I already had the Bronx accent).  And I liked to make people laugh, just like Rhoda.

Who didn't love Rhoda Morgenstern and her TV family?  Her younger, wisecracking-sidekick sister Brenda, her domineering mother (Mrs. Morgenstern played by the wonderful Nancy Walker), and Joe... Rhoda's dream boat guy that she married in NYC.  Gosh, I wanted to grow up to be Rhoda... I even liked her doorman, Carlton.... who always sounded drunk on her apartment intercom. 

So, one day, there it was in my mailbox... the official-looking letter from CBS Studios in California.  From MTM Productions... Mary Tyler Moore's production company produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later Rhoda.  Her company was called MTM.  Whoa.  Could it be?

My heart skipped a beat.

Inside, was an autographed photo from Valerie Harper...  It wasn't a fake (I was good at recognizing fakes).  I treasured that 8x10 photo... there it was...Valerie Harper wearing a head scraf... looking so chic, so cool... I put that photo on my wall with all the other Hollywood photos I collected.  She sent me a couple more photos over the next few years.

I was only a teenager.. but Rhoda made me laugh.  She got me through some tough days.  She made me forget for awhile that my father had died when I was 14.  TV was my escape.  Is it any wonder I still love writing?  Still love movies and TV shows?  It's art at its best... it comes right into our homes and heals when we need it most.

The jokes that Rhoda volleyed back and forth with Mary Tyler Moore on Saturday nights on CBS helped me forget my loss... it made me forget that my big sister was battling drug addiction... and that she might not overcome it.

Sadly, she didn't.

Today I watched the news about Valerie Harper having terminal cancer.  They said she has only months to live.  That news hurt.  I hope the doctors are wrong.  I hope this is a terrible blunder on the medical community... and that Valerie Harper lives on for many years to come.  She has a great outlook... and miracles do happen.

As someone said on the news tonight, we all love Valerie Harper because we are all Rhoda.  She was one of the first women on TV to discuss her weight, bad dates,  nagging mothers, insecurities about her hair and career.  She fretted (and joked) about never finding love.  She valued her best friend Mary more than anything.  She was as real as TV would allow. 

Rhoda stole America's heart.

Thank you, Rhoda,  from every girl that you made laugh and forget about their own insecurities... you showed America that a plump girl from New York City could find love and do anything she wanted in the world.  Maybe Rhoda didn't toss her hat in the air with the same confidence as Mary Richards... but Rhoda did make it.

After all.

And today, fast forward -- I live in New York City.  I'm married.  I work at a television news station in Manhattan (much like Mary Tyler Moore did at WJM).  I write plays (mostly comedies) and screenplays. 

Life sure is funny.

Thanks, Valerie, for sending me that photo so many years ago.  It was a life raft in many ways.  I still keep it.  I'll  keep it, and you,  in my heart always.

Be well. 

Janet Lawler
New York
March 6, 2013