Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hollywood for the Socially Awkward

I’m a writer for a reason. Well, a number of reasons, I guess. But one of the main ones is that I like staying in my jammies all day and talking to people I invent in my head. But with THE FAITHFUL republished last fall and the sequel coming out early this summer, I knew the time had come to push away from my desk, put on some grownup clothes, and try not to be too socially awkward with the other humans.

Sisters in Crime, an outstanding organization to which I belong, was hosting a conference at Universal City aimed at teaching writers the ins and outs of “the biz.” When they announced it I signed up immediately—almost on a whim. And because I was so speedy, I ended up being one of the few chosen to pitch my novel to a Hollywood exec. This caused a faint stir of anxiety, I’ll admit. I’d already been feeling the trepidation any introvert feels when suddenly exposed, pale and blinking, to the world of social interaction—but talking to some Hollywood exec about my work was screaming distance from my comfort zone.

Well, inevitably, the first day of the conference arrived. I was pitching that afternoon. Thank goodness the first speaker of the day was Pam Veasey, an Emmy nominated writer currently working on CSI: Cyber. She gave a great talk on the art of the pitch, and I took notes like my life depended on it. I’m pretty sure it did. Afterward, those of us scheduled to pitch were brought to a separate room to get some help. My group was lucky enough to get Pam. She was amazing, listening as we bumbled our way through our pitches and giving extraordinary advice on how to improve them.

Any of you who have read THE FAITHFUL know it’s a complex book, with multiple characters and storylines that eventually come together. My biggest challenge was trying to find a way to describe it in less than five minutes, in a way that not only made sense but also sounded interesting. So here’s where I’d gotten on my own:

“Uhhhhhh … so … I wrote this book?” Followed by an awkward silence.

Brilliant, right? I thought so. Well, okay. Maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I did ramble a bit and Pam cut the nonsense and gave me several key points to hit upon. Soooooo grateful!

Five minutes can feel like an eternity, or it can flash by in seconds. My five minutes was like a lighting bolt. I’d been told to watch for my handler, who would return to the room to signal that my time was up. Being a true Canadian, I got so worried I’d inconvenience someone by talking too long that I spent half the pitch checking the door behind me, just to make sure. It may have made me look a wee bit twitchy, come to think of it.

Post-pitch and pre-drink.
The man I pitched to is the founder of a very successful production company, and he’s been involved in projects like Spider Man and Guns, Girls and Gambling, to name a couple. Gulp. But he was very kind and attentive, he asked to keep a copy of my book, and I didn’t feel like I was dying a slow, painful death. I flew from the meeting with the same relief I imagine those wasps feel when my husband saves them from drowning in our pool.

The rest of the conference was truly amazing and informative, and I got over my social awkwardness enough to meet some amazing authors. So much talent in one room, it was inspiring!

I came home with a renewed sense of excitement for the job I’m fortunate enough to do, and I’m more in love with Hollywood than ever. What strange magic! I hope to be back very, very soon.

Thank you, Sisters in Crime! It was outstanding.

Me with fellow authors Terri Nolan, Kathy Hegarty Krevat, Judith Gonda & G.M. Malliet

Sunday, April 3, 2016

In A Moment

This last week(ish) was a busy time for me. I felt a little bit like it was one of those moments in my life when I just woke up and realized- hey, time to live your life now. It is so easy: to get stuck in a rut, to just follow the same pattern day in, day out.

A little over a year ago, I got a new job at a fantastic company. While I love the friends I have made and the stability it has brought to my life, it has kind of consumed all my energy. I wake up at 5:30 every morning to sleepily commute my way to work in an hour long train ride where I fight not to drool on the person sitting next to me. First world problems, right? But oh, do I hate waking up that early. I am not a flowers and sunshine person first thing. So after commuting to the city, working my 8 hours, and commuting home, I found myself falling into a pattern of work, sleep, repeat, with little in between. 

Which sadly had its consequences: no writing, no activity, and at best, an ambivalent attitude towards being healthy/taking care of myself. I felt dazed in my life, half asleep and just meandering along without any real goals. Then, for whatever reason, last week I had my first big idea.

I am an overthinker. Give me a simple situation, and I can overcomplicate it to the extreme. A late night worrier, sometimes paralyzed by indecision. But sometimes this all bottles up inside of me to the point where I get so fed up with myself, I finally just do something. The need to act in a way outside my own comfort levels, to surprise myself. 

It started with, for me, a rather dramatic change. I loved my long hair. It was swishy, and flowy, and starting to make me feel kind of like a princess. Yet, I’ve always wanted to donate it. But … the overthinking. I always regret cutting my hair short (I’ve done it before but at the time, I was blonde, and you can’t donate bleached hair). To me, I look much better with longer hair. Still, it has always been a dream of mine and a bucket item list. So, in that strange rush of decisiveness that sometimes takes hold, I decided to cut it, booked an appointment, and chopped off 10 inches to donate within a 2 day period. The result? Yes, I still miss my long hair (I’m a vain creature), but it makes me warm in my heart to think that maybe, my donated hair is making someone, who is struggling through a tough time, feel beautiful.

This week, I’m taking on a healthy eating 10 day challenge (hint: Advocare) and trying to overcome my natural habitat of slothing away on the couch. How’s it going, you ask? Well … I did just finish shot-gunning through episodes of Downton Abbey (what will I do without my new friends?), but I am happy to say I did it without a delicious bag of Cheetos by my side (oh yum …).

Then, against this backdrop of my personal challenges, my mom got into a car accident. Luckily, happily, so ever most importantly, she is alright. A bit of a stiff back and bruised pride, but my mom is safe and whole. Her car, slightly less so. But things are just things. It’s scary, to think how quickly it can be over. How easily her driving misstep could have become something much worse.

If anything, the accident woke me up more. I hope in a permanent way. It’s not easy for me, this being present in life. This pushing beyond comfort zones to carpe diem or make the world my oyster. I would much rather be sitting on the couch with some cheesy snacks, doing my part to get Anna out of prison, or trying to help Thomas be less of a nasty plotter. 

Life is short. I don’t know what is ahead of me, or how long the path is. I can only make the most of my today. To be awake and fully in the moment. So that’s my new goal. I hope I can stay true to it, although I’m certain I’ll stumble along the way. I hope this means new novels and more writing achievements along the way. But for today, I’m happy with my little goals and achievements. My joy in the sunshine outside (hey, this is Seattle, you take what you can get!). And if someone out there reads this, and it sparks a little flame of energy inside their chest, then all the better. We can help each other stay awake. I promise to poke you if you start to fall asleep. Promise to do the same?