With the onset of one of the worst infectious outbreaks of our time, the Covid-19 Pandemic, or Corona-virus apocalypse as I call it, there’s a critical need for coping mechanisms. I live in the U.S., so I don’t believe we’ve seen the worst of it yet. The schools, bars, restaurants, YMCA, barbershops, businesses are all closed. The kids are home 24/7. Work is drastically reduced, although I do work in healthcare, but not on the frontlines of a hospital. The elderly population that I work with are the most vulnerable, so Assisted living facilities are either restricting non-essential personnel, or closing their doors completely. In other words, I’m pretty much stuck at home seeking ways to escape intractable boredom.
One of things that has helped me cope with depression, panic, heightened anxiety, and the madness of the world going to the pot, is music therapy. I’ve made several playlists on my device, but the one that’s saving me right now is named JACKED. It’s a list of 7 great songs by various artists and types of music. For the sake of space, I’ll split it in half and only share 3 songs here. Ready?
There are no lyrics, just some background vocals with a sensational rhythm and great bass line. I can’t tell you how this makes me feel when I fire this one up on the headphones! There’s simple introduction with various electronics, voices, then….the bass line drops. BAM. Instant gratification.
*Call To Arms= 1: a summons to engage in active hostilities. 2 : a summons, invitation, or appeal to undertake a particular course of action. (Merriam-Webster)
The beginning of this playlist, JACKED, begins with a “Call to Arms”, a call to engage in active warfare. On a much deeper level, this is our actual situation in the midst of this global pandemic. An invisible enemy has attacked us with our pants down, daring us to respond. How will you respond? Staying at home all day doesn’t seem much like a call to action during wartime, but it is. We can’t fight this enemy head on. Our call to action is to retreat, distant ourselves, check on our loved ones, or those who are at greater risk of infection. I’ve been in the healthcare industry going on 20 years and I’ve seen firsthand what infectious diseases can do to the human body. It’s not pretty, trust me. To think we’re somehow immune or invincible to once in a lifetime pandemic is simply preposterous. Being smart doesn’t mean mass hysteria, or sustaining a sense of panic. However, strategy is everything in warfare.
Genre: Epic music, Symphonic, electronic, instrumental. Album: Magnus 2015
The group Audiomachine is as awesome as it sounds. Very professional, epic sound. In fact they’ve appeared on multiple trailers for blockbuster movies over the years. I found them over the last few years and simply can’t recommend them enough. This particular peace is just heavenly, majestic, however you want to phrase it.
*Providence = 1. a divine guidance or care. 2. b God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.
In dire times such as this, certainly we need the divine guidance of God himself. God have mercy on us all.
Genre: R&B/Soul Album: Blended Family (What You Do For Love) 2016
I’ve always loved the magical voice of the wonderful Alicia Keys. Her ability to invoke emotions in me through her music is truly special. When I listen to this song, Blended Family I’m immediately transported into her experience of loving her family. You can find the story behind her inspiration for Blended family here. Alicia Keys shares her experience of her husband, producer Swiss Beatz, his children from a previous relationship, and their own children. Families can be very diverse considering all the dynamics involved.
Definitely in the midst of any crisis we need to seek the emotional support from those closest to us. I found myself reaching out to some members of the family I haven’t regularly spoken to in a while. Under the strict guidelines provided by the CDC, state and local authorities, social or familial interaction is critical.
I’ll share the remainder of the playlist, JACKED in the coming days. In the meantime. Stay safe, take care of yourself, reach out to others who may be in need.
This is the writing train signing off…until the next time.
Please welcome Jennifer Irwin author of A Dress the Color of the Sky. The film rights have been sold and the book isn’t even published yet! Wowsers! That’s pretty impressive if I say so myself.
Have you written anything before this book?
No. This is my first novel.
How did you come to teach Pilates?
I retired from working in advertising after my third son was born but still wanted to work part time. I enjoy helping women feel better about themselves and teaching Pilates was a great avenue to fulfill that desire. I have really enjoyed getting to know all sorts of women through being a Pilates teacher.
There is something very fulfilling being able to help others. I’m glad found something that works for you!
How has writing this book help you heal?
Writing is a great creative outlet. I found that the more I put my characters into difficult situations the better I felt. I also enjoyed creating wonderful female friendships for my protagonist, Prudence Aldrich. Women bond through sharing life experiences and it was healing for me to develop female characters who were super supportive of each other.
I find that very interesting. That does sound very healing, in a creative kind of way. Love it.
“Writing is a great creative outlet. I found that the more I put my characters into difficult situations the better I felt.”-Jennifer Irwin
How can this book help others heal?
A Dress the Color of the Sky is the story of a woman healing from a traumatic childhood. After seeing the astounding response to Kelly Oxford’s tweet about her sexual assault experience I am confident that this story will speak to many women. We are all stronger than we believe and we can’t let difficult experiences ruin our lives. It’s important to heal from the past in order to move forward and lead a healthy, happy life. Healing takes work but with the help of a professional it is possible. Prudence had not dealt with her traumatic childhood and as a result she could not seek out healthy relationships nor could she respect herself.
Several of these statements really resonate on many levels. I believe healing is critical to our going forward in life. There are a few things I’m still healing from myself. Thank you!
What was your response when you realized the story resonated with women?
Over the past few years I have sought input from test readers. I searched for women whom I believed might not choose a novel like mine. One woman in particular was a senior in college and a pre-professional zoology major. I can honestly say that her review is one of my favorites because I was so surprised by how much my book affected her. She not only couldn’t put it down but the story really spoke to her. Honestly, I can’t wait to share it with the world!
That’s awesome! It has to be the most rewarding experience knowing that your words have affected someone the way it did. I’m jealous 🙂
Is it true the rights have been sold for movie production?
Yes! I have sold the feature film rights and A Dress the color of the sky will be made into a major motion picture.
SWEEEEEEETTTT!!!!! I’m so happy for you. You must’ve been thrilled to hear that. I’m thrilled myself and it isn’t even my book!
Tell us about your motivation to get your book published.
When I first started querying agents I literally had no idea what I was doing. I do believe that there are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of an author who is chasing their dream. I encourage all authors to be very careful. My first conundrum was writing the perfect query letter. I was fortunate enough to have my query letter chosen to be critiqued on the blog Query Shark. Although I took a bit of a beating I am grateful for the shark’s input and advise. Once I felt I had the perfect query letter I realized that my book needed work so I halted sending out query’s until I felt more confident in my book. Writer’s Digest has a ice little program where you can pay to have your first few pages critiqued by an agent. I got some great input through this program. All the while, I continued to seek input from test readers to improve my novel. I received some lovely responses from literary agents. Although agents are very intimidating and the publishing business is closed, some are very helpful and nice. I ended up entering a publishing contest in which your book idea is voted on.When you meet certain voting platforms you have to complete homework and get a certain grade to move to the next level. my book ended up being the most voted on book idea in the history of the contest and I was offered a publishing contract. It was right then that I received the film rights offer. i will say that through the publishing contest I learned that most of books marketing falls on the author’s shoulders and how important it is to market your book before it gets published. Entering the publishing contest was one of my best moves towards getting published because I learned a tremendous amount from the publisher about social media and how to market on various platforms. It was really valuable to me. Once I sold the film rights I invested in a writing coach and tore my book apart and rebuilt it. Since then, I have signed with a literary agent and have also received a contract offer from a small indie publisher. I guess this is my long answer to your question and the short answer is never give up!
I love your determination and what you’ve learned of the marketing and publishing experience. This is food for encouragement for us all. Hip-hip hooray!! Keep learning.
How did the sample readers relate to the main character?
Since seeking out test readers, I have only received one negative critique and i was from a woman my writing coach chose who never reads fiction. Other than that, every single test reader has related to my book and to the protagonist. I would say the man connection is that pretty much every single human on earth has endured some form of child abuse whether it be something small or big. There’s a scene in my book where Prudence is told to eat everything on her plate. I think most people can relate to having to eat something displeasing when they were a child. I think the other way people relate to Prudence is by reading what she’s thinking in her head which I do a lot in the book. That voice we all have in our head that can be a little mean at times. Everyone seems to relate to that.
I can understand and relate to the statements here. Everyone has some form of abuse, wound, or pain of some sort. Sometimes it’s very obvious, sometimes it’s well hidden. In my childhood we were “spanked” pretty heavily; which would be easily considered child abuse by today’s standards. You also mentioned the point of view that we would relate to. I always find this aspect of a character the most rewarding experience. To feel, experience, see as they do. I recently heard an interesting statement from a sign at my son’s school. It read: “be careful how you speak to your child, because it will become their inner voice.”. What a statement! So true. That becomes the voice that we tend to hear in our heads.
How has conducting research affected your understanding of the main character?
Although I can’t really understand exactly how it feels to be an addict I have learned a lot about how addicts recover and heal. There is a saying,”once an addict always an addict” so the work is there every single day which is why AA follows the motto, “one day at a time.” I read every book on sex addiction by Patrick Carnes who is an expert in the field. His assistant recently asked me for an advanced copy of my book which is very exciting. I attended a variety of meetings through the AA program and spoke to many people in recovery. I’d say the best research I did was by accident because my father was a drug addict and alcoholic. I learned through experience how his addiction affected myself, my family and my father.
I appreciate the research you’ve put into this project. It’ll definitely show when people begin to read your work.
When you saw people being rehabilitated what was your experience?
Recovering from an addiction takes a tremendous amount of work. it appears to me that success happens when there is a large community of sober people helping. The relapse rate for recovered addicts who stay longer in after care is less than those who try to white knuckle it alone after a ninety day inpatient treatment program. I tried to be careful with all of this and to respect the recovery process in my book. The best results happen with complete immersion in the program. There needs to be a total lifestyle shift and that takes time and commitment. I also learned that addiction does not discriminate and affects a wide cross section of genders, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. I doubt that you will meet anyone who has not either directly or indirectly been affected by addiction.
May many people read and find the stubborn wings of hope through the message you send through this book.
Speak about the power of addiction and the concepts about rehabilitation.
Since I do not have a degree in addiction recovery, nor am I a therapist, I am not comfortable speaking in depth about the concept of rehabilitating an addict. I am simply an author who has been affected by addiction and wrote a novel about an addict. I really can’t give sage professional advice to anyone because I am not trained to do so. From a laymen point of view, addiction is a very powerful thing that I cannot personally understand because I am not an addict. It does seem to be very, very powerful to those who are in recovery.
Well said. I think of all the people who are under the relentless power of addiction. May they really find the help that they need.
“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.”-Sandeep Jauhar
What message is sent through the main character?
The message sent through the main character is that traumatic childhood experiences can change how you feel about yourself. Because Prudence was abused she viewed herself as a victim. As a result, she was not equipped to choose a healthy partner to share her life with and she didn’t have the strength to endure difficult situations that can arise in relationships. Prudence needed to let go of the shame put on her during her childhood in order to heal and find self love. If a person does not heal from their past they cannot seek out healthy relationships because they are not healthy themselves.
I love this! Very therapeutic.
“If a person does not heal from their past they cannot seek out healthy relationships because they are not healthy themselves.”-Jennifer Irwin
When will your book be published?
I should be making a decision on who will be publishing my book within the next few months. Once I sign the publishing contract I will have a release date which I can’t wait to announce!
We’ll be desperately waiting.
What’s your next writing project?
I am pitching to write the screenplay with the help of a very accomplished television writer who believes that I have the talent to be a strong contender. Writing the screenplay would be a dream come true! I am also putting together an outline for my next novel which will be a stand alone sequel to A Dress the Color of the Sky.
That sounds really fun. Keep us posted on your progress, we’d love to hear about it.
Everyone has a goal, desire, or dream to fulfill. The motivations may be different, but we’re all seeking some kind of fulfillment in life. In other words, we each have a story. Stories are all about triumph over obstacle, forces of evil, darkness, and seemingly insurmountable odds. So who’s writing your story? It all depends on how you live it.
I love hearing the stories of writers. So let’s introduce one…
April is a mom, writer, editor, blogger, contributor at culturess.comAND a fellow Wordplayer from our awesome Facebook group.
WELCOME ABOARD APRIL!!!!!
Everyone please welcome April, aka Wonder Woman…
*What genre do you write?
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that one is…
*What’s your current work in progress about?
My WIP is about a family trying to repair their relationships after 3 decades of trauma tore them apart. And I’m a single mother and a grandmother currently living back in the South after spending 25+ years in the Midwest. I’ve been blogging off and on since 2003 and I’m in the process of setting up my blog again at aprilpalooza.com
It’s not too late to move back to the Midwest! Hah! Just kiddin. A family trying to repair itself after three decades of trauma would take a lot of work. But it’s definitely worth the save.
*What inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember–stories, angsty teenage poetry, articles. Being an avid reader as a kid probably inspired me the most.
Alright, April. Can you show us some of your poetry? Pluu-leeeze?? Writing is such a release isn’t it?
“You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.”-Doris Lessing
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
At this point, I’d like to just get one draft completed and hopefully published.
That’s a good first goal. You can do it, April. I’ll be one of your personal cheerleaders!!!
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Feeling like my writing and my ideas just aren’t good enough to be published, being mentally blocked to where I can’t translate ideas from my brain to my computer, fear of failure.
This sounds all too familiar. I can relate to every one of these. I’m realizing we need to believe in ourselves to release our true potential and be what we desire to be.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Seeing other success stories, daydreams about success including financial rewards (example: visions of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf), wanting my family to be proud of me
This is going to sound cheesy, but….I’M PROUD OF YOU! Seriously, you’re a single mom chasing her dream. What is else is better than that? (I’m the product of a single mom.) Being a parent in today’s world is not a small matter; and anyone who wants to be a writer is a special person in my mind. So hats off and high fives to you sis’.
*What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
I feel like there’s some sort of natural talent that other writers have and I just don’t, which gets me to thinking that maybe I was silly to think I could do this.
It’s hard not to compare ourselves with others in different areas. But one thing we need to remember-no one is you. You’re special, and there’s no one else like you. A diamond can be breathtakingly brilliant in all its beauty; captivating, even. But if you look closely, it’s composed of many, many, many small facets. Each facet shares and participates in the beauty displayed by the diamond. We’re all part of it. We just don’t see it. You may not see your own preciousness, but others do.
*If you have given up your dream, tell us why?
I’ll answer this because I have given up before, but not completely. Sometimes I just think that I’m kidding myself by believing that I could actually do this. I’ve watched others accomplish so much with their own writing and here I am still working on the first draft of a book I started almost 2 years ago! There’s that little voice in the back of my head that says “Bahahahaha! You’re not a WRITER!”
Writers are resilient creatures aren’t they? Believe it sister! We can do this. I had the same thoughts as you last year. Then another author told me “make a plan and do the work”. Then I realized the *only* difference between me and successful authors was exactly that. A plan and elbow grease. Don’t listen to that pesky voice in your head. I hate it when he shows up. Tell em’ to put a sock in it and watch me go to work. Keep your game face on sister, your not alone.
*Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think we’re just convinced that people are going to hate it so why bother? We have all this self-doubt that we’re not a GOOD writer (and why would we want to be any other kind?) and that putting our work out there puts us at risk of having others find out that we’re not good writers which then confirms our fears. Nobody likes being vulnerable and being rejected.
We spend so much time fearing not being *good* instead of just telling our story. Writing is so subjective and so is this matter of being good, or better. No one wants to be a bad writer of course. It’s a process. But I read somewhere that we should focus more on telling our story. What a relief!
If a story is in you, it has to come out. -William Faulkner
“You can make anything by writing.”-C.S. Lewis
“To survive you must tell stories” -Umberto Eco
“Pour your heart to the page, she always listens.”-Benjamin Thomas
I don’t know that I am ‘from’ anywhere. I was born on an army base, Fort Belvoir, in Northern Virginia, then grew up as a young child in my mother’s hometown of Hickory, North Carolina. Then it was back to Northern Virginia, living near the Bull Run battlefield in Manassas. 150 years ago, men from all over the country came here – twice – to duke it out. Now,.people come there from all over the country so they can commute to their government or technology centered jobs, which my dad had.
Since then, the army took me across the country and to South Korea, and as a civilian I have lived in Kansas, North Carolina (again), El Paso, TX and now Tucson, Arizona. What does it mean to be from a place? I am amalgamated from all of those places and many more besides: the Corleone compounds in New York and Lake Tahoe; Discovery One, on it’s ill fated journey to Jupiter; even Desi and Lucy’s Manhattan apartment.
I come from a tribe of wanderers.
Wow! You are literally a man of many places.
Do you write screenplays and novels?
I am a screenwriter, but I did begin work on a novel in 2014 that I completely pantsed. It is a zombie dystopia (of course) told in the first person from several perspectives; my favorite was the young woman in her late teens from Pacific Palisades, California, a wealthy beachside community of Los Angeles. The good and evil groups meet up in Las Vegas, in an homage to Stephen King’s The Stand.
That’s really cool that you’re a screenwriter.
Which do you like more?
Screenplays. They are a novel distilled to it’s essence. Put a novel in the dryer on too high heat: a screenplay results.
I love the visual!
How is writing screenplays different from fiction?
The biggest differences are texture and subplots. A novel, which could be a thousand pages, could have endless subplots. A screenplay can have two or three if it is long enough, but all the narrative drive has to be supplied by the main plot; there is barely space for anything else.
Texture is the novel’s greatest strength over the screenplay. Take It, for example. King spends an enormous amount of time detailing several horrifying events in the past of the town. Gradually it becomes clear to the reader that the town has been inculcated in the evil of It. If you watch the mini series, however, that is nowhere to be found, as there is not enough time.
Texture in a film is all a result of the scene and the decorative elements thereof. Take the opening of The Godfather. It is not by accident that it begins at Connie’s wedding, nor that it is seen through the eyes of Kay, the outsider. It allows Coppola to import texture so that we get a feel for what it means to be Italian American in the 40s, before we commence with the story proper, as it were. The fact that Don Vito is feared by so many, but gently cradles his cat: that is the distillation process in full effect.
Wow. This is amazing to see the difference between the two. I’m beginning to notice the nuances between the two mediums. Funny you mentioned the Godfather because I just got the audiobook.
What’s the hardest thing about being a filmmaker?
The hardest thing about filmmaking is not filmmaking at all: it is financing. When people give you money, they tend to want it back, plus a profit. There are now just two entry points into ‘the system’. The first is make a cheap horror film. Horror does not require ‘names’, nor does it require lots of money. It does not even require a great script. All it needs is a great hook. Don’t Breathe, which came out recently, has a fantastic hook: a group of punks rob a soldier who is blind but has the keenest hearing and really objects to people breaking in. Or It Follows, from last year, which takes the horror formulation of sex = death to its logical conclusion.
The other way is to write a great screenplay for a name, which can then secure the financing. An example would be Brick, Rian Johnson’s amazing debut, which sets a film noir in a high school. This came to the attention of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was looking for a project to allow him to be taken seriously. It worked out great for both (you may have heard of Johnson’s latest project: Star Wars VIII?).
Wonderful! I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and chock full of talent. Then for Rian Johnson to have a ‘project’ such as Star Wars VIII is nothing short of amazing.
What are your Top 5 favorite movies and what makes them great?
Very tough. I will go with The Godfather, Part II,directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The rare, perhaps only sequel to better it’s predecessor, G2 is the tale of father and son and the huge differences between them. The two key scenes are the old woman being kicked out of her apartment because the rent will be $30 and the landlord hates her dog. Vito first asks the landlord for a favor: tell the woman the rent is 25 and come see him for the rest. Plus, please let her keep the dog. The landlord refuses. Vito kindly asks him to change his mind. The man refuses. Vito Corleone, the most powerful man in Little Italy, debases himself to come to a mutual solution. Only once the man realizes what he has done – and to whom – does Vito apply the screws, but even then, he praises the man for being so generous. Why make an enemy needlessly?
Compare to the son, who upon hearing the demands of the Nevada senator for a gaming license, arrogantly tells the senator will give him the license and get nothing in return, because Michael knows he can set the senator up and make him grateful for Michael’s help. Why spend money needlessly?
If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, G2 makes clear that Michael’s apple landed on the slope of a hill and managed to roll far away.
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick succinctly and hilariously shows how war begins. It is banal, tragic, petty and most of all absurd. What I love most is the cognitive dissonance Kubrick initiates: we root for the War Room to shoot down the last B-52, but we also root for the intrepid, brave flight crew, which is determined to carry out their duty, culminating in the famous ride of Slim Pickens, riding the bomb like a bucking bronco to the extinction of the human race.
Wild Strawberries, directed by Ingmar Bergman. Ostensibly a road movie of a man getting a ride from his daughter-in-law to get a lifetime achievement award, it is actually about the man’s life, it’s mistakes and tragedies and his feeble attempts to keep his son from making the same mistakes. The way Bergman literally intertwines the past and the present is shot through with emotionality.
Stray Dog, directed by Akira Kurosawa. A cop in Tokyo loses his gun; the man responsible for taking it goes on a rampage. Though made in 1949, it has modern narrative sensibilities. Seven, for example, feels very much like it in atmosphere and in the hot headedness of its protagonist (Toshiro Mifune). It is set in August in Tokyo and everything is sweating, seemingly. The heat is very much on Mifune to get his gun back and stop a murderer.
Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair. This film does what only the magic of story can. It takes a very specific situation (an extended Punjabi family preparing for a wedding) and lets us see the universality of it. Once we recognize what we have in common with them,which is much, we can appreciate the ways we are different – and accept them. Starting with this point of empathy, we can celebrate the ways this Indian family are different from us. The story is very common (there are only a handful of story forms), but it is the specifics – the jumble of Mumbai, the idiosyncratic romance of the wedding planner and the family servant, how cell reception is awful in India – it is a joyous riot.
Nice starting five. I’ve only seen the Godfather, but that was many years ago.
Your favorite sports?
My favorite sports are NHL hockey (go Washington Caps!), major league baseball (go Washington Nats!) and NFL football (go Washington Skins!).
Who’s going to win the Superbowl?
The Patriots are undefeated despite starting nobodies at quarterback. When Brady comes back, how are they going to be stopped? They have to be the favorite right now.
Your least favorite team?
My least favorite team across all sports is the Dallas Cowboys, followed by the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. May they all have a bad end.
Name a few movies you’re dying to see.
Birth of a Nation; Manchester by the Sea; Doctor Strange (Marvel plus Benedict Cumberbatch should equal can’t miss); Passengers; La La Land wasn’t one I was anticipating, but it won the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival – as have the last four Best Picture winners, so I want to see what the fuss is about; and finally, always: the next under the radar horror movie.
Definitely looking forward to seeing Marvel’s Dr. Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch. Passengers looks like a winner, and of course, Star Wars VIII!!
You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
I got started writing at 7 when I wrote a story about a leprechaun. I think (either a leprechaun or an elf). My teacher said it was a good story. Then, as now, I take some things completely literally. If my teacher thought I had a good story, then I needed to sell that story. My friend suggested we get copies made, which involved some parental logistics but soon I had my copies and went door to door, selling my story for a quarter. Not a single person bought, which is mystifying and heartless (when an eight year old comes to your door selling an elf story for a quarter, you give the kid a quarter). I did not take any rejection from this – my teacher said it was a good story.
I started writing my first screenplay at 15, but didn’t finish. 12 years later, I started another script and finished – 4 years later. The third time I stole the structure from Richard III, so it only took about a year and the time has dropped since for a first draft.
I always find it rather amazing how some people begin writing so young.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
My goal is first, to just make something a quality. After that, it is to be produced. Further, to produce my own scripts. Finally, to dethrone Gone With The Wind as the all time domestic box office champ. All I need is a movie capable of making $1.7 billion…
That’s a pretty lofty goal, yikes!
A goal is a dream with a deadline. -Napoleon Hill
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I have been stymied by: low budgets. The Richard III script was produced for nothing and it became a boring movie. I began shooting for better funded producers, but I needed much higher quality scripts. So I have worked over the past several years to become a higher quality writer. Finding these producers amenable to my script genre also has been stymying.
Sounds like a tough business, even harder than publishing novels.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
I have no choice but to tell stories, even if only to read to Jehovah’s Witnesses who have stopped by for coffee.
Sounds like you’re very determined!
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Some of my antagonists: Laziness. I can slide form my writing for the day for various reasons. Work is a big one as well: I generally work 28 or 29 days a month, for around 10-14 hours. It doesn’t leave much time to write, particularly if the lazy grabs me.
I know this all too well. Once the tank is tapped, that’s it. A couple of days ago I saw a bumper sticker that read: MAKE USE OF YOUR ENERGY
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
Discouragement. Rejection. Discovering they aren’t very good. My dad did a lot of writing, for maybe 10 years, then he just stopped and did other things. I never asked him why; I think I was afraid of the answer. I didn’t think he was very good, and I worry I led him to stop.
These are all too familiar.
What would you say to a struggling writer?
(I think) What, exactly, does it mean to struggle? There is no end to ‘the struggle’. The Buddha tells us that life is struggle and pain. I would direct this writer to Stephen King, who was nearly killed; is that not struggle? Brad Pitt had everything until September, 2016, when his wife abruptly left; is that not pain? After Michael Jackson made the biggest album of all time, the only question was: how are you going to top it?
This writer, they think they struggle now. Their struggles will be unceasing. Their nature may change. Stephen King’s struggle is gathering the cash to buy the Boston Red Sox or whatever. Oh my God, the Rolls Royce needs a new engine!
There will always be struggle. Many, perhaps most, writers, successful or not, stare at the blank page or a story problem, and wonder the same thing: is this it? Will I ever write again? This is the one where they discover I’m a fraud.
The only cure for your struggles is to keep writing. At which point your struggle will change: how do I market this book? How do I find an honest financial advisor? Should I buy or rent a private jet? How do I increase tourism to my private island? #TheStruggleContinues
The only cure for your struggles is to keep writing- Usvaldo De Leon
The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow-Uknown
THIS IS YOU
I love the struggle, after all we’re going to need something to talk about at the top. -Picturequotes.com
Kevin T. Johns is an author, writing coach, ghostwriter, and podcaster who is passionate about helping writers.
Were you born and raised in Canada?
Yup. I’ve lived in and around Ottawa, Ontario, most of my life. I did a brief stint in Toronto after high school, but, for the most part, Ottawa has been my home.
I’ve yet to go to Canada. Can’t wait to tour the country!
What sparked your love of literature?
Comic books and Stephen King. I wasn’t a big reader before the age of ten or eleven, but around then I started reading super hero comics and Stephen King books and it just took off from there.
I started with a comic bent too, but I didn’t start with novels until much later. I should’ve asked you about your favorites.
After studying literature in college what 3 things have you come away with? (Besides debt)
1. An understanding that we all bring different lenses to our reading experiences, i.e. a book can be read with a feminist lens, a structural lens, a post-colonial lens. No one point of view is the “right” one. Each lens will provide different take-aways from a work of literature, all of which will be valid.
2. Literature (and art in general) plays a massive role in defining the culture we live in. We generally think of storytelling as escapism or just entertainment, when, in fact, it’s often key to formulating the world around us and how we understand it.
3. The analytical skill-sets used by literary scholars are applicable across a wide range of disciplines and situations, and are, therefore, well worth developing.
I love it. These 3 are great nuggets to chew on and appreciate.
What drives you to help other writers?
I believe books and stories are profoundly important to our world and to people’s happiness in general. But books, and novels in particular, are exceptionally difficult to create. If I can help make the writing process a little bit easier for someone, I feel like I have a duty to do so. Shawn Coyne said something when I interviewed him for The Writing Coach podcast that I totally agree with: “When you learn a particular craft, it’s kind of your responsibility to share it so that we can take storytelling to a new level.” Sharing what you know, helping others as a teacher and a mentor, is how we all get better. So there’s a certain moral responsibility to sharing what I know about writing. I also just love working with writers. For whatever reason, it’s the thing that lights me up and makes me happy.
That’s awesome! I’m all about taking storytelling to the next level. It’s fun to work with writers!
~A brand is a story that is always being told- Scott Bedbury
Can you name up to 5 common problems you see most in writers?
1. Not writing (procrastinating, overthinking, delaying, giving-in to resistance, avoiding doing the work, etc.)
I’m definitely guilty of some of these. But if you don’t know the problem then you can’t fix it.
The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.-Sandeep Jauhar
What are some of the ways that you help them?
The great thing about being a writing coach is that I can tailor my help to the individual writer’s situation. While there are certain common challenges every writer struggles with, the way each writers overcomes those challenges is totally unique to them. I don’t have a one-size- fits-all approach to helping authors. There is no secret answer or push-button solution. My job is to work with writers to explore options and find solutions that allow them to excel in their own special way.
I like the tailoring approach to helping writers. That’d be the most beneficial because everyone is so different.
Tell us about some of your own writings.
My novels The Page Turners and The Page Turners: Economy of Fear are young adult horror/sci-fi/fantasy mash-ups about a group of teenager who accidently unleash their favourite fictional villains into the real world.
AWESOME. I’d definitely like to check out some of your writings!
Who are some popular Canadian authors?
I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Canadian literature. My reading tastes are more focused on the cannon of “great literature” without much concern for the nationality of the author. There are, of course, certain Canadian authors everyone knows and reads like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, but that’s not really my thing. I guess some of my favourite Canadian writers would be indie comic book guys from Toronto like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth.
Just wondered. I’ve been meeting so many writers from Canada I couldn’t help but ask.
How can we sign up for your podcast?
On my podcast, The Writing Coach, I speak with all sorts of people who, like me, work with authors, be it editors, coaches, or book marketing experts. You can check out the full archive of past episodes and subscribe via iTunes right here.
Sweet. I listened to one these a while back and really enjoyed the production and audio quality.
Tell us about some of the services you provide.
My one-on- one coaching offers support, accountability, and expert advice to authors via weekly video-conference coaching sessions. Each week, I hop on a call with the writer and we dive deep into their writing, goals, and challenges.
My group program is similar to the one-on- one coaching, but takes place in a group context. I have an amazing collection of authors in the program right now who have created a wonderful community of support for one another.
I also have an online course, The Novel Writer’s Blueprint Master Class, which consists of video tutorials that walk aspiring authors through the entire process of writing a book, from idea creation all the way through to completed manuscript. I’ve set up a coupon code for your readers, so if they use the code WRITINGTRAIN at the checkout, they’ll get $200 off the course.
I also work as a ghostwriter. Successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and business people hire me to help write their self-help, business, or other non-fiction books and articles.
Sounds like a great deal that offers a lot of good services. You sound really busy!
Are you currently working on a project or novel?
This fall I’m releasing my latest novel, M School. It’s an action thriller with an all-girl cast. It deals with issues of violence and mental health, and I’m super excited to share it with the world. Folks can get some free goodies if they join the book’s early notification list here.
I just signed up. Curious about your new novel!
M School by Kevin T. Johns
DUE THIS FALL!!
Favorite inspirational quotes.
I often come back to the Ernest Hemingway quote:“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
I’m not going to lie. I had to look this one up on the map. I’ve definitely heard of it, but couldn’t place it in my head. Think I need a memory upgrade.
*What exactly is the 60 minute read series?
When I was considering starting my quest to write a book, I first thought about the books that I like reading: sharp, punchy, to the point. No fluff. No fuss. No long, dreary, padded paragraphs. Since my kids arrived, time is also a premium, so short bursts of reading is usually the norm. And thus, amongst all my pooled ideas, the Sixty Minute Reads series was born. Roughly 300 words per chapter, each with its own cliffhanger drawing the reader on, all anchoring in real time around an event or location, with flashbacks and revelations converging to that final, sixtieth minute.
I love the concept of this. Very fascinating and innovative. You certainly deserve a high five.
*Do you write full time?
I don’t write full time. I’m not even sure I write part time! I just write as and when the mood takes me. I’m very much a flitter in life.
Hah! I can totally relate to this one.
*Tell us about the protagonist in your new book.
Holly Holloway is hard to understand. She’s strong, she’s sassy, yet in certain situations she acts weak, vulnerable, and well, human. Perhaps she is difficult to like, seems a bit of a bitch, but maybe all things become clear in the end.
Vulnerability is always a keeper in crafting a protagonist. Readers tend to relate to that more than anything.
*Is this a stand alone book or beginning of a new series?
It is very much a series. I love my concept, there’s so much scope.
That’s awesome. Sounds like it definitely has potential.
*What genre do you mainly write in?
Young Adult: this is to be a series of Thrillers, but I have also written a YA Adventure novel (yet to be published)
YA definitely has a lot of market appeal. I love to read in this genre too!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I used to read books a lot as a child. I was really encouraged by my family, and would consume book after book, even walking to the bus stop banging into lampposts. Writing seemed to come naturally later in life.
That’s awesome. I cracked up at this. Picturing you banging into a lamppost while reading was hilarious.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I think I have already reached my goal: to become a published author. Perhaps my new goal is to become a multiple published author.
Goal achieved. Multiple publications sounds very desirable.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Time, desire, imagination.
Time: I work full time, have a young family that I love spending all my free time with, and climb as a hobby when I can.
Desire: I find it hard to WANT to edit my books. The thought of endlessly correcting my work seems to eternally stretch before me, so I put it off and off.
Imagination: My own imagination runs away with itself, such that when Draft 1 is complete, I am already off and thinking about the next book or books or series of books.
Ah, yes. These are the three heavyweights. Time, desire and imagination.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
To get that first book in paperback. To see it on our bookshelf at home. To think that one day my children will pick it up and read it and know that their Daddy created it. That it might inspire and spark their own imagination and dreams and loves. Motivation, got it in spades mate.
I guess that would be pretty surreal seeing your own book on the shelf.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Only my self. The wandering, writers mind. If only I could type as fast as my brain can think.
This wandering mind can be quite a problem sometimes.
Have you ever wanted to give up your dream? If so, why?
I’ve given up plenty of times. When the rejection letters came through from an industry that is only interested in the “painting by numbers” writing approach. When I had 10 chapters left to write and I couldn’t be bothered. When my laptop ran out of battery. Any excuse really.
Well, I glad to see your book online!
Why do writers give up, quit, or never complete their projects?
From a personal point, I would say that human modesty plays a large part. Imagine writing down all your thoughts and ideas, and then letting somebody else read them. Or worse, your friends, family, the guy next to you at work. It’s weird, right? But you get over it. You get supported. You realise you’re being silly and life is like that sometimes.
I suppose we have to develop very thick skin to survive.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Why give up? With self publishing such an easy, free, accessible ride these days, you can publish to the world, and then learn from your mistakes. No need to tell anybody you know, maybe even write under a pen name, but put it out there. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Lots of people won’t like it, but if you’re proud of it, then there will be people out there who will be too. Don’t write for everybody, write for yourself.
I tried to beat my reading addiction……Worst two minutes of my life. -Unknown
If a book is well written, I always find it too short. -Jane Austen