Spring Cleaning

Yesterday, I cleaned my desk. This was very important because it was my writing desk. I dug out all the papers and notebooks I had stuffed into every shelf and draw. It was rewarding throwing away things I don’t remember why I was keeping but a small stack of papers has found a place on the far corner of my desk. Now I have the task of what to do with all the little scribbles on tiny pieces of papers. What I thought, at the time of writing, were scraps of genus. Should I read through and transcribe them onto a computer in an archive file or should I throw them all out without ever looking? True, I don’t think I could just toss these papers without a peak. They were the sneaked writing I accomplished while at work or the quick scribble on the train. The words meant so much at the time that I had to get it down somewhere, anywhere, no matter the consequence.

The notebooks are another story. More then one story. Stories I started but never finished. One has long scenes written out. A notebook full of writing advice I found over the years and recorded to encourage, give guidance, and inspire me to write. Notebooks full of more random scratches. Pages of one line.

I have always struggled with throwing things I no longer need away. But I’ve been trashing, donating, and organizing more often. Maybe it’s the small space and the overwhelming feeling of too much. Stress, work, and planning. Even the simple pleasure of reading has become immense.

Even with what’s left of the few notebooks and scattered papers I know I already fill better about my space. I remember where I rather spend my energy. Writing.

Throwback Thursday: My Interview With John Debney

When I was an intern with The Celebrity Cafe I wrote many stories. I just discovered that all those stories are no longer featured on their webpage but I have saved my work from those years ago and I can still share some of my stories. One of my favorite assignments was an interview with Academy Award-nominated composer John Debney. He is an amazing composer best known for The Passion of the Christ, Sin City, and Iron Man 2. This interview was conducted back in 2010 and he spoke to me about his recent work on the film The Stoning of Soraya M, and his other upcoming projects.

The Stoning of Soraya M is a drama set in 1986 Iran when a journalist, Sahebjam is told the unjust story of Zahra’s niece, Soraya and her tragic ending. What I remember most about this experience was how nice he was and getting a glimpse into his creative process.

Below is the interview with John Debney.

Marjorie Quinn: How did you get involved in the film “The Stoning of Soraya M?”

John Debney: It was kind of cool. I worked with the producer before on a film, “The Passion of The Christ” and his name is Steve McEvetty. And Steve is an old friend of mine and we’ve done a couple of movies together. So when he first called me about the movie he sent me a script and I read the script and I just feel in love with the script and the rest was sort of just, you know, we’ve worked together before and whatever he’s doing I try to do it if he needs me.

MQ: How long did it take you to write the score?

JD: Well, it was interesting. It was a very quick turnaround. I only had about 3 weeks to do it. So we had to put everything together really, really quickly. So I made a lot of phone calls to a lot of incredible performers that I know. People like Sussan Deyhim who is a wonderful singer. And other wonderful players and I just sort of put everybody together and they came and we sort of just started to work on the thing and it turned around very quickly. It was a quick turnaround.

MQ: So you said you were able to work with Sussan Deyhim. What was it like to work with her?

JD: Well she is, I don’t know if your familiar with her but some of your readers will be. Sussan is really a great artist in her light and has done a number of albums and has sung on a number of sound tracks and I knew imminently that I wanted to try and approach her with this because she is very socially active and politically active. She really loved the story about the two Iranian women. She just came and offered to work with me. It was fantastic. She didn’t even bat an eye. She just jumped in and did amazing work on the film.

MQ: You said this wasn’t your first time writing this kind of cultural style. What kind of process did you go through to write this kind of music?

JD:  Well, thank you for asking about that. I really did a lot of research when I did ‘The Passion’ and the Hollywood circles is sort of hearing a score that is influenced by that part of the world and by that great music in the middle east. And one of my pet peeves is hearing it when it’s done sort of not true to life as it were, and needs to be real, is what I guess I’m trying to say. So, I did a lot of research when I did the Passion, I listened and study a lot of this music. So that going back there for this filming, to do this kind of score was a joy because I love this type of music. So it was again just a nice journey for me going back and trying to do it in the most real way possible. And again I was very, very fortunate to bring in people like Sussan Deyhim and other performers to do the real thing. And they lend, I think, a credibility to the score.

MQ: Well your name is now attached to stopping the practices of stoning. How are you doing to do your part?

JD: Well, I think my little part is being involved with this film and I think it is just so very important a subject that hopefully people will see this film or if they can’t see the film there listen to the music and maybe I can help raise the awareness for this horrible barbaric practice that still incurs and we just got to stop it and meaning we as a world community. The point of women in certain parts of the world is still, unfortunately this way and not only women but men too but especially women. So I just think my being a part of a very important film about a very important subject is an honor really.

MQ: Pulling a little bit off the movie. I read that your symphony “The Passion Oratorio” will be performed in Saint Peter’s Square. Can you talk a little about that? It must be exciting.

JD:  Sure, I can. I would love to talk about that. You know, after I had done the film score, about five years ago now, wow I can’t believe it’s been that long. The idea arose that I might create a larger sort of concert work base on the music from the film and so I embarked on that journey and created this large work called “The Passion Oratorio” which we then performed one in Rome about five years ago and performed it a couple of time since for charities. When Katrina accrued we did a big concert for the Katrina victims, which was wonderful. So know we are going to perform this again this June 5th I believe is the date in Rome in Saint Peter’s Square which is completely humbling for me to have it performed there again. It will be a free concert for everyone basically who wants to donate anything it will go to the charity of Rome and for the restoration of Saint Peter’s Square. So it is for a great cause. Its going to be a wonderful, amazing concert with some of the performers of the film like Lisbeth Scott and I just couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s going to be with a huge, about 100 piece orchestra, about 200 piece choir and it’s going to be an amazing thing. There’s a wonderful woman conductor by the name of Candace Wicke. So I can just help with the planning of it and enjoy the concert that evening. So it is going to be a great world event. And it’s meant for people of all faiths, honestly, to just come and enjoy a concert under the stars in Rome with a spiritual base.

MQ: You’ve gone to and won many awards. Are there any pre-award show rituals you go through to insure a win?

JD: Oh my goodness. No. That’s very sweet of you. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few Emmys and stuff like that. You know I really don’t. I think any kind of accolade like that is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I guess the biggest one would be the Oscar I haven’t gotten yet but have been nominated, which is wonderful.  I’m not very good preparing for those things. I honestly think the accolades are great but for me I learned it’s mostly about the journey and it sounds cliché and it’s about the work. It the work is deemed worthy then I’m delighted but I don’t really live for the awards thing. But it is an honor and it’s fun. When it happens it’s wonderful. Then it gives me the opportunity to thank those that like the work and give advice to those coming up. It’s fun. It’s a great thing but I don’t dwell on it too much.

MQ: Are there any new upcoming projects for you?

JD: There are a couple of great ones. I just finished one called “Valentine’s Day” which is a Garry Marshall film. It’s my fifth film with Garry Marshall and the cast has probably every beautiful actor and actress of Hollywood in it and it just turned out so well. It’s a great film. It’s romantic, funny. What can I say it’s Garry Marshall again at his finest. We just had a ball doing it. Just finished that. And then I’m in the middle of just finishing Iron Man 2, which is huge and fun, and lots of big loud music. And we’re going to be in London, in about 3 weeks to about a month now. So it’s busy and it’s wonderful and I couldn’t be happier working on these films.

MQ: Is it hard for you to switch styles of music between films?

JD: You know it’s actually cathartic for me. It’s actually a great thing to be able to switch gears. I’m just a pretty good multitasker and I’ve learned through the years kind of being able to switch gears is a fun thing for me. It sort of clears my head a little bit. So working on two so different projects is kind of liberating and kind of fun. I think it’s harder if I were doing a couple of one kind of thing back to back. That could be kind of hard. But this is fun. Being able to write a really romantic, pretty melody one moment and then turn around and write some kick ass “Iron Man” music. It makes it a lot of fun.

MQ: Do you know what kind of direction you will go towards when you receive a film?

JD: It’s always a lot experimentation in the beginning.  Always that way. That’s great to be able to do that if there’s time because then I can really experiment with the director and we can figure out what’s the tone of the things going to be. I don’t always have as much time as I like but when there’s a little extra time its really wonderful to do that. And with “Iron Man” and “Valentine’s Day” there was enough time for me to experiment a little bit which was fun.

Work Halloween Costume

I am allowed to dress up for work. I thought this was some freshman prank like the pool on the roof but more co-workers have been talking about their costume and ask if I plan to dress up. I wasn’t originally. I thought since it is a store with a business causal type of dress code I would be festive with some orange, black, and some themed earrings. I am nervous about going all out in a costume. I purchased this Doctor Who dress about two weeks ago but it is back-ordered. I’m disappointed because I was excited about this dress. It’s the 10th Doctor’s suit as an image on the dress. I thought I could looked dressed up without being uncomfortable. I think I should have bought the 9th Doctor’s dress. Maybe he wouldn’t have been back-ordered. So my other option is pirate gear. I could wear a dress shirt under my corset, black dress pants or my ruffled black skirt, maybe a few scarfs and black eyeliner. I don’t feel this will fit in with the business casual dress code. The other’s talk about being mimes, and Arthur characters. I wish I knew sooner so I could plan another costume. Maybe a book/author themed costumed like Jane Austen, Belle, or Some childhood character. Wish I still had my Wednesday Addams’ costume. I rocked that back in the day. Why couldn’t I do Wednesday Addams now. I have checked my closet and I have a black dress. It won’t be a completely Wednesday dress because it has short shelves and I don’t have a white collar. I’ve been thinking I could make one before tomorrow. How authentic do I have to be? I can have the pale skin, red nail polish, and braided hair tomorrow but most important I’ll be comfortable. Will people see Wednesday without the collar? I’ll be sarcastic and if people don’t like it I’ll blame it on the character. (Wink, wink.) Do you get to dress up at work on Halloween? If so what do you plan to be?

Happy Halloween!

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Wednesday Addams

Don’t Wake Me To Fade Away

I had a dream I was writing a paragraph about fire, ash, and ice but when I woke it faded away. If I had a notebook and pen next to me would I have written it down before I drifted back to sleep. I would probably write in the dark but I don’t think I could read it the next day. Turning on the light could mean not going back to sleep. Staying awake until early morning. dragging my feet until the sun sets and having an unexplained surge of energy. I always argue with the muse. It strikes at the wrong times. I’ve been trying to train it to come when I’m ready. When I have pen/paper or keyboard/screen. Yet, the muse still likes to punish me with inspiration.

I missed the exact words in my dreams but I’ll be playing with those images in my next writing section.  I could find that spark that is hidden in my subconscious. Here is to hard work.

The Plan With Prompts

I think I’ve come up with a plan to get back into my writing. I’ve been slacking lately and I can’t let that continue. Before I dive into my novel and short story ideas I think I will do a few days of prompts. I need to get my imagination and writing brain back into word shape. Even on this blog I’ve been really grasping for topics lately. Comparing hair and puppy training to writing. I can do better. (Unless you like that sort of thing.) I was thinking about taking a writing class. Writing classes were helpful when I was in college but I realized all the professor would do is use one page prompts as the homework assignment. The impending due date helped and having people to critique your work but I don’t think I need all the extras. I need a steady writing schedule.

It is always good to start off with a plan or an outline to organize my thoughts and know what direction to charge forward. It’s time to get my butt in the seat, my hands on the keyboard, and unlock a door the stories need to escape. These untold and incomplete stories have been driving me crazy. They’ve been trapped for too long. So wish me luck. I struggle with distractions and procrastination. I hope to find the motivation I had a year ago and start find writing schedule again.

Pinterest For Novel Outlines

I’ve been trying to write and edit a few novels and I have come across a useful tool to help visualize characters, places, and things. What I was normally doing for my character’s description was trying to write everything I envisioned down  in a notebook. Each character would get a page. The page would list physical appearances, personality, and motive. It wasn’t until I saw a post by blogger Shannon A. Thompson called, “Writing Tips: Picture Book” I realized how much detail I was missing by not using this useful tool. Pictures.

I never thought of using pictures to help inspire and build images of characters, places, or objects. I’ve had a Pinterest account for years. When I first signed up I used it a few times but it wasn’t long that I left it having found no use for it. Now I can’t help but think, here was a writing instrument at my fingertips and I have left it idle.  Well, no longer, I have started to use it to help with my novel’s vision. Pinterest has an a great number of pictures, easy access for pinning from other websites, and a board privacy setting (so the world doesn’t have to know what you’re planning). Also, saves on paper and ink, which helps me, keep my limited budget from going over. Also, it adds a bit more of creative fun to the process. I find creating a character board or looking at a few photos can be all the pop I need for a shot of inspiration. Even on days writing is slow I can get a daily writing exercise from a few pinned pictures.

If there is anyone out there who is struggling to write a novel, I hope this helps. It has sure has helped me. If you would like to see Shannon A. Thomas’s examples I have linked to her website and her “Picture Book” blog above.

The Second Before I Fall Asleep

My mind likes to talk to me as I’m falling asleep. The light has been shut off. I have just found a comfortable way to lay and my mind starts talking.  I know it is my subconscious waking up. I try to keep a pen and paper or my phone with the note page option next to my bed. Sometimes I’m just to tired to write it down. My eyes too heavy and my body’s to cozy. I believe I’ll remember all the “great” novel ideas the next morning but I wake the next morning have forgotten most of the ideas or words I tried to memorize. Do you fight sleep and write when inspiration strikes or say to your muse, “Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep. Can’t you come back tomorrow when I’m ready to take all that creative energy and record it on the computer?” Curses with the morning light and the muse is no where to be found. Bitch.

A Blessed Unrest

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Martha Graham

Overwhelmed

How am I suppose to write all these stories slushing around in my head? How do I make them separately make sense? I know I can outline and organize but it is more then that. It’s that rushing and overwhelming feeling in the brain. All the ideas all trying to get out at once. The brain slows down like a few too many computer programs running. It’s the story you said you write with a friend, the query letter not coming together, some fixes for that first draft, and the new story ideas all picking this one moment. 
I hate that moment. 

Writing Tips

October 8, 2012

Making mistakes and learning from them.

I read the books. So much writing advice all stuck in this head. I’ve used it all. And now I will talk about what has helped me and why I think some exercises have worked. No, I haven’t published any of my short stories (though I have tried) or a novel (in the process of one) but I have written over a hundred blog post so I hope that gives me some credit. I think it was easy to write short blurbs of information when it was for work. It’s work. Need to get things done or you don’t get paid. Even unpaid work. I was writing and strangers I never met were reading it. I wrote celebrity news, food news, and style news and I gained experience. I learned that when it was for work I could write. What I struggle with is writing creatively.

Practice With A Schedule.

I have waited for inspiration to strike and I have barely written a paragraph. By sitting down and forcing myself to write everyday I have noticed I write better and faster. Try to write at the same time everyday. Make a schedule. Everyday, every other, or three times a week. Writing is a muscle in the brain and it needs working out like any physical muscle. Train your brain to switch the creative juices on. Just write. Doesn’t have to be a story. Can be in a journal. Everyday tasks or delicious meals you had. I found by writing more often the Muse visited me more often.

Find your time.

Some have a belief it is better to write in the morning and others believe they write better at night. I say, at least you’re writing. I did find after trying different time periods throughout the day I am a better morning writer. Unconscious, one eye open writing keeps me from editing while I’m writing. Just too tired to care.

Bird By Bird.

I read this book by Anne Lamott titled Bird By Bird and one thing stuck with me. She talks about her brother at ten years old. He had three months to write a report on birds which was due the next day. Surrounded by a number of books, and papers on birds and overwhelmed there father sat down next to him and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” I can get overwhelmed with everything I want to write. I don’t where to start, how to end, and jump ahead to just get everything down. Sometimes just the thought of 50,000 words stops me from writing completely. This book taught me to just slow down, take a deep breath and work on one idea or image at a time. Bird by bird equals moment by moment.

Procrastination.

In school I had no problem writing. With impending due dates I knew I had to finish a report/short story or not get a grade. Even then I was guilty of waiting until last minute. After I left school I had no one encouraging me to write. I had to learn to mentally kick myself into action, sit down, and write. Make myself feel guilty if I enjoyed a prize which I had no effort to show. Learn to encourage when I needed compassion. If you grew up with a great work ethic or someone encouraging you just realize how lucky you are.

Stop Being A Perfectionist.

“First draft of anything is shit.” Ernest Hemingway. All writers write shitty first drafts. I’ve had friends who want to read my work but I tell them, at least, not until the second draft. The first draft is where I pour all my ideas out onto a page. I don’t erase anything, write scenes out of order, and don’t correct my spelling or grammar mistakes.

Read.

Be inspired. Notice what you like reading and try your hand at that style. Also, when you read the use of language, vocabulary, and grammar are seeping into the brain. Of course, reading is fun!

Don’t know why I wrote this. Guess I read something that inspired me. Writing this helped me see how far I’ve come as a still struggling creative writer. Maybe, it can help you too.