Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Mother Loves My Writing

By Sarah Herlong

So my mother loves my writing. What’s new, right? She really likes it because it’s about her. That’s right, I write about my mother. I write about her struggles with mental illness and physical decline. She likes this. But what she really enjoys is that I wrote an entire comedy routine about her. I only have this hilarious information because I live with her. 

My parents had been very strict and very religious parents to us kids. When I first moved back home this was a problem. I scoured her old books to see where they came up with their parenting styles and convictions. I grabbed her journals to see just who was she at this time. But they weren’t personal journals, simply spiritual writings. It gave me insight into what she believed, which I already knew, but not who she was as a person. I then found a book of hers on anxiety. Not only had she underlined passages pertinent to her, she also filled in the little scoring sheets determining how anxious she was. She was very anxious. Something I never knew about her. Something I actually had in common with her. It was the next best thing to a journal from that time period.

Now I’ve discarded my wish to know my mother of the past, I want to know her now in the present. The person she has become. Frankly what I found was amusing. This is what gave birth to the comedy routine. The routine was initially just stories I would tell my siblings, something to enlighten them that she wasn’t the strict person she used to be. Now I’m actually starting to really like my mother, which is different from loving your mother.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written stories about relatives. The night before my grandmother died, I sat at the computer and wrote down every story I could remember about her. Now years later people still ask to read it because it brings her to life again if only for a few minutes. Now I’m doing it before my mom dies, that way she gets to enjoy it too.

My mother was there for me when no one was, and I’m trying to do the same for her now. What I get for my taking care of her is that I know her from a different perspective. We’re much closer because she is learning about me too. Sometimes when she goes to bed she says, “You know, I really like you Sarah Anne.” Which of course is different than loving your daughter.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Reason To Write

 By Sarah Herlong

When my friend, Neil, was diagnosed with colon cancer I was a continent away. We would stay on the phone for hours at night talking. He wanted me to write about him so he wouldn’t be forgotten. I made notes on all the funny stories as I could remember about him. Only once he died, and the pain subsided somewhat, did I work on writing the full version of my notes. Then my cousin wanted me to tell her about Neil. It ramped up my writing about him, culminating in what I call the Book of Neil.

It was a passion of mine to fulfill this obligation. Get the material down while it’s fresh. Document our relationship so I’ll have it for the future, and so I can share Neil with others. And I can read it in the years to come to remember him as a well-rounded person instead of a shadowy person from my past.

Now I’m faced with a slightly different situation. My friend Lizzie has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. Whenever Lizzie would come over she would show interest in my writing, asking me to read her my latest creation. I would, and it passed the time while she helped my mom with various tasks. She even enjoyed my comedy routine. She had me practice it over and over with her.

Now she is in the hospital waiting to hear if they can do surgery, and waiting to start chemo. She called me today and wanted to talk. I asked if she wanted me to be there in the hospital with her now, and she said yes. I grabbed my latest two stories and arrived at the hospital in record time. She requested that I read to her. I began with Bernadette’s Big Night. Then I read Ghost Story to her. As always she liked both of them. I asked if she wanted reading material, some magazines, but what she requested is for me to read her more of my stories. She told me it helps her stop thinking about the cancer for a while.

So now my work is cut out for me. I need to write as productively as I can to polish old writings, and create new work. Maybe then I can provide her a respite from cancer even if just for a few minutes. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writing for Documentaries

By Laura Puccia Valtorta

The two types of independent films I’ve been crafting involve two different types of writing. With scripted screenplays the filmmaker begins with a regular formatted script, the various elements zapped into place by such programs as Final Draft or Adobe Acrobat Premiere.

Documentary writing is more complicated. The producer or director should start with a treatment. The treatment resembles a simple short story – a narrative of the plot and message the director expects to convey in the documentary.

The treatment does not sell the documentary. The director uses the treatment to guide her in filming the documentary and piecing it together.

Don’t ask me, the neophyte, how to write an effective treatment. The writer must follow her gut. David Trotter defines the treatment well in his book The Screenwriter’s Bible. He also differentiates among the synopsis, the outline, and the treatment.

I adore my new documentary White Rock Boxing. Cliff Springs and I filmed and edited it without a treatment. The process took 13 months. I believe we could have cut that time in half had we started with a treatment (as I plan to do with my next documentary – Blind Runner).

Here is sample text from the treatment for Blind Runner:

This film will trace Amy’s life from a child who became blind at eleven and                                was ridiculed because of her deformed face to a star athlete who inspires      everyone around her. 

White Rock Boxing was a joy to produce, and I learned a million lessons from it. The public premiere will be on September 23, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus. We expect it to be aired on Southern Lens, a series on South Carolina ETV, in the fall or spring of 2013-2014.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Primer on Inspiration From a Few Masters

By Leigh Stevenson

It’s always been of interest to me what motivates writers. Where do they get their inspiration? Newspaper articles? Childhood memories? Music? Art? Other writers? From your own personal Job Bank, as Sarah put forth in her humorous April 7th blog? Is it a conscious creative exercise or do ideas spring fully formed? Do you say, “I think I’ll write about golf,” and then go do it? Do you pay attention to what you feel in any given situation, or are you an observer? Both? Neither? Looking at a few published authors, some literary icons, some not, offers some interesting clues about their process.

Elizabeth Strout, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for Olive Kitteridge suggests marriage as one rich source of drama for fiction writers. She said, “I hope when I pick up a book to find that part of myself that I never dared say anything about.”

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, says it’s important to literally “touch the earth,” as in feel the soil, experience nature. She goes on to say that she believes “creativity is an entirely spiritual practice.”  She thinks “you should treat your gift with the highest possible respect” and the Archetype of the suffering artist is outdated. Instead, she suggests you ask yourself, “where have you felt joy in your life?”

Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife, a New York Times Bestseller and finalist for the national Book Award, calls herself a National Geographic nerd. She merges a unique blend of mythic folklore, story and memory in her work. She says it is surprising how one’s work takes on a life of its own and describes one experience of only fully realizing a character after meeting the “real-life” version in a Moscow flea market.
It is said that Emily Dickinson was inspired by the mysticism of William Blake, the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and even the Bible.

In a recent interview, Josephine Humphries said she is stimulated by her hometown of Charleston. She called it a place with a complex, difficult history. She feels lucky to have been born in a city that is rife with contradictions.

What gets your creative juices flowing? I would love to hear your thoughts on your personal artistic process.