Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: The Numbers

# of blog posts written: 65 (Less than half of last year! Where did the time go?)

# of blog comments: 32 (Guess you guys were busy too)

# of blog followers: 43 (Following isn't a thing anymore, is it? Sign up for my email list instead!)

# of followers on Twitter: 611 (Decent growth considering I mostly retweet or tweet about this blog)

# of writing-related industry meetings: 20 (I am truly blessed with great agents)

# of showrunner meetings: 1 (More in the new year!)

# of scripts written: 2 (Pathetic!!)

# of pilots developed that didn't sell: 2 (So much for Leelee and Romeo & Juliet)

# of acting auditions: 37 (Same number as last year. Weird.)

# of acting jobs booked: 12 (Huzzah!)

# of those acting jobs that were paid: 3 (Remember, payment ≠ payment)

# of days Nurse Ruth spent at Seattle Grace: 5

# of script readings I participated in: 4 (Love doing these)

# of new demo reels: 1 (Thanks Bubba's Chop Shop!)

# of new headshot sessions: 1 with ToshikoPhoto (I'm not counting this assassin photo shoot)

# of industry events attended: 42

# of shows/storytelling events attended: 31 (Thank goodness for Goldstar...)

# of hours spent volunteering with WriteGirl and Break the Cycle: More than two hundred! Whew!

# of blessings I'm grateful for: Countless

# of friends who had babies this year: Don't even get me started...

Happy New Year Everyone!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fiction Friday: Clean Steps, Part 1

Another story for this year's NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Challenge! In each round, we're given a genre, a location, and an object that must be used in a 1,000 word story. In this round, I was given Historical Fiction / A Church / A Bucket. I decided to write a story set around the Mississippi civil rights workers' murders. Enjoy!

They called it the Freedom Summer, but for a rebellious black girl like me who thought she knew everything at age 7, it was the summer of oppression. Only halfway through June and the heat in Mississippi was already sticking my cotton dresses to my back as I suffered through a new era of injustice known as summer chores.

“If you’re not workin’ hard at school,” my daddy had said, “then you can be workin’ hard ‘round here.”

Daddy’s church was the finest in Mount Zion township. The whitest paint, the most comfortable pews, and the best gospel choir in the state. All of this was according to him, of course. He took pride in every aspect of the church and wanted me to take part in upholding its image.

“Folks want clean steps when they walk in for worship. Clean steps make them feel like they’re entering the Lord’s house.”

So twice a week, it was my job to trek across the church grounds, past the tiny house where we lived with my mama and little brother, and fill a dented old tin bucket with water to wash the steps of the Lord’s house.

Of all the chores holding down my spirit that summer, this was the worst. The pump on the well got stuck all the time and carrying a full bucket of water was nearly impossible because the wire handle would cut into my fingers. I started to make two trips with half full buckets – one for washing and another for rinsing.

On the day my world began its painful shift to the realities of the time, I arrived at the water pump to find a blonde-haired white boy shooting pebbles into my bucket with his slingshot.

“Hey!” I yelled as I approached quickly. “That’s my bucket!”

He looked up, shocked by the intensity coming from my three and a half-foot frame. “Huh?”

“I said, this is my bucket!” I grabbed it and turned it upside down, shaking out a handful of pebbles onto the muddy ground.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, watching as I placed the bucket under the spout and moved around to the handle. “You need any help?”

“No, I’m fine.” Though of course, the handle refused to move. I pulled and pulled to no avail. Suddenly, the boy was standing next to me, grabbing the handle with his chubby hands. We shook it together until it gave and water spilled from the spout. The boy smiled at the sight.

“That was fun. What else you doin’ today?”

“None of your business,” I said, pumping until the bucket was half full.

“Oh come on, I’m bored. My big brother’s mad at me again, so I can’t go home.”

“I got work to do,” I said, walking away. He was still there when I returned for my second half bucket of water.

“My name’s Joey,” he said. “What’s yours?”


Click here to read Clean Steps, Part 2

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Ship Has Landed

It's happening again.

I'm shipping!

No, that's not a reference to Fedex. It means I'm in love with a fake TV couple --

OLICITY! (That's Oliver and Felicity from The CW drama Arrow.)

For the uninitiated, "shipping" is an online slang term that describes the act of obsessing over the potential romance between two fictional TV characters. It's a term that's exclusive to the television fan community, because only in television can a romance be dragged out for years before resolving. (Alas, in real life, this happens all the time...)

In some cases, the ship is built into the DNA of the series. Take Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the show that introduced me to notion of shipping - everyone expected Lois' fixation on Superman, but it was the slow-moving romance between Lois and Clark that kept the fans watching.

In the case of Arrow, the ship happened accidentally. Felicity Smoak, played with nerdy delight by Emily Bett Rickards, was a one-episode guest star, written in to further the B plot of Walter Steele investigating his wife. Her character showed up a few more times opposite Oliver, the Arrow himself, and their chemistry was undeniable. They started to have more and more scenes together as Season 1 progressed.

And look who's standing right behind the Arrow on the poster for Season 2 --

That's right - Felicity Smoak.

Think about that - from a one-episode guest star to the female series lead! This is the power of the ship.

As a television writer, I'm always mindful of establishing good ship because I know it can feed a engaged fan base. What would Castle have been without the delicious banter and sexual tension between the two leads? Or LOST without the Kate/Jack/Sawyer love triangle? And I still think the complete lack of ship is a big reason why fans couldn't get interested in Alcatraz - no ship, no viewers!

So while I'm developing my next original television pilot and creating a romance that I hope will be ship-worthy, I'm indulging in my Olicity fantasies.

And how do writers indulge their fantasies? By writing about them, of course! Here's my first Olicity fan fiction - enjoy!

His Eyes by LoisMITx

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Advice About Bryan Cranston's Advice

Bryan Cranston recently shared this advice for actors --

"You're not going there to get a job. You're going there to present what you do. You act."

Bryan makes a solid point - whether or not you get a role is completely out of your control, so don't even think about it when you go to auditions. Just do the work. Be an actor.

And that's great advice...if you're going on auditions.

But if you're not auditioning - if your agent is submitting you but not getting auditions for you - or if you don't have an agent at all and never audition, can you still be considered an actor?

I say yes!

I remember my first year in Los Angeles - going to acting class, mailing headshots, reading Backstage every week. I was "pounding the pavement" diligently, without getting much in return. No auditions, no agent - no opportunities.

Was I still an actor? Absolutely! I didn't let my lack of auditions get me down because of this definition of an actor's job that someone (can't remember who) gave me that actually expands what Bryan said --

The work of an actor is looking for work.

Auditioning makes you an actor. Looking for auditions also makes you an actor.

Develop your craft while dedicating your time and energy to dropping off headshots, submitting yourself online, and going to class to keep your skills sharp, because that's what will get you auditions so you can show off your craft. It's all connected.

If you get an audition, absolutely follow Bryan's advice. Act. Create a compelling and interesting character without a single thought about the result. Do your job.

And after you walk away, you can get back to your other job, which is looking for work.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Five Really Good Reasons to Give

Black Friday is an event fabricated and perpetuated by the retail empire. Those same retailers made up Cyber Monday. Then small businesses banded together and created Small Business Saturday (though I suspect American Express is really behind that push).

This year, Twitter has been abuzz about #GivingTuesday - a day for giving to charities.

"But I already spent all my money this past weekend!" you cry, waving your pile of receipts with despair. "Now you want me to give to a charity!"

Yes, I do. Giving back is and always has been part of who I am and I'm not poorer for it at all. If anything, I'm stinking rich with gratitude. And I want that for all of you.

So here are five reasons you should take a moment to participate in #GivingTuesday today along with stories from my history of giving. Donate today (or any day of the year) and create some stories of your own!

1. Your Dollars Matter - How often have you spent $50 on a sweater you never wear because it itches, or a meal at a restaurant that was disappointing and gave you gas?

Donate that same $50 to Break the Cycle and they can send me to a high school in SoCal to talk to 50-100 young people about dating violence. Most of these kids have never heard about this topic or think it's just about guys hitting girls.

I can't tell you how many students of both sexes have come up to me afterward, shaking and nervous, to tell me dating abuse happened to them and they never realized it wasn't okay until seeing my presentation. One girl revealed she'd been abusing her boyfriend and needed help. And I told her where to get help. Because I was trained by the incredible, impactful team at Break the Cycle.

Donate to a charity doing work you feels is important. Your contribution goes into the world and changes lives forever. I call that money well spent.

2. It Feels Good - I've lost count of how many times I've grown out my hair to donate to Locks of Love. My thick hair is a bear to manage when it gets really long. Near the end of my growing period, I'm batting at my mane like an annoyed child, yelling at it to just get out of my way and stay there!

But when I walk into Salon 3 and tell my guy Christopher that I'm donating my hair to Locks of Love, the feeling is indescribable. I get smiles and expressions of admiration from other hairdressers and customers alike. They're all impressed I've committed to such a thing while marveling at the head of healthy black hair that is going to make a wig for a child suffering from medical hair loss.

Though regardless of what anyone else says, I feel proud and excited every time I grow and donate my hair. It's one of the easiest things I do for charity and it makes me feel terrific because I know it will have such a huge impact on a child's life. If someone could bottle and sell that feeling, they would be a millionaire.

And after my hair is shipped off and received by Locks of Love, I get an email that says thank you. That's it. Just an email. But every time I get it, I feel like it's all been worth it.

Giving isn't a sacrifice. It's a gift that pays your spirit back ten-fold. Try it - you'll see.

3. It's Easy - I was performing with the Agape International Choir at a John Legend concert when I first learned about text-to-donate. For example, you can text RELIEF to 864233 to give to $10 UNICEF's Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund. You can make a difference in less than five seconds.

I've seen quick, easy opportunities to give everywhere, from rounding up the balance of your phone bill for charity to giving a dollar at the CVS checkout for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. A buck may not seem like much for you, but CVS has raised more than $37 Million to date from those $1 donations at the register. Just imagine all the lives that money is affecting!

The little stuff adds up. Commit to giving in all the small ways you can find and know that you're still making a big impact.

4. It Doesn't Have to Cost Money - When it was time to let my clarinet go, I found a charity that refurbishes and gives musical instruments to students who want to learn music. Almost every month, I take a sack of stuff I've de-cluttered from my apartment to the National Council of Jewish Women LA for their thrift shops, which raise funds to serve thousands of women and children in need. I've also spent a few hours on a Saturday morning making sandwiches to feed the homeless in Santa Monica with the Hand to Hand Feeding Project.

Dollars spent? Zero. Goodwill and good feelings received? Priceless!

You can give in so many ways that don't cost a dime. Donate your time, manpower, or effort and revel in the gratitude you receive in return.

5. Giving is Fun - Have you ever been to a charity fundraiser party? They're the best! Food, drink, music and the great feeling that you're all partying for a cause.

Which makes it the best place to meet people, in my opinion. You have an instant conversation starter - how did you hear about this charity? You're starting every new relationship on a high - you're dolled up to do good. What could be sexier?

Try it for yourself by attending one of these fabulous fundraiser parties -

First, WriteGirl is celebrating 12 years of success and their National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award with a Sparkling Celebration fundraiser on Thursday, Decemeber 12 at Aventine Hollywood. Tickets are $30 and every cent goes to helping teen girls get creative, get writing, and get into college!

Come rub elbows with writers and celebrities! Touch the award plaque that Michelle Obama also touched!

Also, my friends at Artists at Play are hosting a holiday party fundraiser Saturday, December 14 called Making Spirits Bright. And these guys know how to throw a party! Tickets are $20 at the door and the frivolity is free!

I'll be at both events, so come celebrate the seasons of giving with me!

What are some of your favorite ways to give? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Secret is Out!

At long last, I can reveal what the heck I've been doing for the past month...

You all know I started volunteering for WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization, more than a year ago. You've seen me blog about them on several occasions.

I love this nonprofit so much. It changes the lives of over 350 teen girls in Los Angeles each year and it inspires me to no end. WriteGirl is where creativity expands and transforms exponentially with every written word.

And now they're quite appropriately being honored with the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award - the highest honor in the nation for programs of this kind.

How high? Three words - the White House. Four more words - First Lady Michelle Obama.

This is happening today, people. Watch the ceremony via live stream at 11am PST / 2pm EST at

I've been working part-time doing PR for this whole shebang - sending press releases, organizing interviews, and sending hundreds of emails. It's been overwhelming at times, but now that I'm here in DC, just hours away from the big event, it all feels worth it.

No, I don't get to meet Michelle Obama myself - just our Executive Director and one teen girl we serve are attending the official ceremony - but I'll be one degree of separation from the First Lady after tomorrow. It's like we're sisters...

How can you join in on the fun?
  1. Watch the live stream of the ceremony!
  2. Tell any journalist friends about this - WriteGirl is the only awardee in California - like I said, it's a big deal!
  3. Make a donation and support their amazing programs for teen girls
  4. Mark your calendars - we're having a celebration / fundraiser on December 12 (12/12!) at 7pm at Aventine in Hollywood. Tix are only $30, plus you get to see me in a party dress!
  5. Buy me a drink when I get back to LA - I'm going to need it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fictionless Friday: Falling In Love Again

I want to remember this feeling. Every nuance of the sensation coursing through my mind and body right now. I want to fold it into my chest and hold it near to my heart for the rest of my life. This feeling, this joy, this love.

When I walked into the waiting room, I didn't know it would happen. I found a seat among a sea of hot Asian-American women wearing tight, sexy clothing and fake eyelashes. One woman had chopsticks in her hair. They stared at me in my baggy pants and loose purple sweater. I refused to let them intimidate me, despite the stunning length of their legs and the shininess of their equally long hair.

I barely had time to review my lines when an actress friend walked in and sat beside me. We realized that all those other women were auditioning for a different role than we were. We chatted and laughed - I adore her energy - and then my name was called.

And so it began.

I felt it as soon as I walked inside the audition room. The thrill of the unknown combined with a comforting sense of familiarity. I knew what was coming next. A smile from the handsome director, a chair for sitting, a slate for the camera. "Whenever you're ready."

That's when it happened --

I fell in love with acting.

Again, of course - I've been doing this work for years - and yet it felt like the first time. Not like my auditions for one or two line roles as doctors and nurses, furthering the plot with my short but vital exposition. Nor like my other auditions that call for an Asian accent, also one or two lines of berating the white lead actors in a laundromat or convenience store for laughs.

This was an audition to play a character. A living and breathing representation of a human being who interacts with and affects another character's emotional journey.

I had stayed up late to prepare the night before, running lines while in bed, the pages illuminated by my phone flashlight while I listened to YouTube videos of Hong Kongers speaking English on BBC News.

But in the room, I internalized my preparation and just played. I got lost in the moment, as eye-rollingly cheesy as it sounds. I felt the energy from my panel of judges and I let it feed me, helping me settle into another person's skin and become captivating.

I've never felt more beautiful or powerful.

It's been so long since I've felt this way. Perhaps not since my days on the MIT stage, transforming black box theaters into living rooms, gardens, and roof tops. My early roles were molded from thin air with the help of skilled student and faculty directors, rehearsed and pulsed through my body, and crafted for the audience.

The handsome director directed me. Heads nodded, seemingly pleased. I did the scene three times and was finished. I said goodbye as Mr. Handsome rose from his seat to clasp his hands around mine. "Thank you for bringing this to life."

I haven't stopped smiling. I've missed this feeling and I revel in its return. This is the love that inspired me to leave logic and labs behind. This is the love that keeps me eating frozen pizza instead of Pizzeria Mozza. This is the love that has carried me through the last decade and will carry me into the next.

Getting the part or not is irrelevant now. I've already won the prize. Falling in love with acting again and feeling it love me back is a sensation I won't soon forget.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fictionless Friday: Just Say Thank You

It began where all unexpectedly thought-provoking conversations occur – the office kitchen.

As we prepared our lunches, D noted that we were all wearing black and white that day. I complimented D on her coordinated shift dress and blazer combo. She waved it off, saying it was just something she threw together without thinking about it. C told me I looked cute in my preppy dress shirt and tweed skirt. I joked that it was part of my new objective to not look like such a schlub all the time. D admired C’s dressy black sweater and black skirt look, and C replied it wasn’t a choice as much as what was left clean in her closet before laundry day.

That’s when I stopped, turned to my co-workers, and asked, “Did you hear what we all just did?” They realized it immediately too.

None of us accepted each others' compliments! We all instinctively excused our beauty, shrugging it off as meaningless or unintended. We did it unconsciously and instantly.

Why do women do this? This wasn’t the first time I’ve caught myself doing it or seen others do it. I suppose we’re taught by our mothers and/or society that vanity is an unattractive trait while humility and modesty are more lady-like.

But what has happened to the line between demureness and denial? When did we learn to reject positive feedback as if accepting a compliment automatically labels us as conceited?

Ladies, no matter how the seed was planted, I think it’s time to stop doing this to ourselves. We’ve pushed the line so far back in the opposite direction that we’re not letting anything in. In the realm of female empowerment, standing in your truth is essential. And the truth is we are all beautiful in so many ways. We should start owning it!

I remember a friend telling me about reading this book – Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. One of her biggest takeaways was that when French women are given a compliment, they simply say, “Thank you.”

What a concept! No excuses or disclaimers? How French! And it made me think how ridiculously American it is that we can’t just say thank you when someone says we have great skin or lovely eyes. We instinctively go into explanations and reasoning. Or divert the conversation as quickly as possible. We should just take it as a gift.

So to anyone who's ever told me I have beautiful hair or admired anything about my appearance --

Thank you!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Scattered Day

The morning started so well, with the first wave of cards going on the board --

Solid inspiration born out of a good morning of writing in bed. But then I had to hop on a conference call, then head out for a Break the Cycle presentation, so my flow was cut short.

Made a quick stop at Costco on the way back, where the excess is excessive --

I always like to look at the books, so neatly stacked and arranged --

Imagining the day when a book with my name on the cover appears among the titles. Sigh...

Left the store feeling in an emotional and creative funk. Probably because I've been listening to The Last Five Years cast album for two days straight. Raw and really depressing stuff, especially this track --

By the time I got to the Writers Junction for the evening, I wasn't feeling up for anything creative. I tried a few things to cheer up - caught up on photos of Boo, listened to the Hoops & Yoyo Christmas album, and read this beautiful NY Times article about my friend Suzanne's wedding, but never really snapped out of it.

These are the moments where discipline is proven, so rather than go home and call it a night, I forced myself to do one more 30-minute interval of writing that turned into an hour. Ended the night with a whole new set of cards on the board --

Take that, scattered brain!

Monday in Motion

Monday mornings are my favorite thanks to Zumba with Ashley. The best way to kick off my week! (And break my staying up too late / sleeping late cycle.)

The rest of the day was spent in the quiet, creative confines of the WriteGirl office. The view from my "desk," including a glimpse of Executive Director Keren Taylor hard at work --

If anyone knows any affluent people who are interested in changing the world, send them to WriteGirl! We're already transforming girls' lives - we just need sustained financial support to continue doing it. And it's all tax-deductible!

Evening was spent at a mixer for writers in Hollywood, rubbing elbows and talking about scripts. No sarcasm here - you already know how much I love meeting other writers. It was a truly wonderful night.

I connected with a few old friends, and ran into this crowd of people I'd just seen the night before!

They're stalking me, clearly.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted, so no writing happened.  Ack, not good. Promise to carve out time in the morning...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday By The Hour

10:53 am - Woke up, shocked that I slept so late. Then remembered that I stayed up until 2am, so maybe it wasn't that weird.

11:15 am - Breakfast in bed!

11:24 am - Settled in for a Relax & Write meditation.

12:08 pm - Meditation completed. Opened my journal and started writing.

1:12 pm - Finished writing another chunk of my sci-fi novel! Indulged in an email, Twitter, and Facebook break. Yes, I was still in bed. (I love my life.)

2:00 pm - Lunch break! Chicken, spinach, artichoke, Parmesan, and egg scramble with fresh squeezed orange juice in a wine glass, because my drinking glasses were all in the dishwasher.

I felt pretty great about my creation until my sister texted me a picture of her lunch --

Korean BBQ - jealous!

I dined while watching the latest episode of Top Chef, featuring guest judge Chef Eddie Huang.

Many of my actor friends recently auditioned for a TV pilot based on Eddie's memoir Fresh Off the Boat, a title that made everyone roll their eyes. What the heck was this show going to be about?

But after watching him in action and doing some online research, I'm intrigued. He's a brash, unique personality who left the good Chinese lawyer son path to become a celebrity chef. It should be an interesting show!

3:10 pm - Transcribing time. I always write my fiction long-hand in journals, which means everything needs to be typed up after the fact. I try not to let the writing stack up too much before I transcribe it, but I've been lazy, which meant I had a lot of catching up to do.

4:00 pm - Still typing. Though I did take a break mid-way to watch these --

5:00 pm - Still typing! Damnit!

5:37 pm - Done! 22,000 words so far. Not that impressive when you consider that I started on January 1st and declared I would be done with this thing by the end of the year. Maybe I should adopt a NaNoWriMo-type mindset and drive to 50,000 words by December 31st. Oh, we'll see...

6:00 pm - Left the house for a party. What? Me at a social event? My friend Julian generously invited me to the cast party for Artist At Play's Cowboy vs. Samurai. I'm a huge fan of their work and am fortunate to count many of the actors and artistic directors as my friends.

I was a fly on the wall as they laughed and reminisced about their successful run --

And enjoyed the best homemade pound cake ever --

10:00 pm - Arrived home and jumped right back into my pajamas. Beat out this blog post and some more thoughts for my new pilot...

1:47 am - Called it a day - good night!