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!