Friday, March 24, 2006

Writers - Be Yourselves! You just never know...

We have a new Canadian writer star up here in the Frozen North - Paul Haggis, born in London, Ontario, winner of best original screenplay at this year's Academy Awards for Crash which also won Best Picture. He was also nominated for the script of Million Dollar Baby, which he also wrote. Which won Best Picture last year.

Haggis says he never believed either Crash or Million Dollar Baby would make it to the silver screen because his topics were offbeat and even slightly depressing.

"When I wrote Million Dollar Baby and Crash, I didn't believe either one of them would ever get made," he says. "Crash - I figured no one would ever make it. It had all these characters. It was about race relations and fear and intolerance. Who'd want to see that? I thought my grandchildren would read these scripts and go 'Oh look, grandpa tried to get into the movies? Isn't that cute?' "

However, Crash and other serious best-film contenders of recent days came at a time when society began looking inward, he said. "I think audiences are ready now. We're in a time of war, and you either go in one of two directions," Haggis said. "You either head off and escape, or you start asking questions. And all the terrific films this year asked important questions about who we are, and I guess that's what we were trying to do as well."

Haggis' next project is a film entitled Flags of our Fathers. It is based on the story of six men who raised the US flag on Iwo Jima during the Second World War. Haggis wrote the script. I'm definitely going to see it. After I see Crash.

The point of this BLOG is to say to all you wonderful writers out there, be yourself, write from the heart, and don't be put off your path by anything if you believe in what you are writing. Because that's what makes good writing. Heart and soul. Your own special variety.

LuLu

29 comments:

Larry Keiler said...

A piece of wisdom? for would-be manuscript mailer-outers: A self-addressed envelope would be addressed 'envelope'.

BB said...

I like that line -Oh isn't that cute Grandpa tried to get into the movies...Good for Paul...


And if I include a self address envelope in something I manage to mail out I will address it "Envelope". Perhaps who ever gets it will have a sense of humor. If not they can kiss my...whoops never mind....

BB

BB said...

Okay I see I have a uphill struggle ahead of me. Xena, Larry and Lulu are in the camp whereby when cows lay down it is going to rain.

That is as true as saying that when the cows lay down it going to be sunny. LOL

BB is not many generations off the dairy farms of eastern Ontario. There is a lot to be said about saying but "not till the cows come home."

w.t. said...

Does envelope have a last name? Is it a mr., a mrs. or a miss? and what is the address? Something like,

Ms. Envelope Murphy,
0 Manuscript Avenue,
Ireland
WBY YJNK ?

Great advice Lulu.

Larry Keiler said...

Is self-stamping a form of masochism?

Xena said...

Re: Mr Envelope, I mean Mr. Paul Haggis... and a few thoughts in response to Lulu's posting.

It's been a decade since "The Shunning" was published. In that time, I've written two more novels. Both have been rejected by publishers. No matter how nice it is to receive encouraging personalized letters, the bottom line is the stories are still sitting at home in manuscript form rather than book form.

Which brings me to what I want to say... and that is, there's something wonderful about crafting a story and hope.

I've sent off my manuscript once again, this time to an editor at Doubleday who critiqued it as part of the CanWrite! conference last year. She agreed to look at the revisions. Well, eight months later, I've contacted her, and put that "envelope" in the mail again.

Based on past patterns, it will be rejected again, but there's that sweet space between sending it out and getting the rejection letter - it's daring to hope. But not hoping too much, just enough. Walking a line of sorts.

And btw, I did not include a self-addressed or a self-stamped envelope of any kind! Recycling and email...

wild thing said...

Xena, your writing is very unusual. Even when a publisher would like it, I doubt that they want to take a risk on actually publishing something not run of the mill. Money speaks first. Your writing is beautiful, poetic and deep. Sometimes I think that getting a rejection for good work is more a compliment than a put down. But ofcourse it doesn't feel that way. Recognition and conformation for what's best in us, is what we constantly seek. Artists are so brittle that way.

Xena, I wonder if when you keep on revising to satisfy publishers, if your stories won't loose some of that essential you. There is a fine line between editing to improve your writing skills and editing to play in to the marketing world of now.

I think I told you that once I looked at the work of an artist, exibiting in the park. Two paintings grabbed me. I was in awe. The others were OK but not special. I asked him about it. The paintings I liked were his heart's work. "Why the others?" I asked. "Because I need to eat" he said.

Hey, this time you may get acceptance. It all depends a lot on the reader/publisher. But you are right not to count on it. Not because you are not good, but because it may not be the time.

Madeleine L'Engle almost gave up. She could not get her books published no matter what she tried. They were all 'rotting' in her filing system. It took years and years. And if I remember well, she had someone to help make it happen the first time. So she was published. But still rejections came too. And each one broke her heart, in spite that she herself believed they were good books. And you know the outcome.

Don't fiddle with your manuscripts too much. Don't stop sending them off. Respect your own worth. One day the world may be ready for you, "You just never know..."

And when your work gets accepted for what it is, dumn details like self addressing or addressed or just address, ain't got nothing to do with it.

from: She Who Doesn't Want to Be Tamed and is Against all Taming of what is True, Wild, and Spontanious. (from dandylions to what springs from the soul)

Xena said...

Thanks for your kind words, Wild Thing. You're a true friend, and a true artist.

You're right about over-editing. This time around, though, I think I've tinkered the right amount. I actually like the book. It's done. I've said what I had to say. I have to trust that there are good people out there publishing books - just like Mr. Haggis found. And a least some of them know what they're talking about - HAHAHAHAHA.

The whole money thing is interesting. Books cost a lot to print and design well. Why should someone put out their money (and with small publishers - it is literally their money)if they aren't probably going to get it back and then a bit? He or she has food to put on the table too.

I'm not discouraged. Hell, I have a group of like-souled compatriots who meet with me every second week, and indulge me by paying attention to my writing!! And inspire me with their writing, and their continual need to communicate/express. It's wired into our brains, this story-telling thing...

wild thing said...

It's probably right to say that true art doesn't fit into the commercial world. It's probably the difference like between the dream world and the world we experience as real. We can't give up on integrity. We never should sell our soul. Vanity should not win. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't also make the most of the every day. Compromises need to be made. Publishers have to eat too. I guess everyone, each human being, has to find a balance. Balance is what life is all about. Maybe we just have to learn not to let the money grabbers tip the scales on us in their favour. Most small publishers do it for the love of it and will never be rich, moneywise. Their rewards lie on a different plane.

It's probably no wonder that the majority of poets are alcoholics, and el. depresso's most of the time. It's still mostly a loosing battle to find recognition for being vulnerable and creative. And artists may be warriors inside their soul, but it's not in them to cross swords.

Xena said...

Hey, the alcoholic bit is soooo funny. (Well, not really, but in context of our Thursday night get togethers). I'll remember your blog comment at the next editing circle when I have myself a glass of wine!!!!

Once in a while money, success and talent/art collide. Paul Haggis is one example. Million Dollar Baby's ending is not exactly a feel-good upper, but it is about love and commitment. I guess another would be Annie Proux - the unexpected winner of so many film awards has been Brokeback Mountain - the story of two gay cowboys - based on a short story by Ms. Proux. It is a sweet, soft, and somewhat sad story. Her writing has received recognition for being unusual - I also read a wonderful little short piece by her on taking a risk and getting a dog.... in an adventure magazine of all places.

I think maybe depression goes hand-in-hand with artists not because they don't get recognition for their art, but because they are prone to the depression in the first place. Their art, or unique take on the world, flows from it, or at least from their unique perspective/emotional base. In some artists, it is extremely prevalent. In others, it is just a slightly abnormal balance of the chemicals and such that make up our bodies. We see/experience things differently. Thank the Great Artist in the Sky!

wild thing said...

Love and commitment and gay people are subjects very much in the awakening interest of many people. Oprah and Dr. Phil almost solely have those as subjects for their shows. So they are becoming very popular subjects and people are ready to buy such literature. And among them will be good and bad literature.

You know, I was thinking, after I commented on Madeleine L'Engle, that she could by now produce a bad peace of writing and it would still get published and sell, because she has a name now.

That's what I meant when I said the time's got to be ripe. Or something to that extent.

Maybe depression is coming from both causes, not being recognized for who you really are, (which already starts in school and often before that in the home), and some chemical constitution. But isn't it rather what comes first, the chicken or the egg? How much does our physical well being react to the emotional condition? And visa versa.

I have never gotten much recognition for the way I was different. Even though my parents and teachers adored me and everybody thought and said that I was so kind and so sweet, I was always hassled for how slow I was, and for dreaming too much, and often was made to feel dumn and not normal for ideas I had. I was not exactly raised to trust my own instincts. I had to learn to do that myself.

I still am not sure at all, that Hans who was never accepted for who he was from being little, has not emotionally worked up to the physical condition, multiple schlerosis. I am not saying it is so. But I consider it a big possibility. He was always told he couldn't do it, or did it wrong, so, in the end, it was actually easier to have an excuse for not being able to do it. He was, like all MS patients, subject to depression. Was it caused by the illness? Or was the illness caused by it?

Questions, questions, never an end. Life is interesting that way. And yes, we should be thankful for all our differences. You are sooooo right.

LuLu said...

What fabulous commentary from the bloggers on my blog about Paul Haggis - what y'all wrote makes a marvelous piece of writing n creativity... I found it all fascinating. I guess my familiarity with depression and a few too many glasses of wine on occasion bodes well for my creativity quotient... I must confess I like being creative when I am "up" even more than when I am down. But I think we strive to create when we are up or down, which makes us artistes... we never give it up. Can't get "tossed away" by life, as Natalie Goldberg would say. I agree with that.

Enjoyed Xena's comments on her book - I am so glad to hear you are pleased with the final revision, Xena - that is all important, as far as I am concerned. And W.T. your comments are also fascinating... food for much thought.

Watched Capote and Good Night and Good Luck on the weekend. More interesting creativity there.

It's Monday morning, off to work in the sunshine,

Xena said...

Capote - saw that on the weekend, too, Lulu. A wonderful look at writers in the late sixties (that was the era, right?). A wonderful look at writers, in general, too - a painful look at times. The relationship between the subject and the writer - the extent writers will go to get the story - the impact of immersing oneself with dark situations and people who have done evil things.

The movie was filmed in Winnipeg. It's another example of an unlikely movie/story making it to the big screen, being done in an artistic fashion, and gaining recognition.

I've read a bit about Capote online since seeing the movie. Fascinating career. His other really big work besides In Cold Blood was Breakfast at Tiffany's... totally different piece. Capote, WT, was one of those alcoholic artists...

LuLu said...

I had the same interest tweaked by watching the film Capote and did my own online research on him after watching it - interesting that the movie had the same effect on both of us, Xena. Quite a fascinating character, Capote. I couldn't believe he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's (I didn't know that before watching the movie). Never finished another book after writing In Cold Blood, which was a riveting book that I still remember phrases from 40+ years later. The mystery of creativity lives on in the story of Capote's life, doesn't it? And yes, W.T., he died from alcoholism complications.

Xena said...

I hadn't realised the woman who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Harlper Lee) was such a close, and childhood friend, of Capote's; in fact, he is the young friend in her book. She never wrote another book either; facts given to me via BB, who also did his own online research after seeing the movie, Capote.

I also looked up Jack - his last name was Dunphy - who remained Capote's lifelong friend & companion in spite of the challenges - Jack was a novelist in his own right.

LuLu said...

Useful info - I wondered who Jack was. And I didn't know that Harper Lee never wrote another book either. Now that I recall To Kill a Mockingbird which I happened to see again fairly recently, there is a very peculiar boy in that story who wears weird clothes and is strange in his behaviour, and yes, I read in my research that he was in fact Truman... Fascinating. And it's interesting that two major works could be done by people who never wrote anything significant (or complete) again. Hmmm. Food for thought.

w.t. said...

"Gone with the Wind" was the only book the author ever wrote. And of course I cannot think of her name.

Never realized that "To Kill a Mockingbird" was written by a woman. It's a very long time ago that I read it.

Larry Keiler said...

Larry sez, remember seeing the movie In Cold Blood? Remember who played the killer? Robert Blake, I believe. Life imitates art.

Larry Keiler said...

Larry also sez, Sorry, gay caballeros may be all the rage at the moment, but he's just not interested. He's sticking with fat Germans (Bismarck) and anemic Brits (Gladstone). He hasn't seen Crash yet, but that is one that interests him.

Larry Keiler said...

W.T.-----Margaret Mitchell always relied on the kindness of strangers.

w.t. said...

This morning in the bathtub the name Mitchell came to me, for "Gone With The Wind". I opened this blog and saw that Larry allready came up with the whole name, Margaret Mitchell!
What do you mean, Larry,by "Margaret Mitchell always relied on the kindness of strangers?" Can you give an example? I don't remember reading about that.

Larry Keiler said...

That's the line Scarlett O'Hara says to Buddy Whasisname...Oh yeah, Rhett...Rhett Butler.

Xena said...

Here's an excerpt from a CAA listserver message that came across my email desk today. The content is interesting, and so is the fact it comes from a website called Lulu...

FIFTY IS NIFTY, IF YOU’RE AN AUTHOR
WebPosted Thu May 12 2005 17:36:11 2005

RALEIGH, N.C A new study says that 50 is the perfect age to publish a novel if you want the book to become a best-seller. According to research done by the website Lulu, more authors have success at that age than any other. The researchers came to their conclusion by looking at the average age of the 350 writers who made it to the top of the hardcover fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List from the years 1955 to 2004. The number they came up with is 50.5 years. “Unlike scientists or musicians, writers tend to mature with age,” said Bob Young, the site’s CEO. Young says that the research was prompted by the suspicion that the optimum age for writers is much higher than many people assume.

Larry Keiler said...

Uh-oh, that means Larry's already too late...

X said...

Nah, ya get to average all the ages out - so if a 40 year old writes a best seller, and the average age is 50, then a 60 year old gets to write a best seller too...

Anyway, the point to be made is that it takes time to learn HOW to write...

I'm waiting for YOUR best seller, Larry.

w.t. said...

Maybe I publish one when I am anywhere between 100 and 150. How does that strike youall? Afterall I'm not the average bear.

LuLu said...

You certainly are NOT the average bear, W.T. That made me smile...

I felt like Larry when I read the last of these comments - oh no, I said, I'm too OLD to publish now. Then I read W.T.'s averaging theory and I felt better.

Great commentary, you guys, on to Marianne's kayaking/writing blog.

X said...

Actually, Lulu, it was Xena's averaging theory - lol! One has to claim credit where one can!

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