Category Archives: movies

We Are All The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

Watch me, now.

Watch me, now.

Yesterday, I started the 7-minute workout, the latest fitness craze made popular by an article in the NY Times. According to the article, “exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, while, throughout, the intensity hovers at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10.” So, when I told my husband I’d done it, he asked if I’d remembered to work at 80% of my maximum effort. To which I responded: “Doesn’t everyone?”

My argument being that most people rarely function at 100% of their capacity unless they’re under special circumstances, like competing in the Olympics or being chased by killer bees.

It’s like when you go out for a run and finally settle into a rhythm, then a car drives by, or another jogger comes along and you speed up your pace. Turns out, you did have more to give, only you didn’t want to use it unless you absolutely had to, which, thanks to a hearty dose of shame, you did, as soon as that cute guy in the short-shorts whizzed by you.

I was thinking about the idea of pushing ourselves to the max and how it relates to being a screenwriter/novelist. There’s a lot you can say about showbiz folks, but the one thing you can’t accuse them of is not giving it their all. Be it the grueling dance rehearsals and tour schedule of a highly paid pop music diva or the hours a writer like me spends toiling away in solitude—the competitive nature of this business require that when we perform, we do it at no less than 100%.

I guess, in a way, being in showbiz is it’s own kind of interval training—sprint and rest, sprint and rest.  And we need those calm periods in between film shoots and manuscripts in order to slow down and reconnect with ourselves, to get more than five hours of sleep a night, and refill our creative wells. But the second we’re called to action, we’re off and running again. Because no one ever gave that break-out movie performance or landed a life-changing script deal by giving anything less than 100%.  

At least that’s what we tell ourselves each time our screenplays fail to sell, or when we don’t get that directing job or land that plum role. We rally, regroup, then push ourselves to do better next time. We double down. Then, we double down again.

Yet, in the rest of our lives, I think most of us operate at around 80%, at best.  Just last night I was talking about this with another mom (as we watched about 20% of our sons’ baseball game) bemoaning the fact that no matter what we do, we’ll never be better than be B+ parents.  I know this because during the first three years of my son’s life, I tried parenting 100%—hauling my floppy-necked infant to mommy-baby drum circles, my valuable hours spent filling ice cube trays with homemade organic baby food.  Turns out, 100% mommying is about 20% too much mommying for me.  At least it is if I want to leave space for any of the other important things in my life, like my writing, my husband, and my friends.

In general, I believe there’s nothing wrong with living life at 80%. It’s steady. It’s not totally exhausting. If life is a marathon, 80% is what we need if we want to cross the finish line. 

But what I’ve had to come to terms with over the years is that creative types like me don’t like to run at a steady pace.  We prefer pushing ourselves to our limits, even if we have to put ourselves in extraordinary circumstances and under extraordinary pressure in order to find out exactly what those limits are. Which is why we are all the hardest-working men in show business. (No offense to James Brown.) And even though it can feel utterly depleting at times, dancing as fast as we can without any guarantee  we’ll win the dance contest, I believe there’s great value in challenging ourselves. Like mothers who suddenly find themselves able to lift a Volkswagen off their child, unless we’re pushed to our limits, we may never find out how strong we truly are. 

 

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Win Tons of Books & Stuff at TeamTEEN Author’s Dare Day Challenge

Guess what, teamTEEN author fans?  It’s Dare Day again!  I know I said that last week, but apparently I jumped the gun a bit.  Whoops.  But the good news is, this week, you can enter to win books & stuff!

To check out all of the fabulous PRIZES, just go to the TeamTEEN Author Dare Day Contest, read the rules, enter the contest, & you may just get lucky.

Dares for this week were concocted by the evil, young minds over at The Perfect 10.  Our choices were:

1) Covering your face with peanut butter & takign a picture (yum!)

2) Writing about your most embarrassing teen moment Shakespearean sonnet-style

3)  Revealing your biggest teen crush, complete with photos (see below)

And if you like seeing authors make fools of themselves, check out these Dare Day posts from other TeamTEEN Authors.

Julie Cross

Janci Patterson

Laura Ellen

Elizabeth Amisu

Eugene Meyers

Kim Sabatini

And now, I present to you, my biggest teen celebrity crush.

My Celebrity Crush Likes Richard Nixon!

I guess I’m a bit of a pragmatist when it comes to love.  Sure, I had my share of teen crushes, but always on boys I actually knew, boys who were, at least theoretically, within my grasp.  Unlike my pre-teen friends, I never understood the thrill in pressing my lips to the pages of Tiger Beat Magazine.  Probably because I had the good sense to realize that there was no way in hell Leif Garret or Shaun Cassidy would choose a nine-year-old as their girlfriend.  And except for one naughty dream about Van Halen front-man David Lee Roth (which I blame entirely on my subconscious) the boys of my fantasies were always just regular ol’ dudes.

And then I saw Michael J. Fox.

For the record, I also had a girl-crush on Justine Bateman.

Never mind that he was 5’2” and, in all likelihood, weighed less than me. Or that his character on FAMILY TIES was a rabid Republican.

Why, Alex, why???

Then BACK TO THE FUTURE came out, and my infatuation swelled to proportions not even a flux capacitor could measure.

Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

By the time I went to Japan for the summer as an exchange student, I’d created a well-worn collection of romantic MJF fantasies to keep me company whenever I felt lonely. Which was a lot.  These often played to the soundtrack of Paul Simon’s Graceland—one of the few cassette tapes I’d brought with me on my trip.

Thinking about that time in my life brings up fond memories. And as a tribute to my former crush, I’m going to go donate to his charity for Parkinson’s Disease right now.

https://www.michaeljfox.org

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Dare Day: In Which I Reveal My Biggest Celebrity Crush

Guess what, teamTEEN author fans?  it’s Dare Day again!  Oh yes, I already completed my qualifying dare last March (see below).

But I’ve never been one to turn down a chance to humiliate myself on the interwebs.  And so, I present to you, my biggest celebrity crush.

My Celebrity Crush Likes Richard Nixon!

I guess I’m a bit of a pragmatist when it comes to love.  Sure, I had my share of teen crushes, but always on boys I actually knew, boys who were, at least theoretically, within my grasp.  Unlike my pre-teen friends, I never understood the thrill in pressing my lips to the pages of Tiger Beat Magazine.  Probably because I had the good sense to realize that there was no way in hell Leif Garret or Shaun Cassidy would choose a nine-year-old as their girlfriend.  And except for one naughty dream about Van Halen front-man David Lee Roth (which I blame entirely on my subconscious) the boys of my fantasies were always just regular ol’ dudes.

And then I saw Michael J. Fox.

For the record, I also had a girl-crush on Justine Bateman.

Never mind that he was 5’2” and, in all likelihood, weighed less than me. Or that his character on FAMILY TIES was a rabid Republican.

Why, Alex, why???

Then BACK TO THE FUTURE came out, and my infatuation swelled to proportions not even a flux capacitor could measure.

Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

By the time I went to Japan for the summer as an exchange student, I’d created a well-worn collection of romantic MJF fantasies to keep me company whenever I felt lonely. Which was a lot.  These often played to the soundtrack of Paul Simon’s Graceland—one of the few cassette tapes I’d brought with me on my trip.

Thinking about that time in my life brings up fond memories. And as a tribute to my former crush, I’m going to go donate to his charity for Parkinson’s Disease right now.

https://www.michaeljfox.org

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Household Hints from Hilary

If you’re a slob like me, it’s hard to find the time to clean house after a long day’s work.  Or ever.  And even with a semi-regular housekeeper on the payroll, the mess can pile up quickly (ususally from fifteen minutes after said housekeeper leaves up until the next time she comes).

Except for that one special day each month when I’m driven to scrubbing my faucet fixtures with a toothbrush, I don’t clean very well or very often.  I can’t be bothered to wipe that blob of hair gel off the bathroom mirror, even though I know I caused it.  I don’t sweep or dust regularly, and the noise of the vacuum frightens me, like a house cat.  Even when I come home with a pristine new piece of technology, promising myself that this time, I will honor the sleek and unblemished beauty of my new iPod, or Apple keyboard, one month later, its formerly infinitesimal crevices are bursting with stray hairs and food crumbs.  (Sorry, SJ.  RIP.)

So, how can a Messy Marvin like me give household advice to a bunch of neatniks?   (And by neatniks, I’m mean those of you who clean your fridge more frequently than on presidential election years.)  Well, as they say, out of chaos comes order.

Take, for example, my innovative approach to Car Fresheners.  Unlike store-bought fresheners, my innovative Tangerine-Scented Car Potpourri is up-cycled, organic, and fully compostable.  Just eat a tangerine while driving, throw the carcass on the floor, and voila–citrusy freshness that will last for days! (or until it starts to mold over).

Mmmm, tangerine-y.

Or what about Sock Mopping?  (Patent pending.) Who hasn’t wished there was a way to clean up those trouble spots on the kitchen floor without the hassle of dragging out the mop and  bucket?  Now there is!  Simply step in the water you’ve just spilled (and if you’re like me, you’re pretty much always spilling water) then use the toe of your sock to rub away the sticky spots.  Sure, your sock will be a little damp and dirty afterwards, but suck it up, wuss.  You want to see damp and dirty?  Try hanging out in an underwater Vietnamese prison, like these guys.

Waah, your sock is damp.

My third helpful hint is called Godfathering, inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film.  Having a problem with household pests?  Why waste all the effort it takes to walk all the way to your bathroom to flush a squished fly down the toilet, when you could just leave him there and send  a message to his friends?  I don’t think the other flies will be too keen on buzzing around your desk lamp when they take a gander at their pal’s corpse in the windowsill.

This fly's decaying corpse is also a "teachable moment" for the children.

The last cleaning innovation isn’t mine, but if it were real, I would definitely buy it.  The one and only  Swiffer Sleepers, by the geniuses at SNL.  Seriously, someone should sell these.

"Not recommended for children with allergies."

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Fiction and Movies and Blogs, Oh My!

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to NYC for Teen Book Fest, (where my speaking engagement didn’t exactly go as planned) then Portland, Maine for the Chidlren’s Film Festival (where my speaking engagement went better than planned).  But both trips were full of unexpected book & movie-related delights along the way.

Delight #1 – A visit with my publisher.  Once again, my lovely editor, Alexandra Cooper, gave me the official Simon & Schuster tour, where I got to meet all of the people in Sales, Marketing, and Publicity who are working hard to make REUNITED a success (presumably, they’re publishing other titles, too).

When I got off the elevator at Simon & Schuster, there was this. Not bad company, eh? Though I hear they gave Whaley champagne. ;)

Delight #2 – Authors & BBQ – Though our Teen Author Fest event didn’t exactly go as planned (insert loud throat-clearing here) I did get to enjoy a wonderful lunch with a gang of great authors including:   Leanna Renee Hieber (author of DARKER STILL), Lauren McLaughlin (author of SCORED and the CYCLER series), Kody Keplinger (author of THE DUFF and SHUT OUT), PG Kain, (author of the COMMERCIAL BREAKS series) and Gwendolyn Heasley (author of WHERE I BELONG and the forthcoming A LONG WAY FROM YOU).  A definite highlight of my trip!

Leanna Renee Hieber, Lauren McLaughlin, and I visit the lovely teen room at the Hamilton Grange Branch of the NY Public Library.

Delight #3 – While in the East Village with my friend Chuck, we walked by the inspiring & hilarious Janeane Garofalo, who was rocking red leggings and combat boots, like a total bad-ass.  No photo, but you get the picture.

Delight #4 – In Portland, ME we always stay with my sister & her family.  Recently, my eight-year-old niece created her own in-house library, complete with official library cards, a reference section, and a wide selection of books and videos available for loan.  A family library card cost 35 cents.  Also, there’s a tip jar.

My niece's library, where we took out a Muppets Movie and a Calvin & Hobbes book.

Delight #5 – This is me, leading a filmmaking workshop at the Children’s Film Fest in Portland, ME.  Great kids, well-attended, and I was sooooo happy to see so many girls interested in making movies!

Raise your hand if you want to overthrow the patriarchy.

Delight #6 – Kirsten Cappy of Curious City is also based out of Portland, ME and we spent the afternoon eating sushi & scheming with the uber-cool librarian and all-around Renaissance man Michael Whitaker.  You can see some of our plans for REUNITED here:  http://curiouscitydpw.com/2012/03/28/fictional-band-at-your-library/

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Ever wonder what to do with all those old VHS tapes?

Ever wonder what to do with all those old VHS tapes?  My 7-year-old son has the solution!  Just grab a hammer and start smashing, and soon you will unravel a world of hidden treasure.

Did you know that it takes 3 minutes and 24 seconds to unravel one 30-minute VHS tape end to end?

Turns out that smashing old videotapes is way more fun than actually watching them.

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Cool Animation by Moss Moon

My friend Bill Long is a talented artist & animator & I’m proud to share the latest installment of his web series here.  Those of you who know me may recognize the voice of Zara, the hottie on bass.  Too bad the non-animated version of me doesn’t look that good in a purple micro-mini. ;)

Oh, and you may want to watch Part 1 first.

To check out more of Moss Moon Studio’s animation, including the gorgeous work of his partner, Kaori Hamura, Check out their YouTube Channel and their Website.

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