#MondayMusings – I Love Bank Holidays

Monday Musings

The Summer Bank Holiday has come and gone (August 28, the last Monday in August).

The August Bank Holiday was originally organized by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 to give bankers a day off so they could participate in cricket matches. Since then, however, its significance has expanded to a much-beloved summer break intended to give all workers a three-day weekend before the summer ends and employees must return to the workplace and students to their schools.

The Notting Hill Carnival in London is probably the number one August Bank Holiday event in the whole UK. It is the largest street fest in all Europe, drawing one to two million attendees each year, and it is the second-biggest street carnival on the planet.

The festival was founded in 1964 by London’s Caribbean community to celebrate Caribbean culture, and it has maintained that Caribbean flavor to this day. This year a minute’s silence was held across the whole carnival at 3pm on Sunday to remember those killed when a fire ripped through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, killing 80 local area people.

The “August Festival” is a collective name for a number of distinct festivals celebrating books, music, theater, comedy, and spoken word performances taking place in Edinburgh throughout the month of August. The festival variety lasts for the greater part of the month and runs through the August Bank Holiday Weekend.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival offers edgier avant-garde performances.

What strikes me as amazing is how sacred Bank Holiday are in the UK.  NO ONE is working.  NO ONE answers emails.  NO ONE returns telephone calls.

In America, people are expected to be reachable on holidays.  Not so in the UK.  This is just one of the many reasons life is so pleasant here. There is a real life work balance and an expectation that shared family holiday time is important.  The nine Bank Holiday long weekends are on top of about 5 weeks paid vacation a year!

And don’t whinge about Brits being less productive.  Study after study reveals how important time to regroup and recharge is to creativity and productivity.


#MondayMusings – Alternative Workspaces


I live a part of the year in the US and the greater part of the year in the UK.  I am very happy to return to my adopted home now through May.

I do have my own office in Bristol but something draws me out and I find I am happiest at my dining table (inside with doors flung open or outside in my little courtyard). or in a nearby poolside coffee shop/restaurant around the corner.

Another favorite spot is in a nearby poolside coffee shop/restaurant around the corner.  Lunch, coffee, or a tea time dessert can be had as swimmers stroke back and forth.

Writing is a lonely vocation.  Sometimes I need people around me and a few hellos to friends. Lots of creative people hang out/work poolside at The Lido.  (You’ve nothing on Bristol, LA!)

Sometimes I just need a bit of air.  The value of good weather in the UK isn’t to be taken lightly! It is always a cause for celebration.

Where are you happiest writing or thinking?









#MondayMusings – Amsterdam and Jeanne Moreau

Monday Musings

I am off to Amsterdam this week to work on a show I’ve been a part of for ten years.  The creative team is great and I come in every few months to talk characters and story.  It’s one of my favorite consulting jobs!

The great thing about traveling so much for my work is meeting so many fantastically talented people.

I had the great privilege of meeting Jeanne Moreau several times.  I was very sad to hear of her passing. She was the President/Patron of a European script development workshop I’ve been working with on and off for over fifteen years.  The program has a rotating roster of advisors, who work one-on-one with the workshop participants.

She was a writer, director, and producer and always had insightful things to say about scripts.  Her powerful presence on screen lit up the cinema.

Moreau’s charisma, intelligence, sexuality and star quality created a new space in postwar French cinema for female stars who were not merely beautiful but commandingly intelligent and complex, and in her way made possible the very different careers of Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard and Isabelle Huppert. To call her an icon would be to make her too passive and inert. She was rather a great screen actor.  The Guardian

A successful stage actress in Paris, Ms. Moreau had a pouty, downturned mouth and circles under her eyes, and she was not generally considered photogenic. Making a score of mostly forgettable films from 1949 to 1957, she received the standard starlet treatment by makeup artists. It was Malle who, casting her in his first feature film, “Elevator to the Gallows,” shot her in natural light without heavy makeup, letting her hauntingly expressive face work its magic. The New York Times

She will be missed.




#MondayMusings – Packing for Business Travel

Monday Musings

I am on my way to Copenhagen as you read this.  Looking forward to a wonderful time meeting new and old friends. The conference has a big treat in store, a boat ride to a fantastic dinner location.  Then back to Bristol for just enough time to unpack and do laundry. Then I am immediately on to Amsterdam! Watch my ETBScreenwriting  INSTAGRAM for pictures,

This is typical of my schedule, I’m a frequent traveler, traveling back and forth between the UK and (mostly) continental Europe and Scandinavia.  I’m not quite in the same league as the main character in “Up in the Air.” In that film, George Clooney plays a frequent flier who is on the road 270 days a year. As Clooney’s character reports, the difference between having to check luggage and fitting everything into a carry-on is a week’s worth of time spent waiting in line.

So that’s tip #1:  Travel Light.  Limit yourself to one cabin sized roll on bag and a compact computer bag. Being the first through customs, never waiting for luggage, and no one EVER losing your baggage is a tremendous advantage in my book. I can easily get two weeks of travel out of one carry-on.

Tip #2: Start with a Dark Base Color.  Personally, I’ve been transitioning from black to navy.  I think navy blue is more interesting than the more expected black. I am lucky to work in the entertainment business where the dress is casual.  I usually pack two pairs of navy business casual trousers and a dark pair of slim jeans. I also bring three nice tops, two sweaters, and a light leather coat.  A couple of soft tee-shirts (cotton and cashmere), and a night gown completes my basic wardrobe. I also usually throw in a packable light down vest.

Tip #3. Limit Shoes. I usually wear ankle boots or trainers on the plane and pack two pairs of nice flats. I’ve picked out trainers that can double as casual shoes– I have good sturdy suede ones.

Tip #4: Add Color with Accessories. I pack a couple of colorful silk scarves to brighten things up.  And I always wear a big soft cozy scarf on the plane.  It’s can be cold on board.

Tip #5:  Wear a Denim Dress on Board.  This is one of the best tips I’ve ever gotten from a fellow female traveler.  A loose denim dress and silky leggings are like wearing pajamas.  I bring a belt to cinch the dress pre and post flight. The denim dress can be dressed up for dinner at the location, while still being casual.

Tip #6. Find Tube and Pencil Versions of Makeup. They fit more easily in the required zip lock bags. Lipstick can double as a blusher.  I snag travel sized toothpaste at the dentist and 2 oz contact solution at the optician. I also have a travel size of my favorite Hermes perfume.  There’s no need to bring more liquid than that.  AND there are drug stores all over the world. Buy what you need on location and leave it behind when you go.

Tip #7: Save Your Back. A roll-on with a hook that holds your computer case counterbalances the load so that you can cruise through the airport quickly. If your bag doesn’t have such an add-on bag strap you can easily buy one.

Tip #8: Test ALL Your Batteries. Make sure your rechargeables are fully charged (Kindle, iPad, FitBit, Computer). Know the capacity of your batteries. You might be surprised by how long a trip you can make without lugging along a bag full of chargers.

Tip #9: Always Bring Backups. “A high-resolution scan of your driver’s license, passport, visas, and credit cards on the SD card of your smartphone or on your computer HD can be a life saver if anything is lost or stolen.  I also recommend a paper print out as well.

Tip #10: Put Medications in the Safe. I once had medication pilfered at a high-end resort. I didn’t notice until I ran out, way ahead of schedule. In some countries, there’s a big black market in prescription medicine.

All that is left is: Relax, bring a snack (food on board is iffy), listen to a downloaded audible book, and enjoy the ride!




#MondayMusings – Vision Boards

Monday Musings

I just created a vision board for the second half of the year.  What’s a vision board? It ‘s a visual representation of your goals. These can be personal goals, financial goals, creative goals, goals to balance your life, travel goals, or your dream house or other material purchases. My goals are work/life balance related and steps toward improving my eBook publishing.

Vision boards came into vogue after  The Secret hit the bestseller list. You may think the Law of Attraction is so much superstitious bunk but that’s not at issue here. A strong clear visualization of your end point is always helpful in keeping your eye on the prize and spurring on your journey.

A vision board can be a cork board with clippings and push pins.  It can be a poster board with images pasted on, or it can be a digital design.  I am a fan of Simpleology as an organizing and scheduling tool and I purchased their vision board add-on for $3.00.  I’ve used the Simpleology free version for a number of years and recommend it.

But there are other digital apps out there that help you create a vision board.  Click HERE for a list. I prefer a vision board to Pinterest because it helps to look at the whole connected vision every day or multiple times a day.  Pinterest is just a large collection of individual pictures.

There are no rules.  Just try it!  I’ve created these over the years and they have really helped keep me positive and focused.  The more clearly you know what you want, or know how you want to feel about your self and your work, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. A vision board is not unlike a director’s mood board for a film. It’s what you want a certain span of time to look like and feel like– only it’s your life!

Here are some examples:


Another one:

Another one:


#MondayMusings – Coincidence? Or Not?


I love Charity Shops in the UK and Thrift Stores, as they are called, in the US.  I bought a colorful large silk scarf in Bristol and yesterday, about a year or so after my original purchase, I saw the same scarf in Madison, Wisconsin.  I bought it  (and now have one scarf for each place, the UK, and US).

What a strange coincidence to find the same donated scarf in resale shops worlds and years apart. That got me musing about coincidence in stories.

Let’s say two women buy the same silk scarf in different countries and at different times and their lives are changed.  How?  Mistaken identity? The forging of an unlikely friendship? The purchase some how spirals one woman into tragedy and spurs the other woman toward fulfilling her dreams?

It’s the stuff of stories. Or is it?  The Atlantic published a wonderful piece on coincidence in stories.   My favorite excerpt is:

(M)aybe … what makes coincidences special is that they present a piece of evidence that the world doesn’t work how you thought it did. Did you run into your friend at the grocery store because cosmic forces were pushing you two together? Did you hear the same song everywhere you went one day because it contained a message for you? Probably not, but it can feel that way, at least at first, and that’s what makes a coincidence startling. It’s unsettling to feel a ripple in the fabric of your reality.

The takeaway here is if you use coincidence don’t just use it to push the plot forward.  Instead, or in addition, use it to show how this event knocks your protagonist of his or her stride or rips a tear in the fabric of their reality.

Read the full Atlantic article HERE








#MondayMusings – Packing for Bristol

Monday Musings

I am back in the UK at the end of August and will be starting a series of Screenwriting Roundtables starting in September. Watch this space!  I am anxious to get back to my secret weapon and screenwriting guru, Mr. Otto Longi.  His expert advice does come at a price.  Packing the toys and treats he requires.




#MondayMusings – In Italy with RAI Television


I am on my way to Perugia, Italy to work with the talented team from RAI, the Italian State Broadcaster, much like the BBC in in the UK.

Although it is very basic it’s always good to start with the five most important questions in constructing a story.

What Does the Character Want?

What the main character wants is a clear and simple ego-driven goal. It is something that directly benefits the main character that he or she can physically have or obtain. It is concrete. It is specific. It is the finite object of the character’s personal desire. For example: Win the championship trophy, get the promotion, pay the rent, solve the crime, buy the fancy car, steal the jewel, get the girl (or guy), etc.

To obtain the want, the character must abandon the need.

What Does the Character Need?

What the character needs is an inner ache or yearning that the character is unaware of, denies, suppresses, or ignores. It is a deeper, more abstract or intangible human longing. It is not physical or concrete. It is an emotional or spiritual urge or inner call to live up to one’s higher nature. For example: To become a better parent, to forgive another, to act with integrity, to find one’s faith, to become more altruistic, to be a more reliable friend, to face the truth, to love unselfishly, etc.

To embrace the need, the character must abandon the specific self-centered goal (or object of desire) and address more fundamental and far-reaching human concerns.

What is the Conflict Between the Want and the Need?

One of the most common problems with stories that don’t work is the lack of a clear and specific want vs. a deep and powerful inner longing. The want pulls us through the story. The need draws us deeper into or inside the character. If this bedrock conflict isn’t clear the story won’t add up to very much.

Does the Story Clearly Distinguish the Want and the Need?

Does the main character have a specific physical or concrete object of personal desire? What does he or she want? What is the concrete physical goal or specific objective? Does the main character actively pursue this objective through the story? Does the main character have a clearly delineated deeper human longing? What is missing deep inside the character?

What is the Price?

What is the main character willing to sacrifice or surrender to obtain the want or to embrace the need? Is there a high cost for each choice?  If the character obtains the want and lets go of the need the character pays a high price in unhappiness and emotional loss.

Does that mean that no character ever gets what he or she wants? We know that’s not true. Characters get what they want all the time. But this happens in a one of two ways.

1) The character gets what he or she wants and finds that it is hollow:

For example, in Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) gets what he wants, to get back in the agent game by representing a major NFL player. He finds his victory is hollow and emotionally empty when he realizes he has no one to call or with whom to celebrate after a big win. This is when he returns to his wife and family and embraces what he needs.

In Dangerous Liaisons, Vicomte Valmont (John Malkovich) gets what he wants: To seduce the un-seducible woman. He finds his victory is poisonous when he realizes he has destroyed the only woman he has ever loved and who truly loves him. The story ends tragically with his death and hers.

2) The character lets go of the want and embraces the need and then, in the classic comedic turnaround, he or she finds something even better or finds that the want comes around on the other side:

In life, this is the story of a young couple that wants to start a family. What they want is a biological child. They try and try to no avail. They realize what they need is to make a family with a child who needs them. They adopt and are deliriously happy. What happens one year later? The wife gets pregnant. This happy turnaround happens enough in life that we believe it in fiction.

Or for example, in Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) wants to pay the rent. That’s why she picks up Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) in the first place. It’s why she stays with him over the course of the story. When he offers to meet that want by buying her a condo (and pay her rent in perpetuity) she turns him down. What she needs is to live a life of honesty and integrity. If she accepts his proposition she will always be a whore. She rejects his offer and it is that act of integrity that brings him back to her as a real suitor and a true partner (rather than as a man who is simply “buying” her).

The tougher the choice is, the better the story.

Does the main character pay dearly for whatever he or she pursues and chooses? The price is the end of the long road where the character comes face-to-face with the ultimate truth. Who is the character really? This supreme price is what the audience is waiting eagerly to see.

If the price is not high enough, the story suffers and the audience isn’t really invested in the outcome.

#MondayMusings – Celebrate the Small Victories!

Too often we are so focused on where we are going, we forget how far we’ve come.  Today take a moment to look at your diary or calendar to see where you were a year ago, two years ago, and five years ago.

Several years ago I really felt I had hit a slump.  It felt like I’d made no progress and would never make progress.  I signed up for a Women in Film New Year’s workshop.

One of the assignments was to go though your calendar day-by-day and make a list of everything you’d done– every script mailed out, every meeting, every research session, every phone call!  When I tallied up the year I was amazed at what I have accomplished– progress I had completely forgotten about.

My career was moving forward!  The next assignment was to analyze what was the most effective use of my time.  What paid off and what seemed less productive.  Looking at that whole year day-by-day as it added up was a revelation.

The step by step by step of  incremental progress is always what makes a lasting career.  List the small steps you’ve taken so far this year and be sure to count ALL  the little victories.  Celebrate the mistakes you made that taught you valuable lessons and enabled you to move forward in new ways.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than an unsuccessful person with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  Calvin Coolidge

Your small, seemingly insignificant, steps and your continued little victories make up the persistence that turns into a solid career!

#MondayMusings – Luck to Start the New Year

I was doing an end of year clean-up on my computer and stumbled across a very old newsletter article from http://www.makemorelivemoregivemore.com/

This article on luck is a great post to open the New Year.  Make 2013 your luckiest year yet by following these simple guidelines.

There are people who seem to have been born lucky. They know what they want, set out to get it, and somehow, everything falls into place. Even if something goes wrong along the way, they still manage to land on their feet.

Some people, on the other hand, who just can’t seem to catch a break. These are the people who believe that someday their luck will turn, and that someday, the “lucky ones” will run out of luck too. Some of them will simply blame the stars – they believe they’re fated to be unlucky, and they can’t do anything about it.

In a strange way, the unlucky ones are right, or so says Drawk Kwast. In his article Science of Luck on Small Business CEO Magazine, he explains that “The biggest reason you don’t have the life you want is because you are focused on what you aren’t getting. You see only your lack of luck. Successful people live life as they desire because they focus on what they are getting.”

The unlucky ones are unlucky because they believe they’re unlucky. Makes sense, right?

Drawk shares the results of a study conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. In the study, he asked two groups of people, a “lucky” group and an “unlucky” one, to look through a newspaper and tell him how many photographs were in it. On average, the lucky people had their answers in seconds, while the unlucky ones took two minutes.

Luck is about keeping your eyes open

The lucky ones saw a large message taking up half of the second page that said: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The unlucky ones totally missed it and kept counting.

The key, as Drawk puts it is this: “It’s not about luck. It’s about keeping your eyes open.” He goes on to say that he’s among the lucky ones, “not that I have better luck than other people; it’s that I can see things that others can’t.” Drawk can identify opportunities for growth and success that many others can’t, and he also interacts with as many people as possible to create those opportunities.

Luck is about extending your hand

This idea is shared by other lucky people. One of them is Tom McCarthy, whom was interviewed a few months back for a NOBS TALK on Increasing Your Luck. Tom explains: “One of the things lucky people do that unlucky people tend not to do is they maximize the number of opportunities that come to them.” By being outgoing, by introducing yourself to others, and by expanding your network, you create opportunities for yourself, and improve your luck.

Luck is about listening to your gut

Tom also shares that lucky people listen to their “lucky hunches,” while unlucky ones go against them. If that doesn’t quite make sense, replace “lucky hunches” with gut or intuition. You improve your luck by following your gut – it might not get it 100% right, but more often than not, your intuition will steer you in the right direction, and you’ll be happier for it.

Luck is about keeping a smile on your face

This brings us two the idea that lucky people are happier. The idea seems so obvious – if things just seem to fall in place for you, of course you’ll be happy about that. What most people don’t see, however, is that it works when you flip things around – happy people are luckier too.

J.D. Roth discusses this on Zen Habits in his article How to Make the Most Out of Luck in Your Career and Life. “A person who leads a balanced life is happier, more relaxed, more open to new experiences,” J.D. Explains. “If you maintain good relationships, pursue satisfying hobbies, go out of your way to help others, and continue to pursue personal growth, you will become a well-rounded person, just the sort that ‘luck’ favors.”

Michael Levy also discusses this briefly in his article The Five Principles for Prosperity. The first principle he shares is to Enjoy Everything. Enthusiasm and exploration, he says, “leave the door open for future development.”

Drawk Kwast really sums it up well: “This has nothing to do with luck. It’s pure science.” Luck is all about your attitude and your outlook. It’s about opening your eyes, creating opportunities, following your gut, and maintaining a positive attitude. The question now is this:

Will you create your own luck, or will you be one of those who do nothing but complain?

Photo by billaday www.flickr.com/photos/billselak/2067139101/