Sunday, August 26, 2012

More on Inspiration

Inspiration for a great story can be found just about anywhere.  We have all worked with interesting characters or attended school or church with them and if we try hard enough, a story can be developed with one person out of the various worlds in which we exist.  There is a story everywhere.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Starting a Writing Project

One of the most difficult aspects of writing is deciding how to get started.  Every writer has a different process, but what works for me is to start by listening to music that will put me in the mood of the writing.  For a project that I worked on last year, there was a great deal of travel to France in the story. I surrounded myself with French music and it was a great inspiration for me.

Once I felt  in the mood, I took my legal pad and pen and sat in the park to write my outline.  I love being part of nature when I write.  You have to find the spot that inspires you and being outside inspires me.  Sometimes, I sit at the beach and listen to the waves.  I can't take my laptop to the beach because of the sand and water, but I can always write the old fashioned way.  It's a great way to start.  When I write the outline, I start by included the main aspects of the story. The most important thing is getting the story out. You can add color to it during the rewrite.

Write at the same time every day. It's like exercise; you have to do it with consistency.  Start with thirty minutes of writing per day, then add time as you can.  Consider writing for two hours a day. I write for about five hours a day, but my mind is still working even when I am away from my desk. It stays with you once you are into the story.

Get thee writing!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Be Patient When Writing

I have the story in my head and I want to get it out on paper.  "Just tell the story," I tell myself, but there is virtue in allowing the story to simmer a bit before writing.  Constantly, I am thinking of the next word or phrase in the story, but I have to allow the right words to come to me.  So, sometimes, being patient and taking a break helps the right words to flow freely.

I've also noticed that changing my inspiration helps with the writing.  For example, for a long time, I sat in the same park writing and it worked, but I had to change locations, find something new to look at while I'm day dreaming.  There are times when I take a chair to the beach and I sit, watch the ocean waves and write.  I change the music that's on my iPod or in my car. I might call an old friend who always makes me feel a certain way.  I may go to a baseball field and watch the athletes play even if I don't know any of the players.  I watch them because they love the game.  That love and passion translates into inspiration for me.

So, be patient and allow the words to flow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When You Get Burned Out

I've been working on a new project and as excited as I get coming up with great dialogue or creating an  inspired scene, there are times, when I've been working too much and my brain is fried.  That's when I know it's time to take a break.  The thing about taking a break is that if you aren't careful, the break can last for days or weeks and then it's hard to get back to the project.  So, what I do when I am taking a break is continue to be creative, but just not at writing.  It's the perfect time to play a musical instrument, pick up a camera and take photos of the people you love (I did that yesterday), paint, draw, take a walk, listen to really great music that you haven't heard in a while, dance, organize your closet- anything that can keep your mind free from thinking too much while allowing you to continue to be creative.  Some say knitting is a great way to come up with ideas. Today, I am still a little burned out on the writing, so I edited what I have written thus far and I am ready to get back to the writing in the morning.  Inspiration is everywhere.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Preparing to Write

Oftentimes, when people write to me, they want to know what my writing process is because they have an interest in writing as well.  Writing is a solitary job, but it is a process.  Sometimes, like today, I begin with a morning stretch and a bottle of water.  That clears my mind and allows the creativity to flow.  Then, I just sit and think of a while.  I think about what I am going to write for the day. It could be dialogue or creating a scene that will follow with dialogue.  Recently, I read that Ernest Hemingway would pride himself on creating one great sentence.  I read that Lisa See aims for 1000 words per day.  I suppose I just want to finish what I promised I write for the day.  If it's one scene, that's okay as long as the scene is good.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Writing

It's so easy to get distracted from writing in the summer.  The weather is perfect, the kids are out of school and wanting to hang out.  I want to be outdoors, too.  So, I take my work outside.  While the kids are turning cartwheels or reading in the park, I find a quiet place in the shade and I write.  Every thirty minutes or so, I stretch my legs, throw the Frisbee, then I go back to writing.  Sometimes I write on a legal pad and other times I use my iPad and email the work to my desktop, but either way, I get the words out and I am inspired by nature and best of all, I get to be with my family.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Being A Girl Dad-9

My youngest daughter, Azure, is ten years old and she loves Agatha Christie mysteries.  As part of her summer reading, she has read several.  Her favorite is Murder on the Orient Express.  Tonight, as a family, we all watched the BBC version of the story.  I've seen it many times and every time, I forget who actually committed the crime.  When reading, do not forget the old fashioned murder mystery.  They don't make them like that anymore.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

People Are Good

I believe in the goodness of people.  Although terrible things happened to me when I was young, there were always good people all around me, giving advice or trying to show me kindness because they knew my situation was not so good.  Even now, when I have needed help with various projects, always there is an angel in the wings, leading the way.  In the last few weeks, I met several very kind people who gave of themselves to help me and my film.  I am an eternally grateful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Writing- Rejection

I can remember when I was writing some of the first drafts of the screenplay about my life, I would get notes from the producer, Todd Black, and he would give me feedback.  After reading some of the pages, Todd said, "This is some of the most uninspired writing I've ever read."  Some might think it's harsh, but what Todd's words did was force me to dig deeper within myself to tell a truth that would be more inspiring to him.  Truth in writing is what makes it really good.  I had to accept the constructive critcism and push ahead.  If you are writing, accept the not so good comments, too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

If You Are a Writer, Write.

I resisted the idea of owning a tablet. I don't think I would ever read a book on one because I like the feel of real pages and the smell of real paper when I read, but I couldn't think of any other reason to own a tablet unless I wanted to watch a movie while traveling. I do have access to movies through other electronic media, so I couldn't see the point.  Then, on Father's Day, after hinting around that I would like to have the Big Kahuna beach chair like the one we bought my wife for Mother's Day, I was shocked to open my gift, only to find an iPad with all the accessories.  I said, "I feel like I'm dreaming."  I kept repeating it over and over again, while my daughters cheered and jumped around.  I had to admit, I was really happy about it.
This morning, I really wanted to work, but it's Saturday and I wanted to stay in bed as well. It was so early, around 6 a.m. and everyone else was asleep.  I listened to the notes from my meeting with the development executive working on my project and I pulled out my iPad and I started to write.  It was quiet and the peaceful and I was still feeling the warmth of my bed.  Several hours later, I had done nearly all the notes and I was ready to dress, have breakfast and start round two of writing.  I transferred all my work to the big computer and I continued writing away.
I always advise writers that in order to avoid writer's block, you have to stay with your project at all times.  You have to write when the spirit hits you and you have to write even when it doesn't. It's like exercise (not that I do that every day), but you must write with a regularity that becomes second nature to who you are.

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Being a Girl Dad-8

After years of singing all the songs that Barney the purple dinosaur had to offer, listening to the Cheetah Girls soundtrack, downloading the "clean" versions of the latest rappers' songs, it was brilliant to take my girls to the Friday Night Jazz at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  Of course the girls are subjected to my 70s music, but to sit with them and enjoy hearing the upright bass, the piano, a trumpet and drums made my heart sing.  My girls tapped toes and bobbed along and I was so happy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This Life of Mine

I've had some really great news in the last few days. I am putting the final post production points on my film, This Life of Mine and I am so pleased with the dubbing that was completed on the film.  It sounds fantastic.  Tomorrow, I am taking the film to get colorized and we will be set to show it to the world.  Everyone needs to see this story.

On Being a Girl Dad-07

I am dyslexic.  It took me years to figure out why I had to be in the remedial reading class.  Back in the day, no one knew what dyslexia is, so when I finally discovered that I had a reason for not being able to read like everyone else, I was overjoyed.  What I learned is that I have to take my time and relax in order to get the words right.  I was so worried that my daughters would inherit the reading disorder and I held my breath until they were able to read with great fluency.  Today, I was thrilled to walk into the family room only to find my daughters engrossed in some leisure reading.  Indigo, 14, is reading a Tennessee Williams play, while Azure, 10, is reading Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.  Simultaneous, they announce they have only a few pages to go and when they are done, they can't wait to share what happened.  I am thrilled with their enthusiasm for reading.  I am so excited that they can read anything at any time and not have the restraints that I have when I read.  I am so proud they are my girls.

On Being a Girl Dad-6

I couldn't have had a better Father's Day.  I had my favorite breakfast of banana pancakes, veggie sausage, eggs, strawberries with cream and orange juice and I watched my daughters help their mother prepare everything.  My cards were wonderful. My daughter, Azure, thanked me for being patient with her, for coming to her games and for saying, "Do I have to come up to that school and whip some A$$" whenever someone makes her cry.  I laughed when I read that.  What I like is that she appreciates being protected.  Other than wanting my girls to feel loved, I want them to feel safe.  We spent the rest of our day walking along the ocean and hugging one another.  It was the best Father's Day ever.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Being a Girl Dad-5

Today, there was a big party for the oldest daughter to attend.  I wasn't home, but there was an issue about the hair. My wife said to my daughter, "Your hair looks nice, but if you don't trust my opinion, who do you want to ask?"  My daughter looked at her mother and said, "Well, anyone from my school or Daddy."  They texted me a photo and I gave the thumbs up.  She looks beautiful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Being a Girl Dad-4

My wife has had a standing Friday morning hair appoint since we married.  On one particular Friday, my oldest daughter, then about four years old, wanted to play dolls, but Mommy wasn't home.  She had one of the African American Barbie dolls and the Steven doll and a host of clothing and shoes and cars.  She just didn't have any friends to play with her.  She came to me and said, "There are no friends here."  She looked so sad holding  a very fashionably dressed Vida (as in Vida Loca) and her boyfriend doll, Steve.  I shut down my computer and grabbed Steve and went up to play.  Steven and Vida drove the red Corvette convertible to the beach where he proposed to Vida.  Vida was young and not really ready for marriage and the two argued about her career and she told Steve she had to finish getting her Masters degree and travel quite a bit before she would consider marrying him.  Steve, who was in touch with his feminine side, agreed that Vida should see the world and date a few other guys and then consider his proposal. That day, I learned that lectures aren't always appropriate teaching methods.  Sometimes, just playing dolls can get a father's point across.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Being a Girl Dad-3

My daughter, Azure, is a cookie monster.  She will eat anything sweet and sticky and gooey.  We have to hide cookies where we think she won't look and my wife limits what we buy for sweet snacks.  One night when she was about seven years old, I went up to tuck Azure in bed. It was a cold night and asked, "Are you wearing an undershirt with your pajamas? Azure didn't answer.  She had this impish grin on her face and she said nothing. On instinct,  I lifted her rim of her pajama top to reveal a Snicker bar that was taped to her tummy.  When I asked her why she had done this she replied, "Because I want to have candy bar dreams."  I removed the candy bar from the wrapper and re-taped the wrapper to her tummy, then said "Good night."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Being A Girl Dad-2

Because I was not raised by my own parents, it's terribly important for me to be involved in my children's lives.  I want my girls to know that they can come to me and tell me anything. I give them flowers on Valentine's Day and I tell them they are beautiful.  Girls need to know they are beautiful and smart and clever and funny.  Hearing it from their father first is so very important.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On Being a Girl Dad-1

Fifteen years ago, when my wife and I were expecting our first child, we decided to find out the gender of the baby. It didn't really matter what kind of baby we would have. We just hoped that the baby would be healthy and happy and loved, but knowing the gender made shopping during the retail sales much easier.

I thought I didn't care either way, girl or boy, but when the doctor told us that our baby was a girl, I remember leaping out of my seat and jumping up and down and being just so happy.  I would be a girl dad.  I would learn to play dolls and I would love my little girl and teach her the importance of loving herself.

When Indigo was born, I could not believe how beautiful she was.  The doctor placed the baby on my wife's stomach and the baby moved around, almost in slow motion looking, following the voices she had heard throughout the gestation process.  I felt as if she looked for me and I put my face near hers and she seemed to say, 'So nice to put a face to the voice.' My heart filled with a love so great and so deep.  And so began the best role I have ever had, that of the father of two little girls.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Importance of Career Day

I love Career Day events at high schools. I love the idea of telling students about the kinds of jobs they might not know exist. Of course, becoming a doctor, or lawyer or fire fighter are all admirable jobs, but when a professional describes that she is a plastic surgeon or that he is an entertainment attorney or that he investigates how a fire starts, it's a far more interesting and rewarding event for the students to hear.

On Friday, I attended Career Day at a local high school.  We had limited time and I wanted to tell the students of the various careers I've had: United States Navy  Sailor, Federal Correctional Officer in a federal prison, Security Guard on the Sony movie studio lot, Screenwriter, Poet, Author, Director, Lecturer, College Professor.  I wanted to tell them that all the jobs a person can have trains them for the job they will eventually have.  As a writer, I use all the experiences I have and save them for things I may write about.  When I am writing a particularly sad story, I draw from my youth.  When I am writing about a joyful time, I draw from my days in the Navy and the great feelings I get from the family I have now.

I pay attention to the things that others say to me and I use their emotions and characteristics as well.  All all the things I write help me with lectures and directing actors.  I've learned about safety and firefighting from the Navy and I learned to plan events and cut hair, as I did while a barber in the Navy. I loved sharing all of this with the students.

I encourage everyone to share what they do with others.  So many young people are trying to figure out what is available to them.  The world is changing and jobs are changing.  Help young people discover how they can create a rewarding career for themselves.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


After relaxing wonderfully in the sun and on the beach during the Memorial Day weekend, I remembered that one of the most important things a writer can do isn't writing; it's networking to make sure the writer's work is being read by someone who can move the project forward.  I had two really good meetings this week regarding three projects and it was the idea of sitting down for coffee and talking with one person and taking a walk with another that gives me the comfort of knowing the working is moving forward.

We can all have great ideas and we can all possibly write an interesting story, but if no one knows about it, the work will not be produced.

So, write notes, email, invite people to coffee (or tea), share articles and stories, meet people at the gym.  Do whatever it takes to get your work into the right hands.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Needing Inspiration

Usually, I am working on more than one project at a time with the hope that at least one of the projects might get produced.  Currently, I am writing something that I think is really good, but it's the kind of story you can't pitch because far too often, people can't see the vision of the story unless it's already written.  Fair enough, so I just keep writing.  I've hit a block in the road and I need a bit of inspiration.  When I have a hard time writing, I turn to many a muse, but today's inspiration comes from good writing.  I turned to the pages of James Baldwin, a master of description and character development, and I read his words and found my way.  Thank you, Mr. Baldwin and his compelling story, If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On Raising a Teenaged Daughter

The most interesting thing about having a teenage daughter is teaching her all the things I never had a chance to learn as a teen.  My daughter, Indigo, loves wearing oxford shoes.  She has a few colors and she wears one of the pairs every day.  In order to keep the shoes looking nice, I had to explain to Indigo about getting taps placed on her shoes because she started to wear down the heel.  Then, I had to teach her how to shine her shoes.  I wish someone had done the same for me when I was young, but I had to learn in the Navy.  Watching Indigo buff and shine her shoes brings the biggest smile to my face.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Art Imitates Life

I had a little bit of writer's block today.  When it happens, I do whatever it takes to get my mind going.  Today, I decided to cut the lawn and clear my head.  One of the neighbors came by and we started talking and out of that conversation, the rest of my writing flowed.  It's really important to keep your mind focused on the writing, even if you move on to a different task to help you think.  Be inspired.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Malcolm David Kelly

I so pleased to announce that Malcolm David Kelly will reprise his role as Antwone Fisher in the new production of Antwone Fisher:  A Play.  Malcolm played a young Antwone in the film, but will play the adult Antwone in the stage production.  I couldn't be any happier.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finally felt like spring

Los Angeles finally felt like spring today. It was perfection.  I walked for exercise and inspiration, smelling earth and flowers along the trail.  The sky was clear and the sun, warm.  When I returned to write, I felt alive and the words flowed freely. I love living in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm Writing Again!

After directing Antwone Fisher: A Play at UCLA, I needed to rest.  Writing and directing a play and rehearsing to get the bet results is difficult, but rewarding.  I needed a little break.  Now, I am refreshed and on to my next writing project.  The words are flowing, the scenes are vivid and interesting.  I love this work.
To keep me in my writing space, I have lots of interesting things to occupy my mind when I am taking breaks.  It's also when I return emails and make phone calls.  The rule is that I can't leave the room!  So far, so great.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Final Week of the play

This if the final week of Antwone Fisher: a play at UCLA.  The shows have been outstanding.  The acting is incredible.  I couldn't be happier.  Today, I learned that Saturday is sold out for both shows and Wednesday only has twelve tickets left.  The great thing about this production is that with a multi-racial class, it shows that the story is a universal story that isn't unique to men or women, boys or girls.  If you are in the Los Angeles area, make a point of seeing the show.  You will be happy you did.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I am so grateful for the professionalism that the actors of Antwone Fisher: a play display each night.  The energy was fantastic tonight.  I was so happy to see my neighbors out supporting me yet again. It's an honor to have them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Opening night of the play

I can't even begin to express how happy I am with the opening night of Antwone Fisher: a play. The actors were outstanding, the set was beautiful, the costumes were impressive.  It went off without a hitch.  All I had to do was sit back and watch.  The weeks of rehearsals were all worth it.  For those of you who come out, you are in for a treat.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taking Time To Relax

The entire cast and crew for Antwone Fisher: a play has worked so hard over the past few weeks. Now, we are in the home stretch and it was really nice to take today just to relax.  How do I relax?  I spent most of the day out in the garden taking care of the neglected shrubs and lawn as my daughter roller skated and kept me company and my wife joined me every now and again to trim the trees or just talk.  Gardening relaxes me and being with my family brings me so much joy.  Now, I am ready to approach this week with a smile and bring to the UCLA community a wonderful stage production.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Keep a Senior Citizen in Your Life

I received an email from an old friend who told me that someone I used to know is in a convalescent home and suggested that I go for a visit.  Henry is 92 years old.  His mind is sharp and so is his memory, but he didn't recognize me at first and he didn't hear me say my name, but since he wasn't doing anything else, he decided to allow me to visit with him.  We talked for an hour.  I loved hearing the stories of World War 2 and of Henry's philosophy about people and how we should treat one another.  Seniors have so much to share with us.  Take time to sit with someone who has been on the planet longer than you have.  Learn from their lessons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie

Yesterday, I received an email from my literary agent saying that an offer has been made on my latest book, A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie.  They want to translate the book into Chinese and sell it on mainland China.  I am so honored.  I visited Asia for many years during my time in the navy and I loved it there, so to be requested for a translated book makes me feel so very happy.  I look forward to putting the translated book on my shelf, though I do not speak or read Chinese.  What an  honor.

The best part about my book is that it isn't just for boys or young men.  There are lessons for young women as well.  It's the perfect book for anyone who may not know what things impress or deter people during a first impression.  The book teaches the reader how to dress for an interview or any situation from casual to formal so that you never have to feel out of place.  There are recipes for the single person and lessons on finance, forgiveness and personal hygiene.  Anyone can benefit from this book.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We've Moved to The Stage

Last night, as the country celebrated our past Presidents, we continued with the rehearsals for the play.  I was anxious to get to UCLA because it was the night we were to move from the rehearsal room to the actual stage in Macgowan Hall where the play will take place.

I had seen and approved the model for the design that Eunnym Cho, the set designer designed with such care and I popped in to see the builders constructing it, but when I walked into the theater, the set was more like a sculpture that was specifically created for this medium, Antwone Fisher: a play.  Donny Jackson, the lighting designer and his crew were there putting up lights and they were excited to see my exhilaration. I could hardly contain my excitement and I turned to Eunnym and started thanking her for her time and consideration on the project.  They are all helping to create this majestic set.  We are all working together to bring this story to the live theater.  Eunnym and Donny were equally excited. The guys who built the set were happy for me and they gave me such a nice tour and showed me all that had been done.  Such care.

It's an honor that the graduate students and the UCLA employees are excited about helping me tell this story. I don't have to bear the weight of telling it alone.  Each department is an equally important part of the story- the lighting, the set, the costumes, the sound, the make-up, the writing and the acting-  all tell the story.  I can't wait for people to see it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Antwone Fisher: a play

Ten years ago when the film Antwone Fisher hit the theaters, I never imagined how many lives my story would impact.  Writing my memoir, Finding Fish, opened the story to another audience and now, with Antwone Fisher: a play, I hope to bring the story to the theater world and open the door for a new dialogue about foster care, sexual and emotional abuse, The United States Navy and the human ability to overcome obstacles and prosper.

I've been developing the play at UCLA with the fine actors who are part of the graduate program in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.  These men and women are incredibly talented and hard working.  They have designed the set, the lighting, the costumes and the actors have worked so hard to
breathe life into the characters from my past.

A new and exciting staged autobiography of a volatile young sailor in the Navy confronting his dramatic past. Featuring Graduate Actors from the Department of Theater At 1340 Macgowan Hall Feb. 29-Mar. 3 and Mar. 14-17, 2012 at 8 p.m. Mar. 3 & 17, 2012 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: 310-825-2101
Parking availible at structure 3 ($11).