It’s Enough

One week ago I finished the latest draft of my screenplay (tentatively titled MATRAMANIA). It took me more than a year, which is much longer than usual for me. However, it only took this long because I kept getting pulled off the project to work on other stuff – my script RAIN ON THE WATER was optioned and I have been helping the producer with that – yay! I also took time out in between script drafts to build this website. And oh yeah – I also wrote a novel during the year (book version of the script that was optioned).

The script is far from done, but I pounded out the first draft and I’m thrilled about that! Throughout the drafting process, which involves initial brainstorming, drafting outline, throwing outline away, starting over, writing a whole new outline, getting it reviewed, getting a bad review, starting over again…all the way through banging out actual pages, I always have music that serves as the “soundtrack” to the story.

When I finally finish a first draft, I love to crank up my favorite song from the “soundtrack” and celebrate my accomplishment. I usually have scattered songs that fit certain scenes or parts of the story. With this script, I was lucky enough to find a song that fit each part of the story from beginning to end. Just for fun, here they are:

GOTTA BE SOMEBODY by Nickelback – great song for the beginning that describes most people’s longing to find The One. Fits my main character’s (Imogene Hart) mindset at the beginning perfectly. “Nobody wants to be the last one there, everyone wants to feel like someone cares” and “gotta be somebody for me out there”. Also doesn’t hurt that it has the phrase “silver screen” in there, which I shout along with like the “O” for Orioles during that national anthem that we Baltimoreons are so fond of….

HERE I GO AGAIN by Whitesnake – Again, perfect for Imogene. She gave love one last try when she really, really didn’t want to and it ended in heartbreak again. Especially the beginning of the song where it somberly says “I ain’t wastin no more time…” Imogene’s sentiments exactly. She’s giving up. Also – great toward middle of the song where it gets loud and the highpitched part where it goes (Here I Gooooooo) – fits the part where she sends a large glass vase of flowers crashing down three stories. Cool.

OWNER OF A LONELY HEART by Yes – probably MATRAMANIA’S signature song. Nothing more satisfying than the opening notes of the electric guitar. Listen to it again sometime. And picture a lonely, angry woman who’s had enough and she just SNAPS.

YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME by Bon Jovi – also lots of fun. For when she decides to take on her enemy Kary McDaniel (former American Idol finalist turned reality star who thinks women who don’t get married and have kids are selfish losers) and she launches a boycott of Valentine’s Day in support of singles rights.

GOOD GIRLS GO BAD by Cobra Starship – also goes along with the Imogene vs. Kary smackdown.

DANCING WITH MYSELF by Billy Idol – after the Valentine’s Day boycott crashes and burns, Imogene focuses on the more positive- singles rights. She’s not anti-marriage or anti-romance anymore, just pro singles rights.

WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT by Twisted Sister – okay, okay. Horribly overused and probably cliché but I don’t care. It’s impossible to listen to this song and NOT get fired up, even if you have nothing to be mad about. Imogene does, though, as she prepares for the first national Singles Day. She’s fighting Kary and everybody else who thinks just because you don’t have a spouse and kids that your life has no meaning. She’s out to prove that everyone’s life has a purpose – married or not.

NEVER GONNA BE ALONE by Nickelback – a lovely song that fits the ending of the story very well. I interpret it differently that the song’s original meaning, but it’s perfect. This is the part where Imogene starts a singles group – NOT a matchmaking place but instead a group where friends meet and get together – go to movies and even plan trips to places like Aruba- why wait for a honeymoon to go? Also, celebrates the often overlooked relationships in our society. Husband-wife relationships are supposed to be our “everything”, but what about parents, siblings, coworkers, friends? Single people are never really alone.

SINGLE by Natasha Bedingfield – a great end credits song. “I’m not waiting around for a man to save me..”

You better believe I blasted most, if not all, of these songs during my Victory Ride. I’ve termed it that because I’m almost NEVER able to blast these songs at home. First, I was at home with my parents (damn, I have been writing for a long time), next an apartment, and now a house with kids. The car is usually the only place I have to myself to blast loud music.

On days like last Thursday, it’s enough just to be a writer. It’s enough to have a whole story done – a whole world of my very own. My good guys and my bad guys. Funny moments and poignant moments. It’s enough to listen to my songs and really feel my characters. I don’t have to wait for a publisher, a producer, an editor, or an agent to tell me I’m a real writer. When producers and publishers receive thousands of submissions a year, they must turn the majority of them down. Even if you’re a really, really good writer (which I don’t know if I am), you might still get rejected. There are hundreds of potential bestselling books and blockbuster films that will never get made, just because they never got seen. This is the reality that I have to deal with.

But when I finish a screenplay or a novel after months of hard work – something that relatively few people accomplish – it’s enough. I know it’s a big accomplishment. It’s been sixteen years of writing and I haven’t made it. If I die tomorrow, it will all have been worth it, because I have loved this writing process more than anything. Even the tough times and the rejections, which have made me stronger. I want to have a script made or publish a novel more than I’ve ever wanted anything. Not for the money. Not for the fame. Because it’s who I am.

But today, it’s enough just be a writer. It’s enough.

Mark Harmon Might Be the Nicest Guy Ever

Mark Harmon (currently of NCIS fame) has long been known as a kindhearted, pleasant person to work with. It seems he treats his fans the same way.

I sent my Wannabe flyer to him in the hopes of getting it autographed. In just a few short weeks time, instead of receiving my Wannabe flyer back signed, I got a pre-autographed photo of the Silver Fox. That was good enough for me! But that’s not all I got…

Someone had written on the envelope “Another something coming. Shhh…” The same day, I received a large envelope which contained an NCIS script in its entirety SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE CAST!! I never in a million years expected to receive such an amazing gift and it arrived on a day when I really, really needed some good news.

Believe me, I am not under the illusion that Mr. Harmon himself sent the script. In fact, he likely never saw my letter. I figure if he had, he probably would have signed the Wannabe flyer. Instead, he clearly left a large stack of autographed photos with instructions to his assistant to send them to the fans who requested them.

You hear that, Ron Howard?? Instead of telling his assistant to write REFUSED all over the envelope, he actually treats his fans with dignity and respect.

I can only assume Mr. Harmon’s assistant (I know her name is Lori – she wrote it on the envelope) read my letter and saw that I was a Wannabe screenwriter who has been trying to break into the biz for 16 years and has not given up, so she thought I would really appreciate a real autographed script. Boy, was she right…

Considering the script is the property of the studio, I doubt Lori had permission to just go sending scripts out whenever she wanted. I like to think Mr. Harmon left a bunch of scripts for her to send out to fans, but only to the fans whose letters were heartfelt and who he felt deserved one.

Thanks so much, Mark Harmon and Lori, for deeming me worthy.

Autograph Project a Runaway Success ALREADY

I have gotten so many wonderful, kindhearted response to my autograph requests this week ALONE that I can barely keep up!
First, came this response, on my Wannabe flyer as requested, from the beloved Professor from Gilligan’s Island – Russell Johnson. He wrote this on the flyer “Dear Linda – I am a Wannabe – always have been – so I try to be – and one becomes – a busy bee. Love from the Professor, Russell Johnson.”

Seriously, could this guy be any nicer? This is exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping for. I want to be able to flip through my autograph binder and read inspiring messages from amazing people like him, just when I need it the most.

On the very SAME day, I got an amazing glossy photo from Jerry Lewis (seriously, I have GOT to get me a scanner!! I will accept donations on this…). He wrote on it: “To Linda: Wannabes NEVER give up! Jerry Lewis 2010.”

Too cool.

Believe it or not, on that SAME day (Monday, July 12, to be exact) I received a pre-printed autograph on a lovely picture of Morgan Freeman. Though I’m always hoping for real autograph, I consider this a “success”. It is fun mail, after all, and that was the idea in the first place. Somebody – an assistant most likely – sent my Wannabe flyer back, too. Someone wrote at the top: “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

Ummmm…what? There are an awful lot of inspirational quotes from The Shawshank Redemption. This is not one of those quotes…It sounded more like a “ you really SHOULD give up” kind of message.

Whatever. It made me laugh and it came with a photo of Morgan Freeman. It’s going in the binder.

The SAME day, I received a really nice note signed by George Lucas…’s secretary. It was really sweet, thanked me for my fan letter, said they said they regretted that he could not sign due to so many requests, but here, have this nice free 8X10 photo of George Lucas next to a camera looking all director-y.

Cool. It’s mail. It was really nice. Totally going in the binder.

A few days later, I received a black and white 8X10 photo signed by Carl Reiner. Keep in mind, I only sent out my cheap Wannabe paper. I can’t believe all this cool stuff I am getting!!! Half these people send back my own SASE so I can use it again to harass another celebrity, too!

You know who did send back my Wannabe flyer? Jean Stapleton, aka, Edith Bunker. She didn’t tell me to “stifle” either. She wrote “Don’t Give Up” and signed her name. The handwriting was really very shaky, and I can’t tell you how touched I am that she still signs autographs. You can tell by the writing that it was quite an effort. So sweet of her!!!

Next up, (LISTEN UP, RON HOWARD!!!!!) was Henry Winkler. He sent me a card with his name embossed at the top. He wrote “Dear Linda with the great sense of humor, Hope you are enjoying your summer. It makes me happy that you like what I am doing with my life…Hope you are watching Royal Pains on USA. Keep getting up and move forward. That is my key to life. It got me here (illegible) from a Wannabe, too. Henry Winkler.

WOW. We always knew The Fonz was cool.

Okay, at this point, it probably sounds like I making this stuff up. No way did she get all this stuff from all these famous folks (buy me a scanner already, people, and I’ll prove it!)

Stay tuned. You won’t even BELIEVE what I got in the mail today. I’m looking right at it and I still can’t believe it.

Richie Cunningham – Say It Ain’t So!

My letter to Ron Howard came back marked REFUSED in bright red with red slash marks all over the envelope. Wow.

The most likely reason is that whoever saw my letter assumed it was an unsolicited screenplay query letter and sent it back unread for legal reasons. The reasoning behind it is sound. The method is abhorrent.

As I said in my earlier blog, each letter is sent with a Warning sticker on the outside, saying the letter contains a fan letter and autograph but does NOT contain a request to read my screenplay. Clearly they didn’t read the label carefully.

For legal reasons, I have had a few letters – that really were unsolicited submissions – returned as refused. NEVER in bright red slashes. This was intentionally vicious; not the work of someone simply protecting the production company from unfounded lawsuits of “stealing” screenplay ideas.

Clearly, Opie himself did not get a hold of the magic markers and start slashing away like a manic child. But you have to wonder – does he know how his secretary or whoever is responding to his mail – his FAN mail, no less? If I thought for one moment that my assistant was treating anyone, no matter how low on the Hollywood ladder, with anything other than kindness and respect, s/he would be fired faster than you can say “Go to the back of the unemployment line, be-hotch”.

Even if a production company does not (understandably) accept unsolicited material, there are much better ways to respond to a hardworking Wannabe who is only trying to break into the business. I have sent out thousands of query letters and can probably count on one hand the numbers of responses that have been mean or rude. The vast majority are kind and respectful. One company sent me a form letter regretting that they are unable to read unsolicited material, wishing me all the best, and hoping that I would soon find another company to represent my work that would make their company seem shortsighted. Thus, this company protected themselves from any legal repercussions, while still treating me with dignity and respect.

I looked at the Imagine Entertainment website, and there seems to be no contact info. Some companies are just so big and so important, that they don’t need anyone to contact them, I suppose. They have no use for Wannabe actors, writers, etc. So, I suppose there is no way to let Ronnie know what is being done in his name or to find out if this is the way he really wants people to be treated.

If so, shame on him.

I’ve also sent some autograph requests to some of his former coworkers, including Andy Griffith, Tom Hanks, and Henry Winkler. Let’s find out if they have more class.

Sigh. What would The Fonz say??? Not cool, Richie. Not cool.

Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts was the first to send me her autograph! She didn’t sign the Wannabe flyer, but sent a postcard instead. At first I thought it was a preprinted postcard, but when I turned it over, she had written “Linda, Keep up with what you are doing. Keep your passion alive! Doris Roberts.”

I have such fond memories of watching her as Mildred on Remington Steele (which I watched with my parents as a kid!) and she was fantastic as the wonderful, awful, Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. What a classy lady!!

The Great Wannabe Autograph Project

I would rather get a rejection letter than nothing at all. For the most part. Most rejections aren’t the “I read your novel/screenplay. I hate it” type. They are more like “The idea doesn’t interest me so I’m not gonna read it in the first place” or something even simpler, like “our development slate is full” or “we don’t take unsolicited material”. No big deal.

I send out a lot of query letters to producers, agents, publishers, editors, etc. These letters take an awful lot of time, effort, and expense, so it can be frustrating to be completely ignored. Besides, it’s fun getting mail! Even a rejection. To me, a letter from a producer is like a scratch-off lottery ticket. You don’t know what you got until you look at it. It can be fun and exciting, even if you ultimately lose.

An empty mailbox is just straight disappointment. NO fun at all. And really annoying when you send them a preprinted, stamped rejection postcard where all they have to do check off NO and toss it back in the box. The idea of all that postage just going into the trash is irritating.

Right now I’m in between query letters. I sent out all the queries I could for several scripts (one of which is under option right now so I can’t query for it anymore anyway – wahoo!) and I am in the middle of writing another script, which won’t reach the query letter stage for a while now. I still want some fun mail – something to look forward to!

SO. I got the idea to send out a copy of my Wannabe Pride flyer – (just a little ad about the site I put together to post different places, send to college career centers, etc) – to famous people to try to get some cool autographs. I figure I have a decent shot at getting some of them returned to me signed. It’s not like a glossy 8×10 photo of a celebrity that I could ultimately sell and profit from. The Wannabe flyer only means something to me, so maybe they will realize my sincerity and autograph it. Cool celebs like Tom Hanks might actually sign it and send it back – even if it takes months or even years.

So far I’ve sent out about 30-40 handwritten letters with a copy of my Wannabe flyer asking people to give me their autograph and an inspirational “Don’t Give Up” kind of message on my flyer. Think it will work? Who knows?! But it gives me something to be excited about and to check the mail for every day. So far, I’ve sent out letters to various people, like screenwriter Callie Khouri, Ryan Reynolds and Shia LaBeouf (two of my favorite actors!!), Carl Reiner, Julie Andrews, Oliver Stone, the four hysterical guys from the Big Bang Theory, all the current members of SNL, and amazing soundtrack composers like Bill Conti, Alan Silverstri, and Thomas Newman.

I have included a SASE with each letter, of course, along with a warning sticker on the outside of the envelope (I also do this with my query letters to Hollywood, and let me tell you, it WORKS. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from producers for succeeding in making my letter stand out from all the other Wannabes). The label for my fan letters says WARNING: Letter from a Wannabe. Contents: Sappy Letter and Autograph Request. Does not contain nuts, dairy, or a request to read my screenplay.

It’s been just under a month since the first letters went out. Stay tuned to find out if my little project works!