Thursday, June 12, 2014

Aspiring writer tells boss to eff off, lives happily ever after (sort of)

I've been working on the same novel for about four years now. The first three years were touch and go. I wrote two very crappy drafts. A writing instructor told me that I needed to change protagonists. Ugh. This same writing teacher also told me not to give up.

So I didn't.

And finally, in the last year, I gained traction. I started to make progress. And then, halleleujah, I was actually writing fiction again. Every day. Actually getting somewhere.

Wandering in the desert of half-baked ideas
It was such a relief after the last seven years spent wandering in the desert of half-baked ideas. I never stopped writing fiction during that time but I also started and lost faith in a multitude of projects. Despaired of ever finishing anything ever again. Wrote thousands (millions?) of words that will never see the light of day.

Now at least I know I'm going somewhere. I don't actually know where but I'm in a groove that I haven't had since the good old writing BreakupBabe: A Novel days.

Boredom and burnout sets in 
Only it's just a long f*cking haul writing a novel. I'm getting a little bored and burned out at the moment. I'm tired of not writing OTHER things.

I love writing essays, for example. And I really want to write some essays while still writing my novel, even though it's challenging to juggle multiple projects while holding down a full time job.

In particular I want to enter this Real Simple essay contest. A $3000 prize and no entry fee. What's not to love? The theme is "Eureka moments."

The Eureka moment when I told my boss to f*ck off
So I've been thinking about Eureka moments. And I remembered one that I'd tried to write about before, in my unpublished memoir Temporary Insanity.

This moment occurred in about 1999, when a corporate boss of mine (who'd just taken over for a previous boss) asked me - in a "getting to know you" chat --  if I was the "kind of person who gave 150%" to their job, or "the kind of person who just did what needed to be done and then went home at night."

Now we all know what answer we're supposed to give here, right? At least if we want the kind of boss who would ask this question to like us.

But that moment dovetailed with the a moment in my life when I was realizing that I needed to be writing my own stuff outside work to be fulfilled. To be writing something big - like a novel or memoir. I was ready to the Writer that I'd dreamed of and worked toward since age 10. Ready to organize my life around that, and to make it the highest priority.

I didn't give a crap about my corporate job, even if it was sort of creative and involved writing. It paid the bills, that was it. The exciting stuff for me was what I wrote OUTSIDE work. And I realized, then, in that moment that I would NEVER be the kind of person to give "150%" to a day job like that.
The question was, was I gonna lie about it or not?

Well I didn't. I told the truth. And my boss hated me after that and work was pretty hellish and I eventually left. (Everyone got laid off not long after, including many, I'm sure, who'd claimed to give 150%!)

But it meant something for me to say that. It liberated me. And ever since, I can honestly say I've been living the life of a Writer, with all its disappointments and satisfactions.

And that includes needing a corporate job to survive!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The view from Casa Chepitos

Hola from San Miguel de Allende Mexico! I have the good fortune to be staying with writer Judith Gille at "Casa Chepitos," the beautiful home that stars in her touching and entertaining memoir, The View from Casa Chepitos. (Read it, if you haven't already!)

At this time of year, when Seattle is so cold and grey, with everyone dressed in black, it's such a treat to arrive in a colorful town like San Miguel de Allende. Orange trucks, yellow walls, hot pink bougainvillea - it's all a sight for winter-tired eyes.

A lovely courtyard at Casa Chepitos
Casa Chepitos itself is a riot of color, and full of Mexican crafts in wood, ceramic, and metal. The guest room is a bright red with a huge windows that looks out on the town and its many church domes.

You can hear the church bells ringing throughout the day from the giant rooftop terrace, along with roosters crowing, children playing, Mexican music, and lots of birds. (I have a feeling Seattle is going to seem very quiet when I get home.)

I've already taken a ton of pictures, most of them terrible, but a few that actually capture the vibrant color that's all around. I'll be here for two more weeks studying Spanish and relaxing (but also working, because I use up my vacation faster than I accrue it).

In other news, I'll be teaching my popular class, Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Just Six Weeks, starting March 20th at Richard Hugo House. Find out more at the Hugo House website!
Grasshoppers anyone? A Oaxacan specialty.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blogging class prompts blog teacher to actually blog (and post random hiking pictures)

Yellow Aster Butte
I had the distinct feeling that since I'm teaching a blog class TODAY for Seattle Public Library, I should probably update my own blog. Ahem.

(By the way, the photos here are  just some totally random hiking photos to make this post look pretty).

What to report? I'm finally making good progress on the children's novel I started three (or was it four?) year ago. It feels so good to be living in the fictional world again! The last time I was really in the groove with a novel was then I was writing BreakupBabe, and well all know how long ago THAT was.

Granite Mountain
Not that I haven't tried. I've written sh*tty first drafts of at least three novels since then, followed by sh*tty second drafts that I eventually gave up on because I could get no traction.

Then in 2010 I had a teacher named Joni Sensel.  She told me NOT TO GIVE UP on the book I was writing. Not because she thought it was so great or anything. But because I was suffering a syndrome common to many writers where I would abandon an old idea in favor of a shiny new one once I started to struggle with the old idea to much.

Chinook Pass
Because there is always struggle. It's just that sometimes you don' struggle quite as much, and you get lucky - as I did with BreakupBabe, which mostly wrote itself thanks to that miracle known as a book contract (and because, even though it was a novel, it was mostly about ME).

I knew that Joni was right, and that if I didn't just buckle down and finish something I might forever be drifting between ideas. So, three years later, having not given up, here I am FINALLY making progress on this thing and feeling good about it.

It might never get published, of course. But, while that is an important thing for a writer, it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that I'm writing. I'm making progress. And I'm enjoying it. So I feel like I have a purpose in life again .

Meanwhile I also wrote a fun articles on tree climbing (scary!) and backpacking (not so scary unless you encounter a bear or get lost!) both of which feature lots of my pictures including vintage 70s photos of my family wearing external frame packs and clothes that would never be allowed on a mountain today, such as jeans and cotton.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Backpacking Greenwater River and Echo Lake

Yay, wilderness! It has been too long since I backpacked into thee, bearing much too heavy of a pack, and returning home with blisters and mosquito bites. Thank you Echo Lake and Greenwater River  for welcoming us with mostly sunny skies and no mouse attacks in the middle of the night.

Dave crosses the Greenwater River

At Echo Lake

Trail with wildflowers

More Echo Lake

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thank you Lopez Island

Oh Lopez Island, thank you for providing me with the first writing retreat I've taken in years. You are so lovely and quiet. Perhaps a little too quiet at times, but never mind that.
Watmaugh Bay

I love your secluded trails, sweeping ocean views, quiet coves, your delightful farmer's market and your hippie vibe. I love not having to lock my door, or my bike,and not having to put my dog on a leash.

That's why I'm setting my latest novel on you! I hope to take more (tax-deductible!) trips to you in the future. If only you had been a tad more sunny but then you provided one day of glorious sunshine. What more could I ask in June-u-ary?

xo Rebecca

Alone on
Shark's Reef Point

Iceberg Point

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2013 in photos

I take so many trips it's hard to keep track of them all. I try to be good about organizing my photos and writing in my journal, but it doesn't always happen. Sometimes I write about my trips for magazines. That's a good thing because then they don't feel so ephemeral.

Where have I been in 2013? As usual, most of my travel is in the northwest, but what a place to explore! I've ridden horses on a southwest Washington beach, climbed a 200-foot Douglas fir tree in central Oregon, mountain biked in the jungle on Oahu and the deserts of Tucson, and explored the Greenwater River and Skookum Falls in Washington. Let's not forget ski trips to Lake Chelan and Mount Rainier! Most of the time with my usually-smiling husband Dave, but sometimes with other adventurous friends.

While this has been one of the saddest years of my life, it has been happy in many ways. As you can see from the photos below, which are just a very few snapshots from this busy and bittersweet year.

Oahu in March

Washington in May

Washington in May

Suntop Lookout, WA in March

Mt Rainier in April

Greenwater River, WA in June 

Greenwater River, Wa, in June

Tree climbing in OR, May 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Advice from Seattle Filmmaker Aviva Peltin on Indiegogo, Making a Short Film, and More

Aviva Peltin
Recently I did a Q&A with 19-year old Seattle filmmaker Aviva Peltin, who co-produced and directed the wonderful short film Canna along with 22-year old Erin Bosetti

Aviva talked about her successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo; what she'll do differently next time she makes a film, and how she managed to make a 20-minute movie for only $2500.

Q: What did you do to prepare for the Indiegogo campaign?
A: Before starting our Indiegogo campaign, Erin and I wanted to make sure we had a solid concept to pitch to our family and friends.

We made sure our script was complete and that the audition process was underway before we launched the campaign.We also had most of our crew lined up to assure potential sponsors that we were serious and passionate about this project.

Q: Your promo video is great! How long did it take to shoot and produce it?
A: Thank you!  Walter Dalton, my screenwriting teacher from Northwest Film Forum, was a huge motivator to turn Canna into a short, and I am so grateful for his guidance. He was the first actor to agree to be part of our short and having him be in our promotional video was exciting for us.

I think the most effective campaigns have a clip or trailer from the actual film, but since we were in pre-production when launching our campaign, we thought a promotional video explaining why we needed the money would suffice.

We spent a weekend making the promotional video, one day to shoot and one day to edit. Since we didn’t really expect strangers to donate to our campaign, we wanted to show our friends and family that we meant business.

I think the only way to get strangers to donate would be to release a clip of the film or release something visual that shows what the film will look like with enough financial backing.

Q: Why did you choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter?
A: Erin and I were totally new to filmmaking and had never made a short before, so we really had no idea if we’d get the financial support we needed.

Kickstarter is all or nothing --  filmmakers only get to keep all the money donated if they reach their original goal. Indiegogo allowed us to set a financial goal, but wouldn’t take away all the money if we didn’t reach our target.

However, in the future, I might consider doing a Kickstarter campaign instead.  I think people trust Kickstarter more and are more willing to donate on that platform.  Kickstarter is better known, and I’ve donated to more Kickstarter campaigns than Indiegogo.

Q: What kind of publicity did you do for your fundraising campaign?
A: Erin and I sent out emails to all our friends and family, asking them for support. We also posted regularly on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure people got so sick of us.

Q: Throughout the campaign, what did you do to keep interest going and encourage backers?
A: We continued to bother people throughout the campaign.  Once we finished casting and started rehearsing with our actors, we posted photos of our actors on Indiegogo to show that we were serious about this project.  We asked the actors and crew to help promote our campaign, too.

Q: Your budget was only $2500, is that right? How did you get so many talented cast and crew to volunteer?
A: Yes, that’s correct.  We were surprised and delighted to connect with so many enthusiastic actors and crew members. Erin and I didn’t know how many actors would show up to audition.

We auditioned over thirty people! We were absolutely shocked. We posted casting calls on filmmaking Facebook pages such as Seattle Filmmakers and Actors and The Filmmakers Matrix. We also posted casting calls on the Northwest Film Forum Callboard.

Additionally, we emailed local children theaters to find child actors. Holding auditions was extremely nerve-racking and difficult for us. I did not enjoy rejecting people – especially children. I felt so cruel, but came to realize that selecting the best talent is necessary to make a good short.  We chose actors who felt authentic to the characters we had created, and we’re so pleased with the casting.

Erin and I went to high school together, so we recruited some alumni to be crew members such as Johnny Valencia, our talented cinematographer and editor and Elizabeth Schiffler, our music director.  Scott Bowen, our sound engineer, contacted us through Craigslist and he turned out to be a great asset to our team.

Our crew came together so seamlessly.  People were so kind and just wanted to help, and we were incredibly appreciative and humbled.  I think Seattle is a really great city for filmmakers – people are down to earth, creative, and talented.

Q: How long did the whole process take you, from the moment you conceived of the film until the day you finished production?
A: I never would have imagined how many hours go into making a short.  Erin and I thought we’d meet once a week or so to write and start producing.  We were so wrong.  We met almost every day at various coffee shops throughout Seattle.  It felt like we were in filmmaking boot camp.

We started meeting regularly in September, held auditions in November, filmed in December, and completed editing and sound mixing by January 31st.  We’re still not done with the process, though.  We have to send all our sponsors the incentive gifts we promised them on Indiegogo.

Q: What was the best part about the filmmaking process?
A: Making this film was truly a dream come true for me.  I’ve always written short stories, but what’s amazing about filmmaking is that it’s collaborative. Creative writing is isolating.

I loved co-writing with Erin and then seeing the words we had written being performed by the actors and actresses we had chosen.  It was magical to see our concept evolve into a script and then seeing the footage for the first time.  I’ve never been more proud of a project.

Q: Will you do anything differently next time you make a film?
A: Yes, definitely.  Making Canna was such a learning experience. Although I’m happy we were able to create a longer film (Canna is almost twenty minutes), next time I would limit the short to five minutes.

Festivals have a much more difficult time programming longer shorts, and we didn’t realize that the length of Canna might hold us back from being accepted into festivals.

Q: Will you do anything differently next time you run a crowd funding campaign?
A:If I use Indiegogo or Kickstarter in the future, I want to try to attract not only family and friends to the campaign, but strangers as well.  Like I said before, I think releasing something to show sponsors what the short would look like would potentially attract new donors.

I also want to look into grants. I can’t keep bothering my friends and family for money.  I need to figure out other ways to finance my film projects. Any benefactors out there?

Q: You’re only 19 and your partner Erin is 22. Where did you learn the skills to be a director/producer at such a young age?
A: Before making this film, I had taken a screenwriting class and interned for a feature film called One Square Mile, but only had limited understanding of how to make a film.

Back in September, when Erin and I started this project, I started reading a helpful book called, How Not to Make a Short Film by Roberta Marie Munroe. Erin and I used to refer to it as “The Red Book That We Choose to Ignore,” but in the end, we took a lot of the advice Munroe offered.

 Honestly, we learned how to produce and write and direct as we moved forward with our project.  “Fake it ‘til you make it” was my motto.

Q:What’s next for the film Canna?
A:We’ve submitted it to a few film festivals, so we’re waiting to hear back from them.  Unfortunately, we weren’t accepted to NFFTY, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth under 22, which was our ultimate goal.

They received way too many longer films this year; perhaps, if Canna were shorter, we would have been accepted.  I’m still so proud of Canna, though, and I think it’s a great representation of the kind of work I want to pursue.

Canna is now on Youtube, so please check it out!  Here’s the link:

Q:What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
I just finished another internship for a feature film called Lucky Them, which was directed by local director Megan Griffiths.  I was the Product Placement Intern and had a really great experience.  I got to meet the writer who also helped produce Lucky Them, and meeting someone who has my dream job was thrilling for me.

I’m trying to set up my next film internship now.  I’m also currently working with a production company to try to sell a reality show concept I pitched to them last year.  They just completed a sizzle reel and will try to tell it to networks in the next couple of months. I really hope it sells.

I’m also working with some friends right now on another short.  We’re at the very beginning stages of planning, but I’m excited about that. I want to continue to write and produce shorts and I’d love to get into NFFTY. I’m also currently writing my first feature screenplay about an 18 year-old who skips higher education and joins a temp agency instead.

After taking two years off after high school to pursue film, I’ll be continuing my education in the fall.  I was just accepted to University of Washington and Seattle University!

My ultimate goal is to write and produce television shows and feature films, but I’m aware this industry is so difficult to break into.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Every artist was first an amateur.”  This quote is now my desktop background, and I read it every day. I can’t expect to make it professionally unless I work at it.  Think about it, even Spielberg was once an amateur.