Rekindling the Flame (at a Writers Conference)

I love writing and I’m grateful to make a living at it. But sometimes, when I’ve been hunched over my computer for 73 hours straight and I still haven’t quite broken the story that consumes every recess of my conscious and subconscious mind, and my right hand has attractively stiffened into its mouse-clicking position at all times, like the desperate final clutches of a melting witch—I tend to get a bit cranky about the whole business. So, how does the burnt-out writer get her mojo back?  She goes to a writers conference!

The view from the Whidbey Island Writers Conference.  October 25 – 27th.

The view from the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. October 25 – 27th.

Like leafing through my wedding album after a marital spat, attending a writers conference reminds me why I fell in love with writing in the first place.  It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching a workshop, or taking one.  Just being among so many other people who share my passion for writing always renews my energy for my own work. Plus, where else are you able to speak so freely about the creative process without sounding like a total douchebag?

It’s all too easy to take the things we love for granted, if we’re not careful. Even a cool job, like writing a pilot for a TV network, can become mundane when you’re banging it out every day, word by painstaking word. Which is why, every now and then, it’s important to ship the kids off to grandmas, squeeze yourself into that expensive silk negligée, and slow dance to your old favorite song (even if you are only doing this metaphorically from the comfort of your conference hotel room).

There’s so much I’ve learned at writing conferences over the years and I’m thankful to have made many friends. But just as meaningful is the feeling these gatherings always rekindle in me—that even after all these years, I’m still just as excited about writing as the day I first fell in love with it.  Which begs the question:  why don’t I go to writers conferences more often?  Writing holds such an important place in my life it’s rather ironic that I often fret over taking time off from my writing (duh) to honor it.

Because the truth is: being a writer is more than just a job. Our work is sacred (this blog post notwithstanding), because in order to do it, we must be willing to give up pieces of ourselves. If you’ve never been to a writers conference, this is the secret we writers whisper in each other’s ears once we’re squirrelled away inside its secure confines, reveling just as much in our shared suffering as we do in our joy. But if you are not at a writers conference while reading this, a belated warning: this is the douchebaggy part.

I will be teaching two workshops at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference located in beautiful Puget Sound, October 25 – 27th. For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

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Drumroll, please…

The winner of the REUNITED Book Club Giveaway is Jill the O.W.L.! Jill, I’ll be emailing you separately to get your address. Thanks so much to everyone who entered.

–Hilary

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WIN book goodies signed by 50+ of today’s hottest YA/MG authors!

Author & storyteller extraordinaire Laurisa White is hosting the SUPER SWAG SUNDAY giveaway! Every day between now and June 30th, one winner will be chosen to receive a SUPER SWAG PACK filled with all sorts of book goodies signed by 50+ of today’s hottest YA/MG authors! On the last day, one very lucky winner will receive the MEGA SWAG PACK, a collection of first edition books signed by the authors and some other very cool stuff.

Click here to enter:  http://laurisareyes.blogspot.com/2013/06/super-swag-sunday-day-2.html

superswag2b

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REUNITED Book Club Giveaway (with snacks!)

In celebration of REUNITED’s paperback release, I’m giving away 10 copies to one lucky book club. The winners will also receive a copy of REUNITED’s discussion questions, as well as an assortment of road-trip themed snacks. To enter, all you need to do is share this giveaway on Facebook, your blog, or Twitter, then post a comment about what you did in the comments section below. You’ll get one entry for each placed you shared. Plus, to earn 2 bonus entries, tell me a bit about your book club.

Book Clubs--all this could be yours...

Book Clubs–all this could be yours…

REUNITED is perfect for YA book groups and regular book groups, Recommended for readers age 12 and up.

Teachers and librarians are also welcome to enter. Contest ends Thursday, June 27th, at 8am, EST. Open to U.S. residents only, age 12 and up. Good luck!

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I am a New Adult (Again)

When I was 18 years old, I could not wait to leave my boring, suburban hometown and go to college in the city of Boston. And even though Boston was only a 40-minute drive away, I was convinced that moving to the city had the power to magically transform me—80’s movie montage-style—from a chubby, overachieving nerd, into the glamorous, urbane sophisticate I was no doubt destined to become.

I began my metamorphosis by drowning my former Student of the Month persona in gallons of cheap vodka, while my inner good-girl was smothered in a wardrobe of all black.

The strange thing was, I had this one professor who somehow managed to see through my shroud of pretension and catch a glimpse of the real me.  Over the next four years, she frequently sought me out, encouraging me to get more involved with the university and become a student leader. I spent four years dodging her requests.

And yet, I found myself oddly tempted by the idea of revisiting my inner go-getter. Because somewhere hidden deep inside of me—though, evidently, not quite as deep or hidden as I thought—was a motivated, hard-working kid who didn’t really want to waste her entire life stumbling home from nightclubs at 3:00am. I was enthralled with the idea of a life of reckless hedonism, yet I could no longer ignore the ambition roiling inside of me, the desire to live out my life-long dreams, or at the very least, to get sh*t done.

Shortly after graduation, I began to reconcile these two disparate halves of myself, retaining just enough of my free-spirited proclivities to make life enjoyable, while making sure to carve out enough time to honor my inner over-achiever. I was only 23 when I started to shoot my debut feature film and my former professor was the first one to pull out her checkbook.

HWG1stFILM

I spent the rest of my 20’s pining for and simultaneously reenacting my college days. It was the 90’s, and my generation pioneered the concept of prolonged adolescence, formerly known as “slacking,” which, in turn, spawned the rise of the pervasive Man Child[1] phenomenon of today. Sure, I worked for a living and (mostly) paid my own bills. But none of my friends actually had it quote-unquote together, and as we drank our nights away at the local pool hall, we laughed over the  fact that anyone in our youthful, fun-loving age bracket actually gave a crap about bourgeois, old-people things like 401Ks, biological clocks, and marriage.

Then thirty came, hitting us like the slap of a screen door in the three-decker Allston apartment we were too old to still be renting. We certainly weren’t kids anymore. We were freaking thirty.  So where were our amazing careers? Where were the new cars and engagement rings? In a phrase: What the hell was wrong with us?

For me, turning 30 was the beginning of my adulthood, though true adulthood didn’t come until I became a parent, at age 34. Looking back, I don’t regret my extended stay in Never-Neverland, and judging from my resume (two features under my belt by age 28 and various TV-producing jobs) I can’t exactly call myself a slacker. But I do wonder what I might have achieved if I’d followed the path suggested to me by my old professor and given in to my ambitious side way back when I was still in college. I also wonder what I would have lost by giving up those extra ten years of my youth.

I spent my twenties fighting adulthood with everything I had and my thirties learning to accept it. At 43, I fully embrace my adult self, though there really isn’t another choice. Which is why I believe it’s entirely possible that New Adulthood is more than just some marketing scam cooked up by YA publishers.  I am a New Adult now, for the fourth or fifth time over. Maybe all of us always are.


[1] For more info. on the Man-Child, watch an early Judd Apatow film.

Hilary Weisman Graham is an award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and the author of the YA novel Reunited (Simon & Schuster), now available in paperback. http://www.amazon.com/Reunited-Hilary-Weisman-Graham/dp/144243984X/ref%3dsr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321630047&sr=8-1

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Take the Beach Bag Quiz & enter to WIN a FREE copy of REUNITED

Can someone please make a cocktail called "Reading on the Beach"?

Can someone please invent a drink called “Reading on the Beach”?

Q: Which of These Items Belong in your Beach Bag?

A) A tub of Crisco (for sun-tanning)

B) An obnoxiously large boom-box that only plays AM radio.

C) A thermos of piping hot Ovaltine!

D) A paperback copy of REUNITED.

(CORRECT ANSWER: D.  REUNITED, now available in paperback! Enter to WIN a FREE COPY here.  Or, buy your own.)

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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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