Archives for category: writing

It’s that time of year again. Unfortunately, it’s also another year of getting nowhere, with two scripts that have hit the top 10% and 15% before. I don’t know about others this happens to. We all have different, if similar, experiences, and we all handle them in our own writery way of coping and hopefully moving forward.

As usual, when I have a bad results experience, I want to crawl into a hole in the air I breathe for a little while and whine like a dog under the porch. Who am I kidding? I don’t just want to. I do it. In my little cocoon of disappointment, I get upset, I get mad, and then I get past it and carry on. What else am I going to do? Wallowing for a little while is a really good way to cope. For me, anyway. It’s the carrying on part that’s tricky. Fortunately, I’m the flare up then die down pretty fast kind of flame. It’s keeping the pilot light of hope and faith in myself burning that’s crucial to the process.

I hit the same wall every time I acquire less than enviable competition results, though. Should I write a post about it? It’s certainly not pleasant. It’s not like I’m going to brag about something less than enviable. Or am I?

This is the conclusion I always reach. If I can put my work out there, throw my creativity into the sky like a handful of glitter, and hold fast to my dreams, then I can certainly put my less than perfect moments out into the wild as well.




There is always the chance that even a single screenwriter may come across this, feeling down and disappointed, and decide to read it. Silent comiseration and unseen camaraderie just may be the backbone of that thing we do where we fall down, wallow in glitter sprinkled mud of rejection dejection, and then get back up to tippity tap at our keyboards another day. And the day after that. And the day after that. Until we’ve key clicked our way into a lifelong habit of writing no matter what.

So, fellow nonfellows, get thee to a keyboard. Click the keys, flow the words. Make sure the creative glitter is edible, because you know it’s going to fall into your chocolate at some point. Every day is another day, and every single one has the potential to hold something marvelous, until the very last minute has clicked over into the past.

And, you know what? Right after that is another brand new day. They keep coming. And that means so can the words.

The beauty of words is that they never run out.

Happy writing to us all.

Feeling sad today. It’s the four year anniversary of my mom’s death. I’ve said so much about her here, mostly in my Stories From My Mother feature, that you would think I would run out of words. It doesn’t work that way with me. I don’t run out of words about her any more than I run out of love for her, even though it feels as if she’s been gone for an eternity already.

The good thing I can say this year is that this marking of her passing out of my life is bittersweet. I still miss her with a depth that startles me sometimes. It shouldn’t, because it’s her influence on me that gave me the capacity to love so thoroughly. This year I have a new family and a new life, with a new husband whose very presence gives me comfort and peace. She would have loved him and she would have been so happy for us.

Piers and I have our first book together placed with a small publisher. Its title is The Dying and the Light. It includes my novella that I wrote after my mom’s death to help me through the grief and hopefully comfort Alzheimer’s caregivers with its fleeting, sadly fictional, message of hope and joy. The second part is the memoir of his 63 years long first marriage. Both were written in grief, before we ever met in person and fell in love. Friends through correspondence, both on parallel tracks through one of life’s most difficult journeys. It means so much to me that we will not only share a book and its cover, but also that my experience caring for and loving my mom is a thread that runs right through the heart of it.

So she continues to travel with me through life. In my memories, in my heart, and in my very being, since loving her and being loved by her has made me the best me I can be. I’m grateful. I’m sad and happy at the same time. I’m so fortunate to have known the woman who will forever be the grace of my heart.

I was just sitting here, scrolling through Twitter and seeing a tweet about an upcoming pandemic movie made me start thinking too hard. Hopefully, this kind of pondering is premature, but is the time coming when we start automatically incorporating things like wearing masks and social distancing into our screenplays and novels? What about not automatically? What would it be like to have a long worked on project rejected because it doesn’t incorporate pandemic life into a contemporary setting?

I may be about to pick back up on my serial-killer- thriller-with-an-odd-bit-of-romcom-meet-cute thrown in screenplay, after taking care of my mom curtailed its progress. Though it languished for several years, it still qualifies as contemporary. So do I imagine it as taking place just before Covid-19 hit our world over its collective head? Or after, risking that it would also be thrown into a postapocalypt wasteland? Ignore the pandemic, in the screenplay’s context? Worry that if it’s mentioned at all new genres have to be added to its already odd list. Stuff like medical-thriller- science-fiction-tinged-very-nearly-reality-show-horror…. This word parade scrolls across my mind like the grand opening crawl sheet that explains Star Wars: A New Hope to awe struck movie goers.

What’s a writer to do? Screenwriter and author alike could have to face some totally unexpected creative decisions that we wouldn’t have believed possible a year ago. My instinct is to try to get my head an ostrich neck’s worth of buried in the proverbial sand. Maybe if I close my eyes and think of Kansas, I can hitch a ride on the nearest black and white tornado to a land where the biggest problem facing artists is whether to try to tone down the eye popping colors pervading Munchkinland. But, no, we’ve all already learned that wishful thinking doesn’t work. Not in normal every day life and certainly not in the midst of a global pandemic.

However. For now I’m going to work on the assumption that, like the 2018 Spanish flu pandemic, this too shall pass. Set something in our current period of fear, loss, and sorrow and write accordingly. Otherwise, create characters content to inhabit the weird, crazy, fun, beautiful, ugly, messed up mess we called normal 21st century life, before it became abnormal in the extreme.

Woke up with a few lines in my head and actually wrote them down. Decided to build the rest around it. Just a little abstract gathering of words.


The birds of night
Fly through the fields
of dreams
In darkness where no
Shades may live
Only monochromatica
Yet light may come
Into their pale gloom
To give them recompense
His yellow and blue
Her blue and red
Green and purple make
What brief hours decide
Their joys in time
Gliding feathers swoop
Across skies
And gilding sunrise

Muri McCage


I tend to not say very much about my personal life. I’m a private person by nature, but realize that any level of writing success diminishes that to some extent. So today I’m going to open the curtain wide and tell the story of my recent life.

I’ve been divorced for a long time. I’d given up on even the idea of finding any love at all, and certainly wasn’t expecting a great love story of my own. Then something extraordinary happened. I fell in love and became engaged. This period of my life, because of the challenging times forced upon us all by the worldwide pandemic that seems to control nearly every aspect of our existence, is so gilded with joy regardless that I’ve come to think of it as love in the time of Covid-19.

My fiance is fantasy and science fiction author Piers Anthony. My mundane (To borrow a term.) alter-ego is the MaryLee he writes of in his Hi Piers Newsletter. We corresponded for nearly 25 years and then met for the first time in December. He invited me to visit, to see if we really are as compatible as it seemed from our many letters. His idea was that we might become housemates for companionship, with…perhaps…the potential for more. I’m still his housemate, only now I wear an amethyst engagement ring and a blissful smile. He read somewhere that love is friendship that catches fire and likes to tell people that’s what happened to us. I love that. It’s a great ice breaker, but is so much
more than that because it’s the truth of our experience.

Ours is a May\December romance. Yes, it seems dreamy, at first glance. The stuff of great novels and unforgettable films. His age is irrelevant to me, except for the dark underside of the situation, which is the bald fact that we can’t possibly have many decades together. So we have to make the most of what time we are allowed. Happiness does not recognize timelines. It simply is, and if it’s deep enough, it will outlast the people experiencing it. That seems quite a fine legacy to me.

We write down the hall from each other. I find an elusive writerly energy is generated when two people who love words, and each other, write in close proximity. It’s as if suddenly the music of words colliding changes tempo to become an invisible dance, sometimes a waltz, other times a tango. Always choreographed by the subconscious nature of like minds in duet.

It may not be entirely appropriate to be so happy during what amounts to being quarantined, while so many people are suffering, but the heart feels what the heart feels. Every day I wake up noting that I feel fine, then hunt Piers down to make sure he does as well. Thus starts another day of splendid isolation. There’s an inevitable undercurrent of awareness that things could change drastically in the span of a few heartbeats. Beneath that is a second undercurrent of hope and quiet joy.

I decided to write about my personal love in the time of Covid-19 story partly because I want to share my happiness, and partly to remind anyone reading this to remember joy. Let go of fear and dread and worry even for a moment, so you can reach for joy with both hands. If you’re with loved ones, embrace them in every way possible. If you’re alone, believe in yourself and the kindness of others, even strangers. Above all else, never let go of hope. Creep out from under our current collective blanket of darkness to seek light and always, always believe anything is possible.

Even love in the time of Covid-19.

I’m just going to drop this in here. A Brainpickings article about Timeless Advice On Writing . Those of us who write need more little gems like this right now. It can be difficult for me to write sometimes, when I’m stressed out. These difficult times we’re all feeling our way through are certainly stressful. We don’t know from one second to the next what announcement may burst out through the news. A new death toll. A dreaded lockdown. Some new vector that scares us all into pretending we’re not as afraid as we are. Sometimes we may take a breath between those ticking seconds and think of other things. Better things. The writing life whose normal state of chaos may give us moments of peace and even joy, and hope for days to come when we can see our precious world in its new now, as it emerges from the dark clouds. Famous writers giving us advice from the distant past or the present that is so very close to us right now that they seem to be reaching out to hold our hand, give us comfort, renew our strength. Reach. Write. Hope. The future lies tantalizingly close.

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

After sitting 2018 out, from all screenwriting competitions, then being back last year to become a Big Break Semifinalist, I’ve gone for broke in this year’s Nicholl. I’ve pushed right up to the limit, with three drama entries. My life’s in a good place this year. Better than in a long time, in fact. This leads me to hope that if I get three emails with disappointing results, perhaps in a grocery store parking lot as has been known to happen in the past, those blows will be easier to withstand. I love screenwriting and entering competitions just as much as ever, but that’s now colored through through a lens that makes screenwriting and writing in general an important part of day to day existence, but an integrated part of a broader whole. It’s as if the landscape of my life has flowered into something different, with familiar landmarks joined by new ones of enticing promise. Promise, hope, anticipation of things yet undiscovered…life, screenwriting\writing…faith that the best is yet to come.

I’ve come hard up against a writerly situation that I can’t quite figure out. This comes from the part of my life that’s as a published author, not the write, submit, rinse, repeat part. When one of my stories was published by a prominent magazine, reactions by reviewers and regular (as opposed to irregular?) readers were split right down the middle. The first review I read was negative, and to me seemed mean spirited. It basically accused the story of using dialogue to info dump, annoy, and offend the delicate sensibilities of discerning consumers of fine science fiction. The half that were positive reactions mean the world to me, as they were lovely and insightful. If only human nature would always skew toward the positive. Instead, while I treasure the wonderful reactions, the negative ones nag at the back of my mind.

The major nag is an almost subconscious stream of consciousness pondering of the process of short story writing and aftermath–ing. The way I see it, there are two ways to project story from the writer’s mind to the readers’. One is exposition. I’m of the less is more school on this one. The idea of subtlety allowing…forcing…a collaboration between the imaginations of writer and reader is so appealing to me. I’ve always loved that experience as a reader, though I enjoy the more wordy authors too. One of my favorites, Virginia Woolf, wrote prose of great beauty, using her particular kind of magic to still leave room for reader imagination participation in among gorgeous foot long sentences. But we can’t all be Virginia Woolf. In fact, none of us can. Which is as it should be. We can only be ourselves. Write our best. Leave the rest to collective imagination. And hope for the moments when one instance of meeting of the minds or a collective experience reaches near zeitgeist status…in a good way.

The other way of expelling story from one brain to another is through dialogue. I’m big on that one. Some readers love it, others apparently really don’t. The beauty of dialogue…is the opportunity to create beautiful dialogue. I’m far from claiming that my characters’ conversations are always like jewels dripping from their papery tongues. Or often. But sometimes…sometimes…. The things characters say to each other can do so much more than move story along. They tell their own stories of personality, hardship, joy, courage, and honor. You can either have characters express themselves as only they can or sometimes clumsily try to force your vision of their lives into a reader’s head. The reader may resist. The character may as well. Then nobody is happy, fictional or flesh and blood.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to just carry on, writing what I want and how I want, and trust that the readers who get it will enjoy what they’ve read so much that they think about it long after the last word has drifted across the bridge from my mind to theirs. The ones who don’t get it aren’t going to suddenly stop looking for things to dislike. They’ll be the way they are whether I try to change my weird, wonderful way of writing by instinct or write the way I love and keep loving it. So I’m who I am, they’re who they are, and that’s fine.

I think that maybe when you write fiction for long enough, you come to care about your characters as much as you care about the real people that pass through your life. You listen to them. You watch them. If you’re lucky they don’t judge too harshly. And if you’re really lucky they build their own bridge between minds. And hearts. Then you know you’ve done your job as a writer, and what critics say fades into the background. If, sometimes, it doesn’t, it makes you more determined to do the best you can. Better than you can. Being better than you think you can is like armor. Armor that creaks and sometimes rusts, but stands strong. Just be prepared to fall while wearing it. Getting back up is a nightmare, but the entire process of the writing life can be the stuff of dreams.

Very happy to announce that my 2019 Big Break Screenwriting Contest entry has made the cut to Semifinalist! I just realized I’m smiling as I type. Screenwriting is such a cool thing to do. Being recognized for it is even cooler.


I’m very happy to announce that my drama feature entry is a 2019 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest Quarter-Finalist.

As I’ve written about in some previous posts, it’s difficult to deal with the years when nothing happens. In 2017 nothing happened, because I decided to sit out the screenwriting competitions to destress. It helped and this year I entered the Nicholl and Big Break. Not getting any positive reads in the Nicholl was disappointing and discouraging. So I seriously braced myself when the Big Break QF email came. It was such a wonderful feeling to get that reassuring, validating, thrilling moment of seeing my name and title as a Quarter-Finalist.

As the saying goes, I can dine on that for quite some time. I never stop believing in myself, but that belief gets shakey sometimes depending on how hard the winds of defeat try to blow me over. I really like this place where anything can happen and if I go right back into the doldrums that’s okay too. I’ve had the reminder that I know what I’m doing and love doing it. 

Now, I get to look forward to the upcoming Semifinals announcement. Whatever my result in that, I’m so proud to be a 2019 Big Break Quarter-Finalist.