"Yes is a world.
And in this world of yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds."
-e.e. cummings

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Secret Life of Jenny Williamson


Back from France last month and I hit the ground running. The short version is that after getting home, I did my taxes (bummer) and just found out I have a $146 rebate coming my way (woot!). I got cast as an extra in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a new movie inspired by the short story of the same name and starring Ben Stiller. I’m basically standing on the sidewalk in the scene where Walter Mitty hallucinates doing skateboard tricks in the street and standing on a bus with a rubber baby growing out of his chest. (Looking forward to seeing this movie.) I didn't actually see Ben Stiller...but the stunt guys all looked like him. I was seeing faux Ben Stillers everywhere I looked.

Then the next day, got cast in a L’Oreal print ad for Healthy Look, their semi-permanent hair color. Basically, they colored my hair and took before and after pics which will be up on their website at some point. My hair is slightly darker and redder now. (Woot!)

I also landed a voiceover gig for an online job site for graphic designers…I spent all morning on Friday recording that at home. I love that I can record things in my “home studio.” Well…I call it a home studio. You might call it a mic that plugs into a laptop. But “home studio” sounds a lot better.  Yup, I’m a copywriter.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished up the first half of the first draft of my latest novel and am preparing to Nano the second half. Preparing…any day now…eventually I’ll make that leap to writing 2,500 words a day again. I’ve been telling myself that all week but have basically just been prodding at it with a stick all week. Oh well. Soon, I swear.

And! New pics, clips, a new IMDB page…things are coming together.

So…more blog posts up in the coming week or two. As the weather warms up and life gets more interesting. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confessions of an International Traveler

I saw this post over at Thought Catalog and thought I'd write one of my own. My stories aren't quite as colorful as hers...but they're actually not that far off.

  1. I joined a gym in the Hague and took spin classes in Dutch. (I don’t speak Dutch.)
  2. I kayaked down canals in Utrecht.
  3. I spoke the three words of Greek I knew to everyone I met in Crete. People gave me things. A man at the entrance to Phaistos gave me an orange. A waitress gave me a free shot of ouzo. Everyone asked me who I was and where I was from.
  4. I rode a horse at nine in the morning in Ecuador up a volcano after being up all night on a bus the night before. Our horses were followed by a very persistent dog who kept trying to herd my horse off a cliff. There was also a zipline across a raging river and a very tall tree house involved.
  5. I rode a camel on a beach in Mombasa.
  6. I persuaded a taxi driver in Scotland to give me a three-hour taxi ride for almost free.
  7. I danced underwater with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands.
  8. I got a lap dance at a strip club in Prague.
  9. I tried to flag down an out-of-service bus in London and almost got flattened.
  10. I walked up the Appian Way in a violent rainstorm. The water on the road was up to my knees and every time a car drove by it splashed me and I got soaked.
  11. I persuaded a guy with a seafood truck in Oban, Scotland to make me and a girl I was with a stack of lobsters for almost free. We bought cheap wine, got fall-down drunk with the Scotsman and his friends, and climbed around in strangers’ boats on the pier.
  12. I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
  13. I decided it would be a great idea to drink an entire bottle of champagne in the airport on my last day in Venice. I was rowdy-drunk on the plane and accidentally left my passport at the security line.
  14. I hitchhiked in the Netherlands.
  15. I ate oysters fresh from the sea in Cancale, in Normandy.
  16. I spent this past Easter picnicking with a bottle of cider next to the Eiffel Tower.
  17. I saw tadpoles in the fountains at the Taj Mahal.
  18. I ate dinner on a rooftop with a view of the Taj Mahal and the setting sun.
  19. I was chased by a mob of boys throwing rocks at me at a temple outside Jaipur.
  20. I was surrounded by a mob of schoolchildren at the Jantar Mahar in Jaipur. They all wanted to take my picture. Their teacher came up and I thought he would shoo them away with some kind of apology; instead, he asked for my picture too!

Friday, March 30, 2012

In France!

If all goes well, I'm in Paris--right about when this post goes up. It's such a cliche to love Paris. But I do. I love the storied, storybook architecture, the cobbled windy streets, the beautiful stores and the stunning food and the music of the language all around me. One of the happiest memories I have of the past few years is a simple one: sitting on a low stone wall overlooking the Seine, with the sun shining, eating a lemon crepe. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy.

It's easy to be romantic in Paris, because romance isn't something you construct--it's all around you, a hazy fog you move in that casts everything you do in an extraordinary light. Yes, I am totally romanticizing the place. If I lived there it would become ordinary, full of the inconveniences and unpleasantnesses you find when you really get to know a place. I don't care. I will continue to put Paris on a pedestal as long as I can.

I live in another city it's easy to romanticize. I don't really romanticize New York. I live in a less-than-trendy neighborhood, and I'm in the city every day. I see the rats and the grime and the problems. I also see the opportunity and excitement. Like a lot of people, I came to New York to make something happen in my life. That's what the city's for--and as an ambitious person, I'm at home here. But I'd like to think that New York and I have a more functional, everyday relationship: I see New York for what it is, the good and the bad.

So New York is like my husband. I wouldn't want to be with anyone else. At least not for the foreseeable future. But Paris is the exciting, gorgeous, romantic fling I sometimes need to make living in New York even more spectacular. You always appreciate things most from a far-away vantage point. And I know that after being away for a while, I'll be even more happy that I live here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Rhinos and Revision

Seriously, guys, I need my own Rhino.

My dear friend at So Many Words recently blogged about Rhinos of Revision--that part of you that charges into the first draft of your novel, sniffs out what should stay, and stomps on what should go--stomps it FLAT. The Rhino of Revision doesn't give a sh--t. The Rhino of Revision has no problem killing your darlings. The Rhino of Revision eats darlings for BREAKFAST.

I am missing my Rhino. Oh, it comes out when I review other people's novels. I'm a confident editor when it's someone else's work. I know exactly what I think should change, exactly what I think should stay, and how I think the writer can whip the manuscript into shape. But I seriously, for the life of me, can't do it for myself. It's like a sickness. I'm on Novel 4 right now--having failed to get three into fighting shape after writing sucky first drafts. I just haven't figured out how to coax my inner Rhino out of its cave.

So far I'm lucky to have two very tolerant and long-suffering editors who are willing to lend me their own very competent Rhinos. But I need to be able to do this for myself. And it's not easy. I think it will have to involve spending more time with each chapter and just working out that muscle that seems to wither in the face of an overwhelming task. Of course, the one difference between my own manuscript and someone else's is that I don't have to actually put all the changes I suggest to work when I'm editing someone else's stuff. This makes me braver, I think.

So my goal for this week is to sit down and have a serious look at the chapters I'm working on. Maybe start an editing diary to keep track of what I think needs to happen, just in one small, manageable section that I'm working on right now. The secret is to keep this manageable. Because my Rhino is a skittish thing. It's got a five-inch-thick hide. But it's also endangered. Hm...may be carrying this metaphor too far.

Anyway. Rhinos. Must get one. Revisions. Must do them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring is Here

So many, many things I want to do. And with the sunny weather, I'm feeling inspired to get it done! I've been so busy lately and so excited about life, love, and living in the city. Here are a few things I've been working on in the past three months--some career-related, some not.

Getting my acting sh---t together. Goodbye crappy headshots! Goodbye going to print-modeling go-sees with acting photos! And at long last, goodbye crappy acting website. This winter and spring, I've embarked on a spring-cleaning of my acting marketing collateral. I've got fabulous new pictures coming and an amazing web design company lined up to build me a new website. I've also done a couple of fun film and TV projects that hopefully will give me some great reel material. It's taken a long time for all of this to come together, but I have a feeling great things will happen when it does.

Getting my writing sh---t together. I've been working hard on my novel--with the goal of having it agent ready by end of next year. I hit a snag and right now I'm having a very select circle of trusted readers look it over and let me know what they think--one of my goals this year is not to sit on my drafts when I get stuck, the way I've done in the past. I get too stuck in the echo chamber of my own mind.

Getting my freelancing sh---t together. Actually, this has probably been the most together part of my life for the past few years. My freelancing business has sustained me throughout years of living independently in Philadelphia and New York--and I'm eternally grateful. But I wanted to take it a step further. I've resurrected my freelance writing blog in the past few months, and I know it's also time to resurrect the article section on my freelance writing website and get better about social media and non-social-media marketing. I've been tackling these projects a little at a time, once a week.

Writing a song, knitting a blanket, learning to speak, learning to dance, writing a poetry chapbook. These are my random creative projects--things I love to do when I just need to take a break from all the career-related stuff above and have some fun.

I feel overwhelmed sometimes. But when the sun is shining and the weather is warm, it's just easy to feel light and optimistic--like everything can't help but work out perfectly. I know it won't. Life still adamantly refuses to be perfect--it's taken me a long time to accept that. But I'm doing a lot of things this year I should have done a long time ago--and I'm excited about it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Being Cindy Williams

So last week was insane and crazy and wonderful and exhausting...pretty much all at once, all the time. I was busy a lot. One of the things I was busy with was filming an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories. I got to re-enact a ghost story told by Cindy Williams, who played Shirley in Laverne and Shirley. Apparently she looks a lot like me.

And i got to be terrified. All the time.

The ghost story she told was really scary! It starts when Cindy starts hearing strange noises in her house. Doors slam when she's alone. She sees something big and black run under her daughter's bed--something definitely too big to be a cockroach. Things escalate until I--ahem, Cindy--has to call in a friend who's a medium to light some burning sage, wave a severed eagle's wing, and chant those chants that ghosts don't like to hear. I'd tell you what happens next, but I don't want to give away the ending.

I am such a worrier. I always think the perfect take was the one that would have happened just after the last one I did. I noticed this in myself two weeks ago, when I was filming Sarah and Penny, the student film about the girl with OCD. I definitely also do it now. I bet lots of professional actors feel this way too. But there's no way to know until I see the footage--which I'm looking forward to. Also looking forward to having current material for my reel.

In other words, I also did the Sam Christensen Studios workshop last week. This was a four-day endeavor that took up a lot of time and had massive amounts of homework--hence, no blogging last week. But I got some great insight into my "type" for acting--and I'm thrilled to get out there and put myself in front of more agents and auditioners. I'm starting to feel very optimistic about this year!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Where to Go For Inspiration

I don't believe in writers' block. I believe in sitting down and writing whether you're "inspired" or not. I'm kind of a no-nonsense, tough-love sort of writer--when it comes to dealing with my inner child. But I also know it's more fun to write when you're inspired. Still, inspiration doesn't come when it's called--it comes when it's good and ready. Or does it?

No, you can't control inspiration, But it helps to know yourself and know how to make the environment friendly to it. Here are a few places I know to return to when I"m struggling for it.

To my friends. There is nothing like checking out what your friends are doing to get back the urge to create yourself. I"m lucky to have quite a few extremely talented friends who always inspire me. And by "inspire me," I mean "make me insanely jealous with the awesome stuff they're doing." Jealousy isn't a bad thing, though. Jealousy fuels me.

To books and art I love. Reading is my refuge. When I was a kid, I would sit in my room for hours and read. I would read on the playground. I would read in the classroom. I had this clever habit of propping a textbook up on my desk and hiding a small paperback in it so it looked like my face was buried in the textbook. Of course, any teacher who moved around the room rather than hanging out at the front would have my number. But I still thought it was a brilliant move.

To the outdoors. I grew up in Vermont, and being outside always makes me feel better. Even if I'm outside in New York, which I'm not sure actually counts as "outside." I like being surrounded by trees and not hearing any sounds of human habitation, but if there's none of that particular environment around, I can live with warm sun on my back and a nice patch of grass.

To coffee shops. The world just looks different in a coffee shop, and I've done some of my best and most productive writing in them. I love coffee shops that attract freelancers and writers themselves. I love cafes full of people tapping away on laptops. I feel part of something bigger--part of a counter-cultural movement away from the cubicle and toward creative, entrepreneurial, and fulfilled lives. I feel like we're all in it together, even if we're all working on our own things.

To the gym. I get bored when I jog. And when I get bored, I daydream. I've found the treadmill is a great place to think about my book and untangle troublesome plot points.

Where do you go for inspiration?