Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bureaucracy for Breakfast - Dina Gachman

Savvy gals and guys may already be familiar with Bureaucracy for Breakfast, the quirky, funny blog with the tagline "the continuing saga of one girl's plight with unemployment". Texas-born, California-based Dina Gachman is the creator and voice behind Bureaucracy for Breakfast, which has amassed a steady web following, including being chosen by Chelsea Handler's Borderline Amazing Comedy site as a featured blog. In fact, Bureaucracy for Breakfast is so popular that Dina is in the process of turning her blog into a book!

I interviewed Dina about her journey from coming up with the idea for her blog to brainstorming a book version. Throughout the interview, read lively excerpts from Bureaucracy for Breakfast (with links to the full posts) and afterwards see Dina's impressive bio (hint: unemployment was not always a problem for this girl!)

Q: How did the idea for your "Bureaucracy for Breakfast" blog originate? 

Dina Gachman: I got laid off from my job as a development executive in film in March 2010 and after a few weeks of brooding in my pajamas wondering what I should do next, I realized I should probably write about the experience and do something productive before I started falling down the rabbit hole of unemployment - which basically means feeling sorry for yourself, meeting your other unemployed friends for beers at 2pm on a weekday, reading US Weekly, and watching too much reality TV. So I thought I would try and look at the whole experience of being laid off in a comedic way. It's more fun to laugh at this stuff than to cry about it, right? So I pitched it to an editor I know and he said lets see what happens. So here we are, over a year later, still going. It's not just about unemployment anymore though, it's about the process of writing, trying to build a career from scratch, and it's about pop culture in general. So for example - Paris Hilton built a 350K dollar house for her dogs, and most people in this country can barely afford the rent on their studio apartment, so to me that's kind of fascinating. And frustrating!

Q: How did you come up with the title? 

DG: Just in case people don't know what EDD is - it's the Employment Development Department in California (no clue why it has "development" in the title since they don't help you find a job!). So one morning I was trying to call them to find out about getting unemployment benefits, and trying to get through to the EDD is an exercise in patience. I kept trying to get through, and I looked down at my sad looking bowl of oatmeal and the words "Bureaucracy for Breakfast" floated through my head. I grabbed a pen and scribbled the title down, not knowing what- if anything - it would become. I jot down a lot of random thoughts on paper, on gum wrappers, on my arm - on whatever is around basically, and half the time I lose the paper or re-read it and realize what I thought was totally brilliant is really totally lame. But this one stuck. 

EXCERPT: "It was handed to me a week ago. An innocent looking, baby-blue postcard. A casting call for a dating game show. My nightmare, really. But when you are jobless, and your nightmare promises $500 for a single day’s work, it’s shockingly easy to face your worst fears. Or so I thought..." (Link: Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol IV: "How Jerry Springer (almost) made me do it")

Q: How long did it take before gaining fans? What did you do in terms of promoting your blog in the early stages? 

DG: The blog is initially published by the website Lost in a Supermarket, so right off the bat readers of that site were exposed to Bureaucracy for Breakfast. At first I was a social media newbie so I would put it on Facebook and send it to people via email. It started getting fans pretty quickly, but mainly it was people I knew. Then I succumbed to Twitter (which I now think is the BEST tool for writers trying to get their work out there - free PR) and created a separate Tumblr blog so I would have all the posts on one site. Once I created the Tumblr and got on Twitter I started getting emails from people all over the country, in Canada etc, so that was really exciting. And people started spreading the word on Facebook and by word of mouth so it started to grow that way. Most days I feel like a one-woman PR machine. I spend half my day writing and the other half trying to spread the word. But I enjoy it actually, it's part of the process.

Q: What is your target demographic? What type of reader (age, gender, location) most often views your blog? 

DG: It's definitely evenly divided between men and women, and the readers are mostly early 20s into their late 40s, but I get emails from people in their 50s and 60s as well. One reader is a teacher in his 50s who lives in Reno, Nevada, and he's one of the biggest supporters. Initially I was writing for people who had been laid off and unemployed but even though people who've been through that experience relate, it's really for anyone who likes reading comedy I guess. The target audience is anyone with a sense of humor! 

EXCERPT: "We sat on pillows. Chaturanga had on tight, lacy black bellbottoms with red fabric that peeked out of the flares when he walked. He wore a color coordinated red silk shirt, beaded necklaces, and a vest. His hair was shoulder length, pulled back and held together with even more beads. I confess the word “charlatan” popped into my head when I laid eyes on him and his ensemble. I spotted a drum and a didgeridoo..." (Link: Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol XI: "Do what scares you")

Q: Why the name "The Elf" for Twitter? [Dina's Twitter name is TheElf26.]

DG: I blame the editor at Lost in a Supermarket (LIAS) for that one! The Elf was my nickname in college, and he likes everyone who writes for LIAS to use a pen name. He's Madman Mundt (from the movie Barton Fink), and I became The Elf. I guess it's because I'm 5'2" on a good day - not because I have pointy ears and live in a forest. 

Q: Describe your blogging process (examples: do you write every day, only when inspiration hits, etc.) 

DG: I write every day whether it's just journal type writing, the blog, or working on another project (I write a column for H Texas Magazine called "Texan Adrift" as well). One of my favorite writing quotes is "Stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work."  Paddy Chayefsky (Network, Marty) said that, and I think it's so true. Professional athletes don't practice once in a blue moon when they feel like it, they do it every day no matter what. After the layoff and during the process of writing this blog I've really come to understand how true that quote is. You have to do it every single day, even if what comes out just sucks and even if sitting down to write sounds as fun as hopping into the dentist chair for a root canal. It's work. As far as Bureaucracy for Breakfast, I'll write one about once a month, I usually wait until the idea for the next post takes shape in my head, and through jotting down notes, then I'll get into a zone for a few hours and just spit it out onto the page. Then I edit and re-write obsessively for a few days before sending it to the editor.

EXCERPT:  " By the time I leave babysitting, I look and feel like I’ve just crawled on hands and knees out of the jungles of Borneo after being chased by wild boars and gibbons and rabid butterflies. Let’s just say on those days, I don’t go home and write. I go meet friends for a drink..." (Link: Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol X: "(mis)Adventures in Babysitting")

Q: Describe how you felt when chosen by Chelsea Handler's site as a featured blog. 

DG: Excited! I love her books, it's rare to read something and laugh out loud, and besides her and David Sedaris, not many writers do that for me - really catch me off guard with a sentence or a phrase and make me laugh. But it really motivated me to keep pushing the blog and keep on writing. Most writers know the crazy highs and lows you go through - one minute you're a writing genius and you're on the path to a best sellers list or an Academy Award, and the next minute you suck and you'll end up unpublished in a ditch somewhere. So we need those jolts to keep us going - like getting recognized by Chelsea Handler's company etc. It has also been a great marketing tool, to be able to tell people about that.

Q: When did you decide to turn the blog into a book, and what steps have you taken to achieve your goal? 

DG: Back in the fall I started getting asked about turning it into a book, and at first I wasn't sure what the book version would be - would there be a running narrative? Would it be a fiction version? Then I started thinking about why I love to pick up a David Sedaris book - it's just FUNNY, and entertaining. Not that I'm comparing myself to him, I just started thinking the book version could be something people would pick up and read and re-read when they want to escape for a little bit and just be entertained. So I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get a graphic designer and try and create an initial book version. I made a video, spent a month sending the Kickstarter link out and reached the funding goal which was really cool and amazing every time I got a donation - it really meant a lot and made me feel that much closer to the project. So I have a graphic designer named Amy Saaed I'm working with, a book agent asked to see a proposal so that's exciting, and there's been talk of doing a graphic novel/comic book version of the blog too. So we'll see, fingers crossed!

Thanks, Dina!

About Dina Gachman: Born and raised in Texas, Dina Gachman hightailed it to Los Angeles at eighteen to attend UCLA. After college she waited many tables and traveled around the globe to places like Tokyo, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Costa Rica. Traveling has given her a unique and appreciative perspective of life and home, and helped her realize that people in Tokyo really aren’t that different than people in Denton, Texas. After traveling she applied to and was accepted into the rigorous MFA Production program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She wrote and directed the award-winning comedy short film ARCHER HOUSE, which caught the attention of executives at Fox and NBC. PITSTOP, a dramatic short film she produced, won a BAFTA and a Student Academy Award in 2008. She then worked as a Development Executive for two years in Los Angeles, where she developed films such as THE EXPERIMENT with Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker. Then the recession came knocking. She was laid off in March 2010 and decided to follow her true passion. Gachman writes arts/culture/film articles for Heeb Magazine, Lost in a Supermarket, and the Santa Monica Mirror. She pens the column TEXAN ADRIFT for H Texas Magazine, and her own comedic blog, BUREAUCRACY FOR BREAKFAST, was picked by Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing Comedy site as a featured blog. She is currently working on a novel about dating in Los Angeles (it's a tragicomedy) and on a comedy pilot that takes place in small town Texas. She resides in Los Angeles.  

Twitter @TheElf26
on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BureaucracyForBreakfast?sk=wall

Excerpts from Bureaucracy for Breakfast © Dina Gachman

Tuesday for Tuesday, 5.3

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday Travels: Chapter 5, Section 3
by Lindsey Michelle

     Zack picked her up in the morning, just as he said he would. She met him outside, so he could avoid Andrew altogether. She’d had a lengthy middle-of-the-night discussion with Nancy at 3am, who was both shocked and titillated by Tuesday’s Jacuzzi rendezvous and pronounced Andrew as bitter or jealous, one of the two.
     Zack and Tuesday spent the day exploring the island, visiting its portions of natural beauty and consulting a tourist guide book for other fun sights to see. They finally stopped for dinner at an outdoor restaurant. There they talked and laughed, trading stories about previous vacations.
     “My sister and I used to take a trip every year together,” Zack said. “But two years ago, she got married, We tried to go all together, but it wasn’t the same, and now she’s pregnant, so it’s the end of that era, I think.”
      “So you’re going to be an uncle, then!” Tuesday enthused.
     “Yeah, I’ll be the uncle that spoils the kid,” he said with a laugh. He kissed the back of her hand. “I like to spoil people.”
     “No complaints here.”
      They were both quiet, and when the waiter inquired if they wanted coffee or dessert, Zack hesitated.
     “We could get room service,” Tuesday suggested to him.
     He asked the waiter for the check.

     She’d been anticipating sleeping with Zack for the past twenty-four hours, and when they were finally in bed together, Tuesday felt relieved. It was as though he couldn’t slip through her fingers now, he wasn’t going to disappear into the crowd.
     He seemed to know what she wanted without her having to tell him.
      “I think tomorrow,” he said softly, “we should spend all morning in.”
     So that’s what they did. She called Nancy briefly to tell her where she was, but otherwise she didn’t let time bother her. They lounged by the hotel pool that afternoon, but after swimming, Tuesday joked that she couldn’t keep her hands off of him and they retreated back to his room. She peeled off her swimsuit and jumped into his arms.
     “Zack Meadows,” she proclaimed, “what is it about you that gives me such confidence?”
     He grinned. “You mean you aren’t like this all the time?”
     “I wish. I’m always doubting myself, with men, with act…”
     She stopped herself from finishing. “With my career, I mean.”
     She lay back against the pillows, smiling as he pointed his camera phone at her.
     “Well,” he said, “I find your confidence very sexy.”
     He snapped a photo, and then one of them together.
     “I want a photo,” she said.
     “Get your phone.”
     When she opened her cell phone, Tuesday noticed she had a message. She listened to it – Nancy had called a few hours earlier and said that she’d run into a famous director who wanted to take an impromptu meeting with them tomorrow afternoon.
     “I hate to interrupt your bliss, Tues, but it’s such an opportunity… it won’t take long.”
     “Is everything alright?” Zack asked.
     “It’s fine,” Tuesday replied. She paused. “I just… my friend needs me tomorrow.”
     “She gets to see you all the time. Can’t it wait?”
     “It’s sort of important.”
     “Tuesday, I leave tomorrow night.”
     She didn’t want to be reminded. “I know.”
     Tuesday thought for a moment. “She said it won’t take long. I’ll come over as soon as I’m finished, and we’ll spend time together before you leave.”
     He smiled. Tuesday noticed that he looked sad, the same way she felt. “Sounds wonderful.”

     Nancy explained how surprised she was when Jake Arnold, the famous director, approached her on the beach.
     “He loved the film, Tues! He raved to Andrew and me about our performances, and when we told him that you were here with us, he flipped. He’s producing all these new films, so you just never know where this could lead…”
     Tuesday half-listened as Nancy babbled excitedly. They were walking to Jake’s house, with Andrew a few steps ahead of them.
     What Tuesday expected to be a quick drink meeting turned out to be an early sit-down dinner. Jake and his wife were extremely gracious, but Tuesday couldn’t help but feel anxious the entire time. It was almost dark before they moved from the dining room back to the living room.
     “Zack’s leaving tonight,” Tuesday whispered to Nancy.
     “Text him or something,” Nancy said. “Jake’s going to give us all roles.”
     “I don’t know his cell,” Tuesday said. “I don’t… I can’t reach him. What if he thinks I stood him up?”
     “I thought he was just for fun.”
     “He is. But… I don’t want to be rude.”
     “You’re being rude to Jake.”

     When they finally said their “goodbyes”, Tuesday raced to Zack’s hotel. It was completely dark and she was worried that she and Zack wouldn’t have any decent time together. They’d probably have to say their goodbye in the middle of the lobby.
     Tuesday breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t see him the lobby. Perhaps they’d have a private moment after all. She rushed to the concierge desk.
     “I’m visiting room 803,” Tuesday said. “Zack Meadows.”
     The man behind the desk peered at her, then typed on his computer.
     “I’m sorry,” he said. “You must have the wrong room.”
     Tuesday paused. “But I’m positive. Eighth floor… 803. Check again, please,”
     “I’m afraid it’s useless, miss. 803 checked out earlier this evening. But there’s no Zack Meadows staying at this hotel.”
     Tuesday turned without saying anything.
     All she could think about was how she’d given him her real name.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Notes on Writers' Rights

Thanks to Beth Ann Erickson, who graciously allows the reprinting of the following article, here's an excellent reminder and mini tutorial about owning and keeping the rights to one's writing...

This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing
sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing
Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book "Power
Queries." http://filbertpublishing.com
(Side note: Most writers' Inboxes are likely filled with writing and publishing 
newsletters, but Writing Etc. is a must-read for freelancers! It's full of interesting 
articles and helpful tips.) 

Know Your Rights
by Beth Ann Erickson

We traveled all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see him.  As we
stood outside the 2,000-seat Riverside Theater, my heart pounded,
knowing I would soon hear him sing; hear him strum his guitar; hear
this man whose lyrics absolutely makes my knees weak.
As my husband and I filed into the theater, I grasped my purse in
anticipation of hearing him sing my favorite song.  (By the way, my
beautiful Liz Claiborne clutch bag still has the fingernail marks
to prove my story correct.)
After he came on stage, he began to sing.  I waited and waited to
hear my favorites.  Finally, another audience member called out the
name of one of the songs.  My favorite singer in the world paused
and said the words I'll never forget.  He said, "I can't sing that.
 I don't own it."
How could he not own it?  He wrote it.  He recorded it.  I listen
to on a regular basis.  How could he not be able to sing it today?
Easy.  He signed all his rights away.
There are a lot of rights in the publishing community.  Here are
some nutshell definitions of some of them:
First serial rights - You've given the publication (or web site)
the rights to be the first to publish your article.
One time rights - The publication may run your article once,
whether they're the first to publish it or if you're selling a
Second serial rights - You've given the publication the right to be
the second publication to publish your article.
Electronic rights - The right to publish your writing
All Rights - This is the bad one.  You sell all the rights and walk
away from the piece forever.  Unless you buy the rights back.
I'm sure that when this particular singer signed his contracts, he
had a capable agent helping him.  
That goes to show that no matter what your agent may say, it's
important (read VERY important) that you personally read every
contract you sign.  If you don't understand something, take it to
someone who does.
And it wouldn't hurt to purchase a good writing reference book that
explains the various rights in more detail.
There's nothing worse than hearing about an author who sells their
work outright for a pittance, then is responsible for the bulk of
the promotion for a book they don't even own.  In other words, if
you sell all your rights, make sure you get a BIG advance.
Today, my favorite singer has re-purchased his songs (for a lot
more than he sold them for) and is able to sing them again.  I hope
you don't find yourself in his situation....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adaptation Interview: William D. Prystauk

William D. Prystauk ("Bill") is a prolific writer who was nonetheless kind enough to take the time to allow me to interview him about how he adapted his screenplay Bloodletting into a novel, which is under serious consideration for publication (sorry, no further details at this time!) After the interview, be sure to scroll down to the previous post for excerpts from the screenplay and novel. They serve as great examples for anyone interested in adapting a screenplay into prose.

Bloodletting follows protagonist Denny Bowie, a “legwork guy” for a private investigator, who must overcome his own desire for sexual submission to find the killer of masochistic men in Manhattan.

Here's what William has to say about adapting, his writing process, his inspirations and what he did when his screenplay was met with controversy...

Q: What was the most rewarding part of adapting the Bloodletting screenplay into a novel?

William D. Prystauk: I got a chance to really dive into the story and delve deeper into the mind of my protagonist, Denny Bowie. Most importantly, I could cover much more ground than I could in the screenplay. I could expand on descriptions, truly establish tone and play more with dialogue. It was as if I went from having very strict parents, who laid down many rules, to having insurmountable freedom. Writing a novel, though more tedious to pen due to its size, was quite liberating, and I typed like a madman.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of adapting?

WDP: Point-of-view problems plagued me to no end. Though I initially wrote the work in third-person omniscient, my narrator sounded too much like my protagonist. The indirect internal dialogue only muddied the waters more. At the time I was a student in the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program, and my mentor Kaylie Jones (Lies My Mother Never Told Me and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries) suggested I write the work in first-person. Although the story flowed better, I still had scenes that occurred beyond the scope of my first-person narrator. I remedied this through several creative ways that may have made the book more literary, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a publisher wanted me to rewrite those scenes as third-person chapters, which I would gladly do.

And since the story involves sadomasochism, I was concerned about how far I could take the sexual elements. Even worse, I was mixing consensual BDSM among loving adults with a killer that preyed on masochists. I didn’t want the BDSM and fetish community to think I was exploiting them or misrepresenting them in order to sell a book. Therefore, Erin Marr, a crossdresser and newbie to S&M, became Denny’s boyfriend and served as the reader’s advocate. Readers outside the fetish world need to understand the clear distinction between love and play versus crime and abuse. Too often, writers unfamiliar with dominance and submission don’t conduct enough research to bring readers the truth behind such sexual expression, and I didn’t want to come off as ill informed or non-caring. I never choose sensationalism over reality.

Q:  When and why did you decide to adapt the screenplay? Discuss your adapting process.

WDP: Selling a screenplay is equivalent to hitting the lottery, finding your soulmate and discovering the cure for cancer, all on the same damn day. Though I believed in the story, I knew it may never be produced simply because so few films are purchased and achieve production (every time we see a movie on the screen, we are definitely witnessing a miracle). Since there are far more publishing opportunities, I decided to convert the screenplay to a novel.

Initially, adapting the work was easy since the screenplay served as a glorified outline. I copied the script from Final Draft and plopped it into Microsoft Word. Then I moved forward, sentence by sentence, until my first draft was complete at 70,000 words. Afterwards, I went through many revisions to “color in the numbers,” so to speak, and to tell a better tale. At one point, the manuscript ballooned to 120,000 words, but is now at a more palpable 94,000.

Q:  How did you come up with the story and characters?

WDP: The story is an old one. I originally wrote the tale as my first attempt at a screenplay back in the late 1980s. It was called Necrophilia and Denny was a morgue technician. He was in love with a lesbian but found romance with a dead punk girl instead. The story was weighed down by too many taboo subjects: sadomasochism, necrophilia, homosexuality, etc. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s when I came up with a strong, hard-boiled mystery with more in-depth characters that people could relate to regardless of the subject matter.

The reason the story was eventually rewritten is because the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to do something with them. Denny was trapped inside my head for so long, I can’t recall how he originally came to mind. Erin is based on a young man I met at a dance club in New Jersey, and Penny is a conglomeration – add Siouxsie Sioux and some old friends from my days at Rutgers and you have the spicy Goth-girl love interest.

Q: What changes did you have to make going from screenplay to novel?

WDP: I had to pay attention to POV like never before. I learned that was my “kryptonite” and worked diligently to grasp how to approach the story without a camera.

Quite often, I realized I was screenwriting. I was jumping from scene to scene without letting the reader know what transpired in between, or I’d summarize too much to get right back to the action. Nothing was allowed to occur “off the page.” Avoiding implications and explaining more to the reader without getting caught up in heavy exposition gave me more room to develop my characters and helped create a better picture in the reader’s mind about the world they inhabited.

Q:  What type of response has the screenplay received? (Feedback, awards, etc.)

WDP: In 2005, I entered Bloodletting at Slamdance where it failed miserably. I contacted them for feedback and spoke to one of the judges who had read the script. He and another judge loved it – but the third thought it was “pornography,” which ultimately killed the screenplay’s run in the contest. Shortly after, however, it came in as a Quarter Finalist at Scriptapalooza. I then had a table read at the New Jersey Screenwriter’s Group, where I am a member, and received exceptional feedback and recommendations. Following that meeting, I rewrote the script to bring it from what might be seen as an NC-17 rating to an R rating and entered the open-genre Screenwriters Showcase Screenplay Contest where Bloodletting came in as the Second Place Winner in 2006 (first among mysteries). A short time later, I was picked up by an agent who was trying to sell the script in Los Angeles, until she unexpectedly left the industry.

After many attempts to sell the script on my own, I realized it may be best to transform the screenplay into a novel if I ever wanted to earn a paycheck.

Q:  How did you obtain the interest of a publisher? Do you work with a literary agent?

WDP: In my MFA program, we had to pitch our story ideas to a panel of agents, editors and publishers. After the pitch session, I was approached by a publisher and he had his fiction editor read the manuscript and provide details about what worked, what didn’t and how I should approach the revision. After two more rewrites, the publisher is in the final stages of reviewing the work, and I hope to have an answer soon. I spoke with the fiction editor two weeks ago and he stated, “You have a great fucking story in there.”

I do not have a literary agent at the moment.

Q:  Much of your writing seems to be in the horror and crime genres. What draws you to those genres?

WDP: Ha! Actually, I write drama and science fiction as well, but it all depends upon the story and how best to tell it. I usually don’t even consider genre until the writing is finished. I have a “story first, genre later” attitude.

I love crime because of the mystery factor that compels me to remain glued to the story. I do not want to check my brain at the door when seeing a movie or reading a book. I want to be jolted to think about the movie or book for days, weeks and years later. Oftentimes, well-crafted crime stories do that for me because I like to gather my own clues.

I’ve been fascinated with horror since my youth. At one point, horror scared the hell out of me, but over time I wanted to indulge in the genre as much as possible, as if to combat a phobia. Sadly, I must admit that I watch about fifty horrors to find that one movie worth mentioning. It’s like sifting through a crappy yard sale to find that one decent artifact that’s a must have.

Concerning selling a script, horrors are traditionally a good way in, so I’m doing my best to write tales with limited locations, smaller casts and more manageable special effects to attract attention. That’s a great exercise in itself. For instance, my dramatic horror script, Ravencraft has only two locations and a handful of characters, which proved to be a wonderful writing experience.

Q: What are some of your favorite screenplays and novels?

WDP: Favorite screenplays: Alien (due to the character interaction), Chinatown (because it taught me so much about screenwriting in general), The Uninvited Guest (the suspense in this Spanish film is definitely breathtaking), The Man from Earth (compelling drama from a bunch of “talking heads” in one room), Arlington Road (because Ehren Kruger put a twist on one cliché after another) and The Celebration (for phenomenal dialogue and tension).

Favorite books: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Tropic of Cancer (Henry Miller), Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs), A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark), One hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Girls (Frederick Busch) and Kissing Carrion (Gemma Files).

Q: Screenwriting versus fiction writing: do you prefer one format, or do you enjoy both equally?

WDP: Screenwriting is instant gratification. Sometimes, I can knock out a rough draft in mere days. Fiction writing is a long, drawn out process. For example, if I have to make a change in a 90-page script, it’s relatively easy to move, delete or add a scene. With a novel, changing one element can lead to dozens upon dozens of changes hidden in a manuscript of great length. Maybe that’s why Bloodletting took a year to complete as a novel, but only a few weeks as a screenplay.

However, when I write a script, there is a lot of starting and stopping, while I can often write a novel for hours on end. At one point, I was spending ten to twelve hours a day writing Bloodletting as a work of fiction. I was charged, impassioned and couldn’t stop. Moreover, with a novel, I can truly reach the reader’s five senses while scripts only allow me to focus on sight and sound. I can cover much more ground when writing fiction because there is no clock ticking and no page limit.

Thanks, Bill!

Author Bio:

In 2011, William's dramatic horror screenplay Ravencraft became the Third Place Winner in the 2011 AWS Screenplay Contest. William's dramatic ghost story Risen was the First Place Winner in the 2010 Horror Screenplay Contest and is currently being shopped around Hollywood. Furthermore, William's character driven, crime/action/horror script Red Agenda was the First Place Winner in the 2008 International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival and was a Top-Five Finalist at Screamfest. Currently, William's crime story Mara was just accepted for publication by Needle: A Magazine of Noir. William has also won numerous awards for other screenplay as well as poetry, and has written movie, music and book reviews. William completed the Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University in June 2011 to earn his MFA with concentration in screenwriting and fiction. Furthermore, he teaches English at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Bloodletting - Screenplay & Novel Excerpts

Ideally, before viewing this post, you've already read my interview with William D. Prystauk (if not, be sure to read it right away for his insightful remarks about adapting, inspirations, his writing process and more.) The interview gives background about Bloodletting, his original feature screenplay that he turned into a novel. Below is an excerpt from the screenplay, followed by the same scene in the novel. It's interesting to see how the novel's prose is expanded and developed compared to the concise, to-the-point screenplay narrative/description.

Bloodletting - Screenplay Excerpt
Page 26
by William D. Prystauk

Please note: Any screenplay format that looks a bit "off" (such as how the dialogue is centered) is due to the limitations of blog format, not William's original script. 

Denny and Erin, a little unkempt, climb the front steps of the church. Denny tries one of the large doors.

I know they're locked and...

The door opens. Denny stops Erin while YAWNING. Slowly, they step inside.

Denny, keeping a watchful eye, walks ahead of Erin towards the pew with a shadowy life-sized Christ on his cross.
Churches look so unholy in the

Denny brings a finger to his lips. Erin peers at the cross.
I can't see anything except...

Erin SCREAMS. Denny rolls his eyes. SIGHING, he moves closer to the pew and lights a candle.
So much for the element of

He follows Erin's eyes to the crucifix.
She wears her own barbed-wire crown of thorns and her right side sports a wound. Blood from her injuries cover the floor and the cross. Denny tries to get a closer look, but Erin clings to him for dear life.
It's the girl I met in the bar the
other night.

Denny turns and faces Erin.
She told me to stay away from
Penny. Said she was evil.

Lights pop on. Denny and Erin turn and face the front doors.

Bloodletting - Novel Excerpt
Chapter 16 (Pages 107-111)
by William D. Prystauk

     In my heart, organized religion was the root of all evil and I had little tolerance for any temple and the many hypocrisies that accompanied it, but the Church of St. Francis Xavier was different. They truly gave a damn, and because they represented an entity as staunch and old world misogynistic as Roman Catholicism, I was surprised the Vatican hadn’t shut the place down long ago. Besides outreach programs for the poor and unemployed, this Jesuit apostolate devoted themselves to gay and lesbian Catholics caught in the crossfire of political rhetoric and selective biblical interpretation.
      At five on the dot, Erin and I, unkempt and drained, stood before the pale granite of the fairytale-like 1880’s church. With the gold statue of Saint Francis looking down upon us from the stone balcony of the second story, as if he’d stepped away from his alcove to bless Erin and me, we passed the black iron fencing, and climbed the stone steps up through the center of a trio of arches to the waiting door.
I silenced a yawn then gripped the handle. “I know it’s locked and ...”
    The wooden door opened with little effort.
    My raised hand stopped Erin from rushing in. Slowly, we stepped inside.
    Keeping a watchful eye, I moved far ahead of him. With the lights of the pre-dawn dancing through the mosaic glass in a kaleidoscope of color, I sensed the enormity of the parish. There were far too many recesses, columns and pews to hide behind, let alone the darkened mezzanine. Worse still, the Latin cross-shaped house of worship was under renovation, and filled my nose with lingering odors left from plaster and sealant, though I was more concerned about the additional places from equipment that allowed for more hidden surprises. Fearing an ambush, I moved forward anyway, trying to bury the sound of my heart so I could listen for any misstep from the caller who was most likely already here. Against my instincts, and with a shaky hand, I moved straight down the center towards the shadowy, life-sized figure of Christ on his cross, making sure the heels of my boots didn’t clunk or scrape along the uneven stone floor of the transept. The church and its ornate frescoes rose above me and whatever intimacy I felt outside its gates was now completely lost. I was alone in the shadows in a vast warehouse of stone and glass that would amplify the smallest of sounds.
    With my own tell-tale heart continuing to hamper my ears as I plodded along, guided only by those haphazard rays of light, I took pride in our silent approach, when, “Churches look so unholy in the dark” made its escape from Erin’s lips. I slammed a finger against my mouth, signaling him to shut the fuck up. But Erin just peered at the crucifix. “I can’t see anythang except ...”
    Erin’s scream rang throughout every corner of St. Francis Xavier’s. I rolled my eyes and sagged in defeat. Taking a small flashlight from my back pocket, I calmed my nerves and wondered if my ears were bleeding from the dancer’s shriek.
    “So much for the element of surprise,” I half-said aloud. 

     Following Erin’s horror to the crucifix, I thumbed the switch and the light found the spirit of his cry: a frail, willowy girl nailed to a cross.
     Erin’s fingers dug their way into me as he slammed his eyes shut and buried his face into the back of my olive drab. I kept my bearings. Listened first. No movement meant the killer was long gone. I tried to move forward, but Erin was steadfast. I shined the light onto the corpse and the hair gave her away.
     “It’s the girl I met in the bar the other night.” I turned towards Erin and he released his numbing grip though his eyes were still closed. “She told me to stay away from Penny. Said she was evil.” \

     Erin cried and the echo rang out. “Honey, let’s go. Please.” His voice alien and strange. He tugged at me in desperation, but I wasn’t going anywhere.
     Putting my arm around Erin’s waist, I spun him about to face the doors, leaving me to face the body, and brought him in close. I lifted his chin and told him to look at me. He did.
     “Go outside, have a cigarette and wait for me. Don’t call the cops.” I stopped my new lover from speaking with a calming kiss. “Go.”
    Erin sniffled, nodded and rushed outside with fast clicks from his heels to the safety of the sunlight.
    I moved forward with tentative steps towards the cross, careful enough not to get too close. I focused on the body: the Jesus girl wore her own barbed-wire crown of thorns, above a face in repose, and her right side had been cut open, mocking what the spear of destiny had done to the original rebel some two-thousand years before. Her pale, tortured body was covered in zigzag patterns of gashes and whip marks. Railroad spikes punctured her palms and ankles. Blood covered the floor as well as the handmade cross of rotting, damaged wood, set before the altar. Past the desecration shined the true, painted crucifix in the rotunda of the sanctuary, a riveting fresco in an arched frame below the church’s grand dome. It must’ve taken time to pose the girl, and the portrait behind her body was in all likelihood used as a guide.
     I shifted to the side, crouching low to let the light play along the base of its altar at the edges of the black pool. With the best angle for light and reflection, I found it: bootprints. Two sets. One very large and one much smaller. There was nothing more though my heart told me someone else had to be there, watching, orchestrating, gloating – the Mistress directing her minions.
     The Jesus girl had to have been alive for the final moments because her blood had cascaded from deep cuts in her armpits and covered most of the prints on the floor. No blood had been tracked beyond the confines of the altar, though its metallic odor cut through the smell of the drying plaster.
Shining the light on her face, I caught the trails from tears and the pale, downturned mouth as if she were at rest. And for some reason, in that hall of absolute peace, as I expected her eyes to open, I heard a drop splash onto the floor as if the church was crying for her.
     I wondered if she peered out the colored glass and begged for mercy. Then I remembered the giant crucifix that had hung around her neck and could hear her saying, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” in her final moment. Maybe Jesus was her one true love and this was her one chance to totally immerse herself into the spirit of his death to try and feel what he had felt. To completely appreciate her savior via a forced imitation of Christ with her in the starring role. I could see her bringing her captors, her torturers no satisfaction as she grew quiet and still while peering out of the stained glass. Yeah, she didn’t beg. She smiled because she was going home. Going home to her love. I just can’t imagine the hell she went through to get there.
     I looked at her one last time before getting back to work. I searched in vain for her silver crucifix but couldn’t find it and knew the necklace had become a trophy.  

     And as I got closer to the bootprints in an effort to better see the patterns, the lights popped on. I twisted around, snapping a wide-eyed gaze toward the front doors.

© William D. Prystauk

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday for Tuesday, 5.2

In the first part of Chapter 5, Tuesday and her film co-stars (and new friends) Nancy and Andrew travel to Andrew's island home for a vacation. Nancy and Andrew make Tuesday promise not to talk about Kenneth or Peter, and Nancy encourages Tuesday to find a vacation fling. At first reluctant, Tuesday then meets intriguing Zack Meadow...

Tenacious Tuesday
Tuesday Travels: Chapter 5, Part 2
by Lindsey Michelle

     Zack kept his arm lightly strewn around Tuesday’s shoulders during their walk to the house. She felt relaxed and comfortable with him as they chatted about the ocean and the breeze, but upon entering the living room, Tuesday stumbled for words.
     “Beautiful swimming pool,” Zack said, staring through the glass doors.
     “There’s a Jacuzzi, too,” Tuesday said, pausing. “If you want, I’m sure Andrew has an extra suit.”
     Zack nodded. “I’ll wait outside.”
     Tuesday rushed upstairs to change into one of the bathing suits she’d brought,  a solid green bikini. She found a pair of men’s trunks in one of the spare bedrooms. She stopped to brush her hair before returning downstairs.
     She didn’t see Zack through the glass. Tuesday opened the door and walked onto the patio, looking each way. Then she noticed a small pile of clothing on one of the patio chairs. She walked further and saw him sitting in the Jacuzzi with the jets on.
     “I brought you…” she held up the swimsuit feebly, then placed it over the back of a chair.
      “I got impatient,” he said with a smile. “It’s okay if you’re modest. I’m not.”
     Tuesday dipped into the water. She sat across from him, water up to her chest. With the movement from the jets, she wouldn’t have been able to tell he was naked, had she not known.
     She thought of Nancy’s encouragement and smiled.
     “I’m not modest,” she argued. “You didn’t play fair. You didn’t tell me we were skinny dipping.”
     “What would you have done?”
     Tuesday slipped out of her bathing suit top and placed it on the concrete next to the steps.. “You would’ve saved me all that time getting changed.”
     “Yeah?” He moved closer, sitting next to her. Tuesday’s heart began to beat faster, as he added, “We could’ve spent it getting to know each other.”
     “Mmhmm,” she agreed, closing her eyes as Zack began to kiss her neck. He pressed his hands against her back and easily drew her closer to him; soon their upper bodies were touching and she knew it was only a matter of time before she’d have to make a decision – stop him here? Take him inside?
      She didn’t want to make the decision, because she didn’t want this moment to end. There was something magnetic about Zack, she felt drawn to him, giddy with excitement as his hands touched her. She had never felt so eager to please.
     Suddenly, Tuesday heard the sliding glass door open and shut. She opened her eyes, taking her hands off Zack, confused. Who was home? How long had they been out there?
      “Andrew!” she exclaimed when she saw him. She stayed low in the water, eyeing her top laying on the patio. “What are you doing here?”
     “Doing here?” he repeated. “I came home and heard noise.”
     Tuesday frowned. Why was he acting so strange? She felt trapped in the Jacuzzi. She glanced at Zack.
     “Well, I’m going to fix something to eat,” Andrew said. “If you two want anything, come into the kitchen.”
      “Something must’ve gone badly at the bar,” Tuesday guessed. “Sorry about that.”
     “Hey, it’s not your fault,” Zack said, kissing her cheek. “I should go.”
      Tuesday’s heart sank, but she nodded.
     “Why don’t I pick you up in the morning? We can spend the day together.”
     Her spirit was lifted. “Sounds great.”
     She couldn’t help but watch him climb out of the water. She grinned. “See you tomorrow.”

     After Tuesday slipped inside to shower and change, she joined Andrew in the kitchen.
     “Was that guy naked?” Andrew said with a laugh, offering Tuesday some pasta salad.
     She shook her head regarding the food, and didn’t answer his question. Instead, she said, “I thought you and Nancy were staying out late.”
     “Nancy is,” Andrew replied, “but I didn’t really feel like it.”
      “Oh, because I thought she may have mentioned that I might be… here…”
     He smiled. “You thought I came home early to break up your party?”
      She looked down, shaking her head. It sounded so conceited. “No. I guess not.”
     Tuesday turned and went upstairs.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Adaptation Interview: Chris Keaton

In the past several weeks on SelfScribes, I've interviewed writers who have adapted their own writing into a different format, so it's only fitting to get the perspective of a writer who has worked with material written by someone else. Chris Keaton discovered Annemarie Bogart's short story What's Your Poison? and turned it into a short script, which has subsequently been made into a short film. Read on for my interview with Chris, as well as excerpts from the short script and short story. A link to the short film's website appears at the end of the post.

Q: How did you discover the short story What's Your Poison??

Chris Keaton: Honestly, I posted to a writing board on (Zoetrope.com) and asked if anyone wanted their short stories adapted. I received a few interested parties, frankly I got a lot. This was the one that I felt had the most potential for adaption. Almost everything works in a short story, but not everything works on the screen. For example budget is a big factor in films. A dragon spitting flames is perfectly fine in your short story, but would cost way to much for a short film. This story, once adapted, wouldn't cost the producer an arm and a leg.

Q: Do you have any personal connection to Annemarie Bogart? Are you a fan of her work?

CK: I never knew Annemarie until she sent me her story. She is very a talented writer.

Q: What did you like best about adapting the story?

CK: I like the challenge of converting an authors vision to a visual medium and adjusting the story to fit what is expected from a film.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of adapting?

CK: For me it is respecting the material. A lot of adaptations take far too many liberties with the source material. Often changes are required, but I want to make sure the tone and core of the story remains intact. If I can't do that I might as well write an original story.

Q: Which do you prefer: creating original stories or adapting?

CK: I enjoy both. They have their own challenges. With adaptations you must keep the core of the original work, add where needed to keep appropriate arcs and beats, while never losing that feel the original material gives you. 

Writer Bio: Chris Keaton is an Air Force veteran living with his wife and two daughters in sunny Arizona.  His main writing passion is screenwriting, but does love diving into prose. Several of his screenplays have been filmed. Currently he has two feature films in production. To learn more about Chris and his projects, check out his website: http://www.chris-keaton.com
Prolific Chris also has a novel soon to be released. Visit the promo site at http://www.themosaicnovel.com

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Chris's scene is an excellent example of the process of adapting. The script excerpt shows how Chris had to convey Brett's desperation to save Melanie, without saying so outright like in prose. Writers also have to make decisions when turning prose into dialogue. The "hefty sum" mentioned in the short story prose becomes the specific "two thousand dollars" in the script dialogue.

The excerpt from the short story (below the script scene) is the very beginning of the story. The writer has the ability to inform the reader about Melanie's health in the prose. However, a script must show, not tell, these details. Therefore, Chris added a scene before Brett visits the Chinese medicine shop that shows the doctor telling Brett that there's nothing more that modern medicine can do to help Melanie. Brett then takes a walk, which leads to this...

Excerpt from What's Your Poison? short script
by Chris Keaton

Please note: Any screenplay format that looks slightly "off", such as how the dialogue is centered, is due to limitations of the blog format,  not Chris's original script.


Brett shuffles off the busy main street down a side alley. The noise of the bustling city fades away.

He looks up at the sky his eyes red. Brett looks back down and notices a small chipped sign that hangs from rusted chains.

The sign reads ‘Chinese Herbals – Natural Healing.’ A small breeze swings the sign with a SQUEAK.

Below the sign is a picture window filled with jars and boxes of herbs and powders.

He peers into the shop, but he can’t see past the display.
Brett moves to the door, but hesitates. He reaches out.


The door swings open. Chimes TINKLE.

Candles placed around the cluttered space flicker from the breeze whipping through the open door.

Brett steps in and the door closes its chimes RING.

He shuffles along a shelf covered in jars. Each jar filled with various shapes. Painted in red on the jars is the items name in both Chinese characters and English. ‘Myrrh’,‘Eyebright’, ‘Mullein’, ‘Yarrow’, etc.

Brett’s lips tighten. He’s has no idea what he is doing.

A gravely voice startles him.

What’s your poison?

Brett turns from the shelf.

The OLD LADY (80s white) stands behind a wooden counter. Long white hair hangs over a flower patterned dress.

A black candle flickers odd shadows over her face.

She cocks her head to the side expecting a response and smiles.

Can I help?

Brett approaches with fear and desperation in his eyes.

Uh, I...

His mouth moves, but nothing comes out.

She smiles a semi-toothless grin.

Come closer, child. So, I can get a better
look at you.

Glaucoma clouds her eyes.

What’s your poison, son.
I know it’s hard.

Tears fill his eyes. He braces himself against the counter.

My wife... I want her to live. Please,
help me. I don’t want her to die.

She pats his hand. Her smile fades to a concerned frown.

Wait here.

She turns and disappears behind a red velvet curtain.

Brett sniffles, wipes his eyes, and straightens his shirt.

The old lady returns carrying an unlabeled mason jar.

Take this.

She hands him the container.

He examines the gelatinous sanguine-colored material. It swishes against the sides as he moves it.

That’s it? What is this stuff?

It’s a custom mix. I could tell you all
the ingredients, but I’m sure their names
would mean little to you.

Brett looks up with a question on his lips.

Yes, this is what will do what you wish.
Now, please, she must inhale the smoke
that emits from the jar.

The old lady reaches out.

Brett hands her the jar and she pantomimes the instructions.

Put a lighted match right into the liquid,
it will ignite, then place it under her

She sets the jar down.

What you asked, will then become a

Brett stares at the jar a moment. He nods.

OK, yes.

The old lady gestures to the cash register.

Two thousand dollars.

Brett looks back at the jar and then the old lady. She nods.

He pulls out his wallet. 

© Chris Keaton

#   #   #
Excerpt from What's Your Poison? short story
by Annemarie Bogart

 Brett looked up, the chipped sign dangled on rusted chains. It hit against the stucco wall off the building’s front. Herbs. He glanced into the wide-paned window but saw nothing past the jars piled inside. His red eyes brimmed with tears. He gripped the doorknob and pushed. Chimes sang in his ear. He entered the candlelit shop.
Mason jars filled with various shapes line the walls. Brett read the names printed in red calligraphy on the glass containers. Mhyrr. Eyebright. Mullein. Yarrow. He had no idea what these things were.

“What’s your poison?”
The graveled voice startled him. Brett turned from the display and faced the voice. An old woman hunched behind the wooden counter. Her white hair hung down her flowered dress. A black candle flickered close to her face. The deep lines around her eyes deepened. Her head cocked to one side, ready for a response.
He wasn’t sure he had one.
Coming to this place had been his last resort. The doctors gave up long ago. They had told him Melanie had only a week or so left. By the looks of her feeble body, he believed them. Thing is, he couldn’t let go. A twenty-five year old shouldn’t be given their check-out papers, not this way. Brett refused to let her go until every avenue was explored. After mediums, massage therapists, steam counselors, holistic doctors, and every other kook known to the desperate, the map ended here. This small shop suggested by a friend of a friend.
“Uh, I…”
Brett tried to practice his speech before coming, but it never sounded right in his head. He didn’t trust his voice not to crack and himself not to break down in sobs.
“Come closer, child. So, I can get a better look at you.”
Brett walked towards the elderly woman, she sounded so kind.
Glaucoma clouded her eyes. Her thin lips curved into a smile accentuating her lack of front teeth.
“What’s your poison, son. I know it’s hard.”
Brett felt the first tear fall before he could hold it in check.
After that initial drop, the rest followed unguarded.
“My wife…I want her to live. Please, help me. I don’t want her to die.”
Brett managed to get the words out between sobs.
The old lady patted his hand. Her smile turned down into a concerned frown.
“Wait here.”

She turned from Brett and walked into the back room concealed by a red velvet-like curtain.
Brett tried to compose himself before she returned. He hated the way his emotions controlled him these days. He prided himself on keeping himself in check; never let them see you sweat. Ever since the doctors diagnosed Melanie with cancer last year, his self-importance dissolved. His only thoughts remained with his wife.
She returned. In her hands, she carried a mason jar like the others on the shop shelves. No label adorned this jar.
“Take this. Burn its contents, let the fumes waft under your wife’s nose.”
“That’s it? What is that stuff?”
The gelatinous sanguine-colored material swished against the sides of the glass when she lay it down on the  counter,
“It’s a custom mix. I could tell you all the ingredients, but I’m sure their names would mean little to you. Yes, this is what will do what you wish. Now, please, she must inhale the smoke that emits from the jars. Put a lighted match right into the liquid, it will ignite, then place it under here nose. What you asked, will then become a reality.”
Brett stared at the jar. Although it seemed too good to be true, he reasoned there simply was no other choice. After paying a hefty sum, he thanked the old woman and left the shop. Expectations of the concoction’s effectiveness drifted through his head.

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Visit the film's website here