LB: “We Are All Writers”

by Larry Brody

In her home town of Hong Kong, Shiela Cancino is a special sort of “rock star.” Businesswoman, activist, toastmaster, author, poet, lyricist, you name it, and if it has to do with moving words and positive values, Shiela does it, and does it very well.

I feel a special closeness to Shiela because she’s also a former student of TVWriter University (in a super cool Special Master Class and was co-director of a Hong Kong spinoff of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. (Some of you may remember that name, yeah?)

I met Shiela when I was a judge at a Hong Kong song writing competition, which she won. Recently, she sent me a copy of her latest song, which I’m proud to share here.


WE ARE ALL WRITERS

Lyrics by Shiela Cancino
Music by Franniel Music
Performed by Franniel Music

Shiela’s YouTube Channel

 

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #63 – “The Luminous Ordinary”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

When it comes to real life, I’m late to the party.

I lived the first part of my life—my childhood—with books. Well, mostly in them. And in television and films, losing myself in the fantasies and paying little to no attention to what went on around me.

I lived the second part of my life—most of my adult years—with books and television and film too, but by this point I no longer was the audience. I was a creator.

This was a stranger existence than it may seem. Because as a union card-carrying member of show business, I lived in what was, for all practical purposes, a bubble. I was in the in-crowd, and, as the old song says, “We got our own way of walkin’, yeah, yeah. Our own way of talkin’, yeah, yeah.”

In fact, show business is its own world, with its own leaders to please, peers to hang with, and subordinates to scream at. It’s own values and beliefs.

(Such as: “It’s okay for me to ignore my family and make them miserable. There’re only four of them, and I’m bringing happiness to millions!”)

Even the dark side of showbiz is unique. Men and women in the showbiz world aren’t punished by being slapped upside the head but by being harangued.

It’s all about hurt feelings, not flesh. And instead of ambushing enemies and killing them, the bad guys get together and fire ‘em. “You’ll never get a phone call in this town again!”

You know, like being thrown out of cult. It seems like death, but that’s only because you’ve never experienced the real thing.

In the early 1990s, after many years of showbiz-bubble-cult life, I knew I had to get out. That if I didn’t I’d forever be part of a community where a plastic surgeon who could give a tight tummy tuck was more highly respected than a researcher closing in on the cure for the big C.

Off I went, driving to I wasn’t sure where, with my dog (I called her the Navajo Dog because I’d found her on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona) and my drums and my comic book collection.

Forty-five years old and bringing Captain America and Spider-Man with me wherever I went. And never thinking about it twice. I didn’t have to worry about letting out my “inner child.” My problem was finding a way to put him back in his place.

Amazingly, I’d never before been alone. As in responsible for myself with no support troops nearby. No agent. No assistant. No wife. No one to lean on or consult with. Or hide behind.

Oh, and no job. No investments.

No income.

As I barreled down the I-40 I saw a hawk soar through the sky after another, smaller bird. The hawk dove directly at its prey…and missed. I couldn’t hear anything but the radio playing inside the car, but I knew the hawk was screeching its frustration.

And its message as well: To live free means risk. You’re free to celebrate…or to starve.

Sure, you already know that. Everyone knows that. It’s part of life.

But all I knew was fantasy. Pretend. The moment that hawk missed its meal—that was the true moment of my birth.

My initiation into the truth of real life.

Its uncertainty. Its risk.

I loved it! Couldn’t imagine why I’d spent so long hiding.

Still can’t.

I love being out here in the real world, where the fight for survival never ends. Where moments of triumph and joy go hand in hand, where being kicked in the teeth is its own reason to pick yourself up off the ground and get back in the game.

I bring all this up because recently I received an e-mail from a reader whose work and life I respect. And who seems to understand what I’m doing writing this column better than I do. She wrote:

“By focusing on the Luminous Ordinary, you are able to craft Extraordinary tales of wisdom and grace.”

I’m grateful for the praise, but it embarrasses me.

Yes, I do believe the “ordinary” is luminous, as in filled with meaning and light. But I’ll go to my death clueless about any wisdom or grace attached to the stories I tell.

All I know about them is they come straight from my heart.

And are aimed—sometimes with more certainty or skill and sometimes with less—straight at yours.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #62 – “Memories of the Rich and Strange”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

The more I think I’ve got people figured out, the more wrong I learn I’ve been.

The latest example of my ability to misjudge just about anyone is the Old Billionaire. When we got together he seemed to be a smart, sane, practical old boy. I liked him, and as things turned out he liked me.

Which each had different reasons for our reactions. I was impressed with the fact that although the Old Billionaire was polite and unassuming, he also was fast and agile as all get out when it came sizing up situations, seeing patterns, and knowing how to deal with what he sized up and saw.

And all with a country boy quip and a smile.

As for why he liked me, near the end of the lunch we’d had he let me know.

“You’re a smart man,” the Old Billionaire said, “because you’ve learned not to want anything from anybody.

“The problem with wanting something from somebody,” he went on, “is that it makes you change from who you are to whoever you think you’ve got to be in order to get it. And the minute you do that you’ve self-destructed. You’re like nothing but a ghost…even if the people you wanted something from don’t ever come through.”

All I’d done before the old boy said this was tell him how I felt. See what I mean about his ability to analyze things?

Last night, though, I discovered another side of the Old Billionaire. He called the house as I was helping Gwen the Beautiful wash the dinner dishes.

“Hey,” the Old Billionaire said. “I’ve been reading your column.”

“And?” I said, fishing for a compliment or three.

“And we’ve got to talk.”

“You sound serious.”

“I am serious,” the Old Billionaire said. “What you wrote a few weeks ago about strange experiences? I’ve got some.”

“Really? That’s great. Tell me what they are.”

“They don’t feel great. They scare the heels right off of my boots.”

He stopped for a moment. I turned off the water and took the phone out on the front porch. I do as much of my telephone talking there as I can because it feels so good to be outside sitting on the big swing.

The Old Billionaire was talking again. “Know what you wrote about knowing you’ve got money in your pocket but not finding it there? Well, I keep meeting people I know’re dead. Except they’re alive.”

Now I was the quiet one. “Told you it was scary,” the Old Billionaire said. “I was just in Louisiana discussing a rebuilding project, and know who they introduced me to? Fats Domino! I almost fell off my chair ‘cause I know I read his death notice about a year ago. I can see the newspaper page right in front of me now.

“Then there’s this actress. Old lady. I forget her name, but she was on that show Golden Girls. Played the mother. I turned on TV last week and there she was, reminiscing. I remembered seeing her on a show like that a few months ago. They were talking about her life because she’d just died.

“There’re more. Lots more. Like Justice Rehnquist. When I saw he’d died I was really surprised. ‘Cause I remembered being at his funeral three years ago!”

I realized the Old Billionaire was waiting for me. That although it went against the grain, he wanted something from somebody. He wanted a response.

“You think there’s something wrong with your memory? Is that what scares you?” I said.

“No,” he said. “Not at all. My memory’s fine. I think there’s something wrong with the world. I think it’s one big computer—that’s not keeping track of everything anymore. Bad memory chips. A virus. Something’s got it down.

“What scares me,” said the Old Billionaire, “isn’t that I’ll forget the planet, it’s that the planet will forget me.”

I’ve been thinking all day about what the Old Billionaire said. Wondering how he’d size up the opposite situation—a certain old boy up on a mountain who keeps finding out that folks he thought were very much alive, like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and my old neighbor George C. Scott, are long gone.

I still think the Old Billionaire is smart, sane, and practical…and very much alive. And I like him even more now because I know he’s also something else.

He’s a lot like me.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #61 – “Vacation Cows…?”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Although Gwen the Beautiful and I live in Paradise, it’s not much of a vacation spot. Our slice of heaven is home to hard-working men and women trying to make ends meet. When they want to relax and have fun they head out of town.

Last weekend Gwen and I decided to dive into the tourist season and hang awhile at the home of our friend Sharon, who lives on the outskirts of the nearby holiday haven called Eureka Springs.

A hilly, Nineteenth-Century Victorian town that looks the way San Francisco would if San Francisco hadn’t grown up, Eureka Springs is all about festivals and art.

There are music festivals. Film festivals. Classic car rallies. Motorcycle shows. Even canoe extravaganzas. If you can celebrate it, Eureka Springs will schedule a weekend for you to celebrate it in.

The art comes in a million different varieties too. Folk art. Southwestern art. Modern art. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics—you name it and it’s showing in a gallery in the historic part of town.

Sharon’s gallery sells South American weavings. As it turned out, she wasn’t going to be home because she had to go to Ecuador on a buying trip. She told us where the key was hidden, though, and we still didn’t lack for company because another friend decided to come along.

Our dog Emmy, who bulled her way into the truck as we were packing it up, and refused to be left behind with the other Cloud Creek animals in Burl Jr. the New Caretaker’s excellent care.

“If she wants to come with us that badly let’s take her,” Gwen the Beautiful said.

“If she comes with us we won’t be able to do nearly as much nothing as we intend to,” I pointed out.

“And if I’m feeling bad about how bad she’s feeling back home do you think it’ll be any better?”

And that was that. Gwen, Emmy, and I rolled onto Sharon’s property early in the afternoon and settled into the cozy cottage. Gwen and I had dinner at Sparky’s, a great local hang-out. Then it was back to our vacation retreat, where we slept soundly—

Until about five in the morning. When Emmy jumped off the bed and began barking. She raced downstairs, going from window to window. Growing more and more frantic.

I grumbled.

Then I groaned.

Finally, I got up to see what the noise was all about. I looked outside.

And saw a heifer.

Another heifer.

Half a dozen more. Moseying through Sharon’s flowerbed. Grazing on her previously immaculate front lawn.

“Uh, Gwen? I think we’ve got a problem here.”

Now it was Gwen doing the groaning. I realized she was muttering some words: “The neighbor’s phone number’s on the kitchen wall. Sharon said if there was a problem to call there.”

Call I did, and a wide-awake woman’s voice answered. I told her where I was, why I was there, and why I was calling.

“Hold on,” she said. And, after a moment: “You’re right. We’re missing about half a dozen head. They’re pets, you know. Haven’t got the heart to raise anything for sale. I’ll come fetch them right away.”

I hung up. Went to the front door, opening it to get a better look.

And Emmy pushed past me like a flash. She stopped on the porch for a second, grinning like the happiest kid at a party, then barked and gave chase. The cattle practically flew into the woods, Emmy in gleeful pursuit.

I called the neighbor again to say her pets were heading back her way. Then I went outside and called Emmy.

No answer.

I called her again.

Nothing.

The city boy in me started worrying. We were on strange turf. Would Emmy be able to find her way back? What if she got lost? I remembered other losses, and felt my chest knot.

Then I glanced over at the flowerbed. There lay the dog, merrily rolling in what the cattle had left behind.

Unexpected lessons arise constantly in life, and one came to me that morning. I wrote recently about Gwen’s loss of eyesight. I learned something new about human beings and our eyes that morning in Eureka Springs.

It’s something I could swear I heard Emmy say as she gave me a wink. “Gotta keep your eyes open, bud. Seeing doesn’t help if you forget to look.”

Larry Brody: Of Cabbages & Kings & PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019

People's Pilot 2019

by Larry Brody

As many of you already know, PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 opened for entries back on June 1st, and fortune smiled upon us.

As the old-time showbiz trade press might’ve put it, we had a boffo opening weekend, the highest-grossing in the history of TVWriter™ and PEOPLE’S PILOT.

Since then, entries have held steady, and we could be heading for our biggest year in the twenty year history of PEOPLE’S PILOT. We’re a boutique competition, so I’m not talking about thousands of competitors here – nowhere near that, in fact – but seeing the curve go up a bit definitely brings a smile to my face.

The whole “boutique competition” thing has always been something I’m proud of. We’ve deliberately kept PEOPLE’S PILOT lowkey – with little outside advertising and no paid advertising as all – because I’ve always believed that regular TVWriter™ visitors should come first.

A few years ago, though, we brought on a new SEO – that’s marketing, in non-interwebspeak – consultant because I got this weird idea that maybe TVWriter™ should try to actually make a little money. Maybe even turn a profit.

Our SEO Lady is a whiz, truly brilliant when it comes to finding ways to turn unexpected things into moolah, and I put my toe in the water of change.

Ms. SEO’s research had showed that a lot of people hadn’t entered PEOPLE’S PILOT in the past because – of course – we hadn’t spread the word all over the web – and also because we hadn’t been charging a high enough entry fee. She said the $40 fee we’d been asking since the year 2000 made TVWriter™ look “penny ante” and cast doubt on the contest’s validity.

She also showed me how many, probably most, writing contests used tier-priced entry fees, increasing the cost of entering as the end of the submission period approached, and how they also used outside entry sites and lots of paid email blasts to get the word out to more potential entrants. And flash sales! My God, that woman loves flash sales.

I knew Ms. SEO was an expert and that not following her advice meant I was wasting an important resource – her – and a lot of time – my time as well as hers. Because we were trading expertise and experience one each other’s projects instead of slapping each other’s bank accounts with that green stuff so many fools are so soon parted with.

I decided to give a few of her suggestions a try.

I started by raising the submission fee to $50 and trading email blasts with some other writing and intellectual property sites and also listing the PP on a few sites that carry such listings. I also added some special discounts.

The email blasts didn’t accomplish much, and neither did the outside listings. The $50, on the other hand, didn’t seem to scare anyone away, so last year I went a little further and added an outside entry site – FilmFreeway – as a secondary entry path for PP 2018. And I did the flash sale thing a few times.

The flash sales were wonderful. They definitely garnered more entries. FilmFreeway was wonderful too. Through FF we not got more PEOPLE’S PILOT entries, we also got a host of new visitors to TVWriter™. (Hi, newbies, glad you’re still here.)

This year I changed the special discounts around a bit and finally went with Ms. SEO’s pet technique, the tier-priced entry fee thing, adding five bucks a month to the submission price, and there’s no sign that we’re taking any kind of hit as a result…

But I just haven’t been feeling right. Instead of concentrating on the entrants’creativity and enjoying what all of us here at TVWriter™ have been doing for them, I’ve been focusing on increasing our income.

And for me, messing with money just ain’t no fun at all. If I wanted to dedicate myself to the symbol of money and that for which those dollars stand, I would have kept writing and showrunning and arguing with execs and agents, and, well, with everybody. (Because that’s what I did back in the day. I wrote a lot, to be sure, but arguing was the biggest part of the job.)

I look out at the world from my little – very little – forest enclave, and I see things crumbling apart. The earth is burning, my fellow Americans are at each other’s throats, the middle class is history, and society and psyches everywhere are shattered.

Sorry, Ms. SEO, but I just can’t take pride in marketing success.

TVWriter™ and PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 and I are here because I got lucky and achieved not just everything I dreamed of, but more than I’d ever had the chutzpah to dream of.

And the reason we’re here is because I want to help others, oh so many others, achieve their dreams too. I want to help as many people as possible attain the personal power and mastery of their creative craft and immerse themselves in lives of joy and fulfillment.

To do that, to increase the impetus, I’m rolling back PEOPLE’S PILOT’s Official Entry Fee price to $40.

Forty fucking bucks, kids, with no tiered pricing, the same price we charged way back in 2000, right around the time so many of you were kids whose dreams hadn’t yet become distorted by reality’s light.

That’s the price I’m putting up on the PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 website right now.

And it’ll be there till PP 2019 closes at Midnight, November 1st, 2019.

No more monthly increases.

No paid-for eblasts or ads on other sites to bring in strangers to our little storytelling campfire here.

But more flash sales. Absolutely.

And, if after PP 2019 is over, we do find ourselves with more entry fee dollars than before, more prize money spread among more top finishers, if not for this year’s contest, then definitely next time around.

Uh-oh, almost forgot. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. Ms. SEO is a fine person and good friend, and I appreciate all the input she’s given me. In fact, to show my appreciation, I’m using an idea of hers that I’ve been rejecting since we first met.

Never mind that forty buck price. I’m going to practice good old tried and true – and corny as hell – SEO pricing.  As of right this minute, the revised Official Entry Price is…

How many of you know what’s coming?

$39.95 per entry.

A steal, amIright?

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 IS HERE

Sponsored By

MANNER MOVIE LIMITED