Kathryn Graham: ‘You’re No Hemingway’

by Kathryn Graham

When I was a freshman at Marist College, I was deeply insecure about my writing.

I didn’t trust the people I knew who said I had talent. Of course they did, I thought, they loved me. They were hopelessly biased (hi mom!), and even if they wanted to be objective, they never could be.

I needed real answers. A psychic. A guru. I didn’t want to pour my time, my heart, my agony into something that was going to amount to nothing more than ‘personal growth’ (yuck, who needs that?)

So I looked for another, more impartial judge. I went to the Writing Lab.

The Writing Lab’s main purpose is to help students who have trouble writing papers or need an extra set of eyes on an assignment. It is not to be the arbiter of skill or to encourage young writers. But I didn’t know where else to turn.

The man on duty that day was a greying older gentleman. I don’t recall his name. I handed him some poems, short stories, some semi-fanfiction. At the time, I rarely wrote without being motivated by class assignments.

I’m sure that he was expecting to help people construct a simple paragraph that day, not to hold the dreams of a kid in his hands. This wasn’t something he was prepared to answer, and he was deeply uncomfortable. I pressed him anyway.

Did I have talent? Could I be a professional writer?

His verdict: “It’s no Hemingway.”

I admit what I gave him wasn’t the best writing in the universe. I was eighteen years old. I always had potential, but I needed a lot more work, more guidance, more learning. You know, education.

Still, he could have encouraged me to seek out someone who could help me improve. He could said ‘I see potential here’ even if he saw none. He could have at least commented on the fact that I could write in complete sentences.

Instead, he broke my heart.

I never should have asked him. It was stupid. I know that. It didn’t stop me from carrying that around like a ‘shard of glass’ that cuts me even now. That’s the problem with ‘knowing’ something in your mind. It doesn’t always communicate well to your heart.

Instead of giving me the validation that I craved, he inflicted on me the wound I’d asked for. I gave this random guy in the Marist College Writing Lab the edict of the gods, and he had found me lacking.

I’ve never read Hemingway. Or if I had, it hasn’t stuck with me. This certainly didn’t motivate me to start.

Fifteen years later, in an interesting twist, my dad setup a new writing laptop for me and named it “Hemingway”. I feel like there’s a message here, but I don’t know what it is.

I want to say something inspiring, like: I didn’t let him stop me! But, I kind of did. At the very least, I let him slow me down. This guy whose name I don’t even remember. This guy who didn’t deserve the power I gave him.

I’m not Hemingway. I don’t want to be. But I’m still here, still writing, still hurting, still starting and stopping, and going slower than I’d like. Still wondering if I’ll find an audience – a genuine human connection – and a career that I ‘wouldn’t trade for the world’.

In the end, I’m not that much different than that insecure kid now. I just have more help to push past it. I hope one day I forget all about it. Maybe it’ll never go away, and that’s all I can do. Take it and keep going, no matter how bad it feels.

For me, it at least reminds me to take extra care to be kind when someone presents me a piece of their soul. It’s the least I can do.

NOTE FROM LB: For the record, Kate, from my keyboard to your eyes: Hemingway sucks. Just another moderately talented show off who parlayed his ability to make his life sound like one God would’ve wanted to lead into a highly overrated literary career. If I told you, “You’re no Hemingway,” I’d mean it as a compliment.

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB: So I think I will. Congratulations, Kate! You’re no Hemingway!


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

Kate G Sees ‘Runaways’

I was supposed to watch and review Extinct, but the pilot was so difficult to get through that I’m not inclined to watch a second episode, so… Runaways.

Runaways is about a group of teenagers who discover their parents are participating in a secret, possibly evil cult. As they work to uncover the truth, they each manifest special talents or abilities.

Spoilers below.

Really.

We mean it.

Well, okay, since you’re still here:

This show enjoys subverting your expectations. They’ll place a stereotypical character in front of you, then, somewhere down the line, you’ll realize that no one is who they seem. I appreciate this, applaud it even, but it takes a damn. long. time.

The first book of Mavel’s Runways comic (actually a thick hardback book) finished up everything that’s still going on in the show – and we’re seven episodes in. Apparently, I have no patience whatsoever. For perspective: I have put down many shows I ended up loving later on. The only reason I picked them up again was at the urging of my friends. I’m your worst nightmare as a viewer. I’m that person who’s done with you within ten minutes.

Anyway, if you’ve never read the comics: know that everything is being done purposefully.

If you were a fan of the comics, then there’s a lot to love, as it it’s a fairly faithful adaptation that explores everything and everyone in more depth.

This is a show whose cast is quite diverse (as the source material dictates), and on that note, the casting is spot on. Between the acting and the writing, the actors embody teenagers perfectly. I am less interested in their parents, who they go into in more depth than in the comics, but they are starting to grow on me. Plus, one of them is James Marsters from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I didn’t even recognize him until I saw his name in the credits.

I appreciate that we are encouraged to misjudge people, and the slow burn is probably actually a good thing, despite my impatience.

The one character that gets on my nerves is Gert. Firstly, she’s not overweight in the show when she clearly was in the comics. Yes, yes, I know, what’s the big deal, but if you’re going to be authentic with the rest of your cast, why not with Gert too? The actress does a great job with the character, but it’s a risky choice to have such a thin actress playing her. Mainly because it reinforces ‘this person is overweight’ when she’s really not.

But the reason that Gert truly annoys the hell out of me is that she’s too realistic. She’s a ‘social justice warrior’ in the worst sense of the phrase, brandishing her knowledge base as a weapon in inappropriate situations. Using her education to soothe her insecurities. Lashing out at others who don’t fundamentally disagree with her.

Gert starts a group to ‘take down the patriarchy’, then spends her time tearing into her ‘friend’ Karolina’s ‘perfect pretty blonde’ persona because of her jealousy. Gert knows what feminists look like, and they look like her, dammit. Gert uses important social justice issues as a shield for her own feelings, and in doing so, cheapens the causes she claims to care about. God, I hate it. I know too many people who have done this.

But, I do trust this show. So there should be a point where she gets called out on this behavior. If you watch the show, and that happens, imagine me cheering. Hopefully, after that, Gert will turn into a character I can actually like (because I did in the comics).

Do I recommend Runaways? I do, actually. I think there’s a lot of potential here. The main characters are very much teenagers, so you’ll either have to like or appreciate that to like this show, but, all in all, I think it’s worth continuing.

Side note: Runaways also goes to show that the teacher who reviewed my script (not LB) was wrong when he said: “Audiences will accept witches or aliens, but not both.” Nope. Wrong. Bite me, teach.

NOTE FROM LB: Damn right that wasn’t me spouting traditionally spurious TV-exec-thought. You heard Kate, whoever you are. Start, um, biting!


Kate G AKA Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

The Best and Worst Writing Career Advice I Ever Got

by Kathryn Graham

The best and worst advice I ever got was that if I wrote an amazing script, the world would sit up and take notice. All I have to do is perfect my craft et voila! Success! My genius script will get me in the door based on the quality of the writing alone.

It’s the best advice because it focused my attention where it needed to be: on my work.

It’s the worst advice because it’s not true.

It’s dangerous to believe that ‘if you build it, they will come’. It’s dangerous to believe that if your script is ‘undeniably good’ that you’ll be rewarded (and by the way, someone will deny it’s worth anything). Because inevitably, then, when you have not won thousands in script writing contest swag, have not landed an agent, and are not enjoying a rocket ship ride to fame and fortune, you begin to think that your work is not worthwhile.

This. Is. Not. True.

The value of your work does not change depending on whether or not other people appreciate it.

Do you love Game of Thrones? Most people I know do. I don’t. I haven’t been able to get into it. Does this mean that 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, or 90% of my friggin’ facebook feed, or shelves of Emmys are right? No. Does it mean I’m right because I’m not a ‘sheeple’ and I ‘know what good art is’?

Yes. Wait, I mean, no.

Others like it, and I don’t. That’s it.

Let’s try another one. Twilight. I never read it. If you’re rolling your eyes and groaning right now, I’m going to bet you didn’t either. You just know it’s fashionable to hate it. But it had a huge audience. You know what it is, don’t you? Does that mean it’s more valuable or viable or even ‘well-written’ story than a self-published book laboring in obscurity?

More than that, is your opinion so important that you can dictate what is and isn’t an important work?  You get the idea.

Applying this to your own work will prevent you from taking rejection as an indictment of your work or worse: of you as a person.

The truth is there are probably a lot of reasons why someone else’s work was chosen for a contest or a fellowship or to get produced and yours wasn’t. Maybe you do have some growing to do. Maybe not. There are too many factors that go into choosing these things.

For Hollywood in particular, your writing is secondary to who you know (more on that at another time).

Let’s say, though, in the fantasy we all want to live in, that you enter a script-writing contest that’s completely blind. That no one’s looking for a ‘basically established’ writer. No one’s counting how many times you’ve entered. No one’s got a connection to a person who’s judging.

It is still literally impossible for Hollywood to be a meritocracy because art, by its nature, is subjective.

I entered a contest recently and someone gave me feedback that sounded like they were making checkmarks on a “Save the Cat” worksheet. I’m not going to place in that contest (whether I agree or not) but they revealed something important: their criteria.

Now I know that what they’re looking for boils down to: “Well, there’s no cat in this script, so… Good start. Needs a cat, though. kthx!”

Does having a cat in my script make it exponentially better? Eh. Only I – and people whose opinions I respect – can decide that.

The kicker? People are more comfortable with what they know ‘works’. What’s ‘must have!’ in scripts today won’t be a few years from now. So not only can their criteria be arbitrary, they can also change over time.

Then suddenly your story that’s about space-traveling dogs is the next best thing — even without a single cat!

But when it comes to this contest, I either bite my tongue and put a damn cat in the script or I throw the cat through the ceiling and take my brilliance elsewhere.

Because not hitting the mark for a contest or a producer or an agent does not mean you don’t have the chops. Conversely, it’s not always true that if you made it in, you’re better than people who haven’t.

Remember that all of the major publishing houses passed on Harry Potter. Some are probably kicking themselves while others are shrugging and saying: It wasn’t the right fit for us. Harry Potter hasn’t changed. Only the response has.


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

Kathryn Graham Conquers ‘The Voice.’ Almost.

OMG! It’s THE VOICE stage. Squee!

by Kathryn Graham

Who’s been on the stage of The Voice? Supremely talented singers… and this idiot.

Yeah, that’s right, me.

We had a Lip Sync Battle at the Big Name That Shall Not Be Named Here TV and Film Studio where The Voice is shot and also where I work. I signed up solo for P!nk’s F**kin’ Perfect, thinking I could get a routine done in time before the contest. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

So what happens is, I mix up the dates, and then suddenly: Oh, the contest is tomorrow. Also, if you want to get costumes from the wardrobe department, you need to make an appointment and go there. The day comes and I’m replaying the song on my way into the office for forty minutes. I’m running around wardrobe an hour before I have to go on stage, still thinking to myself: Do I really want to do this? I should cancel. I have nothing prepared. Fucking perfect.

Not quite stardom but, you know, baby steps

Even as I was standing backstage waiting for a hairy fella in an evening gown to finish “Dreaming” by Selena, I was debating turning back.

Then, a funny thing happens. I decide to do it anyway. My reasoning goes thus: How many chances do I have to be on the stage of The Voice? How big of a fool can I really make of myself? We’re all going to die one day anyway, so fuck it.

I don’t have a full routine. I have a couple things I’d come up with on the commute and some moves from my newfound love of Dance Central. I get called onto the stage by two hosts trying so hard to figure out how to announce the name of the song without saying “the f-word”.

I practiced F**kin’ Perfect using the explicit lyrics, thinking: If they don’t let me use the explicit version, how hard is it to remember to go “less than, less than perfect” rather than “less than fucking perfect”? Turns out pretty hard. I mouth “fuckin’ perfect” every time.

Some bigwigs I don’t know from the company are judging from those rotating chairs (but they didn’t get to rotate, since it’s lip syncing, that’d be pretty stupid). Three women and a dude. All three women stared at me like… What. The. Fuck. The guy? He looks like a sandy-haired dad from an eighties sitcom, and he’s smiling. Lots.

So I focus on dad because a) he’s super encouraging and b) my other choice are three gorgons who’ll just turn me to stone. And the stage is a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and I just did the same move like eight times, and my mouth is dry, but… Then there’s a big cheer from the stands. It’s a group from IT dressed as construction workers. And suddenly, it’s fun again. I’m relaxing, and I’m doing better at this. Like, fuck yeah, construction team. You feel me. You were up here like goddamn gladiators. I salute you!

I think they won first place. So much love to IT.

Co-workers ready to battle it out for fame & glory

It was by no means a fantastic performance. I didn’t get into the finals. If I had more time, I know I could have done better, but that’s not how it worked out this time. But I’m infinitely happier that I went up there than if I had backed down because I wasn’t prepared. I had nothing to lose. I just had to get my dumb ass on stage and start dancing.

And this guy in this awful photo backstage? He’s my co-worker. He went on after me, and he made it into the finals. He was so confident I’d make it into the finals while I prayed I didn’t (and kind of thought it’d be nice to be there at the same time).

That smiley judge? He stopped me on his way to the elevator and said I was great. I don’t believe either of them for a second. I was objectively awful, but it’s endearing of them both to say so.

Plus I got to run through wardrobe and get dressed by a ‘mean lady’ who was actually pretty awesome? Like I kind of want to work in wardrobe just to be subjected to this biting wit daily?

This isn’t something I probably would have done years ago, and I’m really happy with the me that can get on stage and just dance already, even if it’s not even close to f-word perfect.

(That’s the song link up there, er, warnings if you go to watch it? But Mac from Veronica Mars is in it, and the song is awesome.)

“Pretty, pretty, please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than fucking perfect
Pretty, pretty, please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothing. You’re fucking perfect to me”


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

Netflix Canceled Sense8, So I Tried to Watch It

by Kathryn Graham

As you may have heard, Netflix is cancelling Sense8. Netflix bid them a fond farewell and sent a show with lots of LGBT and people of color packing right at the start of Pride Month.

Hey, Netflix: I know you probably didn’t do that on purpose, but not great timing guys. Just saying.

Sense8 is one of those shows I had meant to get around to eventually. Once I heard it was cancelled, I went full bore into the first season… and only got through the sixth episode.

Now, having seen the show, I can’t say I’m surprised about the cancellation. Here’s the thing with Sense8 at the onset: it’s Heroes but without deep or endearing characters. You know there’s more going on here. You know that the main characters are connected, you’re just not sure how exactly. But it suffers from Heroes’ incredibly slow pacing, and I think that’s ultimately what kills it.

The first six episodes are basically backstory on all of the characters, but the backstories don’t have much to them. An Indian woman is getting married to a guy everyone thinks she loves, but she doesn’t love him. A Korean woman is smarter and better than her brother, but since she is a girl, he gets to take over the company. A transwoman has an unaccepting family, but a great girlfriend. In Heroes, we got to at least watch Claire jump off buildings and run through fire. We saw Hiro time-travel. In Sense8, we see wedding preparation.

Structurally, it’s a lot more like a six hour movie than a television show. Stories progress, but since there are eight of them, plot points that should have taken less than half an episode to get to take literally five episodes to occur.

That’s the other thing about Sense8. It has a lot of different characters, and they are a diverse bunch from all over the world, but the lack of depth destroys my caring about any of them. I also don’t know why they’re connected (which is fine), but when they do cross each others’ paths, it doesn’t seem purposeful. That said…

I think that if I could hang on longer, I might be treated to a show that I really enjoy. That’s what happened with Heroes, and that is a possibility here with Sense8. On the other hand, this is entertainment, and slogging through hours to get to the good stuff is a lot to ask. (Especially with no guarantee there is good stuff coming.)

I know a lot of people are upset that a show that represents LGBT folk and people of color is getting cancelled. I get that. But I don’t wish Sense8 would continue, I wish we didn’t have to put so much weight on every show that throws us a bone.

According to the creators, though, they had a wide and heterogeneous audience, and the exact reason why they were cancelled still remains a mystery. If you’re a fan I invite you to go sign the petition to bring it back. Then tell me why you love the show. I may even go back and watch more if you do.

 

Edit: Looks like Netflix isn’t having any of the petition stuff. Sorry Sense8 fans.


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE