Happy 50, Jamie!

IMG_0001Today I turn 50, and while I’m certainly taller now, some things don’t change. I still love kids, dogs, and blankies. I still actually have this afghan that my grandma crocheted about 90 years ago in that awesome 60s color combo.

I recognize that it’s quasi-culturally unacceptable to celebrate your own birth publically in a blog, but it wouldn’t be the first time I turned my head on the norm. That happens more and more the closer I get to 100.

I love birthdays–other people’s and my own–because they mark the day we decided to show up to this amazing adventure. I feel like it’s only right to celebrate each physical moment we have here on earth, be utterly grateful for the day it started…to grow, to stretch, to soak up each sunrise and sunset, to serve others and by so doing, serve ourselves most fully. So between the happy birthday phone calls, I will shamelessly hum the birthday song to myself all day long, not in an egoic kind of way, but in a grateful to have dropped by kind of way.

On the writing front, I had a great conversation with my friend Lois last week. We met at my first SCBWI meeting in a classroom inside Pacific Palisades’ Lutheran church where Lin Oliver did a workshop on humor. I liked her right away, better than anybody in the room, and we’ve been friends ever since– through moves, kids, through writing triumphs and challenges. Lois has many talents, but one I’ve always admired is her allegiance to daily writing schedule during first draft stage on novels. I can drag it out, distracted by life and a myriad of legitimate excuses. My first novel took me a year for a first draft, and 3 for one million (exactly–I counted) revisions.

But with the way the stars are lined up right now, and the shift I feel in my own patterning, we set a goal: I will do something on my current novel every day, even if that’s simply to open the document. It’s just time to establish a good first draft habit. (I will be on blog break next week while my hubby and I celebrate, but I will take my laptop and I will AT LEAST OPEN my document every day!)

The first night I started my new habit I went up to my desk (since it was not my carpool turn) and opened the document. I heard the kids get in the car and take off, knowing I had a solid 2.5 hours before they’d be back and hungry for 10pm after-practice tacos. In what seemed like 5 minutes, I heard something outside the office window. They were back. I seriously thought they’d forgotten something. I looked down at the time. It was 9:40! I’d lost all track of time. I remembered–that’s why I love writing. I lose myself there, like in the garden when I’m playing in the dirt and time stands still.

So far, 100% success for the week! Thank you, Lois, for always being there for me, letting me be there for you, and sharing this writer’s journey which is full of so many twists and turns. It’s friends like you that make it so much more fun to live on this planet and travel this journey.

With this goal, even today–between my Cyntergy class, massage appointment, humming the birthday song, and family dinner–I WILL open Intuition. The end.

Trade Secrets

images (4)I’m inspired, intrigued, and aggravated when I listen to other writers discuss how they draft a novel. This is especially true–on all counts–if they’re really experienced and well-published. Somehow, it seems they may hold the keys to the Kingdom of Demystifcation, the magic place writers go to learn how most efficiently to do this whole novel writing thing.

Today, I felt those feelings whip around inside me, a tornado of uncertainty, as I sat and tried to keep an open mind while listening to Simon Wood speak about how he drafts his mystery/suspense/horror novels. He’s a prolific writer, mind you, and in the time it’s taken me to move one novel into the “publisher shopping” phase and start writing a second, he’s published God knows how many books (I’ve lost track), written numerous short stories, has audio books out, you name it. He’s a busy guy and he obviously has some secrets I need to know.

With a mechanical engineering background, he thinks in terms of design which means more of a laid out approach up front. Good idea, I think. Spreadsheets. I need spreadsheets. He gave great techniques, like color-coding scenes to balance protagonist, antagonist and subplot, and identify that you are keeping scene length consistent. Brilliant, I thought (with a charming English accent because that’s how he talks). I must do that straight away.

By the time he was done, I had a whole new approach laid out in my mind. But wait! I tried this last time! I was so organized on my first novel. I had a big master plan and acts and scenes–the whole shebang. In the redraft, I dumped it all on its head completely. The end product didn’t even look like a distant cousin of the first draft.

On my current novel, I have no poster board because I decided I’d just watch the movie unfold. This is more fun for me than the other way and I know the main story well so I figured this wouldn’t be a problem. I like the way my characters evolve and come into themselves in a way I couldn’t have forecasted in an outline. However, detail-wise, I’m floundering, and wishing I had a spreadsheet.

After listening to Simon’s process, I’m inspired to make a few tweaks. I’m grateful it came at this point in my suspense thriller because that’s his genre and he clearly knows his stuff. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll figure out some trade secrets I can share to make the writing process a little less mystifying for other writers.

The Writer’s Ego


Talk true to me. If you knew Baby Goose was just waiting for your stuff, wouldn’t you be piping it out like a rapid-fire machine gun?

It’s hard to be a writer and not be infected by the Writer’s Ego. After all, writing is a form of communication and if nobody’s reading, how are you communicating? Most writers I know write to be read, not just to pile up long strings of paragraphs in their bottom desk drawers to be discovered when they kick it.

When I think about the reasons I kept writing after college when I no longer had to, I come to this conclusion. All along the way people (teachers, professors, peers) stroked my ego by telling me I’m a good writer. I didn’t know that, but I recognized the pattern of that feedback.  I had friends along the way who I thought wrote well, but when the professor would say, “This is just crap,” they never wanted to write again. They were embarrassed. Ego and the dark side of Humility, crawling into the fetal position, and pulling the blankie over their collective head.

And yet so many writers claim to not write for anyone but themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not themselves that works as agent, editor, publishing house, reader, library, bookstore, readers. In the end, we write to be read and we want others to love it…all others–the gatekeepers, the readers, the librarians, the award committees. There’s always somebody to please.

Yet the message you hear over and over again is, “This business is so subjective.” What one person loves, the next reader can outline a list of bullet points about what’s wrong with it. You just can’t please them all, and you want to posture as if you don’t care, but there’s a place inside that wants to please the reader. As I was growing up. I never had anybody tell me anything except, “You’re a great writer.” I’m pretty sure if I had, I would have stopped. I may even resist posting Facebook statuses.

When Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson came to speak with American writers, he told them to find their own voice, that part that is uniquely them. We hear that over and over today from agents and editors at conferences who speak to both new and veteran writers about the elusive “how to get published” conundrum. But to be uniquely you requires not only a knowledge about who you are and how that differs from the rest of the Earth people, but also how that connects with the rest of the world. What I see much more regularly is people getting caught up in meeting the criteria of publishing, which often has little to do with being uniquely who they are.

What’s the Ego’s block then? When too much chatter lords over the creative process, it deadens it. It’s harder to access. When too many rules dictate the flow, the writing feels stale. On the other hand, at least for me, when I sit down to pour out on the fertile landscape of my journals, I see ideas blossom in a way that’s very hard to copy when I work on manuscripts. My current goal is to dismiss my Ego at the bottom ot the stairs, before I go to my office, and write like nobody’s watching.

Sorry, Baby Goose. Right now, it’s not about you.

Creativity Blossoms

vinhorneflowerI’m mentally back on the creative process and you know what that means.

The creative process is not a thing reserved for a select few who convert their first names to initials and write about wizards. It’s a thing that we all have access to and use in many different ways.

How it blooms depends on each of our unique seeds. Where we plant it, how we water it, how we sun it, how we fertilize it also matter. We can amp it up or turn it down, but it’s there for all of us to play with.

This past weekend I was doing one of those things I love most–talking with people and getting to know some friends of friends. It had been a full weekend in Austin with wedding festivities and touristy things. This was Day 3, Sunday brunch out on a patio overlooking the beautiful Austin hill country with a lake in the distance. We got on the subject of creativity which came after that question you know I always get. Wait for it.

“What books have you written that we can read?” There it is, followed by “I hate writing.”

But then the man talked about a class he and his wife had taken. He was surprised he liked it, but found it a great creative outlet where he didn’t usually get a chance to dabble in his more technical job. The class was called “Painting and Merlot” or something like that and the concept was each person got a canvas, a prompt, and a glass of wine. The man said as they all began to paint their “trees” each very unique painting became more and more beautiful as they drank.

First of all, I want to take this class. Next, I wondered, “What is it about the alcohol (substitute chocolate, food, etc.) that helps the creator become more creative?”

There is obviously a trend here if we look at all our creative types lost to addictions of various types. I remember hearing a guy say the best thing you can do for your art is to drink. I remember another one saying that was a horrible thing to say. I guess my curiosity lies more in the question of the “why.” Why does it take shifting the chemicals in our brain in some way to let the creative process open up?

I think it’s because of the Gremlin. That inner voice that mocks whatever it is that is being created. The one that shouts out, “Really? You just published that blog with all those freakin’ ass mistakes? You used “are” instead of “our?” Pretty ballsy, aren’t you?” or “That’s a tree?”

But here’s the thing. We don’t create to be perfect and put out perfect product. We create because it nurtures our soul. We create because it’s part of our natural process that yearns to be activated. We create because there is something that is so uniquely us that it is meant to be shared with the world.

It’s really just part of our job here to go forth and create.Through this process, we blossom. On that note, if anybody finds that “Paint and Merlot” class, sign me up! I’m in the mood to paint a tree.

Writing What Matters

writing26What makes you excited? Happy? Concerned? Passionate? What do you care about? That’s where your story lies. I would like to change that picture to the left to read, “If you wish to be a writer, WRITE WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT.” (I used it though because it’s so sunsetty-pretty.)

So often at writing conferences you have industry professionals tell you what’s hot and what’s so 2012. They let you know what their particular presses are looking for and what they’re tired of seeing. And, to some degree, you may be able to fit your story into one of those trending genres. It’s ever-changing. However, where your stellar writing emanates from is not the hot genre. Instead, it comes from what you care about. Your heart. Your soul. What matters to you. That one you’re thinking of right now. That’s the story you came here to Planet Earth to write.

What other people want you to write isn’t necessarily it. For example, a few weeks ago, a local lawyer contacted me because he was looking for a writer to pen a story for some clients. (He Googled and I came up. He liked my website and contacted me.) He was touched by their story which was pretty remarkable.

It’s a human interest story of love and perseverance. A man had reached rock bottom. He was severely injured, and while recovering, his wife had left him. He was thinking of taking his life. In a moment of desperation, he called 411 just to talk to someone. (Not 911, 411. Resourceful.) He asked the woman who answered if she would just talk to him and she said she couldn’t and hung up. He called back. He reached a different lady and she said, “I could get fired for doing this, but I go on break in 15 minutes. I’ll call you back and we’ll talk.”

Long story short, they fell in love and have been married something like 50 years. Their love even survived the time he clinically died, went toward the intoxicating light we hear people talk about, saw his wife weeping, and came back to be with her so she wouldn’t be alone.

When the lawyer told me their story, his eyes lit up. He was so inspired by them. He had, in fact, thought about writing the story himself, but just didn’t feel like his law practice allowed time for it. To me, it was so clear this was the story he was meant to write. And, it’s equally clear to me, if someone has a “great idea for a story,” that even though it IS a great story, I may be in charge of writing different ones.

I love to write stories based on true stories because I think the world is so interesting as it is. I don’t need to world build (fantasy style) because there’s so much here already that fascinates me.The stories that pound on my head and heart are the ones I know I have to write.

The sweet spot in all this is when those industry professionals are looking for the exact story you are telling. That’s where the magic lies. Even if it doesn’t, though, you will be doing your part when you write the story that really matters to you.

Here we go–and other dreams

dreamAll other blog posts were wiped clean from my brain (EVERYTHING was actually–just tabula rasa me) when I got the email. A series of them, actually.

But before that…

You may remember (this is NOT backstory) last week I was excited/nervous/giddy because my manuscript was all grown up and flying the nest? Destination: Editor-land.

So off it went and guess what? It landed! Immediate requests flew back. In multiples. Not one. Not two. Not three. Ready for it? Four requests within the first 8 hours. Woot! I don’t even know how to describe that feeling. I don’t even know what it means. Does that happen all the time? I’m a brand-spanking newbie at this.

And once again, I danced around the livingroom for a few minutes…

…before that voice in my head said, “Yeah, but…”

I told it I didn’t have time for it right now. I told it it’s not the boss of me. Right now, I’m just dreaming. Picturing the auction. What does that even mean? Are there number paddles involved? Will it be like the one down in Cottonwood on Fridays?

“Yeah, but…”


This is how it’s gotta be. Let me enjoy the dance.

To be continued….


0213-jaimeweil 055aToday I found out that next week is the week. The week for what? you ask. Yeah. I suppose that’s only obvious in my brain. Let me fill you in.

For the past six years (seven? eight?) I’ve been on this journey with my passion project, First Break. I’ve written/rewritten/rewritten again probably teetering on 8 million times. It falls in the YA genre or the NA genre, depending on who you ask, what day it is, and whether or not it’s cloudy outside. It’s also one of those works in my life I feel like I came to Planet Earth to do. There have been ups and downs, and sweat and tears, and days where I felt it was better off hiding in the bottom drawer where nobody could hurt its feelings.

Back to today. And next week.

Next week, First Break will brave its way out to Editor Land for the first time ever. Oh, sure. It’s met a few editors here and there that I’ve met along the way and introduced it to. It even went to Acquisitions once. But it’s never actually gone out on submission in a big way. Gulp.

I’m excited! Like on the roller coaster when you chk-chk-chk up the first incline and your chest gets fluttery. That’s right before it drops into your stomach and you drop screaming down the other side. That’s me–three quarters up and fluttery.

Look, Mom! No hands.


Birthing Books – It All Begins with the Orgasm


Today, I’m proud to interview Sharon Weil, author of the newly released Donny & Ursula Save the World. Not only is Sharon an award-winning screenwriter, producer and director, she’s also my cousin. Everything she does, she does with passion and excellence. Her debut novel is no exception.

Donny and Ursula Save the World is a wake up call to the potential dangers of genetically modified seeds, couched in a funny, wild-romp, romantic-mishap adventure, about this odd couple, Donny and Ursula, who become unlikely heroes and join forces with even less likely characters (belly dancing feminists, outlaw guerilla gardeners, gun-crazy survivalists…) to save the world from a plot by an agribusiness giant to control the world food supply by owning all the seeds.

At its heart, the book is about what it takes to find the courage to take action, and its playful premise is that sex and Eros are the prime motivators for ALL human behavior. Ursula is a woman who has never had an orgasm, and once she does, it leads her to a political awakening that compels her actions on behalf of Mother Earth. It’s a wacky, yet poignantly serious story.

You are an award-winning screenwriter, producer and director. This is your first novel. What made you decide to write a book?

Before Donny and Ursula Save the World, everything I’d ever written—besides a grocery list—was always intended as a screenplay for a movie, or as a theatrical piece. It’s the way I think and what I’ve known. But when these characters and their crazy stories started to drop in, I knew they needed a larger and more flexible form in which to play. I’d never wanted to write a novel—too many words that can’t change—but, in my view, these stories choose you, and their form, and they’ll make your life miserable if you don’t become their servant. It’s not the first time I’ve jumped into something, blind. As it turns out, I found it an incredibly satisfying and magical experience, and plan to write more novels once this one finally leaves me alone.

 How is writing a book different than writing a screenplay?

Screenwriting is all about economy and craft. Usually plot driven, the words you use are meant to describe visual moments that are shown, rather than told. Directors and producers annoyingly refer to the script as the “blueprint” for the movie, for it’s meant to be the basis of the collaborative process that is yet to come.  And… you don’t even have to write in full sentences!

Writing a novel, at least this one, was all about the particular words on the page.  The visuals, the character descriptions, the rhythm of speech, all have to be there on the page. There are no actors, or scenery, or even music to interpret the work.  And a book is meant to come from one voice… the author’s.  Otherwise, story is story—there are many ways to tell them. I live in Los Angeles where people roll their eyes in boredom when you tell them you just finished a script—but if you say you wrote a book, they bow in respect!  Go figure.

Can you give us your elevator pitch for Donny and Ursula?

The most importantly funny book about sex, love and GMO seeds you’ll ever read.

Where did the idea for Donny and Ursula Save the World come from?

Ultimately, Donny and Ursula Save the World is a love story, and therefore a romantic comedy—because most love stories are. I write from the experience of too many failed relationships, several successful ones, an enormous fantasy life, and a fascination with the connection and foibles of the sexes.

The whole bio-based aspect of the book comes from my being both a Nature Girl, and a Continuum movement teacher.  Continuum is a fluid based movement exploration that I have been teaching for over 22 years. www.continuummovement.com It’s where I’ve learned all about bio-intelligence, and the sparkle of life force we call Eros.  This is where Ursula’s tantric belly dance teacher, Sheerah, gets her smarts. It’s also how Ursula’s hips come to life.  

Also, I love good food, and I care about the quality of the food I eat, and give my family. It amazes me how the general public can think that tampering with the very genetic material of the seeds our food is grown from is a good idea.  It also amazes me how many people have no awareness of what a GMO is, and how much of our food now originates from genetically modified seeds. I wanted to bring people to awareness in a way that might entertain them at the same time as sound the alarm.

I’m not a frivolous person, but I am a playful one.  I like to weave things together, and I have the ability to hold seeming opposites in the same space. It stretches me, and brings a complexity to what I write, in the humorous moments as well as the grave ones.

I love both your Continuum classes and belly dancing.  Tell us more about Sheerah and how the belly dancing feminists wiggle their way into your story?

Sheerah, Ursula’s tantric belly dance teacher who sells exotic creams to her students at cost, showed up as a teacher of the secrets of the divine feminine because I live in California, and I know such people.  Her instruction was just what Ursula needed to open her own muted feminine, and ultimately, Sheerah is the one who helps with Ursula’s awakenings.

As a movement teacher, I fully embrace movement as a source of connection with our bodies and our sensations—especially those undulating movements, the one’s deep in a woman’s pelvic bowl—they’re the ones that connect her with her own sacred feminine. Belly dancers know this.

Will you be writing the screenplay next?

Everyone who has read the book, or even heard me describe it says,  “It’s a movie!”  And it is a movie… a movie you can curl up with, all by yourself.  It’s a movie because that’s what I know how to write. You’ll see when you read it. However, the movie version of this movie-like book will be different than the book, because there are narrators, and inner thoughts, and supernatural occurrences in the book that need to be translated from the descriptive fiction on the page where pretty much anything can happen, back to an arena of symbolic action.  But yes, I’m writing the screenplay next.

 One could say that this is the story of “you are what you eat.” Can you speak to that?

Ursula’s political and personal awakening comes once she experiences her first orgasm. One awakening leads to another.  But really, it all began once she started juicing and eating raw.  Prior to this she ate a pale and limited diet of breads and spreads, and felt sluggish and slow.  Once she changed her diet, she became lighter and more permeable to her own sensations, as well as being open to clear thoughts, like the ones that motivate her in the story. 

Ursula believes that you are what you eat.  Donny is a fast food guy – but even he changes his food, in the name of love.

Can you direct us to the link to buy your book?


Click to order this top Amazon seller: http://tinyurl.com/k79mvfo



Sharon Weil is an award winning WGA screenwriter, producer, and director. Donny and Ursula Save the World is her first novel, and a welcome break out into new form. Her most recent writer-co-producer credits include “Reel Love,” a romantic comedy about a woman who must learn to bass fish in order to catch her father’s attention and find true love—which opened up the new Original Movie Division at CMT (Country Music Television) in Fall of 2011.

She was awarded the Women in Film, Lillian Gish Award, as writer and co-producer, for Best Children’s Film in 1990 for “Sweet 15”, which also won an Emmy for its director. She has written romantic comedies, family comedies and family dramas. She is a film graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

In addition to writing, Sharon has also been a director, producer or editor of many film
and television projects; narrative, documentary, commercials and music videos. She has directed several original theater productions, as well as written and performed her own work in one-woman shows, and shared evenings.

Sharon is an advocate for the natural world through her supportive work in climate
solutions, community arts, and holistic health. Her writing is also informed by 20 years as a teacher of Continuum, a fluid based movement practice that aligns one with a natural state of being.

Sharon has three daughters, two dogs, and one wild imagination. She is an eclectic Los
Angeles native, a frequent visitor to Northern California and Nashville, and a citizen of
the world.

Karmic writing

vinhorneoak“I had been up for four frickin’ days and couldn’t sleep. I was really scared…people were following me…I was just really, really fried, but I couldn’t sleep.” My best stab at sounding articulate fails miserably. “I was so tired.”

He jots a note down on his paper. I think I may have spilled too much.

“You said people were after you?”

“I didn’t say that.” Did I?

This is my 17-year-old protagonist speaking to her ER doc in First Break. I mentioned last week where I am in the process with this New Adult manuscript (going through my agent’s edits on track changes in Word). I’m embracing this–mostly. But here’s a really annoying thing that happened and how something really enlightening came out of it (besides the fact I’m still not entirely sure how to spell frickin’ or why I want to use it so badly.)

Do you see how I use the ellipses (…) up there? Well, apparently I REALLY like the ellipses…a lot! Why is this so apparent? Because in the transfer of formats between she and I my three dots became six and a space. Now to fix that, I’ve got to go back through every ellipses, accept the change, delete a space, accept the change and so forth. Monotonous, at best. Here’s the enlightening part: I clearly need to invite other devices into play. Not leave the hyphen out–or at least let him join in more.

I’ve spent much of my morning fixing ellipsis. (I now know that’s how you pluralize that.)  I’m thinking of it like karmic yoga. Do you know that practice? You just do something for a period of time and then stop without getting married to the results. Like raking leaves. You just rake for an hour without having to pick up the leaves and throw them away. It’s like that.

Except for one thing. I’m totally married to the results: three point elipses and no space…unless it’s at the end, and then four.

I’m typing this under a large oak (thanks, Vin, for the sweet Oak shot), the wind playing with the wisps of hair around my face, the speckled sun making my computer screen almost impossible to see, my dog begging me with her eyes to go out for a morning walk, Karunesh playing the haunting music that so well accompanies my story in this manuscript, and my tomato plants nearby dancing to Karunesh.

With all this, who cares how long it takes to fix the ellipsis? Karmic yoga or no, I’m in my happy place.

Advance or an In-Between?

writersadvanceThe writer’s advance. A concept beyond me. Why is it called an “advance” in the year 2013 when it really comes in the “in-between”?

Writing is not like any other profession I’ve ever had. I’ve been a movie candy girl, a flower deliverer, a legal secretary, a marketing director in law firms, an assistant in a psychiatrist’s office, a second grade teacher, a massage therapist, a health coach, and probably a number of other things I’ve left out. But every single one of those jobs came with regular pay checks that were delivered very near the time the work was completed.

Not writing. Even in the case of freelancing, rules vary. Some publications don’t pay until your article comes out and frequently you are writing several months prior to publication because of the time required to publish a magazine. This is getting slightly better with groups like Ebyline, but still there’s a long way to go towards closing the gap. Where this is most apparent, though, is the book advance.

The term “advance” stems from way back, I’m told, when deals were made at Parisian bars over a handshake after an idea was thrown out to an editor. The editor would then give the writer money (said advance) to write the book. Since he’d be busy writing, he’d need money to live.

In today’s market, though, it seems to me most manuscripts need to be pristine to ever get to the advance conversation. And to get a manuscript pristine takes hours and hours and hours of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting…in my case, six years. Now my critique partner Darbie is reading Stephen King’s craft book where he says a first draft should take 3 months. (Whatever, Stephen. You clearly aren’t raising kids. Or going to the grocery store. Or ever leaving your chair to sleep.) Nevertheless, even if we go with that, that’s a first draft and that’s 3 months. What other job do you work at for 3 months (ah-hem, 6 years) and not get paid? Oh, and maybe never get paid?

Fact is I don’t know many writers in it for the money. If they are, they quickly leave when they figure out the “in-between” (um, maybe if you’re very lucky) thing because, in case you didn’t already know this, there’s usually a ton of work waiting after the advance, both in and out of the cave.

I’m pretty sure writers write because they have to. Because nothing gives them the same satisfaction as the idea that their book, their published book (story, article, research, poem), will be out there in the world for others to read.