Thursday, November 19, 2020

 Writers are lucky creatures. We can work from home, or from anywhere else in the world, so things like pandemics don't affect us much. Nor do shutdowns. We tend to be isolated creatures, too. But we do need some personal contact with other creatures, and one of the best ways to do that is to embark on projects that involve other writers, or to make an indie film. 

I have the distinct pleasure of being involved with several "teams" of writers and film folks, so I get the joys of collaboration even in times of staying in your own house when possible. We can zoom, meet for lunch, and still keep things going, with a few tweaks here and there. Creativity and the urge to tell stories and share information never stops. So it's all about adapting.

Even if you have a more "normal" job or career, what are some ways you can adapt to working at home more? Seeing people over Zoom if you can't meet in the conference room? Working with partners or  teams so you don't have to feel so alone?

I can do my job from a deserted island (if it has internet connection, that is) or in the middle of a busy city, and I realize how blessed I am. Look for ways to adapt to the current situations to make them work for you. All it takes a little resourcefulness and creativity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Focusing on Goals During Global Upheaval

 It's hard enough to focus attention needed to achieve goals when things are going rather peacefully in the world around us. External and environmental events have a way of sneaking up on us and causing a lot of underlying anxiety that leads to lack of motivation, a "so what" attitude, a feeling of futility of effort, and a general malaise that doesn't leave a lot of energy for goals.

Yet this is actually the time to dig in and go for those personal goals. No matter what is going on in the world, we have the power to tune it out and put our focus where we need it so that we can better our own lives. Too much worrying and concern over what's going on "out there" means time is passing and opportunities are fading into the distance. Here's the thing. You can't really control what happens in the world, but you can control what happens in YOUR world.

The time is going to pass anyway. It's a shame to see so many people engaging in political attacks, arguments, debates, and generally stressing out over the opinions and actions of others, when they can be putting that same focus, that same passion and energy, into achieving something or doing something productive. Then, when things calm down "out there," you'll hear many of these same people lamenting how they wished they would have taken better advantage of that time. Sorry, it's gone now.

The world will continue to turn and things will happen that will cause a great deal of anxiety. Turn off the news. You'll find out what is happening, trust me. Get off social media and channel that energy into doing the things you've been putting off, the things you've always wanted to do. Act now, or you will one day wake up and things outside of you will be back to normal, but you'll be filled with the regret of not having taken action when you could have.

Focus! Put your attention on what you want, not what you don't want. This is how you change your life, and eventually, this is how you change the lives of others, by example. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

 Sometimes writers forget to blog. I have been so busy living life and writing that I forgot I even had a blog! This is why having a schedule and business plan can be so effective for writers. We tend to overwhelm ourselves with deadlines and jobs and pitching and starting new projects, it becomes easy to let something slip, then realize it's been years since we revisited it.

My bad! I am putting on my calendars "blog something, dummy!" to remind me that I have this awesome opportunity to reach out and talk to more people when I do. Hey, maybe one person reads this, maybe nobody does. But I figure the NSA tracks everything we do online, so maybe they'll enjoy knowing what I have to say!

My next blog will be a giant-ass catch-up of everything I've done since my last one, which was uh...four years ago!

Until next time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


So, a couple of weeks ago I posted on Facebook about a huge project I had just signed contracts for officially, and today we are going out with the following press release. Suffice it to say, I am excited, anxious, energized, wired, and every possible wild emotion in between that I have been given the absolute privilege to tell this story, the story of one of the most iconic brands in history, and the evolution of one woman who experienced being a part of a family dynasty that is the MAYBELLINE empire. Here we go!
Italia Gandolfo – GH Literary Management
Writer-Producer Options Maybelline Cosmetics Dynasty Story
SAN DIEGO, CA/JAN. 19, 2015 – Writer-Producer Marie D. Jones (Where’s Lucy? Productions) has optioned the rights to the story behind the Maybelline cosmetics empire from Sharrie Williams, great-niece of Maybelline founder Tom Lyle Williams; based upon her personal experiences, her father’s journals (William Preston Williams), and her extensive collection of family documents.
Writer-Producer Jones is developing a television series, working title “Out of the Ashes: The Story of the Maybelline Empire and the Family Behind It,” which is already garnering interest from networks. The series covers the history of the family dynasty, from the founding of the company in a rural Kentucky kitchen in 1915 to its continued status today as a billion dollar brand icon, focusing on Williams’ coming of age and personal experiences growing up amidst power, fame, and fortune.
Jones stated, “Open the drawer of the average woman and you’ll see Maybelline products. But few people know the incredible, tumultuous and, at times, shocking, story of the family behind the iconic brand; a dynasty spanning four generations. It is the intimate story of a young woman growing up surrounded by the recognizable trappings of wealth and power, and with the challenges and losses she endures, finds herself literally rising from the ashes to become her own person. But it’s also the epic historical journey of a singular idea born from a simple Kentucky dream that became a legend—a brand that continues to stand the test of time.”
Italia Gandolfo, CEO of GH Literary Management, brokered the deal.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Why Stuff Like "Star Wars" and "The Walking Dead" Makes Me Cry

Between October's season finale to THE WALKING DEAD and the current hype and craze of STAR WARS, I've been experiencing a strange state of emotion. I think it has to do with being a writer. I see trailers and cry my eyes out, but not for the same reasons as most people. Most people, you see, are crying because of the sheer magnitude of joy they feel over their favorite movies, TV shows, novel series, etc...They cry because they are so happy to be a part of the glorious nature of entertainment, where millions of hearts can be touched and moved by a single project that began in the mind and heart and imagination of...a writer. Or at least someone who had an idea and got it on "paper" and into reality.

So, yeah, I cry at the drop of a movie or TV show trailer, or at the announcement of a new novel by a fave writer, for those reasons, but also because AS A WRITER, I can FEEL the powerful joy of what the creator/s must be feeling to see one of their "babies" stand before the eyes of the world and be adored. I cry and get all choked up for them, because I know what it feels like, or at least I WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE to have a story of mine one day influence and affect so many people, change and touch so many minds and hearts and spirits. I long for that day, and that is what drives everything I do. That, and wanting to leave such a legacy for my son, and show him he can do likewise, with whatever he chooses to create.

Imagine being the creator/s of something like THE WALKING DEAD. Yeah, I know their names, but just bear with me. Imagine in the beginning doing all the hard work alone world-building and creating characters that no one might ever see or give two shits about. Then imagine one day having the most watched show in cable television history, and having fans practically jump off bridges because some character may or may not be dead! Imagine creating something of the magnitude of STAR WARS...whether you're directing or writing or acting...just being INVOLVED in something that will change the spirits of so many people...Being able to say that you had something to do with a piece of pop culture history so epic it has stood the test of generations. Being able to say, "I did that. THAT came out of my imagination..."

Every creative person wants that for one of their babies, maybe more, whether they admit it or not. I admit it. I see nothing wrong in that. I have no idea if any of my stories will ever achieve such a profound position in storytelling history as the HARRY POTTER novels...I have no idea if anything I do really matters much at all. But the dream is that it does, and it will and it must and it keeps me and a zillion other writers and dreamers writing and dreaming. Because SOMEDAY, we want, I WANT, people to see the trailer for my movie and cry for the sheer joy of excitement and anticipation of it. And I WANT to one day create characters that people fall rabidly in love with, or hate with, as the case may be.

I cry because I feel the power of creativity from both the perspective of a fan, and a creator. I can't NOT cry.

Where's the Kleenex?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: The Curse of the Writer's Brain

My brain never stops. Ever. Not to sleep regular hours. Not to enjoy normal holidays. Not even to take vacations that other people take and post about on social networking all smiling and happy and thought-free.

My brain doesn't take vacations. It hasn't since early childhood, when I realized I was going to grow up to be a story-teller, because that was all I ever seemed to be doing. Whether I was telling them to other people, or to myself, or to my invisible friends (who were real, just invisible), I was telling stories. Whatever was going on in my environment became a story. Whatever I was thinking or feeling or experiencing became a story.

Things have not changed. Sometimes I try to write and my brain freezes up, probably because it's tired and sick of all the coffee I drink to try to stimulate it. I think it freezes up, too, because it has too many ideas and they all clog the line trying to get front and center. Because they all want and need to be heard and acknowledged and explored in some detail, even the ones that don't deserve to be.

I know many creative people who have the same problem with their brains. Artists, musicians, directors, advertising agency folks, illustrators, you name it...we all suffer the same fate. I ask many of them if they ever take a day off. They laugh. I laugh. We have a good laugh and get back to work getting our thoughts and ideas OUT of our brains and onto whatever canvas we've chosen to express ourselves.

I want my brain to take a week off here and there, but it doesn't listen to me, and by now, I have run out of ways to try to convince it that some downtime will make it come up with better ideas. It snorts and chortles and goes on doing what it wants, because my brain has a mind of its own. I don't even try much any more.

The thing is, I can't fight who I am and how I'm built. I've tried. People say, "Take some downtime. Stop overthinking. Set it aside for later. Rest." I look at them and shake my head, because I know it isn't worth getting into a big argument over. They have no idea what it's like when my brain is telling me to ignore those people. Flip them the bird. Tell them I have important work to do and ideas to mull over.

I have negotiated a bit of middle ground, though. My brain allows me to get around three to four hours of sleep a night. Now and then, it allows me even more, but that is rare and I don't push it. I take what I can get, you know? Sometimes it lets me watch a whole television show or movie without interrupting me with ideas as to how I could do it better. That's always pleasant. In return, I let my brain run its mouth off and try my best to keep track of the ideas it spews out like waste from a drain pipe. Yuck. Now there's an image for you. But that's the image my brain wanted to give me. I've gotten used to it.

I hope my readers will, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Know When To Hold 'Em, and When To Fold 'Em: The Power of Personal Ultimatums

When pursuing a dream, especially one as crazy as being a full time writer, there comes a time when you wonder if you are chasing your own damn tail. The idea of giving up may cross your mind often during your career, especially the lean days when nothing seems to be working on the surface. That is normal. But there will be that ONE time when you really don't think you can keep on going another day, let alone another year, without seeing some return on your investments. Investments of time, talent, energy, hope and passion.

You lay awake at night going over and over your entire career, even your life, wondering which decisions got you here and what you could have done different. I'd say this works for relationships, too. When did things get derailed? Why are so many others so much farther along, happier, richer, more successful? Am I just so out of touch with reality I keep pursuing a pipe dream, or do I really have talent? Am I messing up my kid, my marriage, my health, and my body? 

It happens to all of us. But then you wake up the next morning and feel that urge to keep going, and the cycle repeats itself over and over. You might even have so many things in the mix, that you tell yourself "Something will break if I just hold on a little longer." You might even tell yourself that for years, waiting for that "break." Now and then, that break comes in the guise of an illness or massive financial distress that, once overcome, re-empowers you to go for your dream life. Or that break might never come. And you might watch your dreams go up in smoke, or down in flames, whichever visual you prefer. 

But there is another way to keep hope alive, and keep moving forward with a newfound fierceness, without having to come down with a terrible illness, or lose your marriage, or your mind. Give yourself an ultimatum. Just as you might give a lagging lover an ultimatum to take your relationship to the next level or be gone, you have to do the same with your dreams. Just as you would give someone you hired to work on your home an ultimatum to finish the job by the time they promised or not get paid, you have to do the same with yourself and your goals.

This ultimatum has to be BIG, and it has to be BOLD and it has to be IMPORTANT...or like a self-imposed deadline, you might just ignore it or let it keep slipping away. This ultimatum should be written down, and it should be general enough to encompass your main goal, yet specific enough to give you the momentum build you need. You can have several ultimatums for each area of your life, or one that is the most critical to you at the time.

Some ultimatums for writers might be:

If I don't get a publisher for this book in eight months, I will self publish.
If I cannot get 5,000 followers on my FB author page by December, I will devote the next three months to marketing alone.
If I cannot get an agent in one year, I will contact publishers myself.
If I do not see increased sales and better reviews on my book within six months, I will pull it offline and revise with a new cover.
If I am not making this amount from my writing by next June, I'll get a part time job.

Life ultimatums are more general:

If I don't lose ten pounds by my son's wedding on my own, I will join a gym and go three times a week.
If I don't find a date on my own in a year, I will join a dating website.
If I cannot earn my desired income by next February at my current job, I will seek employment elsewhere.
If I go one month without a drink, I'll take myself to a spa.
If my back pain is not gone by next month, I'll talk to my doctor about surgery.
If I don't run three times this week, I'll join that running group at the beach.

Again, we give others ultimatums all the time, whether we do it consciously or subconsciously. If he doesn't marry me in four years, he is out. If she cannot stop doing drugs on her own, we will have an intervention. If my boss keeps screwing me over, I will quit in March. If my spouse abuses me again, I'll file for divorce. Or we don't bother giving them at all, and continue living a life that belongs to someone else, feeling miserable and disempowered because we cannot make anything happen, or stick to something, or stand up for ourselves. Ugh.

But the most important ones, no matter how big or small, are the ones we give ourselves in regards to our own behaviors, actions and goals. The best ultimatums don't ask that you completely give up and throw in the towel if something doesn't happen in a certain way or time frame, although if that is what you feel is right, go for it. They simply provide you with a specific reaction you commit to having to a specific action. A tangible next step. They are goals coupled with subtle pushes, or even threats if that works better for you!  If I don't get a raise in six months, I will quit this shitty job! But be ready to quit that shitty job, or your ultimatums will no longer hold power.

And that is the key. YOU MUST FOLLOW THROUGH. Because if you don't, you will render yourself and your ability to push forward powerless. When you cannot keep a promise to yourself, and really, isn't that what an ultimatum is, than what hope is there of achieving a dream anyway? Stay tough, stay focused, and follow through.

So before you go and fold 'em, maybe hold 'em a little bit longer. Give yourself an ultimatum or two. Trust me, I did this and it lights a real hot fire under your ass. You will find your motivation refueled, and your hope and determination renewed, just by treating your life as though it's important enough to set deadlines and then make and take appropriate actions to get there. 

And should you fail? You can either fold 'em, or re-assess any progress and formulate a new ultimatum.