Last week, I had the honor of working with a group of 5th graders from Cumberland County Public Schools, VA during the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. Together, we all started a bunch of stories. This Story Starter finished! With permission from Elena and her mother, I present….
The Alien Dentist, by Elena M.
My name is Jackson and I’m running from a alien dentist. He’s not far behind. He might catch up to me and pull all my teeth out. I’m so scared and out of breathe but I have to keep running so he can’t catch me.I found an abandoned house. I went in.
The monster couldn’t find me. When suddenly I heard a growl. Then a creak. ! Boom! the monster was right there behind me!
So I ran as fast as I could. He caught me. The alien took me to his lair. He tried to pull one of my teeth out.He couldn’t because I grabbed his arm and I ninja kicked him in the stomach.
I went to the town my mom was in. I knocked on the door. She let me in. I told her to lock the door. The alien was close behind me. My mom asked “What is going on?”
I said “There is an alien chasing me”. She said that I was crazy and I had lost my mind. I told her that this was not crazy that there was an actual alien dentist trying to pull all my teeth. She said maybe I needed to go to the dentist and see that the dentist is a good person. I told her “ NO!” and to look out the window.
My mom looked out the the window and saw an alien. She said that I wasn’t losing my mind and we started to run out the back door. The alien didn’t see us until we knocked over one of my moms plants. As soon as he saw us he ran in our direction. We screamed and ran away. He caught us but my mom and I karate chopped him and got away.
Elena…thank you for the awesome story. I look forward to the day when you’re signing a book for me. Write on!
“Alice never wants to hurt anyone again, but the robots won’t end the experiment.” ~ By Scott DuBar, from the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Region “Ink to Inspiration” event at Richmond Public Library, 06/20/2015
This past weekend I participated in the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Region’s Ink to Inspiration event at Richmond Public Library, and had the opportunity to lead the group in yet another rendition of Story Starters, my Mad Libs styled activity where me and the writers/illustrators create a unique opening line by committee.
Once the line’s created, the writers/illustrators have 15 minutes to write or sketch whatever that line inspires. It’s meant to be an exercise in flexibility (you never know what the line’s going to be) and a demonstration that ideas are simply what YOU make them.
Part of the deal with Story Starters is anyone who decides to write a complete story, or finish an illustration, based on our sentence, gets a spotlight here and on my social media.
Behold Illustrator Scott DuBar’s submission which. Is. AWESOME!!!
Scott’s one to watch, and I’m excited to share his work with you. I’m going out on a limb to say this won’t be the last we see of him. Thanks Scott!
Last night I caught INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO and the special guests were the talented creator and actors behind one of TVs most popular series, MAD MEN. If you aren’t familiar with the 1960s period drama about an advertising executive who is a portrait of duality, no worries, this lesson won’t be lost on you.
Towards the end of the episode, during Q&A, a drama student recounted her experiences in amateur productions, explaining how invaluable she found the weeks and weeks of rehearsals her troupe participated in before a performance. She asked how much rehearsal time the MAD MEN cast had before they shot their scenes. The answer shocked her and most of the audience.
There were no rehearsals on the MAD MEN set.
Jon Hamm, the show’s star, explained that they participated in a weekly table read (think middle/high school English class, where everyone takes a role and reads Shakespeare aloud from their desks), then the next time they got to practice was during the lighting set up right before they shot. No true rehearsal, just a chance to familiarize oneself with the material, then go home and make sure you knew your #&$* before the cameras rolled.
As important as that fact is, it pales to the reasoning behind it. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, explained that every minute they’re on set costs money, so there’s no time to waste. Although he pointed out that if a guest actor doesn’t know their lines, he will fire them (at costs of up to 100,000 dollars for the time it takes to replace them and reshoot) because unprepared people cost more in the long run.
Consider that. The amateur actor (that’s not meant as a dig, just pointing out that the student who asked the question is not yet a professional) admitted that extensive rehearsals increased her comfort. The pros let her know that they don’t get that luxury. Yet, MAD MEN is one of the most critically acclaimed, award-snatching shows on television. A lot of that has to do with stellar scripts, but without talented (and prepared) people to do the work on a tight schedule, the scripts wouldn’t mean a whole lot.
How’s this relate to you, dear writer? After all, you won’t be dressing up in a retro suit and pitching ads for LIFE cereal and Vick’s Cough Syrup. You’re not performing.
That’s where you’d be wrong. You’re not an actor, but your profession requires that you perform on demand. Or, it will. When you crossover from amateur to pro. Think about it. Deadlines. Proposals. If you want to be a book-a-year writer, then you have to be prepared to write fast, fast, fast.
You have all the time in the world to write book 1, your baby, that masterpiece your Muse faxed you from Heaven. As soon as you sell it to Massive Publishing House X, you’ve got people to answer to. Deadlines to hit. It’s a role you better damn well know.
If not, you will be replaced. It will cost them less in the long run.
But, if you can manage to do the job in the time allotted, not second guessing, and trusting that preparation is better than comfort, then who knows…maybe when they come up with INSIDE THE WRITER’S STUDIO*, you’ll be able to shock a few amateurs with what you’ve accomplished.
*Yes, I’ve fantasized about it. And yes, I’m the first guest. 😉