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Screenwriting as Love Drug Mania Part 1 – The High

Holy fucking roller coaster, Batman. And the ride isn’t over.

screenplayimagesThe last two weeks have been a completely new kind of writing experience for me. It feels a little weird to be able to say that at 33 years old, especially considering I was writing little stories since, like, first grade. But it’s true.

It was so intense. It felt kinda like how I imagine being manic might feel. It felt like being in love. It felt like being on reeeeeeeally good drugs. It was all rushing and inspiration and not being able to sleep and waking up early with ideas and thoughts of how to work parts of it together. And it was a lot, lot, lot of writing.

Here’s what happened. For my university, there is a requirement called a senior capstone. I’ve resisted it as long as I could, putting it off term after term, imagining the anonymous diatribes I wanted to write against the requirement in the school paper as if that could somehow exempt me from having to take a capstone class. But this winter, I had to sign up, so I picked Research Experience for Science Majors, hoping to, you know, get some research experience.

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Moonchild Manuscript Soundtrack a.k.a. Table of Contents

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 8.47.17 PMMusic permeates just about everything I write, and I often think of my writing in terms of music. So naturally, a full-length book manuscript is like a full-length album. A concept album, perhaps.

This is especially true for MOONCHILD, the memoir manuscript I’m revising (as in completely re-envisioning, you can read about this writerly overhaul and the revision process here and here). There is so much music in the text of the book. Always music. And discussions about the meanings of the songs that are incorporated into the story, an exploration of where music and life and self intersect.

Pretty early on, I knew I wanted to start each chapter out with a lyric. In fact, I wrote the first words (longhand, in a notebook) of this manuscript in 2003, and I think even then, I knew each chapter would somehow feature a lyric, a song. It’s not the first time I thought that way about a long-form piece of writing.

So, yes, each chapter starts off with a lyric from a song. I did up a little CD label thing (which proves why I’m a writer and NOT a graphic designer) that lists the songs that are quoted at the beginning of each chapter. Here it is:

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The Chapter Two Curse – An In-Depth Look at Revision

peaceEver since I got back from AWP, I’ve been working on revising my memoir manuscript, Moonchild.

It’s been a real challenge.

But as challenges go, it was relatively okay for the first chapter. A lot of work, yes. Lots of stitching together, inserting, deleting, writing new material, actually getting clearer on memories of the time that I’d forgotten and writing those in, shifting focus, bringing in more background. It took a lot of time and energy but it was fairly pleasant.

Then I got to Chapter Two, and that was more like…well, a clusterfuck.

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Writing, Music and the Places Where they Overlap

West_Seattle_Easy_Street_02So many things have me revisiting my musical past as of late. It’s really kind of odd how so many things converged at once. Sometimes I feel like, for whatever reason, I just really let music slip away for awhile, and over the last month, a switch has flipped and all of a sudden, I’m back.

I think I’m a little too embarrassed to admit one of the things that started all this. I’ll just say this: it was a TV show. And it wasn’t that I loved the music on the show so much as one of the characters reminded me of how I used to feel about music, and that got me listening to CDs again, and trying to rebuild my old music collection by buying a bunch of used CDs, and looking into concerts and shows again. Okay, I’ll give a hint, since it sort of relates to the remainder of the post, this TV show I don’t quite want to name is named after a song.

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All of Our Rubbish Dreams

hsbguitarplayingSome moments are crystallized in memory, even if they are ordinary.

I remember one early evening in the springtime of ninth grade, I was sitting on the arm of the couch, which Mom hated, and wearing my Hole t-shirt with the heart logo, probably the band I loved that Mom hated most, and she stood by the stove getting ready for dinner. I was watching MTV–this is when they still played videos all the time–and singing along. Low spring light came in from the window near the TV and left big fans of light on the rug that stretched all the way to the kitchen where Mom stirred frozen vegetables in a pan.

“So, Emilia,” she said, and I could tell by the way she wasn’t turning towards me, the way she was trying too hard to sound like a thought just occurred to her, that whatever was coming, she’d worked herself up to it. But I didn’t move my gaze from the TV. “What do you want to be when you’re older?”

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A Sad Day in Music History

KCimagesIt is just impossible to imagine that Kurt Cobain has been dead twenty years today. And Layne Staley twelve. A day heavy with sadness to be sure.

I wasn’t sure if I would feel much of anything about today–it’s been so long now–and wasn’t thinking about it too much this morning. I got up, went to my computer, and did some heavy editing to the last section of the second chapter of Moonchild. It’s been slow going and the editing process has been more like a complete overhaul. I’m keeping the bones of the story, but reworking so much of it that it hardly seems like the same manuscript sometimes. So, editing the last five or six pages of the chapter took two or three hours.

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When You’re Eighteen with Crippling Writers Block, Music Can Set You Free

EMindexInstead of sitting down to absorb the album, I let it trickle in, play it over and over while I read my astronomy textbook, when I doodle in my journal hoping to come up with story ideas for my creative writing class, when I’m on the phone, when I’m reading books and when Jillian comes over to chill.

One night I sit on my inflatable chair writing away in my journal with half my mind on the page and half with the music. As I try to think up story ideas, a song called “Moonchild” starts, launching me into the ether in its intro. Something about the words, the singing, though I don’t know it by heart yet, makes me feel at all like my old vibrant self, or at least its shadow. By the time I get to the bridge, the song stops me in my tracks, using my foot absentmindedly against my bed to rock my chair. I have the seed of a story idea.

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