My Writing Resolutions 2015

1962720_10203577001564582_780062720_nThis blog actually began as a writing resolution.

It was 2012 and I thought as a writer I had been living in the shadows for too long. Oh, I played the game with publishers and agents and fellow writers, many knew who I was (granted, that doesn’t mean they published me or represented me), but with readers I was a ghost. No, let me correct that. A person can at least sense a ghost. I was a ghost that no one was aware of. A quiet and very lonely shadow watching and waiting.

So it began with this post.

That started a year of almost five posts a week. I did everything from personal essays to thoughts on media and entertainment to the art of writing (which are almost always my most popular posts) to original fiction. There was a good chance, and I knew this when I started, that I would end the experience feeling more depressed than when I began. For is there anything sadder than a blog not read? Probably the blogger that wrote the blog, of course.

Lucky for me (and I do consider myself lucky), my blog grew. I think getting into writing the blog, I never realized how inspiring having it (and you the reader) would be. You might think a little click on the like button or an occasional comment no big deal, but it can make my day, any day. That support over the last two years had led to me creating a novel on this site (Permanent Spring Showers, which will be released in February 2015 by 5 Prince Books) and a book collecting some of my most popular and fun posts (Me Stuff, which you can find on amazon here).

Thank you.

Here are my writing resolutions for 2015.

1. Keep the blog active. This one is not surprising, especially since this is one of the things that keep me sane. You know, I never really know what I will do in an upcoming week. It usually just happens all organic. It is in many ways pure writing freedom. Someday in the future I might step away from time to time from it, but I don’t think I see that happening any time soon. You are stuck with me, I hope that is okay.

2. Find a publisher for Cassandra on the Island. If you have been following my blog for a while you might have heard hints of this book in posts. This novel was my Master’s thesis when I was working towards my MFA from the University of Southern California. I also had the distinct pleasure of having the head of the writing program call me at 10 PM on a weekday night, emotional because of it. He had spend all day reading it and just had to talk to me after completing it. It was an awesome moment for me. This book also got me my last agent, but sadly it stays hidden of all my works. I would love to change that. So I will probably do a new edit of it sometime in the new year and see what happens from there. Fingers crossed. Hopefully, there will be publishers and agents interested.

Permanent Spring Showers3. Support Permanent Spring Showers. My new novel drops in February 2015. This book feels very much like an epic for me, a story that has been around since the mid-1990s when it first began as a screenplay (which was what got me accepted at USC, by the way). I could not be more proud of this novel. This book began as an experiment on this very  site and grew… and grew. I hope you will check it out when it is released and tell everyone! Book clubs, fellow readers, friends, loved ones, casual acquaintances, people sitting next to you on the bus or in a waiting room, etc.

4. Finish that new book! So I got this novel that has changed numerous times over the last few years. It went from a very serious work to a mad comedy. The full gambit of emotions and possibilities has been spilled into this work. Right now I have it fully outlined with about four of the 25 chapters written. I need to make this a reality. I won’t say too much more about it, but it reminds me a lot of my radio comedy series The Dante Experience (which you can listen to free on this page!).

5. Think about my screenplays. My screenplays are my abandoned children. The funny thing is they are what drove me to Los Angeles and USC. I have three screenplays right now that I believe are very strong. Possibly the best things I will ever do. One is a romantic-comedy Christmas movie (yes, I said a Christmas movie); the second is a black-and-white film noir mystery (think a young Humphrey Bogart); and the third is an adaptation of Hamlet. Eclectic stuff? Yup, that is how I roll. But realistically, I’m not in any of the hubs of filmmaking. Of all of the items on this list, this would take the biggest bit of luck. My fingers are forever crossed though.

Okay, there are my five points, and I’ll be pleased as punch if I can pull off at least three. I hope you will stick around in the new year to watch.

Thanks again for reading! Happy New Year!

And Now the Back Flip! A Writing Update

The GymnastAh, my blog… How nice to be back. I’ve missed you. I feel like I am reopening the door of a room that has been shut for a while, wondering if I need to dust or vacuum. What’s funny about that is that while everything felt like a pause for me, my site continued to grow. Reaching now the awesome tally of 1406 followers. Thank you everyone!

I’ve been so focused on my fiction and writing outside the blog that I’ve only done simple entries over the last few weeks. Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I do when I look at the site. This site was built to challenge myself and my writing and when I don’t… well… I don’t.

While it may have seemed a little dry creatively on this site, I have been very busy. Actually, I feel on a writing high right now, Like I could do anything, accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. I am a gymnast in my mind, certain that I would land on my feet without even that little hop. It’s a good feeling and a good place to be creatively as a writer.

I have a lot of hope, there seems to be a lot of possibility, a wonderful feeling.

Hope is the thing with feathers… and a smile and wink of the eye.

Time for some updates. Continue reading

The Questions I Struggle With

The Approaching trainWhen you are growing up there is this myth we all buy into.

When you decide your goal, that’s it. Forever. Your life is locked in, congrats and here are the keys to your future.

Oh, if life was only that simple. Like a movie where the hero figures out their destiny and we know it is going to be okay. There is no conflict there after the decision. Bruce Wayne is going to be Batman, it is his destiny.  So be it, here is the cowl, there is the Joker. Go to it!

Instead what I have found to be actually true in reality, for us non-superheroes, is that we decide every day, every hour what we want to believe is true, and what we want to hold us back.  See, I’m not this person just because it is who I am, it’s also because I chose this. There have been numerous times I could’ve changed me, my life, but I didn’t want to then, and still don’t want to. The option is always there, it doesn’t go away. Frankly, most of the time, I like being me.

Yet, I still battle four thoughts, four burning questions almost every day. They can hold me back, make me question everything I have done in my life (from being a writer to a father to a husband to a human being), and sap all the energy from my system. It is not always easy to take them on, and sometimes I do lose, but they are always there. And I don’t see it ever changing. Continue reading

How to Walk the Equator on Planet Books

globeOn Friday night, with a few drinks and snacks nearby us, my wife and I were discussing the states of our artforms. (Yeah, this is what we do on weekend nights.) For my wife it is dance and she struggles between the world of dance you see on TV and the artistry and importance of modern dance (she writes a lot about this on her own blog- educatingdancers.com). For me, it is the state of writing and books.

My wife has heard these arguments before (and I love her more each time she doesn’t yawn) as I continue to wonder where my artform is going and why there seems to be such a thick and foreboding wall between the pop writing you see filling the stores and the more literary creations you see winning the acclaim.

See, for me it feels unnatural that some books are written solely for entertainment and others are considered more important, but can be an endeavor to read even for us educated readers. What many don’t know is that this line, this equator, wasn’t always around and there is a way to create novels that do both.

On this night, my wife laughed and said, “You know who you are? In your posts and on your site? All those articles about books and writing? You, hubby, are the Great Mediator.”

The Great Mediator? Yup, that’s me. And I guess that makes me the lamest member of the Justice League (I’m assuming my chest plate would be the image of a perfectly-balanced scale). I’ve also been probably known to say after a battle with bad guys, “Wait, dudes, let’s hear the Legion of Doom out on this one first before we jump to judgement.” I’m the action figure no kids wants to play with.

Whatever the case, as the world of books gets more and more fractured into different genres and accessibility, I want to bring everything back together.  Continue reading

My Favorite Writing Posts

Even Superman writes!We writers love to write about writing. Do other artforms love discussing their own art like we do in our neck of the woods? Do painters paint about paintings? Or singers sing about singing? Okay, this is a silly notion and the answer is sometimes, but nothing like us writers. We own this.

Yes, we writers love to discuss our artform (read and write) and I even have the personal proof to back the magnitude of this.

See, I like to think I write on a lot of interesting topics from movies to life experience to  TV to parenting, etc. (Heck, even last week I wrote 1300 words on Winnie-The-Pooh!), but nothing beats the numbers of visits I get when I put up a new writing post. And luckily for me I love writing about writing.

Books, and the creation around them are a passion of mine. I love throwing a thought out there and watching the responses come in via twitter and comments.  Sometimes I agree with the responses, sometimes I don’t, but it is always fun (not when they get mean, of course, which sometimes does happen).

I thought today I would link back to four of my personal favorite writing posts with updates and new thoughts from me on them below their link.  Consider it the equivalent of a reunion special… of my mind. Continue reading

My Writing Resolutions, 2013

SouthardThis blog began as New Year’s resolution. While some off-handily plan to get rich or find love or have a child, etc., at that midnight hour, I declared: “I’m going to make a blog! And I’m only going to make it about me! My writing! My life! And my opinion about everything! A site on me!” (You can add the hiccup with the whiff of alcohol there.)

My first real post on the site was shortly after New Year’s last year. That post can be found here and besides the questionable look in the picture with the file (I was a Beatnik at a holiday party), I don’t dislike what I wrote… well… too much.

The funny thing is I never in my wildest dreams expected my site to find readers. If someone was to have told me that by the end of the year I would have over 29000 unique views, 257 blog followers, over 200 likes on Facebook, and 10,000 followers on Twitter, I wouldn’t believe them. Seriously, I would have been shocked.

This site was started for purely selfish reasons, I admit that (wanting to build up my writing voice to where it once was since I was coming off a long writing drought). The fact you are coming along for the ride is a wonderful surprise. It encourages me like you wouldn’t believe, and I am so incredibly flattered and inspired by your views, likes, sharing, and just reading. Thank you. And I promise I will do my best not to suck in the new year. Continue reading

My Online Literary Experiment: Okay, Am I Stupid?

Deep breath…

So a few weeks ago I got called out by a writer/editor/publishing professional on Twitter questioning my goals and my thoughts behind this experiment of mine, Permanent Spring Showers. My little book inspired by Dickens.

Twitter, in its limited word span, can make things seem harsher than the writer may actually have meant it to sound (I did feel like he was condescending) but it threw me a curve.

Was I jarred? Yeah, I was jarred. I still am jarred.

I also like the word “jarred,” but let’s continue.

Basically, his argument was broken down into this point:

What publisher would publish or consider a book that people were getting for free?

Before other bloggers and writers take to my twitter site (@sdsouthard) to find the guy and twitter attack, let me say that about two-years ago I would have agreed with him. Yeah, I was in that camp then because I was trained in writing grad school to think of the publishing world in that black-and-white way. Heck, every book on writing and publishing would agree with him!

But the fact is that while this argument once made sense to me, it is not that way today. The world has changed, I have changed. Continue reading

Screenwriting 101: What Every Budding Film Writer Needs to Know

Film writing, creative writing’s least loved offspring.

It gets so little respect from the other mediums. Well, just look at the movies—you may say—just look at how many bad ones are made each year! Yet, to judge film writing overall based on a few bad seeds is not fair to the great stories that we have had on the silver screen over the ages. It’s like comparing all literary classics to the work of a few pulp romance or sci-fi novelists.

Film is very different from other story mediums. The limitations are extreme, and many times you will hear people dismiss the medium, not realizing the art needed to work within the strict borders film dictates. Yes, writing for film successfully is an art no matter what your friends who read 1000-page length novels and wear all black say; just as important as a perfectly structured and meaningful poem.

Here are some points I have always felt crucial in beginning an understanding about writing for film. Continue reading

Rewatching Sunset Boulevard: A Struggling Writer’s Nightmare

I have always been a fan of classic movies. While it may sound almost cliché to say this but Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. Period.

And while I love the film and watch it yearly, it was another black-and-white film that has influenced me more with the decisions I have made around my writing career.

That film is Sunset Boulevard. I have seen the film three times. The first time was before I moved to Los Angeles to try my hand as a screenplay writer, the second as a student at the University of Southern California, and the third a few days ago.

Sunset Boulevard (not the musical) is the 1950 classic written and directed by the genius Billy Wilder. It stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond a rich forgotten silent movie actress and William Holden as Joe Gillis, an out-of-luck writer who happens by chance into her life.

Now when most people think of Sunset they latch onto the character of Norma. It’s not surprising really, it is an amazing performance and—just like in A Streetcar Named Desire with Blanche—we watch this interesting character be driven more and more into madness by her own delusions. Her performance was nominated for an Oscar (as was the director, the picture, and most of the rest of the main cast; it won for best screenplay), and rightfully so. It’s hard to look away when she is on the screen.

But for me, when I think of Sunset Boulevard I always focus more on Joe Gillis, our unlucky writer. Continue reading

Pixar: the Film Studio I Would Sell My Soul to Write For

Being a parent of young children has made me an expert in a few different, new, and exciting fields.

You need to talk about superheroes, I am your man. If you want to discuss which lullaby CDs are best, and more importantly, work, talk to me.  Which TV shows for kids might actually educate your child, I’m an e-mail away. Also, if you want to know about Pixar, I have an altar for them in my house.

Well, maybe not a real altar, but it does feel that way sometimes. Of course, can you truly use the word altar to describe a state that seems to have taken over your whole house? From the toys on the ground to the boy dressed like Dash from The Incredibles.

In my house, simply put, we live Pixar films.

Heck, when I discovered I was going to be having a daughter, her first present from me was a talking Jessie doll. Looking back, I think I honestly made the purchase immediately after calling my family members.

Yet, my own personal love for Pixar goes beyond just the joy they give to my children. As a student of film and a writer, I respect them more than most filmmakers working today. I have yet to be disappointed by a Pixar film; and their weakest film is still far and away better than most exhaled from other studios for our children to consume (Alvin and the Chipmunks, how about The Smurfs, Shrek, etc.; I feel dirty just referencing these films in an editorial about the genius that is Pixar).

Here are three reasons why I am a fan, and would, quite honestly, sell my soul to work with them as a writer: Continue reading