Delayed Mourning

 

This was my friend Jason. He died in 2003.

Of course, I didn’t know this until tonight. His funeral was held September 25, 2003. And for some weird cosmic reason, I chose now to go hunting for Jason on the internet. To see if I could find him.

And he’s gone.

Jason and I became friends when I was in college. In the early days of internet message boards and usenet groups, somehow Jason and I connected about Star Trek. Our friendship lasted over seven or eight years, but I lost touch with him shortly before I moved from Florida to California.

Of course, I had thought about trying to find him and re-establish contact with him many times over the years, but it just never happened. My sister and I have been working on this spec which has required us to do some research on deafness and blindness.  Tonight I started thinking about Jason, wondering if perhaps he’d remember me, and I could ask him some questions that might make our spec stronger.  Jason was blind. I used to read books on tape for him, books he couldn’t get on tape at that time — mostly Star Trek books — so he could enjoy them.

My other memories of him are very fuzzy…the kind of fog that descends after a few years when you aren’t living with the memories quite as much…and you wonder if it was ever real.

In my search for Jason this evening, I discovered his father had written a book about his son.  I don’t know if Jason ever mentioned me to his parents.  Jason was such a flirt, but I loved talking to him on the phone – he had a way of making me feel beautiful…which made no sense to me.  He was blind, and yet, he was certain I was gorgeous.

Jason was passionate about mathematics.  And Star Trek.  I remember many Star Trek conversations that carried us through the years.

And now I really hate that I missed out on the last year or two of his life.

I know some people think it seems silly or stupid to go hunting for old friends/acquaintances on the internet.  But this one I wish I had found far sooner.  Now all I will ever have are the foggy memories of our conversations and whatever old emails I can dredge up.

We never did meet in person.  Not that it mattered.

Goodbye, Jason.  I’m sorry I never finished reading that last “Star Trek: Voyager” book on tape for you.

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on September 27, 2009

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Facing the Void

I’ve kept my head down the last few months.  Kept writing.  But yesterday, I looked up and saw what was in front of me.

The Void.

I haven’t seen the Void in years.  It’s that empty black hole that threatens to swallow me up, leaving no trace of my existence behind.  The last time I really saw the Void, I was living in Florida.  How did I escape it?  I moved across the country to L.A.  Since then I had left it firmly behind me, pursuing my love of writing and living a much happier life.

But things have changed.  I lost my job in May.  I really didn’t think that was going to bring back the Void, but it appears to have been the catalyst.  I just didn’t see it approaching me from the distance, because I really was keeping my head down.  Writing.

Now I feel like a slow moving turtle halfway across the road, and an 18-wheeler is barreling toward me at high speed.  It’s possible the truck will just fly over me, my turtle self tucked safely between the wheels.

But more likely, I’ll go SPLAT.

I’ve been looking for a new job, but I know it’s been a half-hearted effort thus far.  I really wanted to have some time off to write.  This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, for 13 years.

And I’m not able to enjoy it.  At all.

Why?  Well, some of it is due to extenuating circumstances.  Responsibilities.  All I want to do is run away for a few months, write my heart out and then return to L.A., a triumphant writer having vented years of built up spleen.  But then again, I’m not writing alone anymore.  So that plan is out.

Right now, sis and I are focused on getting an agent/manager.  We have been writing two TV specs (a CHUCK and a CASTLE) and are nearing the finish line on both.  We’ve recently finished a horror feature spec written with a friend of ours.  Add all of that material to our existing one-hour sci-fi spec TV pilot, and we finally have a portfolio of material between the two of us.

Next up for us is a comic book.  All of my other projects are on hold.

So of course, those projects are starting to gnaw at me.  Because that’s what happens — I’m actively working on something, it’s blood from a stone time, squeezing out the work one drop at a time.  When I’m not actively working on something (and am focused on a different project), suddenly I am chock a block full of ideas.  Feast or famine.

So, the Void.  It just appeared out of nowhere…well, at least to me it did.  Again, I wasn’t really looking.  It may have been there awhile, just sitting there in front of me, but I didn’t see it.  Now I do.  And it is all I can see, filling my entire field of vision.  I see it with my eyes open or closed.  Like creepy eyes on a painting, it follows me, no matter where I look.

The fear has gripped me.  Trying to take hold of myself, maybe grab a handhold to keep from falling in.  Or walking in.  Into the Void.

What happens if I go in there?  I don’t think I come out.

Must get my head back down.  Must keep writing.  Maybe I can erase the Void.  Maybe I can replace it with something else.

My life needs a rewrite.

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on August 18, 2009

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Blog vacay

Jules and I will be taking the week off from the blog because honestly, what the heck?

We’ll be back on 7/10 with our plot to take over Comic Con.  Then the world.

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on July 2, 2009

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Mad World or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 12%

I got laid off today.

It’s weird to say that.  I first said it on Twitter.  Then Facebook…then LinkedIn.  Most of my friends knew within an hour and many of them sent me their well wishes.

So connected to everyone, and yet so disconnected.

I worked for Disney (did you know that? Some of you probably didn’t) for 13 years.  I got my first job right out of college.  This is my first brush with unemployment in all that time.

Yes, I do know how amazingly fortunate I have been.

So, I should have some time to do some writing very soon.  Hey, I might even start updating the blog.  There’s an upside.

I was welcomed to the 12% Unemployment club today.  I know I’m in good company.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 30, 2009

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Finding the Path

This may get a little too esoteric for some of you.  If you have no interest in hearing about how I have come along on my journey thus far and how I think what I have experienced can be of assistance to anyone out there, perhaps just wait for the next post, which I’m sure will be about how lame Knight Rider is.

Eight years ago I had a really tough time finding my current path.  I was aimless and feeling trapped in my life.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted or how to change my life in a positive way that made me feel like I was doing more than running on the hampster wheel.  At that point in time, I had a mentor who dropped into my life rather unexpectedly.  He tried to help me find my way, but I was so far down the well of despair that I couldn’t see the light at the top.

So I dug down.

Which is always the long way out of any situation.  They tell you when you are digging yourself a hole, stop digging.  Here’s the thing — sometimes, you can’t stop digging.  And if you can’t stop digging, the next best thing is to start digging in a different direction or see if you can start digging up back to the surface.

That’s what I did.  I overhauled my life.  I got a job transfer, moved myself across the country and committed myself to following one dream — write a screenplay.  And once I had done that, I wrote another.  And then I started writing TV specs…well, if you’ve followed this blog at all you know that has led me here, with a pilot in development and lots of other projects bubbling along.

It’s not a fast path.  If you are just starting on it, be prepared for that.  Prepare to spend 5-6 years just starting to feel competent.  I’ve been doing this for six years now and I just now feel like my writing might be good enough for someone to read (though obviously I’ve had lots of people reading my work before now).  And there is still a long way to go.  It’ll be another 5-6 years before I feel like I’m good at this.  A recent study determined that it takes 10,000 hours of study or practice to become an expert at something.  Talent helps, and may even shortcut you some hours, but you must sit in the chair and do the work.  Don’t just think about writing.  Don’t just talk about writing.  Don’t just write about writing.  A blog is a blessing and a curse.  At its best it can serve as a warm-up to your “real” writing or help you sort out some thoughts as you spin through various story ideas.  At its worst it is a procrastination excuse.  You can’t let a blog rule your life, and while I do feel bad that I haven’t updated it as much as I’d like, I ultimately had to make a choice — write scripts or make excuses.  Obviously, I went for Door number one.

The upshot is that once I started working on my scripts again, it has really lit a fire to write more overall.  So, that’s why I’m back here updating the blog.  A rising tide lifts all boats, or something like that.

Everything is Zen.  Take a few moments to clear your mind of whatever is cluttering it and write for yourself a letter of what it is you really want to accomplish.  Once you’ve had the honest conversation with yourself, you’ll feel better about moving forward.

At the very least, it gets you writing.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on December 3, 2008

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Setting course

The last two months have been really profound for me.  Of course, I wish I had been writing about it while it was happening, but I’m not sure I could have.  Sometimes you can only really write about things by looking in the rearview mirror…they are phantoms around you until you pass them by.

Let’s talk about writing goals.  They are important.  If you don’t set some goals for yourself, you will wander aimlessly in the wasteland, perhaps making tiny amounts of progress but never at the level that is satisfying.

In the last two months, I set three writing goals and I’ve accomplished two of them.  The third one has been a struggle, but I’m still hammering away at it, hoping to finish it soon so I can move on to the next set of goals.  Productivity is high, and the great thing is that when I’m writing a lot, it feeds the positive energy into the rest of my life.  I’ve dropped 15 pounds since September.  I am the healthiest I’ve been in at least a couple of years…and I have a new love in my life.  Well, I say new but it’s really…a very long (awesome) story.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’ve been busy since Austin.  I love going to Austin, it always helps me focus my mind on the priorities, get myself centered and charge my energy and enthusiasm to follow this path for my life.

I promise I’ll get around to updating the Watch List and I have lots I want to talk about regarding how the 2008 shows are shaking out (needless to say, I have some very choice words for NBC).

I hope you are all locked and loaded.  I know I am.  Course is set and I am ready to rock.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on December 2, 2008

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Handstands Under Water

This is part 3 of a story started last week. It’s long, rambling and is probably of no interest to more than 4 of you. So, I’m sure there’s some TV news around here somewhere for everyone else…

Did you ever do that as a kid? If you did, you know how much fun it could be, your legs poking out of the water, sticking up in the air. Maybe you were graceful, like those aqua-ballet people, or maybe, like me, it was clumsy…legs more flailing than fluttering.

It didn’t matter, though. The fact is, when you do a handstand under water, you still have to flip yourself over to come up for air.

So I’d arrived at the winehouse at the DeLoach Winery early. The limo has just pulled up, and out tumbles the hosts of this crazy impromptu affair. Kevin Rose. Robert Scoble. Tim Ferriss. Gary Vaynerchuk. A few friends, all laughing and talking. Tired from a day of tasting wines (how stressful, right?) but all ready for a party. As they flowed in around me, some cursory greetings. Scoble realizes who I am and gives me a hug. “You made it!” I’m not sure why the surprise, but maybe he didn’t think I was real — driving from L.A. to Santa Rosa for a party.

A few other party guests had arrived right after me, so there were already a half dozen of us wandering through the spacious house admiring antique corkscrews display boxes hanging on the walls, cookbooks and books on wine in the kitchen, and the pool area. The hosts scattered to shower, change, or at least put down their finds from the day before joining us for the fun.

It was at this point I realized how little food was around. There was some bread and cheese about, but nothing of real sustenance. And I hadn’t eaten much on the road. I feared for my ability to last long with the wine without some food. Fortunately, someone else realized this also, and was taking up a collection to order pizza. I happily offered up a five for a couple of slices. Problem solved.

By 7:30, people were steadily flowing into the house. There were a host of ‘names’ which would be familiar to those who live and work in the ‘Web 2.0’ world, but are foreign to most everyone else. Messina. Morin. Sarah Lacy. What was amazing to me was the general high level intelligence in the room. This wasn’t a “Hollywood” party, where the closest anyone gets to intellectual conversation is to discuss the attributes of their Prius. No, this was *real* intelligence, raw, hardcore. These are the people changing the web on a daily basis and loving it. I admit, it was heady. I felt immediately like some child pulled out of kindergarten to sit in the senior high school class. They talk about color spectrum, I talk about crayons. You get the picture.

And in all my discussions with people, NOT ONCE did anyone ask me *what* I was writing, which, of course, would be expected in H’wood circles. I would say ‘I’m a writer”, and I’d get the understanding nod and question about my drive up to Sonoma. My trip was more fascinating than my aspiration. Weird, yet, understandable too.

It made for a great topic upon meeting folks, and the hosts (okay, mostly Scoble) were eager to tell people I had driven SEVEN HOURS to be there. What dedication! What cool insanity! Yeah, it was kinda neat. And then, Gary Vaynerchuk rolled back downstairs. He greeted me, remembered I’d made the trek and was excited, no, REALLY, excited I was there. You know how people say ‘oh I’m so happy you are here’ and it just feels like a pleasantry? This guy says it and you believe that you made his entire day by just being in his presence. He asked me if I liked the wine I was drinking. Later he asked me to try some bubbly drink he had just popped open, and I was standing nearby. I wish I could describe how inspiring it was to just stand around him…it was like positive energy was flowing out of this guy in bucketloads. And I think he was just starting to realize it, too. Literally in the week after the party, he started doing new video blogs on his personal website, seemingly inspired by his fellow hosts during his weekend in Sonoma.

I had also wanted to meet Tim Ferriss, having recently read his book. He was gracious and attentive, but also knew how to get around to everyone. He was the only person who asked for my card. I pushed it on to everyone else I could. I don’t know why…why not, I reasoned.

The wine flowed all night. I tried almost everything. The DeLoach wines were hit or miss, but the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay stood out as the best. There were a few other wines there, and I don’t know where they came from — maybe Gary had provided them? I tasted the two bubbly ‘champagnes’, another Pinot Noir, the DeLoach Zinfindel, the DeLoach Cab, and one other wine I don’t remember (it was red and not very memorable). The hours rolled by, and I did what I could to break out of my shell and talk to some people. I did pretty well with a very nice couple from the Napa area, and a second couple from the Bay area. Lots of couples, but I’m used to that at wine functions now. It seems to be a ‘couple’ thing to do.

Around midnight with spirits still high, Gary decided to do a ‘live’ Wine Library TV show. It’s much of the reason for his internet fame — 400 plus videos of him tasting wines and talking wine, and doing so in a way that energizes young people. As he likes to say, he ‘brings the thunder’ to ‘change the wine world’. So, you can imagine the energy from him to do this show, and surrounded by at least 50 people while doing it. In fact, you can watch the show here. (You can kinda see me in the back behind Gary wearing BRIGHT GREEN).

Around 1:30 AM a lively game of Werewolf started. I wasn’t in the first ’round’ but ended up in the second as a villager and was killed off very quickly.

By 3 AM the party was almost at an end. I had vowed to stay as long as I could having driven so far to be there. Ferriss had long gone to bed. Gary was talking with Kevin Rose…somewhere. Scoble and a few other guests and myself were all that were left of the party. We all had that same ‘vibe’ of the right time to leave and made for the door. A final goodbye from Scoble with a promise to keep in touch, and I drove back to the hotel.

My trip back home the next day was largely uneventful (save for the very weird grocery store I stopped in before heading back — and the fact it was Easter Sunday practically nothing was open, not even the Wal-Mart!) I listened to my music, sang loudly, drank Rockstar (having gotten about 4 hours of sleep — thanks to the young child with family who seemed to stand outside my hotel room door at 8 AM to serve as a wake up call). Of course, without that natural adrenaline of anticipation, the drive home seemed much longer. But I did have the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, a weekend not wasted (I’m sure some would say I ‘wasted 14-15 hours in my car, but I really don’t see it that way).

When I go back and watch the videos or read other blogs which mention the party, it seems very surreal to me that I was there, that this was a kind of ‘flash mob’ party — arranged in less than 30 hours through Twitter. A success of Web 2.0 in bringing people together? It certainly seemed to be.

So what’s the lesson learned? I suppose there were many, but the one that stands out to me was that I should not be afraid to be myself. Not be afraid to have my voice heard. It’s something I’ve been struggling with mightily lo these many months with this blog, my writing…I kept feeling that what I had to say wasn’t very important or at best certainly not interesting to listen to. I’m trying not to think that way now. I do have something to say, and it may be of interest to *some*body out there. And that’s enough.

And who knows, maybe someday soon, I’ll have a larger platform from which to say the things I want. It would certainly be nice to have a vision realized. Until then, I’ll keep blogging, keep writing, and keep…well, shouting into the wind. Much of what I say won’t be heard, but some of it might make it through. And that will make it worth it.

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on March 31, 2008

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Swimming in the pool.

This is the second part of a story started here a couple of days ago. This is long and a lot of personal stuff (not tv news). Feel free to skip it.

I often think about the decisions I’ve made in life…going right when I could have gone left, you know what I mean. Big decisions. Life changing decisions. I’ve had a few.

I had always had an affinity for being on a stage — singing, acting, etc — but I was primarily a studious kid. I was labeled ‘gifted’ very early in life, and that for good or ill, dictated a lot of how I looked at myself. I was supposed to be better than people, and when I’m not, I’m letting everyone else down. After all, I’m “gifted” — one of the chosen few from some IQ-test lottery deemed to have the potential to accomplish great things. This kept me from fully embracing my love of the arts, and grounded me to doing well at science, math, and English…all the things you’d need to succeed in college.

The first of my life changing decisions came in high school. As I said, I was pretty bookish as a kid. The only extra-curricular activity I had pursued as freshman was the Scholastic Bowl (or Quiz Bowl) team. But as each year past, and each school musical was performed, I found myself drawn closer and closer to my true loves. I had given up choir as a freshman for German class. I had given up studying novels for the college prep English. I compromised on some things, just so I could have others — like being in the musical or the school play. As a junior I was pretty well cemented with the drama kids. I had joined the Speech Team and was performing dramatic interpretations of scenes by myself and with partners.

That led me to Speech Camp.

It sounds silly, I know. But that one week at a camp at Eastern Illinois University forever changed my life. I experienced great satisfaction in being a performer there. I wasn’t the nerd girl who was trying to also be in the play, as I was often perceived at my school. At camp I was ‘one of them’. No labels, no ‘gifted’…just me.

When I got home from camp, my mom even noticed something different about me, and I remember her telling me as she left my room, “I like you this way.” It was then I knew that this was a path worth following.

I give you all this background because I think it important to understanding how I make decisions. Every decision I make comes with a compromise of some sort. I participate in drama or music, but only if I maintain my workload for classes and college. I move to Los Angeles, but only after I was able to secure a transfer from Florida. I continue to work at my job, earning a good income until I’m able to support myself as a writer full time.

So, when I tell you that my trip to Sonoma was a decision which did not involve any compromise, perhaps you’ll understand how monumental it was for me to make it.

Sure, I’ve made decisions to travel, some even short notice, but every trip involved me planning carefully for the time I would be gone from work. This driving trip I took was completely spur of the moment. Minimal planning.

If I had found someone to go with, I’m not sure it would have had as much impact on me as it did. Being alone out on the road for even seven hours provides good time to meditate (and sing really loudly in the car). I thought about the things that make me happy. The drive was easy. I had natural adrenaline, just from the high of being adventurous in a way I haven’t been in quite some time.

So, I got to Santa Rosa and found a hotel right off the interstate. Checked in. Called Scoble to find out what was happening, as it was 4 PM and the party wasn’t slated to start until 7:30. The gang was still out at a winery tasting wines, which gave me time to shower and change.

I arrived at the winery early. So peaceful…a chill was developing, but it was pleasant to stand outside and watch the sunset behind the vineyard. After about twenty minutes, a man exited the wine house and greeted me. He told me the “gang” would be back soon, as they had grabbed some dinner, something at that moment I hadn’t thought to do.

He poured me my first glass of wine from the vineyard, a Chardonnay. I noticed all of the cases of wine — 24 of them. A lot of wine. How many people would show up to a party announced primarily on Twitter and Qik? This would be interesting.

I heard a noise from outside. A limo had just pulled up. The gang’s all here.

To be continued…

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This post was written by Shawna on March 27, 2008

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The water’s fine.

“You don’t even bother to check the temperature of the water, you just jump right in.”

This is what a friend said to me today about how I treat my ‘hobbies’ and fixations. If I get interested in something I go at it full force, no messing around. I don’t just dabble…I *live* it.

Some of you were around for my “Taylor Hicks phase”, something I’m still grasping to understand myself. I just knew it was something that had taken hold of me at a particular time in my life when I needed something to excite me, and I went for the ride. And what a ride it was. It’s still difficult to explain that Mr. Hicks really became a minor player in my hobby. Each time I saw him put on a show, it became less and less about him, more and more about who I was spending the time with, and all of the experiences I was having. I went to Birmingham, AL twice, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas…all to experience life with this group of people who were becoming my friends.

I don’t talk to many of them anymore, but the ones I talk to a lot are the ones I intend to keep forever. I’m sure I’ll continue to have some conversations with a few of the others, but once this ‘phase’ was winding down for me, it seemed to be winding down for others…we just moved on.

So, now I’ve dived into my next hobby, phase or ‘subculture’ as I am frequently finding fascinating similarities and interesting differences between the various groups I mingle with (writers, blues and soul music fans, sci-fi geeks, tech geeks, etc).

I’m *really* into wine.

And that doesn’t just mean I find a couple I like. Oh no. It means I ‘found’ the winebloggers, the vloggers, the wikis, EVERYTHING I can get my hands on that relates to wine. I track my cellar and tasting notes. I have 43 bottles right now, 15 of which I consider worth ‘saving’ and not just popping open to drink randomly. I’m learning how to train my palate to get better at tasting wine.

I live my passions.

So Friday, I’m checking in on my favorite wine vlogger, who is a cult icon with the wine lover set — he has fanatic followers and has caused a lot of controversy in the staid wine business.

Meet Gary Vaynerchuk.

Gary took over his family’s wine business many years ago and has built it into one of the premier wine businesses on the web. He embraces Web 2.0 (and I’ll be posting about throwing myself deep into the social networking pool more in another post…this only scratches the surface of it).

So Friday, I learn he’s up in Sonoma tasting wines with Kevin Rose, founder of Digg. Kevin was using a great new Web 2.0 tool Qik to broadcast LIVE from his Nokia phone out to the site and to the entire world. Further, you could chat with them through the phone as they were recording, resulting in some questions being asked by people to Kevin and Gary which they could answer (that is until the lag got kind of bad — there’s still work to be done on this technology).

Gary is also joined by Tim Ferriss, author of the NY Times Bestseller “The Four-Hour Work Week” and Robert Scoble from Fast Company. These four people are extremely successful with their business and a lot of it can be attributed to their shrewd use of Web 2.0 technology.

During the course of the video, Gary mentions it might be fun to host a party Saturday night for the Twitter followers — yes, Twitter is yet another Web 2.0 technology that I have embraced (if you come here often, you’ve probably seen my recent twitter updates over in the sidebar).

So, a party? A WINE party? Hosted by *the* Gary Vaynerchuk and with the aforementioned internet ‘personalities’ in attendence? I instantly knew that I had to be there. Before they could confirm their musings I twittered Robert Scoble and asked if the party was a go. He told me it was, and I said I’d be there, in Santa Rosa, for the party the next night.

Crazy, right? Looking back, no crazier than my flights hither and yon to see the American Idol winner. In fact, this looked downright sane in comparison. So, I sought out travel companions of a female nature…my other thought being it would make for a good girl’s weekend and I didn’t need any of my male friends (who I cherish SOOOO much) to get in the way of any possible, ahem, romantic possibilities. Hey, some of these guys are wealthy. A girl can dream, right?

I had no takers on the trip. At first I was bummed, and almost talked myself out of going…seven hours of driving alone seemed too risky. But I didn’t let it stop me. I got up Saturday morning, gassed up my car, packed a small bag and hit the road.

SPLASH. I am in the pool, and the water is fine.

(To be continued…)

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on March 25, 2008

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Back in town, blogging will resume

Sorry for the radio silence…was on business travel last week.

But now I’m back. Back in Black.

Posted under blogs

This post was written by Shawna on January 27, 2008

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