Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What We Did Today

by Leigh-Ann and Daniel

Hi, I'm Leigh-Ann and this is my Spark partner, Daniel. Today, we watched the first two minutes of a movie called INCEPTION. First we watched it with no sound and we tried to see what was going on. I learned that you can also understand a movie by the way they use the camera. I had a feeling inside me like something bad was going to happen and Daniel had a moody feeling inside him. We've noticed what we can see in a movie with no sound. We watched it over a few times and then with sound and saw what was really going on with all the noises and sound effects. We also did storyboards and wrote stories with some dialogue. I had fun doing these activities and of course watching the movie that looks really interesting.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Story by Leigh-Ann and Daniel

 There was once a little girl named Lily. She lived in the countryside and one day she decided to go for a long walk. When she left for a walk, she saw a thing coming closer to her but it was coming from the sky. She got scared and hid under an oak tree. She heard a loud sound and then she saw a Roman person looking at her. They stared at each other for a few minutes because she couldnt believe her eyes. The Roman said to her, "You must come with us to help us with our duties." Lily got so scared she ran back home and gave her mom such a big hug. Her mom knew Lily had got in to bad mischief. "Knock knock" -- the Roman was trying to get in but Lily told her mom, "don't open the door!" but it was too late. The Roman knocked down the door and grabbed Lily and took her back to the space ship and flew her to another place she had never seen. After that, no one has seen or heard of Lily again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Meet our Spark Apprentices: Leigh-Ann & Daniel!

Hi this is Leigh-Ann and Daniel. We are apart of a program called Spark. Spark is really cool because we get to come to The Writers Junction. The Junction is really awesome because we get to write different stories and meet new people. There's a lot of nice and funny people at The Writers Junction. The Junction is really cozy and half of the time people are writing and the other half people are just relaxing on the comfy couches. When you walk in you feel welcome and relax. When you come all your stress from driving and the traffic goes away. When you are here you feel calm and there are so many good books to read that came from the writers here at The Junction. This is the best place to get all your books, plays, and movies done.
- By Leigh-Ann and Daniel, local 7th-graders

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This Week's Writing Contest

Complete the following sentence on Twitter (or here!) for a prize:
"You know you're a writer when..."

Deadline: Wednesday, September 21st, 3:00pm

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quickie: The Soundtrack Behind Your Story

by Jacqueline Fauni

One day I was perusing the Lending Library here at The Junction (Note to members: remember to check it out if you’re in need of a book!) and came across a short story anthology called Please: Fiction Inspired by The Smiths, edited by Peter Wild.  Though I’m not very familiar with The Smiths and admit to being discouraged from reading the anthology by disappointed reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads, I was intrigued by the idea of it and thought it might be a fun and immersing experience to try writing a story in direct response to a playlist.

Instructions: Put your iPod (or iTunes, or any other kind of music device/playlist) on shuffle and listen to 5-7 songs.  Write in a stream of consciousness through the songs, but listen carefully and write in focused response to them.  Who, where, when, why, how, and what do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel from the music?  Does a story emerge?  Would a story more cohesively emerge if you switched the order of the songs?  Do the transitions between songs coincide with turning points?

Have fun, and happy writing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Freewrite of the Week: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

by Jacqueline Fauni

We had a great time at the UCLA Writers Faire last Sunday, and were intrigued by some advice given at the "Writing Your First Novel" panel. When asked about how to actually start writing a novel, mystery novelist Linda Palmer said she likes to begin by creating a cast of characters and exploring their opinions. We wholeheartedly agree with her character-first approach!

As important as the plot or situation is in a story, characters are the ones that are reacting to the situation, or even instigating it along with even more situations. Forming your characters' opinions and outlooks on life is essential because they dictate how your characters think, behave, talk to and connect with other people, and ultimately propel the plot. As interesting as a nun-in-training becoming a governess to a former naval officer's seven children sounds, it becomes a lot more interesting when the captain thinks it's best to keep his children at a distance with a strictly enforced schedule, the children think that torturing all their governesses is the only way to get their father's attention, and the nun-in-training thinks it's a good idea to butt heads with the captain to get the children the fun and affection they need. Throwing all these different opinions into the mix is what makes The Sound of Music such a great story as they interact, clash, and change each other.

Besides being important on the level of the story, your characters' opinions make up a big part of the connection between you and your reader. By creating a character with beliefs, values, and feelings, you make him/her more real, interesting, and relatable--someone your readers come to feel that they know. The "My Favorite Things" scene is a moment we witness Maria's belief in the unifying power of music, and we are swept away right along with the children in a carefree, whimsical recollection of favorite things. It's a moment when the children feel connected to Maria, and so do we.

Developing things as profound as your characters' opinions can seem daunting, but you can ease into it by thinking about fun and simple things first, such as their likes and dislikes (e.g. favorite and most despised foods, films, etc.).

Your task: In a 10-minute stream-of-consciousness exercise, list some of your character's favorite things.  And by "things," we mean anything: objects, pastimes, hobbies, interests, ideas, words, stories, songs, sounds, smells, memories, places, people, seasons, time of day, days of the week, etc. We're leaving it up to you!

*The next step: Explore your character's forms of "when the dog bites" and "when the bee stings," or situations akin to Gretel's fear of thunderstorms. What would make your character feel sad, angry, or scared? Write about an event that makes your character want to "simply remember [their] favorite things."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Second Summer Lit Marathon a Success!

Last Friday's Lit Marathon was a huge success, thanks in big part to our spectacular slate of performers.  We took it easy on the literary marathoner audience this year and brought them seven hours of entertainment instead of last year's 24-hour program.  The evening, benefiting The Young Storytellers Foundation, was jam-packed with hours of entertaining and insightful readings.  Our very own Ashaki Jackson kicked the night off with solemn, moving poetry in memory of her grandmother, laced with humorous asides.  She was followed by author Jillian Lauren, who shared an exclusive snippet of her upcoming novel, Pretty, which hits stores August 30th.

As the evening progressed, guests trickled in and out of the Library, listening to the performances from the Lounge while mingling by the open bar (our lovely bartender's recommendation: UV cake-flavored vodka + root beer = extra delicious root beer float!  Thanks to UV for this donation!) and buying scrumptious pastries from the Miss California contestants' charity bake sale.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and social.  Ben Weber, our honorable MC, kept the good times rolling with light, easygoing banter in between acts. 

One of the night's highlights was the TV writers' panel, moderated by Jay Gibson and featuring Deirdre Shaw Gibson (JANE BY DESIGN, LIFE UNEXPECTED), Liz Tigelaar (ONCE UPON A TIME, LIFE UNEXPECTED), Bruce Miller (EUREKA, MEDIUM), and Jami O'Brien (HELL ON WHEELS, BIG LOVE).  The panel shared insights about how they got their start and what it's like in the writers room from assistant to showrunner perspectives.  As a creator, Liz shared her own perspective of assembling a team of writers that would work well together.  Deirdre and Jami, as current staff writers, emphasized the importance of an encouraging environment with a showrunner who, rather than shooting ideas down without producing alternative solutions, helps in massaging the ideas into kernels that can be used.  Bruce shared his experience from ER to Eureka, including the roller coaster last-minute cancellation (read more here from Deadline Hollywood) of the show just days before the panel.

Towards the middle of the evening, it was my (Jacqui's) turn to go up on stage!  I performed three of my songs, "Angry Welts," "Love Song for the Hopeless Romantics," and "Giddy."  The warm reception from the audience paid great testament to the vibrant, enthusiastic, and supportive writers' community I'm honored to be a part of here at The Junction.  :)  *Junction note: Singer-songwriter Jacqui is awesome and delightful -- if you get a chance to see her play, don't miss it!

As the night wound down, the stage was graced by spoken word artists and writers who shared sneak peeks at their working novels.  In addition to the talented David Francis, Rita Williams and Nicole Wells, late night was highlighted by Rich Ferguson's spoken word, including one of our favorites, "To The Judgmental Rushing-to-Conclusions Cashier at My Local Supermarket."  From humor to deep thoughts: "And when we kiss... present, past, future -- with my love, I never know in what tense I exist."  Rich was followed by his fellow The Nervous Breakdown writer Anne Walls, who channeled a young adult hypochondriac from her debut novel.  Return Literary Marathon warrior Sean Hill then charmed the crowd with his stage presence and spoken word pieces on love, and Anna Metcalf shared a second excerpt from her novel about house-sitting an abandoned mansion on the Tennessee/Kentucky state line.  Finally, the night closed with Brooke Bastinelli, who gave voice to damsels in distress with tongue-in-cheek poems about just wanting to be "kept."

All in all, we had a grand time at this summer's Lit Marathon.  Many thanks to all of you who joined us, and stay tuned for posts of the videos on our YouTube channel!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Only TWO DAYS LEFT until the 2nd Summer Lit Marathon!

Revisit last year’s wildly popular 24-hour literary marathon in redux with new & returning stars.  This event will feature some of the literary, entertainment, & music world's best & brightest.  Take a look at our stellar line-up:

7:15PM- Ashaki Jackson*- poetry
7:30PM- Jillian Lauren author of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem- excerpt from upcoming novel Pretty
7:50PM- Mark Sarvas* author of Harry, Revised- fiction
8:10PM- Inside The Writer's Room: A Panel – get the inside scoop on a television writers room with showrunners & staff writers including: Liz Tigelaar (LIFE UNEXPECTED, ONCE UPON A TIME), Jami O'Brien (HELL ON WHEELS, BIG LOVE) , Bruce Miller (EUREKA, MEDIUM), Deirdre Shaw Gibson (LIFE UNEXPECTED, JANE BY DESIGN) & more!
9:10PM- Sarah Monson- comedy
9:30PM- Brad Listi author of Attention. Deficit. Disorder- fiction
9:50PM- Jim McCaffree- humorous excerpts from self-help blog
10:00PM- Tatiana Blackington- excerpt from The Sanctuary, winner of The Nervous Breakdown's Novel Contest
10:15PM- Mark Rizzo* TV/film writer & storytelling veteran
10:35PM- David Francis author of Stray Dog Winter- excerpt from new novel
10:55PM- Rita Williams author of If the Creek Don't Rise
11:20PM- Rich Ferguson- spoken word
11:40PM- Anne Walls- comedy
MIDNIGHT- Neal Brennan* co-creator of Comedy Central's CHAPPELLE'S SHOW
12:20AM- Nicole Wells- personal essays
12:30AM- Sean Hill- spoken word
12:50AM- Anna Metcalf- humor/memoir
1:10AM- The Dub Collective acoustic band featuring Jacqui Fauni*
1:30AM- Brooke Bastinelli- poetry
And of course, your most honorable Master of Ceremonies...
Ben Weber* actor, writer, Geico Caveman

Performances will be going for 7 (not 24!) hours straight, as will the food, drinks, & revelry.  There will be a silent auction, giveaways, & you can check out the amazing workspace that is The Writers Junction.  We will donate a portion of the evening's proceeds to The Young Storytellers Foundation.

Buy your tickets now for $8 each:
or roll the dice at the door for $2-12 admission.

*notes Writers Junction member

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No Romance in e-Reading: The Heartbreak of Closing the Shop Around the Corner

by Jacqueline Fauni

When Borders first announced they were filing for bankruptcy back in February, I was devastated, but still held out a bit of hope since they were only closing some of their stores, and fortunately the one in Torrance (my local store) would remain open.  Call it optimistic or naive, but I thought maybe -- just maybe -- taking this step would help them eventually turn around.  Alas, they are closing all their doors for good.

I've read lots of different opinions on the matter -- some chalking it up to mismanagement, some calling it poetic justice because Borders was responsible for a lot of independents going out of business (like Tom Hanks' Fox Books to Meg Ryan's Shop Around the Corner), etc.  But as my fellow card-carrying (though those cards are useless now, except maybe as collectors' items in 200 years) Borders Rewards members would attest, many of us are deeply saddened.  One particularly disheartening reason Borders is closing up shop is that they couldn't keep up with the "e-volution" of books, with their Kobo getting left in the dust by Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.

Yet another reason for me to despise e-readers.  Grr.

Sure, they save trees, space, time and money (at least in the long run), and as a Millennial, I'm supposed to covet all sorts of cool technology, but as a rather old-fashioned gal myself, I just have no desire to buy an e-reader.  Where's the romance in pressing some buttons instead of being able to turn a page and relish its strangely satisfying texture under your fingertips?  Where's the communal spirit in shopping for books online (besides the reviews... which I must admit are incredibly helpful)?  Where's the serendipity in instantly clicking "purchase" rather than spending a Sunday afternoon idly perusing the shelves for hours and stumbling upon a book that seems to be made for you?

Just as there's something about the act of grappling in an empty post office box that doesn't quite translate to checking your e-mail, the e-reading revolution lacks the organic shopping experience offered by bookstores like Borders.  Of course, I don't think Borders' closing is a sign that all brick-and-mortar bookstores will be going extinct anytime soon (knock on wood) -- but I sincerely hope the e-books revolution doesn't completely take over and wipe the society and romance out of reading.

What do you think about Borders' closing?  Are e-readers the bane of any other book lovers' existence out there?  Or have you made the switch?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I AM THE GREATEST: Meditations on Swagga

by Jack Solowey


Brian Urlacher has it. He advertises a dank (good smelling) deoderant by that very name. He also has over 1,000 career tackles in the NFL – both cause and consequence of his undaunted swagga.

Muhammad Ali is a swagga O.G. Correction: triple O.G. He murdered a rock and injured a stone. He made medicine sick.

He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Down goes Frazier! Up with Muhammad Ali.

Bill Buckner does not have swagger. LMFAO 1986 World Series.

“As sure as night is dark and day is light” Johnny Cash has swagga. Nowadays we might not immediately see the swagga in a lovesick countrysinger. But come on people, far lesser men than Mr. Cash could have crooned the copper off a coin if only they had Johnny’s voice.

Does Bob Dylan have swagger? You may now be shaking your head, Muhammad Ali and little Bobbie Zimmerman on the same list? What’s the weight differential there?

But I say, is being scrawny a crime? Joan Baez didn’t think so. Mmmmmm. Alright Bob, ok.

Lest we forget that Bob Dylan stood side by side with Muhammad Ali saying “Hell no we won’t go!” to the virtueless and vexing violence that were the Vietnam War and Cambodian clusterf***. Furthermore, Johnny Cash GAVE the man his guitar. I mean Johnny Cash literally went over to Dylan, took the guitar off his back and said, “Here Bob, take it. Just have it bro.”

I rest my case.

Frank Sinatra? The man did it his way. He flew us to the moon.

You better believe Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have swagga. Even that third guy that nobody remembers, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins has it. The man left the planet. Have you?

Werner Von Braun?

He built some pretty sweet rockets. But the sonofab*tch was a Nazi.

“Vonce ze rockets go up who cares vhere zey come down said Werner Von Braun.”

Werner does not make the cut, but Tom Lehrer sure does!

Nazis, by definition, are antithetical to all other human beings on this list.

Killin Nazis, however, now that is a different story. Sgt. Donny Donowitz makes the list. You may know him better as the “Bear Jew.” “He bashes Nazi’s brains in with a baseball bat ‘swhat he does.”

As for the real life version, have you heard of Yonatan Netanyahu?

Lemme tell you ‘bout my boy Yoni.

This Israeli paratrooper landed in Uganda dressed as Idi Amin, busted into a terrorist controlled airport guns ablazin. Thrice Uzi-ed to death a score of terrorists, and saved 100 hostages. He had more than a little help from the Sayaret Matkal. They all make the list.

Yoni also made the Dean’s list at Harvard University, but I won’t hold that against him.

This brings us to the issue of using swagga for good. Now Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben, understood the subject well. Peter Parker himself contains the dichotomy of swagga-morality. Whereas Spiderman represents the use of one’s innate swagga for good, Venom represents its use for evil.

Kanye West has been portrayed as having dealt with the Peter Parker dilemma.

He did sing the song on swagga, so he should be a shoe in.

One day, on the corner, Kanye West surveyed his surroundings and came to the realization that no one else in the general vicininty possessed the same degree of swagga. T.I., M.I.A., and Jay-Z all came to the same conclusion, and without question have got swagga.

Kanye, however, has been villified in the press for allegedly having been impolite to Taylor Swift at some awards ceremony or something. Let me go on record here and say that Taylor Swift’s melliflouous narration of the struggles of a teenaged girl dealing with the pressures of popularity and image-consciousness deserves a swagga nod.  But Kanye was right, so too does BeyoncĂ©. It should go without saying that she makes the list. I’m sure all the single ladies agree.

Now closing the book on the Kanye is simple. The man loves his mama. If you don’t understand why this gives Kanye an unequivocal thumbs up, then you don’t deserve an explanation.

Speaking of Mamas, Margaret Thatcher has sooo much Swagga (eventhough the British Miners union wouldn’t think so).

The Lady survived an assasination attempt, and told the commies to kiss her arsenal.

So, you might now be saying, alright Jack, I see what you did here. But who are you? I mean, who gave you the right to declare who has swagga and who doesn’t?

First off, let me respond to that query by saying, these fine ladies and gentleman do not have swagga because I say they do. They just do. I am but politely directing your attention to the high concentration of swagga particles in these individuals. I mean, these men and women are 99th percentile, 3 whole standard deviations above the mean.

Second, if I myself did not have swagga I might say something like: I’m sorry mister, I’m just a kid with poor to mediocre hand eye coordination, please don't hurt me. 

My real answer to your question though is: That was me, then I started using swagger from Old Spice. 

Who’s laughin now?


Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry's Valuable Lessons: Coming of Age with Voldemort and Osama

by Jack Solowey

(Spoiler Alert: reveals the ending of the Harry Potter saga and the fate of the Al Qaeda terrorist.)

This morning, at 12:00 am the final installment of the Harry Potter movie series, The Deathly Hallows Part II, was released in American theatres.

To the viewing public, Voldemort is now dead, and so is Osama.

On the night we learned that American special forces successfully killed Osama Bin Laden, a large number of American college students went out into the streets to express their emotions. Many waved American flags, some cheered, others sang the national anthem, and several answered questions for reporters.

The next day, in the media frenzy that surely had to follow the killing of the world’s most wanted mass-murderer, many voices criticized these students.

Pamela Gerloff of the Huffington Post wrote, ‘Celebrating’ the killing of any member of our species--for example, by chanting USA! USA! and singing The Star Spangled Banner outside the White House or jubilantly demonstrating in the streets--is a violation of human dignity.”

The Guardian’s Mona Eltahawy decried, “No Dignity at Ground Zero,” “It didn't take 10 minutes for the frat party atmosphere to sicken me.”

Rather than condemning personal acts of catharsis, Neil Howe, the scholar credited with naming my generation the Milennials, sought to explain these acts of “celebration” in the context of my generation’s experience. 

"It's like Voldemort is dead," Howe declared. "It's a Harry Potter world. For this generation, there's either pure evil or pure good. There's no anti-hero. They're out to get rid of these terrible forces and have a celebration. A happy ending. This is very defining for their generation.”

I take exception to this absolutist categorization, as both a member of the milennial generation and a fan of the Harry Potter series, which Howe would probably say is a redundant statement.

Howe is entirely right that the Harry Potter morality play informed my generation’s moral identity, but for that very reason his assertion that we embrace a primitive black and white view of the world is dead wrong.

In condemning the Milennial’s reaction to O.B.L.-K.I.A., Gerloff and Eltahawy tried to portray us as frivolous immoral jingoists. Based on the Pew Research Center’s recent publication Milennials: Portrait of a Generation, however, Gerloff and Eltahawy would aptly be described as factually incorrect journalists. Pew: “This generation is the most culturally diverse in the history of the nation, college-focused and more tolerant than any before them. They believe that good parenting, successful marriage and helping others are among the most important things in their lives.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Harry Potter series, that a generation said to have learned valuable ethical tropes from those books is the most tolerant in history. In the Harry Potter saga, Voldemort and his “Death-Eater” followers seek to purge the wizarding world of “mudbloods” – wizards with non-magical family. Voldemort and the Death-Eaters wage a campaign to impose racial purity, in a manner akin to Hitler and the Third Reich. Harry and his cadre of protectors give shelter to the non-Aryan wizards and seek to defeat Voldemort’s wehrmacht.

While this is surely a tale of good vs. evil, it is not as Howe suggests, without nuance or shades of gray. In the days preceding the rise of Voldemort, Harry tries to warn the Ministry of Magic (the government of the wizarding world) that the “Dark lord is back.” The head of the Ministry, Cornelius Fudge, however, refuses to acknowledge the danger in a Neville Chamberlain move. When Harry refuses to be censored, the Ministry declares him a terrorist and the press labels him public enemy number one. Nevertheless, Harry continues his quest to reveal the truth and protect the community.

Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development would place Harry’s actions at the highest level of morality. Harry transcends the “Primitive Ethics” of obedience and punishment in not cowing to the Ministry’s threats. He then rises above the “Conventional Morality” of law and order in refuting the government’s dogma.

Harry exercises rational ethical thought beyond the demands of his id and his superego. Not only is he able to tease out right from wrong in the face of obfuscating authority figures, but he also risks personal harm to do so.

He is an ideal role model for a generation that was gripped by tragedy at a young age. Surely, many children of the milennial generation who lost their parents in Osama’s fires took solace in Harry’s story: his own parents were murdered by Voldemort.

I do not look askance at the 10-year-old boy who saw the Twin Towers destroyed on a TV in his 5th grade classrooom one Tuesday morning in September. I do not question his education when he learned that day that Osama Bin Laden was the face of evil. I don’t shake my head that this boy navigated adolescence reading the story of another brave boy, who selflessly fought to protect his community and friends in the face of withering opposition from the government and the press. 

And I certainly do not have the temerity to question the manner in which this young man chose to respond to his President’s declaration that “justice has been done.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dynamic Dialogue Contest

Your task: Complete the following dialogue with two of your own lines for a prize.

Character A: Honey, I'm home!
Character B: How was your day?
Character A: (your line here)
Character B: (your line here)

Good luck, and have fun!
 Deadline: Tuesday, July 19th, 4:00pm

Monday, July 11, 2011

Freewrite of the Week: Things that are Worse Left Unsaid

by Jacqueline Fauni

Unless you’ve been unyieldingly blunt your whole life, you’ve probably experienced the backlash of saying one thing and meaning another.  And I’m not talking about idioms.  What I’m talking about are the things we say with the often counterproductive hope that people will read between the lines, respond the way we want them to, and -- here’s the tricky part -- actually mean it.  As irrational or futile as this strategy can repeatedly prove to be, it remains a standard device in our social interactions and, as art imitates life, makes a regular appearance in our characters’ dialogues.

Take the "Does this make me look fat?" conversation -- a classic example that has put many a man in an impossibly precarious position.  You’ve seen it in countless films, episodes, and commercials -- a woman grimacing in front of a mirror, turning this way and that, smoothing the form-fitting cocktail dress she has to wear to a gala that night.  Then the camera slowly pans out and you see a guy fidgeting in the corner until she asks him the dreaded question.  His response?  As many different answers as there can be, it must be a variation of "no" if he wants to avoid the couch.   

Of course, fiction or a lot of moxie can get people to respond in a way others wouldn’t (and are advised not to) try at home.  Let’s say Fidgeting Guy was possessed by Rhett Butler and blurted out, "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn," before jauntily walking off into the fog that has inexplicably filled the bedroom.  Not likely in real life, but much more interesting than a faint-hearted, "Of course not, honey."  Switching things up can turn a nameless couple’s cliched interaction into a scene packed with character and chemistry that is singularly and undeniably yours.  Take the maddening, skillful manipulations of Scarlett O’Hara and add a dash of the dashing, undaunted, and deliciously rakish (yes, I’m a big fan) Rhett Butler, and you’ve got a dynamic that can yield scenes and scenes of explosive energy you know belongs only to Ms. Margaret Mitchell.  

Your task: Write a scene in which one character surreptitiously tries to get another character to say what he or she wants to hear.

Whether you write your characters' interaction as amicable, volatile, decidedly done, or open-ended, just remember to have fun!

Good luck, and happy writing!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Many Drinks Must One Man Down, Before You Can Call Him a Man?


by Jack Solowey

There are a lot of similarities between America in 2011 and 1968. In both eras, the United States finds itself mired in unpopular foreign wars and highly partisan domestic politics. It is no surprise then, that the cultural products of that tumultuous year parallel the artistic expression of today. Then and now, protest songs top the music charts and provide anthems for socially aware youth.

Katy Perry is the Joan Baez of my generation – a subtly sensual bohemian princess, shunning makeup and campaigning for civil rights. Baez belting out “We Shall Overcome” with Martin Luther King Jr. during the March for Freedom and Jobs at the Lincoln Memorial never fails to give me goosebumps. Equally chilling, is Katy Perry’s cognizant articulation,Pictures of last night
 Ended up online, I'm screwed, oh well
 It's a blacked out blur, but I'm pretty sure it ruled!”

Perry even alludes to Baez’s 1967 arrest at an anti-war protest: “With my favorite party dress,
 warrants out for my arrest,
 Think I need a ginger ale, 
That was such an epic fail.”

Right on Katy Perry! The Containment Policy was an “epic fail!”

Whereas Katy Perry is married to the skinny rockstar Russel Brand, who goes by the stage name Aldous Snow, Baez once had a famous fling with her own name-changing skinny man: Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan.

In 1968, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix tag-teamed the legendary anti-war song “All Along the Watchtower.” When Hendrix covered Dylan’s lyrical brilliance with his far-out guitar strumming and soulful voice, the single shot straight to the Billboard top 10. Hendrix's opening chords melt your face like a blast of napalm on the Mekong Delta. The same can be said for LMFAO’s bass-thumping #1 hit “Party Iraq.”

“Party Iraq” opens with the stirring lyrics:

“Party Iraq is in the house tonight
Everybody just have a good time
And we gonna make you lose your mind
Everybody just have a good time.”

The first line references the house-to-house fighting that took place in the deadly Battle for Fallujah in 2004. The United States Marine Corps and 82nd Airborne Division consider their fight against Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Fallujah the “heaviest urban combat” since the battle for Hue City in Vietnam in 1968. LMFAO’s line “And we gonna make you lose your mind” pays hommage to the high incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among the US veterans who served in Fallujah.

With young Americans laying down their lives in combat overseas, the youth at home would not and will not rest until societies reevaluate their principles. In 1968, The Beatles performed their iconic “Revolution,” lending a nuanced voice to the call for rebellion. In spite of extremism and destruction, The Beatles assuage “Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right.” In 2011, Hot Chelle Rae offers a similar message, declaring, “It’s all right, all right, tonight, tonight.”

While The Beatles lend support to the popular calls for reform, singing:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

Hot Chelle Rae takes demands for revolution one step further, chanting:

La la la, whatever,
la la la, it doesn’t matter,
la la la, oh well,
la la la

In 1964 and 2008, Americans elected change candidates Richard Nixon and Barack Obama respectivey. Both candidates campaigned on promises to end costly wars started under previous administrations. Years into both of these presidencies, however, the wars in Vietnam and Iraq dragged on, and new operations began in Cambodia and Lybia. 

Disillusioned youths in both generations turned to artists to vocalize their dissatisfaction with an unyielding status quo. The 1960s countercultural, civil rights, and anti-war movements were ultimately successful in bringing about lasting change. 

As for the fate of this generation’s struggle, the answer my friend is blowin in the wind.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Seriously Short Fiction Challenge! Take it!

About a week ago, two interns created a flash fiction contest. Sadly, they only received 2 responses. They didn’t know what to do with the fabulous prize they picked out so they decided to extend the deadline.
The triumphant smile was wiped clean off her face when she saw the time. 4:01. Shoulders slumped in defeat, her eyes lit anew - an extension!

Short stories long -- Since we understand that post-4th-of-July haze has prevented a lot of you from accepting the SERIOUSLY SHORT FICTION CHALLENGE, we've extended the deadline to Tuesday, July 12th at 4:00 pm. Good luck, and happy writing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seriously Short Fiction Challenge

Your task: Write a story in 140 characters or less on Twitter/Facebook (or here) for a prize.
Deadline: Tuesday, July 5th, 4:00 pm
Good luck!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It’s NOT about ME? Good one, David Brooks!

by Jack Solowey

David Brooks recently wrote a delightfully sarcastic opinion piece directed at 2011’s class of college graduates. Speaking to the grads, Brooks ‘modestly proposes’ that the world is not a mere playground for their novel amusement.

Ha! Good one, David! It doesn’t take a college education to understand the simple fact that an undergraduate degree is the ticket to a lifetime of ease and happiness. In 2010, Brooks’s own paper, The New York Times, published a study that identified a strong direct correlation between education and well-being. As a college “sophomore,” which is Greek for ‘knows everything,’ I have already learned that such a correlation always implies causality. 

At the close of his piece, Brooks wryly quips, “Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center.” This can only be a joke, because as all people, especially college students know, happiness is achieved by avoiding tasks. Where Pharaohs and Caesars used slaves to spare themselves from agonizing labor, college frat boys use pledges.

In fact, a college education guarantees future joy because it teaches you how to get out of working. Pretending to observe another religion’s holiday in order to push back a deadline, and counting alcohol served to minors as “community service” are just a few of the ways in which college students practice the art of shirking responsibility.

College courses even explicitly instruct the future leaders of the free world on how to cut corners. Only in a college economics classroom will you come to understand such complex ideas as “Post-Keynesian Chartalism.” This theory asserts that governments can pay off their debt by printing money that doesn’t actually exist. While this notion may sound “counter-intuitive” or "f***ing ridiculous" to a non-college graduate, to a college grad it makes perfect sense. College students even learn to apply this concept outside of the classroom. With “bursar bills” students can charge food and other necessary items to their parents without asking for the money upfront.

With college-educated leaders who know such clever tricks, our government can pay for things even though it is $14.2 trillion in debt. Luckily, our elected officials understand that they don’t have to waste time and resources paying off our debt in the present, because some even more educated generation will simply get around to it in the future.

Furthermore, Brooks’s colleague Tom Friedman reported yesterday on another one of our highly educated government’s laborsaving success stories. According to Friedman, modern presidents are only expected to make policy for their first 100 days in office, even though they are elected to an entire four-year term. Ask not what your country can do for you – ask how you can evade doing anything for your country. Thanks Kennedy School of Government!

In the past, hard work made this country great. Other people’s hard work. While uneducated people composed the rank and file of the proletariat labor force, the “smart” ones avoided all that Dickensian drudgery by taking 8 semesters of gen ed. classes.

It is wholly unjust that even today some Americans do not have the opportunity to go to college and thereby avoid a lifetime of challenging toil. As our founders envisioned, however, we continue to move towards a “more perfect Union.” In President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address he stated, “We’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.”

We still have not yet achieved the ideal where 100% of Americans receive college degrees, but with every generation we move closer to that goal. At this point, you may be wondering, “if everyone goes to college and learns how to get by without doing anything productive, who will do the dirty work?”

Once again, executives with MBAs from the nation’s leading business schools have devised an easy solution: out-sourcing. Now that most Americans are far too educated to perform “necessary tasks” we simply must hire people in other countries to perform those jobs for us.

Already, we see the fruits of our emphasis on college education. Unemployment is now officially at 9.1%, meaning that fewer and fewer Americans have to work at all. At this rate, college may be the ticket to an entirely work free future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Freewrite of the Week: Obsessions and Confessions

by Jacqueline Fauni

Whether it's an embarrassing collection of drugstore romance novels or your Aunt Abby and Martha's crowd of poisoned septuagenarians buried in the basement, we've all got obsessions we'd rather not announce to the whole world.  So why would you want to write about them?  Or better yet, why have authors and screenwriters poured their guiltiest pleasures and dirtiest secrets into their work, knowing full well how much they're revealing to their audiences?  As terrifying as it may be, writing about our obsessions can lead us to the story we want to tell, so fiction can be a form of confession.  Of course, that confession can be as cathartic or discreet as we want to make it, as dictated by the unwavering laws of artistic license.  (Just don't make it all up and call it an autobiography, a la James Frey.)

Getting in touch with our obsessions can unlock insight about ourselves as well as our characters.  What does your obsession say about you (besides the fact that you're obsessed with something)?  Maybe you care deeply about the ones you love and would do anything to prevent them from going to prison for murder (and maybe that's what makes you as charming as Cary Grant).  Why exactly do you feel so guilty about your guilty pleasure?  Maybe your archaic ideals of romance are so closeted because they clash with your attitude as a modern woman.  Deconstructing our obsessions can help us translate them into our characters' desires and flaws, which can help us figure out what obstacles they need to overcome to attain their desires, etc.  Before you know it, a plethora of plot bunnies will emerge!

Your task: Write for 10 minutes about the one obsession you don't want anyone to know about.  And don't hold back -- you can always bury it with those gentlemen in the basement...

Good luck, and happy writing!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hockey Fans Defy Stereotypes

by Jack Solowey

The usually tranquil seaside city of Vancouver erupted in chaos last night, following the Canucks's 4-0 defeat by the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. At the close of the third period, otherwise mild-mannered Canadians took to the streets in an atypical display of human emotion. 150 were injured as the British Columbians burned cars, smashed storefronts, and unleashed lifetimes of pent up aggression. 

"This is the first time in my life I've burned anything. Even birthday candles used to scare me, but torching that Mountie's horse felt pretty good eh!" stated Ethan Taylor an investment banker and Vancouver native. "Now that I've tasted blood, I don't think I can ever go back to my timid Canadian ways."

We caught Taylor marching with a cohort of crazed Canucks fans from the Rogers Arena to a local liquor store. There, the mob proceeded to loot bottles of Molson Ice and Canadian Club Whiskey in order to make molotov cocktails. 

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had to be called up to halt this unprecedented destruction of property. Upon hearing that a mass of 70,000 hooligans was rampaging in the streets of Vancouver, R.C.M.P. Commissioner William Elliot is reported to have said "Stop messin' around ya no-good hoser! There aren't 70,000 people in all of Canada!" Elliot only realized that the call for assistance was not a prank when Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally begged him to step in. 

Perhaps even more shocking than Canada's latent urge to riot is Boston's sudden ability to maintain basic standards of human decency. Win or Lose, the Boston Police Department was prepared for an orgy of drunken violence that would last well into the wee hours of the morning. Barricades were set up along pub-lined streets, and hundreds of riot police in full body-armor established a tight perimeter around TD Garden. Surprisingly, these efforts were unnecessary.

Following the presentation of the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas respectively, Bostonians put down their pints of lager, paused for a 20 second golf-clap, and exited single-file out of all local bars and restaurants.

One Bostonian, when asked why he was acting like a civilized member of society, stated, "I have wo[r]k in the mo[r]ning at John Hancock Insu[r]ance, I can't stay up all night drinkin' just becaws a' some stupid hawckey gayme. That'd be wicked irrespawnsable.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

U.S. Snubbed Again by Glitzy International Affair

by Jack Solowey

The first full lunar eclipse in over a decade is taking place today, but you wouldn't know it. While South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia will be able to witness this breathtaking celestial phenomenon, the United States will not be attending. Left off the guest list, the US will have to make alternate plans for the evening - perhaps renting a movie with Canada.

After President Obama and First Lady Michelle were overlooked for an invitation to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Americans have been feeling left out. This recent snub, by the heavens themselves, is just the latest blow to our national ego.

An avuncular man who identifies himself only as "Sam," as he is too embarrassed to use his real name, had this to say while choking back tears, "I didn't even want to go to that stupid lunar eclipse. That's weak small time sh*t. 'For me, it's solar or nothing.'* The moon would be a nobody without us. We made the moon a big deal by hanging out there in 1969, and now it thinks it can host a party without us. Real cool bro!"

Like most Americans today, Sam is visibly upset. American detractors, however, haughtily delighted in their new-found social superiority. Even New Zealand tried to be cool, chiding, "I bet those Yank mates feel more left out than a Kakapo at a Kiwi party!" The joke, however, was lost on Mongolia and South Korea who just shrugged their shoulders at the comment.

Insiders at the Gala report that it was indeed a star studded affair. Astral celebrities such as the Virgo constellation were visible shortly after the party kicked off. The entire catering hall was bathed in an intense red light that emerged when the earth passed directly between the moon and the sun.

As for future Lunar-American relations, sources close to the moon's promoter say that the United States can expect an invitation to the next total lunar eclipse no later than August 21, 2017. Skeptical Americans won't be holding their breath.

*The Simpsons episode 251 written by John Frink & Don Payne, Directed by Mike Scully

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twitter Contest 6.14

Complete the last line of the limerick on twitter for a special prize!  #JunctionContests

There once was a Junction for Writers
All brighter than all kinds of lighters
They worked hard all day
So then they could play
...your line here…

Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Experts Report: American Productivity Down 83.4% Today

by Jack Solowey

Writers Junction productivity analysts made a startling discovery upon entering the office this morning.

"I opened the door and there were reams of dot matrix paper all over the floor. You know, that old printer paper with the perforated edges and holes on the side," reported Junction intern Colij Stoodint.

The Junction's Level of Activity Monitoring Equipment, or L.A.M.E., had been working in overdrive to churn out new graphs since 9 am EST. At that time, Americans on the eastern seaboard were clicking onto their Google home-pages and noticing the interactive Les Paul "doodle."

L.A.M.E. is a remote monitoring station that records the average national level of productivity in a continuous line graph similar to a Seismometer or EKG. It is financed by the federal government, and located in Santa Monica California.

"It was game over as soon as the first laptop was booted up. By 9:15 am EST the graphing pins were already recording in the bottom quartile of productivity. At noon, the national activity level was down 83.4% below the daily average," Stoodint reports.

From Boston to Richmond, right when the workday began, Americans could not help but spend hours trying to record 30 second ditties on the digital mini-guitar Google provided. A New York Times columnist who chose to remain anonymous states, "I was about to email a source in Lybia when I discovered the doodle. When I looked at the clock again I realized that Paul Krugman and I had been riffing nonstop for 3 hours!"

While the national productivity level fell to its lowest point since the Rebecca Black video was released, there were some positive developments to come out of the Les Paul doodle. Apparently, if you type ddfggfdsaasddss on your keyboard the guitar plays "Ode to Joy."

Nevertheless, when Stoodint and his colleagues first saw the daily L.A.M.E. reports they thought their worst fears had been realized.

"Ever since the internet was developed, The Pentagon has feared that an enemy of the state might release an app. or flash game so distracting that it would cripple the US on the eve of war. So, as soon as I walked in this morning I got Sec. Def. Robert Gates on the horn. Well, I should say that I called him up after struggling to play "Smoke on the Water" on google for 45 minutes..."

Friday, June 3, 2011

More Room to Write at The Junction!

The Bullpen!
We are excited to introduce The Junction's new light and airy writing room with 18 more writing spaces.  Already a hit with the regulars, the room is in the "way back" behind the Deadline Room.  Check it out.  We leave standard old office cubicles in our dust.  And we still have more improvements in store for this room!
More pics of the work while it was in progress on our Facebook page.




Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Create Characters Readers Want to Spend Time With: A Junction Master Class with Corey Mandell

Do your characters have enough character? 
Only 25 spots are available -- be sure to grab one before they're all taken!
This will be a hands-on workshop.
Scroll down for details and ticket info. 

From Corey: 
Many of the professional screenwriters I know say they know people with far more natural ability than themselves who do not have careers, and will never have careers, because of their writing process. Process is how we write, how we create our characters and stories. 

Psychologists note some people's natural process is to create conceptually while others use a more intuitive approach. Conceptualists tend to write outside in, starting with concept or situation. Intuitives tend to write inside out, starting with character or theme. The result is that conceptualists tend to craft well-structured scripts populated by less-than-compelling characters while intuitives tend to write strong characters and dialogue, but their scripts lack sufficient structure.

Successful writers are able to write both conceptually and intuitively. They get the best of both worlds.    

This four-hour master class offers guided writing exercises and tools to help participants strengthen and integrate these two creative approaches in order to be able to write their most compelling characters. The class will also share a variety of specific processes professional working writers use to write their first drafts. Please come prepared to do a lot of writing.

Sunday, June 26th
At The Writers Junction
1001 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Limited Seats Available 
General Admission: $40 
Attendees must buy tickets here:
Junction members, check our previous email for your discount code
open to members & non-members

About Corey:
 Corey Mandell is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000, Fox Family, Working Title, Paramount, Live Planet, Beacon Films, Touchstone, Trilogy, Radiant and Walt Disney Pictures.

Corey is also a distinguished instructor at UCLA, where he earned his MFA.  His students have gone on to sell or option scripts to Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Disney, Fox, Fox 2000, MGM, Universal, Showtime, USA Network and Lifetime. Others have gained admission to the USC Graduate Screenwriting Program, the AFI Conservatory Screenwriting Program and Sundance Screenwriter's Lab.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The New Short Fiction Series Emerging Voices Group Show

The Writers Junction is proud to be partnered with The New Short Fiction Series, Los Angeles's longest running spoken word series, in introducing the most promising of new West Coast writers.  One of our very own members was featured in The New Short Fiction Series Emerging Voices Group Show in 2005 -- Deirdre Shaw, whose debut novel, Love or Something Like It, was published by Random House in 2009.   

Sponsored in part by Barnes & Noble, join us for "a night of vibrant, living art (Forth Magazine)" at...
The 8th Annual Emerging Voices Group Show  
Sunday, May 8th
Doors open at 6:30pm 
1001 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Admission: $10 with advance purchase, $15 at the door
Limited Seating
open to Writers Junction members & non-members

For advance tickets and program information, visit or call 866-811-4111.

The New Short Fiction Series continues its 15th Season with its 8th Annual Emerging Voices Group Show, featuring new fiction by Tracy Olson Chait, Rae Cline, Luis Garcia Romero, Liska Jacobs, Eric Weintraub and Omar Zahzah.
The performance stars spoken word artist Sally Shore, with guest cast Alain Benatar (Passions), Dana DeRuyck (Perv:The Cat), Matt Ferrucci (Wilde Salome, Real Men, Real Issues), Judd Hollander (The Fixand David St. James (Big Love, Transformers: Dark of the Moon).   

Seats are limited, so reservations are strongly recommended.  And don't be late!  Doors open at 6:30 pm, and performances begin at 7:00 pm. 

For more information, and to purchase your tickets, visit or call 866-811-4111.
The New Short Fiction Series is a member of the Pasadena Arts Council's EMERGE Fiscal Sponsorship Program.

About the Authors:  

Tracy Olson Chait grew up in Cape Cod, where her first job was making chowder in the back of a fish market.  She holds an MA from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, where she was the Sypher Scholar.  Chait parted with her snow shovel in 2003, and currently leads writing workshops for high-risk teens with the nonprofit WriteGirl.  Recently published in the Santa Monica Review, she is at work on a collection of connected short fiction  and lives in L.A. with her husband, one-year-old daughter and two against-type Chihuahuas.

Rae Cline received her BA in English from Michigan State University, moved to Ann Arbor, and began a wildly exciting career in the music industry booking Nirvana club shows, opening for Jello Biafra, and managing meet and greets for the Rolling Stones, the Spice Girls, and a buck naked Mojo Nixon.  A Los Angeles resident since 2002, Cline won first prize in the American Literary Review Fall Fiction Contest (2006) and was a finalist for UCLA's Kirkwood Prize (2008).  She writes the popular science blog, Storm and Stress: Notes from My Amygdala.

Luis Garcia Romero is a former journalist who studied short fiction at UCLA.  His work has been published in Concisely Magazine, and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Villains Magazine.  Garcia Romero was the co-editor for Glib and Sincere, a zine featuring micro fiction and micro nonfiction.

Liska Jacobs graduated from UCLA's creative writing program in 2008.  She was nominated for the 2009 and 2010 Kirkwood Prize in literary short fiction.  Jacobs' writing aims looks at the variations of truth and authenticity in everyday life, which she explores on her blog, Boy Lovers.  She is currently pursuing a MFA through Vermont College School of Fine Arts' low residency program, and lives in West LA with her husband.   

Eric Weintraub has been creating stories ever since he first learned how to read and write.  As a high school senior, he wrote and directed the short film Send or Delete for the Santa Monica Police Department, which won major awards at three popular Los Angeles film festivals and was broadcast throughout the statewide.  Many of Weintraub's short stories are based on personal experiences from his time in high school and college, as well as while working as a script reader for actress, Jennifer Lopez.  Currently a USC student, Weintraub is an editor and photographer for Scribe magazine and is completing his first novel. 

Omar ZahZah is a student at California State University, Long Beach.  His work has been featured in Vulcan: A Literary Dis-Allusion, The Chiron Review and RipRap.