Little to know, much to now

The more I encounter and speak with published, or even successful television writers. The more I realize that it’s just a jungle out there. It’s a world where there are so many voices, so many individuals pulling and pushing each other to get their material read. I mean, it’s a frenzy out there. To say that being a writer is “competitive” is an understatement. Also, it’s not a word I would really use.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been speaking with scholars, doctors, television writers, screenwriters, playwrights … and I’ve noticed something in most of them. They are less concerned with fame. Which is a huge thing in our society. I mean, truly — we are bombarded with the idea of FAME. Back in my days, it might have been a back up dancer for Mariah Carey…now being the lead singer of a band, or a movie star…or…just someone everyone wants to know. I was not immune to this mentality. I grew up with a desire for fame as well, but I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t really know where this urgency came from. And most of the time, I think the idea of fame became more important than the work.

Now – that’s dangerous grounds, my friends.

Because most of the people I speak with LOVE to do what they do. They just can’t stop doing it. It’s in their DNA. I have to write, I have to tell this story, I have to collaborate, I have something to tell you. I have a piece of truth that you should know…I hope you read this, I hope it gets multimedia and danced or spoken on stage. I hope it changes someones mind about something (fill in the blank).

Most of my writing gets used in dance performance, or short films, or my novel which has been in the works for years now. Lately, I’ve been dabbling with playwriting. And it occurred to me, in the process of writing, and casting, and getting people to read your writing out loud — and seeing it come to life in various forms with different voices — that the most important thing about ART (in my point of view) …is connection.

I sat through a Screenwriting conversation at the LA Film School a few weeks ago and noticed something. In the eyes of most (if not all) of the writers who talked about their journey to an Oscar nomination was the knowing that this was not the end or the beginning of their journey. They were gracious about the nomination, but they were also excited to share their stories about being writers. But at some point in their lives all of them had seen despair, a moment when they wanted to quit, an obstacle that told them – NO. NO MORE. YOU HAVE TO STOP RIGHT HERE.

And they pushed through it. These writers had pushed on and on until the story that was meant to be told as clean or precise as they could get it was out of them. And then, the story belongs to the audience, the listener, the viewer.

I am learning, Blog Land, that even though it would be nice to get published and maybe even famous…it shouldn’t be the thriving source of creation. That will get you nowhere. The most important thing, in my eyes right now, is that you write it down. It’s that you tell it to as many people as you can. Because maybe, just maybe, the right person will hear it and you and your writing have the power to change or validate a life.

I am growing, and I’m changing the way I see myself as an artist. I thought about now writing, and it just doesn’t work. I end up doodling words onto a take-out box, or singing a silly song to a friend. It follows me. It makes me think and challenge my thought process. Writing, keeps me healthy. And sharing the writing – through dance, theater, or film…that’s just the best thing ever. And it’s because I am sharing and connecting with others…

I’m sure it’s happened to you. You pour your heart out into a poem, you might share it at an Open Mic and someone comes up to you and says … “me too, thank you.” Man, I sometimes wonder if an award would ever surpass that feeling of connection. So Blog Land – be present, be real, be you.

 

Deadlines

I am trying to be better about deadlines. Tomorrow night, the pre-final draft of my play is due. I think I may also submit a couple of more pieces just to throw it in the mix. Writing original comedy is a scary new thing for me. Earlier in the summer I did an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” for a fellowship application which fell through. But I am going to try at it again. Hopefully all the various writing classes and stage productions will aid my technique and strengthen my style/voice.

Once I have a collection of work under my belt, I have to find someone to support me – a manage or agent, I dunno. I wonder if I should also try ghost writing? Though, I’ve heard horror stories about that.

Coffee won’t let me sleep for another 2 hours. I suppose the best I can do now is get to it. Time to polish.

Writing it down raw

It’s strange, but the more writing classes I take…the more confused I get about the act and structure of writing. It seems that the science has taken over my style…and voice. How do I get my rawness back after grinding the laws into my head? I feel like before – I knew how to naturally make something exciting — or at least I wasn’t too afraid to try it. Where as now… I find myself doubting everything and asking questions about Act 1, 2…and Climax and Resolution and blah blah blah. And it distracts me from the original story. The raw feeling of just writing is dimming and I need to get it back. Any tips out there? Any exercises to help?

I think I have to go back to the drawing board and remember what a mentor told me once. He said, “Write it down first and think about the science later.” The formulation of style and all that jazz can come later. Get the story down on paper first! Get it on the page. He always reminds me that research can come later. It’s difficult because I want to make sense all the time. But sometimes, nonsense is the way to go.

Sigh.

Laws. Sometimes, they get in the way n’est pas?

Webisode-Land

I am entering into a new art form (for me) called WEBISODES. I am a bit startled and intrigued by the idea of it. Thankfully, I have a hip new young friend who is going to serve as my co-writer, co-director collaborator person on this project. I am super excited to be part of this. I personally feel I work better with other folk, so it’s a bit exciting for me.

To prepare, I shared my webisode with a  writer friend, and she said … so yes, this script can be an entire season. Five minute clip webisodes? I suppose our attention span has gotten smaller and smaller. Here’s to mini short stories and Twitter, who have taught me the art of condensation and squeezing meaning into 500 words/140 characters or less.

Writing when you travel, it’s freaking hard!

I am having a creative meltdown … or just a massive case of traveling itch, Blog Land. I’m off to Turkey, then jumping on a plane to Paris and then maybe doing a weekend trip to England. I have no idea what I am doing — I mean, technically some of it involves videography and art — yet I am concerned about managing my writing time. I barely did any when I went to see family for 2 weeks in March.

I head over to my laptop or bring a small notebook with me, the BLAM! – something happens. Sometimes I have to lock myself in a room, but then family or friends get concerned because I should be relaxing or in vacation mode…and they don’t understand sitting down to write. It’s quite impossible with Peruvians who want to feed and get you drunk all the time.

Also, when I travel – there are wonderful mundane things happening all around me. If my brain could produce bubble thoughts, it would be ongoing and non stop with – sunsets, dance classes, brunches, conversations with people who are not tourists, me trying to order croissants at a bakery, Metro riding, or seeing the moon from a different part of the world. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a man’s face…like in Perú, for example, the moon looks like lips blowing you a kiss, for example. And I want to write it all down, but sometimes just looking at something is enough. Other times there are no ways to describe the atmosphere, and you have to LIVE.

So how do I focus?

I don’t know. This is an experiment. I will try to make it my prerogative to not be such a creeper on this trip and actually try to make friends with the interesting people, I tend to just write about. Maybe some of them will be writers. Maybe some of them could give me tips. And then I can share these tips on this blog.

Only time will tell. Leaving in April, coming back in May. I should have something to share.

And to answer your question (the one I am assuming you are asking), I am going abroad because I am running away from responsibilities that don’t involve writing or art. You know, growing up, getting a real job, and etc. etc. etc. I think a workaholic who has been sitting behind a desk for a little over a year should be allowed to have a meltdown at least once in their lifetime – or at least once per decade. Here is my thirties meltdown!

I’m just lucky enough to have my meltdown be a creative one, and not…like…heroin. I’m also lucky I have family and friends in these places to house me. Otherwise that would suck. I’m going to destroy my savings and eat with my credit cards. Bring it on world!

#WritingAbroad

After Movie Thoughts: A little love for “Chappie” (spoilers)


The moment the last credits scrolled on “Chappie” (directed by Neill Blomkamp), I took a deep breath and reverted back to the scenes that were most interesting to me as a viewer: (1) the scene where his “daddy,” played by Ninja of Die Antwoord, forces him to hold a gun, and (2) the scene when Chappie is attacked by street kids, and (3) the scene when Chappie saves his maker, played by Dev Patel. I know this film is getting a lot of flack from reviewers. I mean, they have valid points in the most technical sense. Yes, films do appear to be on repeat nowadays in terms of “original” material, and yes the writing could have been more – I don’t know – existential or deep? But frankly, I had no problem with the dialogue. I enjoyed the world I was introduced to. As chaotic and cold as it was, there were elements of warm colors that stood out and beautified the set making the world look bizarre, familiar, fresh, interesting, funny, disconcerting, innocent, and tragic.

I was expecting a Frankenstein Sci-fi remake, and (MIND YOU) it was that — ending in a quasi message that humans are the real monsters. Even so, the film provided me with the opportunity to process some of the most dangerous topics discussed in our world today: abuse, violence, warfare, kidnapping/trafficking, and brainwashing. Things I know about, but have a hard time processing when sitting alone in my living room watching the late news. Children used as weapons in war, innocence being twisted and disregarded because of greed, and assuming that in all situations the adult has all the answers.

Maybe it is because I enjoy character development so much, but for me — it was a film about a kidnapped child being forced to learn and adapt to a violent environment for the purpose of money. That is what I am focusing on. I know in the real world there are deeper reasons for these issues: the cycle of violence, lack of education in troubled areas, poverty, and racism. But I am going to focus solely on the way innocence plays a role in this film. This theme was most prevalent to me in the following scenes.

The first being Ninja showing Chappie how to hold and shoot a gun. Chappie retreats his body first from Ninja, his self proclaimed father, and then from the sound of the gun. Violence, much like love, is nurtured into his psyche here as a young baby. Later as he grows and matures into a child, and Ninja uses his emotional connection to Chappie to manipulate him into thinking that people have stolen from “daddy.” Thus, Chappie must retrieve these stolen goods. Chappie, worried for his father, turns into a robot car jacking machine. I sat back and reflected on the many innocent lives in this world being lied to and used for the purpose of someone else’s desire for power/money.

The next scene that was incredibly difficult to watch as Chappie (still a robot child) being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, so that he can learn to be tough. In this scene, he is attacked by street kids. The scene touches on bullying, and how someone’s exterior doesn’t necessarily reflect what or who they are on the inside. Chappie still has his “POLICE” sign on his chest, and as the street kids approach him (for fear themselves), they say he’s “broken” when they realize he speaks like a child, and attack him. Chappie is powerless against their physical abuse. He cannot compute why on earth they would want to stone and burn his body. I was in tears as his voice pleaded with them, “Why do you throw at me?” His language underdeveloped and his desire to understand mixed in with confusion and pain was difficult to watch. Additionally, Ninja’s wish for Chappie to be more manly and tough also provides us with the issue of gender roles. Earlier in the film, Chappie is caught playing with a doll that looks like his “mommy” (played by Yo-Landi Visser of Die Antwoord), thus making Ninja lose it and take him out to the streets to find his own way home.

One of the last scenes shows Chappie saving his creator, Dev Patel. Now as a grown adolescent, Chappie saves his creator by making him into a robot machine. Symbolically, this part was brilliant as Chappie gave his creator a chance to be a better version of himself, a pure hearted robot. I am, of course, basing this on the themes of the film, not necessarily because I believe that robots are indeed purer than human beings.

It was the innocence prevailing in the world’s harshness that made this film for me. Plus, it was kind of cool to think that our consciousness could be transferred into a machine with use of a USB. What?!

Watch this film, make your own conclusions, and above all — have fun!

For more film facts visit sonypictures.com and chappie-movie.com.

* 4 out of 5 Alien Heads from me. *  

art / ART MAKING / ARTist

I have a younger sister who lives in Los Angeles. Well actually we’re from the San Fernando Valley; a hot place to live. But she currently resides in Temple City. Anyways, sometimes we write each other to keep in touch. Usually we gossip about family or talk about our future as granny’s touring some obscure town in the middle of nowhere drinking whine and talking about how hard it was to be an artist post the economic crash. But let’s be real, it’s always been hard to be an artists.

And that’s what this post is about, I suppose. Not my sister, but the world she and I live in. The world of Art/Art Making/Artists – and their purpose in this world.

As a young person I always thought, oh am I going to be impressed when I see this dance? this performance? this singer? Are they going to show me something I haven’t seen before? I sure hope so!

I suppose I thought that art was there to serve the artists — and in turn impress the audience. Like –you know, art for the sake of art. But the older I get; the more I make my own weird art — short videos, short stories, short dances and share them with people I find that what links us is our ability to connect through these experiences. We connect and wonder and remember together; each our individual journeys, but eternally connected through this one experience.

Once I saw a video that was about a woman turned man that lasted ten minutes long. This person wore a “feminine” outfit and gradually through a rewind effect (editing) the person’s clothes flew off of him to reveal the beginning of the film at the end — a naked man sticking his hand in different parts of his body and then smelling his finger. I sat there thinking, Oh my God—he’s putting his finger there and we are all watching this. 

This.

Art.

Not just that, but I have a bad habit of turning my head and looking at people as they watch something. I like to see their reactions, or I get curious as to who in the room has fallen asleep. But when I turn, the artist is in the center of the room and when his finger goes into … a hole, I remember seeing him cover his face, groan and say “Oh God!” in a loud whisper.

Now, if I would have seeing this video in a gallery on my own. I would have tried to connect it with the space — if it would have been a bare room, I would have thought — oh, this is about being bare, open, vulnerable, and real. But I saw this video in a free performance setting, in the dark, with a bunch of sweaty bodies around me, after performing myself (as a volunteer dancer) and with the artist present — and seeing the artist react to his art.

I fell in love!

Not with the man in the video, nor with the artist, but I fell in love with the feeling I got inside my heart seeing the artist completely fall apart in the center of the room. And I thought, that’s it — that has to be it!

Right?

Art is about sharing the deepest parts of ourselves and just throwing caution to the wind! Yes?

Yes. It’s that and yet every year another layer of it lovingly leans atop my head and piles itself on the other definitions I’ve been collecting as the days go by.

Today, I walked down the stairs of the Civic Center BART and saw a woman singing to herself, “you belong to me…” and I noticed her eyes were closed and she touched her chest as if her heart was ready to leap out. I kept walking through the BART station and saw one of the local musicians do his thing on some drum set. He hummed a tune, probably saving his voice after hours of singing in the hallway. Music just takes over that space, and it’s beautiful!

All kinds of musicians go there. Some do it for money, some for the chat, and some to network. There’s the Country Singer, an Afro-Caribbean performer, a Bob Dylan sound a like, a Lady Violinist with a pink music stand, and a gent who only plays the chorus of “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers.

So today I added another pile of my definition of art, based on this experience and the sister chat. Art is there to remind us of each other, that we are individuals, but that we are also a whole. It unifies us, it invades us, it reminds of our past lovers and our future goals.

Some wonder if it’s ever achievable —happiness— and I think Art helps us touch it.

 

Americano, you keep me up

…and now I have to write something to mellow me down. I’ll write a ridiculous story for fun.

This story is inspired by: my inability to go to sleep, MailChimp monkey, and a pink sweater.

The Disapproving Monkey

There is a disapproving monkey on my front steps and he won’t leave me alone. He nags at me when I wear a pink sweater because he thinks it makes me look weak. But all I think about is Molly Ringwald and sitting on dining room tables and talking to a cute boy with a cake. A flipping delicious cake. Ugh, John Hughes is a genius.

But the Monkey-Man just shakes his head in a disapproving manner. There are days when it takes me an extra two minutes to put on my pleather boots. The brown ones that don’t have a zipper. The kind that I have to untie and tie to put on and off. This drive the Monkey crazy. He taps his foot on the ground and says, “Why do you always wait until the last minute?”

And he used me to make me sad when he would make these kind of comments. But now I just click my tongue because it makes him squeamish. He bounces back in horror at the sound of my tongue and teeth reverberating a click sound with the roof of my mouth.

“Let me be!” I tell him and wear my pink sweater for the third day in a row.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make this monkey happy. And you know what? It’s not my job. So he can stay there on the steps, judging me all he wants. In the end, my pink sweater keeps me warm.

Though now it’s starting to look a little haggard, it still reminds me of pretty, and sixteen, and Hughes, and  a kid named Duckey who lip syncs to Otis Redding.

Ladies in Guitar Stores

littleguitarToday I strolled about a Guitar Center and as I walked in an older musician like gent said to me, “Can I help you with something?”

I replied, “I’m just going to stroll around.”

He smiled at me at said, “Why don’t you go find something in there, buy it, go home and start making some music.”

I smiled back and said, “Yea sure.”

You see, I do play an instrument. The one I am most comfortable with is the guitar, I used to play the flute, and I sometimes dabble on my Peruvian cajón. But this man doesn’t know that. All he knows, is that a disheveled Peruvian lady just walked into his store and looked eternally lost. And I was feeling eternally lost, Blog Land. Mostly because I had an hour to kill before picking up my boyfriend from work, and I had just spent $50 on magazines at a corporate bookstore. I was feeling guilty and also curious. Walking into a Guitar Center might have been a moment of weakness for me; a place where I can tickle the strings of a guitar and get lost in memory of back when I wanted to be a rockstar in 2004. Well actually, I wanted to be the first Peruvian folk star, but that’s a long time ago and I can’t get into that right now.

Anyways, I enter the store and find myself surrounded by the most amazing view. A father and daughter sitting side by side and playing an electric guitar together. On the television monitor in the center of the store, a young tween girl with a nose ring sings into a mic and she looks like she’s loving it. In the back of the store a woman employee — the first woman employee I have ever seen in real life at a Guitar Center. And maybe seeing the daughter and father made me more aware of who was working there, and maybe seeing a young girl artist portrayed positively in the store also made me aware of it, but seeing that beautiful brown lady in the back with bright pink hair cut like Jack O — well reader, it just brought a smile to my face.

Why? You might ask. I’m sure some of you come from places where this is not news. Where seeing a confident woman musician is as common as apple pie. But for me, reader, it was like witnessing a unicorn.

Maybe this is because when I entered a music store in 2003 to buy my first guitar, I was approached with raised and crooked eyebrows, and followed up with questions like — Is this for your father’s day? Did you want a gift receipt?  etc. etc. etc. I did not see a lot of women represented on the sales floor. And I definitely wasn’t made to feel like I was “one of the guys” — so yeah…seeing these three women representations today on the Guitar Center floor made me ecstatic.

From the little girl with her dad, who had since my arrival moved to the keyboard section. To the sales lady who was pushing on her cashier box and answering a customers questions. To the representation of the young girl in the television who was on song number three on her concert set list. Me? Overjoyed.

Go girls! Go womyn!

My Tactile Writing Experience & The Naked (Womyn) Body

Dear Writers of the world. As many of you (who read this weirdo blog) know…I’ve had my share of dry spells. I’ve vented about a few of them here–expressed my frustration thoroughly by making promises I can’t keep because frankly the world is pressing down on me with REALITY (snore!). I have to keep feeding this machine with my artsy part time jobs — take my money rent/phone/gas/commuting/school loans/loan sharks/etc. etc. etc.

A las, writing has become a luxury. It comes and goes like waves upon a sand…leaving treasures in a nearby tidal pool. And I have to be careful not to forget about the treasure, for it can easily be taken away by some John on the beach with a metal detector.

In order to maintain my inner writer happy, I’ve been doing some mini-write ups about my experiences as a human being. I have focused some of these mini-encounters and stories in San Francisco. My city exploration of cafés, movie theaters, restaurants, Bart train experiences, and even taco truck conversations have contributed to some late night insomnia dabs on the key board. It’s like building a little bank of situations, people, and dialogue.

As days go by, I find that there is little to nothing that cannot be written about. This entire planet is full of interesting folk, awkward situations, sexual tension and sibling rivalry. Even the simplest things can be catastrophic or life changing in a story. Watching a man stir chocolate powder in his hot water, for example — it can be like watching fireworks in Utah! Then come the questions, why is he alone? What is he thinking? Why does he not use milk? What kind of magazine is he reading? And why is he drinking hot chocolate in summer? All those things that can lead to a good juicy story, a background, and that is how you can build a life for a reader.

Nowadays, there is so much free wifi everywhere, it’s hard to knock it off and just focus. Which is why I’ve been bringing a pen and a little mini creeper notebook with me to write down interesting things I notice as I go about my day.

I am fascinated by the human experience: how we interact with each other and how we manage our time with other people. This is a great way to do some self-to-self and self-to-other observation, for example. What we say. What we do. How we act. When we lie. When we exaggerate. When we laugh. When we hide emotions. Why we fight back. Why we back down. When we give up. What makes us get up and try again? When we take that risk and lean in for a kiss. Everything: wondrously dangerous and sprinkled with chaos. Beautiful human chaos.

My “people study” has become my  “Interesting People” posts on this blog. These encounters have served me as a source for character and plot development. When I speak with other writers, I encourage them to do the same.  I am calling it – My Tactile Writing Experience. Although I am not necessarily TOUCHING these people in a physical sense, I feel that living in the moment with them does stimulate the five senses in my imagination. I have to see it to recreate it, in a way.

One of my recent tactile writing experiences was in a lady spa. Being that it is a private space, I did not take notebook with me. I am not that big of a creeper. Below is an example of my observation practice, from memory…

Interesting People Post: Naked Spa Ladies

I am a pretty shy person when it comes to my body. I don’t really expose much, and I leave a lot to the imagination. To put it mildly, I wear a lot of sweaters. Going to a spa is always an adventure to me, but I usually go to the ones where people just mind their business and walk around in robes and bathing suits. This was not the case in the Kabuki Spa in San Francisco. I entered the locker room ready to take in the quiet experience — and was quickly greeted by a couple of big butt cheeks bending over to pick up something that the person belonging to the buttocks had dropped on the ground. I must admit it took me aback, but then I reminding my brain that I am a grown a$$ person and that seeing as a$$ should not be so shocking — so I kept walking and thanked the butt for being open, exposed and unapologetic. And I thought to myself, Right on lady! If you could let it lose that way, well – all power to you!

To my embarrassment, as I disrobed in the actual pool area, I was the only one wearing a bathing suit. I walked around feeling like a football player among flowers, but I kept my chin up. Until finally, I was called in for my massage.

There, under the care of a woman who looked like Katherine Zeta Jones, only blonde — I pondered my desire to wear a bathing suit. I pondered the lady’s freedom to have her body so exposed as she bent over. I tried to remember that one time I went skinny dipping in my aunts house only to be discovered by my sister.

After my massage I decided to fully disrobe and take off the hot pink bathing suit. Off it went, and slowly my towel dropped and the pores in my skin opened up to the steam. My hairs all over stood up in the hot sauna room. And while I was in the pool, I admired everybody and their ability to be free with their bodies. I struggled there in the water, thinking about how different my body is from everyone else’s. I let it go a little bit, but I realized I have so much more work to do.

I need to learn to be naked again, I thought to myself. I need to be vulnerable , and this got me thinking about my writing. I need to learn to be vulnerable and share my writing without having to mask it behind a bathing suit.

In honor of this wonderful butt experience that opened my mind, I am sharing a butt video I found on YouTube.